Over the past year, Teen Vogue has evolved into more than just a fashion and beauty magazine. Now, the Conde Nast publication is making appeals to the identity, body image, and politics of the modern teen. At the same time, it has switched to become completely digital and relies on its website and social media (such as its Discover Page on Snapchat) to reach out to its teen audience.
And these teens are definitely important: Generation Z, consisting of today’s teenagers and young adults, makes up for the largest portion of the global population. So there’s no wonder why businesses and publications acknowledge the group’s social and economic importance. While Teen Vogue must attract teen consumers to buy products, its self-professed mission is “to educate, enlighten and empower” their young audience.
Hence, in recent years Teen Vogue has become more politically active, though it still maintains its lens on fashion and beauty. Former Editor in Chief, Elaine Welteroth, told The Guardian the magazine’s goal was “becoming more woke”. The term ‘woke’ is fitting – it is a slang term used by teens (both ironically and not) to describe a heightened awareness and attention to current affairs or social and political issues.
In fact, it is this new ‘woke’ attitude that has popularized the media company. Most notably, Lauren Duca, a contributing editor, penned ‘Donald Trump is Gaslighting America’ which has been regarded by critics as a well-written, sophisticated commentary that exceeded their expectations for a teen publication. Consequently, Teen Vogue earned relevance and acknowledgment for their high standard of journalistic integrity. Its audience was also empowered, as many admitted that they didn’t expect teens to be politically conscious citizens.
In the past, Teen Vogue might have glamorized unrealistic beauty standards and a rigid perception of male and female appearance, but today, it focuses on deconstructing and disposing of these ideas. It pushes teens to feel comfortable in their own skin. In her piece titled ‘9 Things People Get Wrong About Being Non-Binary’, Suzannah Weiss dissolved common misconceptions about non-binary teens, and supported the freedom of expression in appearance and style.
By highlighting atypical models such as Barbie Ferreira on Youtube, the magazine aimed to spread body positivity and confidence among teens; their video titled ‘We Asked Five Models to Get REAL About Body Image, and You Won’t BELIEVE Their Answers’, amassed 1.14 million views on Youtube and 26 thousand likes.
As the company still advertises fashion and beauty retail brands, there has been a shift in the marketing of these products as well. For instance, there has been a push by teens online to view makeup as an art and an expression – not a mask to hide behind. Furthermore, clothing sizes have become increasingly ‘inclusive’ for all body sizes. In support of this progress, Teen Vogue covers inclusive brands and products consistently: they praised Fenty Beauty’s makeup shade range, the making of dolls with vitiligo (an autoimmune skin disease), and called for more diverse representation in the fashion and beauty industry.
However, Teen Vogue’s vibrant metamorphosis has been met with public criticism. Some journalists claim their agenda is superficial, biased, or insincere, and this is contingent upon the reality that Teen Vogue is a magazine – nothing more, and nothing less. Hazel Cills highlighted this cynicism in her 2017 article, stating that while it has “adopted a heavily political slant” in recent years, it “isn’t exactly a meaty, political rag even though its editors frequently speak about how much their “woke” teen readers care about the issues of today”. This is because often times, pieces covering controversial topics may be limited in length and depth.
Regardless of the criticisms, Teen Vogue is surely setting the bar higher for teen publications in the modern age. Fortunately, the magazine has represented a strive towards more teenage representation in our technologically-driven society. Coming from a teenage reporter for a high school magazine, this integration of teen voices in prominent publications is worthy of praise.