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Best Career Advice Ever: Mikki Taylor, Editor-At-Large ESSENCE Magazine

photo-headshot 1For over thirty years Mikki Taylor has been an advocate for the advancement of black women in the fashion and beauty industries. As the former beauty and cover director of ESSENCE Magazine from 1980-2010, Taylor helped to set the standard and establish the publication’s brand as the go to guide for women.

Taylor now spearheads the publication’s west coast endeavors as the Editor-At-Large, which includes coordinating and hosting the annual Black Women in Hollywood luncheon. The event celebrates the most powerful black women in front of and behind the camera. In addition, Taylor has several entrepreneurial endeavors including Mikki Taylor Enterprises, LLC, which serves as a holding company for a number of vertical businesses, including Satin Doll Productions and MT Communications.

While many women have felt pressured to choose advancing in their career over having a family, Taylor firmly believes that an ultimatum of that nature is impractical. She says, “The first thing you want to realize, it’s not about having it all as much as it’s about having what matters. For me it was using my gifts but at the same time this is my one and only life and it’s about my husband whom I love dearly and our children.I wasn’t going to ever put myself in a position where I had to choose family over career.”

Lupita Nyong’o and Mikki Taylor at the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards Luncheon

On the sacrifices she’s had to make as a wife, mother of three and career woman she comments, “When my children were born I had a crib in my office and each of them went to work with me because it was important for me to have the experience as a mother as well as make my contributions in life. Did it mean that many times when I was working on the west coast that I had to take a red eye back to New York for an event or a graduation? Absolutely.” She continues, “To succeed in any field it’s not about handing the wheel to someone else to direct your life. There should be no amount of money and no title that anyone could offer you that would make you have to choose.”

When asked within her thirty years at ESSENCE how she knew she was meant to work with the publication solely as opposed to other magazines, Taylor applauded the creative and forward thinking work environment. She comments, “I enjoy working with visionary people. Women who are like minded and tenacious in their desire to deliver a point of view. I found ESSENCE to be that place. It was the first of it’s kind to showcase black women in all of our glory and it spoke to us about every aspect of our lives from our beauty to relationships. I wanted to be a part of that. It was and still is a movement.”

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When asked how ESSENCE has managed to maintain success in an era when many print publications have gone out of circulation and readers have a plethora of online magazines and blogs to choose from, Taylor comments, “The answer is brand equity. Black women have a trusted relationship with ESSENCE. The magazine not only knows what you need but also anticipates your desires; that’s a high bar. And ESSENCE continues to raise the bar on what’s important to black women.”
Taylor brings the same intent of ESSENCE to her personal endeavors. She challenges aspiring entrepreneurs to take inventory of how they’re not only adding value to a corporation but to their personal brand. She says, “It’s critically important to remember that you are the CCO (Chief Creative Officer) of your company. It’s important for you to see yourself in this way so you can create as well as lead.”

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Dr. Laura Berman, Steve Harvey, Dr. Nancy Snyderman and Mikki Taylor on the set of the Steve Harvey show.

She continues with this invaluable business advice, “As an entrepreneur it’s really important to identify your gifts; that in which you’ve been purposed to do and to be clear about it. Understand how you’re packaging your gifts so your company becomes a destination brand in the mind of your target audience. It’s about being creative and coming up with strategies and solutions for the service or the experience that you’ll provide. Because in today’s fast moving world it’s either evolve or evaporate.”

Taylor’s infinite wisdom comes from the “major evolution” that she’s had from the onset of her career in her early twenties to now. She says, “In my twenties my calendar included ‘someday’ or ‘if only’. I’ve learned success is not going to happen by wishful thinking. Success happens with focused and distinct choices about everything concerning your life and your future.”

The author of two books, Commander in Chic: Every Woman’s Guide to Managing Her Style Like a First Lady and Self-Seduction: Your Ultimate Path to Inner and Outer Beauty, Taylor is currently writing her third book, which will be released in 2015 as well as developing a nail polish line. She comments on the importance of her latest endeavors, “Brand relevancy is critical with anything nowadays. My nail polish line is coming from a gap in the market for particular products that address our skin tone, our needs and desires. It all comes back to us; all roads lead back to us.”

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