When Danielle J. Powell Cobb and Henrietta Gallina decided in the depths of the pandemic to launch print magazine Citizen, it was for the “joy of seeing something beautiful that also represents something that they know very intimately.”
“I was looking through a magazine I loved and just thinking how powerful it would it be to name something Citizen and then put images of Black people in it just as a statement in of itself,” explained Powell Cobb, an attorney turned journalist and producer and editor in chief of Citizen. “Then on top of that, looking to the publishing world that I had worked in for many years, there just has not in recent years been a space where editors were Black and where the people behind the scenes and really the people who are determining how stories get told and what deserves to get told looked like the people who they’re trying to tell the stories about. And just wanting to see that.”
For the first issue of Citizen, an independent magazine documenting Black life and culture through the words of Black thinkers and the lenses of Black creatives, the duo tapped The New York Times journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner Nikole Hannah-Jones for one of two covers, with an accompanying interview. A second fashion cover features model Dede Manros shot by Rahim Fortune and styled by Jessica Willis.
“I was really obsessed with the 1619 project. It was just such a vast body of work that really underpinned slavery’s connection to literally everything in American culture from economics to politics to housing to music,” added Gallina, a creative director who has worked with the likes of American Express, The Standard Hotels, Bulgari and Estée Lauder. “It’s not just being about only featuring the anointed or the best known or the people who are mainstream. It’s the people that we also find interesting and this idea of a sense of discovery. I’d never seen [Jones] shot editorially and I’ve definitely never seen her on the cover of anything and I thought it could be a really magical moment obviously not knowing what was to come for her.”
While both Powell Cobb and Gallina have spent the majority of their careers in the digital space, they made the decision that for now, the biannual publication that is funded through advertising and brand partnerships with the likes of Jordan and Burberry will exist just in print.
“I think particularly now a lot of us want to be off of our screens and to step back and slow down, so yes it’s the question of will you take up your time and your space with this thing and if so what does that say about how much it matters,” said Powell, adding that this fits in with the overarching theme on the inaugural issue — matter.
The publication just hit newsstands, priced at $22.
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