Willa Bennett: Generation Z Media Maker
Willa Bennett is a Generation Z focused writer who has dedicated her life to creating media for teenagers. She received two leadership awards in 2015 for her work with female adolescents and is a globally published writer and poet.
Make Muse: You have experience in editorial, video, social, and have extensive research on Generation Z. How do you introduce yourself in order to embody all that you do?
Willa: I am passionate about creating well-researched and informed media that empowers Generation Z.
Make Muse: At its heart, most of your work revolves around empowering young women. What stirred your commitment to do so?
Willa: In 2017, I published a 118-page research paper called Girlhood: The Developmental, Historical, Social, and Cultural Implications of What It Means To Be A Girl. This project explored Generation Z’s relationship to various emerging platforms and branding initiatives in digital media. For a month of this project, I actually attended an all-girls middle school and observed what it might be like to be a teenager given the current zeitgeist. This interdisciplinary project changed the way I thought about my career and definitely cemented my commitment this demographic (Generation Z).
Make Muse: What are your favorite issues or topics within this realm to write about?
Willa: I actually love giving the platform to teenagers to explore topics that are important to them. When I was growing up, I relied on the internet a lot to make sense of my experiences, identity, and connect to the larger world.
Now that I work in media, I try my best to make the content that I not only wish I had as a teenager but also content that is presented in a way that is informative and positive.
Make Muse: Since you work in editorial, video, and social, how do you decide what type of content you’re going to produce, given the different types of media you utilize?
Willa: I have a strong network of teens around the world that I speak to frequently, and constantly check in with to see how they feel certain publications, brands, and events in the news. Additional to these conversations, I analyze data to see which topics on which platforms are resonating with Gen Z at any certain point in time and make informed decisions based on my findings. Ever since I entered media, I’ve been more committed to this demographic than any certain specific platform or type of content.
Make Muse: Do you have any favorite content you’ve produced?
Willa: Before I started at Seventeen, I noticed that there were very few articles about queerness and identity, and made a point to fix that. I am also very proud of the diverse range of teen voices that I added to various verticals at Seventeen.
I am also proud to be working on some meaningful projects for Bustle for Pride month. My hope is that these projects are helpful for teens who might be having similar questions about their identity as I did when I was growing up.
Make Muse: As someone who has extensive research on Generation Z, do you have any thoughts about the future of media for young women?
Willa: Gen Z is smart, technologically savvy, and outspoken and because of this, the future of media is definitely more articulate, diverse, and thoughtful. We have come a long way in terms of representation in media (and in various other spheres), but that being said, I determined to make it even better.
Make Muse: What are some of your favorite books or authors?
Willa: I was named after Willa Cather’s My Antonia, which is one of my favorite novels. A close second is Rita May Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle. Some of my all-time favorite authors are Toni Morrison, Joan Didion, Anne Carson, Alison Bechdel, and Maya Angelou. I also deeply respect and admire the words and work of Meredith Talusan, Tyler Ford, and Ava Duvernay.
Make Muse: After working in media, what are some of your favorite media publications or magazines to read?
Willa: In all honesty, I am also a very loyal Bustle reader. Bustle's content is made for women by some of the smartest women I’ve ever worked with professionally.
I also read NY Mag, NY Times, Vogue, The New Yorker, Teen Vogue, and Them religiously. After working in media for some time now, I even more appreciate how much effort and emotional energy is required to produce such thoughtful and heavy content so frequently. I also love Refinery29 and Teen Vogue’s Snapchat Discover channel and constantly speak to teenagers about how helpful their editions are in the more contentious moments in development. I love this new-ish publication for teens by teens called Adolescent Content.
Make Muse: If you could tell one thing to young, aspiring writers, what would you tell them?
Willa: Ask questions. Truthfully, there isn't one day that goes by that I don't ask myself the question, "What can media be doing better to support this demographic?" Ask yourself, 'what questions do you have about the world,’ and then see what is stopping you from being the one to answer these same questions.