Mr. Lewis is one of the publishing industry’s most respected executives. He formerly served as the Chairman and founder of Essence Communications Inc., which he built into one of the country’s largest African-American multi-media organizations. Essence Communications, the publisher of ESSENCE, which Mr. Lewis co-founded in 1968, is the leading lifestyle magazine for African-American women. Essence Communications was acquired by Time Inc. in 2005.
Chairman and Co-Founder of Latina Media and Latina Magazine, servicing the Hispanic Community; Latina is celebrating its 15 year anniversary this year.
Ed Continues to forge new paths in the Media and Publishing worlds
Born in New York’s South Bronx, Mr. Lewis, the son of a janitor and a beautician and factory worker, graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School in 1958. He attended the University of New Mexico, where he minored in Russian and Chinese History, received his B.A., in Political Science in 1963, and his M.A. in Political Science and International Relations in 1967. After briefly attending Georgetown University School of Law, Mr. Lewis began his career in the business world as a Credit Analyst at Citibank while attending New York University at night. Mr. Lewis completed Harvard Business School’s Small Business Management Program in 1982.
On November 8, 1968, in the wake of the Civil Rights movement, Mr. Lewis attended a meeting with other young businessmen to discuss ways to provide more economic opportunity for African- Americans. On that fateful day, the idea was born for a black women’s magazine, inspired in part by the undervalued work and invisible achievements of women like Lewis’ mother and aunts, whom he affectionately called his “sheroes.” Lewis realized that there was no magazine where black women’s images and voices could be seen and heard, or to encourage and educate a whole new generation of women who were marginalized and underserved. With $13,000 in startup capital and a dream, Lewis created ESSENCE.
During his tenure as CEO and Publisher, Mr. Lewis nurtured Essence into a media powerhouse and the pre-eminent brand for a national sisterhood of black women. This brand included the Essence Awards, which celebrates the contributions of black women, and the Essence Music Festival, a four-day celebration of black music held during the Fourth of July, which attracts over 400,000 attendees annually. He also radically changed Madison Avenue’s perception of black women and awakened corporate America to their achievements and massive purchasing power in the multi-billions of dollars. Mr. Lewis took this same success and applied it to his next venture with Latina Magazine, a subsidiary of Latina Media Ventures, of which he has served as chairman since 2008. It is this leadership that has won Mr. Lewis the acclaim of business and community leaders throughout New York and the nation.
“When I first met Ed Lewis and heard about his vision for a magazine dedicated to Black women over 30 years ago, I immediately believed in the brilliance of the idea and in him,” said John Whitehead, former chairman, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. “Its enormous success today makes me proud to have been one of his early supporters.”
Mr. Lewis has long served as a mentor for younger generations of entrepreneurs who share in his desire to create business opportunities that support the needs of entire communities. He has spoken on this very issue at Stanford, Harvard, and Yale Universities, as well as the University of Chicago, the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and at Columbia University, and at major private companies such as Merrill Lynch, J.C. Penny, Kraft, and Kellogg.
A major supporter and advocate of civic responsibility, Mr. Lewis serves on the board of The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, The New York Academy of Medicine, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Apollo Theater Foundation, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and is the Chairman of the Harlem Village Academy, a charter school serving the needs of African-American and Latino children. He previously served on the boards of Columbia Teachers’ College, Spelman College, and Tuskegee University. President Obama has asked Mr. Lewis to serve on the Board of Advisors for the Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Mr. Lewis also served on Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s Transition Committee and The Partnership for New York City, Inc.