The Teen Vogue of my adolescent years was (as I remember it) full of smiley girls with perfect hair in beautiful houses that didn’t really look lived in. Well . . . it seems a bunch has changed since I was an awkward teen (and I don’t just mean my terrible fashion choices). Headed by editor Elaine Welteroth since May, the latest incarnation of the magazine looks a whole lot different (THINX tip: follow @elainewelteroth and totally rethink everything you want to put on your body — you’ve been warned).
After announcing they were cutting back to four print issues a year, Teen Vogue unveiled three kickass covers for their “Love” issue (which hits newsstands today, and I'll be down there collecting them all tbh): American Honey actor and Louis Vuitton muse Sasha Lane speaks about natural hair and feeling beautiful with her dreads; singer Troye Sivan is interviewed by friend (and notable trans model/all-round cool girl) Hari Nef about coming out in the public eye and queerness in Donald Trump’s America; and supermodel Bella Hadid *reveals* she’s still recovering from her worst heartbreak (from giving up a childhood horse named Lego, obvs).
If you're a woman on the internet (hi, we see you!), you probably caught Teen Vogue making headlines a little while back when writer Lauren Duca wrote a scorching piece on how Donald Trump is Gaslighting America (and if you haven't read it, you should now! I'll wait here). What erupted was an internet storm that leaked into the mainstream, with a few digital eye rolls snowballing into an on air battle between Duca and Fox’s Tucker Carlson, and most recently, the NRA coming for Teen Vogue on Twitter. It seems that people were shocked that teen girls could contain multitudes; that they might care about perfectly winged eyeliner, representation in media, prom dresses, and the current state of our highest political office. Of course, those of us who may have been a teenage girl once upon a time might be thinking - duh!
Digital editorial director of Teen Vogue, Phillip Picardi, put it best in his appearance on the Daily Show last week:
Women’s media has historically been focused on lifestyle, celebrity gossip, and fashion, with topics like business and politics saved for more “serious” publications. As Sady Doyle points out in an article for Quartz, men have never been questioned for their ability to look at boobs and read literary fiction in magazines like Playboy, but women are expected to only be interested in “women stuff”.
Teen Vogue is part of a cultural shift that recognizes that young women (and feminists) can care about a whole lot of different things all at the same time. The magazine’s commitment to representation, intersectional feminism, discussing queerness, engaging its young readers in a conversation about politics and highlighting the glitter nail polish shades of the season should be applauded. In doing so, the magazine reflects and acknowledges the complexity of young women.
Teen Vogue’s transformation reminds us that those young people on their phones all the time will hold the keys to our future. And it's up to us not to underestimate them. Remember, a whole lot of Teen Vogue readers will be lining up to vote in four years— with perfectly winged eyeliner and glitter nail polish, of course.