When Lauren Tappan (C’20) came to Penn she immediately knew that she wanted to be involved with The WALK Magazine, Penn’s fashion publication. During one of the first GBMs of her first–year fall semester, Lauren learned that they weren’t taking any more people for the position she initially wanted, but the group still wanted her to join, and offered her a position as a model for the publication.
“Sure. I’d love to,” Lauren recalls saying. Working on set as a model, Lauren immediately became drawn to the creativity and collaboration of The WALK Magazine. She reflects, “It was a fun experience, and in that atmosphere I saw how everyone was working collectively to create artwork and that was so special to me and I wanted to be a part of it.”
During her sophomore year, Lauren was able to channel her love for writing, health, and beauty as a Health & Beauty Editor. “I was super obsessed with skin–care,” she explains, “I watched skin–care tutorials all the time. I was just really interested in taking care of my skin and I wanted to write about it.”
As a pre–med student aspiring to be a cardiologist, writing for The WALK Magazine helped Lauren explore her interests.
“When I was younger I used to love to write. English was my favorite subject growing up in middle and high school. Then, when I came to Penn, I sort of lost touch with writing. I figured that I should do something else because the profession of journalism didn’t seem clear or secure to me. I sort of got wrapped up in science because I did love biology and I thought that if I love biology that means I should be pre–med.”
Lauren’s change of heart came during a pivotal moment of her sophomore year. She explains, “I was doing chemistry homework and I just looked at my roommate, Cary, and I was like ‘Cary, I don’t want to do this anymore. She was like, ‘Okay, what do you want to do? In your wildest dreams, what do you imagine yourself doing?’ and I was like ‘This is going to sound crazy but I really would love to be at Fashion Week; I would love to be a fashion writer.’ And she was like, ‘Go for it.’”
From that moment on, Lauren fully embraced her passion for writing about fashion without looking back. Lauren explains, “I remember going back to my room and just sitting down on my laptop and just doing research on what it is like to be a fashion writer. And I started looking through different option[s] and realized majoring in communications and a minor in journalism would get me to where I needed to be. So that’s how I got started in what I’m doing now.”
Although Lauren had always loved writing and fashion, the decision to switch her major was daunting. “I had to go through a year and a half of taking biology classes and going through the horrors of chemistry to figure out that I wasn’t meant to do that and that was okay.”
Despite this uncertainty, Lauren quickly took to her new field of study. During the fall of her junior year, Lauren became the Creative Director of The WALK Magazine’s online platform, while simultaneously working as an Editorial Intern for the Philadelphia Style Magazine. She notes that her experience interning for Philadelphia Style taught her “about the dynamics of editing” which ultimately inspired her to eagerly accept her current position as Editor–in–Chief.
After returning from a semester abroad in London, Lauren spent this past summer in New York working for Glossier while also interning for the online publishing company EveryStylishGirl, which she describes as “a platform for women of color to express and interest in beauty, fashion, and entrepreneurship.” She reflects that her time working for EveryStylishGirl inspired her to see her writing in a new light.
“My involvement in that definitely taught me what it means to be in the fashion industry and what kind of role I’m going to have to play in terms of taking on the responsibility to create representative content for a diverse range of people.”
As the first Black Editor–in–Chief of The WALK Magazine, Lauren’s recognizes the unique position that she’s in.
“I think as Editor–in–Chief it’s been really important for me to make an inclusive space where everyone is represented because I think it’s really important for people to see themselves in the pages of a magazine. So I really work on being as diverse and inclusive as possible and just delivering content that’s really relatable and informative. That’s been my main goal," she says. "I’ve realized that that [it] is my duty and responsibility to create content that is representative.”
For the fall edition, "The Subliminal Issue," Lauren said that her team was very receptive to embracing this type of content. She emphasizes, “It’s important to acknowledge that within the world of fashion there’s an intersection between fashion, identity, politics and so much more. It’s really important for me to capture the entirety of that. I think people loved it. I was really excited to do that.”
She continues to work tirelessly to counter the messages that women of color encounter in the fashion world and from society as a whole. “I think as a woman of color there are so many moments where you are covertly told that you cannot do something whether that’s through the media or through society so you sort of have to find a way to surpass that negativity and pursue your passions and have that confidence in yourself.”
For Lauren, she’s made it a goal to serve as a mentor for other women of color to help them pursue their interests.
“In my senior year, I’ve become very passionate about mentoring younger women of color and ensuring that they are chasing their dreams and spending time doing what they want to do, despite what anyone has to say about it.”
As for her future beyond Penn, Lauren hopes to work in New York City as a fashion editor and eventually also as a fashion correspondent. She describes that “the combination of being behind–the–scenes and writing, while also being in front of the camera is something that really has interested me and I would love to pursue that.”
As Lauren prepares, she leaves a few words of advice for current students: “It’s extremely important to stay true to yourself and have confidence that your passion will lead you to what you’re meant to be doing in life.”
Correction: A previous version of this article's title incorrectly stated that Lauren Tappan is the first woman of color editor–in–chief of The Walk, while in fact she is the first Black editor–in–chief. 34th Street regrets this error.