For our second book club pick, we chose Elaine Welteroth’s inspiring story of her childhood and stellar ascent up the publishing ranks to become the editor of Teen Vogue at just 29.
Part-memoir, part-manifesto, reading Elaine’s book feels like having an extended conversation with your closest, most switched on, friend. When she writes about growing up in a biracial household in California, you feel like you are in her family’s front room with them for all of it – her mother’s strong faith, her father’s recurring alcoholism, Elaine’s grit and determination. (Anyone listening to the audiobook version had the bonus of Elaine’s parents narrating their own sections.)
Watching Elaine grow up involves seeing a young woman trying to work out where she belongs. Lacking the straight blonde hair of the popular white girls, but also needing the validation of her boyfriend to gain access to the ‘Black table’, having one foot in each camp is a situation of ‘othering’ she navigated until her early adult years.
A racist incident at a college party was the tipping point for Elaine starting to truly own her Black identity and start occupying her space:
‘Up until that moment, I had been looking at Blackness like it was a party I didn’t get the invite to. Like it was a dance someone forgot to teach me. But that night I learned that… as long as I was moving through a White world, I’d be seen as a Black woman – and treated accordingly.’
Elaine’s inspiring rise through magazines like Glamour, Ebony and, ultimately, Teen Vogue feels almost too meteoric to be aspirational for readers; it didn’t speak to our experiences. But the emphasis on bravery, work ethic and the importance of finding women who will support, push and champion you – as Elaine’s mentors and bosses did for her – are messages we can all take on board.
The subtitle – claiming space for who you are (no matter what they say) – feels like a real call to action from a trailblazer who is lighting the path for those following behind her. Clearly written with her old Teen Vogue audience in mind, Reese Witherspoon’s thoughts sum this book up perfectly: ‘Elaine’s book is a call for young women to find their voice and spark their courage – it’s a book I would have loved to have discovered as a young woman starting my own career.’
Elaine’s own website describes her as a ‘leading expert and advocate for the next generation of change-makers’, and we’ll be watching with huge interest to see which projects she gets involved in next for as she says in the book:
‘Just as you reach your first summit, you’ll find a new horizon awaits, one with new mountains to climb, new peaks and valleys to wander across. Trust that life will continue moulding you, challenging you, and readying you for your next adventure.’
“Sometimes, just being yourself is the radical act. When you occupy space in systems that weren’t built for you, your authenticity is your activism.”
More Than Enough discusses race, identity, love, friendship, taking up space as a Black woman in a predominantly white workplace, and the meaning of success.
(It only feels fair to point out that this score would have certainly been higher among the group if we hadn’t been looking at it through the lens of being a ‘business’ book club.)
Join us next month when we talk with Found & Flourish member and author Lucy Wern about her PR toolkit for small businesses – Hype Yourself.
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