How I Did It: Mikki Taylor Expands Beauty Brand with New Book ‘Commander in Chic’

Motivational expert uses inspiration of Michelle Obama to empower women

Beauty expert and entrepreneur, Mikki Taylor

For more than 30 years, Mikki Taylor has been a power player in the fashion and beauty industries, enlightening women of color as beauty and cover director at Essence magazine. Having appeared on several television networks and shows, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, The View and CNN, Taylor has become the leading source on embracing holistic beauty — from the inside out.

Ambassador for Ambi Skincare and author of Self-Seduction: Your Ulti­mate Path to Inner and Outer Beauty (Bal­lan­tine Books/One World), Taylor has expanded her international brand further with her latest read, Commander in Chic: Every Woman’s Guide to Managing Her Style Like a First Lady (Atria Books; $26.99). Inspired by the fashion poise and prowess of First Lady Michelle Obama, Taylor’s latest book is a convenient, yet extensive guide on beauty and fashion that any busy career professional can reference to step up her style game.

BlackEnterprise.com caught up with Taylor to find out how she began her career journey, how she tapped into her gift, and how you can capture your own purpose for professional fulfillment and success.

BlackEnterprise.com: How did you get started in the business of beauty and fashion?

I first met the Essence team as a model … and after I went into fashion and merchandising, I was hired at Essence to work on the fashion pages. I brought my expertise from working with Elie Tahari Ltd., where I handled a lot involving the production of fabrics and textiles.

In my first year at Essence, I was home sewing and accessories editor, so I would shop the fabric market and have the pattern houses create clothing for a special feature within each issue that was dedicated to clothes that readers could make at home. A year later, after curiosity and using my gift (I also had a background in beauty retail), I became the magazine’s beauty editor.

What sparked your purpose and inspiration in pursuing your career?

A lot of it was heavily influenced by my mother, Modina Davis Watson, who was the make-up artist, wardrobe and hair stylist to singer Sarah Vaughn for 10 years. [That time] was my coming of age, watching beauty and style have its way. My mother traveled the world with Vaughn, and she’d send magazines home from all over the world. All of it was an influence in getting started in my career. It was quite easy to choose a path of beauty and fashion.

What inspired you to write your book based on the style of Michelle Obama and what was the process?

It was in keeping with my goal to help women own their lives and master their purpose. I understood, after working with First Lady Michelle Obama, that every woman could embrace and relate to her. I’ve always seen women as muses and was always inspired by Mrs. Obama.

I’d first met her when she was then-Sen. Barack Obama’s wife in 2006 at an Essence shoot. I remember she walked in camera-ready, and I was quite impressed. I ended up working with her again, as I’d written about her in the magazine. I’d worked with her in her home in Chicago, and they were always entertaining guests and had all the excitement of the presidential election. The last I saw her at that time, I had a feeling it would be the last time I would see her as a senator’s wife.

The next time I worked with her, I decided to write the book, which took six months. From this book, readers will be able to know when and where to shop, what to wear, and the best makeup finds. They’ll know the most bankable, mileage-making pieces to include in their wardrobe, so that they can present their best and most confident look to the world.

How have you used social media in branding yourself and facilitating your purpose?

Social media allows me to keep conversation going. I’m heavily involved on Twitter and Facebook. On Twitter, I have themes like Follow-up Fridays, where women can ask questions; I Am Mondays, where women can declare their strengths; and Spread the Love Wednesdays, where people can tell how they are making the world a better place.

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