Although Zoom calls can sometimes feel impersonal, I am immediately struck by the warmth in Mitzi’s voice as we begin our interview. Mitzi Miller is an open book, excited to talk about her career journey- one that has spanned multiple forms of media- books, magazines, and most recently, television. She is now Vice-President of Drama Development in the Scripted TV Department at Warner Brothers Studios.
Of her career trajectory, she says, “it’s been quite the adventure.” Originally studying to be an English teacher, her path took a sharp turn when she became seriously ill from auto-immune hepatitis (AIH) in college, which would prevent her from being able to thrive in a teaching environment. Surviving this autoimmune crisis gave her a mindset of focus and determination, driving her towards her eventual career in media. It also gave her a philosophy of living to her fullest capacity, not settling for mediocrity or unhappiness. She says the opportunity to still be here made her “committed to not settling and not just taking what was available and not staying in situations where [she] was unhappy or felt like it was no longer serving.” She says that her experiences have made her intentional about putting her happiness first, which has helped her to see the opportunities around her.
She sees herself as a storyteller and her career reflects her desire to share stories with others. After college, she took an unpaid internship at Honey Magazine and worked her way up through the magazine world to become a writer. While working as a journalist, she co-authored several books with her friends- books that she said reflected their experiences. One of these books, The Vow: A Novel, went on to become a television movie on the Lifetime Network. Seeing how people connected with these books and with the protagonists was fulfilling for Miller, especially because she is an avid reader herself, and has fond memories of frequenting the library near her house growing up.
Her parents- both of whom immigrated to the US- have had a profound impact on her career choices. They encouraged her as a young reader and moved close enough to a library so the family could walk there. She says she didn’t go home and watch TV after school- instead, they spent time reading. Over the years, her mother encouraged her to take chances in life, which translated into Miller’s receptivity to both challenges and opportunity. After working as a writer, she became Editor-in-Chief at Jet Magazine and later, at Ebony Magazine. Her work at Jet was meaningful as she recalls having Jet Magazine in her home when she was growing up. She says Jet “was the only English language publication in her home at first that both her parents could get through.” She sees the magazine as a connector, providing “bite-sized cultural conversations.”
As a television executive, her schedule is busy. Like most of us, she spends a lot of time connecting with others through her computer and a lot of her day is spent in meetings. The rest of her day is spent reading through submissions and project ideas. No matter how busy she is, however, she manages to find balance throughout her day. During our conversation, she reflected on how each of us determines what truly matters in our lives.
Miller has excelled in her work, but she reveals part of her motivation has come from times when she’s felt that she failed. Finding herself in professional positions that were not right for her led her to insight and clarity that helped her find her footing and move to her next position. For this executive, every moment is teachable, and success comes from both perseverance and tenacity. One piece of advice she gives as we come to the end of our call is that “there is no such thing as no. It just means not here…not with you…not now…not this way. But it’s just not at this time. Everything is doable.”
With that outlook on life, the possibilities are endless.
The Gaudy: Insights episode featuring Mitzi Miller will be released on January 26th on all podcast platforms.