Teen Vogue saga shows Condé Nast struggles on representation – expert

A US diversity expert has said the publisher Condé Nast has shown only a “surface level” understanding of the importance of representation, following its short-lived appointment of Alexi McCammond as editor of Teen Vogue.

McCammond, who is African American, was due to take the influential role at the end of March but resigned before her start date, over anti-Asian tweets.

The racist tweets, from 2011 and first reported in 2019, included references to “swollen, Asian eyes”.

Condé Nast knew about the tweets when it offered McCammond the job. At the time, Anna Wintour, Condé Nast’s global content adviser, said: “Alexi has the powerful curiosity and confidence that embodies the best of our generation of leaders.”

But Jezz Cheung, a diversity expert at Anomaly, a New York ad agency, told the Washington Post: “The Anna Wintours of the world don’t understand what authentic representation means beyond a surface level.

“They saw a woman of colour but didn’t do the work to make sure she was the right one for this organisation.”

McCammond’s appointment was reported to have been made by a team. The Post also reported that the former Teen Vogue editor Lindsay Peoples Wagner warned the company the tweets could re-emerge, and that McCammond was not on Peoples Wagner’s list of possible new editors.

When McCammond’s tweets resurfaced, Condé Nast said: “Throughout her career [McCammond] has dedicated herself to being a champion for marginalised voices. Two years ago she took responsibility for her social media history and apologised.”

However, anti-Asian hate crime has been on the rise in the US since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, which began in China. McCammond’s exit was announced days after a mass shooting in Atlanta in which six of the eight victims were of Asian descent.

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“The conversation around racism and oppression must include all minority groups – our liberation is all tied to one another,” the fashion designer Prabal Gurung told the Guardian.

Susie Bubble, an influencer, said: “The real problems of people making cultural assumptions, casual jokes or putting pressure on you to make you assimilate into the dominant culture to the detriment of eradicating your own, these problems will take a longer time to solve. It’s ingrained and sadly much harder to unlearn.”

In a statement about McCammond’s exit, members of Teen Vogue’s staff said they and their readers shared a “passion for justice, inclusion and our core belief in uplifting the voices of young people. We stand with our AAPI [Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders] community today and always.”

The company did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.


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