*In an effort to address the lack of diversity on the runways, Essence kicks off its nationwide Essence It Girl model search in partnership with Elite Model Management.

The winner –to be announced in May –will be featured in the magazine’s September 2010 Fall Fashion issue and receive a one-year contract with Elite Model Management.

“If you have the beauty, talent and ambition to take over the fashion world, Essence is asking you to show us that you are the new It Girl,” says Essence.com Managing Editor, Emil Wilbekin. “We are excited to partner with Elite Model Management to find the next African-American model and to welcome her to the fashion industry.

“Even better…our audience can weigh in with their votes online and watch the competition unfold in the Making of an It Girl web series on Essence.com. What better way to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of Essence than by celebrating the unique beauty of African-American women?”

Live castings will be conducted in Atlanta, Los Angeles and New York and photos will be accepted online at www.essence.com/itgirl.  An expert panel of judges comprised of Essence editors, Elite managers and fashion industry VIPs will attend each of the open castings to evaluate the entrants and five finalists will be flown to New York City for a special modeling boot camp, which will be documented for the Making of an It Girl web series on Essence.com.

The Essence.com audience will cast their votes online to help select the grand prize winner from the five finalists.