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UPDATE: Essence Ceo Richelieu Dennis Resigns Following Sexual Harrassment Claims



UPDATE (7/7) : Essence says Richelieu Dennis did not resign because he never held the actual position of CEO. They issued a statement to HipHollywood to clarify:

“There was no interim CEO at ESSENCE Communications, Inc. (ECI), following the departure of Michelle Ebanks on March 31 until Richelieu Dennis appointed Caroline Wanga to this position on July 1. As owner, Dennis helped to lead the team along with the ECI senior leadership team, but never took on the roles or responsibilities of CEO. So he never stepped down from, resigned from or was replaced in any role.”


Essence Magazine is getting it’s house in order.

A few days after a group dubbed Black Female Anonymous penned a scathing exposé about Essence magazine’s abusive work culture, and demanded that four top execs step down, the magazine has announced that it is conducting an internal investigation and also hired a female interim leader.

In their essay titled The Truth About Essence, the women claimed that the brand promise is fraudulent and said it deceptively mistreats black women on the inside. The anonymous collective also claimed that Essence Ventures CEO Richelieu Dennis  was “driven by greed and a debaucherous sexual appetite.”

They also alleged that “he has a history of sleeping with women on the Sundial staff [the beauty brand that produces SheaMoisture,  which he sold to Unilever in 2017] … For the women who don’t seemingly consent, he openly sexually harasses them at private company events.”

At first Essence denied the allegations, calling them “unfounded attempts to discredit our brand and assassinate personal character.”

But on Tuesday night, they sent out a press release announcing a new interim CEO, Caroline Wanga, saying it was one of several steps to “ensure that Essence is the safe haven that we all expect.”

Dennis, has now resigned and also issued a statement praising Wanga.

(L-R) Essence CEO Michelle Ebanks, Essence Ventures Founder & Chairman Richelieu Dennis, and Essence Chief Content & Creative Officer Moana Luu at the 2020 13th Annual ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for ESSENCE)

According to sources Dennis’ role as CEO was always intended to be temporary; he had just taken over in March, after Michelle Ebanks stepped down and moved to the board of Essence Ventures — where Dennis will remain the chair.

The anonymous collective also called for her to leave the company, as well as the resignations of COO Joy Collins Profet and chief content officer Moana Luu.

The shake up comes just days before Essence hosts its first ever virtual Essence Festival with a performance by Bruno Mars, Janet Jackson and appearances by Queen Latifah, Don Lemon and activist Tamika Mallory.

Last month Essence celebrated its 50th anniversary.

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