A Letter to the Editor of Real Simple

To: Ms. Kristin van Ogtrop |Managing Editor |Real Simple Magazine

Dear Kristin,

I have been a loyal follower of your magazine since I was 21. I remember the day I decided to subscribe. I had just moved into my first post-collegiate dwelling. I opened my mailbox to find yet another pile of mail that was not for me, but for my apartment’s former resident. She had obviously been more of an adult than me. She subscribed to Food & Wine and Vanity Fair. Meanwhile, I was still texting my friends over the fashion advice, sex positions, and celebrity gossip that flooded the pages of Cosmo.

Nestled among the law school alumni flyer, the Bed Bath & Beyond coupon, and the wedding invitation (which she’d never receive), I saw it.

A beautifully designed cover that read REAL SIMPLE | Life Made Easier. I can still recall the gleaming kitchen sink and brightly colored flowers (were they peonies?) on that May 2012 issue. I remember thinking — This is it! This magazine could bridge the gap between fresh-out-of-college me and ducks-in-a-row Emily who had the very adult life.

Your magazine became my daily inspiration. It was my guidebook to my newly minted adult life. I would describe it to people as the hardcopy version of Pinterest. I was obsessed. It was so pretty. So strong. So relevant. It wasn’t petty. It wasn’t prudish. It was perfect. It was what I needed. I promptly became a subscriber by that fall — just a couple of months after Emily had decided to update her address. I even gifted subscriptions to my sister and mother that Christmas.

Four apartments, three years, and two jobs later, I continue to cherish my subscription to your magazine. It is more relevant now than ever. The recipes never lead me astray, I feel like I am the perfect host, and I know what I should look for when I venture into LOFT. I even feel like I know you personally through all of the “letters from the editor” I’ve read. (by the way adorable dog!)

I had always thought your magazine was for me, until this happened.

You decided that this would be the only woman of color to be featured in the November 2015 article titled:

How to Care for Your Hair | Different folks need different strokes: A Customized Guide for Every Type and Texture”

Here’s where you lost me: You decided to use the word “every”.

You let someone write… no…

You published an article that said “every type and texture” even though it failed to include an entire group of people — thousands of your faithful subscribers who are like me. Without even knowing it, you made me feel as though I was 15 again. Back I slipped to the days when I used to skip over entire sections of magazines because they didn’t apply to me. And 9 times out of 10, they had to do with hair and makeup. My hair never gets featured in lifestyle magazines. The list of “best cosmetics” never have the right shade. I am not sure why I thought this time it would be different.

I am disappointed.

You had the chance to be different. You had the opportunity to do better, to think better, to be better. But you chose not to. You chose to continue to ostracize women of color. You chose to remind me that I will always be on the outside looking in. That my hair will not be “normal”by any of your standards. — Yes, you allowed someone to use the word “normal” to describe hair!

You reminded me that “life made easier” does not involve the complexities and nuances required of inclusion. Life is easier when you unabashedly ignore the unique everyday beauty struggles of women of color. You took the easy road when you decided you didn’t have another page to give to kinky and coily textures and opted instead for lumping us all in the “coarse/thick” hair type. To make matters worse, the digital edition doesn’t even include the “coarse/thick” hair page. And the saddest part is, before reading this you probably didn’t realize that you had done anything wrong.

I know that I am not a 33-year-old, married, White woman who has a toddler and lives in the suburbs of one of our country’s major cities. I know I am not your target market. But guess what, I am still your customer, and quite frankly I feel undervalued.

If I had more gumption, I would forego my subscription until you realize that Black hair matters. But alas, if I boycotted every company, service, or ad campaign that forgot about, or just failed to value the experience of Black women I would be sitting at home reading The Color Purple.


Kristen Bryant