A New Portland Magazine Centers Black Femme Storytelling
Erika Ellis says she can trace the inspiration for her new magazine, Homegirl, to back in her David Douglas High School days when she took on a guest editor role of the school’s paper and fell for the art of storytelling. That’s manifested in jobs for Willamette Week and, most recently, as the director of community relations for the Old Town Community Association.
Now Ellis wants to focus on storytelling as editor-in-chief of her own dream publication that highlights Black and femme folks. It's something she started thinking a lot about during the pandemic when we were all at home spending more time looking for inspiration and connection online, but she couldn’t easily find lifestyle stories that reflected her experience.
“I come from all of these generations where home was such a huge factor—whether we were working in homes for white families, taking care of their children, or things of that sort—but also just the way that we care for one another. I was missing that. When I was looking for interior designers that are Black, human algorithms don't show you that. If you look it up, you're just going to see interior design in black and white. It was just really hard to find voices, though I knew that they existed, that we're speaking from the lived experiences of being African American,” she says. “And then when you see Black creatives featured in white-owned magazines, you see a little bit of our culture, but I feel like it's not enough. I want to feel the real experience, I want to be able to relate to what I'm reading. And I also want non-Black readers to get a sense of the richness of our history. I definitely want it to still be fun and an easy read, but just unapologetically leaning into our stories and our experiences in a way that I don't think that I've seen before.”
Since announcing the project last November, Ellis has pulled in almost $10,000 in donations on a Homegirl GoFundMe campaign as well as grant from Prosper Portland to support the project. She’s currently out on-site shooting their first editorial and print cover shoot with Houston photographer Ally Green for the inaugural print issue set to debut in June. Her goal for the lifestyle publication is a visual one with fashion editorials and photo essays but also personal narratives, artists interviewing other artists, and culture focuses pieces. There’s even a Homegirl Spotify channel with their own playlists. The aim is to have a national reader base, but Ellis still wants it to come from a Portland core.
“I love the idea of pushing a lifestyle magazine forward that is from someone from the Pacific Northwest. We're not necessarily known for being particularly stylish or trendsetters in that way, but I do think that we have a very unique lens here and I want that to be a central focus,” she says. “I have this theory about Black families along the Oregon Trail—our families are all scattered throughout the nation and so being here, I have my roots here, because I was raised here, but when I think about my legacy, so to speak, it spans east across the country. So, I want the magazine to feel that way too, because that's my lens: Being from the Pacific Northwest, but focused on the experience of Black women's lifestyle, nationally.”