In celebration of International Women’s Day, I thought I’d bring you a list of 8 women that have made a difference in my life, taught me a thing or two, or have inspired me to create, better myself or just exist unapologetically!
1. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I doubt anybody stumbling upon this list has not heard of Ms. Chimamanda. Renowned Nigerian writer – reputable for Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah. However, the piece that made a fundamental difference in my life is the essay We Should All Be Feminists. Adichie presented a TED talk entitled ‘The Danger of a Single Story’ in which she discussed the issue of underrepresentation, saying:
Now, I loved those American and British books I read. They stirred my imagination. They opened up new worlds for me. But the unintended consequence was that I did not know that people like me could exist in literature.
Adichie brings unapologetic living to existence and has personally inspired me to never hesitate to put myself out there and create something that represents me and my individual identity.
Whoever you are and whatever you identify as, this talk is a must-watch!
2. Tavi Gevinson
I discovered this lady in my early teens. At this point in my life I was at the peak of figuring out what I’m passionate about and testing my ability at absolutely everything; filmmaking, writing, curation, illustration, and the list goes on. Tavi started a fashion blog Style Rookie at age 11 featuring outlandish outfits and her authentic commentary on fashion trends. Style Rookie developed into the online magazine Rookie (which I still read, despite having outgrown some of the content) and she has since added acting to her repertoire. For a couple of years, I was absolutely obsessed with this young woman. Considering we were a year apart in age and she was doing everything I saw myself doing, it was a huge motivating force to do me, regardless of criticism or underestimation.
The way she processed and put down her thoughts and creative inspirations was something I utilised myself. Putting your mind on paper to visually depict and understand how all your inspirations interlink and what you can personally draw from them. She gave the many elements of adolescence that go unnoticed or disregarded the recognition they deserve.
3. Esther Perel
Esther Perel is a Belgian psychotherapist notable for work in the realms of human relationships. Sure, she was trained in psychodynamic psychotherapy, which is not the most celebrated branch of psychology, however the topics she chooses to tackle in her books and TED talks are fundamental to all of our lives yet we don’t often delve into them with the attention they deserve – such as ‘erotic intelligence’, maintaining desire in a long-term relationship or tackling infidelity. She made this list for starting the conversation.
No topic should be too sensitive to discuss if it has an impact on your life or the lives of those around you. It all contributes to the understanding of the bigger picture.
4. Hoda Katebi
Hoda Katebi is a Chicago-based Muslim-Iranian ‘abolitionist, author, community organiser and radical fashion blogger’. Hoda’s a very recent discovery for me, but in 2013 the started JooJoo Azad, a ‘radical, anti-capitalist fashion blog’ aimed to shed some light on representation and challenging Western Orientalism along with the mandatory dress codes in Iran. What I appreciate about Hoda is she showcases herself through her message and the change she is working towards. I was pleased to discover her blog because the ‘manifesto’ it promoted was founded on celebrating unapologetic identity reclamation, promoting a minimalistic and ethically-conscious lifestyle, body-positivity and intersectionality.
Hoda was on WGN and was asked to speak about her work after which she got told she doesn’t “sound American” – watch the interview below to see her response & read the blog post for her comprehensive take on this and what it means to “sound American”
5. Hannah Witton
Hannah has always been a long-term favorite. A 20-something northern girl living in London who makes weekly YouTube videos about sex-ed, feminism, relationships, body image, gender, sexuality, and more recently her personal experience with Ulcerative Colitis. Hannah’s channel was a platform for me to be part of a bigger conversation I wouldn’t otherwise get to have. What I also respect about Hannah is when she is tackling something she is less experienced with or knowledgeable about, she uses her platform to give other people the opportunity to speak and educate. She’s also 1/3 of my favorite bookclub of all time – ‘Banging Book Club’ – alongside Leena Norms & Lucy Moon (another favorite!)
In my previous blog, I wrote a piece about an interview she did with Athena Kugblenu on her self-produced and hosted webseries Girl on Girl on ‘Who Gets To Have It All’. This episode stirred up a lot in me and I felt it was a conversation worth expanding on.
6. Oprah Winfrey
I won’t even get into telling you who Oprah is, but the reason she has made it on my list is the magnificent way she has overcome adversity and self-actualised through her career (and her personal life). The things she has gone through have put a stop to many people’s lives because it is unimaginably difficult to heal and progress. However I will not reduce her to her adversity, because she is made of hard work, but the way she turned her adversity into a ball of positive and globally beneficial energy, is impressive regardless.
Landing a job in radio while still in high-school, co-anchoring the local evening news at age 19, launching her own production company, breaking taboos, giving a voice through her platform, promoting self-help, and investing $40 million establishing the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, south of Johannesburg, South Africa, amongst many many things. Many have criticised her for having “an overly emotion-centred approach”, but if her work had only aided one individual out there (and that’s an immense understatement in her case), then that’s more than enough.
7. Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo was a Mexican artist renowned for painting brutal self-portraits amongst many other things. Her paintings tackled infertility, miscarriages, heartbreak, gender equality and sickness and was an example of living unapologetically despite the endless list of hardships she endured throughout her life. She transcended the standards and expectations set for “female beauty” with her raw features, individual style and lack of regard for having hair on her body!!!!! Her life and existence was worth more than whether she was stereotypically “f*ck-able”. In addition she was politically active and challenged the gender-stereotypes present in her community. Go Frida!
8. Sofia Coppola
American screenwriter, director, producer who made her film debut as an infant in her father’s acclaimed crime drama, The Godfather. I discovered Coppola with The Virgin Suicides, her feature-length debut, based on the novel of the same name by Jeffery Eugenides (one of my favorite books of all time). At the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, she became the second woman (and first American woman) in the festival’s history to win the Best Director award (for the drama film The Beguiled). As an aspiring filmmaker myself, seeing women make a name for themselves in the realm of film is always inspiring to me.
Watch The Virgin Suicides (and on an irrelevant note LISTEN TO THE SOUNDTRACK!!)
BONUS: My Mom!
For encouraging me to build and grow my voice. For listening to me rant on and on and on about at least 5 of the women on this list as I developed my identity. For always supporting my work and giving me the constructive criticism I need to improve. For being a successful working woman while raising two children and carrying their world on her shoulders to ensure their journey was as smooth as possible. Thank you for showing me what a strong, independent, trusting, passionate and loving woman looks like. I aspire to make you proud.
Thank you for reading – all my love, support and congrats to the women out there giving a voice to those in need, bettering their lives and the lives of those around them and most of all just living unapologetically.