Meet Caroline Wanga: CEO of Essence, Media personality and All-time Melanated Badass!

Only a school drop-out born of professors understands the pressure that comes with it.

But the sassy United States-based Kenyan Caroline Wanga dusted herself from an early setback to earn a degree and 10 promotions up the corporate ladder in 13 years.

In 2021, she reached yet another milestone. She was appointed the chief executive officer of Essence Communications Inc and the chief growth officer of Essence Ventures in the United States.

Essence is an independent black-owned consumer technology company focused on merging content, community, and commerce to meet the evolving cultural and lifestyle needs of people of colour.

Caroline had said of her appointment: “I could not be more excited for the opportunity to lead this cornerstone of black culture into its next phase of growth, innovation and impact alongside this incredible team of accomplished women, particularly in this time of national and global reckoning on the systemic injustices that we face as black women and as a black community.”

She is in charge of Essence magazine, the publication that targets African-American women and covers fashion, entertainment, beauty and culture.

Born in Kisumu 43 years ago, Caroline talked to the Sunday Lifestyle about her journey of ebb and flow, at home and abroad, being a teenage mother and college drop-out, all that hardened her already inspired self and earned her the zeal, laced with finesse to set her eye on whatever prize and win it.

She was raised at the precincts of Kenyatta University, where her professor parents; Dr Pamela Obondi-Wanga from Kisumu and Dr Lucas Wanga from Mumias, Kakamega County, used to teach.

She says she enjoyed an environment which fostered academic excellence and the best of human character, which infused a belief that she could do anything she wanted.

“In hindsight, that foundation is still part of who I am today,” Caroline remarked.

She schooled at Kenyatta University Primary School then moved to the US in 1988 with her mother and three brothers to join her father, who was attending the University of Minnesota for his doctorate degree in educational psychology.

Growing up, she had several, diverse aspirations throughout her childhood — a pastor, doctor, Olympic heptathlete and other media unrelated professions like police officer, teacher, lawyer, interior designer and a camp counsellor.

She missed all that, landed a business course, and ended up peaking in the media industry. Because her zeal knows no boundaries.

She has been named a top executive in corporate diversity by Black Enterprise and one of Savoy’s most powerful women in corporate America.

Fervent to make it, she started as an intern with the Target Corporation, a distribution company, at one of their centres in Tyler, Texas. She continued in a variety of supply chain transformation roles as well as transformational leadership roles; human resource, business intelligence, digital and strategy capabilities.

This led to a serving as Target’s chief culture, diversity and inclusion officer, where she was responsible for Target’s strategic intent to champion an inclusive society with accountability for inclusive guest experiences, a diverse and inclusive work environment and societal impact.

She is one of the faces of successful black women in the US. She describes it as humbling.

“I have been blessed to be surrounded by strong black women my whole life. From my mum, to my aunts, cousins, daughter, friends, colleagues, leaders, and mentors – I do not take it lightly and understand the obligation I have to pay it forward and represent a real black woman who has existed in the trials and triumphs of life and consistently practices failure recovery,” Caroline said.

“I want every imperfect Black girl and woman out there like me to have an audacious personal agenda fuelled by their personal and professional purpose, but defined by progress, not perfection,” she added.

This article was culled from

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