Words: Emma Roberts
Feature image: Teen Vogue, photography by Camila Falquez
“Breaking barriers, advocating for equality and fighting for better representation.”
There was feeling of deflation across the industry when it was announced this January that Elaine Welteroth, Editor-in-Chief of Teen Vogue, would be stepping down to pursue a career in television. As only the second black woman to ever be appointed as Editor-in-Chief of a Conde Nast publication, Welteroth transformed the publication into a politically driven fashion publication for young women. Many wondered if the publication would return to its more superficial roots, but, the Young Hollywood cover proves there was no need to worry.
Since becoming a digital publication in November, Phillip Picardi has been Chief Content Officer in place of the traditional Editor-in-Chief position. Picardi also runs ‘Them’ – the first LGBTQ publication for Conde Nast – and his passion for advocating diversity and equality is evident as head of Teen Vogue. The ‘digital cover’ titled the Young Hollywood Class of 2018 is made up of 8 young actress who are not only rising stars, but are also “breaking barriers, advocating for equality and fighting for better representation” in the film industry.
In an emotional discussion about their hopes for the future of film, Brina Vinaite, Sasha Lane, Letitia Wright, Ellie Bamber, Margaret Qualley, Laura Harrier, Awkwafina and Storm Reid prove that young women really are the catalyst for change. Having grown up with films that didn’t give them anyone to truly identify with, they’re embracing the #MeToo zeitgeist and making sure their careers become a beacon of light for the next generation. Together, in a colourful group cover, it’s clear to see the depiction of women we have been missing for our screens. They also each have their own covers to showcase their individual experiences and styles. It’s time to meet the future of Hollywood.
24 year old Brina Vinaite is instantly recognisable from her hot-pink hair and tattoos and isn’t about to tone down her image for anyone. Her breakout role in The Florida Project exposed the reality of poverty in the ‘magical kingdom’ of Orlando, Florida was triumph and she is now committed to telling stories “about real people with real struggles”.
Brina also knows that it is not just who is on screen that will change the future of film, but diversification of the team behind the camera is vital. She says of the in-numerous white male directors, “They will never understand a woman; they will never understand people of color. The audiences are there for all sorts of stories, but they’re just not getting them made.”
Unafraid to be herself and speak up for what she believes in, there will no doubt soon be a generation of girls inspired to dye their hair hot-pink, as well as dream of taking a seat in the directors chair.
A real hero of her generation, 22-year-old Sasha Lane is set to appear in the reboot of comic book film Hellboy. Post-Black Panther, the super hero genre is undergoing a serious diversification and Sasha is here for it.
Her last role in The Miseducation of Cameron Post was of a young girl sent to a gay conversion camp is close to her heart as she came out as bisexual in 2015. “The story meant a lot to me,” says Sasha, as the film won the top prize at the Sundance Film festival in January, “To get really good feedback from it was nice because you want to do a story like that justice.”
The film was not only a landmark LGBTQ film, but also unique in it’s behind the camera team. “I was very happy to be working with a bunch of women — we had women directors, a female cinematographer, writers,” says Sasha, “It offers a different insight and a different type of feel. The more of it we can get out there, the better.”
As Sasha continues to work on projects that showcase the talents of women and highlight sidelined minority groups, she proves that the future of film is brighter than in seems amidst Me Too and Times Up, “People want to be represented; people want to be seen,” Sasha says. “You want to see yourself on-screen so you have something to relate to. You can feel comfortable.”
Starring in Black Panther, Letitia Wright has already cemented herself as young actress to watch. Her character Shuri is the tech genius of Wakanda and she hopes to continue her legacy of playing intelligent women, to show a new generation of girls that they can be more than the princess or girlfriend. “I hope that Shuri opens up a new way of thinking for young girls in terms of careers and subjects in the academic world. I wish I watched movies like Hidden Figures when I was a kid, and maybe I would’ve taken science classes super seriously, because I saw myself,” she tells Teen Vogue. “I can only hope that Shuri can encourage a lot of girls to be a part of subjects in school like science and math and technology.”
It is not only getting women on-screen that is important, giving them roles that are meaningful and diverse. Films spud serve to show girls that not only can they be actresses, but they can be anything, and do not need to be afraid of anyone. The Times Up and me Too movements are vital in giving women the confidence to pursue their dreams with freedom and Letitia is proud to be a young woman during this era. “I’m really proud of the Time’s Up movement, and I hope it continues and it grows stronger and that it can really be established,” Letitia says. “I hope that 100 years down the line we still have a movement that’s strong enough to defend people who may need it. And not just for girls in Hollywood but for someone else who may be on a farm picking fruits every day and dealing with something they shouldn’t be dealing with and having no sort of help.”
Ellie Bamber, if you haven’t already heard of her after starring in the BBC production of Les Miserables, will soon be a household name. In November she will star alongside Helen Mirren and Keira Knightly in The Nutcracker.
Inspired by the iconic women she has worked with, Ellie wants to see more women behind the camera, because everything that godson behind the camera “translates to the front.” Speaking in true Les Miserables style she says, ”The idea of bringing equality not just to entertainment but to every walk of life, I think it’s very important,” she says. “There should be no segregation. Everyone should be united, and everyone should be seen as equals.”
Hopefully modern roles will become as inspiring for her as the classics, challenging her to immerse herself in roles that will “take me somewhere that maybe I haven’t been before.”
Coming from a family of actresses, Margaret Qualley, daughter of Andie MacDowell, simply wants to see more girls on-screen. It’s not a big ask, and Margaret knows that, “The goal is to not be patted on the back for hiring a woman, because it shouldn’t be an exceptional thing. It should just be commonplace that women should have equal opportunities as men.”
It’s important to remember that whilst these Young Hollywood women are all actresses, diversification is need across the board, “I think gender parity is a crucial part of any healthy society,” she reiterates. “It’s applicable to the entire world.”
Having modelled for Chanel and Valentino, Margaret surely understands the pressure on young girls to look and behave a certain way, but through her career she hopes to change this. When asked by teen Vogue what her ultimate goal is, she said she wants “to be able to tell stories that just resonate with people and maybe change their perspective on something, or enrich an idea that they already had, or just connect with somebody.” It’s a simple dream, but one we’ve been waiting for a while.
In the ‘Our Time Is Now’ film, Laura Harrier’s pain and passion is evident. “Hollywood now has a lot more representation, i think we’re starting to go in that direction. We’re so conditioned to seeing these types of characters, these archetypes in big movies, but they have never looked like me.” The results of a lack of black women in cinema are evident in Laura’s career alone, when in coverage of the film Spider-Man: Homecoming, her picture was captioned with co-star’s name Zendaya. “I always thought that was a joke, until it was not a joke,” she says of the mistake. “I really hope that in ten years this is not a thing anymore.”
Her next role is bound to be even more eyeopening, as she stars in Black Klansman, a film directed by Spike Lee that tells the real-life story of Ron Stallworth, a black police officer who infiltrated the KKK. She plays a Black Power activist and calls the role simply “one of the best experiences of my career.” When preparing for the role she says, “I studied Angela Davis. I got to meet Kathleen Cleaver and talked to all these incredible women of the Black Panther and Black Power movements. It just struck me how relevant these things are now, unfortunately.” Laura’s raw passion for giving black girls more role models is beyond inspiring, and beyond overdue.
Hilariously charming, Awkwafina’s infectious personality is promoting diversification with a positive attitude. With success as a rapper, actress and comedian, her next role in the anticipated Ocean’s 8 is bound to make her a household name. Fortunately, for Awkwafina, women on-screen isn’t enough. “If we’re going to be telling stories about women, with female leads, why can’t we have a female director?” she tells Teen Vogue at the Young Hollywood shoot while discussing the Time’s Up initiative. “There are female directors; these people exist. So you can’t say limited availability.”
Beyond advocating feminism, Awkwafina is fighting against asian stereotypes. Conscious of avoiding roles that are plagued with racist cliches, she has turned down roles that she doesn’t feel proud to play. “Turning down roles, I think, is a thing of privilege, in the same way as speaking up against violence that you’ve experienced in the industry,” she says. “A lot of people who don’t speak up on it, or waited, it’s because they have too much to lose.”
Saying no to sexism and racism in an industry that is so volatile is brave, and Awkwafina is proving that it pays to stick by what you believe in, not just for yourself, but for others too.
At the tender age of 14, Storm Reid is an awe-inspiring example of how girls of all ages are aware of the prejudices against them and have the power to fight against them. Her words in Teen Vogue are mature far beyond her years and even Oprah has been moved to tears, proclaiming that Storm will become “for this generation what Judy Garland‘s Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz was for previous generations.”
A hero both on and off-screen, in her next role Storm plays Meg Murry, a young girl who embarks on a fantastical quest through space and time to save her missing father in the upcoming film adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time. Representation is everything” and allows people to be able to see themselves succeed”. With a voice like this at only 14, we can only wonder what Storm will be teaching us in 10 years time.
The Young Hollywood cover is a victory for equality and diversity. Women involved are an inspiration to all and the covers are sensitive and beautiful in a way that is rare for teen magazines. Years from now the ‘Our Time is Now’ film will one day be a haunting reminder of how society placed young girls in a position where they had no choice but to advocate for their own safety and fair representation. As Sasha, Letitia, Ellie, Margaret, Laura, Awkwafina, Bria and Storm stare into the camera and calmly shatter vases and blow away feathers, we will be reminded of the bravery of the young and how they were the ones to transform our society into one that does not prioritise one human being over another.