“Leading The Way Forward Through Self-Empowerment” : @FeliciaVerna Interviews @IamMikkiTaylor #BlackHistory

Leading The Way Forward Through Self-Empowerment: Mikki Taylor Interview


Its 9:52 pm Tuesday February 7, 2012 and it is my last day of work at the 24 hour law firm. All is quite on the 12th floor so I am able to catch up on my #EzReading book of the month Race Matters by Dr. Cornel West. I happened to glance at my phone when I see I have a missed call. Once I see who it is I quickly call back in hopes that I have not missed out on the opportunity of a life time. The phone rings three times and to my relief my dear friend picks up. I am given specific instructs to take this number down and to call tomorrow precisely at 12:30 pm because this is the only time the Essence Editor-at-Large Mrs. Mikki Taylor is free. “Good luck” wishes my friend and then we hang up.

I would not dare to miss an opportunity like this so when Wednesday came I made sure I called on time, 12:25 that is. I have been sitting in my car for ten minutes prepping not only myself but both my phones since I cannot record while I am on the phone. I turned to the last page of my Race Matters book and began to dial the numbers I was entrusted with the day before. The phone rings a few times and a most pleasant, soft spoken voice answers the phone. It is the Boss Lady Mrs. Mikki Taylor herself on the other end of the phone! I am totally stoked dude! After introducing myself we engage in a quick conversation about how “God is good”. Mrs. Taylors tells me that she just touched down the day before and that she is super busy catching on things before gearing up for the “Heart Truth show which in my mind really kicks off fashion week.” Not wanting to take up too much of the boss’s time I quickly got down to business. Without further ado we begin on our empowering journey.

What are ways women can empower themselves and others on a daily bases?

One of the most important, out of all the things one should do is define their brand. Know what it is that you bring to the table. Certainly have the capacity to network and to tell your story. Fill the void because there are many out there. Often times I think women make the error of looking at existing positions or existing opportunities when in fact depending on your gift, you may be the one to create the opportunity. We always say that it is important to lead by example, so when you want to empower others the most important thing you can do is lead by example.

Another thing we should do is work on growth and development. Take the time to make sure you’re involved in developing yourself to reach your full potential. I always say that as adults we should not have wish list, wish lists are for children adults should have check lists! I think that is the only way we can keep the dreams that we have from eluding us. Developing ourselves to our full potential is one of the things that we should be in business of doing to empower ourselves, by doing so this will certainly set an example.

One of the things that we do, and we do not necessary count it as important or empowering, but it really is, we often give with an empty cup. We really need to take time for self to restore, affirm and to self-nurture ourselves so that we’re at our best. When we give with an empty cup we are constantly depleting ourselves and never taking time to refuel ourselves. I learned from my mentor former Essence editorial director Susan L. Taylor the importance of giving ourselves to ourselves before we give ourselves away. So what I really count high on the list is taking that time for self-recognizing. Know that you are more than worthy of it, that it is an essential part of knowing your value and appreciating yourself.

How has fashion in the African American community evolved?

We are trendsetters, as African Americans we are not trend followers. People, designers and the world watch us to ascertain what constitutes great style. We are taking our cues from many places these days, we are setting a trend in the music industry, in urban cities across America, certainly on the run way, in the church houses if you will. There is a whole other fashion language that we speak in Hollywood on the red carpet. You really see our creativity here in 2012 and how it has evolved and impacted different generations. If we look at the men in the African American community and how style has evolved in the music industry there is Jay-Z rapping in a tuxedo or Neyo who maybe in jeans and a body T so that tells you a lot. It really shows that we are about the business of self-expression. We are bringing our distinctive style sense everywhere we go.

Who are some of your favorite Black designers/designers and why?

I certainly admire Tracy Reese who designs everyone wears including, First Lady Michelle Obama. I think Tracy has a strong sense of femininity, creativity, playfulness and sense of color. I admire Edward Wilkerson who designs Lafayette 148. He makes the most chic, polished and elegant clothing for every aspect of a women’s life. Jason Wu who the first lady also wears, in fact, he just brought a very creative and colorful collection to Target making it affordable to the masses. American designer Michael Khors a great sensibility in sportswear and elegant day wear. I have a number of designers that I admire, but those are some that really stand out for me.

Prior to landing your position at Essence in 1980, you worked in the fashion industry as a model amongst other things, what was that experience like? How were you treated? What were some of the difficulties you encountered?

I started modeling back in the 70’s and the fortunate part about that is it was during the hay day of the black exploitation in movies, it was the era of Foxy Brown, Tamara Dobson and Cleopatra Jones. There were a number of African American agencies like Black Beauty that had begun during the time. There was an acceptance that black is beautiful. Now, that’s not to say that black models got their play, but there were a lot of design houses, fashion designers who used black models on the runway where we certainly had a distinctive presence. That is not to say that I did not encounter prejudice along the way.

I remember going on a “go see” to hopefully land with an agency. I came in with an Afro and I remember being told by the director that the head director would “never see me with my hair like that.”  The next day I came back with my hair straightened and I was hired. There are things like that, which  informed you back then that you had nothing to do with the standards of beauty in this country and that was tough.

What made you press on instead of being discouraged?

Magazines like Essence. I molded the pages of ESSENCE, television was opening up and I began to do commercials. Companies wanted our dollars because they saw that African American’s were big spenders. Showroom modeling also opened up and they were hiring black models in great number because of the distinctive way we wore clothing. I also grew up in a household where we were taught not to quit, but to preserver and that’s what we did. Those were the things that caused me to pioneer on.

Why did you decide to retire as Beauty Director and Cover Editor for Essence Magazine?

Click Here For Official Website

I retired as Beauty and Cover Editor in 2010 from the magazine to build my own brand and to continue to serve black women in ever-greater ways. I did not leave the magazine but became Editor-At-Large and in that role I am working closely with our business marketing side on objectives to empower and impact African American women. During the course of this time I have also developed my own company Mikki Taylor Enterprise that is a holding company for my other companies like Satin Doll Productions and MT Communications. My companies through yours truly, affords me the ability to help brand and assist companies to develop messaging to impact the African America market helping them understand the type of consumers we are. We are very discerning and we want our needs and desires met without compromise. After serving black women in beauty for 30 plus years I wanted to take that capacity and serve them in a greater way. During this time I have also become the brand ambassador for Ambi skin care whom I signed on with to empower generations of what I call “flawless-females” to help them master their inner and outer beauty and distinction. It has allowed me to spread my wings and touch millions of women with deliverables that I know they deserve.

Have you considered establishing your own clothing company?

That is something that I have looked at and I am looking forward to partnering on. There are a number of things that I am not at liberty to talk about at this time, but again that will support and empower black women.

Your third book is about skin care, what can readers expect to learn?

In particular it looks at what it takes to master great skin not only on the outside, but from within. Skin is the largest barometer of what is going on inside our bodies and our organs. I know the top doctors, dermatologist across the nation and these are the kind of experts that I want to put at women’s finger tips. I want to teach women the importance of not diagnosing their own skin, but to partner with professionals at any season in their lives to have the skin of their dreams. Great skin is eluding far too many women. We want to attain the skin we desire and move on. That is just a sampling of the kind of things that this next book will look at.

Why is it important for you to empower people?

I was born unto this purpose, I was born to do the work that I am doing which is empowering women and people everywhere. I don’t want to see anyone live beneath his or her privilege. The ancestors who paved the way before us paved the way leaving an amazing legacy for us to build upon. We have to actively engage and work towards the reality we know. Mikki Taylor has come to inform, inspire, simplify and elevate the lives of women and anyone else, I touch. This is my purpose and I am clear that this is mine. I am just delighting in the process. I know for a fact that our individual success is bound to our collective achievement. We have to be motivated to lift as we climb. We have to be the change that we want to see so I am engaged with people across the nation to lead the way forward and be the change that they want to see.

I am truly thankful for the opportunity to interview such a prominent and influential woman. I hope you are able to take something away from Mrs. Taylor and apply it to your lives. Remember to “take time for self to restore, affirm and to self-nurture yourselves so that you are at our best.” Be the change you would like to see. God Bless

Please be sure to Follow Mrs. Mikki Taylor on Twitter by clicking here. Each Friday she takes the time to engage with her followers and answers there questions during her #FollowUpFriday segment.

No matter where I am in the world I take the time to answer #FollowupFriday questions about all things pertaining to beauty and style so I hope you’ll join the conversation @IAmMikkiTaylor”

You can also find more information on her website by clicking here

#EnterToWin a special surprise gift from Mrs. Mikki Taylor herself by clicking below!

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