I still vividly remember sitting in my hospital bed in Minnesota, flipping through the pages of the Teen Vogue issue my mom had bought me from the gift shop in the lobby. As I close the magazine, a glossy image of Zendaya’s face stares back at me. She sports an army helmet in the middle of the desert but still finds a way to make it high fashion. As I grew up, the magazine grew with me. Not only in size and shape, but in perspective.
I remember the first time I met Vera. We were at a Teen Vogue event in my hometown of Minneapolis. We stood chatting about recent business ventures when my mom came running up crying her eyes out. She then proceeded to tell us I had been accepted into the UCLA brain cancer trial.
Flash forward to more than a year later; the L.A. sun beams through the 72andSunny office windows as we sit backstage at the 2018 Teen Vogue Summit. Vera looks effortlessly chic in a floor-length crimson gown full of sparkles. My new thrift store find from my trip to Dallas, a Burberry bucket hat, sits on top of my head guarding my un-brushed curls. The morning was filled with excitements such as Cara Delevingne and Serena Williams.
Grace: Agree! It’s been so cool to see that literally happening in front of our eyes through Teen Vogue’s socials in the past year or so.
You're the wellness editor at Teen Vogue and you cover a lot of stories about young people and their personal/mental health. Do you think meeting these people and speaking about their experiences has affected you?
Vera: I have mental illness, everyone in my family has a mental illness, and honestly I think everyone has experienced mental illness so I don't even think it’s that unique. I think most people have mental illness but fewer people speak about it. That’s why meeting young people who are open to sharing their experiences makes me wish I had someone like them when I was their age. I never talked about my anxiety, I never talked about my ADHD, I didn't even know I had anxiety and didn't realize I had experienced depression until I started learning about it and writing about it. I was super passionate about sharing mental health and then I realized like oh…I had these experiences and now it makes way more sense. It makes me really happy to write about it because when I was young I just kind of thought there was something wrong with me. There was nowhere for me to read about these things and it never gets old to see someone going through something you're going through. It always makes you feel better.
Grace: OMG, I love that analogy.
So I’ve been a Teen Vogue It-Girl for three years now, which means I was around when this pivotal shift happened not only internally at Teen Vogue but also externally with the content being put out. How do you think this rebranding has affected the Teen Vogue audience and who reads the content?
Vera: I think probably the most important thing you can be is inclusive. I also think there is this old way of thinking where people create an aspirational ideal. Like someone who has a lot of money and can buy anything they want, or someone who isn't sick in any way. Like a super traditional view of who is aspirational…and it’s wrong. Everyone’s aspiration should be based on who they are. The new generation of Teen Vogue is about including everyone and telling stories from every perspective. Having writers from different backgrounds and representing as many people as possible. It just makes sense, because the more people you include, the more people can come together. Instead of isolating people and making them feel they don't live up to a standard they don't fit in. It’s so important to acknowledge the individual people within each community. Be like “hey I understand where you're coming from we can talk about our experiences and we can support each other.”
Vera: I don’t feel embarrassed. I think if I can use something that I’ve gone through as a way to teach someone and have them feel better about what they’re going through, I'm going to do it. I’m also a big sister so I’m constantly talking about my experiences hoping my little sister will catch wind. I just have an instinct to share what I’m going through. Also, a lot of the time I've already thought about it and coped. I’ve gotten to a point where not only can I talk about it but be like this is what I’ve learned from it. I pay attention to what conversations aren't happing and I get to a point where I'm like “well…if no one else is going to talk about it, I guess I will”. That one specifically, there was a selfie on Timehop, and I was wondering why I looked so sad. Then again the next day there was another one and it clicked that it was because I was in an abusive relationship. So sometimes I just remember something and I think I should share it with others. Some people are just more open to speaking about their hardships and if you are, I think you should! Probably the biggest reason though, that I didn't even realize, is it’s a way of getting support. People reach out and share their own stories.
Grace: I totally see that! I’ve always pushed myself to share my story because you never know if you're going to reach that one person who needs it that day.
Grace:Okay! So let's start back from the beginning of “Vera.” Did you always want to be a journalist? How did you first get started in journalism?
Vera:I guess I would say I always used to write whenever I had any problems. I was always a very anxious person, even as a kid. If my mom was coming home late from the grocery store I always thought worst case scenario; like she got in a car accident. I started falling in love with writing because I would write down what was happening when I was anxious. By the time I got to the end of writing it, I would have examples of reasons why she might be late. It was a way of calming myself down and making sense of what was happening. Even now, if I’m going through like a breakup, I’ll start writing an article but I won't know what the ending will be. While writing I figure out how to feel better. I found out super young writing was my way of coping with things. When I was in college I had a radio show and blog about dating in college. People would write in and answer surveys and I would write an analysis on it. Then I realized, if I'm already writing this all down, I should share it with people. I always wanted to be a journalist because from a young age I made the connection that superheroes were journalists. Spider-Man was a photojournalist, and Clark Kent was a journalist. So I thought journalists were like these people who saved the world.
Speaking to Vera again about her career and life experiences made me remember why I fell in love with this company in the first place. A place of adventure, journeys, and most importantly sharing. Throughout my work, I’ve been approached by kids and families who have said my work has helped them in one way or another. Vera and the Teen Vogue team is doing the same thing. Seeing this brand expand into such a strong, powerful & inclusive community is something that I’m proud to be able to experience first hand. Here’s to all that the future holds for Teen Vogue.
Grace Wethor attends the 2018 Teen Vogue Summit
Something rustles behind us…we both turn as the curtain to the green room slides open. In walks a glowing tower of bright blonde hair and bubblegum pink lipstick. Gigi Gorgeous and her fiancee Nats Getty (designer of Strike Oil) glide through the room as they make their way to the stage for Gigi’s panel.
Grace: Wow, her outfit is literally the coolest haha!
Okay, so your Instagram stories! Big fan, definitely the most entertaining part of my day. I remember this one time you were like who's this guy that looks like this guy but isn't this guy.
Vera: That literally went on for like a whole week…
Grace: I know! It was like a wild goose chase! But you also share a lot deeper topics on your stories as well. Like just last week, you shared photos of you throughout an abusive relationship. What makes you post the things you do and share these aspects of your life that most people would probably keep off of social media?
Grace: Okay! Rapid fire…
Vera: Thank You, Next
Grace: Favorite thing when you're feeling down?
Vera: hot yoga
Grace: Favorite place in the world?
Vera: a hug
Grace: Oh, that's a good one! Last but not least, words of advice for kids searching for their passion?
Vera:Figure out what gets you really mad or excited and use that as a compass to figure out why. An alternative is, whatever you're jealous of. Not like you're jealous of someone's pants…but like if you're jealous of an opportunity someone got. If I’m jealous that someone’s doing stand up, maybe I should try stand up. Its a good compass for what am I missing.