The Teen Vogue Summit was held on Saturday, December 5th, and was an event bringing together powerhouses from various industries. The Summit is a great way to learn more about the speakers’ journeys, their advice for the youth and so much more. Hosted by Teen Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief Lindsay Peoples Wagner, the summit built on the theme of igniting the entrepreneurship spirit and working together from the ground up, pushing for personal and professional development.
The various keynote conversations and panel discussions were curated by Teen Vogues editors. The first main stage session included keynote speaker Tracee Ellis Ross, and panel discussions with Nabela Noor, Megha Rethin and Tyla-Lauren Gilmore. The main event kicked off with a conversation with Tracee Ellis Ross who spoke about her current projects, how she is balancing life, and her journey to starting her beauty line ‘Pattern’. Ross is an actor, producer, and the CEO of Pattern. She shared the powerful message of staying true to yourself, staying kind to yourself, believing in yourself and staying dedicated. She stressed the importance of being delicate with yourself which I think is an especially important and necessary reminder. There is a sense that we must always be productive, but at times it is as equally important to do as Ross said and, “meet yourself where you are”. This essentuakky means celebrating yourself, caring for yourself, and finding joy in the little things.
Another stand out from her was the story of her journey with Pattern which is a hair care company that caters to curly, coily and tightly textured hair. The idea for the company was born out of her own journey with her hair and self-acceptance. Ross said, “ I think so many of us with curly, coily, and tight textured hair could chronicle our journey of self-acceptance through our journey with our hair”. She pointed out how society doesn’t make space for authentic beauty, let alone Black beauty. There has always been a lack of representation in the media, in news and also in the type of products that are advertised through mainstream media. Even if there were products, they did not nurture and care for her hair. Ross noted how there was a time when she did not understand how to care for her hair, and would often try to straighten it which would fry her hair leaving it damaged. The idea for her company then started formulating as she truly believed everyone should have the ability to properly understand, nurture and care for their hair with the right products. It took 10 years to get this idea off the ground. It took this long for a variety of reasons.
Some of reasons it took so long are expected when starting a new business; honing in on the idea, brand and products. It also took long, however, because there was a reluctance from the industry to support the business. Ross noted how the industry wasn’t receptive to the idea because they didn’t see its customers as a viable target base. Ultimately, her vision came to life, and she is using her company to educate and celebrate all hair patterns. One point I found interesting was the incorporation of size charts with her products. This is something I related to personally, as often most conditioners and shampoos will state that only a drop of product is needed when in reality you need a lot more product, and wash day can take up to half a day if not longer! Overall, my takeaway from Tracee Ellis Ross’ discussion was the message of staying true to yourself, to care for yourself and that no matter where in your journey you are, whether it be general or in a career, “just because it’s taking longer than you expected, it doesn’t mean you did something wrong”.
The next speaker was Nabela Noor, who is a content creator and activist, founder & CEO of Zeba, and an OGX ambassador. Noor spoke on remixing beauty, self-love and confidence. The conversation started by discussing how her journey to self-love began with her hair. Her friend had told her she used products by OGX which led to her also trying the products . The product worked well with her hair, and she noticed how much she loved her hair and in turn how much she loved every aspect of herself.
Nabela Noor wants to use her platform to encourage people to celebrate themselves just the way they are which is super important. Noor also spoke about her work with Noor house. She is a Bangladeshi American, and explained that while visiting Bangladesh last year, she visited an organization called JAAGO which is a non-profit that provides girls aged 5 to 7 with free education and resources for their families. These young girls were on the brink of child marriage or being forced into the workforce which inspired her to create Noor House. It is a scholarship program in collaboration with JAAGO Foundation and funded by Nabela Noor. The scholarship program focuses on sponsorship and commitment to girl’s education in Bangladesh.
The next panel discussion was with Megha Rethin and Tyla-Lauren Gilmore. Gilmore got her start as a digital content creator in 2015 when she started chronicling her natural hair care journey online. Rethin got her start creating content on Tik Tok, and is a documentary film student. I enjoyed learning about how their content was able to connect and create a community of people while also being a method for expression and creativity. Tyla -Lauren Gilmore spoke about how she turned to social media to share and connect with others with her natural hair journey as at the time she did not know anyone who wore their hair natural. Megha Rethin also spoke about how other Indian girls would DM her and tell her that by seeing her videos they felt less insecure about their skin tone or accent.
This was a full-circle moment for her as growing up she always wanted to see someone that spoke like her and looked like her in popular media. This to me shows how powerful these platforms are and how important representation is. Amid the pandemic and being apart, social media has been a way to stay connected and build community. Their panel wrapped up the first main stage event. Those that had signed up for the career matchups then attended their matchups. The career meetups were a great way to network and learn more about companies and the industries they were in. The companies that took part were Puma, The Lede Company, Hello Sunshine, the Vanity group, BBH Global, Community, Conservation International, Glow Recipe, Google Ventures, LL Cool J, INC and NetWerk.
The second main stage session kicked off with Nkechi Okoro Carroll, the Executive Producer and Showrunner of the television series All American, and Daniel Ezra the actor who plays the lead in the show. The show follows the life of Spencer James, a high school football player who on the advice from his coach transfers from his high school in South Central LA to Beverly Hills. Carroll said that the show allows them “ to tell authentic stories of what it’s like to be Black youth in America, the good, the bad, the ugly”. The show mirrors reality not only in the experiences of the characters but also in incorporating aspects of real-life events into the show. This was seen in the incorporation of Nipsey Hustle’s tragic passing in the show. Carroll noted that “our show is one big love letter to South LA, it’s one big love letter to Nipsey’s neighborhood” and it was important to honor him. The show stays authentic by making sure it is connected to the South Central community through their cast, crew and authentic storylines. It is a specific story about the experiences of a Black football player, but the story is universal as it deals with racism, classism, sexuality and a multitude of other topics.
The next panel discussion was with Felicia Wong, the President & CEO of The Roosevelt Institute. The discussion revolved around how we can reimagine a more inclusive economy. Wong explained that the Roosevelt Institute is “a think tank that focuses on what the economy could look like, and works with young people across the country who if they were to write the rules, the economy and politics could do it better.” The Roosevelt Institute in collaboration with Teen Vogue and Omidyar is hosting a competition, where people can submit video essays. In the video essays, people should focus on how they think the economy will be better and the winner will receive $5000. Those interested in applying should apply on their website.
Photo: Tracee Ellis Ross, Lana Condor and Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez who was a keynote speaker was next. Gomez is a singer, actor, producer and founder of Rare Beauty. She explained how in her last album, she had done a lot of self-discovery, which pushed her to be vulnerable and feeling content with herself and her company is an extension of this. Her vision with Rare is that it will feel welcoming and like home to everyone. Selena Gomez also spoke about other important topics such as mental health and she especially stressed the importance of normalizing discussions about mental health, talking with others about your emotions and going to therapy if possible. Another key point for me was when asked what advice she had for people who want to start something of their own, she said it is important to “check-in with yourself”. She stressed the importance of knowing yourself and truly understanding what you are trying to achieve and why. She emphasized that the reason this is so important is because there will always be people that will try to deter you from your dreams, and that it is at those moments that your passion and belief in yourself will give you the drive to push through. The summit then wrapped up with a beautiful performance from actor Lara Condor and her band.
The Teen Vogue Summit was a wonderful experience, and a brilliant opportunity to not only network but also to learn more about the experiences of powerhouses in different industries. I am already looking forward to the 2021 summit and to be the first to know when the dates are announced and more, you can sign up here!
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