Creating An Intentional Body Of Work With Lindsay Peoples Wagner
MOVE THE NEEDLE
November 17, 2021
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Lindsay Peoples Wagner is the editor-in-chief of New York Magazine’s The Cut. She was previously editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue and the youngest to hold the position of any Condé Nast magazine. From working as an intern in Teen Vogue’s fashion closets to leading its entire editorial and digital strategy, Peoples Wagner has made a name for herself as a trailblazer. In 2017, she won the ASME Next award for outstanding achievement by magazine journalists under 30. She rose to acclaim in August 2018 with her barnstorming piece Everywhere and Nowhere: What It’s Really Like to Be Black and Work in Fashion, a collection of testimonies from over 100 black professionals and public figures across the fashion industry. Throughout her career, which has included working at titles such as Style.com, Beauty and the Dirt and O, The Oprah Magazine, she has consistently covered fashion and beauty topics through the lens of social justice, race, and size inclusivity. Here she shares how thoughtfulness and intentionality lead to a meaningful career.

In multiple interviews, you’ve stated inclusivity and approachability are your main goals as the new editor-in-chief at The Cut. What does it look like in practice?

It comes to life in many small decisions that I don’t think the industry realizes--you aren’t being inclusive if you’re only doing it on covers or doing it so that you don’t get canceled. Inclusivity is the lens through which I see everything that I do at The Cut, so whether it’s our approach or tone, or who we elevate on the platform, or the kinds of people, it’s all part of a regular cycle of interrogating how can we be more diverse.

During your early career at The Cut and Teen Vogue, you left one position and returned as editor-in-chief. What advice would you give to women on driving faster career progression?

I wouldn’t say that I’ve even thought about driving faster in my career--I want to make a body of work that I’m proud of, and that means being intentional and thoughtful, not rushing.

At Teen Vogue, you were the youngest editor-in-chief of a Condé Nast magazine and one of the few black journalists to have led one of the company’s publications. How would you describe your style of leadership then, and how has it evolved?

My leadership then and now is quite leveled--I love what we do, but we aren’t essential workers. We are blessed to tell stories, make beautiful imagery, and have a platform to do so. So I think whether, in that job as a first-time editor-in-chief, or this time as my second, I’m acutely aware of the responsibilities.

What would you say are the benefits of youth in that role?

I’m a person of discernment, and I feel like I just have to go with my gut, but I am incredibly open to hearing others’ opinions, feedback, ideas. So often, when people have been in a role for a very long time, it makes you a bit more closed off to what you think things should be like, but I feel very open.

In an interview with Kinfolk, you said this industry had aged you to the point where you don’t feel your age. What did you have to overcome to succeed in this industry, and how has that impacted your approach to your career?

A lot of it has been the fact that I am unapologetically Black in all spaces, and that isn’t as easy as some would think it is. But, I’ve refused to compromise who I am. Part of that has meant that when I’m given opportunities to have a seat at the table, I’m not just sitting there with gratitude, I’m using that seat and gratitude to be a ladder for the next generation of young women of color, and it’s no longer about me.

Lack of confidence can be such a hindrance for many women. How did you cultivate a trust in self that allows you to pursue big opportunities?

I do a lot of self-talk and journaling! If I am worried about something or feel like I need to work out the kinks of an idea, I’ll walk around the house and talk myself through the best and worst outcomes. I also think a big thing in confidence is not confusing a title or role that you have with your own identity. I actively have to work on telling myself that I am gifted and worthy regardless of any job or not.

Explain the difference between accountability culture and cancel culture. What are the benefits of practicing the former over the latter?

Cancel culture is often forced, and honestly, when companies make changes based on cancel culture, you can tell it’s out of being called out. They make a donation, but nothing fundamentally changes.

Accountability allows the space for people to discuss the ways in which they need to do a better job at rising to the occasion of making changes and isn’t coming from a place of shame but a place of holistic change.

What’s a productivity hack you’d like to share?

Delete Instagram on the weekends!

Name one person who was instrumental in your career success and why?

My family means the world to me.

Who are some women on your radar?

I’m a huge Ava DuVernay fan, and she recently was part of our How I Get It Done series and said something that I wrote down in my journal, which was, “Self-care is: How do you care for yourself each day? And a big part of that is: Who do you allow to be around you, and who are you putting yourself around?”

I want to make a body of work that I’m proud of, and that means being intentional and thoughtful, not rushing.
I also think a big thing in confidence is not confusing a title or role that you have with your own identity. I actively have to work on telling myself that I am gifted and worthy regardless of any job or not.

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