Go ahead and try to count the times you’ve seen a black face on the cover of a fashion magazine. Alek Wek had that much-talked-about Elle cover, and Halle Berry scored Glamour. Naomi Campbell got Allure when she cut off her hair a few years ago. And … hmmm … does Tyra Banks’s Sports Illustrated cover count?
At a time when the mainstream-culture market has been overwhelmingly hip-hoppified – the magazine industry is drooling over The Source’s newsstand numbers, and the hugely successful start-up Teen People knows the kids want Brandy, Puff Daddy, and Lauryn Hill – fashion magazines just don’t seem to get it. (Why does Courtney Love, and not Foxy Brown or Hill, get the covers of Allure and Harper’s Bazaar?)
So the posters that have been slapped up all over town for the premiere issue of a new magazine called Honey are impossible to miss: There’s Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, from the megaselling hip-hop-R&B act TLC, cocking her hip in a fur-trimmed Nicole Miller bikini and a full Native American feathered headdress over the cover line power. “When you think about the fact that there’s an Allure and a Cosmopolitan and an Elle and a Vogue and everything in between,” says Honey editor-in-chief Kierna Mayo, who was an editor at The Source for four years, “you have to say to yourself, Why can’t another magazine come out – one that features women of color?”
New York-based Harris Publications, which also puts out the hip-hop magazine XXL and the sports title Slam, is quietly building a small empire in the “urban” market opened up by The Source and Vibe. Harris is positioning Honey as a bi-monthly (after a spring and a summer issue) entertainment-fashion-lifestyle book aimed at women ages 18 to 34, with an initial target circulation of 200,000. Advertisers such as the Gap, Nike, Puma, Iceberg, Absolut, Atlantic Records, Bisou-Bisou, and Reebok are already convinced, and publisher Dennis Page reels off the other big names he’s courting: DKNY, Calvin Klein, Polo Sport, and Tommy Hilfiger. “The niche for this kind of magazine is so wide open,” he gushes. “There’s really nothing like it.”
Honey’s fresh, colloquial text draws equally from Jane’s breathless chick-speak and The Source’s hip-hop slang. It’s a little green (time to hire a copy editor, girls!), but the photos and layouts – like Mfon Essien’s white-tank-top photo essay – are gorgeous, and the magazine already has access to the likes of Lil’ Kim and Hill. In a market where all the women’s magazines are scrambling to book celebrities for their covers, and black artists are ruling the pop charts, Honey feels right on time. “We’re going to try to appeal to all young women who listen to Lauryn Hill,” says Mayo. “And that’s a lot of people.”