Named one of OUT magazine’s 100 Most Influential Gay People in 2002, Emil Wilbekin is perhaps best known for his 10-year tenure at Quincy Jones’ Vibe magazine where he served as Editor-in-Chief and won a National Magazine Award. His flair for fashion, style, music, and pop culture propelled Wilbekin into the limelight and into the hearts of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people the world over.
Born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1968, Wilbekin enrolled in college at Virginia’s Hampton University before switching to New York’s Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. In 2004, Wilbekin would be inducted into the Mass Media Arts Hall of Fame at Hampton University.
Wilbekin’s journey on the pathway towards journalism excellence began with writing and editing stories in celebrated news and entertainment magazines, such as: People Magazine, Chicago Tribune, Associated Press, and Metropolitan Home. In 1992, he would join the Vibe team and seven years later, in 1999, he would become Vibe’s Editor-in-Chief. Wilbekin would contribute to Vibe until 2004. While working with Vibe, Wilbekin garnered the 2002 National Magazine Award for General Excellence and helped build readership circulation to an estimated 825,000. Wilbekin also became Editorial Director/Vice President of Brand Development for Vibe Ventures where he served as an executive producer for the 1st Annual “Vibe Awards.”
In 2005, Wilbekin transitioned over to Marc Ecko Enterprises to become the company’s Vice President of Brand Development. He also became the Style Guru at Complex in that same year. Later, in 2008, he would become Editor-in-Chief of GIANT Magazine – an urban entertainment and lifestyle bi-monthly magazine promoting the best of music, film and fashion. He would move on to become Managing Editor of Essence.com in 2009.
Also focused on humanitarian work, Wilbekin serves on the board of directors for the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME), the Design Industries Fighting AIDS (DIFFA), the Brotherhood SisterSol, 24 Hours for Life, and is a member of the Black AIDS institute. Among his numerous prestigious awards are: Pratt Institute’s Creative Spirit Award, the Howard University Entertainment, Sports, and Law Club Media Award, The Anti Violence Project’s Courage Award, and The Hetrick Martin Institute’s Emory Award.
*Photo courtesy Emil Wilbekin