Gabriella Karefa-Johnson

Gabriella Karefa-Johnson on Why Authenticity and Hustle Culture Can Coexist

Show Notes


As a tastemaker, fashion editor, and stylist Gabriella Karefa-Johnson has a thoughtful, respected, and provocative take on the intersection between style and culture. At Vogue magazine, the venue she has long considered a pinnacle of excellence, she has pushed for evolution and has broken boundaries with tremendous success. Gabriella shares thoughts on how even those who have felt marginalized can scale the mountaintop and claim a place at the table without abandoning the concept of balance in life. She is all-in all the time while recognizing—and passing along—the power of kindness, words of support, and the importance of knowing what your “hustle” ultimately means in the big picture. This incisive episode highlights the role this dynamic game changer plays—and will continue to play—in the world she occupies. “Work the process of knowing who you are,” says Gabriella, “because it’s in those moments … of unease where you learn, and there’s the most growth.”

Episode Highlights
  • Getting a foot in the door: Gabriella made her first inroad at Vogue through a Barnard College alumna connection, starting the job without much grounding in fashion.
  • Vogue magazine is a pinnacle in the fashion pantheon for Gabriella.
  • Pushing against boundaries: Feeling at times like a “problem child” at Vogue, she sometimes  creates friction and challenges the platform to evolve in both vision and execution.
  • Gabriella’s professional bandwidth and social life epitomize “Hustle Culture.”
  • Wanting to be the best: A “dangerous desire” that has always driven Gabriella to measure her success and value by how much she’s doing.
  • Is balance possible to achieve? There’s a level of success that can solidify your place in the fashion industry, but getting there requires a period of all-in dedication.
  • Gabriella tries to be mindful that the struggle to reach that fashion pinnacle is real and meaningful, yet it cannot be everything in life. Reflection is required.
  • The gift of authenticity is the secret sauce for influence and efficacy—not something that one can self-consciously cultivate.
  • As much as she brings her whole and entirely unique self, she also brings mindfulness about what that persona is and keeps it real.
  • The editor is the original influencer: Heralding huge heritage brands will always be the most significant contribution she has to make in the worlds of fashion and social media.
  • ⁠Virgil Abloh⁠ was a fashion visionary who “was something to everyone,” and for Gabriella in particular, he was a “safety net” whenever she felt out of place in the industry.
  • Hone in what you want to do and communicate to the world—regardless of whether you should be doing it or not. Work the process of knowing who you are because it’s in the moments of unease that you’ll find the most growth.
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