Changemakers unite at Teen Vogue Summit

Keke Palmer was one of many celebrities in attendance at the Teen Vogue Summit. Saweetie, Sabrina Carpenter and Baby Tate were also at the event. (Photo courtesy Getty Images for Teen Vogue)

A lavender, pink and orange gradient check-in table at the forefront, surround sound of Billboard Top 100 hits, clothes made of Legos on display to the left paired with a bracelet-making station, photo opportunities with Freeform’s pop-ups, paired with beauty goodies in the bathrooms; a colorful and energetic exuberance welcomed changemakers from around the world passionate about invigorating the next generation.

The heart of Hollywood drew in heaps of young adults to Teen Vogue’s 2022 Summit & Block Party Saturday with inspiring keynote speakers like Lilly Singh, Keke Palmer and Saweetie alongside empowering inclusive panels discussing Gen-Z’s role in politics, fashion, beauty and self-care. The dynamic event included performances from “I Am” rapper Baby Tate and “Nonsense” singer Sabrina Carpenter.

The energy was electric as some of the greatest and youngest actors, political activists, designers and media creators congregated in the yard outside of Goya Studios. 

Olivia Julianna, an abortion rights activist and the director of politics and government affairs at Gen-Z for Change, joined Santiago Mayer, the executive director of Voters of Tomorrow, and Allegra Kirkland, politics director at Teen Vogue, in a conversation energizing the young audience to engage in politics — from a national scale down to the local level. With the event coming less than a week after the midterm elections, Mayer mentioned that young voters “canceled out every single vote that was cast by people over 65 years old.”

Julianna shared her experience rewriting the narrative for harmful sexist and fatphobic bullying rhetoric being a political weapon. After Florida Representitive Matt Gaetz fatshamed her, Julianna chose to use the publicity to raise over $2 million in abortion funds earlier this year.

“If I was looking at myself when I was 11 or 12, how can I tell that young girl, ‘I’m gonna cower away and cry because of what this jackass is saying about me?’” Julianna said. “So many parts of our identities are being attacked. I’m very upfront with the fact that I’m an openly queer, Latina, plus-sized woman. Living in the state of Texas, it’s not easy. Every facet of my identity is attacked regularly. So, by highlighting my identities instead of hiding them, that’s a form of resistance. Your joy is resistance. Keep that in mind.”

With her charismatic personality, USC alumna Saweetie took the stage as one of the event’s keynote speakers. Similarly to Julianna, she spoke on fighting against online harassment. For Saweetie, she takes the hate and social media lies and turns it into her art.

“I don’t defend myself through tweets. I’m gonna go to the studio and I’m gonna get that shit out. I feel like that’s what the music is for. Tell your truth in the music,” she said. “I’m not about to go back and forth with a lie on social media. I’m not about to argue with somebody on social media. I’m putting that energy into my music and not online to where I ain’t get no money from it.”

While she is working up to releasing her new album, “The Single Life,” Saweetie highlighted the importance of working hard but also taking time to enjoy the journey of reaching your ultimate goals. Over time, the rapper has learned to “appreciate the dark moments and appreciate the light moments.”

“Celebrate those little and those big moments, because you should always celebrate yourself,” she said.  “As long as you give your 100%, you should pat yourself on the back.”

Throughout the day, there was not a moment of downtime. If the panels weren’t speaking, L.A. based food trucks, Lime Truck, Vegan AF and LA Donut, provided attendees with delectable treats while they mingled with fellow guests, swapping stories about the day and making new friends. 

“Take advantage of being around people that like to do the same things you like to do,” said Camila Bustamante. “Build a community around it, make it fun.” 

Bustamante is a member of Teen Vogue’s Generation Next Class of 2022, an award given to emerging fashion designers. Five of the Generation Next designers were featured in a “playing with fashion” panel, moderated by Teen Vogue Editor-in-Chief Versha Sharma. Stella DeLaughter, another member of the class, said she hoped the talk pushes forward the future of fashion, which she imagines to be “more relatable.” 

“I think sometimes fashion can seem a bit pretentious and unreachable,” DeLaughter said. “It’s easier for people to be invited into fashion when they see themselves being represented.” 

The crowd for the Teen Vogue event was, unsurprisingly, mostly teens. In the large crowd of young adults were a group of friends wearing shirts that read CondéFuture. These New York teens are taking part in a two-year internship at Condé Nast, the publisher of Teen Vogue along with other magazines such as The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, and learn different media skills in hopes of a future career with the brand. 

Sanai Rashid, a CondéFuture member, spoke about the importance of creating spaces for young activists and creatives to connect. 

“The amount of different walks of lives that have come here today, from different states, different areas, whatever creative interests, it’s just really inspiring to see how many amazing changemakers there are in this society already,” Rashid said.