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“There is power in authenticity”

“There is power in authenticity”

As an award-winning journalist, TV host and author, Elaine Welteroth is the ultimate multi-hyphenate. In this interview she talks about navigating career success with integrity and inclusion in mind.

Copy: Nadia Riaz-Ahmed – Photo: Anthony Mandler Reading time: 4 min

Side shot of Elaine Welteroth; the Audi Q8 e-tron in the background.Side shot of Elaine Welteroth; the Audi Q8 e-tron in the background.

Ms Welteroth, what early inspirations have shaped your career journey?
My mother had a great sense of style and I think I developed an eye for design and style through her. But it’s deeper than just the aesthetics – style, to me, is a way to express who you are and to tell your story to the world, without saying a word. I’ve always had a love for storytelling. I remember being so fascinated by magazine cover stories and devouring them. The idea of somebody getting the opportunity to tell human stories with heart and soul, stories that can be inspiring to other people and create a connection beyond the page, I always wanted to be trusted with that kind of responsibility. I certainly didn’t think that one day I’d get lucky enough to do that job – In magazines or on television – but I think when you look back, you can always see little hints along the way of the person you were meant to become.

For more than a decade now, you’ve had this responsibility to tell stories. How has your background influenced the work that you create?
As I moved up the masthead at Teen Vogue, after starting out at Ebony, a Black magazine, I wanted to translate this love of Black culture and messages of empowerment and representation to a platform that could reach as many people as possible. At that point in my life, I made the decision to be myself and not anyone else, which was empowering. The terms “finding your voice” and “being authentic” have become overused clichés, but when you finally understand what it means to embody authenticity and stand in your truth, there’s power that comes with that. Embracing who you are and your perspective is your superpower, especially in your work.

How do you live out and further develop your superpower, your true authentic self?
You cultivate a stronger sense of your own authenticity with each decision you make along the way in life. It’s freeing to release the pressure to perform for others and start charting your own path from a place of clarity, which comes from self-reflection. Getting clear about my values and how they inform my choices helps strengthen my own internal GPS. Making progress in a direction you’re proud of requires an open mind, a willingness to pivot, and sometimes, pausing to reflect so that you can bring lessons from the past into the present to inform the future. It’s about embracing the unknown and pushing through that discomfort to see what’s on the other side. But you have to trust the process. My old boss once said: “You will be pushed or pulled – but either way you will meet your destiny.”

It’s about embracing the unknown and pushing through that discomfort to see what’s on the other side.

Elaine Welteroth

Elaine Welteroth walking towards the camera.Elaine Welteroth walking towards the camera.
Elaine Welteroth looking into the distance.Elaine Welteroth looking into the distance.
 

Elaine Welteroth

Throughout her life, Elaine Welteroth realised that she had several dreams she wanted to pursue. And she did. Welteroth is now an award-winning journalist, a TV host, former editor-in-chief of a famous fashion magazine and author of the bestselling book “More Than Enough”, which won the 2020 NAACP Image Award for outstanding literary work in autobiography. She lives with her husband and child in Los Angeles.

 

Are there certain character traits that are important to be able to assert oneself and to be successful?
You need perseverance, curiosity, resilience, hope, endless optimism and courage. In my opinion it’s about figuring out what impact you want to make on which problem of the world, and staying committed to that. Being relentless and just knowing that if you can impact one person or one issue, that is more than enough. The change you want to make is informed by your attitude.

How do you believe diversity and representation contribute to better outcomes and deeper connections?
When you have a diverse group of people at the decision-making table you get a better end result for everyone. Giving people the permission to be themselves and to make their stories, experiences and voices heard allows for a deeper connection and more engagement. Diversity at the hands of people with different experiences and backgrounds leads to a better product and outcome. It doesn’t matter if you make cars, bag groceries in supermarkets, cut hair for a living or tell stories in the media – whatever it is you do, be true to yourself and also be receptive to the individuality in everyone around you. It deepens our empathy and empowers us to connect more deeply with the world we are all moving through.

 
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The future is present

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