Sesi magazine is a publication that promotes positive African-American values and images. Sesi is a magazine primarily for young women, but much of the content will appeal to readers of all ages.
Sesi encourages healthy lifestyle choices and gives advice about fashion, hairstyles, school, and of course, boys. Articles in the magazine also examine serious topics such as bullying and pre-marital sex.
Sesi magazine has interviewed many popular musicians. The fall 2013 issue features R&B super-group Mindless Behavior, and the up-and-coming singer Mateo. Past issues have covered female vocalists OMG Girlz, Keke Palmer, and Drew Sidora.
Andréa Butler is the editor-in-chief of Sesi, and she recently spoke with the Examiner about her mission to celebrate African-American beauty, culture, and intelligence.
ST: How did you get the idea to start your own magazine?
AB: When I was a teenager, I was obsessed with magazines - every time I'd go into a store I felt compelled to buy one. And while I liked some of the articles and quizzes in those mags (I read Seventeen, YM, Teen Vogue, Teen People, and a few others that were out back then), I always noticed that they were never really speaking to me or to other black girls. Rarely was there a black girl on the cover of any of them - maybe once or twice a year, if we were lucky. Plus, the makeup and hair sections wouldn't feature girls who looked like me or had my hair texture, and the cute guys sections would have like, one token black dude.
ST: So there was an entire demographic that wasn't being represented by those magazines.
AB: They wouldn't cover any issues that black girls may have been facing, such as what it's like to be the only black girl in your class, or have you ever been racially profiled, etc. "Mainstream" teen magazines still haven't changed. I decided that if there wasn't a magazine that appealed to black girls by the time I graduated from college, I'd start one. It took me several years, but I finally did it - with the help of friends, family, and wonderful freelancers.
ST: I like that Sesi is addressing substantive issues - instead of just focusing on celebrity gossip. Talk a little bit about the concept behind your magazine.
AB: When I was a teen, I cared about more than just celeb gossip, and I know that teens today do, too. Sesi's target audience is black girls ages 13 to 19. They have dreams for their futures, they have issues they're dealing with, they want to know how to navigate high school and college, and Sesi seeks to cover such topics. Of course, we also cover celebs, fashion, and beauty, because those things are fun and entertaining, as well. Even when we tackle more serious topics, we make sure the writing is approachable and conversational - not preachy.
ST: What are the main challenges facing young women of color today?
AB: I would say a main challenge - especially when it comes to the media - is the lack of representation. And then, when black females are seen, it's often in a negative light. Just look at Basketball Wives, some of the castmates on The Real Housewives of Atlanta, etc. Perpetuating such stereotypes is damaging and hurtful.
ST: Being a young woman yourself, is it difficult to run a magazine?
AB: Running a magazine (especially while I still have a full-time day job) is difficult, but not because I'm female. It's mainly about finding the time. I usually get home from work, rest for an hour, and work on the magazine until I go to bed. When you're just starting out, it can also be difficult to raise money, so you have to plan ahead to deal with that.
ST: Sesi often features musicians as the cover story. How do you choose the cover artists?
AB: We usually choose a celeb who's popular among our readership, or up-and-coming singers, actors, etc. who reach out to us and we feel may be a good fit for the magazine. We also ask our readers to suggest people they'd like to see on upcoming covers. We don't necessarily set out to have a recording artist on every cover, but that's just how it has worked out, so far. The ones we've covered are well-known among our readers, so it has worked out wonderfully.
ST: Can you give us any teasers about what Sesi has planned for us in the future issues?
AB: Our fall issue, which is out now, features Mindless Behavior on the cover! We also have a back-to-school fashion write-up and we're debuting a new column, among other features. We're also launching our first giveaway - a few items from our back-to-school fashion photo shoot. I'm really excited about our winter issue (out in December) - we have a feature about color complex and how it still affects black girls today.
ST: Thank you for your time with this interview. Do you have any final comments?
AB: We would like to thank everyone who has already subscribed and/or bought single copies of Sesi. Once again, I couldn't do any of this without the help of my friends and family. I'd like to mention one specific friend, Shannon Boone. We've been friends since high school, and she does the layout, she created our backdrop for a recent convention, and she designed our new business cards. I definitely couldn't run a magazine without her help! She is amazing!
ST: It sounds like you have a great team behind you. Before we part, give everyone your social media and contact information.
AB: Please be sure to tell all of your friends and tweet us (@Sesimag), e-mail us (Sesimag@gmail.com), Instagram us (@Sesimag), or Facebook us (Sesi Magazine). We love hearing from our readers! Also, make sure you visit Sesi's website at www.sesimag.com.