Black Enterprise
Maxine Waters Alicia Keys Michelle Obama Image Credit: Black Enterprise
Maxine Waters Alicia Keys Michelle Obama Image Credit: Black Enterprise

Has History Met Your Badass?

If black women don’t assert power and their place in history, everybody loses

Caroline Clarke

From Maxine Waters and Alicia Keys to “O” and MO, it’s nearly impossible to find a successful woman of color over age 30 who doesn’t credit Susan L. Taylor with helping to shape her sense of self and possibility.

Among her many accolades, the iconic former editor-in-chief of Essence is an American Society of Magazine Editors Hall of Fame inductee and a 2015 Woman of Power Legacy honoree.

Yet, Taylor admits that, even at 73, it’s only in this season of her life that she fully acknowledges the role she played in building the Essence brand. “That acknowledgement is always private, internal. It is in my quiet time that I have looked back in wonder,” says Taylor, who joined the magazine with only a high school diploma as a newly single mother of a 1-year-old baby.

“It is only now do I embrace the magnitude of my work at Essence over the 37 years I served as fashion and beauty editor and chief editor of the magazine. My response to applause over the decades has always been that it humbles me when people give me raves. Typically, I’ve said that I get more credit for the success of Essence than I deserve because magazine making is a collective process, but that I do have a brilliance, which is building high-performance, dedicated teams.

“This stepping back from our amazing selves, not being more forthcoming about our lives and what it has taken to reach whatever plateau we’re at—while j

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