Whenever I have the time to chat with anyone who enjoys creating things, I love to ask 'why' do this? This question is so important to me because quite a number of people do things for the wrong reasons and they get frustrated when things begin to fall apart. Mia Johansson, the brain behind The Teen Magazine is one individual I would refer to as both 'leather and lace'. She is intelligent, goal-oriented and one with a good heart. She doesn't have the time to be a people pleaser because as a content creator with almost 500 writers she needs to be very focused to be able to take the platform to greater heights. She understands hard work, good work ethics tells it as it is and leads in love.
Discovering Her purpose
At the beginning of her content-creating journey, her original intent for creating things was her love for product design. "The original goal behind TTM was to learn web development because my background is in computer science but I also just thought it was so exciting to build a platform where other people can share their voice. I felt it was so important for teens, in particular, to be able to share their voice and experiences, and I felt the current teen magazines just didn't show the kind of perspective that I wanted." During her freshmen year in high school, the now 20-year-old Harvard student started writing some books on Wattpad and she found it quite exciting. She wanted to reach a wider audience than her school newspaper did so she decided to start a blog to publish her articles but it was shortlived. "I knew there were other teenagers like me who had the same problem." All she needed was a platform where she could express her opinions on issues facing teenagers like herself at the time.
A further push came when she came across an online campus magazine called 'HerCampus.com' which became an inspiration for the birth of a community-driven online magazine. What makes this magazine different is that our content is written by the same demographic as our readers. The brilliant writers are able to share in the vision of the magazine by carefully researching any topic written and sharing their experiences and opinions on important issues. "Some of the biggest topics in the magazine that I think are so important are the articles on the negative influence social media has on our lives. I deleted my Instagram account maybe like seven months ago. I now just have one to follow friends, but I don't really post anything on there because I think that right now, it is just so easy for young girls to compare their lives to the superficial qualities in touched up, perfectly-posed pictures of other girls. But really you are just seeing the highlights of other people's lives on social media and I feel like that commentary is not so prevalent on other magazines. That's just one example, but widening the perspectives and opinions of our writers help shed light on these types of issues in ways other magazines can't."
Dealing With Expectations
In today's world, social media and quite a number of people expect you to put up a persona that they've created in their minds about you. It becomes a lot of pressure to want to live up to their expectations. "Honestly, I'm still a work in progress. It's important for people to know that I have insecurities just like everybody else. During quarantine, I've had a lot of time for self-reflection, and I've remembered how I really started the magazine because I love it -- creating and designing. I always had that entrepreneurial spirit and that kind of morphed into wanting to have something on my résumé so that I can get into college and I think that was just probably one of the biggest mistakes I've ever made. All of a sudden my value came from my résumé and what I was on paper instead of who I am as a human being. I think a lot of people right now have struggled with that and I've learnt to live in the moment more."
Pushing Through Discomfort
She further went on to say that you don't have to be the greatest speaker or be really great at something before stepping out to do it. If you can just fix your eyes on your vision of the future and what you want, then you must be ready to be uncomfortable to achieve your dreams. I also wanted to know how she has grown to become so level-headed in spite of criticisms or haters. "I value my time a lot. You have to decide what's most important to you in your life. Prioritize that more than what other people are asking of you because if you don't do that, you are never going to get to what you want to achieve, whatever that is. Also, having the self-assurance that you are doing the right thing is an extremely powerful thing; nobody else can ever take that away from you. When you're doing something at such a large scale some people are not going to be happy about it. It just means that you're not walking on a straight line you're actually making an impact trying to do something special in the world rather than following what the rest of the world around you are doing. It's a good sign to get a critic, but you can choose to listen to it or not."
Mia recommends reading the book titled 'The One Thing' by Gary Keller which has helped her to learn to prioritize what's more important in life. Also, it is a good read for anyone who feels overwhelmed because of how busy their lives are. "The principles are simple, but if applied to your life they change everything." Just like everyone else in this quarantine, Mia Johansson shared some lessons she has learnt during this pandemic -- she can't plan everything in her life. As someone who tends to plan several years into the future, she has realized that you need to trust that whatsoever happens, you are going to make the best of it and you shouldn't stress about things that are out of your control. Moving back home has been a bit awkward but this has given her an opportunity to grow the magazine and add more features to it.
Defining Her Path and Raising the Bar
I asked her if there was any pressure to compete with another top-notch magazine. "No, I really don't feel that pressure. I think the difference is that other teen magazines have worked years or decades to establish their reputation and their brand. Their readers expect a certain opinion but I think Teen Magazine is just so different because we cover so many more issues by highlighting the voice of teenagers. While the content for publishing is broad, any published article, especially opinion pieces, must be well researched and free from grammar mistakes." If you are like me, in the beginning when I first started writing for the magazine, I was often frustrated by the number of times an article came back for correction.
The bar for published articles on the magazine keeps rising every month. Mia added that whatever is worth doing is worth doing well. She understands the writers' frustrations and it could feel like the magazine is quite ambitious. Believe you me, Mia gave a good answer to that, "Ambition with meaning and purpose in the work that you are doing that is a sign that you are on the right path. That is something you should chase with everything in you. There is so much satisfaction in creating something that you are proud of at the end and it doesn't have to get any views but you are so proud that you created that and if one person can read it and get something from that, I think that is so important."
Her favourite movie is the comedy/drama Forrest Gump and she loves to eat french toast or homemade pancakes with blueberries. She tends to listen to a lot of different music but she's currently listening to Rihanna songs on repeat.
Vision and Mission For The Teen Magazine
Finally, her vision for the magazine is "creating a system that can scale to a community of thousands of writers, increasing support and resources for editors and writers, and facilitating more communication and peer feedback," while her mission for the magazine is to allow as many perspectives and experiences as possible.