Now, this is how you come through with some #blackgirlmagic. For her premiere cover as Teen Vogue’s new editor-in-chief (and the youngest black editor at any major publication), Lindsay Peoples Wagner recruited one of the world’s most dynamic women, Serena Williams, placed her in conversation with Naomi Wadler, one of the most intelligent and inspiring young activists to date, and photographed the tennis phenom wearing cornrows.
Excuse me, I just fainted for a sec.
As Wagner writes in the preamble to her interview with the two phenoms, which took place at the recent Teen Vogue Summit:
As I wrap my head around what it means to be the youngest black Editor-in-Chief at a major publication, at 28 years old, I can’t help but think how fitting it is that my first cover is a conversation I had with Serena Williams and Naomi Wadler at our recent Teen Vogue Summit. As I stood on that stage with the inimitable, 23-time Grand Slam champion and mother, and with a passionate and relentless 12-year-old-activist, I realized that though we are worlds apart, all three of us as black women have had to reconcile our anger with our identity. I also realized that all of us were working to use our voices to make change.
My mother once told me that to sustain myself in this industry, I would have to be what I needed when I was younger. So here we are — Serena in cornrows for the first time on a cover, in conversation with two young black girls just trying to figure out our magic.
But let’s talk about that cover, which is Serena’s first being photographed in braids of any kind, let alone our beloved cornrows. (Elsewhere in the issue, writer Jessica Andrews explores what it means to see a black woman in cornrows covering a major magazine.) Remarkably, the cover story was shot by yet another black woman, British-born Ronan Mckenzie.
That’s right; just as we were clearing the confetti from the announcement that fellow Brit Nadine Ijewere is the first woman of color to photograph the cover of an issue of Vogue, another black woman photographer was simultaneously granted the honor of covering one of the Vogue titles. (Though, to be fair, we’re not sure she’s the first to photograph for Teen Vogue, or if the little sister publication is being counted amongst Vogue’s recent history-making moments in diversity, since it’s long been leading the charge.)
But what is significant is what a strong statement Wagner is making with her debut issue. Serena Williams is no small get, and pairing her with one of our forecasted future leaders was a stroke of genius.
“You are brilliant. I love you. You’re amazing,” Williams said to Wadler, following the latter’s astute dismantling of “colorblindness.”
“Literally, I have nothing to say. You’re amazing,” Williams repeated.
If these are the types of amazing moments we can come to expect from Wagner’s tenure at Teen Vogue, we have a lot to look forward to.