The first time Taylor Mayol visited OZY, we put her in an interrogation room — one chair, one harsh spotlight, no mineral water — and asked her why she wanted to work here so badly. After all, she had emailed us some seven times in six months. And this experienced professional with a master’s in African studies from Stanford was asking not for a senior editor role, or to run a department … no, she wanted to be an intern. Was it passion or pathology?
As is the case with most of us here at OZY, the answer is: probably a little of both.
Accident-prone and long-limbed, she grew up playing sports and holding her own with a crowd of neighborhood boys, digging mud pits and riding bikes in California’s two-oh-nine. Natives of the Central Valley have an intense pride of place, but in pursuit of her goals, Taylor had to leave home in a big way. After college, she weaseled her way — her words — into a foreign policy think tank in the Africa program in Washington, D.C. She then worked with resettled refugees from places like Eritrea and Myanmar in the D.C. area, helping them figure out how to ride the bus, navigate American supermarkets and find employment.
Later, she lived in South Africa, Rwanda and Madagascar. In Madagascar, Modesto’s best lived 30 hours by car from the capital, learned to scuba dive, picked up some French and Malagasy (that’s Fralagasy to you), learned to really love rice (every. single. day.), worked on marine conservation and became reluctant BFFs with hissing cockroaches. Whatever she tells you, we’re pretty sure this was a rocky love affair.
It’s been about a year since Taylor joined OZY, and we don’t know what we’d do without her. After about 10 minutes as an intern, she was promptly promoted to fellow, and then to staff reporter. And she applies the same perseverance that kept her knocking at our e-door to her reporting. (She may or may not forgive those of us who think of her as Tenacious T.) When she’s not reading and writing about African superheroes, ill-gotten gains in Equatorial Guinea, eye care in Rwanda and mad scientists, you can find her covering OZY’s pet beat (be thankful you’re not a lemur). On winter weekends she rips down the ski slopes in Tahoe and dreams of travel … Senegal, Chile, Japan … In the summer, she’s in perpetual search of sunshine.
Taylor is a vegetarian, but she eats bacon, extra crispy. With her on staff, Stromae now has three OZY megafans. Oh, and that streak in her hair is gray, and it’s real, and it came to be when she was a kid. True to the rest of Taylor Mayol, it’s got a story.