'Ascension Magazine: A Review', by Leesa Watego and Samara Gentle

Images courtesy Ascension. Photograph: David Broadway. Model: Marlikka Perdrisat @ The Dreamtime Project.

Ascension is Australia’s first lifestyle magazine for Indigenous and ethnic women. The brainchild of former model Sasha Sarago, its name reflects its aspirational focus, featuring images and words contributed by Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, and ethnic women. We invited blogger and businesswoman Leesa Watego and Aboriginal fashion blogger Samara Gentle to chat about it.

Leesa: I have to admit that the only magazine I’ve previously read in a digital format is your Big Ink, Samara, so it was interesting to see how content can be structured differently in this format: working it out was an adventure! For those who are feeling a little daunted by the idea of reading content online, it’s actually pretty easy to get used to it. The directional icons are intuitive and well explained.

Samara: My first thought when I opened Ascension was ‘holy moly!’ The design is so simple and sleek, yet super effective. From the typography to the colours to the layout, you can tell a lot of time and effort has gone into this magazine.

Leesa: I have to say, I have real issues with the fashion industry and fashion publications. I really have a hard time getting past how fashion is constructed around a certain body type and a particular look. However, in its depiction of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and “ethnic” women from Australia, Ascension is clearly trying to challenge at least a colour and cultural barrier. I hope that it also challenges the body shape barrier of traditional fashion publications. Your work in plus-size blogging challenges this as well.

Samara: I definitely agree with you, Leesa: the fashion industry is still backwards in a lot of ways, and it’s still making only small steps forward. That said, Ascension is a giant leap forward not only in the depiction of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, but in the recognition of land as well. It’s a beautiful representation of culture in all the right ways.

Leesa: As a reader, I’m interested in topical, smart articles that make me think, and the writing in the first issue of Ascension is definitely a good start. We have so many deadly writers—of literature, creative essays, and more—that there should be no issue in filling its pages. Any Indigenous-driven initiative that creates a platform for our writers is worth supporting.

Samara: The articles tick a lot of boxes for me: thoughtful, topical, current, and covering such a variety of themes that they relate to all parts of my life. The very first article, ‘Too Pretty To Be Aboriginal’, grabbed my attention, and I felt like the writer has shared the conversations I’ve had with my friends on this very topic. Then there are articles like ‘The Fashion Market’ that pull at my creative interests. As a whole, the magazine does a good job covering topics I feel any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman would be interested in, no matter what stage of life she’s at.

Leesa: The first edition features not just still images and text, but also video – which for digital magazine newbies like me is a very nice touch. As a publisher of digital magazines yourself, Samara, what do you think of the decision to create a digital magazine which is released in definite editions, rather than say, a “blog” platform like The Hoopla?

Samara: By creating a beautiful, interactive digital magazine, Ascension have cornered a new market. Blogs are sometimes considered an old form of communication, but digital magazines are still new and fresh. Technology is forever changing how publishers connect with readers.

Leesa: One of my tests for a publication—without being too “think of the children” about it—is whether I would be happy for my teenage daughter to read it. And on this point, Ascension gets my tick of approval. It’s quite Pinterest-y, which she loves, so I know it will go down a treat with her. If the fashion component (which is a major feature of the magazine) evolves to include many body shapes, and the articles continue to aim for significant, ground-breaking topics, then I would absolutely encourage my daughter to read this magazine. I’m looking forward to seeing it supported by both advertisers and the reading public for many years to come.

Samara: Consider me a raving fan. This magazine is a breath of fresh air in the world of media: it covers topics you wouldn’t see covered elsewhere and dares to explore the world from the perspective of a culturally strong and educated woman. Not only does the magazine feed my mind, it feeds my soul. I can imagine the blood, sweat and tears that went into putting this all together, so congratulations to everyone involved on a stellar first issue!

The first issue of Ascension is now available for pre-order.