In honor of International Women’s Day, I wanted to celebrate a few of the women that have been inspirational in my life. These women have influenced me at different times in my life and have inspired me to live fully, be creative, give back, and to keep pursuing all of my crazy dreams.
When I was growing up, I watched Nick at Night, TV Land, and TCM religiously. I sometimes thought I was born 40 years too late. I watched women like Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, and Elizabeth Montgomery in movies and tv. And then there was Lucy. She was the first female comedian I was exposed to and is one of my favorites to this day.
In her role in I Love Lucy, she played an ambitious woman, always trying to make it into show business, and never settling for her role as a housewife. She was always causing trouble, but she never gave up. I knew all the words to the famous Vitametavegamin rant, and remember every scene whether she was stomping grapes at a vineyard or boxing chocolates at a chocolate factory.
She was the first pregnant woman to play a pregnant woman on tv and had her first child at the age of 40 and her second at 42. Later, Lucille bought out Desi Arnaz, by then her ex husband, in his share of Desliu Productions, making her the sole owner and first female to run a major tv network. Lucille Ball was revolutionary for the time– as a working mother, she proved that you can have a career and be a mother and women are funny too.
She grew up in Hong Kong and later settled down in Paris with her husband, many dogs, and many children. A few years ago, they bought a 15-bedroom house in Bordeaux’s Médoc region in France. She started a blog, Manger, where she shares her recipes and snapshots of her beautiful house and family, and has written two cookbooks. She hosts workshops at her home every year, and one of my goals is to attend one within the next couple years. She has inspired me by showing how you can make a career out of your favorite things, and she is an inspiration for us all by showing how everyday life can be elegant– even with a house full of children and dogs.
I read about Samasource and its founder Leila Janah while I was in graduate school. Leila Janah started the nonprofit that gives work to people living in poverty. Employees are taught basic computer skills and given “microwork”. Companies like Google and eBay hire Samasource to do large computer projects. These are broken down into smaller tasks (“microwork”), which the employees perform. Leila Janah’s work has given dignified work to people that otherwise have had no formal training. By giving work, she empowers women living in poverty. She has inspired me to pursue meaningful work and to make decisions that are impactful – through the things I buy and the stores I shop at, the products I consume, and the way I treat other people. Leila Janah has proven that you can be successful while empowering others.
When I was growing up, I dreamed of becoming a fashion designer. I read Vogue and InStyle and looked at the beautiful gowns designed by Vera Wang. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Wang started figure skating as a child and turned to fashion after not making the US Olympic team. She worked as an editor of Vogue for 17 years before becoming a fashion designer at the age of 40. Her beautiful gowns have won her countless awards and have made her one of the most prestigious fashion designers of my time.
I started listening to Ani Difranco in high school. A friend and I listened to songs like 32 Flavors and As Is on a burned CD while driving around. A singer-songwriter, a poet, and a feminist leader, she uses music to fight for women’s rights. She started her own record company, Righteous Babe Records, at 19 and has released more than 20 albums. Her incredibly powerful lyrics encourage people to strive for equality not only for women, but people of all walks of life.
There are countless other women I could include here- Gloria Steinem, a political leader who has spent her life fighting for equality; Michelle Obama, who advocated for equal pay for women and healthy eating; and many more influential women. These women are my role models. Some had many children, some had none. Some found their calling in their teens and others tested out several things before finding their dream careers later in life. They were artists, politicians, activists. They have proven that dreams come in so many shapes and have paved the way for women to follow their own.