Terri White: a name that you may not be familiar with unless you are a big fan of the film magazine Empire or you’re a journalist yourself. But she is a woman that I would advise you look into because her story is not one that should be overlooked. Currently, White is the Editor in Chief for Empire magazine, a position she has held since 2015. From her journalistic roots working for men’s magazines to having written her memoir Coming Undone, Terri White is an inspiration for her hard work and perseverance in the face of true hardship.
An Empire of her own
It is impossible not to talk about the massive British export that is Empire magazine. For over 30 years, it has been a staple of the newsstand, with White being only the second woman to take the helm. For those of you unfamiliar, the magazine is a trend maker in the world of cinema. They spotted the potential of Marvel right from the start when the general view of superhero films was less than enthusiastic. A debate that came back around when Martin Scorsese was quoted saying the Marvel Cinematic Universe wasn’t cinema in a 2019 interview with … Empire. This sparked massive discourse between actors, directors, and fans alike, showing just how impactful Empire can be.
For a young woman who adored the magazine, seeing a woman become Editor in Chief of such an iconic publication was probably one of the first times I truly considered journalism as a career. Both Empire and Total Film currently have female Editor in Chiefs, an incredible achievement for such a male-dominated industry. White’s impact on the magazine was evident from the start, taking this bull by the horns and revitalising the publication to refocus on the future of film. The magazine is full of colour and excitement now, you can feel White and the team’s love of cinema on every page.
In her memoir Coming Undone, White speaks about child abuse, poverty, and severe mental health issues she has faced. This ultimately resulted in her being hospitalised whilst alone in New York. Her unflinching bravery in this gut-wrenching novel serves to show how resilient one can truly be. Her memoir is dedicated to “all the girls who fear they are forever lost” which she told Sali Hughes in an interview that “that’s how [she] felt for a long time”. When you remember all this happened shortly before she took over at Empire it is hard not to be in awe of the strength she wields.
Mental health is still a taboo subject, although it is becoming less so. To see someone speak so openly about it is uplifting for all those suffering along with her. Her memoir notably doesn’t have a happy ending, she leaves the reader without a true conclusion. Much as life continues with ups and downs, this is the impression her book leaves. White received endless praise for her memoir and rightly so, she is a fabulous writer and every emotion is left on the page. During her press tour, White spoke about mental health; once again, bringing focus to a topic often ignored.
A cultural force
Recently, she has put her power to good use by sharing her knowledge and resources with others via online webinars during the UK lockdowns. These were free to attend zoom sessions with leading people within journalism, from freelancers to editors. All gave crucial information and tips that usually would be impossible to glean without paying or networking. This may seem an odd thing to be noteworthy but in such a competitive and challenging industry, acts of kindness such as these are unprecedented especially considering the calibre of guests who spoke.
White once said that “our magazines are nothing short of a cultural force, one that has existed and crucially evolved for generations” during a debate around the importance of print media. I would argue that Terri White herself is nothing short of a cultural force. She has overcome unbelievable hardship and is thriving.
In the Sali Hughes interview her biggest piece of advice, particularly aimed at women, was “to trust yourself, trust your voice and to trust your instincts about who you are and what you want”. Confidence in ourselves is something women tend to struggle with, more so than their male counterparts. Terri White’s story of success despite the setbacks she has faced shows that trusting yourself and forging your own path are the best things you can do.
Words by Danni Scott
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