Work Friends

Elaine Welteroth

Journalist, Author, & Advocate

Elaine Welteroth’s career easily unfolds into an incredible list of accomplishments: at 29 years old she was named the Editor-in-Chief of Teen Vogue, later she became a New York Times best-selling author with her memoir More Than Enough: Claiming Space for Who You Are (No Matter What They Say), she then joined Project Runway as a judge, earned writing credits for hit TV shows, hosted some of the biggest red carpets in the world, launched a column in the Washington Post, among so much more. If you ask her about it, her work—the highlight reel and beyond—is mostly by design. It’s an intentional alignment between her sense of purpose, passion, preparation, incredibly hard work, and some of that right-place, right-time magic. That said, in the latest chapter of her career, so much of what’s currently driving Welteroth is one of life’s most unpredictable journeys: parenthood.

For Welteroth, now the mother of a nearly two-year-old, work life and home life are very intertwined these days. As we Zoom from her home—complete with a short cameo from her beloved nanny who drops in with a reminder to eat—she shares what’s now sustaining her through her creative entrepreneurship, projects (and hobbies) that spark a “hell yes,” including a new kind of fun, and a second book that’s on the way. Furthermore, she tells us how parenthood—particularly the maternal health crisis, which disproportionately affects Black women—is the inspiration for her newest venture that combines her skills of storytelling and advocacy. 

Double-Breasted Blazer in Basket Weave Linen | Pine Needle
Double-Breasted Blazer in Basket Weave Linen | Pine Needle
$495 View Product
Pleated Trouser in Basket Weave Linen | Pine Needle
Pleated Trouser in Basket Weave Linen | Pine Needle
$295 View Product
Waistcoat in Basket Weave Linen | Pine Needle
Waistcoat in Basket Weave Linen | Pine Needle
$195 View Product

"I have greater capacity, and I'm a better mom, because my work is rooted in helping other people be better moms. It's all connected."


I believe that your career can be connected to a higher calling, but you need to be able to kind of quiet the noise in order to hear it. Discovering my career path was definitely a spiritual journey. It was something that I was very intentional about. The a-ha moment took time. But when I got the message, it was crystal clear and that direction has guided me through the last 15 years.  

But it's not all spiritual. I also had the real-life example of an inspiring woman that I saw myself in, who became my role model and my first boss [Harriette Cole, the former editor-in-chief ofEbony]. I was following the blueprint that she'd left behind for the people coming behind her. 

Of course, certain things have absolutely surprised me along the way. I didn't anticipate becoming the editor-in-chief of a magazine at 29. Who would have even known to dream that up?


I knew when leavingTeen Vogueand my magazine career, that TV was the other side for me. But I had no idea that the first project would beProject Runway. Part of manifesting a career is having a plan but also leaving room for life to surprise you. You never know what may come your way and blow your mind. When you move in faith, you may not always see the fine print. But you can participate in co-creating opportunities by putting ideas and opportunities that excite you on your board, even if it starts with just saying: “This is something I'm curious about.” 

Outside of my book deal, speaking engagements, and brand partnerships,Project Runwaywas my first big post-traditional-media job that gave me an opportunity to learn how to evaluate opportunities that come to you as a creative entrepreneur. I wanted to know how to translate my editor-in-chief skillset into producing television—not just being in front of the camera. So, even as someone landing their first-ever TV talent deal, I decided to be brave enough to ask for a producer credit as well…they came back and said yes. That little win is what helped me arrive at hell yes onProject Runway.


The way you present yourself can open or close doors, and I am mindful of how powerful fashion is in that sense. Especially for women of color. I remember being young and watching my mom get ready for church and work in the morning. My mom always left the house in a full look every day. She did full eyeshadow, heels, hosiery, tailored skirts, blouses with shoulder pad, and every day was a new hairstyle. It was so amazing watching her transform in the morning into this superwoman version of herself. In some ways, I'm sure it was armor, but also, it was just a joyful expression of what was inside her. It made her a magnet in the world. She was someone you would want to smile at. As a Black woman [working] in an all-white, male world of engineers and scientists, it also probably earned her some respect that might not otherwise been lended to her as readily in those times.

Even as a journalist, I’ve always used fashion and beauty as a vehicle for much deeper conversations around identity, cultural and racial representation, and a celebration of diversity. Dressing it up and making it fashion has allowed me to enter spaces with a certain message or mission that may not be as welcome if it were packaged another way. 


Becoming a mom has shifted how I move through the world in every way, including how I dress. I am all about comfort, convenience, and ease now. I love high-impact looks with low effort. Even getting ready for this morning’s Zoom, I had no time. My baby was about to wake up. I had a lot going on. So I threw on a simple black turtleneck that will do the job. I added some gold earrings, pulled my hair into a low bun, I have no makeup on, and I feel totally fine about that. I still feel chic—even if it's not all perfect. I think that having a baby strips away anything that’s not essential. For me, it has been such an empowering experience. Just seeing and experiencing what my body can do has made me feel more confident in my body across the board. I'm like, “Who cares if I'm not wearing makeup! Did you know I had a nine-pound baby unmedicated on my bedroom floor? Did you know I'm a superhero?”


I’ve spent the last almost two years learning how to become an effective advocate in this space around maternal care…understanding the issue and players in this space and awareness-building in destigmatizing birth workers who are working outside of the hospital system. While there are so many effective advocates who have been working on this for so long, those advocates seem to exist outside of these mainstream media spaces that you need to engage to tell these stories, to galvanize people, to get them on board. It's one of those things that you're not really aware of or acquainted with until you become a parent, until it could be you that becomes a statistic. The way that I'm hoping to reframe this conversation is around agency and choice. If I knew how many more choices there were, I wouldn't have had such a difficult pregnancy and felt so unsupported for the majority of it by operating in a system that felt like it wasn't set up to serve me, or women like me, even in the most basic ways. It's led me to this place where I have to now be a part of building into the solution. 

All the data supports the fact that if families had more access to midwives, more of us would survive childbirth—80% of the maternal mortality deaths in this country would be prevented. After having experienced the radical transformative difference between traditional hospital maternal care and the midwifery care model during my own pregnancy, I am focused on expanding access to that kind of care for other families. I think this is how the revolution begins. 


The only way I can sustain myself in doing so many different things is by staying plugged into work that feels regenerative and energizing because it is rooted in a greater purpose. It kind of goes back to the earlier point of how you assess opportunities, what to say hell yes to or what to say no to, which is my framework for how I make decisions. If it is not a full-body hell yes, I'm better off saying no because it's going to drain me. I think I've gotten smarter with my nos, and my hell yeses have gotten even bigger. I have greater capacity, and I'm a better mom, because my work is rooted in helping other people be better moms. It's all connected.


I also found a hobby last year. I was feeling super drained and my focus got foggy, and I was doing too many things but not feeling like I was getting a return on the investment on a soul level. And then I was like, you know what? I am tired of being such a workaholic and having nothing interesting to talk about outside of my work or my child. I need to be more well-rounded. I had never had a hobby as an adult. And so I started playing tennis.

It has freaking enhanced every aspect of my life. It made me feel better. It's given me mental clarity. I think it's so important for ambitious women to have something outside of their work and roles within their families to fuel them and focus on getting better at — without the pressure of having to monetize it. I was an athlete in high school, and I think I've just channeled all of that athleticism into how I approach work. But my body has suffered, and my mind probably has suffered because there's just an innate benefit to being physically active consistently. Adding that practice to my life has been transformative. So that's the next movement I want to start! A hobby movement for working, ambitious women that helps us get out of our jobs, get into our bodies, and just play. I do think it unlocked so much. I’ve found it’s the times when you feel like you have the least bandwidth, that you need to get out and play the most.

Cropped Shirt in Cotton Sateen | Khaki Green
Cropped Shirt in Cotton Sateen | Khaki Green
$250 View Product
Single Pleat Trouser in Cotton Twill | Ivory
Single Pleat Trouser in Cotton Twill | Ivory
$225 View Product

"'s so important for ambitious women to have something outside of their work and roles within their families to fuel them..."

She’s Worth a Follow

Find Elaine on Instagram.