Growing up, many Black women learned how to embrace their beauty and figured out the best products for African-American skin with help from Mikki Taylor. For 30 years, Taylor served as Essence magazine’s beauty editor and is currently its editor-at-large. Her brand and career has expanded substantially over the years, and she is everything from a motivational speaker to an author and fashion consultant.
Currently, Taylor is on Odyessy Media’s 15-city “In The Black” tour, which travels across the country helping women sharpen their professional skills and accomplish their goals. To learn more about Mikki Taylor’s ever-evolving career and her work with Odyssey Media, MadameNoire interviewed her about the “In The Black” tour. We also asked her about the fashion industry’s diversity issues and the constant question of whether or not career women can have it all.
MadameNoire: How did you launch your career in journalism?
Mikki Taylor: I joined Essence magazine in 1980 with a background in fashion and beauty. I worked in the beauty and fashion department under the leadership of Susan Taylor. During the ‘80s, it really mattered – and it still does – who I talked to about style. To be able to have the opportunity to have style fellowship with Black women in the pages of Essence magazine was a rare opportunity and one I gladly cherished.
Why did you decide to pursue beauty and fashion?
I grew up in the beauty and fashion industry. My mother was the hairstylist, makeup artist and wardrobe stylist for the American icon, Sarah Vaughn. My mother traveled the world with the singer and she ingrained the importance of style into my siblings and me. She taught us that fashion is the ability to present the world with your point of view through clothing. Watching my mother at work in the industry creating imagery for Sarah Vaughn was fascinating. Equally important, after my mother came home from traveling on the road after 10 years, she opened her own beauty salon. Watching the power of beauty and the style fellowship in the salon really pressed the importance of beauty upon me. It made me realize this was an industry that I wanted to have a say in.
You worked at Essence for over 30 years. Why was it important to stay with the magazine for so long?
Working at Essence was a part of walking in my purpose. You only live once and life is not a dress rehearsal. You have to make the choice to see that what you are doing is important and who you are doing it for. When you are gifted in a certain area, you have to use that gift to help others. I couldn’t think of a better way to help empower the lives of Black women than through beauty. Beauty is our most emotional purchase and style is a form of self-expression for Black women.
Diverse representation is important and lacking in the fashion industry. How should Black women advocate for themselves in the industry?
I think we need to own the conversation for ourselves. We have to find what the experience will be for us instead of relying on others to include us in their fashion experience. One of the things that I love about Odyssey Media’s “In The Black” business tour is industry professionals of color have a say in what is the next trend and help one another develop the professional tools needed to grow. I really don’t think it is necessary to look to anyone else. If a designer or fashion company values the dollars of African-American female consumers, they should listen to what’s on her heart to be able to engage her. Though, in the meantime, Black women aren’t waiting. According to recent statistics, many Black women who are executives are leaving the corporate world to run their own businesses in order to represent the needs of their race and culture.
What can you tell us about Odyssey Media’s “In The Black” business tour?
The “In The Black” 15-city tour was created to motivate and encourage networking opportunities for women who are entrepreneurs or women who are transitioning from one career to the next. It was launched by the media company Odyssey Media, which was founded by CEO and founder Linda Spradley Dunn. Her main focus has been connecting multicultural women around the world for the last 17 years. This tour really speaks to women about everything they need to know to help them begin or enhance their journey by incorporating the necessary tools they need to succeed.
What advice would you give your younger self?
The advice I would give my younger self is you are given a unique gift, and it’s on you to identify and yield it forward. It is also important to be your most authentic self in every area of your life.
Many think women who work in the media industry can’t have it all. Do you believe this to be true?
I don’t believe in the word “can’t” and I really believe in the word “choice.” It’s about making the choice and owning your life. Furthermore, it’s not about having it all but having what matters. You are the one who determines that. Having what matters is a part of owning your life.
To purchase tickets and register for the “In the Black” Tour, please visit: http://www.odysseymc.com/cpages/in-the-black.
For more information about Odyssey Media, please visit www.Odysseymc.com and also follow us on social media on Twitter (@OdysseyMediaCo), Instagram (@odysseymediaco) and Facebook www.facebook.com/OdysseyMediaCo.