The staffs of Bon Appétit magazine and sister food website Epicurious on Wednesday released a lengthy statement apologizing for the treatment of people of color in their workplaces and in their publications, vowing to “dismantle racism at our brands.”
The statement by the staffs of the Conde Nast-owned titles comes amid turmoil at the organization over accusations of racial discrimination that included the resignation of the magazine’s top editor on Monday. “Our mastheads have been far too white for far too long,” it reads. “As a result, the recipes, stories, and people we’ve highlighted have too often come from a white-centric viewpoint.”
The missive positioned the staffs as being at odds with management over such issues. “We have been complicit with a culture we don’t agree with and are committed to change,” it reads. The staffs promised a range of steps, including hiring more staffers and freelancers of color, resolving pay disparity, and conducting anti-racism training.
The statement came two days after Bon Appétit editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport resigned, following the resurfacing of a 2004 photo in which he and his wife appeared to be dressed in costumes obviously meant to be stereotypically Puerto Rican. The outrage over the photo, which freelance writer Tammie Teclemariam resurfaced, compounded complaints from current and former staffers, many aired this week on social media and in an in-depth story by Business Insider, about disparate treatment of people of color on staff and the video and print coverage of the cuisine of various cultures.
In the Wednesday statement, the staffs said their work would include “prioritizing people of color for the editor in chief candidate pool.”
The staff apology echoes many of the complaints that have been aired about the publication in recent days. In her calls for Rapoport to step down, Sohla El-Waylly, an assistant editor and a personality on the magazine’s popular YouTube channel, accused the magazine of paying only white editors for their video appearances on the cult favorite Bon Appétit Test Kitchen series, something a magazine spokeswoman has denied. She and several other of the YouTube channel’s cast are salaried employees of Bon Appétit, and receive no extra pay for video appearances, she said.
In an interview, El-Waylly said the management has treated the few staffers of color like “props” on the popular video series to create an appearance of diversity. Soon after she was hired to test recipes, she says, she was asked to appear in the background of videos. “Really quickly my job went from being a cross tester to being a brown person they use for stuff,” she says.
In the statement, the staff acknowledged that staffers of color had been “tokenized … in our videos and on our pages.” And it addressed pay disparity: “Many new BIPOC hires have been in entry-level positions with little power, and we will be looking to accelerate their career advancement and pay.”
El-Waylly said she had been filming a pilot for a series of her own when the Rapoport controversy erupted into public view. No contract had been signed, and managers and lawyers had been slow to produce one, until her Instagram post about pay disparity was widely circulated on Monday. Almost immediately, she says, she was presented with an offer: an additional $20,000 on top of her $60,000 salary.
“Honestly, I was expecting something around an additional $50k,” she says.
Meanwhile, other former staffers shared their own stories of troubling treatment of staffers of color. Ryan Walker-Hartshorn, who was Rapoport’s assistant, described to Business Insider being denied a pay raise earlier this month from a salary of $35,000. Her job included cleaning her boss’s golf clubs and getting him coffee (which he said he took “like Rihanna,” presumably meaning the color of the pop star’s skin).
“I am the only Black woman on his staff,” Walker-Hartshorn told the publication. “He treats me like the help.”
Condé Nast brass held multiple meetings with staff this week, including a Tuesday all-staff meeting with Anna Wintour, in which the Condé Nast artistic director praised the work of the staff and assured them that a search for a permanent replacement for Rapaport was underway. On Tuesday, Amanda Shapiro, who had edited Bon Appétit’s “Healthyish” sub-brand, was named acting deputy editor.
As staffers worked to craft their statement, controversy surrounding the brand continued to simmer, with some staffers and others calling for the resignation of Matt Duckor, a Condé Nast vice president who oversaw the video operation. In screenshots of since-deleted tweets, Duckor referred to “black people and Asian same sex couples” in Harlem, called a man singing a John Mayer song “gay” and wrote “WORKING OUT IS SO GAY.”
Duckor apologized on Twitter, noting that the tweets were more than a decade old and that at the time, he thought he was making “jokes.” “I am taking the necessary steps to make change and I’m sorry to those I’ve let down,” he wrote.
Also on Tuesday, drinks editor Alex Delany apologized on Instagram after a tweet from Teclemariam resurfaced a photo of a Confederate flag cake he made in 2010. Another freelance writer, Elazar Sontag of Eater (who has written food stories for The Washington Post), unearthed a vine in which Delany uses an anti-gay slur.