The first issue of Essence that I remember seeing as a kid was on the floor of the car when my mom and I were leaving the house. Angela Basset was on the cover with a radiant smile and a green background. I was hooked immediately. I had never seen so many beautiful black women all in one place. I fell in love with an advertisement in the magazine (for some sort of product that I don’t remember the name of right now) because the model was a woman with skin as black as the night sky. She was so beautiful and I was dazzled because I never saw such a queenly presentation of dark skin before. Even as I have written stories over the years, I constantly referred to Essence for interesting black faces and cut out the ones that seemed to resonate with the stories that I made up. I just want to thank Essence for being a lens that showed me how black is beautiful. Growing up as a nerdy black girl means that I was no stranger to ridicule or bullying. However, Essence was a reminder of the intelligence and range of beauty in the black community. There are characters that I’m currently creating that have had their starts as snapshots from Essence magazines. Even as I continue to develop their backgrounds and their features, I will always remember how Essence was a huge part of my inspiration in creating characters that showed how black is beautiful.