Forget all the new year resolutions (official or unofficial) or crazy-ass plans that are going on in your head and driving you mad because you don’t know how you are going to accomplish them. A lot of us come into the new year already burdened with an intensity of impossibilities and ‘how can I achieve this’.
Today, we show you a more excellent way of looking at the year and embracing possibilities, by telling you to look at women who have gone ahead of you and simply gazing upon the sheer amazing drive of women you admire. These women show you through their actions that the universe is filled with possibilities if you don’t allow yourself to be burdened by fear, negative comparison and a vicious cycle of self-doubt.
Look at these women and breathe, and live.
In this piece, we share the thoughts of 23 women, as they talk about Women they look up to, admire and love. We’ve compiled these from our Interview archives, so you can consume and get inspired in one breath!
Onê Rapelana, Designer of Afro-Futuristic Accessories at Xita
Wow, there are many more women that I admire but if I were to shortlist them it would be Kyrzayda Rodriguez, Harriet Tubman, and Yuna.
The late Kyrzayda Rodriguez was a fashion blogger who never allowed cancer to keep her down. She continued to live life as normal despite being in a lot of pain, work every day even when she didn’t feel like it. Her resilience made her a remarkable woman.
I admire Harriet Tubman for her perseverance and selfless actions. Even though her life was in danger every day she was determined to rescue people from slavery.
Yuna, a Malaysian singer, for her effortless style and music.
Lisa Comfort, Founder of Sew Over It
Number one has to be my mum. Her work ethic is so inspirational, and since I’ve become a mum myself I’ve really realized how fantastic she is with children. She’s wonderful with my daughter and even though she lives in Yorkshire, I love the close relationship they’re forming.
Business-wise I find Joy from Oh Joy incredibly inspiring. I adore her business and her style. And lastly, I can’t get enough of Audrey Hepburn. She’ll always be my ultimate style icon.
Oonagh Simms, Founder of The Marshmallowist, Creating New Flavours from Marshmallows
Ooh, I just couldn’t pick 3. I’m lucky to have worked with amazing women and collaborate with some brilliant female-led companies. I’m so lucky that I get to run my own business and define my own workplace. We can create positive spaces for women, work flexibility around family commitments, pay well and dismiss traditional power structures. I wouldn’t be able to do this if it wasn’t for the collective movement of women’s organizations and women working together. Collaboration and collectivism are what forces change – I can’t single out 3 voices in that.
Chinasa Chukwu & Elvira Vedelago, Founders of Postscript
Chinasa: My mother because she is usually what you need her to be; Cheerleader, Reality Checker, Wingwoman, Best Friend… the list goes on. My older sister and my younger sister because they are at such different places in their lives but they are equally open to learning and experiencing growth.
Elvira: Michelle Obama – currently reading her book and feeling very inspired. Oprah, for her wonderful authenticity and my mother for her unconditional love and strength.
Art Director & Associate Creative Director, Ciara O’Meara
Cindy Gallop. For her undying energy to make a change in the industry and encourage others to do the same.
Laura Jordan Bambach. Because she is a mother, creative director, an agency founder and an activist for female creatives all in one.
Last not least my Mum. Obvious but true. She gave me the gift of creativity.
Jennifer Emelife, Literature Teacher, Writer & Literary Journalist
Everyone who knows me knows that I adore Maya Angelou. She was an embodiment of everything that I want to be: strong-willed, compassionate, resilient, hardworking, courageous, brilliant, articulate, grand, outspoken, cheerful, stylish, bold, happy and modest. Her death is a great loss to the universe and that day in May 2014, I remember weeping as though I’d lost my closest grandma and people sent me condolences.
Each time I’m in a fix, I ask myself: what would Maya do? It’s like God sent her to live so that I can get a perfect picture or a human guide to living my own life. When people say we share a certain facial resemblance, I always grin like a child. Once, my mum saw a picture of Maya on my Whatsapp and asked, ‘Chinenye, who is this woman on your DP who looks so much like me?’ I laughed so hard. Maya Angelou is my ancestral mother. It’s a huge pity that I never got to meet her, but I remain grateful to Dr. Tahir for introducing her to me that day in our poetry class in 2009. Sorry, I’ve said so much about one woman. Every other woman I admire is because she, in one way or the other, share similar traits with Maya Angelou and by extension, me. Haha. But yeah, I admire Naomi Lucas, Asa, Serena Williams, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Beyonce, and even Tiwa Savage. These are all women who are, unabashedly, pursuing what they want and getting it. I love independent women and the list includes my mother.
Dian Holton, Deputy Art Director at AARP + Diversity & Inclusion Champion
All the women I admire are women of color:
My mom, Deborah Holton. There’s not enough space to explain but once you meet her you understand.
Gail Anderson: icon, infallible, witty and incredibly talented.
Kristy Tillman, head of design for SLACK: because she honestly, has 0 Fucks to give and is unapologetic.
Bonus: Adowa Aboah. She is everything and I love what she’s doing/advocating in regards to women.
Awazi Angbalaga, OAP at Soundcity & Promoter of Body Positivity
I admire so many women for so many reasons that might not even be very deep so having to pick only 3 is not very fair!
There’s Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, there’s Oprah, there’s my Mom, there’s Michelle Obama(my other Mom), there’s Ellen, there’s Beyonce, there’s Khadijah El-Usman, There’s Malala, there’s my baby sister, there’s my whole group of friends, there are women on twitter that I admire so much I cannot start speaking about only 3.
Rukmini Poddar, Illustrator & Artist, Designer at Bhakti Center
Number 1 is my mother. I have only witnessed her act selflessly and give 110% to her family and children.
Number 2 is Krista Tippet, whose podcast was my entryway to thoughtful and sensitive thinking, and
Number 3 is Mari Andrew who is an incredibly gifted illustrator and writer and whose work has helped me find a voice as an artist.
Dami Olaleye, Illustrator, Designer & Teacher of Art
Most of the women I admire come from the Art field.
Lois Van Baarle: She is a Dutch Artist who I really admire. When I started my art career she is one of the three women who I looked up to and studied. My art is heavily influenced by her art style and up till today I still fall in love with her works over and over again.
Maryam Muparki: She’s an artist that goes by the name Girly_m. I discovered digital art through her so she is always in my history. My art is also heavily influenced by hers since she was also one of the artists I studied a lot when I first started.
Hiba: She is an upcoming artist that I really admire. Her style is what draws me to her because whenever I look at her art I see the level I want to attain. I have seen tremendous growth in her art which really motivates me to keep going in my art as well.
Ebun Oluwole, Founder & Lead Strategist of JunElevenCo
I currently admire Bozoma Saint John for obvious reasons (she’s amazing). Closely followed by Sheryl Sandberg for her work with the Lean In movement and Bidemi Zakariyau of LSF PR for building an incredible company in her 20s.
Elizabeth Akanbi-Ogabi, Founder of For Working Ladies
The list of Women I admire changes on a regular basis, as you can imagine I meet a lot of women and read about them too. I admire so many women, however, most recently I’ve been inspired by Otegha Uwagba, Sharmadean Reid and will always love Sophia Amoruso. They are the definition of REAL hard work and have learned to build impactful brands. Otegha recently won Forbes 30 under 30 and I’m super proud to see a young Nigerian woman representing, she is a role model for young black girls in the U.K. and I’m excited to see what she’s going to do next.
I’ve always loved Sharmadean for her smartness and creativity! I’m in love with how she grew WAH nails to become a cult brand, only a few people can achieve this.
Lastly, Sophia will always be an icon to me. She created and drove the Girl boss movement. I know the term Girl Boss tends to make some of us cringe but it was a movement that empowered women to boldly step out and become their own bosses, we have to appreciate what she created.
Mervis Ifeoma Elebe, Humanitarian Fighting for the Girl Child
I love, admire and follow closely with Sheryl Sandberg, Hillary Clinton, Adaora Mbelu, Jumoke Adenowo, and Ijeoma Umebinyuo. Favourite books are A Feminist Manifesto by Chimamanda Adichie, Questions for Ada by Ijeoma Umebinyuo, Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg and Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay.
Iranian Facilitator, Journalist & Peace-Builder, Afsaneh Seifinaji
1) The definite number one is Sheryl Sandberg, her empowering book “lean in” was an amazing source of inspiration for me.
2: Oprah Winfrey: She empowered so many women around the world regardless of her hardship in life and I admire her so much.
3: Ashley Graham: The plus-size supermodel and body activist who is so comfortable in her skin and teaches women all around the world to love themselves and their bodies in whatever shape they are.
Faith Moyosore Agboola, Founder & Creative Director of The African Writers
Tara Fela Durotoye. She is a beauty product entrepreneur and innovator in the beauty space in Nigeria. She started the bridal makeup sensation in Nigeria, created the first ever makeup training school in the country, and created the first ever make-up conference. She also launched the first ever Nigerian make-up line “Tara”, which was a one-man Team for many years and is now a multi-million naira company with several employees, branches, and stores, and it boasts huge sales across continents. What fascinates me the most about her is how she is committed to helping young entrepreneurs grow, especially in the beauty sphere. There’s nothing as beautiful as helping others rise.
Toke Makinwa. She is a product of hard work, smart work, and a strong drive for greatness. I see her as a forerunner in the media Industry. From building up a YouTube channel talking about stuff that people considered controversial to moving up the ladder to radio and Tv presenting. To writing a best selling book. To creating a conference/program to empower young women and now to releasing a bag line. I see her as a forward thinker, a true hustler and a woman of strength. Life and people have thrown so much at her, yet she thrives and continues to set the pace for great things for herself and others.
Tililope Sonuga. I love how she is elevating poetry in Nigeria. How she has accomplished so many feats for us. First ever Nigerian poet to perform at a presidential inauguration ceremony. She was the Ambassador for Intel. She hosted a sold-out three-day show in Lagos, Nigeria and has traveled to several cities showing the beauty and prowess of Nigerian poetry. I admire her greatly as I see her as a great example to the new generation of poets who might not yet believe in themselves to do so.
Emerline Ji, Global Creative Strategist at CreativeMornings
I’ll tell you about 5 Women I admire
Jane Goodall: She’s always been a great hero of mine.
Annie Griffiths: Heard her speak at Adobe MAX and was blown away by her work.
Alicia Keys: Fan of her music first, but I also love that she is consistently using her position to push for positivity.
Michelle Obama: Because… she’s Michelle Obama.
Yoon Mi-rae: A South Korean female hip-hop artist who was a pioneer in the music scene. She’s overcome a lot of racism and challenges as a half Korean and half African-American person growing up in Korea.
Aidah Johnson, Interior Designer, and Blogger
My Mom. The first and greatest example of how to be a woman. She showed me where the true strength of a woman lies.
Harriett Tubman, arguably one of the most courageous PEOPLE in history. She also exemplified what it is to be human and want for your brother what you want for yourself.
Lauryn Hill – She is a woman at the top of her game who never compromised her morals. She exhibits class, consciousness, and how to respect your craft.
Zainab Sarumi, Creative Designer at Cregital & CEO at Soles N Shades Enterprise
Haneefa Adam, I think she’s an outstanding creative.
Arese Ugwo, I love how financially intelligent she is.
I also admire Marie Forleo, her inspirational, motivational person, financial and emotional coaches are insightful.
Muna Lobe, Founder of Aya Consulting
My mother – A pan-Africanist from the Caribbean, an extraordinary Language professor, a feminist, a compassionate, intelligent, independent, loyal, responsible and loving human being and ‘wombman’;
Toni Morrison and her incredible gift for combining the intangible and eery with the rectitude of carefully crafted prose;
Ava Duvernay for being such an exceptional visual storyteller and an incredible influencer beyond the cinematic sphere.
Maryann Wangari, Senior Design Researcher at IDEO & Co-founder of Nairobi Design Community
Michelle Obama: Beauty & brains, grace & glamor, smart & sexy. Thank you for inspiring women and girls all over the world Mrs. Obama.
Chimamanda Ngozi: I love everything about this woman, her writing is phenomenal and she is an absolute inspiration to all feminists around the world. In a society where diversity and inclusion of women and girls have highly been ignored, we need strong women like Chimamanda to remind us that we can do it.
I will dedicate the third slot to all the amazing women out there doing amazing work be it in tech or any other field. I get inspired when I watch or read articles on what women and girls are doing out there from amazing women like Caroline who built an organ marching app which was inspired by her uncle’s death to superstars like Lupita, to that young ballet dancer in Kibera using dancing to uplift her livelihood. The list is endless, and the sky is the limit.
Tolu Agunbiade and Kelechi Udoagwu, Cofounders of Skrife
Kelechi: I love Tyra Banks a lot. She’s a risk taker, a businesswoman, a model, a role model (lol), and she truly loves herself (at least she looks like she does). She inspires and reminds me to be and love myself.
Tolu: I’m surrounded by so many women I admire. The cliche one, to begin with, is my co-founder, Kelechi. She’s an amazing person through and true, and a constant source of inspiration to me. I admire Rayo Falade and my sisters, Toyin and Tola; they are a constant source of inspiration and support. One woman, I admire that I don’t interact with often, but who I have the pleasure of knowing is Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola, the founder of Wecyclers. Just Google her and see if you don’t catch some admiration too.