Beauty relishes in its own aura. It is not shy or apologetic. It is bold, classy and confident.
Mikki Taylor’s existence is one of pure chic, self-ownership and knowledge sharing. For over 30 years, the former model and Essence Beauty and Cover Director, has been spreading her wings across the globe encouraging positivity and instilling the truth behind beauty to African American women and young girls. It is her true mission. “To me, that is my most meaningful work,” she states flashing her infectious smile. “Women have been my issue for over 30 years – encouraging us and being a part of those who move us forward. If there’s any gift that we give to the future, it is that in which we instill in the lives of young people.”
One of the biggest concepts to grasp when speaking with Mikki Taylor, now Essence Magazine’s Editor-at-Large, is that of owning your life. More than just existing and living day-to-day on the whim of outside expectations, the importance in knowing your worth and embracing the life that best suits you is liberating.
“It’s important whether it’s our careers, whether it’s our personal growths to really draw your own course and have the courage to pursue it,” states Taylor who also serves as the Ambassador for Ambi Skincare. “The Creator has instilled, in each of us, a unique gift and we owe it to ourselves to identify with that.”
Her career began with a dream, one of which she had been prepped for since birth. Beauty, fashion, and empowerment surrounded her environment. “My mother was the first entrepreneur in our family. Every time I was in my mother’s presence, I was in class. One glamorous class at that; one class of high self-esteem at that, but I know that somewhere along the way I was doing the work that I was born to do.”
The footprints of her mother, Ms. Modina Davis Watson, would be the foundation that executed an acute vision and understanding of the power beauty held. It was more than just the fabulous lifestyle Ms. Watson led as the style and make-up artist to vocalist, Sarah Vaughn but it was the way women flocked to her in search of clarity, style and inspiration.
Shares Taylor, “It was interesting in not only watching her travels with Sarah, but watching what I call that style fellowship that happened in her salon. Women came in for more than great hairstyles. Later, I realized they were coming for empowerment and [in addition to] they left with a great hairstyle!”
It was in 1980 when that dream of modeling in the pages of Essence turned into a working position as the publications home sewing and accessories editor for the fashion pages. A year later Ms. Taylor would become the magazine’s beauty editor. It was an opportunity that would continue in her mother’s legacy while also outlining and creating her own.
There weren’t many who looked like us-little chocolate and brown girls-glorifying womanhood in its entirety from product to high-style. So, the importance of projecting a branding message that was eloquent and true in representing the voice of colored women creating their caliber and vocabulary of beauty was crucial. The challenge was conquered first by Susan L. Taylor and carried on with Mikki Taylor.
“Essence is about showing the rainbow of African American women. And so beauty, I’ve always said, is our most emotional purchase. Coming on board in 1980 and talking beauty on the pages of Essence, my greatest challenge was to really help the industry see us and honor our needs and desires,” Taylor recalls. “Certainly in talking to women, coming of age in a country where you weren’t the standard beauty; where your hair was always political, where there were negative terms to describe your beauty, it was important to me to talk to women and to help them create their own vocabulary about our beauty and to behold the woman in the mirror.”
And it’s not an easy feat. With social mediums translating certain ideals in terms of image and career aspirations, it can be unsettling to peddle left when everyone around is piggy-backing and going right. Discover your creativity and amplify your lane.
“You have to be willing to lead, if for no other length than your own life. You have to be willing to lead and not follow,” Taylor advises, adding, “When I realized the value in owning my life and stopped living life as a dress rehearsal, it really impacted everything. It colored my entire world, my decision-making. It helped me not care about the stage and audience of popular opinion, if you will. And I found that the more I grew, I really liked who I am.”
Reaching that state of ‘I AM’ is a powerful journey and comes in various shades of beauty. Beauty as it relates to a metaphysical sensibility. It encompasses not the physical aspects of beauty but the steps and platform it takes to owning your life; the different transitions and becoming comfortable with, “I am.” This is not a sense of forced personalities but truly walking in your discovered purpose and truth. Shades become the metaphorical colors of dark, light, and grey.
They represent the journey and though the shades can be dark and confusing at times, there’s a certain beauty within that.
“It takes a woman of decision to say, ‘this is who I am and I don’t care if the whole world is going left, I’m going right,” assures Taylor.
In a career such as Mikki Taylor’s, her words of encouragement weigh heavy. With her latest editorial offer, her second book, Commander- in-Chic, which uses First Lady Michelle Obama as the fashion muse, Taylor explains that Mrs. Obama was the perfect role model to use for the story she wanted to tell.
“[Mrs. Obama] really owns her life and bases all of her choices on what works for her and so, to me, she became the perfect muse to use. She has great fun in discovering “Michelle Obama.” Her choices are her own and she walks in her truth.”
Mikki Taylor breeds the mantra: “Own your life and master your style with distinction.” Her quintessential voice in the modes of style, beauty and class is the trump of her empire, Mikki Taylor Enterprises, LLC, and elegant brand.
To many of us, she is iconic. “And what is iconic?,” she asks.
Then answers: “It’s the greatest truth of who you are …yeah. And that’s something that you walk in. That doesn’t shift.”
*Follow Mikki Taylor onTwitter: @IAmMikkiTaylor