The following inspiring women have done just that by following their dreams, motivating those around them, and never giving up or standing down.
Lizzie Valesquez – Motivational Speaker against Bullying
Born with a unique, previously undiagnosed genetic disorder, Lizzie Valesquez grew up blind in one eye and is unable to gain weight. She has never weighed more than 29 kg (64 lbs), and reportedly has almost 0% body fat. To stay alive she needs to eat between 5,000 and 8,000 calories daily. However, one of her greatest struggles has been bullying. Growing up looking different from anyone else made her a target for bullies in person and online.
A YouTube video went as far as labeling her the ugliest woman in the world. Instead of crumbling under the pain of the words, she became a motivational speaker against bullying. Today, the 31-year-old is a successful author, activist and YouTuber devoted to helping others feel beautiful and comfortable in their own bodies. She has written four books including Dare to Be Kind: How Extraordinary Compassion Can Transform Our World, Be Beautiful, Be You, Lizzie Beautiful: The Lizzie Velasquez Story and Choosing Happiness.
Anna Wintour – Editor-in-Chief at Vogue
Anna Wintour is a British-American journalist and editor born in 1949. She has been editor-in-chief at Vogue since 1988 and artistic director for Condé Nast, Vogue’s publisher, since 2013. Anna was fashionable from a young age and rebelled against the dress code at the independent North London Collegiate School by taking up the hemlines of her skirts. Her first job in fashion was at the influential boutique Biba when she was just 15. Although she loved fashion, she gave up on fashion school and became a journalist.
During her career she had always been herself, which occasionally got her in trouble. Anna got fired for innovative photo shoots and controversial relations with celebrities. Her aloof and demanding personality earned her a somewhat negative image which, unfortunately, is common for strong powerful women. It was actually one of her former personal assistants who wrote the bestselling book, The Devil Wears Prada which is now also a major motion picture. Today she is one of the most influential women in the fashion industry. Anna Wintour inspires women to be themselves, not hold back and take action to make your dreams come true.
Cynthia Marshall – CEO of the Dallas Mavericks
Even in today’s modern society in which gender matters less than ever before, when we think of a business leader of an NBA team, we do not picture a woman. Cynthia Marshall is the first black woman to serve in this position as CEO of the Dallas Mavericks. She is so much more than just a face that made history, she has also single-handedly turned around what was referred to as their toxic culture. In less than a year she made impressive changes as well as greatly diversified the top ranks of the organization.Cynthia grew up humbly in the housing projects in California. Her family struggled with money and her father was abusive.
It wasn’t until he broke her nose in 1975 when she tried to protect her mother from him that she, along with her mother and three siblings left. She buried herself in books and sports, making education a priority. Cynthia says that she didn’t find her confidence and authenticity until she moved to North Carolina in 2007 to be the president of AT&T. That was when she began sharing her story to inspire others going through hardships and domestic abuse. In 2017, she launched her own consulting firm specializing in leadership and diversity, leading her hiring by Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks. Her story shows that there is nothing a woman can’t do, no matter where she comes from.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Nigerian Author
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has written a range of books from novels and short stories to nonfiction. Her books include Purple HIbiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, Americanah, The Thing Around Your Neck, We Should All Be Feminists and Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions. Chimamanda was even awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant in 2008 is a prize awarded annually to 20-30 individuals who have shown “extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits as well as a capacity for self-direction.
In addition to being an award-winning author, her TED Talk on feminism caught the attention of singer-songwriter Beyoncé. This gave Chimamanda more mainstream fame. However, in the literary communities, she was always a star, with several awards for literature as well as fiction. She has struggled to bring the concept of feminism to Nigeria and redefine the term globally. She is proud to be a happily married, African feminist and continues to inspire women all over the world.
Susan Wojcicki – CEO of YouTube
Susan Diane Wojcicki is not only the CEO of YouTube, but she was involved in the founding of Google. She also happens to be the longest tenured CEO in the history of YouTube and is currently 52 years old. Back at Google, Susan was the first marketing manager back in 1999 and was their 16th employee. She was also the one who came up with the innovative idea to adapt Google’s AdWords into the self-service platform that it is today.
Before spearheading Google’s acquisition of YouTube, she was in charge of Google Video. Susan is also the one responsible for the dominance of Google as a search engine. She did this with no budget at all by simply partnering with universities and asking them to include a Google search bar in their websites. It was Susan’s constant strive to to innovate the company that made both Google and YouTube as successful as they are today.
Shonda Rhimes – Award-Winning Writer and Producer
Shonda Rhimes, referred to in various web articles as an unstoppable force, the first African American woman to create and executive produce a Top 10 network series—the medical drama Grey’s Anatomy. Shonda is also the creator of Private Practice, Scandal and the How to Get Away with Murder. In 2007, Rhimes was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 People Who Help Shape the World.
Shonda grew up in a Chicago suburb and graduated from Dartmouth in 1991. While she had initially dreamed of becoming a novelist, she ultimately attended film school at the University of Southern California. Although she did publish her book, a memoir, in 2015, she was already well known for Grey’s Anatomy. In addition to its compelling storylines, the show garnered attention for its diverse cast, strong female characters, and interracial relationships, all of which became hallmarks of her Shondas’ series.
Serena Williams – Won the Most Grand Slam Singles in Tennis
Serena Williams is perhaps one of the most famous tennis players, and it’s no wonder why. She won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, which is more than any other woman or man. Serena is an amazing athlete and four-time Olympic gold medalist. She has won 73 career singles titles, 23 doubles titles and two mixed doubles titles. This includes 39 Grand Slam titles – 23 singles titles, 14 doubles titles and two mixed doubles titles.
Other than her accomplishments on the tennis court, she is also philanthropic – she started the Serena Williams Foundation, which donates to education, social welfare and community development. She is also a Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). In August 2020, during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, she partnered up with Bella+Canvas, the National School Board Association, and Scholastic, to provide 4.25 million masks to underserved schools in the United States.
Jameela Jamil – Actress, Activist, TV presenter
Jameela Alia Jamil is an English actress, radio presenter, model, writer and activist. She began her career on T4, where she hosted a pop culture series from 2009 until 2012. Currently, she is best known for playing Tahani in the NBC fantasy comedy series The Good Place. After overcoming a lot of health issues including anorexia, which she struggled with as a teenager, she became a champion for body positivity and self-confidence.
Late in 2015, Jameela launched Why Not People?, a company dedicated to hosting live entertainment events accessible to people with disabilities. In March 2018, Jameela created an Instagram account called I Weigh, inspired by a picture that she came across online of the Kardashians, detailing each woman’s weight. Jameela referred to I Weigh as a movement that helps women look past the numbers on the scale and see the true value beneath looks. This led her to being listed as one of BBC’s 100 Women in 2018.
Munroe Bergdorf – Model and Trans Activist
Munroe Bergdorf is an English model and activist. She has walked several catwalks for brands including Gypsy Sport at both London and NYC Fashion Weeks. Bergdorf was the first transgender model in the UK for L’Oréal. She is both a model and an activist, using her social media accounts to fight transfobia and racial discrimination. Munroe Bergdorf graced the cover of Teen Vogue’s September 2020 issue.
Bergdorf won ‘Changemaker of the Year’ at the 2018 Cosmopolitan Awards, and was awarded an honorary doctorate in 2019 by the University of Brighton. She joined UN Women UK as an advocate in 2019, supporting its #DrawALine campaign. The campaign aims to put a stop to female genital mutilation. Recently, Munroe signed a contract to publish Transitional, ‘a manifesto for how I see society changing for the better, bringing us all closer.’
Margaret Atwood – Author of Handmaid’s Tale
Last but not least, Margaret Atwood was always famous for her literary achievements. She is the author of Handmaid’s Tale, which was recently made into a top-rated TV series that got a lot of people discussing feminism in today’s society. Margaret’s work has been published in more than forty-five countries, and is the author of more than fifty books of fiction, poetry, critical essays, and graphic novels. Her latest novel, The Testaments, is a co-winner of the 2019 Booker Prize.
While continuing to write, Atwood was a lecturer in English at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, from 1964 to 1965, Instructor in English at Sir George Williams University in Montreal from 1967 to 1968, and taught at the University of Alberta from 1969 to 1970. She wasn’t only passionate about teaching but also environmentalism. Margaret encourages us to fight for a better world and warns that climate change will bring a dystopian future reminiscent of one of her “speculative fictions,” with women bearing the brunt of brutal repression, hunger, and war.
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