By Kaitlin Catania
Photograph by Carly Romeo
STORYTELLING THE TRUTH
Ariel Wengroff has met with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, walked the red carpet with legendary feminist and activist Gloria Steinem, and interviewed Nobel Prize laureate and girls’ education activist Malala Yousafzai. At just twenty-six years old, she became the youngest executive producer in Emmy history to be nominated in the nonfiction or documentary series category. A few years later at twenty-nine, she earned a spot on the Forbes 2019 “30 Under 30” list as a trailblazer in media.
“As Gloria Steinem says: ‘We are linked, not ranked.’ Being a part of Forbes’s ‘30 Under 30’ is a huge honor and it’s important to also remember the amazing work that is not reflected on the list,” says Wengroff. “Hopefully, it will allow me to continue to share the hidden stories around the globe of those who need it most.”
A powerhouse at Vice Media, Wengroff is the publisher of Broadly, a women’s- and LGBTQ+-focused digital channel of Vice Media, as well as the executive producer of Viceland’s Emmy-nominated “Woman with Gloria Steinem,” a docuseries hosted by Steinem that explores worldwide struggles of women that has illuminated difficult subjects like assault in the U.S. military, child brides in Zambia, wartime rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and convicted mothers in US prisons. Wengroff is also a board member of Lesbians Who Tech.
“I love the people I work with every day, getting to travel around the world, and knowing I’m fighting to tell untold, truthful stories about challenging topics. A good day is long, different, and means meeting with lots of different people,” she says.
PEN VS. POLICY
Wengroff’s journey to impactful storytelling wasn’t always her plan, however. She admits that during her time at UVM, she thought she would be a poet. As a student, she earned the English Department’s Benjamin B. Wainwright Prize for poetry. Between graduation and finding her home at Vice, she took a detour into politics and worked for the Executive Office of Governor of Vermont during the Peter Shumlin administration, for the Vermont Democratic Party, and for the Welch for Congress campaign.
“I was so fascinated by how people communicate, and as I’ve shifted from poetry to politics to media, that hasn’t changed. I felt that if I continued in politics, I would get buried in red tape and wouldn’t be able to make progress. Media became the natural next step, as it has the largest audience that you can immediately connect with.”
BETTER BECAUSE OF BURLINGTON
Off the top of her head, Wengroff can name a handful of faculty—Philip Baruth, Daniel Lusk, Suzanne Levine, and Annika Ljung-Baruth—who pushed and honed her writing skills over the years. She also credits her experience at UVM for shaping her into an engaged global citizen and storyteller.
“Going to UVM and being in Burlington completely changed my life. Burlington, The Radio Bean, and the Living/Learning creative writing program, The Inkpot, was my everything. It taught me to challenge the norm and the status quo, to protest on campus, and fight for what I believe in.”
Though Wengroff’s work puts her in the thick of some of the most seemingly impossible issues we face today, like war, LGBTQ+ rights, and violence against women to name a few, she believes that communicating new possibilities is the key to breaking down
barriers that hold progress back.
“Young people today feel like they’re stuck with the world’s problems. It’s important to create content and tell stories that shine a light on serious issues, but also have a positive solution or moment of change,” she says. “There are courageous people fighting for change, and with the political fracture around the world, I hope to bring the truth to the forefront and help find solutions.”