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New York Times / Life - Entertain

‘Where My Activists At?’ Inside the First Teen Vogue Summit

Who needs a fusty old print magazine when you have Elaine Welteroth and Hillary Clinton in the flesh — am I right, ladies?
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Over the weekend, more than 500 people attended the Teen Vogue Summit: a two-day event, costing from $299-$549 per ticket. Kendrick Brinson for The New York Times

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Around 9 a.m. on Saturday, a long line of artfully clad young women was forming around a beige corporate park. They had flown, driven, pleaded with their parents and assembled posses for the inaugural Teen Vogue Summit: a two-day event, costing from $299-$549 per ticket.

“This has been a dream come true,” said Karishma Bhuiyan, 18, surveying her peers walking down a boardwalk lined with socially conscious vendors, a sort of “woke” mall. “I didn’t think it was going to be this diverse. I’m shook. Like, wow, I do not want to go back to Dallas.”

Muram Ibrahim, 17, and Karishma Bhuiyan, 18, started a GoFundMe campaign in order to attend the summit. Kendrick Brinson for The New York Times

Under its editor Elaine Welteroth and digital editorial director Phillip Picardi, Teen Vogue added the political issues of today to coverage of party frocks and makeup tips, and became a glossy guidebook for readers disenfranchised by the current presidential administration. The summit was organized to inspire, educate — and yes, sell to — the young readers of what ceased to be a traditional magazine in November, when Condé Nast announced it would stop printing it regularly.

“Doing events has always been part of our heritage, thinking about these events in increasingly ambitious ways is new,” said Josh Stinchcomb, Condé Nast’s chief experience officer. “We’re seeing huge interest among consumers and marketers for experiential activations.”

Hillary Clinton was the keynote speaker at the summit. The actress Yara Shahidi interviewed her. Kendrick Brinson for The New York Times

Ms. Bhuiyan initially applied for one of 50 scholarships for this particular experiential activation, which was attended by 650 people on Saturday. When she didn’t get accepted, she and her friend, Muram Ibrahim, 17, started a GoFundMe campaign. They raised over $2,900.

Still, “it took a lot of convincing of my mom to let me go,” Ms. Ibrahim said.

“I made a Google presentation for my parents and I presented for one hour,” Ms. Bhuiyan said.

Ava Liversidge, 13, started reading Teen Vogue because she aspires to work in fashion — she wore an Ikea T-shirt procured from a vintage store the previous day — but said it had opened her up to politics. “It encourages you to be interested in other things,” she said. “It’s a great, great resource.”

A vast lawn was covered with folding chairs and furry beanbag loungers. Chloe x Halle, an R&B duo, sang a song and commanded the crowd to chant affirmations: “I am unstoppable,” “I am funny.”

“She’s the dream editor, and I’m so excited to hopefully meet her and compliment her on her white boots,” one attendee said of Elaine Welteroth. Kendrick Brinson for The New York Times

Ms. Welteroth, in a blush-colored dress, ascended the stage to a hero’s welcome. “Where my activists at?” she called, inciting cheers.

A keynote speaker was Hillary Clinton, interviewed by Yara Shahidi, a 17-year-old actress best known for her role on the sitcom “black-ish.” Ms. Clinton urged her audience to combat mansplaining (“Be willing to say, ‘I’m so glad John agrees with my idea’”) and adjust their expectations at the polls (“Don’t look for the perfect campaign and the perfect candidate”).

Pins with activist messages adorned an attendee’s backpack. Kendrick Brinson for The New York Times

Attendees broke into smaller groups for workshops, “mentor sessions” and panels. Cindy Gallop, a British advertising consultant, told one of these smaller audiences that “we need to build our own financial ecosystem because the white male one isn’t working for us,”and suggested that would-be employees walk into salary negotiations with “a number in your mind so large, you almost want to laugh when you say it.”

Those who bought tickets for Friday’s program were also able to meet female bosses at the Los Angeles offices of Instagram, YouTube, Netflix and other companies.

The actresses Storm Reid, center, and Rowan Blanchard, right, engaged their fans at the summit. Kendrick Brinson for The New York Times

Hot merchandise included a $39 crop top that read “resist the gaslight.” Juicy Couture bedazzled velour track jackets (for Generation Z, everything ‘90s is new again).

On the lawn, Autumn De Forest, 16, an artist and a member of Teen Vogue’s 21 Under 21 list — the bar of public achievement getting so low one might limbo under it — bopped around with a new friend, Em Odesser, 17, the editor in chief of Teen Eye magazine (published quarterly). “This is the first time I’ve been in a teen-centric, girl-centric space,” said Ms. Odesser, who lives in a suburb of New York. “Our school, it’s very different from anything like this. I think safe spaces get a really bad rep. People see it as, ‘Aw, these liberal, triggered snowflakes,’ but to have a place where you can convene and create great things with each other is really, really important.”

Of Ms. Welteroth, Ms. Odesser said, “She’s the dream editor, and I’m so excited to hopefully meet her and compliment her on her white boots.”

Back on the lawn, a panel called “How to Be a Better Ally” was wrapping up. The sun was setting, and some girls had wrapped themselves in blankets. “Now is not the time to get tired,” commanded a hype man by the stage. “We are as woke as we were this morning, we are more woke than we were this morning.” There remained discussions, mentor sessions, workshops. Maxine Waters, the California congresswoman, would be on soon. There would be ice cream before her, and a poetry performance afterward.

“Old Karishma is not here anymore,” said Ms. Bhuiyan, springing up from a beanbag. “I’m totally new and improved. I want to go out and change the world right now, but, like, the event is still going on.”

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