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Susan L. Taylor

CALLING: Writer/editor/journalist


Susan L. Taylor put black beauty and brains on the map in the national media as editor-in-chief of Essence magazine and the mastermind behind the brand we know and love today.

Taylor’s entry into the media world started at Essence. She became a freelancer for the magazine in 1970, the same year it was founded, after a line of customized cosmetics and natural skin-care products she developed came to the attention of it’s founding editors. At the time, Taylor was a single, divorced mother without a college degree, but that didn’t stop the magazine from promoting her to beauty editor a year later, or from becoming editor-in-chief of the magazine in 1981. During the ’80s, Taylor attended night school at Fordham, and eventually earned a bachelor’s degree from the university.

While serving as EIC from 1981-2000, Taylor wrote a monthly inspirational column, “In the Spirit,” which became one of the glossy’s most popular features, and led to the publishing of three volumes of select pieces from over the years as part of Essence Books, which she started in the ’90s. Taylor was also executive producer and host of Essence, a syndicated television interview program that was broadcast on more than 50 stations from 1984-1988. Taylor also functioned as executive producer of the annually televised Essence Awards and the annual Essence Music Festival. These triumphs led to Taylor being named vice-president of Essence magazine in 1986 and senior vice-president in 1993.

In 2000, Taylor was promoted to publications director of Essence and remained in that position until she left the magazine in 2008. Because of her contributions to the magazine world, Taylor was inducted into the American Society of Magazine Editors’ Hall of Fame in 2002 .In 1999, she also became the first African American woman to receive The Henry Johnson Fisher Award, an award which recognizes people who have dedicated their lives to the magazine business and helped the industry thrive and expand, or through their editorial policies, address social, political, economic or lifestyle issues. For establishing a lane for a magazine for and by black women to flourish, we salute Susan L. Taylor.

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