Vanessa De Luca, Editor-in-Chief of Essence, on Why She Did a Digital Detox

'I cannot get through the day without spending time in touch with nature.'

When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.

Thrive Global: What's the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Vanessa De Luca: I roll over and check my Twitter feed on my phone—it’s the quickest way for me to see what my news tribe is talking about, what’s trending, and what I missed while I was sleeping. I confess it’s an obsession—one my family wishes I could let go of!

TG: What gives you energy?
VD: Curiosity energizes me. I love learning something new, and I try to push myself to seek out spaces (websites, blogs, op-eds, social feeds) that aren’t necessarily aligned with what I do for a living. All the Rogue Twitter feeds—NASA, National Parks, etc.—for example, have been particularly interesting to me since the Presidential inauguration. Now is the time when doing your own digging and being discerning, seeking out your own information, and learning the difference between the truth and “fake news” is a skill we all must master.

TG: What's your secret life hack?
VD: I cannot get through the day without spending time in touch with nature—fresh air, sunshine on my face, watching the birds gather around the bird feeder in our backyard, walking barefoot on fresh-cut grass. We’re lucky to have offices with a harbor view in Battery Park City. It reminds me that there’s more to life than staring at my keyboard.

TG: Name a book that changed your life.
VD: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. I was introduced to the book by a school librarian when I was 11 years old, and I try to read it again every few years. The book talks about the choices women have to make, the expectations society places on us, and the consequences we face when we don’t follow social norms. It’s about being true to yourself, and following your own path. It’s a message as powerful today as it was 80 years ago when Hurston wrote it.

TG: How do you deal with email?
VD: I am obsessive about my in-box; I don’t like to see it crowded and I don’t like it when things get lost in the sauce. I don’t open emails that are obvious spam—those go straight to the Trash can. I answer the emails that require a timely reply as soon as I get them. If an email requires some considerable thought, or I think I should let my answer percolate before I reply, I put it in flag status, and come back to it later.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it? 
VDI phone a friend to see how they’re doing. We’re all so busy with life and families, when I can squeeze in that 1:1 human connection, I prefer it to texting or “liking” someone’s status on Facebook.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
VD: It was right after the inauguration. I had been ingesting too much news, both on TV and online. So I did a digital detox, and starting reading fiction again to distract me from the 24/7/365 news cycle. It helped. Then I decided to do a cover story in Essence on 100 Woke Women, to remind myself and our community that women of color are leading the way in the social justice movement, that we do have power and we should own it, as we've done for generations. We included women like Maxine Waters, Ava DuVernay, Patrisse Cullors, and so many more. What they’re doing to lift our voices is nothing short of inspiring.

Vanessa K. De Luca is Editor-in-Chief of ESSENCE magazine, the preeminent lifestyle magazine for African-American women. As the brand’s editorial leader, she oversees the content and vision for ESSENCE’s various brand extensions—print, digital, social and experiential, including top-tier events such as the internationally renowned Essence Festival (held annually during Fourth of July weekend), the ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon and ESSENCE Black Women in Music. De Luca was named to the post in July 2013.

Work Smarter, Productivity, Thrive Questionnaire

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!