“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.”
— Audre Lorde
It’s been a long, LONG while since I’ve done a Great Read. A really, really long time. I’ve been reading now and then but not as regularly as I’ve wanted to. I began reading Elaine Welteroth’s memoir, More Than Enough: Claiming Space for Who You Are (No Matter What They Say), at the beginning of the year. Yes, I’m just now finishing it. I’m working on getting my reading back up. Judge me not. But I’m getting back to them and I also want to put them on YouTube as well soon.
Anyway, for those who don’t know who Elaine is, she is known for her journalistic work, particularly in the beauty world. After stints at Ebony and Glamour magazines (among other publications), Elaine became the Beauty & Health Director at Teen Vogue in October 2012, the first African-American in the magazine’s history to hold this title. Four years later, she became editor-in-chief of the magazine at just 29 years old. After resigning from Teen Vogue in 2018, Elaine moved to LA and signed with the Creative Artists Agency LLC. She’s since written this book and has been a judge on Project Runway.
Her memoir details her story from the very beginning of her journalistic career and the lessons she learned along the way when it came to her personal and professional life.
Ava DuVernay praised the book for “its intention to share challenges as a road map to the good within you.” In this book, Elaine shares her real story, flawed and all. Because our journey is always an imperfect one. It’s filled with great moments and ugly, hurtful ones. However, there are lessons to be learned with each given moment.
Over the years, Elaine has been able to use her platform to write and share thought-provoking stories and spark deeper conversations about culture through beauty and style. In this book, she shared her own struggles with being biracial and dealing with her identity as a black woman in a Eurocentric industry. She also used those experiences to help revitalize the culture and priorities of Teen Vogue. The memoir also detailed decisions Elaine made about love and business that came back to bite her. However, she was able to learn and grow from them.
The book shares how she turned her passion into some profitable for her pockets and her soul. How she learned to stand firm in her worth (and add tax) when it came to relationships, negotiating salary and positions, and creating content that would be impactful and not just trendy. How she was willing to go the extra mile when it came to her career. How she made mistakes and grew from them.
The book definitely had some real lessons for me that I want to share with y’all.
The extra mile really is never crowded.
Elaine snagged an internship opportunity at Essence by creating her own make-shift beauty magazine to separate herself from the pack. Though she actually didn’t end up doing it (Y’ALL GOTTA READ THIS BOOK!!!), going above and beyond proved that she wanted to be there. It showed passion, heart, and dedication. And it set the stage for what she wanted to do.
knowing what you don’t want is just as important as knowing what you do want.
Though Elaine had an internship opportunity at Essence, it was in a department that had NOTHING to do with beauty. Someone at another publication told her straight up, “Why would you do that?” Even though she would be “in the door,” that internship would not have taught her as much as she thought. It probably would have a nice little blurb on the resume but that’s it. Elaine realized that she didn’t really want to do that and went after an opportunity where she could grow and become who she wanted to be.
Never let your significant other (or anyone else for that matter) make you give up on your dream or change who you are.
If you follow Elaine on her Instagram or have seen her on TV, you see that she’s a bold and vibrant personality. However, in her 20s, she lost that a few times because of her love life. Without giving away too much, she let her relationships and the fact that she was in love, dictate where she went and who she was going to be. She snapped back eventually, but there are people who do this every day (not just women). I used to let other people change me or change myself based on what I thought would get attention or love. Shrinking to keep other people around. Personally, I think it just ultimately leads to resentment, too. For Elaine, it was a part of her learning process and growth to become the woman she is today.
learn to ASSERT YOUR WORTH.
When she became editor of Teen Vogue, Elaine became the face and voice of this pretty big brand that promoted diversity and feminism for young women…without the proper salary, leadership structure, or even an office. Though she had quite a bit of experience by that point, she didn’t negotiate her salary at first and later ended up lowballing herself when she did. It reminded me that you have to be a walking billboard, prepared to pitch and promote yourself when it comes to getting new opportunities. You have to know who you are and the value you bring AND not be afraid to talk about it with other people.
No matter how good you are, you will still fail.
By the time she was hired as beauty director for Teen Vogue, Elaine had plenty of editorial experience. However, she still made pretty big professional mistakes. Case in point, the magazine had been called out for cultural appropriation before on several occasions. After being inspired by Zendaya‘s bold response to nasty comments about wearing dreadlocks to the 2015 Oscars, Elaine decided she wanted to do a shoot and written piece to show that all hair is beautiful. However, she and the team ended up casting only light-skinned and even white models, which had serious backlash from readers. It was a failure for Elaine but also a learning opportunity to truly fight for diversity at the magazine. It was a reminder that failure is inevitable (no matter how big you get) but, if you learn and grow from it, it can be helpful in your own personal development.
self-care is key.
When Elaine took over the helm at Teen Vogue, she was obviously in a position filled with a lot of stress, longer hours, and more work. The hard work was making her lose a scary amount of weight because she wasn’t always eating (she would genuinely forget or be so focused that she wouldn’t). Lord, I could relate. After quite a few people called her out, including her mom, Elaine took up meditation and began to take better care of herself. No matter what your goals are or how hard the work is, you should always take time to make sure that you are okay. Because if you’re not good, nothing else really matters. It doesn’t mean get lazy, but you can figure out routines/hobbies that help you to de-stress. It will make a world of difference.
There are no destinations, only new beginnings.
When her memoir, Becoming, first came out, I remember First Lady Michelle Obama talking about how you should constantly be “becoming” because you change and grow with every passing year. When you reach a peak, you should move on to something new that excites and challenges you. When Elaine left her position as editor at Teen Vogue, I bet some people were like, “Girl, what in the world are you doing?” However, she decided to move forward to continue to challenge herself and go after something new. Now, she’s a best-selling author, speaker and TV personality. There is always opportunity for a new dream, new risks, new growth, even after you’ve reached a goal.
If you’ve read More Than Enough, what were your thoughts on the book?