UC grad finds passion in telling Black women’s stories

Essence magazine senior editor named outstanding young alumni

When Brande Victorian changed her UC major to journalism, she found what she says was “the perfect fit.” The 2007 graduate from the College of Arts and Sciences took her skills and ran with them, carving a career in the competitive field of writing that has taken her from medical publishing to an editor’s role at a leading magazine for Black women.

Currently the senior editor of entertainment for Essence magazine, Victorian was honored this month with the Outstanding Young Alumni Award from the A&S Alumni Association. The award is conferred annually on an A&S grad under age 40 with significant achievements in their field, and active involvement with the university.

UC Outstanding Young Alumni and Essence magazine senior editor Brande Victorian

UC Outstanding Young Alumni and Essence magazine senior editor Brande Victorian

Prior to becoming a part of the Essence family, Victorian contributed to a variety of different publications, including Clutch Magazine, Vibe Vixen and Madame Noire. She has been profiled by Pose magazine, and featured in Jezebel and on the talk show The Real.

Her passion for writing the stories of Black women’s lives continues in her role at Essence. As a Black woman herself, Victorian shares the story of who inspires her, how she was able to become a journalist despite obstacles, and advice for young Black women starting out in journalism.

Q: What was your journey that led to you to the job you have now?

Victorian: I started out in medical publishing, so it was completely different. After I graduated from UC, I moved to New York, for a job at Wolters Kluwer Health. And it was great because it was an editorial assistant position. And, sure friends may say it's difficult getting a position where you're actually writing, typically for a lot of journalism graduates. I'm not into science and health, at all. But I got to write, so I took that job moved to New York. I did that for four years, but I always had an interest—particularly once I switched over to journalism—of wanting to write stories about Black women.

Before working at Essence, I had two jobs. I would write in the morning then go to my actual job at the medical publishing place, Wolters Kluwer Health. Then I ended up quitting that job, freelanced full time for seven months and I wrote for a number of different publications as well like Vibe Vixen and Clutch Magazine--all cater to women of color--and Madame Noire brought me on full time.

 I was at Madame Noire for nine years up until last year; Essence had an open position. I was looking to just go somewhere different. I had been with Madame Noire for so long. Essence was always a dream, it’s sort of the pinnacle publication for Black women and it gave me opportunity to go back to print.

Don't be afraid to speak up, or say 'we have to have Black voices represented in this article'.

Brande Victorian UC journalism grad and Essence senior editor

Q: As a Black woman, what adversities have you had to face in the industry?

Victorian: It's a really interesting thing that the majority of publishers tend to be men— at least in my experience, there are editors and writers who tend to be women. So, there's a lot of fight I think in trying to prove that you understand the audience when you are the audience. It's always odd to me. People doubt that and question your expertise—you are the reader. And I've also been encouraged to create content, more content for men, and it's like the whole purpose of a Madame Noire, Hello Beautiful—where I worked before was to create spaces for Black women, and yet, we're expected to not create spaces for Black men and not saying that they're not needed. But we also haven't done everything we can do for Black women to service them. So that has always been, I think, a point of pain in some ways. And then just not being trusted. I remember, I was like 27 years old and a CEO tried to suggest that I was too old. To hear that at 27 it was just like, 'this is insane.' Let alone probably illegal. But yeah, that type of sexism I think definitely exists. I think it's some behaviors you wouldn’t see if there were more Black women as publishers, and as owners of media companies.

Q: What advice do you have for young Black journalists?

Victorian: Don’t be afraid to speak up. And I know that's very hard particularly early in your career, but you’ll see so many stories that get written and people are like, 'there must not be anyone Black in your newsroom.' So, I think if you are finding yourself like in a mainstream space, you know, don't be afraid to speak up or to say 'we have to have Black voices represented in this article', or we have to present it in a certain way.

Featured image at top: UC College of Arts and Sciences alumni awards banquet. Credit/University of Cincinnati Foundation

Headshot of By Joi Dean

By Joi Dean

Student Journalist, A&S Department of Marketing and Communication

artscinews@ucmail.uc.edu