Navigating Cancel Culture

Elaine Welteroth

Lesson time 15:41 min

If you’re making boundary-breaking content, there’s a good chance you’re going to get canceled. Elaine describes the time she was dragged and how she bounced back.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Navigating Cancel Culture • Cancellation Case Study • Focus Your Response on Impact • Address Controversy Head-On • Right Your Wrong • Elaine's Dos and Don'ts for Doing the Work •


[MUSIC PLAYING] - I hate to break it to you, but if you are making disruptive content, prepare to be canceled. It just might happen, OK? So let's be prepared for it and let's figure out what really matters, which is how to learn from it and bounce back responsibly. [MUSIC PLAYING] Looking at this gives me hives. This is a story that I wrote, and it got canceled. And I felt that I was getting canceled right along with it. And it was the first time I ever experienced that kind of terror. The conversation around cancel culture is so noisy that I think it can make people feel afraid to even put themselves out there, to even share their ideas when it comes to hot-button issues. But the reality is, if you want to participate in the cultural conversation, if you are trying to make work that is resonant and relevant, you can't shy away from the hot topics of the time. So I'm going to tell you about the time that I got canceled. I was a young editor at "Teen Vogue." I was the beauty director at the time. I was the first Black Beauty director in Condé Nast history. So I knew that I was representing a very different perspective, that I was sort of an outside voice that somehow became an insider. So this was a point in my career where I felt like I was kind of starting to lean into my authority and finding my authentic voice, and I thought, I want to do a story for the June issue about braids, but not just like, summer braids everybody can rock, but specifically a story about the first time I went to Africa, specifically, Rwanda and Ethiopia, and I got Senegalese twists. And I wanted to write about how beauty can be a form of activism. As a Black woman, when you show up in a White workplace with Afrocentric hair, it's a political statement. It can be. I guess in my experience of wearing my natural curly texture, I noticed that my White colleagues had a very interesting reaction to me. There were hands coming to touch my hair. There were comments that were made that felt like microaggressions. I was asked strange questions. And so I really wanted to address that in some way through a beauty story. And I wanted to tie-in a pop culture reference, so I tied in the anecdote of how Zendaya showed up on the red carpet at the Oscars with locks, and the red carpet commentators used really derogatory, offensive language to describe Zendaya's look on the red carpet. And, you know, they used stereotypical kind of references to weed and patchouli, and Zendaya clapped back on the internet. She had this incredibly articulate, pointed, poignant response that reminded them that people of color and our hair is worthy of being on a red carpet naturally as it comes out of our head. So I wanted to incorporate it into this story. So we ended up casting a model who was Black and French, and she resembled Zendaya to me. I thought she could be perfect. And I felt really excited about this story. And then the story came out into ...

About the Instructor

After a decade in her dream job as editor in chief of Teen Vogue, award-winning journalist Elaine Welteroth realized she had other dreams worth pursuing. Now, the New York Times bestselling author, multimedia trailblazer, and judge on the new Project Runway is teaching you how to get out of your comfort zone and harness your personal values, passions, and skills to custom design a career path as unique as you are.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Elaine Welteroth

Former Teen Vogue editor in chief and multimedia icon Elaine Welteroth teaches you how to harness your values, skills, and passions to create your dream career path.

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