Teen Vogue News + Politics editor Allison Maloney

Updated 4:10 p.m.

When it launched in February 2003, Teen Vogue became the “it” magazine that millions of tweens and teens turned to for glossy, glamorous content. For the next 13 years, the mag’s pages dealt with such weighty issues as how to find the best nail color for your personality, how to make a boy like you by purchasing $200 clutches, or maybe how Kendall Jenner manages to eat pizza — but still look good!

The Teen Vogue of today is vastly different.

Since April 2015, when Phillip Picardi was tasked to oversee all digital editorial output, Teen Vogue has elevated its content, with the goal of helping its readers stay just as engaged with their communities as they are with street fashion trends and boy band gossip. In May 2016, when Elaine Welteroth was appointed as editor and oversaw print, the bar was raised even further. It now offers in-depth analysis of current affairs in a style relatable to a broad spectrum of young people.

Organizations that work with and advocate for youth, like the Philly-based Juvenile Law Center, have taken notice of the shift.

So much so that this year, one of three JLC Leadership Prizes has been awarded to Teen Vogue — and the two organizations are also teaming up for news coverage.

The JLC awards ceremony in 2017 Credit: Courtesey Juvenile Law Center

An award with prestige

Giving the magazine the leadership nod is notably incongruous.

The other two prizes for 2018 are being awarded to Francis V. Guzman, a juvenile justice attorney at the National Center for Youth Law, and Judge Steven C. Teske, the chief justice of the Juvenile Court of Clayton County, GA.

Guzman, who was incarcerated at the age of 15 for armed robbery in California, has since gone to law school and is now focused on ending the prosecution of juveniles as adults. Teske has been a judge since 1999, serving on numerous committees and councils, such as the Georgia Child Welfare Reform Council, Governor’s Office for Children and Families, Georgia Commission on Family Violence and the Georgia Criminal Justice Reform Commission (among others).

The Leadership Prize recognition began on the 40th anniversary of the JLC, at which point Robert Schwartz, the co-founder and executive director of the organization, was awarded the inaugural prize to mark his retirement and impact on the organization. Usually, the award is given to individuals who have made remarkable achievements in the field of juvenile justice and youth advocacy.

How did Teen Vogue end up in the mix?

Getting serious at a young age

In 2017, Teen Vogue introduced a News + Politics vertical to the magazine’s online counterpart. With editor Allison Maloney at its forefront, it’s the most well-read section on the site.

The overall approach, per Maloney, is to understand that young people can be political and recognize their place in this world as political beings. Issues are often presented and brought to a conversation at the “101” level, a baseline that can help readers feel less intimidated by civil engagement or current affairs.

“No issue is too small, too sad or too traumatic,” Maloney said, “because it’s what young people are going through around the world.”

Last October, Maloney ran a “Kids Incarcerated” series, which ran for a full month. Of the 26 articles about youth behind bars, one was penned by Riya Saha Shah, an attorney for the JLC.

Shah is thrilled Teen Vogue has “upped its game” to shape our country’s next advocates and leaders, she said, and acknowledges that though it’s an “unexpected media outlet,” its series that delve into issues that affect youth and their families have been powerful and comprehensive.

Shah’s op-ed, titled “How Sex Offender Registries Impact Youth,” presents misconceptions associated with sex offender registration, and how these registrations can destroy a young person’s life.

“The editors and fact-checkers were very involved, detail-oriented, and dedicated to presenting the most accurate and reader-friendly piece,” Shah said. “The series offered readers a unique view into the juvenile justice system, a system whose coverage too often gets lumped into larger conversations about criminal justice.”

Shah was one of the five people on the 2018 Leadership Prize Selection Committee.

Collaborating on a key issue

After working with Shah and being awarded a Leadership Prize, Maloney and JLC staff began to discuss another issue that affects youth in the United States — and is currently in the news in Philadelphia: the foster care system.

Sue Vivian Mangold, JLC Executive Director, explained that the health of the foster care system relates directly to keeping kids out of the criminal justice system. “Exiting the foster care system puts youth at a high risk for homelessness, lacking supportive networks, and being unable to access healthcare, education and employment.”

Teen Vogue has since formally teamed up with the JLC to collaborate on coverage that is accurate on individuals who have been directly impacted.

Specifics have not been disclosed, but the initial plan is that during May — National Foster Care Month — the magazine will run a full month’s worth of coverage, with JLC staff and youth advocates writing for the series.

The 2018 Leadership Prize Celebration takes place May 9 at the National Constitution Center, with remarks from Solomon Jones, Barry Zubrow, Mangold, Shah, Mayor Jim Kenney, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Bob Schwartz, Marcus Jarvis, Shyara Hill, Marsha Levick, James Bell and acceptance speeches from the three honorees.

The ceremony begins at 6 p.m., and the cocktail reception is set to go on from 7 to 9 p.m. Tickets start at $50, and nonprofit employees, students or youth receive a 50% discount. They can be purchased here.