Lindsay Peoples Wagner is the youngest editor in chief of a Condé Nast publication. She’s also the only black female editor-in-chief of a US fashion magazine. She sat down with us to talk about how hard work really does pay off. And about the changes she wants to make in the fashion industry now that she’s at the helm of Teen Vogue.
On Leading Through Crisis
Danielle: How have you handled this environment from a leadership perspective?
Lindsay: I think, for me, it's been a lot of just having those conversations with people of, "Do you need a mental health day?" "Do you feel like you can't do this today?”
I've been having so many conversations of bandwidth and what people can just emotionally and mentally handle right now… It's an emotional roller-coaster for everyone. And just trying to be understanding of that... empathy is everything.
On Changing the Industry
Lindsay: I don't think even my own grandparents would ever have dreamed that I would be doing this kind of thing. And I think that that's really just a testament to my upbringing. But also just trying to figure out a way to make all of this different… a conversation I had with my mom that I think about a lot is when I really got into watching Girlfriends and Sex and the City, and seeing fashion and culture on television.
And I would just rip up all these magazines and put them on my wall. And my mother would say, "You can love all this stuff, but none of these people look like you. They don't have this kind of life. They don't understand what regular, normal people are doing day to day."
"And if you're going to, try to be in this world and make a difference, you're going to have to change things. And it's gonna be really hard." And she really instilled this motto in me of, 'You're gonna have to be what you needed when you were younger to really change things.' And so I take that with me every day,
Danielle: How'd you get your foot in the door?
Lindsay: Every internship that I had, I was just like, "Yeah, I don't come from a wealthy family. I don't have the money to wear full-look Chanel as an intern or as an assistant, or even now. But, I will work harder than everyone else here.”
...I mean, when you want it bad enough and you know that you need that foot in the door, you do what it takes… I don't think it's worth going the route of taking a job that you don't want to then end up in the situation later on and you're having a crisis of, "Who I am in my life, and why did I go this route?"
The struggle really isn't for everyone. And you have to realize what you're willing to do to get there. Because I'm not necessarily recommending it, but I'm saying this is what it's going to take.
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