Writing & snapping back at trolls


Jamilah Lemieux, the senior editor of Ebony magazine, will be speaking today at 7:30 p.m. in the IMU Main Lounge.


During her senior year at Howard University, Jamilah Lemieux started the blog the Beautiful Struggler. The goal was not national attention, avid online followers, or a stuffed bank account.

She wanted to write.

So she wrote. And kept writing. She covered race, gender, sexuality, relationships, and her life for over six years.

“It was doing work that I loved, doing work that was meaningful and work that could impact people,” she said. “It’s not so much that I thought I’d change the world by blogging.”

It changed her life, though.

Lemieux, now the senior editor of Ebony, is in Iowa City today as a guest speaker for Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Week 2016. Her university-sponsored talk will take place in the IMU Main Lounge at 7:30 p.m. today.

When she first started with Ebony, her lack of journalistic experience didn’t hinder the persistent worker. She excelled in her positions by accepting what she did not know, learning quickly, and asking questions, she said.

She served as lead editor for several aspects of the website before becoming senior editor. On any given workday, she might decide what goes on the cover image, theme, headline designing an inside column, assigning stories, editing, or traveling.

“I really love the cover. It’s more important than people know, and there are formulae to it,” Lemieux said. “Things that you have to be mindful about saying or not saying. Every magazine relies on advertisers, and we have to be careful around that, but we want to be as radical and revolutionary as possible while still maintaining a certain standard of quality and able to have the magazine printed every month.”

When she’s not brainstorming another genius Ebony cover, the 31-year-old spends time browsing Twitter, bursting out thoughts that might have lived on the Beautiful Struggler. For her 73,000 followers, the self-proclaimed feminist may provide comic relief with her almost daily shutdown of social-media haters.

“Part of the reason I do it is because there are other people that are really hurt by trolls, really sensitive, and aren’t able to come up with clapbacks or a snappy response,” Lemieux said. “I want trolls to know that there’s somebody that they can’t break down.”

The line between addressing said trolls and keeping it professional, she said, is blurry.

“I represent a brand that is bigger than me, older than me, more important to our people than me and is held in a certain regard,” she said. “I’ve been accused of a number of violations of that by people who probably would not subscribe to support the magazine anyway.”

Yet no amount of negative backlash seems to slow Lemieux down. In the next five years, she hopes to have two published books under her belt. Fast forward 10 years, Lemieux said she wouldn’t mind being editor-in-chief.

Lemieux maintains that her life, while beyond ordinary to many, can be just that to her.

“When I’m off stage, off work, I think I live a life that is pretty on par with most women in their late-20s, early mid-30s,” she said. “I’m single. I am a parent of my beautiful, almost 3-year-old daughter. My boss and I are very close. There’s not a whole lot of down time, but I do have great friends and people who fill my spirit. I like to go to bars and drink. I like to go on dates. I like to shop. I’m very much a regular girl.”



What: Jamilah Lemieux Talk

When: 7:30 p.m. today

Where: IMU Main Lounge

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