Hi. I’m Kierna. A writer, editor and veteran media person with a bent toward stunning visuals, #blackgirlmagic and brainy stuff. I like to think of myself as both cultural critic—and culture creator. Historian by nature with a futurist vibe, I've been at the content x creative game for over 30 years. I've seen and done some shit.
I'm the Vice President and Executive Editor of Roc Lit 101/One World (Penguin Random House) and, as you can imagine, I've had the requisite I, TOO, AM TONI MORRISON vision. I am apparently not Toni Morrison. I also do not have a Roc Nation piece around my neck. Yet. Still, I get to be around the smartest, most wordsmithingest people of my career. I now turn writers and thinkers into #authors. I got 99 problems but a dream job ain't one.
In 2020, I was showrunner and head writer for the Lena Horne Prize for Artists Creating Social Impact, a live production award show (produced by The Mark Twain Prize team, and the first of its kind named after an African American woman). We shot in NYC just before Covid hit and it seemed the world came to a screeching halt. As the show's creative lead, I scripted for notables like global activist Martin Luther King, III and the Academy Award-winning Common. Solange Knowles was our first honoree. If you love beautiful things, let me tell you, she's a radical gift to the culture.
CULTURATI + OTHER COOL PLACES
I'm host of the new podcast Culturati: Conversations with Kierna Mayo. Over the last few years I've appeared on several popular podcasts including Longform, Slate’s ‘Slow Burn,’ the hip-hop classic Combat Jack Show (RIP) and many others. I've been featured as a cultural commentator in thought-provoking documentaries including MSNBC’s Story of Cool and HBO Max’s On the Record.
Back when I wore blazers (don't be silly, I will always wear blazers), I was the Editor in Chief and Vice President of Digital of EBONY magazine. During my tenure (2011- 2016) I lead ebony.com to critical acclaim, growing the online audience by over 400%, and then boldly rebranding the venerable, 70-year-old print publication.
In 2016, I was named Senior Vice President, Content and Brands at iOne Digital where I developed the “born unapologetic” Millennial/Gen Z platform CASSIUS, and directed several culturally diverse news, pop culture and women’s lifestyle sites. I managed all content teams, reaching a collective audience of 20MM monthly unique visitors. I'm incredibly proud of the digital doc series I executive produced while there, Darnell Smith's Something to Say: Black LGBTQ+ Life in Atlanta.
WAY BACK THEN
In the earlier part of my career, after honing editorial skills as an urban affairs reporter for City Limits, I co-founded Honey magazine. As Editor in Chief of the niche, late ‘90s fashion and lifestyle publication, I helped foster an uncharted visibility for millions of women of color of the hip-hop generation. Now out of print, Honey is widely considered a classic and an historic media touchstone for young Black feminists.
From my nascent days as a pioneering, hip hop journalist and original member of The Source magazine "Mind Squad," to the aught years as the lone Black editor at Hearst Magazine's CosmoGirl; and from my Editorial Director stint with Tyra Banks, to my appearances as a guest contributor discussing race and identity related topics on cable networks, I am recognized as a multimedia storyteller with an unwavering commitment to the perspective of people of color, namely Black women.
As a published writer, I’ve penned articles, essays, cover stories, Q&A's and first-person narratives for national publications including: Essence, Marie Claire, The New York Times, Vibe, Cosmogirl, The Root, The Smithsonian and others. I am a contributor to Nation Books’ 2019 release, How We Fight White Supremacy, and in 2018, I wrote the forward to She Begat This by Joan Morgan (Atria Books) about the enduring cultural legacy of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Many of my earliest writings are referenced and excerpted in academic and commercial texts including the seminal, And It Don’t Stop: The Best American Hip Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years (Faber & Faber).
AWARDS & ASSOCIATIONS
Throughout my two-decade career at the intersection of media, culture and brands, peers have recognized my diverse range of work for excellence. I am a Folio 100 and The Root 100 honoree, and I have been awarded distinguished honors from GLAAD and the NAACP. I’m also a recipient of the “Veteran Award for Extraordinary Leadership and Lasting Contribution in Media” from Women in Media Meet Up.
My current memberships include the Kennedy Center Hip Hop Culture Council, US Breakthrough Advisory Group, and the National Advisory Committee of the non-partisan, philanthropic Democracy Fund. I am a former member of the American Heart Association Diversity Leadership Committee and the Hearst Magazine Diversity Leadership Group.
As an HBCU graduate of Hampton University with a B.A. in Mass Media Arts, in 2016 I was bestowed by my alma mater with the “Esteemed Alumna Trailblazer Award for Digital and Print Media.”
I am a Brooklyn native residing in Long Island, NY (in a Black Barbie Dreamhouse, 128-year-old center hall colonial) with my husband and our teenage sons. Obviously, this is a lot. In a good way, I mean. Huge smiley face. When I am not discovering there is, yet again, nothing in the refrigerator, I'm either working on my incredible TV series or obsessing about interior design or recording for Culturati or reading for work.
I'm on Twitter and IG (sometimes). @kiernamayo. Subscribe to Culturati wherever you get your podcasts.
You are welcome to keep checking back here to see if I finally took new press shots. Spoiler: I no longer have a perm and have, um, filled out a bit.*