The end of 2020 cannot come soon enough for most teens. Missing face to face friend groups, relegated to remote learning, and absent from the field, stage, lab or gym that brought them joy, teens are counting down the days until they can delete Zoom from…everything.

Which is why the Teen Vogue Summit (and the workshops leading up to it) stood out. Texts began flying back and forth in early December securing tickets. DMs stacked up as viewers checked in. Are you on? When is Selena speaking? Did you go to the Politics & Culture Workshop? Unreal. Yup, I did Fashion & Media too – crazy good. Wait – it’s starting!

And from the opening panel featuring Teen Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief, Lindsay Peoples Wagner and actor, CEO and Executive Producer, Tracee Ellis Ross, a global audience was hooked.

“My authentic disposition is joy,” stated Ross – noting that it’s also her middle name – and that sentiment infused the conversation. Discussing body image (“my mother always told me just to ‘trust your body where it’s at'”), hair care (“our hair is where we hold our legacy”) and finding the confidence to try something new (“ask yourself what it is about your idea that makes it unique”), the introductory session left listeners feeling emboldened.

I was so inspired by Tracee Ellis Ross’ panel! She had lots of great advice about loving our natural selves and learning to embrace our differences.

Meghan Karach, viewing from New Jersey, United States

“I remember a small comment she made, Meghan added, “about how she surrounds herself with things she finds beautiful, because they inspire her. It got me thinking about how I surround myself. It was the smallest thing she said, but it made so much sense to me – that we shouldn’t hold onto things that distract or drag us down but rather should fill our lives with all that brings us inspiration and positivity.”

I loved when Tracee Ellis Ross said ‘If a table isn’t making space for you, go build your own table. Build your own community.’ That really spoke to me.

Hadassah Freedman, viewing from Jerusalem, Israel

Subsequent speakers generating buzz included founder Nabela Noor, who talked about beauty diversity from a closet we all want, digital content creators Megha Rethin and Tyla-Lauren Gilmore, who shared smart insights about the importance of unrelenting authenticity on social media, and Nicole Small, co-founder of the IF/THEN initiative highlighting women and girls in STEM. With every panel introduced, the excitement seemed to build and comments circulated in the chat room.

Then came a break for career meet-ups, where registrants could interact directly with companies like Hello Sunshine, Google Ventures, Puma and more. Offering access to industries spanning fashion, entertainment, media, wellness and climate change, these next-gen networking sessions gave teens a chance to put their questions directly to the experts. Coolest! was an often-heard refrain.

Returning to the program, viewers explored the race gap alongside All American actor Daniel Ezra and Executive Producer/Showrunner Nkechi Okoro Carroll, and then heard Felicia Wong, CEO of the Roosevelt Institute, discuss designing a more inclusive economic future.

By the time singer, actor, producer and founder of Rare Beauty, Selena Gomez appeared on screen, the Teen Vogue vibe had reached a fever pitch. Challenging her audience to think deeply before embarking on new projects (“It requires a check-in with yourself…why do you want to do it? Are you able to show up and be patient enough with yourself? Because that’s what it takes”), and urging everyone to believe in themselves with renewed vigor, Gomez’s words had impact across the globe.

“I personally loved the interview with Selena Gomez,” remarked Tapaswini Sharma in India. “She has been a role model to me since my childhood and continues to inspire me today. “

Specifically, when Selena Gomez said ‘It is equally important to surround yourself with people who challenge you as it is to surround yourself with people who encourage you,’ that really made me think about who I have surrounded myself with. Her interview was awe-inspiring.

Tapaswini Sharma, viewing from Pune, India

“I liked how Selena Gomez showed us how anything is possible when we put in the work,” added Sophia Crowder from the U.S., “and also the importance of allyship in our push for gender equality. She said that, more than anything, she would love to see more men championing women. I definitely agree.”

I also thought Selena was so inspiring when sharing her personal journey about believing in herself, even when there were people who didn’t believe in her. That’s girl-power right there!

Sophie Crowder, viewing from Virginia, United States

Indeed. There was no shortage of empowerment or inclusivity at the 2020 Summit. The afternoon had the energy usually found at Teen Vogue’s live events (think Lana Condor‘s musical performance), coupled with unexpected introspection – an urge to look back at the end of a tumultuous year and ahead with clear eyes to the future.

“Overall,” concluded Hadassah Freedman in Israel, “I loved hearing from so many women who have thrived even in a pandemic, about their struggles in the past and their advice for the future.”

Thank you, Teen Vogue, for brightening up 2020.


  • Illana Raia

    Founder & CEO


    Recently named one of the first 250 entrepreneurs on the Forbes Next 1000 List, Illana Raia is the founder and CEO of Être - a mentorship platform for girls. Believing that mentors matter as early as middle school, Illana brings girls directly into companies they select to meet female leaders face to face. The goal, as Être's French name suggests, is to help today's girls figure out who they want to be.    Named a Mogul Influencer in 2017, Illana appeared in the HuffPost "Talk To Me" video series, participated in the 2018 Balance Project Interviews and the 2019 #WomenWhoRock campaign, and has been featured on Cheddar TV and podcasts like The Other 50%, Her Money, Finding Brave and Women To Watch. Illana has authored 50+ articles for Thrive Global, HuffPost and Ms. Magazine, and her award-winning book Être: Girls, Who Do You Want To Be was released on Day of the Girl 2019. Her next book, The Epic Mentor Guide, is scheduled to arrive on International Women's Day 2022.   Prior to launching Être in 2016, Illana was a corporate attorney at Skadden, Arps in NYC and an occasional guest lecturer at Columbia University. She graduated from Smith College and the University of Chicago Law School, and remains unapologetically nerdy.