I knew from day one — aka the moment I enrolled at the University of Missouri — that I’d study journalism. Growing up as a curious kid who asked lots of questions, loved reading (admittingly beauty/fashion magazines more than books), and wasn’t too shy to make new friends, becoming a journalist felt like the obvious move.
Former Teen Reporter turned Refinery29 Editor Brianna Arps Shares Her Journey With Teen Diaries & PRETTY GIRLS SWEAT
by: Brianna Arps, @BriannaArps
The plan seemed simple: Stick to my gut, and I’d eventually get paid for writing at some swanky lifestyle publication, collecting bylines that might even earn me a Pulitzer! Optimism, right? What I didn’t know, however, was how tough college could be overall and how hard it would push me. There were countless hoops I jumped through to graduate and fulfill my dream — a few of them way smaller than others, including reporting the news (under pressure with minimal support) for a pass/fail grade. Yikes...
To be frank, although I do a lot of reporting in my current role as a Refinery29 editor, I am NOT your average news reporter. The “front-page” type news, or news you watch weekdays at 5 a.m./noon/4 p.m./6 p.m./etc., has always given me anxiety. Instead, I mostly prefer the stuff with a “second-day” feel. The stuff that saves room for greater cultural context plus explains why Black and Brown women like myself should actually pay attention.
Searching for exactly that, in 2013 I stumbled across Teen Diaries and its Teen Reporter program. My participation over almost four years was the positive escape from school I desperately needed. TD, unlike my professors at large, taught me the importance of representation within this here media industry. Multicultural youth deserve seats (yes, plural) at the table, not just as fact-checkers who vet content for offensive or racist language, but as valued talent too.
I started out pitching stories about health, beauty, fashion, and entertainment — all of which were encouraged by founder Aeshia DeVore Branch — and then moved on to co-hosting/producing TD Radio as an intern. While I had a ball writing, creating scripts and interviewing celebrities live gave me extra experience — experience that still aids me today.
My absolute favorite TD memory was taking a trip out to Los Angeles, California in support of Nike and ESSENCE Magazine’s 5th annual Black Women in Hollywood Workout. There, I assisted Branch as she led the PRETTY GIRLS SWEAT troupe alongside trainer Jeanette Jenkins and fitness evangelist Angela Davis on a joint path towards finding strength in sweat. The event also hosted over 100 celebrity guests, Nike-sponsored Olympians, tastemakers, and the same ESSENCE executives who became my future bosses! Surprisingly, connecting with the team at ESSENCE led to a three-month internship at the brand’s corporate offices in New York City that following summer in 2015.
A blessing is the best way to describe my TD/PRETTY GIRLS SWEAT family. I honestly don’t know where I would have ended up without their mentorship. If nothing else is certain, it’s crazy how life can turn out when you keep pushing no matter what happens. And now as the newest Teen Diaries Foundation executive board member, I’m honored to help be a similar blessing for multiple waves of spunky gals who also share passions involving journalism and fitness. Without further ado, I’m excited, anxious, and beyond ready to get to work. Who’s in?!