Meet the Homegirl: Founder of Sesi Magazine
Sesi = sister
To black women, the term “sesi,” or “sister,” carries numerous meanings beyond what appears in Google Translate. It can mean a female sibling, and it can be used to describe the girlfriends with whom you share a tight bond or a strong loyalty. Or perhaps the multifarious expression can even be used to denote a female member of a religious order. But for many young black girls the term “sesi” also denotes a magazine where they can see different versions of themselves being represented.
This is all thanks to Andrea Butler, the founder and editor-in-chief of Sesi Magazine, the first and only magazine for black girls. As many young black women flip through pages filled with brown skin, luscious curls, bantu knots, and more, they receive the representation they deserve.
It all started twenty years ago, one weekend night on a bedroom floor. Andrea was seventeen years old and flipping through old issues of Teen Vogue, Seventeen, and YM, and she observed that besides the one Token Black girl, all her favorite monthly magazines were just a sea of white skinned models. That’s when the idea for Sesi came to her mind.
Andrea was fed up with the lack of representation of black girls in mainstream media. So that night Andrea, set herself a challenge that would impact the magazine industry forever. She promised herself if nothing had changed by the time she was done with school, she would start a magazine herself.
Andrea is proud to say that she has kept that promise. She knew that something as simple as erasure in magazines could create such a complicated and unhealthy sense of identity for black female youth, and sought to fix this. Because for many young black girls, representation matters, and not seeing those who look like them in magazines makes them feel as if they are not worthy to grace the front covers of their very own lives, let alone the media.
Andrea founded Sesi because she believed that white-dominated magazines could not do justice to representation of black women. To be black is not just a one page experience, it is crucial that all facets of the black girl experience are represented and shown. Sesi Magazine does just that.
Even though Andrea makes it look easy, she has had to overcome many obstacles on her journey. This includes getting advertisers to understand the value of Sesi, reaching a niche audience, and writing to distributors for five years to get Sesi on the newstands. But when she saw the impact she had on her fellow sesis from all over the world, she knew that all her hard work was worth it in the end.
With hard work and dedication, Andrea took Sesi Magazine from an idea in her bedroom to an empowering product in the newsstands of Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million. Sesi Magazine has, in her own words, provided a space where “we can see others we identify with and hear stories we relate to, so we know we're not going through something alone, so we always remember that we matter.”