Interview with BuzzFeed Beauty Editor Essence Gant
By: Courtney Connley
As the beauty editor at one of the world’s leading independent digital media companies, Essence Gant makes no apology for using her platform to show that all beauty is worthy of being celebrated.
“I think that people think beauty is so surface, but it’s so much deeper. Beauty is political. Beauty is social, and I think the more we can show different faces and all the packages that beauty comes in it will help people to be more tolerant and relate to each other,” says Gant. “You can’t really define beauty and I hope that’s what people get from my work.”
Originally from Augusta, GA, Gant admits that writing wasn’t always her go-to plan. With a passion for helping others and giving a voice to the voiceless, she attended Albany State University majoring in social work before realizing that career field wasn’t for her.
“It was very emotionally exhausting for me,” says the 30-year-old who was also crowned Miss Albany State during her undergrad years. “So I thought, how can I take this same concept of social work, which is all about advocating for people and helping them to find their voice, and apply it to things I really love? I always loved style, beauty, media and entertainment.”
With the goal of taking her media dreams from her small hometown to New York, Gant knew she had to do whatever it took to convince her family to be on board with her plan.
After undergrad, she went to grad school at the University at Albany, SUNY to earn her masters degree in social work.
“It wasn’t because I wanted to pursue a career in that, but I needed an excuse to get to New York and I knew my parents wouldn’t let me just come up here on a dream,” she says.
During her one year masters program, Gant made frequent drives from upstate New York to the city to attend networking events in hopes of making the connections she needed to get her start in media. Eventually, her road trips paid off when she linked with a fellow writer who helped her get her first industry position as a full-time editorial assistant at Hype Hair magazine.
After spending two years at Hype Hair covering beauty and style, Gant found herself in a hard spot in 2013 when the company was sold and the team was downsized.
“I remember my boss telling me they were having layoffs, but I could still stay on as a freelancer,” she says.
Faced with a decision to stay on staff and take a major pay cut or to take a leap of faith and leave in hopes of finding a company that valued her worth, Gant decided on the latter.
For a year, she worked in retail and freelanced with publications on the side before landing a full-time freelancing position at Black Enterprise in 2014.
“My parents were a huge support system for me at that time, but it was extremely tough” she says. “I’m from Georgia and to come up here expecting things to work out and then they don’t, that’s just really scary. There are a lot of places you can be broke and still be ok, but New York is not one of those places.”
After seven months of working at Black Enterprise, while maintaining a personal blog that focused on beauty and self-love, Gant landed her current editor position at BuzzFeed that allows her to combine her love for beauty, style and entertainment.
Her hustle journey of getting to New York and eventually landing a job that speaks directly to her passion is proof that there’s power in never giving up and understanding your worth.
“I always try to tell people to be hungry, but not thirsty,” she says. “I feel like when you’re thirsty you are super desperate in a way that you are willing to do almost anything to get where you think you want to be and you lose sight of what’s important and why you’re on this path. As long as you stay hungry and dedicated, all of the other things won’t really matter because at the end of the day when it’s time for you to move to the next job, nobody is going to care about how many people you have pictures with on Instagram and who they are. All people will care about is what did she do to make a difference in her space and to change the narrative.”
To stay up-to-date with Essence Gant and the amazing work she’s doing at BuzzFeed, be sure to follow her on social media @TheEssenceOf_.