Mothers play many roles in their daughters’ lives — teacher, protector, disciplinarian, caretaker, cheerleader and, of course, friend. Kristen Taylor is no exception. Along with acting as the Deputy Director at National Alliance on Mental Illness, she takes on all of the above roles and adds one more as a self-proclaimed “momager” for 17-year-old daughter and aspiring vocal artist Taylor Taylor. As a single mom, raising Taylor on her own with the support and love of her mother and grandmother, Kristen has developed a special bond with Taylor. In fact, they are two of a kind; they wear the same shoe size, share clothes and even finish each other’s sentences. Although not a family in the traditional sense, watching the duo swap stories and share personal experiences makes it clear, they are a perfect family all their own. “I remember when Taylor was little and she asked me if we were a family,” said Kristen. “I remember thinking ‘this is the perfect time to talk about how many different types of families there are out there, and just because we aren’t exactly like everyone else doesn’t matter, we are definitely a family.’” The sentiment stuck with Taylor. “Growing up I never thought of it as different. I like how fun and laid back she is. I know my friends don’t get to do the same kind of stuff with their moms as I do with mine,” said Taylor. “We take adventures just the two of us because we can.” One of those adventures has lead to a huge change in their lives as Taylor works to pursue a career in the music industry. As any mother would, Kristen whole-heartedly supports Taylor and her dreams but she takes it one step further to play an important role as Taylor’s manager, or “momager” as she playfully calls it. “We put in a lot of time. If we want to be successful we have to. Where would we all be if our parents supported our dreams, if they recognized a talent in their child and really helped them go with it,” Kristen said. “I think it’s fun to be the momager. It takes a lot of time and energy. I had to learn a lot — everything from building a website, to managing a business. I don’t mind doing all those things, but I make Taylor help when she can. I think it’s important she knows how to do all this. I won’t always be there, so she needs to know how to do this, how to run her business.” Taylor has always dreamed of performing but didn’t always have the confidence to do so. With the help of her mom and teachers at Marshall Music, Taylor took the first steps to accomplishing her dream in 2009 when she performed at her first live recital. “I always wanted to be singer, to be on stage, but having the courage to perform in front of people was hard,” said Taylor. “I was really shy in the beginning. I would get cold and shaky.” Kristen had a feeling time would change that. “Before lessons she would not perform. She took voice lessons and finally got the courage to get up there and do it,” Kristen said proudly. “And I was at the back of the room taking a million pictures. She got up there and I heard her and thought ‘Wow, she can really sing!’ After that she said, ‘Mom I really want to do this for real, can you help me do more?’” “I didn’t want to leave the stage,” Taylor added. Now, several years later, Taylor’s career has started to take off, preforming at well-know events such as Common Ground and opening for popular artists such as Radio Disney’s Shane Harper, along with dozens of other events and live performances. Taylor has even auditioned for “American Idol” and “The Voice” making it to their first round auditions. “I can see a lot of growth. If I look back at my first YouTube video I just think, ‘What was I doing!’ I can see a lot more in my performances now,” said Taylor. “My skills have grown, my technique and my stage presence.” Mom agrees. “I am just so proud every time she gets up there,” said Kristen. “She is so humble and is always learning. She takes advice and really tries to improve. It isn’t always easy, it takes up a lot of time and she has to choose sometimes what comes first.” Given Taylor’s age, that choice can be difficult. “It has come with some sacrifices from other things. A lot of my shows are on Friday night and Saturday night and that is when a lot of kids hang out with their friends,” said Taylor. “I don’t always get to do that. But I have great friends that are really supportive so it works out.” Although Taylor knows all that she has accomplished has come from her hard work and dedication, she acknowledges it has been a team effort from both artist and momager. “Everything she has done, it means the world to me. Without her support it would have been difficult,” said Taylor. “I think I still would have continued playing guitar and singing, but I don’t know how far I would have gotten out of my bedroom.” Despite her success so far, Kristen said she stresses to Taylor the realities of the competitive field she is in. “As her mom I believe in her and as her manager, I know she can do it. But as a parent, I always want her to know there are so many other avenues in music,” said Kristen. “Sometimes I have to be honest and it isn’t always easy but there are a very small amount of people that make it and I just want Taylor to know there are options and it’s ok to change her mind down the road.” Taylor adds, “I’d rather be a musician and live on a little and be happy then do something I don’t love.” It’s that spirit exactly that Kristen adores in her daughter. “That is what I love about you (Taylor),” said Kristen. “But I think some day you’ll say you want to make more money. I just want you to know the more options you have, the more choices you can make and the happier you can be.” The pair doesn’t know exactly what is next for them, but wherever the road leads, they’ll travel it together. “I really just want to keep doing what I am doing,” Taylor said. “I think I’ll go to LCC (Lansing Community College) for a few years and I hope to transfer somewhere out of state with a larger music scene. We’ll see.” “I’d be happy to follow,” Kristen added with a smile. For now the pair are happy with the direction Taylor’s career is moving in and both are enthusiastic to continue growing in the industry. But above all else, the girls’ focus is on happiness. “At the end of the day I want her to be happy and I want her to have fantastic mental health and keep her uplifting attitude,” said Kristen. “I know she’s going to be fine performing. And I know that people change and go through transitions so above all else I want her to be happy. I will support her no matter what. If she wants to be a songwriter or an agent or anything I would support her … What matters in life is the journey, the adventure and the people.”
Ami Iceman-Hauter is the Brand Manager at M3 Group in downtown Lansing. Iceman is a graduate of Michigan State University with a bachelors degree in creative advertising.