Yara Shahidi and Rowan Blanchard in a Teen Vogue cover shoot.
In the Trump era, Teen Vogue has become a rallying point of the resistance. But its big sister has … not.
Vogue’s history of tone deafness got worse this week when it released photos from an upcoming fashion editorial featuring supermodel Karlie Kloss dressed as a geisha complete with yellowface.
You’d think most magazines would know better by now, then again, what is 2017 but a year of regression? If any of Vogue’s high-fashion competitors — Harper’s Bazaar, W, or Town & Country, for example — had a similar lapse in judgment, the magazine would likely issue a statement and try to move on.
Then there’s Teen Vogue. The teen magazine shares Vogue’s legacy name, but has turned itself into a very different publication. Teen Vogue’s Trump takedowns and commitment to progressive values have drawn the attention of teen and adult readers alike post-election.
It also serves to remind the world just how much better Vogue could be.
Vogue and Teen Vogue share a publisher: Condé Nast. Beyond that they’re two separate publications. But magazine readers aren’t always paying attention to who runs what behind the scenes.
*vogue and teen vogue sitting around the dinner table*
vogue: could you pass the corn please
teen vogue: could you pass on embarrassing me
— Chai Goth (@Abid_ism) February 15, 2017
When readers see interviews with teenage #NoDAPL activists at Standing Rock in one magazine bearing the "Vogue" name and a glamorization of cultural appropriation the other, it creates a certain cognitive dissonance.
The rise of Teen Vogue
Launched in 2004, Teen Vogue wasn’t always political. When I read the magazine as a 15-year-old, it sounded pretty much like its namesake — just with cheaper clothes and younger cover stars.
But in recent years, the magazine has beefed up its coverage of politics and activism. A lot of the credit for that pivot goes to Elaine Welteroth, who in May was appointed editor — the first black woman to fill that role. Welteroth runs the magazine alongside digital editorial director Phillip Picardi and creative director Marie Suter in a structure that replaces the traditional editor-in-chief.
The differences between Vogue and Teen Vogue are so stark. Having a black woman at the helm of a magazine makes a HUGE difference.
— Lara Witt (@Femmefeministe) February 15, 2017
The teen magazine covered protests at Standing Rock, went viral with Lauren Duca’s famed anti-Trump op-ed, and has continued to cover politics since. It takes teenage girls seriously, assuming their interest in both civil rights and Ariana Grande.
Teen Vogue has become a point of pride for much of the left — given credit for reporting what the New York Times won’t, even when the magazine’s website is aggregating Politico.
Putting aside the condescension in much of that praise (do people think Teen Vogue is staffed entirely by actual 13-year-olds?), Teen Vogue is far from the only women’s magazine writing about politics.
Outside of political coverage, the magazine shows a commitment to representation with stories like "7 Girls Show What Beauty Looks Like When It’s Not Appropriated."
It feels almost impossible that Teen Vogue would publish anything close to Vogue’s Kloss photo spread today.
Meanwhile, at Vogue
Writers for Vogue have covered many of the same stories as their Teen Vogue counterparts: Standing Rock, gender identity, fashion and activism.
But the magazine’s brand and broader editorial ethos hasn’t fully caught up to the new realities of the Trump era. Vogue Italia and French Vogue have had their own problems, as pointed out by The Cut: Jewelry described as "slave earrings" and a fashion spread featuring blackface in 2009.
More recently, rumors swirled that First Lady Melania Trump would cover the magazine.
“We have a tradition of always covering whoever is the first lady at Vogue and I can’t imagine that this time would be any different,” editor-in-chief Anna Wintour told the Wall Street Journal earlier this month.
The cover girls on Teen Vogue, meanwhile, are Yara Shahidi and Rowan Blanchard, two actresses and activists. It seems unlikely that Tiffany Trump would follow them.
Vogue has yet to comment on its Karlie Kloss-as-geisha editorial. The spread, to make matters worse, was shot for Vogue’s "diversity" issue, which featured a group of models on its cover, including Liu Wen, the magazine’s first Chinese cover model.
Kloss issued her own apology — similar to the one she gave in 2012 after wearing a Native American headdress on the Victoria’s Secret runway.
Kloss started out her modeling career attending casting calls for Teen Vogue. But a lot has changed since then.
Vogue isn’t the only magazine to fail at representation, and Teen Vogue isn’t the only one to rise to the occasion in Trump’s America. (Spokeswomen for both magazines declined to comment for this story.)
As long as the two share a name, it’ll be hard to forget the path not taken.