The #eachforequal theme this International Women’s Day touches on the idea of collective individualism; that we all have a responsibility to do our part to ensure a gender-equal society. A common question you get on this day is ‘which women inspire you?’ I truly think there is no definitive answer. I’ve been inspired by so many people over time.
Casting my mind back to my teenage years was a bit of a challenge but I’ve compiled my list, which I think ties in nicely for the #EachForEqual theme this International Women’s Day. These women have used their platforms to not only do what they love but support causes important to them. Let’s take a walk through memory lane…
The Spice Girls… For showing me the meaning of girl-power
I’m going to say it loud and proud – The Spice Girls were my all-time favourite. I adored this group and loved that there was so much to identify with so young; friendship, girl power and having fun. I think every group of girlfriends felt that the Spice Girls were a reflection of them. The only sad thing was the eventual split of the group but even that was a lesson that we’d learn later on in life where friendships end you inevitably grow apart from people.
Jackie Collins… For showing me the exciting side of writing
Jackie Collins rocked my teenage years with her sordid stories and her bold, brazen characters. I remember picking up one of her books at the airport and opening the first page which read, “What’s the best sex you’ve ever had?” I closed the book and looked around to see if anyone was peeping and reading along with me. That was my introduction to Collins and also where I fell in love with her female protagonist, Madison Castelli. I was then was head over heels for Lucky Santangelo as I read more of her work. Both fictional characters, but oh my God did I want them to be real people. I miss Jackie Collins tremendously and still feel quite sad that we’ll never see how her characters continue to evolve.
My English teachers… For equipping me with the education I needed
Believe it or not, my English teachers in my secondary school were a huge source of inspiration. If it wasn’t for the collective efforts of Ms Atwood, Ms Athanasi and Ms Taylor, I don’t know what my career would look like now. They made English fun and out of all my subjects at school, it was English I most looked forward to. I loved it so much that Journalism awaited me at university and a place among other writers and journalists in the working world upon graduating. We take them for granted but I’m so thankful for having the teachers and lecturers I had throughout my educational journey.
Angelina Jolie… For being unconventional
I have always loved Angelina Jolie. She’s not the stereotypical Hollywood actress. She takes risks and even to this day navigates through life to the beat of her own drum. I can’t tell you how much I love that. Sure she’s not everyone’s cup of tea – if she was, then she wouldn’t be who she is. Say what you want about her relationships and past, she’s raised a beautiful family while campaigning for worthwhile causes around the world. She’s even been very forthcoming about her health issues, undergoing a preventative double mastectomy and a preventative oophorectomy after learning about her chances of developing both breast and ovarian cancer.
Queen Rania… For her philanthropy
At age 20, it was all about Queen Rania of Jordan for me. Her work in education, community empowerment and with the youth is incredibly impressive. She’s helped to create opportunities by refurbishing 500 schools in Jordan over a five year period and has created the Queen Rania scholarship programme which partners with a number of universities from around the world. In addition to that, she’s probably one of the most graceful women I’ve ever laid my eyes on and so social media savvy! I hope she continues to work for causes she feels strongly about.
Lilly Singh… For her work ethic
Whenever anyone mentions the word ‘hustle’, I think of Lilly Singh. I first watched one of her videos that were posted on Facebook and ended up crying with laughter. The rest they say was history. I love Lilly’s energy, positivity, her outlook on days that seem bleak and her work ethic. My God, this woman werrrrrrkkssss. You can tell she puts her all into her projects which is why she’s amassed a following over 8 million subscribers on YouTube and has already gone on a world tour, released a handful of music videos and is now exploring opportunities in Los Angeles. My birthday twin, I always look to her when I feel like I’m slacking. There’s always a video or a reminder of some sort to keep me going.
Deepika Padukone… For her bravery
It was around this age that I started falling head over heels for Deepika Padukone. It had been so long since I had been in awe of a Bollywood actress and I loved that she didn’t hail from a filmy family. She didn’t waltz into Bollywood thanks to a famous actress mother or a producer father. She worked and earned her stripes among the big dogs in Bollywood. However, it was her battle with depression that sealed her as an inspiration for me. She openly voiced her struggles – quite an uncommon move for an Indian actress. By talking openly about her depression, she opened the door for discussion on mental health in India, something rarely spoke about.
Taraji P Henson… For her determination to shatter glass ceilings
The more I see of Taraji P Henson, the more I love her. Her portrayal of Cookie Lyon on TV show Empire has won her Best Actress awards and you don’t have to look far to see why. Sassy and fierce both on-screen and off, she’s also got such a zest for life, which is something I think we all take for granted. Sure, she’s an actress and is able to enjoy the finer things in life but she’s worked to get to where she is and I can completely appreciate that. Taraji continues to climb that ladder and as she succinctly puts it: ‘For whatever reason, God gave me this life, and I’m not gon’ f–k it up.’
Naga Munchetty… For showing me that it can be done
Finally, I have noticed a surge in Asian faces within the media which is great to see in terms of diversity. One presenter who I’ve grown to love over a few years is Naga Munchetty. Bright and bubbly, she fronts the BBC Breakfast Show.
I’ve felt like everyone has a mentor or figure that they regard with respect when it comes to their career and for me, Naga is that person. Starting out as a financial journalist, she progressed into broadcasting working as a producer and then moved into presenting and reporting. It’s important to pay attention (and admiration) to people who have achieved the goals and ambitions you’re also working towards. They’ve obviously worked to get to where they are, which makes them the perfect inspiration when you really feel the struggle.
My Mum… For patiently waiting for me to see the light
You go through somewhat tumultuous times with your mum; first, she’s someone you depend on, then someone you don’t see eye to eye with, but eventually, you come to realise that you’re not that different from one another.
She’s been an inspiration to me way before my 30’s but it took my late twenties to fully realise how she’s had my back from the start; supporting my educational and career choices, advising me when I’ve had to deal with difficult situations and difficult people and just generally ready to defend and protect at any given moment (She’s a Leo, what do you expect?). I do find myself being a lot like her and while most girls might shudder at the thought of it, I kind of like it.
Michelle Obama… For being unapologetically authentic
Her book was a runaway success and it’s not hard to see why. Michelle Obama poured her heart and her wisdom out in ‘Becoming’, showing all of us we are still evolving and coming into our own. From her humble beginnings to her successful career and life beyond the White House, you can’t help but become introspective and take stock of all you’ve done and all you wish to become.
Which ladies have inspired you along the years? Have they changed drastically as time has gone on? Also, just a sidenote to enjoy International Women’s Day and celebrate with those women – and men – who continue to champion and support you!