Former JET Magazine and EBONY editor-in-chief talks about her life experiences
“‘Did you think that this was the way your life was going to be?’ I honestly wanted to say yes, but the truth is…absolutely not,”Mitzi Miller, former editor-in-chief of Jet Magazine and Ebony Magazine,
told a packed audience on March 23. Miller wasn’t a smart kid that had it all figured out.
Her main one goal was to have fun and be happy. Miller went to Florida A&M University to pursue a degree in pre-med. After realizing 7 a.m. classes and biology wasn’t her thing, she called her mom to tell her she didn’t want to be a doctor.
“I hope you don’t wind up poor,” said Miller’s mother before hanging up the phone. Miller finished school with a degree in English. Just before embarking on her senior spring break trip to Mardi Gras, Miller came down with what she thought was the flu.
After running a few tests, her doctor called asking her to make another visit for more testing because the last results were “abnormal.” As a senior in college, Mitzi Miller was diagnosed with auto-immune hepatitis, a chronic disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the liver. “Basically I had the liver of an 81-year old male alcoholic,” said Miller.
She was immediately placed on a waiting list for a liver transplant. Without it, she was told, she would only have three months to live. “I didn’t regret not studying harder for a test,” said Miller. “I wished I had more time to spend with my friends and my family.
I wished I could play at the park with my little cousin. Those are the things that I regretted.” After her transplant Miller decided that she was going to live her life “out loud.”
As an immune suppressive, Miller’s dreams of becoming an English teacher flew out the window. She worked a job in marketing and sales for about nine months before quitting. One night, after a party in New York, Miller and her friend saw the editor of HONEY Magazine leaving the same venue. Miller literally chased down Amy Barnett and introduced herself.
“I said ‘Hey, I’m Mitzi and I’m going to be a star’,” said Miller. “She looked at me like I had five heads and then offered me an internship.” After working seven days a week at an unpaid internship writing a column on learning to surf, pretending to be pregnant in the streets of NY and other oddities, Miller left Honey.
That’s when she went to JANE magazine hoping to get a taste of what it’s like to work at a predominately white publication. “The things that get on your nerves about your people now, you will miss as soon as you leave them,” said Miller. She quickly realized that she was in search of something new.
That’s when she got a call from her former boss, Barnett, who had just been named editor-in-chief of EBONY Magazine, saying that JET magazine needed a new editor. Soon after her arrival in May 2011, Miller changed the game for JET magazine. Under her watch the publication saw a cover-to-cover redesign, the launch of a new website, new social media strategies and constantly buzzing stories.
“I got to be on Real Housewives of Atlanta and meet Kendrick Lamar,” said Miller. After three years at JET, Miller got a call from Barnett saying that she would soon be leaving, and in April 2014, Miller accepted the position as the editor-in-chief of EBONY magazine.
“EBONY was so different than JET and it was so fun…travelling 3 weekends out of the month,” said Miller. Miller said she couldn’t stop thinking about the possibilities of her creative writing. After writing award-winning novels and several books including The Vow: A Novel and her three-title Hotlanta young adult series; Miller wanted to see where her writing would take her.
“I wanted to write the next episode of Scandal or another T. V. show,” said Miller. “Or have my book turned into a movie.” Miller resigned from Ebony in February and recently accepted a position as the head of development for Rainforest Entertainment.
She is now working under an old friend, Rob Hardy. Miller continued to encourage the crowd to have fun, live life and always be open to possibilities. “What you learn from going to an HBCU is how to hustle and how to chase your dreams,” said Miller.
“It’s about facing the challenges and realizing that you only get better after beating them down. Now is the time for you to stumble and fail because you can get up and keep going.”