(An Open) Letter to the Editor, Elaine Welteroth of Teen Vogue
By Jaylin Paschal
I have a box of Teen Vogue magazines stored under my bed. I used to buy every issue, read every article, and cut out clippings and images for collages. I kept every issue I've ever bought to archive my sources of inspiration. In that box is what convinced me to go into journalism. Those issues acted as the springboard for the writer I am today. They meant a lot to me, and they still do. I can confidently say that they always will.
I always said as a kid, "I want Amy Astley's job." My parents can vouch for me. I had the "editor" section of the Teen Vogue Handbook bookmarked. At that time, there was a lot about myself that I didn't know, but I knew for certain that I wanted to be an editor.
And although Astley's advice and tips in the Teen Vogue Handbook were helpful (or at least I convinced myself that they were), the position still seemed unattainable. Editor-in-Chief was my "dream" job for a reason--I considered it to be unrealistic.
After all, I rarely saw any models of color, or features on black girls in the magazine, so how could a black girl run the show?
If I wanted an influential spot at a magazine, it would have to be at a black magazine. Jet or Ebony or Essence were the platforms created for girls like me. And although I loved these publications, and have a profoundly deep appreciation for them, I hated the idea of being limited in that way. I couldn't relate to that content yet. Girls my age didn't thumb through those magazines like I did. The trends and styles were obviously way too mature for me. So while they were great, they weren't Teen Vogue.
Since those days, I've gained interest in a different type of writing and journalism. I no longer want to be a fashion journalist, I no longer spend hours trying to master the featured hairstyles, and I no longer read Teen Vogue cover to cover. But my issues of Teen Vogue are still in that box under my bed.
So when I heard that Astley was to be replaced by the youngest Editor-in-Chief ever, and that she was black--emotional is an understatement. It's no secret that the history of Conde Nast is far from diverse. You've managed to become the first African-American beauty director, and now the first African-American editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue, and the second to hold the title in Conde Nast's 107 year reign. But it's about more than you being black. It's about you being you--something I thought would never be enough for me in this industry. I am so proud of you, and beyond that, I am so grateful for your work. Now young teenage girls like the one I was can hoard their collected issues, clip their favorite articles, and know that "Editor-in-Chief" is not just a dream job.