6 Things You Need to Know About Project Runway's New Judge, Elaine Welteroth

6 Things You Need to Know About Project Runway's New Judge, Elaine Welteroth

Get to know one of the brand new faces who will be joining the cast for Season 17. 

By Sarah Hanlon

In case you haven't heard, Project Runway is back and it’s already shaping up to be quite an exciting season. The show won't be premiering until 2019, but by the looks of some of the behind-the-scenes footage we've already seen, you won't want to miss it. In case you need a refresher: Karlie Kloss is set to host, and Season 4's winner Christian Siriano will be returning to the show, this time as mentor. Joining the judging panel alongside designer Brandon Maxwell and veteran judge Nina Garcia is former Teen Vogue editor-in-chief Elaine Welteroth.  

But who is this beauty writer-turned-public figure? You're going to want to know more about Elaine and just how impressive her career in the media industry has been so far. Keep reading to learn six things you need to know about one of Project Runway's newest judges.

1. She was the youngest editor-in-chief at Condé Nast

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When I moved to New York City at 21 as an editorial intern, my greatest dream was to become Editor-in-Chief. It was a goal too intimidating to even say aloud. I was convinced it was totally out of reach for someone with no connections, no trust fund, and no fancy clothes. I pursued the path anyway. Eventually, I started believing the vision placed inside of me. I learned to shrug off the fear of failure, and how to refuse the urge to shrink—even when I was asked to. . Now, at 31, God has broken the glass ceiling on all of my wildest childhood dreams. My bucket list is all checked off and somewhere along the way I’ve managed to join the ranks of unstoppable women who’ve, throughout history, stared back into the face of the unknown and decided to MAKE IT HAPPEN. . Now, it is time to dream even bigger. . After six life-changing years at Conde Nast, I’ve decided to leave the company. Leading @TeenVogue at a time such as this, alongside some of the most talented people in the industry has been the most rewarding experience of my editorial career. It has helped me discover how to use my voice to empower young people and girls. This will continue to be a major focus for me as I take my next step—because beyond the compelling covers, and groundbreaking conversations we started online, cultivating this incredible community is what I am most proud of. . You are a beautiful, inclusive tribe of thinkers, doers, and dreamers who challenge me to be better every day. Getting to know you, both online and in person, has been the absolute greatest joy of my job. And I’m excited to take you all along for the ride into my next chapter. . What I know now that I didn’t know at 21 is that life is a series of dreams realized. There is no destination, but there will be breakthrough after breakthrough along the way. Our greatest obligation is to keep reaching, to continue growing, to push beyond what seems possible, to live outside the boxes created for us. That is exactly what 2018 is about for me, and for all of us. I’m beyond excited for what the future holds—if 2017 taught us anything, it’s to never underestimate the power of a black woman…✌🏽❤️✊🏽 #TeenVogueForever #ontothenext

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At just 31 years old, Elaine’s career is not only impressive, it’s record-breaking. She began as the Beauty and Style Editor at Ebony Magazine before joining Condé Nast as Glamour's Beauty and Style Editor. She transferred to Teen Vogue as the Health and Beauty Director in 2012 and continued to climb the company's internal ladder. In May 2016, when she was 29, she was named the editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue, making her the youngest person in Condé Nast’s history to ever hold that position. This promotion also made her the second African-American to ever be an editor-in-chief at the company. While there, she broadened the horizon of content published by Teen Vogue, she helped launch its YouTube channel, and she oversaw its last print edition in December 2017 before leaving to pursue other projects in January 2018.

2. She can be credited for Teen Vogue’s re-branding during the 2016 US presidential election

You may have seen buzz that Teen Vogue re-branded itself when the 2016 US presidential election began heating up — and that’s all thanks to Elaine. As the editor-in-chief, she helped spearhead the diversification of the magazine's content. While it continued to cover the teenage fashion and lifestyle topics that Teen Vogue is known for, it began to dive into covering more serious pieces about politics and social issues, too. While on an episode of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah in 2017, she said, “I would say that Teen Vogue has as much right to be at the table, talking about politics, as every young woman does in America right now.’’

3. Project Runway won’t be her first time on TV

Elaine’s new role as a Project Runway judge won't be her first time on the small screen. In 2016, she played herself on an episode of Black-ish when one of the main characters, Zoe, landed an internship at Teen Vogue. But that’s not all! She reprised her role again in 2018 on the Black-ish spinoff, Grown-ish.

4. She’s a vocal activist

Elaine’s interest in politics and social issues hasn’t just been reflected in her impact on Teen Vogue — it’s all over her social media, too. She’s shown her support for causes including the #MarchForOurLives initiative for stricter gun control, the Time’s Up Now movement, the Women’s March on Washington DC, and the #NeverAgain National School Walkout, to name just a few. She also frequently shares support for her fellow activist friends including Tracee Ellis Ross, Malala Yousafzai, and Jordan Peele.

5. She’s engaged to musician Jonathan Singletary

Elaine met her fiancé, Jonathan Singletary, through their childhood church’s youth choir. Not only did she initially “friend zone” him, they also went their separate ways as they grew older. After they reconnected, their relationship eventually turned romantic, and they got engaged in December 2016. In that same year, Elaine also provided backup vocals for Jonathan's song “Don’t Fight Alone.” Can you say “relationship goals?”

6. She’s already having a blast with the rest of the Project Runway cast

Elaine gave us all a highly-anticipated behind-the-scenes sneak peek at Project Runway filming, and, unsurprisingly, it already looks amazing. Laughing alongside Karlie Kloss and Brandon Maxwell, it's clear they make quite the dynamic team.

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