Establish a strong support system; I call it a “celebration circle.” Your greatness was not designed to operate in isolation. In order to stay balanced, you must have a strong support system, it’s essential to your sustainability as well as your growth.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Mikki Taylor. Mikki is the country’s leading authority on “inner and outer beauty” for women of color and a highly sought-after empowerment speaker, who inspires women everywhere in her mission to embolden them to own their lives, celebrate their beauty, and master their purpose with distinction. An effective communicator, she empowers multigenerational women from the main stages of the world to executive coaching sessions, sharing insights and solutions about that which can impact their purpose — from the lack of treasuring their vision space, knowing their value and taking time to “self nurture,” to toxic relationships and behaviors that devalue and defeat them and ultimately compromise their leadership. Taylor understands that empowerment is the new management and has authored the critically acclaimed Self-Seduction: Your Ultimate Path to Inner and Outer Beauty (Ballantine Random House);Commander-in-Chic: Every Woman’s Guide to Managing Her Style Like a First Lady (Simon and Schuster) and Editor in Chic, How to Style and Be Your Most Empowered Self (Simon and Schuster) which debuted at booksellers nationwide May 1, 2018. As the former Beauty & Cover Director at ESSENCE magazine, she casted and produced over 500 covers as well as its signature beauty pages to affirm the culture’s definition of beauty. Today Taylor serves as Editor-at-Large for the publication, hosting its audience at live events directed at empowering multigenerational women. Taylor is also President of Satin Doll Productions, Inc., a strategic branding, consulting, and communications company that helps companies carve out effective marketing initiatives in the beauty space, increase consumer engagement and products that resonate with “Beauty Enthusiasts.” She also guides national retailers in their desire to understand women of color and their purchasing drive and establish brand advocates among them with relevancy. Taylor, who has over 30 years experience in media, has appeared on The Insider, Good Morning America, NBC’S Today with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb, The View, Steve Harvey Show and such networks as CNN, CBS and BET. She’s worked with some of the world’s most fascinating and influential people including Michelle Obama, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Oprah Winfrey and more. Among Taylor’s most treasured experiences was the joy of serving as an instructor at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa at the special invitation of Oprah Winfrey, and speaking at the 2018 De Beers Global Women’s Summit in Botswana to entrepreneurs on consumer engagement.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Mikki! What is your “backstory”?
I came of age with the edict “if the best is possible, then good is not enough.” As a young girl growing up in “Brick City,” aka Newark, New Jersey, I was reminded that I was walking in the dreams of my ancestors and I better step high. They weren’t asking little brown girls like me if we wanted to be journalists, and authors, or have careers — they told us to go to school and get a trade. However, I was taught that I was created to do more than make money and aim for security. I was taught that the gift I possessed was designed to create an empire and that it wasn’t about me, but how it would bless others. For 30+ years, I’ve had the honor of affirming women of color — first through my role as Beauty and Cover Director at ESSENCE Magazine, leading up to my current position serving on the main stages of the nation as the magazine’s Editor-at-large, and certainly as author, empowerment speaker, and trusted authority for all things inner and outer beauty for multigenerational women.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I often joke about leaving my “shy self” at home as she gets in my way! Well, one day I had the joy of working with then President-Elect Barack Obama and his family on a photo shoot. He came to me with two shirt options and asked me which one should he wear. And don’t you know my “shy girl” emerged and I lost all my style chops in that nervous response! Since that time, I’m happy to say I divorced her!
What was your biggest challenge to date either personally or professionally and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge was learning to be comfortable in my authenticity and not feel I had to perform or fulfill the perception of others. When you’re a public personality, people have certain perceptions of you. If you’re not careful, you will begin to feel that you have bought into that. I had to overcome that on many levels to own my life and embrace the truth of who I am and not allow others to define it.
What does leadership mean to you and how do you best inspire others to lead?
Leadership means knowing what you contribute and using your distinctive gift to add value wherever you are blessed to serve. I inspire others to lead by empowering them to identify their gift, know their value, use their voice and treasure their “vision space” (their minds), and finally, to know the critical importance of mastering their purpose with distinction.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I didn’t have to look far for a role model as I had access to one every day in my mother. She was the first entrepreneur in our family and I’m forever grateful to her for she taught me the value of believing in my purpose, of leadership and service. She also pushed me to take the road less traveled and blaze the trail to my dreams by not manufacturing fear, indulging in comparison to others, and being daunted by obstacles that were set before me as a Black woman. The value of mentors is priceless, and I’ve had many. However, key to my heart is Susan L. Taylor, Editorial Director Emeritus who in 1980 brought me on board at ESSENCE Magazine and a year later promoted me to Beauty Editor with a job description that led with “affirm the culture’s definition of beauty.” This set me on the path to my destiny.
Was it difficult to fit your life into your business/career and how did you do that?
It was challenging at first — especially as a wife and mother of three, coupled with a career that calls for a lot of travel and long days, but I believe faith is nothing if it’s not defining your life. Challenges present an opportunity to grow into your most powerful self. I learned to manage my time as well as balance my energies and who and what I was available to so I didn’t lose my life in the process, and to only live my “title position.” For example:
* I nursed my children, so I set up a bassinet in my office at ESSENCE and took them back to work with me
* I consistently set non-negotiable date nights with my husband
* Established time for self by scheduling it just like I schedule everything and everyone else
* From the start, I planned my days so they included personal and professional engagements
* I surrounded myself with wisdom-keepers who could counsel me with sage, well-tested advice
Did you find that as your success grew it became more difficult to focus on the other areas of your life?
No, because I live with strategic intention and I refuse to advocate what I don’t practice. I firmly embrace the cost as well as the delight of being my authentic self.
Can you share five pieces of advice to other leaders about how to achieve the best balance between work and personal life?
You must learn to balance your personal and professional power in order to own your life. This calls for strategic intention and the wisdom of knowing that life is not a dress rehearsal. My advice to other leaders is:
1. Know your value — self-perception is the key to life. When you know who you are, you’re able to set boundaries, be confident in what you bring to the table and define what works for you and what doesn’t. This is what helps you honor yourself and teach others how to do the same.
2. Establish a strong support system; I call it a “celebration circle.” Your greatness was not designed to operate in isolation. In order to stay balanced, you must have a strong support system, it’s essential to your sustainability as well as your growth.
3. Honor your well-being. Being intentional in your life comes down to the ability to embrace that which is for your good and be wholly engaged in your well-being — body, mind, and spirit. A key component of this is the importance of anchoring down what you have control over — from eating healthfully and exercising to taking restorative time for self and making such self-care practices a way of life.
4. Don’tcompare yourself and your life to others. President Theodore Roosevelt said, “comparison is the thief of all joy.” Any comparison to others, especially on social media, induces a perceived “lack,” creating a pervading sense of inadequacy, disappointment, and self-doubt.
5. Don’t debate the possibilities of having it, place your focus on having what matters — only you can define that, but at the end of the day this is what will keep you balanced and in the power position in your life.
What gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment and pride.
My thriving family and the legacy I’ve built — I’m about service, not status, so it gives me immeasurable joy to see the results of what I’ve poured into others.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Technology has empowered us to connect with people all over the world so I’d inspire a global movement titled “Evolution!” I want women to evolve into their revolution (a state of dwelling in their power zone — not their comfort zone; to transform, not conform) through a 24-hour digital TV Channel devoted to multigenerational women. I envision this as a destination where women will check in and hear from wisdom-keeping women around the world on a variety of subjects that impact their lives. It’ll allow women to enter the big conversations, ask questions, be informed and affirmed!
• What is the best way for people to connect with you on social media?
I love connecting and continuing the conversation on what it means to own your life, celebrate your beauty and master your purpose with distinction. I encourage others to connect with me on Instagram or Facebook at @IAmMikkiTaylor