As the youngest ever editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue—and the first African American—Elaine Welteroth has spent her career defying expectations. Just 29 when she was appointed editor by the legendary Anna Wintour, Welteroth guided the publication in a more inclusive, modern direction, working to ensure the pages included more representation of women of color and moved beyond makeup and fashion to cover politics, racial justice and gender identity.
In More Than Enough: Claiming Space for Who You Are (No Matter What They Say), Welteroth retraces her California childhood with a white dad and a black mom and her lingering feeling of “otherness” coming from a mixed-race background. She writes about the way she learned her particular brand of scrappy journalism from years covering beauty and fashion, first at Ebony magazine and then at Glamour. When she joined the hallowed halls of Teen Vogue as its first black beauty director, those halls were, well, quiet compared the raucous camaraderie and creativity of her previous gigs. And the office lacked the diversity Welteroth had previously experienced.
“Finding my voice and my confidence in a predominantly White office to pitch stories that pushed the envelope, that tackled issues that mattered to my community, and that challenged the status quo—that would take more time to cultivate,” she writes.
Welteroth pushes the envelope throughout the book, pitching stories beyond lip gloss and tanning lotion to cover topics like ethnic hair and cultural appropriation. When Welteroth is offered the position of editor-in-chief, but not the salary or corner office commensurate with the title, she has to learn how to advocate for herself in a world that still undervalues women of color.
“In the press, I was being held up as a symbol of progress and exalted publicly as a token win for diversity (again),” she writes. “But behind the scenes I had been asked, on the spot, to assume an ill-defined position that broke from a tradition that I felt devalued my role.”
Welteroth makes her mark not only on the publication but also on the industry. More Than Enough is a beautifully honest look at the exhilaration and heavy weight that comes with breaking barriers. Welteroth didn’t set out to shatter ceilings, but she is a force of nature. I can’t wait to see what she does next.