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The editor of Essence Magazine defended Wednesday her recent hiring of a white fashion director — a first for the 40-year-old publication that celebrates black women.

The hiring of Elliana Placas first sparked outrage when a former Essence employee posted a note on her Facebook page decrying the decision.

“It’s with a heavy heart I’ve learned Essence Magazine has engaged a white Fashion Director,” former Essence staffer Michaela Angela Davis wrote. “I love Essence and I love fashion. I hate this news and this feeling. It hurts, literally.”

Essence editor-in-chief Angela Burt-Murray wrote in an opinion piece posted Wednesday on African-American news site theGrio.com that Placas initially joined the magazine six months ago to run the fashion section on a freelance basis before being hired permanently as fashion director.

“I got to see firsthand her creativity, her vision, the positive reader response to her work, and her enthusiasm and respect for the audience and our brand,” Burt-Murray said. “As such, I thought she’d make an excellent addition to our team. And I still do. This decision in no way diminishes my commitment to black women, our issues, our fights.”

Critics of the decision raised concerns over the lack of African-American women in fashion as part of their outcry over the hiring of Placas.

“The fashion industry is not diverse — it is an elite, closed world and there is very little place for black women,” Davis told CNN. “At Fashion Week, there was one seat for Essence. One. Black women’s image and beauty has either been ignored or defiled and that one seat should be filled by someone who can represent the style, history and body type of black women.

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