You know that career advice we hear so often about always evolving and never getting comfortable? Elaine Welteroth’s career has embodied this to a T. If you have been following the outspoken and fashionable activist’s career, you know her resume is filled with goals-worthy opportunities that women of all ages dream of. And if you haven’t, buckle up, we’re about to take you through her awe-inspiring journey to being an award-winning journalist and New York Times Bestselling author.
Elaine’s Career Foundation
Elaine’s career started in the fourth grade when she would create magazines at home with her friend. In an interview with Jimmy Fallon, she recalls drawing girls in fashion and using saran wrap on the cover for an authentic glossy magazine feel. She also talked about her “college crisis” and not knowing what to do with her life, until it hit her. “I’ve always been a magazine editor ever since those days playing with my photo albums,” she told Jimmy. When she came to this realization, she picked up from where she left off as a little girl making homemade magazines to interning with Ebony magazine.
Fun Fact: Elaine actually turned down a dream internship with Essence Magazine after receiving an offer to work with her dream mentor Harriet Cole, who was the editor in chief of Ebony at the time. Although Essence was the more “sexy” opportunity, as Elaine describes it, she recognized the invaluable lessons and experience she would gain from working under Cole that she wouldn’t get anywhere else. Career wisdom trumped the glamourous brand for Elaine — a mantra every woman should keep in mind for their careers. The smallest brands can offer some amazing benefits, including hands-on experience and the chance to work closely with top executives and the CEO. These experiences can serve as the foundation of your career and lead to bigger, more unimaginable moves in the future.
Securing Her Seat at the Head of the Table
Elaine’s Ebony experience and her hunger for learning and elevating opened the door for a whole host of opportunities. She moved on to the Condé Nast in 2011 as a beauty writer for Glamour, where she discovered the need for more inclusion and filled the pages with a diversity of women. A little over a year later 25-year-old Elaine made history as the first African-American editor at Teen Vogue after accepting the Beauty and Health Director position. And five years later she continued her historic streak and claimed the seat at the head of the table as Editor in Chief of Teen Vogue.
“I was a 25-year-old black woman who worked hard to get a dream job, then found out in the headlines that in fact, I had become a black woman making history,” Elaine told The Guardian. These headlines, in part, sparked the idea for her first book, “More Than Enough,” which reveals her “barrier-breaking” journey through the beauty and media industries. She wanted to dispel the myth that she was a “token black woman” who happened to get to the top. Her book shares the impactful lessons she learned, career obstacles she overcame and the bold moves she made on her way to the top. It was a journey of hard work and perseverance and “More Than Enough” serves as the baton she’s passing down to young women navigating their careers.
“More Than Enough”
“I wrote this book for black women who know what it is to be told you are not enough, that you are not smart enough, that you are not beautiful enough, that you are not worth enough,” Elaine exclaims emotionally in her NAACP speech. “And then when you get ambitious, you’re told you’re too much, you’re too loud, you’re too demanding and you’re too black. This book is a reminder that you are more than enough, no matter what they say.”
The poignant lesson that it’s okay to dream big, take risks and go after what you want screams loud through the pages. It’s a read for women of all ages no matter where they are in their career.
Where is She Now?
Elaine has since resigned from Teen Vogue after the magazine transitioned to being solely digital, but her career did not end there. She joined the Project Runway judges panel, entered the writing room for the TV show Grown-ish and even made an appearance alongside fellow activist, Yara Shahid. She most recently claimed the Cultural Ambassador title for Michelle Obama’s ‘When We All Vote’ initiative and continues to be a vibrant voice for change on her very entertainingly diverse Instagram page.
If you enjoyed Elaine’s story, we’re sure you can also learn a thing or two from the CEO of Create & Cultivate. Learn how Jaceyln Johson faked it until she made her $10 million brand.