Tagg Magazine founder reflects as she passes the torch

by Joe Siegel

Eboné Bell remembers how Tagg Magazine, which she launched in 2012, struggled to survive because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tagg Magazine founder Eboné Bell

“We were a hair away from closing,” Bell said, noting the impact was particularly hard on Black-owned businesses. In comparison, white-owned businesses received more support from the government.

“I watched white LGBTQ media outlets very similar to [Tagg] have money poured into them,” Bell, founder and former editor of the publication aimed at LGBTQ women of color, continued. “We were just trying to be able to print our next issue and pay our [employees]. We really fought to keep it going. It just meant a lot of cutbacks.”

In December 2023, Sondra Rose Marie became the new owner and editor in chief of Tagg. After two years as a freelance writer, she moved up to senior content writer and spent nearly five years in that position before taking on her new roles. To expand its national reach, the magazine is now based in both Washington, D.C., and San Diego.

Bell said a “great team” of allies in the community stepped up to keep Tagg alive, whether it was through fundraising events or providing donations.

Tagg didn’t print a Pride issue in 2020, but a summer issue was printed to pay tribute to the Black Lives Matter protests that had emerged all over the country.

“It was scary,” Bell noted. “It was a scary situation to be in but I’m so grateful to every community member that donated, anywhere from $5 to $500. It got us over the hump. We were able to get small grants too, from the Human Rights Campaign, Jack Daniels — they did a grant for Black women-owned businesses.”

Initially, Tagg covered the Washington D.C., Virginia, and Maryland area before expanding its stories for a nationwide readership. Bell noted how most LGBTQ publications featured white gay men to the exclusion of women, particularly women of color.

Tagg was created to tell stories about the lives of Black LGBTQ women, share resources, and promote events. The response was favorable.

“It was definitely well received,” Bell said. “People were just excited to have something new and something that represented them.”

The decision to expand happened when Tagg began getting subscriptions from other regions of the country, which led Bell to realize there was a tremendous need to see and hear about women of color.

Bell remembers reporting about a caterer named Tyonne Johns who was fatally stabbed after a wedding in 2016. The assailant worked at the venue where the event was held. The man claimed in court that Johns was the aggressor and he acted in self-defense. Bell said the evidence showed that was not true.

“We were able to sit down with the bride and groom, people who were in the wedding party, people who saw [the stabbing],” Bell said. “We sat down with them and [filmed] a video, and I remember that week we had over 100,000 views.”

Bell believes the future looks bright for Tagg because “we still need to elevate the voices of LGBTQ women and Tagg is one of only a few left doing that in this country.”

The magazine “has always been willing to change,” Bell added. “That’s why it’s going to continue to be successful.”

Volume 26
Issue 1

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