Last Monday, I blogged about my Cartoon Role Models. They were great, but as I grew older, I started looking up to human beings rather than cartoons. The women I admired were either fictional characters or the artists themselves. Let’s start with who influenced me as a young girl and then we’ll move on to who I aspire to be today.
Teenage Role Models
I picked only three of my teenage role model because analyzing all of them would make this blog post too long and boring in the end. The three amazing women I picked are all from the music industry and are listed in chronological order, from when I started admiring them.
The Spice Girls were the shit, I owned all of their albums. My very first purchase was the Spice World CD in 1997. At school, five of my girlfriends and I lip synced and performed their songs in front of our class between Grades 2-5. The teachers were hesitant because we were “sexualizing” ourselves at a young age, but for some reason they never forbade it. I was Posh Spice because I looked most like her. I even got her haircut, the short mix between a pixie and a bob that was also longer on one side in the front. In reality, Mel B. was my favourite. Posh didn’t do or say much, but Mel B. was loud and opinionated. She’s awesome and one of the first black women I saw as powerful. I thought she was beautiful and wished I had her afro.
In 1998, one of my friends gave me the Spice World movie for my birthday. I watched it so often, I knew it by heart. I revisited the plot in my brain as an adult and realized it was ridiculous. On the plus side, I got to watch five female leads in a film, which can’t be that bad for a young girl. The music and film industries definitely sexualize and objectify women. I see that now, but back then, I just saw five cool friends that happen to be famous. They got to sing and be themselves in front of the entire world. By popularizing and embodying the Girl Power slogan, the Spice Girls showed me it’s awesome to be a girl.
When her Stripped album came out, I fell in love with Xtina. She owned her sexuality and was unapologetic. She was a feminist before it became cool again. I wanted to own leather chaps and danced endlessly to her music video Dirrty. Christina gave me the confidence to wear short skirts and to ask “What?” when people stared at my clothing in disapproval. She sang about being Beautiful and accepting yourself, and spoke up about being wronged and becoming stronger in Fighter. That song is still one of my anthems today.
Eventually, I “outgrew” Christina because I learned everything I needed to from her powerful voice. She awoke the feminist in me.
Not convinced? Take 4.5 minutes to listen to Can’t hold us down and you’ll be ready to take on the next misogynist that dares to call you a slut, to try to humiliate you or to shut you up.
Tay Tay. So much hate is directed at her. But why? Taylor Swift was a sweet teenager and became a strong wonderful woman and we love to tear her down. Maturing and changing in front of a public audience evidently merits scrutiny and hate. Give her some space. You don’t have to like her, but you should respect her. Cheers to Taylor for unapologetically changing and taking charge or her Reputation.
The first glimpse I caught of Taylor was in 2007, while I was procrastinating on YouTube instead of doing my university homework. I stumbled upon Teardrops on my guitar and it was love at first song. I remember running upstairs to tell my roommate and best friend all about her!
I look up to Taylor for making her dreams come true. For writing songs that were very personal to her and for staying true to her voice. To this day, she’s the artist that manages to makes me cry nearly every time I listen to her albums. She taught me to ignore whoever was Mean and didn’t believe in me, to Breathe and be Fearless, to recognize the I knew you were trouble feeling, to feel Clean after breaking up with my longterm boyfriend, to Shake it off afterwards and to handle things when they are Delicate. Thank you, Taylor, for putting the hard feelings into words when I couldn’t.
Current Role Models
I can’t remember where I read this, but apparently, you look up to people when they represent something in you that’s just waiting to come out. For example, if you secretly wish you could play guitar, then you’ll look up to someone who you think is great at it. Once you achieve and internalize that goal for yourself, you may stop seeing them as an idol, but you’ll never forget how they’ve inspired you and helped you become who you are.
The women I currently look up to are:
Leena Norms - Leena works in publishing for Penguin VINTAGE. In her own time, she shares her passion for books and writing on YouTube. Her book love is contagious. She has helped me rediscover the wonders of reading again! I want to ooze book enthusiasm just like her.
I’ve met Leena in person and what she portrays on social media isn’t for show, it’s her real self. I admire that. She also strives to grow by learning more about herself and the world around her. She then kindly summarizes what she’s learned and shares it with the world on YouTube and by hosting a podcast called I’m not being funny but… Her podcast addresses topics people are afraid to ask questions about in order to remove the stigmas.
Kate Bolick - I grabbed Kate’s book Spinster: Making a life of one’s own after my eight-year relationship was over. I borrowed it from the library because some online algorithm recommended it. I didn’t really know what to expect when I cracked the cover. What I found was myself. When I got to the end, I didn’t want to finish it because then it would be over. It’s still my favourite book. I read it every year and learn something new about myself every time.
There are many other authors out there that I love, but I relate most to Kate. She wrote from the heart and I found a kindred spirit in her words. I learn that a woman needs to love herself. Happiness and success come from within.
Shonda Rhimes - Shonda kicks ass in a male-dominated industry. She has created several great TV series with amazing characters; my favourite one is Grey’s Anatomy. I didn’t just choose one female character (Meredith Grey, Miranda Bailey, Jo Wilson, April Kepner, Christina Yang, Stephanie Edwards, etc.) because they are all great in their own way and have all taught me something, including the men. The series has succeeded in showing us doctors that come in many different packages. Meredith Grey, for example, is an award-winning widowed mother of three that is the chief resident of general surgery and conducts amazing research. She’s happy to be single and working. The show tackles various topics like deportation, sexual assault, alcoholism, science vs. religion, etc. Shonda’s trying to change the world the way she knows how. By using her imagination and power to make awesome TV shows. The lesson here? Use your own strengths to make a difference.
Adriene Mishler - Adriene makes yoga accessible to the world via her YouTube channel and brand Yoga with Adriene. She makes you feel at ease on the mat by being her joking self. One of Adriene’s mantras is “choose to let go”. I repeat it to myself often because letting go is friggin’ hard. The world can feel so serious and heavy. Through her practice, Adriene has taught me to shed that weight. I also learned that I don’t have to be perfect at yoga or in life.
Yoga has become essential to my day. I always leave the mat feeling happier and lighter. Not once have I told myself “I really regret taking the time to do yoga today”. Adriene helped me look up to the best version of myself. Only when I am at peace internally, can I be kind and gentle to others. Namaste.
Janelle Monáe - What a powerhouse. Janelle is the kind of woman I want to be. I’m not sure what that means yet, I am just starting to figure out what I see in her.
Don’t know what I’m talking about? Watch her music video Pynk.
I feel thankful for these strong women I was able to watch and emulate. Without them, I would not have known it wasn’t okay for men to grab my ass. I may not have thought being a girl was cool and I probably wouldn’t accept myself as much as I do today.
For those of you who are curious, here are other women I looked/look up to and a brief reason why. They didn’t make the top list but that doesn’t mean they haven’t influenced me in some way. Here they are in alphabetical order:
Angelina Jolie: Lara Croft needs no man to be a badass. Yes, she was dressed like that for men and there are practically no other women in the film, but she kicked ass.
Amy Poehler: created an awesome TV series with diverse and awesome female characters.
Audrey Tautou: Amélie Poulain for putting a quirky and whimsical character in the forefront.
Caitlin Moran: for showing me I actually was a feminist.
Charlize Theron: Aeon Flux. It wasn’t a great film, but we didn’t have many female superheroes around. I cut my hair like hers after I saw the movie. I still love her. If you haven’t seen the films Mad Max or Tully yet, go now!
Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale: for Brokedown Palace. Anything for friendship, not men.
Ellen Page: a beautiful soul that still makes me want to roller derby.
Emma Stone: Easy A and the Help where she fights for what’s right.
Emma Watson: Hermione for punching Draco in the face.
Iliza Shlesinger: a stand-up comedian that I can relate to. Most recent is her show Elder Millennial. She “dares” to talk about what it’s like to be 35 and I can totally relate.
Jen Kirkman: a stand-up comedian and author. She’s a single unapologetic woman who is divorced and doesn’t want to have kids. She is happy and proud to represent women that have been shunned in the past.
Jennifer Lawrence: I wanted to be brave like Katniss and wield a bow and arrow.
Jenny Lawson: She wrote about mental health in a way that made me realize it was okay not to be okay.
Kate Bosworth, Michelle Rodriguez and Sanoe Lake: they could totally rip in Blue Crush.
Kate McKinnon: Hilarious and a ghostbuster.
Kate Winslet: for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Life isn’t perfect, but erasing it would just make the good memories disappear with the bad ones. And her hair.
Kiera Knightly: for not settling to be anything but equal to a man in Pride and Prejudice and for hating corsets and standing up to chauvinistic pirates in Pirates of the Caribbean.
Melissa Joan Hart: Sabrina Spellman in Sabrina the Teenage Witch for being a witch. I thought her aunts were cool. Who needs a husband?
Tina Fey: for teaching me to be a female boss in her book and for Liz Lemon. One of my colleagues used to call me Lemon because of her 30 Rock character.
Trish Stratus: for kicking ass in the wrestling ring when the WWF wasn’t very forward thinking and featured women as accessories to the male wrestlers. It’s because of women like her that things are slowly changing in the industry.
Zooey Deschanel: From her role in Elf; I still want that tuque she wears at the end. Also for 500 Days of Summer and New Girl. I love her voice. She & Him is my favourite Christmas album.
Who gave you your girl power? Tell me #Evulving on social media #Evulving and follow @Evulving on Instagram.