The Sacred Place within Essence Magazine's Susan L. Taylor Urges Readers to Focus on . . .(It)

By Deborah Peterson Of the Post-Dispatch | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), December 22, 1995 | Go to article overview

The Sacred Place within Essence Magazine's Susan L. Taylor Urges Readers to Focus on . . .(It)


Deborah Peterson Of the Post-Dispatch, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


SUSAN L. TAYLOR does not preach conventional religious dogma.

And she doesn't care whether you call your spiritual leader God, Yahweh, Buddha, Allah or by some other name.

But she does believe that every day a person needs to get up and put on his or her "spiritual armor."

"I recommend that we lie there for five minutes on our backs and we remember that we are more than we seem," said Taylor, the editor-in-chief of Essence magazine and author of two books, "In the Spirit," and "Lessons in Living."

Taylor was in St. Louis earlier this month on a promotional tour for "Lessons in Living." She signed books and spoke to more than 160 people at Afrocentric Expressions, a book and art store at 7299 Olive Boulevard in University City. She also spoke and signed books at Webster University for a crowd of more than 350.

Much of Taylor's following consists of women, who have read her monthly column "In the Spirit," in Essence for the more than 10 years she has been writing it. However, there were a few men in the crowd at Afrocentric Expressions.

One of them, Vincent Pierce, 30, from the Soulard neighborhood, said he is a fan of Taylor and of the magazine.

"The vision seems open-minded and progressive," said Pierce. "A lot of her (Taylor's) stuff seems to be very rich and very soulful. She speaks to a spiritual, social discussion that women can identify with. The magazine is creating dialogue."

Pierce said most women he meets will talk about something they have read in Essence so he feels a need to keep up with what's in the magazine.

"It seems to be addressing a lot of the male-female issues that make up the everyday discussion between men and women," Pierce said.

That discussion is very intentional on Taylor's part. In an interview at the Ritz-Carlton, where she was staying, Taylor described herself as a very hands-on editor. She does not edit the magazine line for line, but said she reads every story that is considered. The night before the interview here, she had read a story that had been assigned to an author and Taylor said it wasn't right for the magazine.

The story was too negative - it took a whining tone rather than the upbeat, "you can do it"-type message she is always striving for.

"Nothing goes in that magazine without me thinking, `This belongs in here,' " Taylor said. "I don't need to be right. It just has to be something that's well-written and that meets the needs of our readers."

Taylor said her needs and the needs of the magazine's one million readers are the same.

"I think it's `we,' " she said. "I'm growing along with the reader. How you wear your hair today does not matter. What you are doing to make your contribution, that's what matters."

Many magazines aimed at women today push fashion, glamour, beauty and seemingly antiquated advice about how to snare a man or how to keep a man once you've managed the first part.

None of that in Essence.

This month's copy features stories about foster care and children in crisis; how Terry McMillan's best-selling novel, "Waiting to Exhale," became a major movie; an in-depth interview with one of the movie's stars, Angela Bassett; spirituality among young black people; and a look at a Yoruba-inspired village in South Carolina.

Tracey Grant, 28, a long-time reader who lives in Berkeley, said Taylor and Essence have been influential in her life.

"I'm in graduate school and I have an 8-week-old and a 4-year-old," said Grant, as she waited in line at Afrocentric Expressions to get her copy of "Lessons in Living" signed. "Miss Taylor has inspired me because she talks a lot about knowing yourself, about being true to yourself."

Grant said her baby's father was home watching the children while she was at the bookstore. …

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