International Womens Day which was celebrated this Sunday, March 8th, got me thinking about who my female role models are. I don’t pay too much attention to celebrities and at the same time I’m not aware of many of the most amazing activists so with my limited knowledge I gathered some inspiring girls / women who have varied achievements but are equally awesome.
Janelle Monae is one of the quirkiest musicians I know- her style and sound doesn’t easily fit into any category and is truly unique. She has most definitely not conformed to the requirements expected of many up and coming artists as she rose to fame when still wearing her signature black and white Tuxedo- and wouldn’t be seen in anything else for a considerable amount of time. She later attributed the look to her parents who wore uniforms in their humble jobs, one of them being a caretaker (Janitor). She mentioned this at her very moving BET awards speech giving the world an insight into the authenticity of her character, someone proud of her humble beginnings and never boastful of her huge accomplishments! And her hair- no words to describe how cool it is!
The Savages are the polar opposite to your typical girl band and are in fact the only indy / rock girl band that I know of (which could be partially down to my limited knowledge of the genre to be fair). They definitely have their own simple style and make a point of being known solely for their music, demonstrated for their love of classic black and white photography. I was lucky enough to met one of the members at a wedding a while back and once again her humility was her defining characteristic along with friendliness. I was shocked to learn she was in a rock band let alone one taking the world by storm. The Savages have just finished a residency at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn, NYC, have performed on the Jimmy Fallon show and will be playing at Latitude festival this year amongst many other shows. Oh and Questlove (The Roots) is a fan and you can’t get cooler than that!
I had to include Sophia Amoruso, founder of one of my fave etailers, NastyGal. her achievements are close to my heart as I would be over the moon if my boutique Realm of Treasure achieved a fraction of the success that this lady has. She’s also giving us aspiring ones a blueprint with her book Girl Boss which is soon to become my study manual! She started with an Ebay store selling vintage and now has a multimillion pound business and is one of the fastest growing retailers in the US!
Malala Yousefzai is globally recognized as one of the bravest people on the planet. She actually started off as a blogger at the age of 11 writing about her passionate desire for girls in her homeland of Pakistan to remain in School. Her village was a Taliban base and these animals attempted to kill her in 2012 but she was destined for greater things and survived a bullet in the head! She has since been the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize, Travels around the world campaigning for girl’s education and she was particularly active in the bring back our girls campaign, even meeting the Nigerian president. She has unsurprisingly been nominated as one of the worlds most influential people by Time Magazine. I get chills down my spine thinking of Malala’s story, what she has achieved and imagining what she is going to accomplish i future. She was one of the people that came to my mind when I took part in Plan UK’s give child marriage the finger campaign and I’ll be eagerly following her no doubt inspirational next steps.
Last but not least is Lupita Nyongo who whilst has become celebrated for her striking beauty, is also a talented actress who rose to fame after co starring in 12 years a slave, the film for which she became one of the few black, let alone African, men or women to receive an Academy Award, Golden Globe and a Bafta. She has the envious combination of brains and beauty being an Ivy League graduate (Yale). She has also produced and directed a documentary the experience of Albino’s in her homeland, Kenya. Like most of the women I love, she is also challenging conventional standards of beauty and recently gave a moving speech about the insecurities she faced as a youth, when she was tempted to use skin lightening cream, a common practise amongst many black and Asian people. She herself was inspired to accept her own glorious skintone by the stunner supermodel Alex Wek and has in turn passed on the baton encouraging us all to be happy in our own skin. I’ll leave you with the final beautiful words of her speech; ‘And so I hope that my presence on your screens and in the magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey. That you will feel the validation of your external beauty but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside. There is no shade in that beauty. ‘
Although Giuliana Rancis has apologised for her, now we learned scripted slur on Zendaya’s locs hairstyle at the Oscars, it still raises the question of the negative connotations surrounding them and other more natural ‘black’ hairstyles. I wish we could live in a day where all people can wear their hair however they want without being judged (with the exception of a presumed mentally challenged lady I saw wearing a wig after cutting off all the hair from the ‘roots’- leaving a bald Barbie effect #onlyinlondon). However black people who choose to wear their hair without chemical processing- for those who don’t know we don’t have naturally straight hair so use either heat, straight perm or weave to get the look- are often forced to make a political statement. Whilst naturally straight haired people or even those with loose curls can wake up- put a comb through their hair and go to work, the same is often frowned upon if someone like me decided to go to work with my hair- combed but its natural tightly coiled poofy fro. I went though a period of time where I actually did this- as my hair was an awkward length- too short to tie back- and I’ve never been one that likes to spend ages doing the usual styles- braids, weaves even twists on my hair. I’m lucky enough to be living in the most cosmopolitan city in the world and have worked in a lot of very relaxed and cool workplaces where my hair has not been an issue but since I’ve never stayed anywhere that long I don’t know if this would have changed if I had tried to climb the career ladder. I’m not sure how well my fro would go down in a board meeting for example. I understand that some work environments demand very neat styles and even those with straight hair are required to tie it back- and I have no problem with this.
I just think there is still a very dated attitude towards natural black hairstyles like locs and the even sadder thing is that some of the worst attitudes are within our own community. I have Jamaican heritage and surprisingly its not a hairstyle that is well respected in the country where it currently has the strongest cultural links ( although it actually originated in ancient India and Egypt and is said to have been worn in the Bible). I’m glad Giuiliana / Fashion Police made the comments as discussion is always a positive thing. I hope people of all races will be challenged about their attitudes not just on hair but on judging people based on old fashioned ‘backwards’ concepts of beauty.
Here are some absolutely gorgeous celebs rocking locs and showing them in all their glory. Plus the best women I know wears them, my Mum ❤