Teen Vogue is long past its days of relationship quizzes and celebrity pop culture news. Before the magazine switched to a solely digital format, it abandoned its white washed covers and hot pink headlines when Elaine Welteroth took over the magazine as the editor in chief in early 2017. As both the youngest person and the second person of color to hold this position, it’s no surprise that Welteroth put the magazine through a radical revamping process. The magazine’s new identity was everything I needed but didn’t have when I was a prepubescent, thirteen-year-old girl who didn’t know who she was or what she wanted to be. Each issue packed a progressive punch, speaking openly about topics like diversity, women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, safe sex, and politics.
With the magazine’s new politically and socially progressive identity, it’s no surprise that the woman behind this change is just as vocal about these issues in her personal life. The media’s recent embrace of Meghan Markle’s biracial identity spurred former editor in chief Welteroth to post a lengthy yet informative instagram post about the nuances of being biracial.
Welteroth’s commentary emphasizes the prominence of the media’s widespread acceptance of Markle’s biracial background. While Markle is not the first biracial celebrity to break societal boundaries set by history, she is one of the first to receive the distinction of being biracial – rather than simply just “black”. This distinction is one that may be lost by many of those who have not had the experience of growing up with a mixed background. But as Welteroth points out, it is a distinction that holds a lot of weight to those whose true identity has been generalized due to perceptions. By identifying Markle as biracial rather than black it forces us, “to see the nuance of racial identity, and to finally embrace the pronounced existence of mixed-race families as part of the beautiful tapestry of our history” – something which is more necessary than ever given the current political climate. My only hesitation about this triumph, one which Welteroth touches upon in the closing statements of her remark, is that it is unsure whether this distinction was made as an homage to the often overlooked history of biracial individuals, or if it was merely a way for the monarchy to “ease into” a more inclusive monarchy. This is a question that I, nor no one else can truly answer. But it may help for us to realize that the word “biracial” should not be used as a buffer to ease other people’s racist doubts, but rather as a way to acknowledge the complex and unique cultural identities that deserve recognition.