Journalist and editor Susan L. Taylor was born in 1946 in Harlem in New York City. Her mother was from Trinidad and Tobago, and her father was from St. Kitts. She was raised in East Harlem where her father owned a clothing store. The family moved to Queens when she was in her teens. Taylor is best known as the editor-in-chief of Essence magazine. She went to work for Essence, a magazine for Black women, in 1970, the year it was founded. She first worked as a freelance fashion and beauty editor. She attended night school in the 1980s and had received a BA from Fordham University by the time she became editor-in-chief in 1981. During her tenure, she succeeded in building the Essence brand. She was the executive producer and host of “Essence, the Television Program,” an interview show that was broadcast on over 50 stations for four years in the Eighties, and in the 1990s, she launched Essence Books. She remained editor-in-chief until 2000 when she was promoted to publications director.
In 2008, she left Essence to concentrate on her nonprofit organization, the National Cares Mentoring Movement. She is also the author of four books, including “In the Spirit, which expanded some of her writings in her column of the same name. She is a staunch supporter of mentoring and has been in demand as a public speaker on this issue. In 1999, Taylor became the first Black woman to win the highest honor in the magazine industry, the Henry Johnson Fisher Award from the Magazine Publishers of America. Her other honors include induction into the American Society of Magazine Editors Hall of Fame in 2002, the Candace Award from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women in 1986, the Matrix Award from New York Women in Communications in 1987, and the Exceptional Woman in Publishing Award from Exceptional Women in Publishing in 2003. She received the President’s Award from the NAACP in 2006 and was named an honorary member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority in 2013. In 1994, American Libraries called Taylor “the most influential Black woman in journalism today.”