In celebrating Black History Month, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jheanelle Feanny, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Vingt Sept Magazine, the only female black-owned luxury publication in the UK, if not Europe itself.

Jheanelle’s styling talent and attention to detail propelled her career from i-D magazine to advancing at 1883 Magazine, while her freelance work saw her work with celebrities like Penn Badgley and Sophie Turner.

With the aim of creating a fashion bible for conscious luxury consumers, Jheanelle, along with her team, including master image-maker Philipp Raheem as Editorial Director, specializes in producing cutting-edge content for a global readership across fashion, music, film, art, travel, and more.

Leading a diverse editorial team from various ethnic backgrounds and communities, including LGBTQIA+), the magazine consistently presents disruptive editorials and journalism in print and on its cross-media platform.

Q&A with Jheanelle Feanny

1  Has your gender or race presented any barriers to entry into the fashion industry or luxury media spa?

Across the scale if you are black and female in the publishing or fashion industry it seems that alone is a barrier of entry. I have worked in the industry for nearly 15 years and with huge talent, however, like others that is not enough and it becomes a glass ceiling of infinite end. It can be frustrating when you see other people not needing to jump through those hoops or have the support of a major title backing them. Sometimes due to gender and race you can be automatically pigeon holed, for example,  you need to scream from the rooftops that your content is specifically targeted towards black readers. Unfortunately, in the UK and across Europe we are slow and far behind in tackling the curve as well these issues. We just do not have anything to help allow this change to flourish and see those results; there is no historical or census data to understand what BME/BIPOC readers want. Because of this I have ensured that our content is luxury driven and broad when it comes to the audience, because ultimately we should feel part of that space comfortably, without the razzle dazzle, tokenism or flamboyant words. This is why VS ensures that talented diverse creatives are given the opportunity to photograph and work with A-List talent and produce engaging editorial; it is not more so about making it just for those in that space, it’s about really being diverse and actually practising daily what we preach. We should feel part of the luxury space without the ‘do I belong here?’ imposter thoughts creeping in. You shouldn’t have to be cool enough, your talent should be your merit alone.

On a personal level it can be frustrating that my gender and ethnicity makes things a thousand times more difficult in the luxury media space; a very lovely chap at a global company once reminded me of how much of a rarity it is to have a female who is black in the publishing space. It is also not unusual to see shocked or enthused faces during meetings, specifically when we talk about the work we have produced on a global scale including breaking the internet, beating major titles with our features across socials etc. The magazine, the talent we work with across film, music and television, and the creatives behind the visuals should really speak for itself, however, unfortunately this is not the case in the industry.

2. How welcoming has the fashion industry been to you?  Have there been any bad experiences?

When I first started out as a fashion assistant almost 15 years ago, everyone wanted to be my best friend because of the machine of a title and editor I had behind me. The moment I left it was like ‘who are you?’. I have contributed and worked across many titles and with top talent where all of a sudden the change is back and we are in cahoots again, but I believe that’s the nature of the beast and not related to race. You are hot, then not, and so on. However, what I have noticed is how fast the editors who aren’t from wealth or who are diverse vanish and never return, almost disappearing from the face of the planet, whilst those who do not necessarily fit into those categories find it easier to move around the industry whether that be as a new editor, a new title, getting campaigns, or even present across the press by rebuilding themselves as a brand with ease. There have been some disappointing experiences, particularly around intellectual property and ideas, which is unfortunately common, I would not want to go into detail, however, I am trying to make genuine changes by speaking with senior people so that future generations can feel that they have an equal chance, and their ideas are respected, talent should outshine everything ultimately but it is not the case.

3.  How has Vingt Sept Magazine included diversity and inclusion its business plan?

I think the mission is very clear, we are trying to ensure those who aren’t given a chance to be published or work with top talent are given priority. I wouldn’t say it’s a business plan per say, it is more of a movement internally, so that the talent behind the camera is bolstered to better opportunities without fighting. Our team is diverse and our content speaks to a broad audience which is how I want it to be. When you go online or pick up a copy in store you can’t tell it’s black owned, I am doing the opposite, because I want to normalise this.

4.  How accomplished do you feel being the only female black-owned luxury publication in the UK (and possibly Europe)?

Well, I know someone in the US who is breaking down barriers and a great deal of support to me personally; it seems the US are more embracing toward talent and diverse owned media, however, it is very very lonely here. I wish I had someone else to talk to about the ebb and flow who is equally in my position, but I guess hopefully we will see many more of me. That is my hope for the future! 

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