In this nation, there are so many girls of color who can attest to a feeling of inadequacy after thumbing through some of the print industry’s most successful magazines. From Glamour to Vogue and Cosmo, there has always been a lack of representation in terms of seeing like faces and skin tones throughout any of the aforementioned publications. From the centerfold, couture fashion spreads to editorial spreads, trickling down to the ads – they were all whitewashed! Hopefully, we can now look to Teen Vogue’s first African American Beauty Director, Elaine Welteroth, to spark a much needed change in the the fashion mag industry!
In a recent interview with Racked.com, Welteroth gave specifics about her new position and diversity in fashion culture.
What does your role entail and how is it different from what you’ve done in the past?
My role as Beauty & Health Director is to oversee the beauty coverage in-book, online, and across Teen Vogue’s social media platforms. It’s different from my previous roles in that I’m doing more big-picture thinking strategizing with all departments of the brand, particularly our business team and our digital platforms. Working with the best of the best is a big part of Teen Vogue’s heritage, so I’m also tasked with wrangling the Pat McGrath’s and the Guido’s of the world to work with us on shoots that make our beauty pages so magical and inspiring. We want our girls to feel like Teen Vogue gives them something incredibly special that they can’t get anywhere else.
You’re taking on this role at a relatively young age. Why do you think you were hired for the job?
I was hired to bring a fresh perspective on beauty for teens who love fashion. It’s a very specific reader, not just because she’s young, but because of her sensibilities. Our reader has upscale taste, she’s in the know, and her obsession with beauty really ties back to this budding love affair with fashion. She also spends so much time online. So, I think it’s incredibly important for Teen Vogue editors to be plugged in digitally.
Most importantly though, I think you’ve got to be able to relate to what teens are going through. I joke that I’ve always had this sort of insatiable “big sis” complex—which is odd given that I am the baby of the family with no sisters! It’s the reason I have such a powerful desire to connect with girls and encourage them. So, it’s a natural fit for me to have a job that’s like the editorial version of an older sister to a million girls.
Do you see a trend towards more diversity on the editorial side of beauty content creation?
In general, our world is getting more multicultural by the minute. It’s a step in the right direction when the workplace reflects that. I think that beauty is an important space to see a range of perspectives, because it’s a particularly personal topic. We write about products you wear on your skin and in your hair, which come in a wide range of shades and textures. A sense of trust is established when your reader feels like there is someone on the masthead who understands them and can speak up for them on these topics.
What about in front of the camera? Are beauty brands speaking to non-white customers through the models they use and the products they’re creating?
I’d say we are slowly seeing more and more of this, yes.