With “Force of Beauty,” Mikki Taylor Shares Her Newark Story

Two images side by side showcase the cover for "Force of Beauty" that features a vintage photo of young Mikki Taylor and her mother in formal dresses. Next to the cover art is a recent headshot of the author, Mikki Taylor, with long brown hair and short bangs.

When Mikki Taylor visited Audible’s headquarters in 2018 to see her namesake conference room, she ended up having an unexpected meeting with our founder and Executive Chairman, Don Katz. Over lunch she told him and Brooke Dean, Production Manager of Original Content Development, about her family’s long history in Newark—from her grandparents coming to Newark via the Great Migration of the early 1900s, through the reign of jazz clubs, to her upbringing in the close-knit neighborhoods of the ’50s and ’60s. From that moment, it was clear that her story ought to be heard, and Audible was going to tell it.

Taylor has spent her life telling the stories of women of color, as an author, motivational speaker, beauty editor and activist. For more than 30 years, she’s been at the helm of Essence magazine, the pioneering publication for Black women (which just celebrated its 50th anniversary), and she still serves as its editor-at-large. While her work has been driven by a passion for inclusive representation within the beauty industry, her voice was shaped by her upbringing in Newark, including the powerful women who introduced Taylor to a world of possibility beyond her city’s limits.

Now these enthralling stories come to life in the Audible Original Force of Beauty: A Newark Family Memoir, co-written by the award-winning filmmaker and storyteller Deborah Riley Draper. Listeners learn about Taylor’s gifted grandmother, Bessie, and her glamorous mother, Modina, and about Modina’s friendship with legendary jazz singer Sarah Vaughn. The production includes an introduction by Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka and a reading by Mayor Baraka of the poem his father, the esteemed Amiri Baraka, wrote about the Newark rebellion, which Taylor discusses living through as a young girl.

When I look at what truly shaped me, the moments that made me, and how I became a successful magazine editor and beauty activist for women of color, I have to credit the city that made me.
Mikki Taylor

Sharing her story as an Audible Original was a no-brainer, remarked Taylor in this Audible Live conversation with Cosmopolitan magazine’s Julee Wilson. “Audible’s roots are deep-seated in Newark. Where else would be more profound for me to tell this Newark story than to tell it through Audible, who’s already empowering us in the city of my birth.”

Newark native and beauty expert Mikki Taylor, standing in front of her namesake conference room at Audible’s Newark headquarters.
Newark native and beauty expert Mikki Taylor, standing in front of her namesake conference room at Audible’s Newark headquarters.

Audible moved our headquarters to Newark in 2007 to be part of the city’s renaissance. A 2019 economic impact study showed that we’ve created more than $775 million in economic activity through initiatives like our live, hire and buy local programs. We also celebrate our hometown’s rich history throughout our headquarters by naming each of our conference rooms after notable Newarkers. From Seth Boyden and Philip Roth to Mikki Taylor and her godmother, Sarah Vaughn, these local legends surround our employees and inspire our work as we amplify voices, including those right outside our door—Taylor joins Newark natives including playwright Chisa Hutchinson, entrepreneur Anthony Frasier and poet Jasmine Mans, who have titles on our site.

To support Force of Beauty, Mikki Taylor has appeared on NJ.com, The Root, she has taken NBC’s New York Live on a tour of landmarks mentioned in her stories, and she has participated in our Audible Live series. Taylor also shared her wisdom and life lessons with Audible employees in an exclusive event hosted by Audible’s Black Employee Network, and in a special hour with high school girls who are part of our paid internship program.

At the event with our interns, the beauty pioneer encouraged our future leaders with advice that certainly speaks to her journey to becoming the woman she is today. “It is a joy to take the road that's not well traveled. That's where the discoveries and triumphs are. I came of age with the edict that basically said ‘to be risk adverse is to be success adverse,’ and I don't think any of us would define ourselves as success adverse. So, you have to really tap into all the dreams that lie inside of you and see how and where you can achieve them.”