A couple of days ago, I read a story that has stuck with me. The news was about Elaine Welteroth, becoming the new head of Teen Vogue. This is monumental in more ways than one. She’s only 29, making her the youngest of any Conde Nast editor-in chief. She is also a black woman, meaning she’s opening the door for opportunity for the rest of us.
I love this and I am all for it. She’s representing an entire sect of women who have largely been ignored. Aside from this though, and perhaps more importantly, young women and girls can look up to her as something to aspire to. Growing up with women who look like you in positions of power with successful careers is huge. This is so important because previous generations may not have had examples like this.
The conversation about diversity is not just centered on the fashion industry although their is a long discussion there. All media platforms are guilty of under representation and it may not be apparent to most people. During a discussion with classmates about race and its role in the mainstream media, one student pointed out that “shows are now becoming diverse just to say that they are diverse”. This may be true, in fact I’m certain that it is, but there is still a sense of pride and ease that comes with seeing yourself reflected on national television in a positive light.
Watching families that do not fit into the acceptable western idea of beauty and success struggling with the same things that the Brady’s or the Tanner’s faced is amazing. Most families battle the same basic trials but for years television forced us into seeing the same archetype played out again and again.
This is why I say representation matters. It may seem trivial, a small thing to people who never actually have to think about these things.When you don’t have to ponder whether or not you will see models of your ethnicity featured in magazines, representation may not matter to you. When you know that you will not be forced to watch a show featuring a “token” stereotypical character with little development who is included solely to add a little diversity to the mix, you may not even be aware that a problem exists.
With media today, each platform influences the other.
Designers observe popular trends,draw their inspiration and create masterpieces , people imitate what they witness their favorite celebrities doing and wearing and Hollywood caters to the largely unchanging mind of the masses, providing them with popular content that people will flock to see, T.V executives look to the past to find examples of what worked and repeat it. The cycle breeds under representation and it has for decades.
I’m thankful for women like Elaine Welteroth and Misty Copeland. Proving that you can still be successful and black and a woman in a system that is designed against it.I’m thankful for fashion icons like Amandla Stenberg and Solange who grace the cover of magazines, providing young women like me a chance to feel proud.
Being able to see yourself reflected into mainstream media should not be a ground-breaking experience. Unfortunately though, it is. Luckily things are improving-slowly improving, but still improving nonetheless. Women like Welteroth give me hope for the future and inspire me to continue forging my own path.