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Former 'Teen Vogue' Editor Elaine Welteroth Shares Her Truth in Her Latest Book

4min read
Career

"You're more than enough even when you're a work in a progress"


Award-winning journalist, and new author, Elaine Welteroth was once just a small town California girl with a big dream, almost so big she couldn't utter it out loud, of one day making it in the New York magazine world

Welteroth's foot-in-the-door opportunity was her out-of-college internship at Ebony Magazine. To land the internship, Welteroth repeatedly begged the assistant to the editor-in-chief for fifteen minutes of time with the editor-in-chief, Harriette Cole. Welteroth's minor stalking finally paid off when Cole reached out to her about six months later inviting Weltheroth to help with an Ebony photo shoot in California. What Cole did not mention on the phone, was that this shoot was Serena Williams' cover shoot. Welteroth's keen eye and natural ability on set led Cole to offer her a summer internship at Ebony.

When Welteroth's summer internship was over, instead of going back home, she continued to show up to work and continued to get paid. After a few months, Welteroth boldly changed her job title from intern to production assistant and people even started calling her production assistant. Around January, Welteroth realized she needed a raise and asked for $20 an hour. Welteroth managed to double her salary for a job she didn't technically have in the middle of the recession.

Welteroth impressed Cole with her hard work and creative eye and was later ultimately promoted to Beauty & Style editor. During her time at Ebony, Welteroth worked her way up the corporate ladder by working hard and knowing how to be bold and ask for what she believed her value was.

From Ebony, Welteroth landed a job as the Beauty & Style editor at Glamour magazine and was later promoted to senior Beauty Editor.

Shortly after Glamour, Weltheroth became the first ever African-American Beauty & Health Director at Teen Vogue. And, at just 29-years-old, Welteroth was promoted to editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue and made headlines as the youngest and only the second black editor-in-chief in Condé Nast history.

From Ebony, to Glamour, to Teen Vogue, Welteroth has pushed open doors for herself and claimed space in spaces that were not designed for her as a biracial black woman.

In her groundbreaking book, More Than Enough: Claiming Space For Who You Are (No Matter What They Say), Welteroth's empowering story is crafted from her desire to go "beyond the headlines and highlight reel to offer an honest portrait of what success really looks like for a leader."

In an interview at TBWA Chiat Day's Disruptor Series, Welteroth defined what the title, More Than Enough means to her, "The book title speaks to this idea that for generations we, as women and women of color, have been conditioned and made to feel we are not enough."

Welteroth's book addresses lessons she learned throughout her life on identity, race, power, love, and ambition. Through writing her book, Welteroth takes control of her own narrative and uses her own voice to tell her story, "because no one can share my truth but me." She hopes that her story will help other women realize that they "are more than enough even when you are a work in progress."

Welteroth opens her book with the aptly named chapter, Intentions. Within this chapter, Welteroth states, "what good is a trailblazer who isn't willing to leave signposts along the way to make it a little less confusing, less lonely, less disorienting for the next woman or person of color to follow?" But, her brilliant intention setting doesn't end there.

Each chapter opens with a moving and inspiring quote from an influential African-American person, and these quotes serve as intention setting sound bites. Quotes include Brandan Odums' "I am my ancestors' wildest dreams," Alice Walker's "Keep in mind always the present you are constructing. It should be the future you want", and Maya Angelou's "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time."

And every chapter ends with an original "take-away" quote in Welteroth's own words. This structure creates a clear blueprint of Welteroth's evolution throughout her experiences and also aids in shaping the reader's journey throughout the book.

The beauty within the text is not only in the insightful yet relatable stories of Welteroth's business and personal life but also in the form of the story-telling itself.

Welteroth describes her book as "not a fluff book, this required baring my soul and putting my heart on each page," and bare her soul she did.

The book's backbone is Welteroth's truth baring of what it means to be a FOD, a Shonda Rhimes term for first, only, different.

Growing up, Welteroth never felt like she fit in because her mother is black and her father is white. Elaine's mixed black identity was a struggle to navigate in school, saying, "I never felt like I was black enough to be at the black table. And was never white enough to be anything other than the token black friend."

In many of Welteroth's positions at Glamour and Teen Vogue, she was often the only black person in the room. By taking up space in white-dominated spaces, Welteroth realized and actualized her mission in this world: "to be a bridge between divides." Welteroth realized that she "could do more transformative work on the other side by bringing all of this black excellence where it is actually really needed." And so she did.

Welteroth is credited for the noticeable increase in Teen Vogue's coverage of politics, diversity, and representation. To Welteroth, fashion and politics "are not mutually exclusive," and she sought out to SWAAY the narrative of what society assumed young people were interested in reading. Welteroth's goal was to "create this platform that was this intersection; that elevated all aspects of our reader's identity. This next generation of young people care about politics; they see themselves as activists and change makers."

Welteroth continued by saying, "we do live in this world that makes us believe there are false binaries and we have to check a box. We are either smart or stylish. We either can care about fashion or politics." However, throughout her entire career, Welteroth has pushed for a way to do both, "We need to claim the intersection and make space for whoever we are. And that is what we were doing at Teen Vogue, and that is hopefully what I am doing with this book."

More Than Enough flows from business lessons to personal life lessons because every person is a blend of both. Welteroth pointedly said on the Disruptor Series, "When we talk about success stories, especially with women, we don't talk about our personal lives. And these things intersect. So I go in, it gets juicy."

Welteroth's most personal relationship obstacles are vital pieces in her life story, as it is with any woman. Her willingness to include such vulnerable information and raw emotion aids in creating a refreshingly full picture of what it means to be a woman and how relationships can foster or hinder personal success.

Now at 32-years-old, Welteroth has fought for and accomplished her wildest adolescent dreams and more than she ever could have imagined. What will she do next? We don't know, but we do know it will be extraordinary.

"I fought for a seat at the table. Now I am at the head of the table. And now I'm going to go build my own table, and this book is my first table."

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3min read
Self

I Have Been Bullied Both At School and At Work. Here's What It Taught Me

Starting with a little background, I am an anti-bullying advocate and have recently graduated from The Parent Leadership Training Institute, where as part of our studies we were asked to come up with a community project close to our hearts and put it into action. My cause was bullying, and I began a blog and Facebook page to address issues pertaining to all forms of bullying. Implementing this project was followed by a thre- minute speech to my peers, and, after all this, here is what I have learned about bullying.


Bullying makes people feel bad about themselves, leading to feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem and even physical symptoms. The repercussions of bullying can cause people to miss school or work as well as countless other negative side effects.

I have been bullied both at school and at work, and I know of others who have suffered the same plight. It is not fun!

My first bullying experience was in seventh grade as a young teen. There was a group of three "mean girls" who harassed me and, I later found out, several of my friends; they thought it was funny to pick on others about their clothes, their looks or whatever else they could come up with (who knows). It felt awful at the time. Supposedly, I was chosen to get picked on because they claimed I bought my clothes at the Goodwill. That wasn't true, but really who cares? Why they were picking on me was never really the point. Luckily, after a while, the meanies went on to the next victim(s) like a never-ending cycle. I tend to think once a bully, always a bully, which goes to show how good a lifestyle that is, because those "mean girls" never amounted to much. In hindsight, I feel sorry for them. Watch the movie The Gift if you're really curious about what happens to bullies when they grow up.

And bullying was not just an issue when I was a teen, since then nothing much has changed. My own nephew was bullied in eighth grade, and he recently talked to me in depth about of how the bullying took a toll on him. Especially because I had the same experience, I could relate to him in ways that some others couldn't. Like reliving my own memories, I was incredibly broken up to hear how it made him feel.

Even worse than that, bullying does not end in the school yard. Employees are being bullied on the job at an alarming rate. When you are bullied on the job as an adult, it taken an even bigger toll. Further it doesn't just go away like those middle school "mean girls." Unless you can quit your job, you might just be stuck. There are all kinds of physical symptoms, stomach pains, migraines and even panic attacks. Beyond the physical, people's mental and emotional state is extremely sensitive to bullying, and as a result work performance might suffer. Furthermore, it might feel like there is no recourse, no one to believe you. You can hope that the HR Department is willing to listen and do something about it, but the whole process can be so disheartening. And in the hierarchical corporate environment, sometimes the bully seems to get ahead and you are left lagging behind in a subservient position. This is what happened to me as a victim of workplace bullying. It started with me being told by a co-worker that my boss was following me to the bathroom, staring down the hall whenever I left my desk to make sure I came right back to my seat. Then it was standing over me as I typed, ordering me to get in a car with them, not allowing me to sit somewhere if it wasn't within their sight. The list of offenses could go on endlessly. There were times I felt like I couldn't breathe. And then, the bully torturing me got a promotion. Like the character of Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, the classic bully is revered by her peers, despite the fact that all of her employees are terrified of her. Yet, she is in a role of high stature and praised as a bully. We live in a culture that is not only complacent in the existence of bullies, but one that actively allows them to thrive.

It makes you realize how unfair life can be. Of course, no one said that life would be fair; maybe you just assumed that bad people would not get ahead. But, they do. Even now, I cannot help but to shake my head in disbelief. I often wonder what makes a person feel the need to laud their power over another. Are they insecure? Were they bullied themselves? They must feel bad about themselves in some way? Do they feel the need to do this to make themselves look good? Whatever the reason, it certainly isn't nice at all. I have found myself at different times in my life standing up for people who have been bullied around me. And I certainly do not allow anyone to treat me in any way that I find disrespectful. I truly believe in karma, and I tell myself that at some point in time, the bullies will get it back in some way. I have seen it happen, and in the meantime, I just say to myself "What goes around, comes around."

Bullying shows no sign of slowing down, and in this day and age, it's even worse than I have experienced in the past. Cyber bulling, rumors, fist fights, knifes, guns and other forms of both mental and physical cruelty, it truly sickens me. I know that I cannot save everyone, but I try to be an advocate as much as possible and encourage others to do so as well. NO ONE SHOULD BULLIED! It is disgraceful to say the least. You should always practice grace as much as you can. With every person who chooses to do so, the world gets a little bit better. I will be writing more on this topic on a regular basis; I feel it helps to talk about this subject aloud and spread the word. and, if nothing else, be kind.