A major advertiser for Teen Vogue has paused its campaign with the publication following internal uproar over the new editor-in-chief’s decade-old racist tweets about Asians.
Popular cosmetics and skincare retailer Ulta Beauty said in a statement to The Daily Beast on Wednesday that it is halting its current advertising campaign with the Condé Nast-owned publication. According to people familiar with the situation, the deal was worth seven figures.
“Diversity and inclusion are core values at Ulta Beauty—and always have been,” a company spokesperson said. “Our current spend with Teen Vogue is paused as we work with Condé Nast to evaluate the situation and determine next steps regarding our partnership.”
While it appears Ulta is the only advertiser to have thus far taken action over the controversy, concern over the fallout was raised at a high-level Condé Nast sales meeting this week. Ulta has been sensitive to criticism of its handling of racial issues after several high-profile, public allegations of racial profiling and lack of diversity over the past several years.
Over the past several days, Condé Nast has been flooded with criticism and debate over the selection of Alexi McCammond as Teen Vogue’s new editor-in-chief. The 27-year-old reporter was viewed in political journalism circles as a rising star for her coverage of the Trump White House and the 2020 election, which garnered her an award from the National Association of Black Journalists and an on-air contributor gig with MSNBC.
But immediately following Condé’s announcement of its new top editor, critics resurfaced old tweets from 2011 in which a then-college-aged McCammond, who is Black, used racist stereotypes about Asian people.
“Now googling how to not wake up with swollen, asian eyes…” she wrote in one of the tweets. “Give me a 2/10 on my chem problem, cross out all of my work and don’t explain what i did wrong...thanks a lot stupid asian T.A. you’re great,” read another.
McCammond had previously apologized for the posts when they first surfaced in 2019, saying she was “deeply sorry” and that the social-media posts “do not reflect my views or who I am today.”
According to a person familiar with the matter, over the past several days McCammond has been meeting one-on-one with staff individually to apologize and discuss moving forward, and is planning a virtual roundtable on Clubhouse with several Asian-American Teen Vogue writers about issues facing the Asians in America. After the publication of this story, McCammond posted to Twitter a lengthy note addressed to her new colleagues.
And following this week’s news of internal uproar over her old tweets, McCammond received support from high-profile media figures like MSNBC host Chris Hayes and NBC Peacock’s Mehdi Hasan, who both argued that tweets from someone’s teenage years should not count against them professionally as adults.
But her detractors, who flooded the comments section on Teen Vogue’s social-media platforms, said the tweets couldn’t be ignored amid a national conversation about racist harassment aimed at Asian-Americans, as well as a reported spike in hate crimes against Asians in the U.S.
Additionally, within Teen Vogue, staffers have raised concerns about the decision to hire McCammond. And according to multiple people familiar with the matter, former editor-in-chief Lindsay Peoples Wagner, who departed earlier this year for the top role at New York magazine’s The Cut, privately expressed opposition to McCammond as her successor, and did not include her on a list of recommended replacements shared with Condé Nast chief content officer Anna Wintour.
Teen Vogue staffers sent a letter to Wintour and CEO Roger Lynch on Monday expressing their displeasure with McCammond’s old tweets. Employees have pointed out internally that while they recognize the new EIC wrote the offending tweets when she was still in college, the publication’s branding and content explicitly promotes the idea that teenagers are thoughtful, smart, informed people who deserve to be treated with the same respect as adults.
Hoping to smooth over internal tensions, Condé Nast hastily convened a virtual meeting on Monday with Wintour, McCammond, and Stan Duncan, the company’s chief people officer. Still, on Monday evening, Teen Vogue staffers released a statement confirming they sent a letter to their bosses and reiterating their concerns.
“We’ve heard the concerns of our readers, and we stand with you,” staff said. “In a moment of historically high anti-Asian violence and amid the on-going struggles of the LGBTQ community, we as the staff of Teen Vogue fully reject those sentiments. We are hopeful that an internal conversation will prove fruitful in maintaining the integrity granted to us by our audience.”
For its part, Condé Nast has pushed back against the criticism of McCammond’s hiring.
“Alexi McCammond was appointed editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue because of the values, inclusivity and depth she has displayed through her journalism. Throughout her career she has dedicated herself to being a champion for marginalized voices. Two years ago she took responsibility for her social media history and apologized,” a Condé Nast spokesperson said in a statement on Monday.
In addition to expressing regret to her new colleagues, McCammond shared a lengthy statement apologizing for some of the vitriol directed at Teen Vogue staffers online following her appointment to the top job.
“You’ve seen some offensive, idiotic tweets from when I was a teenager that perpetuated harmful and racist stereotypes about Asian Americans. I apologized for them years ago, but I want to be clear today: I apologize deeply to all of you for the pain this has caused,” she wrote.
“There’s no excuse for language like that. I am determined to use the lessons I’ve learned as a journalist to advocate for a more diverse and equitable world. Those tweets aren’t who I am, but I understand that I have lost some of your trust, and will work doubly hard to earn it back. I want you to know I am committed to amplifying AAPI voices across our platforms, and building upon the groundbreaking, inclusive work this title is known for the world over.”
Still, not all staff are pleased with the response. Multiple people familiar with the matter told The Daily Beast that an Instagram post signed by “Teen Vogue staff & EIC Alexi McCammond” was published without the explicit support or approval of much of the staff.