In the real world, there’s no easy way up the ladder of success. No shortcuts and no cheat sheets. While it’s the dream to immediately start with a blooming career after you graduate, most people start from the bottom.
Former Editor-in-Chief of Teen Vogue, Elaine Welteroth, is living proof that with great perseverance comes great success. Would you believe that the esteemed journalist once worked as a mascot in her hometown? Yup, that was her first job.
Before her career kickstarted in the magazine industry, Elaine experienced being an intern for an advertising firm and became a producer for a digital media company called SomaGirls.TV. At 22 years old, she felt like her world was her oyster. She had big dreams ahead of her and she felt like anything was possible.
Woke up on the first day of a New Year in Johannesburg where, not long ago, the hatred, violence, discrimination, and bigotry of apartheid was overthrown. The powerful minority wielded guns and dominion over laws, but the majority wielded a force much greater—a revolutionary spirit fueled by Dignity. Bravery. Relentless Hope. And Love. I’m still processing/unpacking the parallels between the history here and similar stories unfolding all over the world. But I keep returning to a moment when that same revolutionary spirit flooded Constitution Hill during #AfroPunk on #NYE. @TheBrotherMoves On ended their set with this and it’s still ringing in my head: “We are the majority. We are the majority. We are the majority. What will we do with our authority? What will we do with our agency?” WHAT A POWERFUL PROMPT. May we all have the courage to wake up to our own individual and collective power. And may we use it to overthrow anything that threatens to hold us back in 2018. We have so much work to do…
During her internship at Ebony Magazine, she was relentless in getting an interview with Harriette Cole, the Editor-in-Chief of Ebony Magazine then. Opportunity arrived when she accompanied Harriette at a cover shoot with the professional tennis player, Serena Williams. Elaine’s professionalism during the shoot impressed Harriette, which led to eventually making her Harriet’s assistant. This paved way for her to be the Beauty and Style editor of the magazine.
In an interview with PopSugar, Elaine shares that every boss and colleague she had has inspired her, but particularly her first boss and mentor, Harriette Cole.
“Finding out about her and how she was able to share her gifts across various platforms inspired me endlessly. It gave me the blueprint for my career.”
In 2011, she joined Condé Nast as Glamour magazine’s Beauty and Style Editor. Then a year later, she became Teen Vogue’s Beauty and Health Director.
Being the first African-American holding that position, she wanted to embrace natural hair texture, thus creating the article, “Natural Wonder.”
“It’s about having the courage to rewrite the rules and do old things in new ways. Reinvent a role. That’s important because you’ll aspire to a role or to be in this space that there’s this overwhelming pressure to conform to what this has always looked like, sounded like, and felt like. The true magic of you is when you show up and do it your way,” Elaine said.
When I moved to New York City at 21 as an editorial intern, my greatest dream was to become Editor-in-Chief. It was a goal too intimidating to even say aloud. I was convinced it was totally out of reach for someone with no connections, no trust fund, and no fancy clothes. I pursued the path anyway. Eventually, I started believing the vision placed inside of me. I learned to shrug off the fear of failure, and how to refuse the urge to shrink—even when I was asked to. . Now, at 31, God has broken the glass ceiling on all of my wildest childhood dreams. My bucket list is all checked off and somewhere along the way I’ve managed to join the ranks of unstoppable women who’ve, throughout history, stared back into the face of the unknown and decided to MAKE IT HAPPEN. . Now, it is time to dream even bigger. . After six life-changing years at Conde Nast, I’ve decided to leave the company. Leading @TeenVogue at a time such as this, alongside some of the most talented people in the industry has been the most rewarding experience of my editorial career. It has helped me discover how to use my voice to empower young people and girls. This will continue to be a major focus for me as I take my next step—because beyond the compelling covers, and groundbreaking conversations we started online, cultivating this incredible community is what I am most proud of. . You are a beautiful, inclusive tribe of thinkers, doers, and dreamers who challenge me to be better every day. Getting to know you, both online and in person, has been the absolute greatest joy of my job. And I’m excited to take you all along for the ride into my next chapter. . What I know now that I didn’t know at 21 is that life is a series of dreams realized. There is no destination, but there will be breakthrough after breakthrough along the way. Our greatest obligation is to keep reaching, to continue growing, to push beyond what seems possible, to live outside the boxes created for us. That is exactly what 2018 is about for me, and for all of us. I’m beyond excited for what the future holds—if 2017 taught us anything, it’s to never underestimate the power of a black woman…✌🏽❤️✊🏽 #TeenVogueForever #ontothenext
Elaine won numerous awards after being named the editor of Teen Vogue in 2016. At 30 years old, she officially became the Editor-in-Chief of Teen Vogue, reshaping the magazine into a more political, socially aware brand, particularly focusing on cultural appropriation and the 2016 U.S. elections.
Her influence paved way for the publication to become a brand that welcomes diversity and intellectual discourse. Even to a point that they partnered up with the ABC Sitcom, Grown-ish, starring actress and feminist, Yara Shahidi, to talk about Black Nepotism.
With Elaine’s drive and passion, Teen Vogue now recognizes that teenagers want to talk about politics and social justice, all while being fashionable nonetheless: that it’s not just beauty or brains, it’s beauty and brains.
Now that Teen Vogue moves on to the digital age, so does Elaine. She continues to cover news like March For Our Lives with Freeform and ABC News and talking fashion with E! News.
Elaine is truly an inspiration to every career woman out there. If there was one thing she could tell her 22-year-old self, she wants to say:
“Never let anything or anyone make you feel smaller than you are.”