Kevin E. Taylor recently penned Never Too Much: This Is My Story Of Big Words, Big Dreams And An Audacious Big Life.
This autobiography looks back and forward, on and into, the life and works of a fat, Black, asthmatic, gay nerd, raised in the projects of Southwest Washington, DC, who, through focus, fire and faith went on to be a college graduate, work for a government agency and transition into music entertainment. The experiences shared, the lessons learned, the grace earned and the celebrities encountered all show up in Never Too Much. The author speaks of what took him from the security of a “good government job” to discovering his real passion for writing and music, which would take him into Black Entertainment Television in its heyday of the 90s and allow him to move out of the background as an executive assistant to a producer of powerful specials and spotlight interviews with such legends as Tina Turner, Stevie Wonder, Patti LaBelle, Mariah Carey, Babyface, DMX and Natalie Cole, with whom he shared an amazing relationship that began as a little boy and lasted until her untimely death. As a senior supervising producer of specials for the network, he also helped to launch the careers of icons such as Maxwell, TLC, Toni Braxton and B2K. He created award-winning programming that allowed him to travel to Denmark with Turner and Ghana with Boyz II Men. But the story of how he shifted from this stellar career to pastor of a growing church in New Jersey can only be told with the harrowing tale he shares of being with young superstar Aaliyah on her last shoot and how he was moved off of that flight just days before, and boarding his next flight, 18 days later, on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, a day that changed America.
“I wanted to write this book because when I think about my life and how I got here, so many people think parts of it aren’t real and combined, it feels like something out of this world. But the truth is I do have the life that I have and have had and lived through the experiences I have because of something that is indeed out-of-this-world. How could a boy like me, from where I was born, have been able to travel the world, meet huge celebrities and interview them and do so many things that I have? I hope that this story helps somebody, heals something and catapults someone into a life that they didn’t think was possible until they read my story,” he shares.
Taylor is a pastor, empowerment coach, author, television writer and helps to run a women’s and children’s shelter. He is a father and a grandfather who has been invited to speak all over North America and beyond and who has a powerful story.
Read what else he has to say.
What gives you the courage to be you in the fullness of Kevin E. Taylor?
The truth is that I have tried to some version of other people before, but I learned a long time ago that people were always, whether great or bully-ish, look for the actual Kevin E. Taylor. I have been this me on my job in the DC Government and at college and in the entertainment industry and in the pulpit. I love words. I love to laugh. I am a storyteller who believes that that’s the way you make story stuck to the souls and senses of people. I have always tried to be me but when I finally landed on “Do You: All of the Other Spots Are Taken!” (a combination of something I heard from Oprah and Russell Simmons), I realized that I would be wasting my time, people’s time and God’s if I didn’t just show up and get the job done. Listen, I was born a fat, Black, asthmatic, Gay nerd in the projects of Southwest DC and I have fought for and about all of those parts of me, so I’ve been clear about ME, even before I was clear why so many people fought me about me.
What inspired you to write a book about your life?
I have always said that I never wanted to be a hoarder of information or experience. People always have said when they meet the tall, elegant, articulate, classic man with his own style and flowing locks “you don’t know my story” or “you got a hook-up to be here” or some version of “because you spoke well and carry yourself well, you’ve never struggled,” so I had to tell my story fast and let people know that all of the great and the grave, the yays and the dismay that I have endured have been paid for and prayed for. I needed people who think that they know me to know me better and I needed to show myself to men and women, boys and girls, people in the music industry or in ministry or both, that God is gangster and keeps on doing great things for me … and God knows it’s me.
You were a supporter and friend of the late Natalie Cole. What crosses your mind when you hear her name, music or image?
Wow. I owe so much to her and readers will see that. This is not just a kid in love with a singer. I went to college because Natalie Cole told an 11-year-old kid in the projects that college was available to me because that’s where she started singing. She taught me to embrace “big” words because when I heard the word “Inseparable,” it felt like it was so huge it would blow my mind. Between that word and the “rectified,” which she sings in “This Will Be” with the line “I’m so glad that he rectified my mind,” I was a changed little boy. I would write her and send her report cards and when we first met, she was high at a public appearance for Posner Cosmetics. When she wrote me a long letter in 1986 when I was in college, she was a new woman and we seemed to have a new relationship. When I started working at BET, I did my very first interview ever with her and I wrote the discography for “Angel On My Shoulder,” her bestselling autobiography. When Natalie Cole crosses my mind, so does my entire life. I have no idea who I would be in the world without her voice, her music and her friendship. We have talked on the phone for hours and the entire time, I marveled that I was talking to my favorite singer.
What was your process in becoming an openly gay man?
There was no process. I am that I am. When I was 13 years old, my mother asked me if I was ever going to get married. I was reading the newspaper and Anita Bryant, a Florida-based pageant queen who was now an evangelical, was screaming out about gays marrying children and animals and all of that madness that people like to say to make sensational headlines. My mother saw a news piece and asked me that question and I answered: “Yes, ma’am…as soon as they make it legal.” That was my entire conversation with my mother about being gay and I have had very few coming out stories because I come out by using the proper male pronoun to describe who I am dating and I put up pictures of people I love. Your truth is the easiest introduction to anyone because either they accept it or you invite them to keep moving. Who you are is never up for debate or disagreement. To be or not to be … that really is the question.
What is your journey like as a minister?
Now, this was much harder, in that I think I knew as a young man that I had a calling on my life. I tried to tutor and mentor and serve in various capacities to avoid the actual work of ministry. But when Bishop Kwabena Cheeks started his first church in downtown DC, I went. He was a rebel of a community leader in so many fields (martial arts, HIV advocacy) and I believed his voice. I went to the first service on July 4, 1993, and called it spiritual independence day. I thought it would be a great place for the peer counselor, community leader responsible son of Me to get replenished but have no work to do. That changed when Bishop called for a Spiritual Counsel and God told me to join it or else. We were told it wasn’t a Deacon Board, but it quickly turned into one. Once I said yes, God had me. I went from Deacon to Minister and Minister to Pastor and then I was ordained Reverend. I was already consecrated a Pastor to lead a church in New Brunswick, New Jersey, [home of Rutgers’ main campus] and I had to be ordained again the following year. It was fast and furious!
How have you reconciled your sexuality as it pertains to your Christianity?
What is so beautiful is that I have been waiting my entire life for someone to simply ask me that question and I was so blessed that the person who looked me in my eyes and asked me this same question…was Natalie Cole. We were at lunch in L.A. and she asked it because her own brother was a gay man who renounced his homosexuality before dying from AIDS because like so many, he struggled with God and spirituality and his own sexuality. I have been talking to God since I was a kid and I believe God. I also believe that God knows me, my heart, my head, my intention and God keeps on blessing me and using me and calling me and speaking to me and through me and so my life reconciled my faith. When God was with me, close and closer when in 18 days I was supposed to be on that plane with Aaliyah and her beautiful friends and I was supposed to be on the plane from Newark that hit the tower on 9/11, the solidified my faith and my commitment to who I am to God and for God.
What is your reality in dating in 2017?
The reality of dating in 2017 for a tall, Black, out, proud, gay pastor who is also an author and a public presence is…interesting. It’s very interesting to have people assume my unavailability. They will either tell me how busy I am or they will ask if I am single and when I say yes, they stumble because they didn’t expect that and don’t have an opening line beyond the question. I am still in prayer and patience about love and dating. In the meantime, I am living my best and brightest life and if someone can’t handle it here, they surely won’t be able to handle a talk show on OWN after I sit down with Oprah on “Super Soul Sunday.” So, as my spiritual mentor told me years ago, “stop going into the valley to try to convince someone to climb up to your mountain. Enjoy your mountain view and greet the one who does the work to reach you!”
What was the most challenging thing that you shared in your book?
I have long said that I don’t know what I would do when I lost my Momma and when I lost Natalie Cole. My momma died on January 5, 2015. Natalie died on December 31, 2015. My Momma was buried on Jan. 12, 2015, and I preached her funeral and prayed over her as they lowered her into the ground on that day. On January 11, 2016, the world was present for the memorial service of Ms. Natalie Cole. I couldn’t go. I didn’t have the strength to hold myself up and people kept saying “I’m going to need you” or “I am going to need a hug” and I didn’t have one to give. Then God said to me, very softly as I was struggling to book a flight and find somewhere to stay for one night, “if you go, you will not come back whole.” That scared the snot out of me, but I knew that I was broken and tired and hurt and blindsided by Natalie’s sudden death and yet I was still trying to be there and be strong. God loved me enough to say “do not do it” and that saved my life. I would have broken on the flight back because I would have landed, back home, on the one year anniversary of the day I had buried my momma. Being that vulnerable about something so recent, especially when people always think they should have done something, was a huge revelation for me. It was hard to tell people that I almost lost it. Not faith. Not hope. Not God. I almost lost Kevin because my darkest fear had come to pass. I had to walk very slowly out of the abyss of losing Natalie because she wasn’t just a singer or even just a friend. Natalie Maria Cole was the reason I went to school, used big words, spoke eloquently, loved various kinds of music. She was a lighthouse up ahead and as long as I could see her, feel her, hear her and when needed touch her, I was okay. Now, I’m clear that Kevin is more than enough but I also let myself suffer loss for the very first time in my life. I was always the strong one in times of loss and nothing could help me when Natalie died except God and patience.
You have written other books. Please share the titles and the inspiration for them.
Never Too Much is my eighth book. So, here’s my history, Unclutter was written after leaving BET in 2002 and stepping into ministry full-time. Jaded is a novel, written after hearing so many guys talk about love who weren’t actually open to it. Because He Lives is a novel that walks through a love affair blossoming in the midst of tragedy. It’s Time for Some Action is 10 common sense lessons from my momma, expanded and flushed out for real life. Envy (The Darkest Shade of Green) is the sequel to Jaded, picking up five years later, published five years later. Get Off Your A** And Do Something is a collection of sermons, sayings, status updates and tweets that have, over the years, gained me a solid online social media following. The title makes people gasp until they remember Psalm Sunday and Jesus getting off of an ass and taking back His Father’s church. Meet The Hendersons is a novel that unfolds the 46-year love affair with two men who met in the Army and we walk with them through the journey of their lives as one may be losing the other.
How can people order your book or have you speak?
I can be reached online at KevinETaylor.com and when you “contact me” on that page, it goes directly to my phone and computer. My Facebook page is @NowWhatwithKevinETaylor and I post there frequently, with the most popular posting being “Wisdom Wednesday,” a five minute or less motivational video I post every week.