Woman Of The Week: Michaela Angela Davis

Photo credit:  Michael July

Photo credit:  Michael July

by: We Rise and Shine

Several years ago a popular tagline for one of the world's most reputable brands proclaimed that "Image is nothing." Although the marketing campaign was rather catchy, in reality it is quite the contrary; image is indeed significant.  In many cases, our image has a direct impact on how we are perceived and treated by others.  For this reason, Michaela Angela Davis has dedicated her life to expanding positive examples of women of color in the media.  Through potent essays and liberating conversation, she continues to break ground as an Image Activist, CNN Commentator, Writer and Editorial Manager at BET Networks.

Davis was born in 1964 in Landstuhl Germany and moved with her family to Washington, D.C., where she attended the Duke Ellington School for the Arts. Upon graduation, Davis enrolled in New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts before being accepted to the Stella Adler Acting Conservatory in 1983. She gained fashion experience by apprenticing with her aunt, a former Associate Editor for Harper’s Bazaar, and renowned photographer Richard Avedon.


In 1991, Davis was hired as an associate fashion editor for ESSENCE magazine.  During an interview with un-ruly.com Davis recounted her first encounter with Susan Taylor, ESSENCE Magazine’s former Editor in Chief.  “She was magnificently dressed and looked like she didn’t even touch the ground when she walked.  I had my daughter with me (she was a baby) and had just gotten my first picture in Vogue.  It wasn’t major, it was small but it was Vogue!  So I met Susan and she asked me who I was and what I did [for a living] because I probably had on some outrageous outfit [laughs].  I said “I’m a fashion stylist and I just got my first picture into Vogue.”  I was all excited and she said, “That’s great, but what are you doing for your people?” I was like errr…what? What she said didn’t leave me.  I started thinking, what am I doing?  What is my legacy? What type of example am I leaving for my daughter? And that’s where the activism started – and with my fashion work, the goal became to create more images of women of color.”

Following her tenure with ESSENCE, Davis became the founding fashion director for Vibe magazine in 1993. In 2002, Davis worked as a stylist for the film Paid in Full, before becoming editor-in-chief of Honey magazine in 2003.  The next year, Davis returned to ESSENCE as the executive Fashion and Beauty editor while simultaneously directing the Culture section. In 2005 she co-created with ESSENCE the Take Back The Music Campaign, which addressed misogyny and misrepresentation of women of color in mainstream hip-hop music videos. Davis then went on to become the chief creative consultant and editorial brand manager for the rebranding of BET.  Also that year, she launched a community conversation project called MAD Free: Liberating Conversations About Our Image, Beauty and Power as well as “BuryTheRatchet: The Revolutionary Pro Sisterhood Campaign” the following year.

Davis's writtings have appeared in many international publications and can be found on CNN.com, Jezebel.com, Ebony.com and HuffingtonPost.com.  Davis is a mentor to many young women of color and is a volunteer with the Black Girls Rock! and Imagenation organizations. She is the recipient of the Brooklyn Community Service Human Spirit Awards and sits on the BCS board of directors. The New York Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People recognized Davis as a “Phenomenal Woman” in 2011, and the President of the Borough of Manhattan presented her with a “Trailblazer Award.” In 2013, she was honored with two separate “Empowerment” awards from BLACK STREET and the Feminist Press.

SOURCE:  apbspeakers.com, historymakers.com, un-ruly.com