Susan Taylor – From Cosmetics to Publishing


In her early twenties, young entrepreneur Susan Taylor started Nequai Cosmetics, one of the first companies to create beauty products for African American women. Although her product line was well received in African American communities and in the Caribbean, Taylor was interested in expanding her career. She heard that Essence Magazine, a fledgling publication catering to African American women, was looking for a beauty editor.

Taylor approached the then editor-in-chief Ed Lewis for the position and, in 1970 at the age of twenty-three, was hired. Although Susan Taylor had never attended college, she was a licensed cosmetologist who understood the specific needs and concerns of black women. Her monthly articles were popular with African American females who were historically undervalued and underrepresented by media companies. Taylor soon became responsible for fashion as well as beauty and, in 1981, was promoted to editor-in-chief, a post which she held until July 2000.

Under Susan’s expert guidance, Essence Magazine experienced phenomenal growth. Their monthly readership soared to over five million people, reaching black women all over the world. Capturing the hearts of Essence readers was Susan’s monthly column “In the Spirit,” which addressed themes such as family, faith, self-esteem and health. Her motivational features culminated in the popular books, “In the Spirit: The Inspirational Writings of Susan L. Taylor” and “Lessons In Living.” She also became a popular speaker on the lecture circuit.

In March 1986, Taylor was elected vice president of Essence Communication, Inc. and senior vice president in 1993. She was the host and executive producer of “Essence,” the country’s first nationally syndicated African-oriented magazine television show, the Essence Awards show and the Essence Music Festival.


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