Where Ariana Grande Meets Donald Trump
Spat between Teen Vogue writer and Fox News host lays bare the changing role of teen titles in bringing current events to young females.
On Friday evening, as many of us shut down our laptops for a weekend's holiday respite from the news cycle with friends and family, Teen Vogue writer Lauren Duca appeared on Fox News's "Tucker Carlson Tonight," ostensibly to defend a tweet in which she, according to host Tucker Carlson, appeared to condone a Brooklyn lawyer's public confrontation of Ivanka Trump aboard a JetBlue flight.
A tense interview, variously described in subsequent media reports as "heated," "feisty," and "sexist," — the terms "partisan hack" and "feces" were uttered multiple times each — reached a crescendo towards the end of the ten minute segment, in which host Tucker Carlson took Duca to task for her widely circulated and extremely critical Teen Vogue piece accusing the President-elect of "gaslighting America."
Duca: What I mean by that is that [President-elect Trump] frequently contradicts objective evidence, not that he is abusing me personally. I think you're smart enough to know that. Aren't you, Tucker?
Carlson: I don't know, I just take your words at face value.
Duca: So did you read the entire article?
Carlson: I did. I also read, "Liam Payne is 100-percent certain One Direction will continue," "[Ariana] Grande rocks the most epic thigh-high boots at [Jingle Ball]," and "Blac Chyna and Rob Kardashian went through the messiest breakup of 2016." Those are your other pieces, but I'm trying to get to what you're writing about Trump when you take a break from the thigh-high boots, and ask what you mean about him committing psychological abuse on you.
Duca: A woman can love Ariana Grande and her thigh-high boots and still discuss politics. Those things are not mutually exclusive. Now that you bring up Teen Vogue, we treat young women—
Carlson: To a bunch of dumb propaganda.
Duca: —like they don't have a right to a political conversation. Like you can't enjoy Kylie Jenner's Instagram and worry about the future of this country. Those things are not mutually exclusive.
Grande's boots notwithstanding, Carlson referencing Duca's more celebrity-driven headlines, a clear attempt to undermine her political analysis, is a powerful manifestation of an editorial shift that's taken place within Teen Vogue since digital editorial director Phillip Picardi joined the brand in April 2015, and Elaine Welteroth ascended to the top editor role this past May.
"I think about a year and a half ago I'd say, we all kind of came around the table and said, we have to mean more to our girls. Why are we here today?," Welteroth told NPR's All Things Considered in an interview last week.
"In one of my interviews, one of the questions was, how do you grow Teen Vogue from 2 million to 10 million a month? And [adding politics to the mix] was largely the answer," added Picardi.
Duca's "scorched earth op-ed," published December 10 on TeenVogue.com, was a watershed moment for the brand's political pivot. The article was retweeted tens of thousands of times, reaching over one-million readers and becoming Teen Vogue's most-read story of 2016, ahead of this September piece, a how-to on applying glitter nail polish.
The response, perhaps unsurprisingly, varied from unbridled applause to social media death threats against Duca. Members of the media elite, including Dan Rather, simultaneously voiced praise for the article and incredulity at the publication for which it was written.
Among those who were not surprised, though, was Picardi, who told The Atlantic that Teen Vogue's strongest day for digital traffic, other than December 10, was November 9, the day after Election Day.
It's clear that Teen Vogue has identified political content as a powerful means of ushering young females from its print magazine to its digital properties — traffic to TeenVogue.com is up 145 percent this year, according to data from ComScore. As mass media prepares for 2017 and a new administration in the White House, and legacy publishers continually look for ways to compete with digital millennial powerhouses like Buzzfeed, Vice, and Refinery29, expect other teen-focused titles to follow suit.