The Women Who Influenced Me

Today is International Women’s Day. In celebration of women everywhere, I wanted to applaud some of the women role models I admire who have influenced the way I live my life everyday. In no particular order, these are my heroes:

  • As a classical singer, I can tell that Lady Gaga has actually trained with a voice teacher and doesn’t rely on things like autotune that pervade most pop songs today. Aside from my love of her music, she is bold and creative. She’s unafraid of breaking the mold, including wearing some of fashion’s strangest creations (meat dress anyone?). In her documentary, Five Foot Two, she includes raw footage of her struggling with chronic pain, but still striving for perfection in her art. It’s clear that she loves what she does, is grateful for all of her success, and is dedicated to her fans.

Credit: Netflix. 

  • Kira Kazantsev served as Miss America 2015. As a local titleholder, she was a role model for me because we shared the same community service platform - preventing domestic violence. Before her, I hadn’t known anyone who was outspoken about their own story of survival. It also seemed like such a taboo topic to bring up in social or business gatherings. She helped to break that taboo and make it normal for survivors to speak out. I’d say Kira stood on the edge of the #MeToo movement that has become so powerful.
  • Misty Copeland is an African American dancer known for breaking the mold of what a ballerina looks like. Her strength and grace is incredible and rare. As a young professional women, she’s an example that when you hear no, you can find yes. You just have to be persistent and dedicated to your craft. Don’t give up on what you truly want.
  • Aside from having the best arms to ever grace the White House, Michelle Obama is the epitome of strength and diplomacy. She is unwavering in her values, but always expresses herself respectfully. Whenever I’m facing a difficult person, I repeat to myself, “when they go low, we go high.”

Credit: CNN. 

  • Major Margaret Witt is a real-life hero. Full disclosure, I grew up calling this woman “Auntie Margie.” I tried to create a list that did not include any relatives, but I’d wager that Margie would fall on several most influential lists, so I added her anyway. Long story short, She sued the Air Force when, after being outed by a letter from a civilian, she was unlawfully discharged under the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Her mission as a highly decorated airback nurse suddenly evolved into a mission as a civil rights leader. She won her case, creating what is now referred to as the Witt Standard, where the military must prove that dismissing a specific servicemember is necessary to ensure good order and morale within the unit. ANYWAY, aside from her obvious influence on military policies and law, I admire her true gumption and perseverence. It’s not easy to see your name slandered across news articles and internet forums. It’s not easy to fight a multi-year legal battle. It’s not easy to stand up for what is fair and right in a public forum. If I can have half as much gumption and strength as she has, I’ll be proud. BTW, her book is out. You can find it here.
  • Emma Watson began her career portraying Hermione Granger, one of the most bada** students to ever attend Hogwarts. She made it cool to be smart and compassionate. Growing up, I wanted to be her. Now that Emma herself is grown up, she’s proven to be just as smart and compassionate as the character she portrayed in her childhood. She serves as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. She walks the walk by only wearing sustainable clothing at her red carpet events. She’s used her fame to promote the causes she believes in, including the #TimesUp movement. Emma Watson uses her influence as a celebrity to make the world a better place.
  • Chrissy Teigen is a model with a BIG voice. If you follow Chrissy Tiegen’s social media, you know that she says exactly what she’s thinking. She’s so human and real in her online presence. She shares the everyday realities of being a woman and mother - stretch marks and all. I admire her honesty and self-confidence. She is not afraid to be herself.
  • When I was in high school, I was starting to become serious about pursuing a career in opera. For my US History class, we were to submit three ideas for people, events, or companies that influenced US History for our final presentation/paper. Our teacher would choose our theme off of our lists. When I got my list back, all three ideas were crossed off. My teacher had written in his own idea instead, “Beverly Sills.” To this day, I’m thankful for that. Beverly Sills was not only one of the leading American opera singers of all time, she was a redhead coloratura soprano, just like me. I learned that she had incredible gumption and perseverance (I’m sensing a theme in what qualities I admire…) in pursuing her career, with much rejection at the start. More than that, she had two disabled children and dedicated herself to improving the lives of disabled people everywhere. I love that she became an advocate for not just her own children, but for children everywhere with similar issues. She thought behind herself and her family.

Beverly Sills and Danny Kaye 

  • Most people think of Amal Clooney first as George Clooney’s wife, but I like to think of her in her own right. She is and has been one of the world’s leading international law and human rights lawyers. She is proof that you can be insanely beautiful while being wickedly smart. The two are not mutually exclusive.
  • Debbie Sterling is an engineer and the CEO and founder of GoldieBlox. GoldieBlox is an interactive toy company geared towards girls. It’s meant to introduce engineering concepts to girls and to inspire the next generation of female engineers. According to the GoldieBlox website, only 14% of engineers are female. Debbie is on a mission to break the glass ceiling of engineering, math, and science for women! I love her ‘women lifting up other women’ attitude. I want to live that way everyday. We are all under this glass ceiling together.
  • As the owners of You Impression, Tina, Kristina, and Melanie Stambaugh helped me to be confident. I came to them as a timid, victimized college girl, and I left them a strong, empowered professional. They have personally accelerated my growth by fostering my confidence and belief in myself, and improving my communication skills. As women, our confidence is often shot down in school, in the workplace, and in our social lives. The You Impression team works to build you up and to recognize yourself as the valuable individual you are. If you are in WA State, definitely consider seeing them or inviting them to speak at your business. You will leave them as a better version of yourself.

All in all, women who are strong, confident, and altruistic are the women who inspire me. I want to learn how to persevere like them, how to ‘stick it to the man’ like them, and how to elevate others like them.

With that, here’s to every woman everywhere! You each have your own unique struggles and triumphs. Today is your day! Clap for your darn self! You deserve it.