By Jesse Roth
This past weekend I was fortunate enough to get to attend the Teen Vogue 2018 Summit, themed “#TurnUp”. Over the course of the two days I was there, I heard dozens of motivating keynote speeches, debates, and panel discussions on a number of topics by activists, experts and mentors. I was also surrounded by the most determined and inspiring teenagers I’ve ever met. The Teen Vogue Summit was so inspiring, and kind of mesmerizing in its diversity, messaging, and overall structure. I left feeling that there truly is a revolution taking root, and young women and their allies are leading it.
The first day was dedicated to several breakout sessions on various topics. UCB, in conjunction with Eleanor’s Legacy, the organization that is helping promote and fund progressive women candidates in New York State, led a workshop titled “A Crash Course in Communication Skills.” Marjorie Velazquez, a candidate for NYC City Council, reflected on her experience working with UCB and running for office; then we led a group of teenagers in a series of improv exercises. I was so pleasantly surprised by how outgoing all the girls were. A lot of them didn’t know each other, but the vibe of the room was more warm and comfortable than most eight-week improv classes I’ve taken. They were so funny and down to earth, and not afraid to be themselves.
As a 25-year-old, I was truly in awe. Numerous times throughout the weekend, I heard other adults say to each other, “If this was around when i was a teenager, it would’ve changed my life.” When I was younger I definitely did not care about politics, or any issues going on in the world for that matter. The celebrities I had to look up to were Paris Hilton, Ashlee Simpson, etc., whose public personas centered around which guy they were currently dating -- definitely not their views on climate change. Now there are young celebrities like Rowan Blanchard and Yara Shahidi, talking about causes that are important to them and encouraging everyone to do the same.
The summit reflected this, with blocks of programming dedicated to each major cause: panels and speeches covering net neutrality, climate change, police brutality, voting--and fashion. Every moment of the Summit was both informational and inspirational.
There was an emphasis on consciousness about everything. There’s a surge of people taking action to make industry move towards sustainability and humanitarianism. On a panel focusing on activism in the fashion industry, everyone was encouraged to do their research before spending money, buy less and buy well, without supporting knock-off stores that have outsourced labor.
In an onstage conversation with Common and Angie Thomas, Amandla Stenberg, author of the book The Hate You Give, noted the importance of allowing yourself to make mistakes, internalizing your beliefs and cultivating a passion in what you believe in. I needed to hear this, after being made aware of so many causes and thinking of all the problems that need fixing. I am often overwhelmed by all the actions I could be taking to improve our world every day, and I often chastise myself for not doing enough. It was good to be reminded that even the superheroes on stage, like drag queen Sasha Velour and actress and politician Cynthia Nixon, all stumbled along the way to where they are.
I wasn’t able to attend the third day of the summit, which was a day of action with lots of volunteer opportunities. But I left feeling the most empowered I ever have. Working at UCB has made me feel like I can be a part of change that is happening, by bringing the joy and importance of improv to people, by helping them to gain access to their personal truth and express their passion and their voice. After this weekend, I feel that it’s especially important to cultivate that passion and those voices in the future generations. Former Vice President Al Gore said it himself: “Teenagers are going to change the world.”
Jesse Roth is a comedian and an account manager at UCB Industries. She can be reached at Jesse@UCBComedy.com.