Elaine Welteroth is an American journalist and judge on the hit television show Project Runway. In 2017, she was appointed as Editor-in-Chief of the popular youth publication Teen Vogue. At just 29 years old, she became the youngest Black person to lead a Conde Nast magazine.

That’s not all. In 2018, former first lady Michelle Obama started When We All Vote, a nonpartisan nonprofit initiative that focuses on increasing voter participation in every election. In 2020, Michelle Obama invited her to represent the initiative as Cultural Ambassador. There, she worked to help voters in marginalized communities feel represented in the electoral process.

Welteroth has seemingly done it all but she’s only just getting started. The New York Times bestselling author is making headlines because of her book More Than Enough. More Than Enough follows her journey as a young girl scaling the ranks of media and fashion. In her memoir, she uncovers the topic of success.

Having worked with industry leaders, politicians, and other notable figures, many would agree that Welteroth’s story is one of success. But success means different things to different people. And to Welteroth, success is about finding and loving yourself.

Throughout her book, she discusses self-love and her search to obtain it. As a young biracial girl growing up in the 90s with little media representation, she faced many challenges. Fortunately, these obstacles motivated her to become the leader she is today. She takes readers along her journey as she explores themes of love and relationships, belonging, self-care and self-love. And in 2020, she won the NAACP‘s Image Award for Outstanding Literature. Want to know why? Here are five things we learned from Elaine Welteroth’s book:

Positive Representation Is Key

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Welteroth recalls the time her five-year-old cousin expressed contempt for her natural hair. “I wish my hair wasn’t so ugly,” she admitted, looking into the mirror. It was then that Welteroth understood the societal challenges that she was up against. She calls the moment “a quiet recognition of my own internalized struggle to accept what was looking back at me.”

She talks about her love for Oprah, who at the time was one of the only positive media representations of Black women. She calls the media’s portrayal of Black women “grossly limited in scope and variety”. Fortunately, she was surrounded by a team of Black women who encouraged and supported her throughout her journey into adulthood. However, many little Black girls are not so lucky.

A Black Girl’s First Experience With Racism Is At Birth

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Elaine Welteroth talks about how implicit biases and racism affected her throughout her life as a biracial woman. But she goes even further, noting that little Black girls experience these biases from the moment they’re born.

She says that “When a girl is born, a universe of possibilities is born with her. When a Black girl is born, she is born with the promise of a better future.” Welteroth notes the difference in perspective between little Black girls and others. Black girls have a strong and powerful history that precedes them. But it also points to the setbacks that Black people have endured historically. Many Black parents try to shield their little girls from these setbacks but as a young girl grows, she’s reminded that they’re never too far away.

Black Girls Are Forced To Grow Up Sooner Than Others

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She talks about what life was like as a young girl growing up in Northern California. She lived miles away from Silicone Valley which she calls a “hotbed of digital innovation” that contributed to the rapidly-changing technology landscape in America.

Not far away, Welteroth recalls tapping into her own innovative spirit early on, also pointing to now quickly Black girls are forced to grow up.
“I’m not exactly sure when our play dates went from choreographing epic Barbie telenovelas in Claudia’s bedroom to hustling like two real life tween entrepreneurs.” She goes on to add that she and her young companion built a “makeshift at best” full-service beauty salon in their backyards. And although they were only children, “the grind was very real“.

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She speaks to the subconscious understanding that many little Black girls have. From a young age, they’re told that the world is tough, but even tougher on Black people. This can strip their innocence and child-like wonder early on. Fortunately, in Welteroth’s case, it motivated her to pursue her dreams.

Standing Out Can Be a Good Thing

 

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In 2017, Anna Wintour, a heavy-hitter in the fashion industry, invited Welteroth to lead Teen Vogue as its Editor-in-Chief. The request stunned Welteroth, who became the youngest Black person to helm a Conde Nast magazine at just 29 years old.

With her success came pressure. She writes that her new title made headlines, calling her “a Black girl making history.” Even though she bore a heavy responsibility to represent Black women well, she welcomed the challenge with open arms. Welteroth quotes a term that producer Shonda Rhimes coined — “First. Only. Different.” It points to individuals who bear a unique burden to represent a group. As an F.O.D, Welteroth understood the assignment — to “rewrite rules” that give a voice to the marginalized.

Prioritize Self

 

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More Than Enough also dives into the topic of self-care. In a foreword by Ava Duvernay, she talks about feeling tired, overworked, and stressed out while filming for a major project. She recalls it marking her third year of work with “no mental break in between. No full weekend off. No vacation.”

Duvernay urges readers to prioritize themselves because without doing so, it can feel like the world is crumbling around you. She writes, “When we don’t focus on our inner light, it dims.”

 

 

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In her book, Welteroth uncovers how success is sometimes disguised as more than what it truly is. As an expert in her industry, she’s no stranger to success. Still, she teaches readers the importance of prioritizing self, as they follow her journey of self-love.

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