Tahirah Hairston Advocates For Audacity

Tahirah Hairston – fashion & beauty features director – chose ‘audacity’ as her word for 2020. She reflects on her year of prioritizing intention over outcome and the role of risk-taking in reshaping our world.
Tahirah Hairston Advocates For Audacity

“My word for this past year was audacity. I wrote it down in my journal in January [of last year.] As it turns out, 2020 asked for all of the audacity from all of us. For someone who loves to make plans, this year has been a great lesson in adjusting expectations. Or, perhaps, getting rid of them entirely.” 

“Audacity, to me, means taking a risk on something where the outcome is impossible to know. Maybe it’s my Virgo moon or my sense of perfectionism, but I struggle to start something if I’m not sure how it will turn out or, worse if I know it won’t turn out perfectly. Audacity is putting less pressure on the outcome and more pressure on the intention.” 

“My first career risk I ever took was moving to New York with no job. I didn’t recognize it as a risk in the moment because I wanted it so badly. But I came here and continued to take audacious risks: cold-emailing people, sending ten emails a day, guessing editor’s emails using clever formulas, asking for a job in ways that I would never consider doing today.” 

Tahirah Hairston is a Fashion & Beauty Features Director at Teen Vogue. The love for fashion that brought her to New York remains. Still, the joy in her job these days comes from a more considerable effort to empower young people to take risks – in their fashion choices – but also the way they think about the industries they want to work in and the future world they hope to live in. 


“After an unpaid internship and lots of outreach, I landed my first job working as a fashion assistant at Seventeen. I didn’t love that job, but I learned about my perspective on the industry. I love fashion in a non-direct way. Not the tracking of trends, from crop tops to ugly shoes, but the understanding of why people consume what they do, why they wear what they do, and what these trends say about our society and culture as a whole.” 

“I know I’m not saving the world, but I really enjoy my job now because I feel like there is space at Teen Vogue to create new narratives and help young people see themselves in ways they might not have before. My hope for the future is that the industry continues to make space for these new narratives, that the industry doesn’t look the way it does now in ten years. That progress, like all newness, means that some parts of the industry need to be destroyed or discarded to move forward.” 

“We all spend so much time at the beginning of our careers, wondering how we are going to get our foot in the door. But once we get that foot in the door, we need to ask ourselves, what will my impact be? Am I going to change this space? Or, better yet, am I going to carve out an entirely new one?” 


“Risk-taking is a really important tool when it comes to thinking about the future. So many of our systems are built to elevate a certain class of people, a certain race of people. If you choose to work within those systems, you will get the same result. You already know the outcome. Risking taking is imagining a different world. By leaving the framework, you put yourself in a space where you don’t know what the outcome will be – which is the only way to invite in new ideas.” 

Over the past year, our work lives, our personal lives, and our social lives all entered the unknown in ways we might never have imagined. While this unknown can be uncomfortable and daunting, Tahirah notes that it is an invitation to creatively reimagine those things that no longer serve us. 

“I’ve been really creative during quarantine, full of new ideas. I keep joking: do these ideas only come to me when the world is ending? What’s wrong with me? But the truth is, the unknown is forcing all of us to get creative in different parts of our lives that are usually hard-wired. Working at a magazine during COVID-19 has forced my team to embrace virtual shoots, and from that unknown space have come great ideas like our virtual prom.” 

“From a personal perspective, that unknown has forced me to do the inner work. To teach my perfectionist self how to go with the flow. I’m learning to reframe things that might have once felt like defeat into opportunities to pivot. And when I think about who I want to be going forward, I’m challenging myself to think about it as a process of investing and improving instead of getting rid of the things I don’t like. I want to embrace all of my parts, especially the ones that invite growth.” 


“I started pole dancing last November, and that really helped me realize that my body is not an object. It does things. I can lift myself. I can climb the pole. I can do all these different things. That perspective that my body is something that does things instead of an object to be looked at helped me get a lot more comfortable in my skin.” 

“I feel sexier about my body, knowing that it’s something that cooks for me. It cleans. It wears that dress by a beautiful designer you love. By focusing on these actions, you stop asking questions about its form: Is my shape perfect? Is my butt big enough?” 

“Sensuality doesn’t have to be related to sex. Sensuality can be the way you’re dressing a salad. Or the way a great song comes on and makes you want to dance around the house. Or the rituals you have throughout the day. Sensuality is a movement, a feeling. But it concerns itself more with feeling good, [rather] than feeling sexy. You can fake sexiness. You can’t fake feeling good.” 


Tags: bodytalk , Purpose

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Awesome read. Eye opening.

Edna Hairston

Jan 2021

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