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After spending the last decade breaking ground as a storyteller, Elaine Welteroth has become a cultural and fashion icon, garnering comparisons to fashion journalist André Leon Talley.
Welteroth served as the first black beauty editor of Teen Vogue before her promotion to editor-in-chief of the publication in 2017. At 29, she became both the youngest individual and the second black person to hold an editor-in-chief title in Conde Nast’s 110-year history. She is credited with revolutionizing the magazine, expanding its purview from fashion to politics and in the process, capturing the nuances of young women.
When the print version of Teen Vogue ceased, Welteroth didn’t retreat from the public eye. Instead, she took on an on-air job as one of three judges on the revamped fashion competition show “Project Runway,” the latest iteration of which premiered in March.
“I’m conscious of the projects I align myself with,” Welteroth told NBC News. “I hold myself to a very high standard in terms of not perpetuating damaging stereotypes of black women — particularly for the next generation of young black women coming up.”
Now, she’s chronicling her career in her new book, “More Than Enough: Claiming Space for Who You Are (No Matter What They Say),” which will be released June 11.
She hopes that the book will serve as a guide for women of color who are seeking to make their talents known and appreciated in spaces where they go underrepresented.
“My experience of working in media has taught me that as black women in leadership positions, our unique perspectives are our superpowers,” Welteroth said. “I think sometimes the ways in which we shrink or assimilate to gain entry or credibility is a detriment to our ability to really incite change.”
As a young girl, Welteroth devoured magazines — even though she said she didn’t see anyone who looked like her in their pages. This lack of visibility has fueled her work.
“I know personally the struggle of not seeing myself reflected and how that affected my self-esteem,” Welteroth said. “I also know as a journalist and woman of color how systemic these issues actually are.”
Beyond her upcoming book and role on “Project Runway,” Welteroth recently collaborated with Girlgaze, Dove and Getty Images on Project #ShowUs, the world’s largest photo library created by women and nonbinary individuals. The goal of the project, which launched in the U.S. last month at Beautycon, a festival regarded as the Super Bowl of the beauty industry, is to redefine and expand limited notions of beauty.
Project #ShowUs features candid shots of women of all body types with no digital distortion.
“We sell lies about success and beauty on social media,” Welteroth said. “I wanted to show the why and the how behind what you see in the highlight reel.”
She added: “We’ve been talking about diversity and inclusion ad nauseam, but we need to see some more strategies and tools that actually help us and deliver on those promises of inclusivity."