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A Conversation with Lindsay Peoples Wagner: Fashion, Journalism, and Resilience

Current editor-in-chief of The Cut and former editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue Lindsay Peoples Wagner discussed her rise to success in the fashion world and her mission to create a more inclusive environment on Wednesday March 24. 

The event was hosted by the School of Communications (SOC), the Public Relations Student Association of America, BlackPrint, and Revolution/AU Fashion Society. SOC Professor Jane Hall, moderated the discussion with Peoples Wagner, who was selected as the Women’s History Month Guest Speaker for Women’s Initiative (WI) and the recipient of the WI Excellence in Activism Award. 

Peoples Wagner’s career has been dedicated to representation, empowerment, and amplifying marginalized voices. In 2018, Peoples Wagner published an article titled, “What It’s Like to be Black in Fashion,”  where she interviewed 100 Black individuals throughout the fashion industry to amplify their experiences. The article shed light on the systemic racism and exclusive environment still in fashion today. 

“That piece changed so much for my life but it really also changed a lot in the industry because there hadn’t been this approach to actually look at the industry from this zoomed out portion of senior level people who are really struggling,” Peoples Wagner said referring to her article. “I’m really glad that it’s still resonating with so many people and giving them some encouragement.” 

Since People Wagner’s viral article for The Cut, she went on to become the youngest Condé-Nast publication at Teen Vogue and one of the few Black journalists in a leadership role at the company. 

She recently returned to The Cut as editor-in-chief, where representation and inclusion remain her priorities. Upon her return, her first cover for the March issue of the publication was journalist and CNN correspondent Abby Phillips who sat down for a conversation with Gayle King to discuss her life and work. 

“The covers are really important to me because I think that representation is everything.

I think that if we're not uplifting and putting people on the cover that we are representative of right now, we are doing it a disservice.” Peoples Wagner said. “It was more important to uplift a woman of color who has led a lot of the conversations around Black Lives Matter and Stop Asian Hate, and ways to improve society.” 

Beyond her journalistic work, Peoples Wagner has also strived to create systemic change in the fashion industry. In June 2020, she founded the Black in Fashion Council with public relations specialist Sandrist Charles as an effort to hold companies accountable and create long-term change for Black people in fashion spaces. 

Since the founding of the collective, the Black in Fashion Council has partnered with the Humans Rights Campaign on a corporate equity index as a way to hold companies and powerful individuals accountable in creating equitable spaces for Black people and marginalized communities. Over 70 companies have partnered with Black in Fashion Council, including Calvin Klein and L’Oreal. 

Before the event, BlackPrint was able to hold an exclusive interview with Peoples Wagner where she defined what inclusivity means for her as editor-in-chief of The Cut ,and offered advice to young journalists of color.  

The BP: Can you elaborate on what the inclusive point of view truly means for The Cut?

Peoples Wagner: “Inclusive means that it's part of everything that you're doing and that it's not siloed... it's really about it not being a surface level attempt and it really is something that holistically I think needs to shift in order for things to actually be equitable and inclusive for different people.”

The BP: What advice do you have for young women of color, specifically like those of us at the BlackPrint? How do you think the media and fashion industry should incorporate our voices?

Peoples Wagner: “My biggest advice is honestly to find your way in [the industry] and focus on that. There's a lot of distractions and opinions out there, but I think if you work hard, that's always the loudest thing to me and to a lot of other people.”

Peoples Wagner ended the interview by emphasizing the importance of resilience in finding success, which has helped her stay in the fashion and media industry during challenging times. 

“Resilience is underrated. I think a lot of times in this past year people have thrown around that word but honestly I've had to have so much resilience in staying in fashion and staying in the industry.” Peoples Wagner said. “So resilience has been a big part of me retaining that confidence of knowing I've gotten through really hard times and I can get through more.”


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