Culture critic reshaping Essence into a new beacon for turbulent times.
With a knack for breaking news, Yesha (pronounced I-esha) Callahan, a native of Elizabeth, NJ and Rutgers University graduate, has seamlessly transitioned from a corporate HR career, to being one of the most sought-after online news media mavens in a little under 6 years. In 2012, Yesha received her big break as a politics and comedy writer for BET’s former late-night talk show Don’t Sleep, created by The Daily Show creator Madeleine Smithberg. Although the show was short lived, it was an episode on Chicago gun violence, written by Yesha, that was heralded and subsequently received a nomination for an NAACP Image Award.
Shortly after the talk show ended, Yesha landed a position with the relatively unknown Black news website The Root in 2014. It was under her tutelage, that the site propelled itself from a meager 2-4 million unique page views a month, to its largest month ever in May 2018, with over 18 million unique page views. At The Root, Yesha not only cultivated her snark and great eye for news, but she also was key in hiring and editing a slew of influential writers, who are now paving their own way in the world of online news media.
In the summer of 2018, Yesha joined the staff of Essence Magazine, the number one destination for Black women when it comes to the world of beauty and fashion. At Essence, Yesha is responsible for cultivating its news, politics and culture section, as well as managing a group of writers. During the 2018 midterm elections, Yesha created The Chisholm List, a non-partisan list named after Shirley Chisholm that profiled 60 prominent Black women who were running in various elections across the country. The list not only caught the eye of CNN, but also Congressman Beto O’Rourke, who wrote an op-ed for Essence about health care disparities with women of color.
Whether it’s being the first to report on stories like Boko Haram, missing teenage girls in Washington, D.C., speaking to victims of the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Va., or using her humor to talk about the crazy political world we live in, Yesha has been able to grasp people’s attention with her writing and personality. Currently living in the Los Angeles area, Yesha is not only juggling her full-time position at Essence, but is also working on various television projects and writing a book, all while trying to stay sane while parenting a teenage son.