Susan L. Taylor

Former Editor-in-Cheif of Essence

When her line of cosmetics for women of color caught the eye of editors at Essence magazine, Susan Taylor had no idea that she would one day lead the publication as Editor-in-Chief. Having grown circulation to 1.5 million, she left the business after 37 years to create the National CARES Mentoring Movement, a nonprofit devoted to transforming the lives of underprivileged black children through mentorship and inspiration.

Who most influenced you growing up?

My grandmother. I am a grandmother now, and my granddaughter hopefully feels as much love for me as I did for my grand. As grandmothers, we have more time and greater patience. I am wiser and more balanced today than I was when raising my daughter. I grew up in a one-bedroom Harlem tenement; my father had a ladies’ boutique on the street level in a busy, commercial area. We lived on the second floor of a five-story building, walk-up with maybe 50 families. My grandmother would drive in every summer and take my brother and me to her home in Englewood, New Jersey, which I thought was a mansion. It was a beautiful home. I had my own room. When she asked what we wanted for dinner, we would get on our bikes and ride into town and choose what we wanted her to cook for us. Mother would take us to beaches, to lakes in Upstate New York and to the Hamptons. Not in the glorious Hamptons, where we now have a home, but to the Shinnecock Reservation where she’d rent rooms for the family. She exposed me to a world far beyond what my parents offered.

Your family originally came from the Caribbean. Your father was in mercantile. What about your grandmother?

Grandmother was a businesswoman. Long before I was born, she had a tailor shop and a bar. She also helped my uncle buy a building and open a liquor store. My great grandmother, who I’m named after, had a soda business in Trinidad and a hot pepper sauce business in Harlem. I come from an entrepreneurial family.

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