Lindsay Peoples Wagner on a new era of teen mags

Teen Vogue editor-in-chief Lindsay Peoples Wagner is rethinking the role of the classic teen mag for a new generation of socially conscious readers. She discusses the need for a more diverse media landscape and the mistake brands make by talking down to young people

In a world where you can find out what your favourite celeb had for breakfast with a simple scroll through Instagram, it’s hard to imagine a time when a monthly print magazine formed one of the only lifelines between the boredom of teenage suburbia and the rest of the big wide world.

Pre-social media marked the golden age for a whole raft of cult teen mags, ranging from Seventeen to Smash Hits and, of course, Teen Vogue, launched in 2003 as the sister title of fashion bible Vogue US. Growing up in the Midwest in the early noughties, with a determination to make it in the world of fashion, Lindsay Peoples Wagner should have been the archetypal reader in the eyes of the Teen Vogue gatekeepers – except that she wasn’t.

Much like the rest of the glossy-fronted mainstream media of the 2000s, most teen mags were guilty of propelling the same conveyor belt of young, white, skinny cover stars, to the detriment of a whole generation of a teenagers who didn’t fit that look. “Reading Teen Vogue when I was younger, I definitely felt like, ‘OK, if you are reading this magazine, you’re a fashion type-A person, and these are the only things that you care about in life,’” says Wagner.

“I always really had a love for fashion but didn’t know the specific ways in which I wanted to work in the industry. I always felt like there had to be a lot of different reasons why I really wanted to do it, because I was obviously very into clothes and the glamour of it all, but I knew very early on that none of that really would sustain me as a person.”

Top: Teen Vogue’s recent partnership with HBO Max to mark the release of its new film Unpregnant featured a photo series of real-life best friends. Image courtesy of HBO Max; Above: Teen Vogue editor-in-chief Lindsay Peoples Wagner