Complex Media Called Out for Treatment of Black Women Employees and Culture Vulture-ism

Isheka N. Harrison
Written by Isheka N. Harrison
Complex Media claims they do it for the culture, but Black women who worked there are calling its executives demeaning culture vultures who are full of BS. Photo by Johnathan Kaufman on Unsplash.

Complex Media claims they do it for the culture, but Black women who worked there are calling its executives demeaning culture vultures who are full of BS. In an open letter to Complex on Twitter, former employee Tiffany Wines detailed a toxic company culture that demeaned and harmed Black women.

Wines opened her letter calling the company’s statement of solidarity with the Black community in the wake of Black Lives Matters protests a “posturing” joke that wasn’t actually funny. She called for the “immediate resignation” of Complex’s Executive Vice President (EVP) of People & Culture Jay Salim and its Senior Director of Social Media Arman Walia.

“Complex Networks would not and could not exist without Black art, Black consumers, and Black labor, but the company itself is not a safe space for its most vulnerable population: Black women,” Wines wrote.

Noting the letter couldn’t begin to embody all the “microaggressions” she experienced while working at Complex, Wines described an environment that was “steeped in misogyny, anti-Blackness, favoritism, rape culture and pay inequity.”

She added Complex was unsafe both emotionally and physically, detailing a time when she unknowingly ingested drugs in cookies and blacked out on the way home.

Fittingly posted on Juneteenth, Wines letter said she was breaking her non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with the company, despite possible ramifications, to draw attention to “the Black women that Complex Networks has chewed up and spit out with no regard for our dignity and humanity.”

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Once Wines’ letter went viral, other Black women who’d worked at, or with, Complex corroborated her claims. Journalist and podcaster Kiana Fitzgerald, who said she was also breaking an NDA she signed with the company, echoed Wines’ experiences.

“The last few days have been tiring and triggering. Despite also signing an NDA, I have to publicly stand with @radioheadass. Complex is a machine that grinds up Black women for sport. It is astounding, the BS I was forced to endure,” Fitzgerald tweeted, then went on to detail more of her personal experience.

Kerensa Cadenas, one of Complex’s former deputy editors, said Wines’ letter was spot on.

“Rape joke in the bullpen I couldn’t report, 20K less I made than the men in the same position as me, probation period I was put on ‘for not smiling enough’ after being told if everyone worked as hard as I did it would be a better place,” Cadenas tweeted. She added she was also touched inappropriately in 2016 and her tweets didn’t even “scratch the surface” of her experiences with the company.

“As a former freelancer music critic who was professionally “ghosted” by Complex due to my insistence on addressing misogynoir in my reviews, I co-sign your statement in full solidarity, Tiffany.” Sun Singleton tweeted.

Another Twitter user @zar_inah said they quit Complex years ago for similar reasons.

“I quit there 4 years ago. That place was a disaster, any black person whos there is a Get Out extra. HR complicit since day 1. R*ch is toxic and let abusive toxic people, sexual harassers, and racists thrive. Board knows and babysits him now. LOVE to see it sis!,” @zar_inah wrote.

Twitter user @sashofelia tweeted they are a current employee at Complex and “nothing has changed.”

“As someone who worked at complex ita (sic) sounds like nothing has changed. They bulldoze employees,” @sashofelia wrote. “They are culture vultures and treat women like SHIT. I’ve had men come to my desk and curse me OUT in an open office over things I was not responsible for and nothing was done.”

Complex has not publicly responded to the claims.