'It's A Joy To Be A Part Of That': Elaine Welteroth Talks The Talk

The New York Times bestselling author, award-winning journalist, TV host and the former editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue talks about the dream job she ‘never saw coming’.

When Elaine Welteroth took the helm at Teen Vogue she became the youngest editor-in-chief of a Condé Nast publication at the time. Under her team, Teen Vogue was completely overhauled and she revolutionised the magazine and its online presence.

Welteroth’s “part-manifesto, part memoir” became an instant New York Times bestseller. And she was present for the iconic “dinner with the Kushners” episode of Project Runway.

Now, Welteroth begins a new chapter, having recently joined the panel of The Talk full-time this year.

Joined by co-hosts Carrie Ann Inaba, Sheryl Underwood, Sharon Osbourne, and fellow newcomer Amanda Kloots, Welteroth felt instantly embraced by the production.

“The dynamic and the chemistry on-set with each of these women is just something so special that you can’t manufacture,” she told 10 play via a Zoom interview.

Like many of us, Welteroth had to quickly get used to chatting over Zoom. The week she and Kloots joined the show, it was filming remotely with the hosts all appearing via video chat. Thankfully, having guest-hosted in the past a handful of times, Welteroth was familiar with the show and her co-hosts.

“Think about how hard it is to start a new job anywhere, but then particularly when we’re talking about daily live television and then you layer on top of it having to do it on Zoom, it was definitely stressful but… it’s like I can do anything now.”

The experience also made Welteroth appreciate even more the ability to be on-set (socially distanced, of course) with her co-hosts, having the ability to feed off each other’s energy and have that in-person intimacy often missing in a Zoom link.

Now a few weeks into the role, Welteroth said it has been “one of those dream jobs that you never saw coming”, and that both on set and behind the scenes there’s a culture of respect that allows the panel to build meaningful and fun conversations every day with people across America “during such a strange time”.

“Everyone does respect everyone else’s opinions. Everyone’s trying to learn from each other,” she said. “We approach conversations with compassion, kindness, with a sense of seeking connection with each other and also with the people at home who — by the way — are having these exact conversations.

“Not to be cheesy or cliché, but I think it’s kind of healing in a moment like this to watch five dynamic, diverse women model how to have some of these harder conversations and then turn around and laugh together, you know? I think we need more of that in the world. It’s a joy to be a part of that, putting that out there every day.”

When she received the news that she got the job, Welteroth says she jumped, screamed, jumped more, and then called her mother.

In the call, filmed by her husband Jonathan, Welteroth builds up the reveal by telling her mum she has a “big announcement”. There’s a moment where you can hear Jonathan, behind the camera, realising his mother-in-law has assumed it’s baby-related.

“I accidentally led her down the wrong path,” Welteroth remembers, laughing. “It was truly like watching a train crash in slow motion.”

During her time at Teen Vogue, Welteroth’s influence turned the expectations of the fun fashion mag upside-down. Expanding the magazine’s focus, Teen Vogue still had a core focus of celebrity culture, fashion, and beauty but also included an unapologetic approach to politics, social justice, diversity, and feminism.

On the same day Vogue’s editor Anna Wintour was forced to apologise for anti-Trump comments, Teen Vogue published a now-infamous article headline, ‘Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America’.

Like the re-vamped Teen Vogue, The Talk discusses everything from current events to pop culture and invites the panel to share their own experiences and opinions on everything in between. Welteroth sees the power she has to use that platform to speak directly to Americans across the country.

“It’s a really important time to be having some conversations that hopefully bring people together,” Welteroth said. “There is such a great divide in our country right now and I think this show approaches some of those hard topics with the intention of bridge-building and I think that’s really important.”

Just several days into the new job, Welteroth watched along with the rest of the world as a mob of Trump supporters stormed the US capitol. Feeling like she had been “dropped into the deep end of the pool”, Welteroth had to translate all she was thinking and feeling before going live on national TV the next day.

“To have this platform where I’m meant to find a way to translate all that I’m thinking and feeling succinctly, and know that I’m also carrying the responsibility of speaking for so many people who look like me, who feel like I do and who don’t have the platform… I felt the weight of that responsibility and I also felt grateful to have the opportunity to be in this position during a time like this.”

As the United States reflected on the events of January 6, Welteroth spoke out about the “racial trauma” having witnessed the brutal responses to the Black Lives Matter marches last year.

“I think every person of colour, every Muslim who watched what played out yesterday knows that if those were people who looked like us, looked like them, it would have resulted in a massacre,” Welteroth said in the episode that followed.

“I think it’s important that we do acknowledge that what we saw yesterday was the epitome of white privilege. And for those who think that this is not about race you would be gravely, gravely mistaken.”

Grateful that the show doesn’t shy away from those difficult topics, Welteroth also said it’s been an opportunity for her to also push herself out of the “echo chamber” of the coastal communities like Los Angeles.

“The flyover states represent a large swathe of our audience and so, to be able to be in constant dialogue with them is really important in this moment… I feel like I’m learning a lot and I think we all are, really.

“We’re all living American history right now, we’re all watching American history unfold every single day, and to be at a place like The Talk with a platform like this to discuss it in real-time… man, it feels really special.”

While the show’s ability to fearlessly tackle every topic is a huge reason why Welteroth is so passionate about it, when asked if anything is off-limits she laughed and remembered a recent interaction where her co-hosts were sharing sex-toy stories.

“My new thing is I’ll just sip tea when I’m like, oh no I’m not chiming in on this one… it’s like my mum’s watching this show. You know, her church friends… church ladies out there watching this show! I can’t be talking about this, so I just sip tea.

“Thank god they let me out of it that time, I don’t know if I’ll be so lucky next time.”

Catch Elaine and the panel of The Talk weekdays on 10 or watch episodes on demand on 10 play