Happy International Women’s Day 2019!
Today, I want to talk about some of the amazing women artists who inspired me. They all have in common their courage, their grit, their capability to reinvent themselves and their love for what they do. It’s important for me to have role models. Without them, I wouldn’t believe that my dreams are possible.
So let’s celebrate together, and I hope they will inspire you too!
When I was a child, the only thing I knew about Jane Fonda was her series of exercises videos. I didn’t know anything about her extraordinary life, about her acting career or her activism. A few years ago, as she starred in the Netflix series “Grace & Frankie”, I came across a fantastic podcast named “You Must Remember This“. This podcast had a whole season dedicated to Jane Fonda, along with another actress Jean Seberg. I listened passionately to every episode, marvelled at Jane’s life: her complicated childhood (she lost her mother to suicide), her first marriage to a French man, her acting career, her activism during the Vietnam war, her vision of feminism, and the many many times she was forced to find a new version of herself.
Since then I’ve researched and watched documentaries and interviews, awed and inspired by this (81 year old!!) force of nature. She has made me less scared to stand out and speak up. She gave me the courage to express my opinions, and endure the consequences.
If there is one woman that I would like to thank the most for her influence on my life, it is J.K. Rowling. She is the single reason why I am still a writer today. I was a writer before I read Harry Potter, but I didn’t believe in myself and, by the time I laid my hands on “The Philosopher’s Stone”, I had been so discouraged by negative critics that I hadn’t written for months. Harry Potter changed that. It is the reason why I started writing fanfiction, and how I discovered my style and designed a discipline for my craft.
Rowling’s story of being at the very bottom and rising to the top thanks to her writing inspired me and proved me that it was possible. Moreover, she showed me that I should not let myself be discouraged by my circumstances and just keep writing. Which is what I have done for the past decade.
Edit 08/03/20: I know that recently there have been some controversies regarding J.K. Rowling. I want to say that I don’t agree with some of her comments and/or tweets.
“Who is this crazy lady who talks about little imaginary creatures giving humans our best ideas in ancient Greece?” This was basically my first thought about Elizabeth Gilbert. I had heard of “Eat, Pray, Love” before, but I had never been interested in something that was seemingly a new age light novel for bored housewives. Oh boy, was I wrong!
I watched her TED talk and, past the first minutes of pure “WTF is she talking about?” I started to listen, really listen. Then I bought her book, “Big Magic“. Then I bought “Eat, Pray, Love“. I listened to her podcast, “Magic Lessons“. And I basically followed everything she does. Her books and her words touched me so much, in a really unexpected way. Here’s a woman who doesn’t let anyone or anything else define her. Here’s a woman who talks about what it is to be an artist, being real without being negative. She’s the reason why I have hope for my books.
A video says more than a thousand words. This is the reason why, when I listen to her songs (despite not being a fan of pop music at all), I feel good and validated and encouraged. What a star!
She is a recent obsession of mine, since her appearance in Jonathan Van Ness’ podcast. I had no idea that, besides being this beautiful goofy character in “The Good Place”, Jameela Jamil was also a fierce activist and had had experiences similar to mine. In my opinion, she does what many people in her position should do: she uses her platform to raise awareness about difficult subjects and she doesn’t take no for an answer. Her campaign against airbrushing and photoshopping women in advertisements and magazines is really important, as well as her openness about her own eating disorders.
You know that one person with whom you’d love to exchange your life, because she’s who you want to be? That person for me is Felicia Day. She singlehandedly created The Guild (that I have watched probably over 10 times!) and pushed the project until it became a pioneer in webseries. She built her acting career from scratch. And she wrote this awesome biography, “You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memoir“, where she opens about depression, feeling like a loser and gathering a group of women around her for support. For a geek woman like myself, Felicia Day is who I aspire to be.
Some might think that Michelle Visage is always in the shadow of Rupaul, but let me tell you that this woman is a fierce and incredible character all by herself. Obviously discovered thanks to Rupaul’s Drag Race, I was intrigued by what she had to say during the podcast that she hosts with Rupaul, “What’s the Tee?“. This pushed me to read her biography, “The Diva Rules: Ditch the Drama, Find Your Strength, and Sparkle Your Way to the Top“.
What an interesting life she’s had! From nobody to club doll to popstar to back-to-nobody to radio host and finally “Mamma” for a hundred drag queens. It was most interesting for me to find out that she couldn’t participate in the first two seasons of Drag Race because of her boss at her job wouldn’t release her from her contract. Haven’t we all feared that about our day job? But her story also shows us that hard work and patience might bring back an opportunity.
So… OK, I’m cheating. I said at the beginning that I was going to talk about women artists who inspired me, and technically Justine Henin is not an artist. She is, however, one of the most inspiring women from my home country, Belgium, and I think more people should know about her. Justine Henin is one of the greatest tennis player of all time, and for years she made us all Belgians hold our breath as she was winning title after title.
To me, young teenage girl born in a country where seemingly nobody “made it”, seeing Justine on TV succeed and overcome all obstacles thrown at her was truly inspiring. How could this tiny Belgian woman win against superstars such as the Williams sisters? Work. Work. And more work. Since then, I’ve tried to emulate her discipline, because she is the proof that it is possible to succeed if you put the work in!
What About the Women Who Inspire You?
This is just a sample of the women that I find inspiring. There are others, of course (I didn’t mention my inspirations in the scientific world for example), but I often feel like I don’t know enough role models, ESPECIALLY women of colour. I am committed to read and learn more about extraordinary women, and pass it on to the next generation.
Do you have women who inspired you in your artistic career, or in your personal life? Is there someone you strive to emulate every day? Or is there a woman whom I should know about? Let me know in the comments below!
Céline is an author and podcaster passionate about helping fellow artists reach their potential and live a happy, balanced life.