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Harriette Cole

Author and writer Harriette Cole was born on March 14, 1961 in Baltimore, Maryland. Her mother, Doris Freeland Cole, was an educator, and her father was the Honorable Harry A. Cole, Maryland’s first African American Republican Assistant Attorney General and its elected State Senator and judge appointed to the Maryland’s Court of Appeals.

Growing up in Baltimore, Maryland, Cole attended Dickey Hill Elementary School, Greenspring Junior High School and Western High School where she played the violin, sang in the choir and became interested in modeling. She graduated in 1979 and was accepted into the honors liberal arts program at Howard University where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude in 1983.

While at Howard University, Cole worked in retail and as a model. She participated in the Congressional Black Caucus fashion show which began her successful runway modeling career. Unsure of her career track, Cole first worked as a secretary on Capitol Hill after graduation. In late 1983, Cole left Washington, D.C. to accept a position at Essence magazine. During her eleven year tenure there, she held the positions of fashion director and lifestyle editor. Cole served as the founding editorial director of Uptown magazine and the editor of American Legacy Woman magazine.

In 1993, Cole wrote her first book, Jumping the Broom: The African American Wedding Planner, which is in its second edition. Cole has appeared on many national television and radio programs and in many major magazines and newspapers. She is a contributor to NBC’s Today Show.

Cole is president and creative director of Harriette Cole Media, Inc. (formerly Profundities, Inc.), the life coaching, style and literary production company she founded in 1995. For nearly twenty years, Cole has offered media training services to a broad range of individuals and institutions. She has supported the development of artists for Universal Records, J Records, Motown, Warner Music and Def Jam and worked with entertainers including Queen Latifah, JoJo, Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige, Erykah Badu, Tamar, Carl Thomas, Shontelle, Hal Linton, Cara Salimando and Neon Hitch.

Cole is a nationally syndicated columnist of “Sense and Sensitivity,” an etiquette and relationship management advice column targeting diverse audiences. Cole is also a bestselling author of seven books including How to Be: A Guide to Living with Grace and Integrity as well as the preeminent African-American Wedding Planner, Jumping the Broom and its sequel Vows, and 108 stitches: Words We Live By. Cole serves on the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Multicultural Audience Development Initiative.

During her tenure as creative director of Ebony magazine and then the added responsibility of editor in chief, Cole produced groundbreaking covers and features on President Obama, Michelle Obama, Michael Jackson and Prince. Cole co-executive produced a television special about the entertainer Prince that aired on The Africa Channel and was nominated for an NAACP Award.

In 2012, Cole introduced her line of hand-crocheted accessories, 108 stitches, during New York Fashion Week.

Cole is married to fashion photographer George Chinsee, and they have one daughter.

Harriette Cole was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 7, 2006.

Accession Number

A2006.131

Sex

Female

Interview Date

11/7/2006

Last Name

Cole

Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Dickey Hill Elementary School

Greenspring Junior High School

Western High School

Towson University

First Name

Harriette

Birth City, State, Country

Baltimore

HM ID

COL10

Favorite Season

Fall, Summer

State

Maryland

Favorite Vacation Destination

Jamaica

Favorite Quote

See God In Each Other.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

3/14/1961

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Pudding (Corn)

Short Description

Talent coach and model Harriette Cole (1961 - ) is the creative director of Ebony magazine. She is also founder and creative director of Harriette Cole Productions, an etiquette and life coaching company; is the author of several books on etiquette and lifestyle; and writes a nationwide advice column.

Favorite Color

Yellow

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Harriette Cole's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Harriette Cole lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Harriette Cole describes her mother's family history

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Harriette Cole describes her grandmother's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Harriette Cole talks about her maternal great-grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Harriette Cole describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Harriette Cole talks about what she learned from her father

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Harriette Cole describes her father's service in the U.S. Army and his law practice

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Harriette Cole talks about her family and how her parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Harriette Cole talks about her father's career as a lawyer and as a judge on the Maryland Court of Appeals

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Harriette Cole talks about her father's personality

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Harriette Cole talks about her father's diabetes and his death

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Harriette Cole talks about her childhood and elementary school

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Harriette Cole talks about how her community monitored her behavior

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Harriette Cole shares her earliest childhood memory and her love of writing

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Harriette Cole shares her experience at Greenspring Junior High School

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Harriette Cole describes her family's preparations for Christmas and Thanksgiving, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Harriette Cole describes her family's preparations for Christmas and Thanksgiving, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Harriette Cole describes the tastes and smells of her childhood in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Harriette Cole describes her childhood community in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Harriette Cole describes her father's black tie birthday celebrations

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Harriette Cole describes her experience in elementary and junior high school

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Harriette Cole talks about her experience at Western High School in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Harriette Cole talks about graduating from Western High School in Baltimore, Maryland and attending her prom

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Harriette Cole remembers hearing about the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the riots in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Harriette Cole talks about her modeling club at Western High School in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Harriette Cole describes her experience at Towson State University in Towson, Maryland

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Harriette Cole talks about her guidance counselors at Western High School in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Harriette Cole describes her experience at Howard University in Washington, D.C., pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Harriette Cole describes her experience at Howard University in Washington, D.C., pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Harriette Cole describes working for Congresswoman Barbara Boxer in 1983

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Harriette Cole talks about starting her career as a fashion writer

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Harriette Cole describes her experience in the lifestyle department at Essence magazine

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Harriette Cole talks about becoming fashion editor at Essence magazine and being asked to write a book on weddings

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Harriette Cole describes writing and promoting her book, "Jumping the Broom"

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Harriette Cole describes meeting her husband, HistoryMaker George Chinsee

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Harriette Cole talks about HistoryMaker Susan Taylor and embracing her natural hair

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Harriette Cole talks about learning how to dress plus-size models at Essence magazine

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Harriette Cole describes the start of her business, Profundities, Inc., and launching Savoy magazine

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Harriette Cole describes her experience working with singers through her business, Profundities, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Harriette Cole talks about her syndicated advice column, "Sense and Senitivity"

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Harriette Cole talks about appearing on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and faith in the media

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Harriette Cole describes the growth of her business, Profundities, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Harriette Cole reflects upon her regrets

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Harriette Cole talks about the importance of community in nurturing talents

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Harriette Cole shares her values

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Harriette Cole describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Harriette Cole describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Harriette Cole reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Harriette Cole concludes her interview

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$4

DAStory

7$7

DATitle
Harriette Cole talks about what she learned from her father
Harriette Cole talks about starting her career as a fashion writer
Transcript
My father [Harry Augustus Cole] went to Morgan State [University in Baltimore, Maryland], which was Morgan State College, at the time. And in order to raise whatever money it cost to go there, he shined shoes for a year, and there--and I, I inherited his shoe shinning kit, which is this beautiful wooden shoe shining kit. And he--because he learned how to do a spit shine and really make the shoes and boots look beautiful, he understood how to do it well and he always took really good care of his clothes, of his shoes. And I remember him telling us as we were growing up, "You don't have to have much, but whatever you have needs to be of good quality, and you need to take care of it." And one time, I tell you I inherited his feet, so one time I had this one pair of shoes, 'cause there were many years that I had one pair of shoes. 'Cause we would search up and down the Eastern seaboard looking for shoes that would fit these long narrow feet. I had one pair of shoes that was a slingback with a nice heel and I wore those shoes into the ground, the heels were all, you know like, looked like they were shaved. The heel (laughing) was coming up and I, and I didn't realize it for a certain point. And I said, "Oh no what am I gonna do" 'cause it wasn't like I could just go to the store and find another pair. So I said Daddy will know, and I brought them to him "Could you please ask your shoemaker, your shoe man if he would fix them?" And he said, "I am embarrassed to take these shoes anywhere, and I will take them if you promise to never let to this happen again." And then I had go through hearing all the stories of how he paid his way go get into school and the importance of taking care of your shoes. He had my heels restored, and the funny thing is, all these things that I learned growing up, I now teach people, I earn a living teaching people how to do things my parents taught me. People ask me well how did you get to do this stuff, because I had no choice but to pay attention to my parents, and even as I grew up, the reminded me. Even though he's gone, I hear him, in my, in my head, "Did you shine those shoes, girl, don't go out looking a mess, we don't go out looking a mess. Head to toe you need to have it all together." So he went to college earning enough money to pay whatever it was, he got a scholarship, an academic scholarship but he still needed more money. He was a history major and when he was at Morgan, he began writing, and I don't know when he knew he wanted to work in the law, but he knew it early on. And by the way, my father was a Republican, he decided--there was a group of young African American men during his time, you know in the '40s [1940s] and early '50s [1950s] who decided that they would try to use the Republican Party to our advantage. There was a belief that we needed to be in both parties strong in order to make an important enough impact on our government. And he and a number of other African American men in particular, joined the Republican Party and my father became very prominent. He wrote a political column for the [Baltimore] Afro American newspaper and you know I write a column, it's so interesting. And we look of the pictures of him in his column and I look like him. My father was very tall, he was almost six two, he carried himself even taller, so he always--he had quiet stature, very dark skinned man who because he was tall and dark and potentially imposing, always made it his business to look pristine. You know he had one suit for a long time, but he looked good in that one suit, and he carried himself with dignity and he learned from his mother [Rosina Thompson Cole] social graces. And let me tell you every social grace that anyone could learn, we learned growing up because our parents [Doris Irene Freeland Cole and Harry Augustus Cole] said this was very important. You needed to know, you needed to know how to play the game the way the game is played, you needed to know what the rules are. The rules of the table, the rules of the social setting, the rules of a party, the rules of dance, my father, I don't know who taught him how to dance, maybe his sisters? But we learned how to Waltz, Two-Step, Cha Cha in my basement, because my father said, that his daughters would know how to dance. So that we could go to a formal affair, and know what you wear to a formal affair, and know how to present ourselves there. So when we were growing up, we didn't want to know that stuff, but I'm glad we know it now. And I believe that his sisters probably taught him, and then along the way.$So I said, "I need to move to New York [New York City, New York]," now nobody in my family moved from Baltimore [Maryland], I'd already moved to [Washington] D.C. who in the world did I think I was? Now I want to move to New York, I decided that I wanted to be a writer, a fashion writer. But the only thing--and the reason I chose fashion writing, is that the only thing I knew write about people would pay to read about was fashion, it was very practical. The--my love was writing, my love was fashion, put those together, but I had no clips. I'd written fashion for the Hilltop, the Howard [University in Washington, D.C.] newspaper, that wasn't enough, so, yeah I did write the fashion column there. So I convinced two small newspapers in Washington D.C. that were free papers, Washington had a lot of free newspapers, to let me write fashion for them for free. So I created my own internships, so now I had a full-time job, I was modeling and I wrote two fashion columns, and I had to spend money. And I made, I think I made like eleven thousand dollars a year, I don't know it was such a little bit of money even in 1983. I could hardly pay the bus fare to get to the job to write these columns. But I built a body of clips over the course of the year, with the intention of moving to New York and year--in a year to be a fashion writer. And I called all people I know who, who lived in New York because my mother [Doris Irene Freeland Cole] had told me treat people nicely, always be kind to people and the ones who you really care about, the ones that there's some spark, stay in touch with them. Leave a good impression and stay in touch with them. Well there was a woman who produced the fashion shows at Howard that I was in, and her name is [HM] Monique Greenwood, she's a year older than me, I believe. And she had moved to New York and she was working for Fairchild Publications [Fairchild Fashion Media], which is the company that does all, like W Magazine, Women's Wear Daily, DNR which is the men's version of "Women's Wear Daily", they had the fashion bible. So I called her to ask her if she could get me an interview, 'cause I knew nobody could get you a job, but could you get me an interview? And I called another woman who's my soror, Katia James [ph.] who worked at Essence; "Can you get me an interview?" I got both interviews and I was offered a job at both places, not in fashion, in lifestyle in both places, there were no jobs in fashion available. And the job at Essence just seemed more suited to me and I tell you, everybody I talk to, told me I was crazy to go to Essence rather than to go to the company that was the bible of the fashion industry. But the job that was available, it was at HFD, which was the Home Furnishings Daily, it was business writing job. I had been writing poetry and short stores and fashion articles like about designers, I don't wanna be a business writer. So I trusted my gut instinct and said let me go work for Essence, and, and let me back up and say, when I was making the decision to go to Howard, almost everybody I know said "Don't go there. If you go to a black school, you'll never get a job," then I was told "If you go work for a black publication, you'll never be able to work anywhere else." So these are bad dead ends, and I'm so glad that I made my gut choice anyway. I did my research but Essence, even back then was the preeminent black woman's magazine.