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Essence editorial director visits USF

Susan L. Taylor, editorial director for Essence magazine, will lecture tonight on “Creative Leadership: From the Inside Out.” Taylor’s leadership has been the driving force behind Essence, the highly acclaimed magazine for black women. The tremendously popular magazine has a monthly readership of 8 million, a third of whom are men.

“(Essence Magazine) offers the black community a journal that is informative, culturally expressive and reflective of the everyday lives and concerns of its readership,” said Deborah G. Plant, assistant professor of Africana Studies at USF. “Its articles treat topics that address virtually every aspect of Africana culture — history, business, beauty and fashion, economics, health, education, music, etc. If you are African American and you pick up Essence magazine, you can’t help but smile, ’cause you’re looking at yourself, and you look good.”

Taylor was editor in chief of the magazine from 1981-2000. Now, as editorial director, she manages all editorial operations and writes the monthly column, “In the Spirit.” She is also launching a new magazine for the company and is working with the chairman to expand Essence‘s international sphere of influence, which focuses on the positive elements of the black community that the magazine represents.

Taylor’s influence has propelled the Essence brand to flourish in many endeavors, including Essence Books, Essence Entertainment and Essence Eyewear and Hosiery.

Taylor is a fourth-generation entrepreneur. In 1970, she started her own business called Nequai Cosmetics, a line of customized cosmetics and natural skin-care products. The company was a success and quickly grew profitable. This was the same year that Essence magazine was launched. Editors of the magazine quickly took note of Taylor’s new line, and within two years, they recruited Taylor to be the new fashion and beauty editor. In 1986, she was named vice president of the magazine, and became the senior vice president in 1993.

In 1984, she became well known nationwide after helping launch America’s first black-oriented magazine-format television show, also called Essence. Taylor is also the executive producer for the annual Essence Awards and assists in the production of the Essence Music festival, an event that occurs every Fourth of July in New Orleans. Her empowerment seminars are a highlight of the festival, garnering many dynamic speakers to address critical issues in the black community.

“Susan Taylor is a living reminder of the spiritual and creative genius of Africana peoples and culture,” Plant said. “She is a model of possibility. Whether through her articles in Essence, seminars and workshops, television appearances, or lectures, Taylor inspires in others a healthy self-love. She engenders in others a can-do spirit.”

In 1999, Taylor was the first black woman to be awarded the Henry Johnson Fisher Award, an award that recognizes those who have demonstrated exceptional leadership, skill and understanding in all aspects of magazine publishing. In 2002, she was inducted into the American Society of Magazine Editors’ Hall of Fame.

She is a graduate of Fordham University and has received honorary doctorate degrees Spelman College, Bennett College, Delaware State University, Fisk University, and Lincoln University the nations first college for African-Americans.

Taylor will be speaking tonight at 7 in the Special Events Center. The lecture is co-sponsored by the University Lecture Series and the Black Emphasis Month Committee.