Representation matters. It’s a phrase Steinhardt first-year Chloe Xiang has always felt rather strongly about. After all, one would need that passion in order to single-handedly create and edit an online magazine that caters to teenage girls.
As founder and editor-in-chief of Keke Magazine, Xiang has opened the floodgates. Founded in 2017, Keke Magazine is a publication dedicated to “an unfiltered and honest reflection of women,” per their masthead. Their content ranges from think pieces about how women don’t actually wear makeup to impress men, to coverage of fashion shows like Chromat. Content is posted to Keke’s website two to three times a week. Keke’s team is comprised of nine artists, writers and editors from the U.S. and Europe.
Growing up Chinese, Xiang always found herself looking up to people she could not relate to. Whether it be through their looks or skin color, there was never a role model she felt she could truly grow into. This lack of cultural representation on all levels is what Xiang has made her mission to remedy, and with Keke Magazine, she’s taking the steps to get there.
“As part of the generation whose lives are so driven by technology, it seemed so pertinent and relevant that this space and community be digitally based and thus accessible by female-identifying people across the world,” Xiang said.
Besides the lack of diversity in the media, including platforms geared towards young people like the Disney Channel and Teen Vogue, Xiang also noticed a problem with the portrayal of young women. She wondered, if these publications and media outlets were targeted towards teenage girls, why were they being presented in such a negative and frankly unrelatable light? Xiang realized that young women were missing a platform that honestly represented them and the stories that pertain to them.
“There are actually so many publications dedicated to female audiences, but many of them are so capitalistic and appearance-based — focusing on selling trends, beauty and fashion products and elevating celebrities,” Xiang said.
As a Media, Culture, and Communications major, Xiang has always felt an affinity for storytelling. If she could use this drive within her to build a more diverse platform on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, race and religion, she knew a publication was the way to do so.
Being editor-in-chief means that Xiang is responsible for communicating with her staff of writers, photographers, artists, editors, contributors, outside agents, companies and talents. She edits the magazine’s online content, as well as oversees the website and social media presence of Keke. Their online store, consisting of zines and merchandise, is also under Xiang’s direction. As for the print edition of the magazine, all layout is designed by her to keep in line with her vision for the publication.
Balancing her editorial responsibility with schoolwork has proved a much simpler task than Xiang predicted. Her passion for Keke drives her to make the time and put in the effort needed to produce a good product. Through scheduling and organizational strategies, her job as a student and her job as a magazine editor can peacefully coexist. In fact, she finds that most of her class assignments assist her in better understanding how the magazine should run.
Keke Magazine was founded on the basis of giving a voice to those who are unheard. Her ultimate goal is for Keke to manifest a vast network of young women who reshape and redefine mainstream media. She sees no limit as to what the magazine should be able to achieve, taking notes from its ultimate source of inspiration, the empowered woman.
A version of this article appears in the Sunday, Sep. 23, 2019, print edition. Email Daniela Ortiz at [email protected]