You may not know her name or her face, but you certainly know her work. At just 28 years old Lindsay Peoples Wagner became the youngest Editor-in-Chief of a Condé Nast magazine, and only the third black Editor of an American title when she took over for Elaine Weltroth at Teen Vogue in 2018. Now at 31, she’s taking over at The Cut where she first made waves back in 2015 as their Fashion Market Editor.
Photo courtesy of Peoples Wagner, from Fashionista.com
Peoples Wagner grew up in the early 2000s with things like The Simple Life, Juicy Couture tracksuits, and a plethora of white starlets on the covers of teen magazines, but despite shows like Girlfriends diversifying TV lineups, something still felt off in terms of representation. This disconnect became more apparent when she went to college at Buena Vista University located in Storm Lake, Iowa.
“I’d never cried that much in my life. I felt like this industry would never open its doors to people like me,” Peoples Wagner told the New York Times about her first experience at Teen Vogue as an intern, and then later an employee.
While working at The Cut Peoples Wagner interviewed 100 black professionals for her piece “Everywhere and Nowhere What it’s really like to be black and work in fashion.” Inspired by being advised to tone down her blackness to get jobs in the fashion industry, she interviewed all types of people from assistants to celebrities and everything in between to find out why.
As it turns out, there simply weren’t enough black people in the fashion industry.
“There have never been more than one or two black editors-in-chief of any major U.S. magazines, and only one black designer leading a major American fashion brand. And, up until this month, no black photographer had ever shot the cover of Vogue. Only 15 of the 495 CFDA members are black, and only ten black designers have ever won a CFDA or CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award,” she wrote.
The reasons for this huge disparity included everything from socioeconomic barriers to “plain old racism.”
“We have black creatives out here who literally do it all, whatever aesthetic you want to go for, whatever style you have. This past year, black people have really shown that we can own a piece of the pie in this industry. But we’re still looked at as one-dimensional. I have white stylist friends who are thriving. Thriving! And who’s to say it’s because one’s work is better than the other. One thing we can all admit is that they are probably looked at first because they’re white,” Highsnobiety fashion editor-at-large Corey Stokes told Peoples Wagner.
Photo courtesy of Teen Vogue, photographed by Ronan Mckenzie
Despite the challenges, Peoples Wagner is doing everything she can to make this industry more inclusive for people of color.
“My mother once told me that to sustain myself in this industry, I would have to be what I needed when I was younger,” she said in an interview with Serena Williams and Naomi Wadler for Teen Vogue’s December/January 2018 cover.
In just a few short years, Peoples Wagner won the ASME Next Award in 2017, was included in the Business of Fashion’s 2019 “BoF 500, the 2020 Forbes “30 under 30” list, the 2020 “Root 100” list of most influential African Americans and founded the Black Fashion Council which helps the advancement of black people in the fashion and beauty industries.
Now that you know her name and face, you better keep an eye out for Lindsay Peoples Wagner. With everything she’s done in the last few years, and her determination to keep the progress going, she is certainly a force to be reckoned with in the fashion industry.