I have loved every moment of Women’s History Month. I’m so fortunate to have been involved in so many woman centered activities: panels, discussions, movie premieres and interviews. It has been a powerful and awe inspiring few weeks for certain. My team of Angie’s Angels (Abi, Ayshea, and Amy) asked me who my top ten favourite and inspiring women are.
I had to think hard because there are so many…
I’ve always admired Taraji P Henson, Viola Davis, Oprah Winfrey (even more now that I’ve met her), Helen Mirren, Judi Dench and Cicely Tyson, not only are these just fabulous women, they are in their 40s 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, however, that’s not the first thing that strikes you, they are just amazing and at the top of their game. With the #MeToo Movement the voice of women worldwide is being heard a little more, and it’s such a positive step as we bring our creative skills to the table to compliment what our male colleagues have laid down. Have a read of my Top Ten Women who have inspired me over the years.
Taraji P Henson
Taraji is an American actress, singer and author. She studied acting at Howard University and began her Hollywood career in guest-roles on several television shows before making her breakthrough in Baby Boy (2001). She received praise for playing a prostitute in Hustle & Flow (2005) and a single mother of a disabled child in David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008); for the latter, she received Academy Award, SAG Award and Critics Choice Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress; for the former, she received a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture nomination. In 2010, she appeared in the action comedy Date Night and co-starred in the remake of The Karate Kid.
Henson has also had an extensive and successful career in television in series such as The Division, Boston Legal and Eli Stone. In 2011, Henson starred in the Lifetime Television film Taken from Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story, which earned her a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie. From 2011 to 2013, she co-starred as Detective Jocelyn Carter in the CBS drama Person of Interest, for which she won an NAACP Image Award. Henson went on to star in the ensemble film Think Like a Man (2012) and its 2014 sequel. In 2015, she began starring as Cookie Lyon on the Fox drama series Empire, for which she became the first African-American woman to win a Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series. She also won a Golden Globe Award, and was nominated for two Emmy Awards, in 2015 and 2016.
In 2016, Time named Henson one of the 100 most influential people in the world. That year, she released a New York Times best selling autobiography titled Around the Way Girl. Also that year, she received praise for her starring role as Katherine Johnson in the critically acclaimed drama film Hidden Figures, for which she won a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
I had the privilege to interview Taraji a couple years back, we talked acting, we talked Empire and we talked Cookie.
Viola was the first African-American actress to be nominated for three Academy Awards, winning one, and is the only black actor to date to win an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Tony. We all know Ms. Davis’ acting skills. But she will forever have my heart for her activism.
In 2011, Davis donated funds to her hometown public library in Central Falls, Rhode Island to assist in preventing its closure due to a lack of city funding. In 2018, Davis donated funds to her alma mater, Central Falls High School, for its theatre program.
As part of her Partnership with Vaseline to promote the Vaseline Healing Project, Davis attended the groundbreaking of a free community health centre in Central Falls, Rhode Island in October 2016 that was sponsored by the project. The project provides dermatological care to help heal the skin of those affected by poverty around the world.
Since 2014, Davis has collaborated with the Hunger Is campaign to help eradicate childhood hunger across America. Speaking on her work, Davis said that “seventeen million kids in this country, so one in five kids in this country, go to bed hungry. I was one of those kids, because I grew up in abject poverty; I did everything that you could possibly imagine to get food: I rummaged in the garbage cans, I stole from the local store constantly.” As an honouree at the 2014 Variety Power of Women luncheon, Davis further commented that “the thing that made me join…was the word ‘eradicate’, ‘get rid of’ – not by thirty-percent not by twenty-percent not by fifty-percent, but to do away [with it]. Because everyone should be a child, and should grow up and have a chance at the American dream”. In September, 2017, Davis kickstarted the $30K in 30 Days Project with Hunger Is, awarding a $1,000 grant to the Rhode Island Community food bank in her home state.
Oprah (especially now that I’ve met her)
Oprah is an American media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer, and philanthropist. She is best known for her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show, which was the highest-rated television program of its kind in history and was nationally syndicated from 1986 to 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. Dubbed the “Queen of All Media”, she is the richest African-American and North America’s first multi-billionaire black person and has been ranked the greatest black philanthropist in American history. Several assessments rank her as the most influential woman in the world.
Mirren began her acting career with the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1967, and is one of the few performers who have achieved the Triple Crown of Acting. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 2007 for her performance as Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen and received the Olivier Award for Best Actress and Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for the same role in The Audience.
Mirren’s other Academy Award nominations include The Madness of King George (1994), Gosford Park (2001) and The Last Station (2009). For her role as police detective Jane Tennison on the British television series Prime Suspect, which ran from 1991 to 2006, she won three consecutive BAFTA Awards for Best Actress between 1992 and 1994 and two Emmy Awards. She also received another Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award for her performance in the miniseries Elizabeth I (2005).
Some of her other notable film roles include Marcella in the 1984 film Cal, for which she won the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actress, 2010 (1984), The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989), Teaching Mrs. Tingle (1999), Calendar Girls (2003), Hitchcock (2012), The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014), Woman in Gold (2015), Trumbo (2015), and The Leisure Seeker (2017). She played Victoria Winslow in the action-comedy films Red(2010) and Red 2 (2013).
In 2003, she was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for services to drama. In 2013, Mirren was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and in 2014, BAFTA announced that Mirren would be the recipient of the Academy Fellowship.
Dame Judith Olivia Dench, CH, DBE, FRSA (born 9 December 1934) made her professional debut in 1957 with the Old Vic Company. Over the following few years, she performed in several of Shakespeare’s plays in such roles as Ophelia in Hamlet, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, and Lady Macbeth in Macbeth. Although most of her work during this period was in theatre, she also branched into film work and won a BAFTA Award as Most Promising Newcomer. She drew strong reviews for her leading role in the musical Cabaret in 1968.
Over the next two decades, Dench established herself as one of the most significant British theatre performers, working for the National Theatre Company and the Royal Shakespeare Company. She achieved success in television during this period, in the series A Fine Romance from 1981 until 1984, and in 1992 with a starring role in the romantic comedy series As Time Goes By. Her film appearances were infrequent and included supporting roles in major films, such as A Room with a View (1986), before she rose to international fame as M in GoldenEye (1995), a role she continued to play in James Bond films until Spectre (2015).
A seven-time Oscar nominee, Dench won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love and has received nominations for her roles in Mrs Brown (1997), Chocolat(2000), Iris (2001), Mrs Henderson Presents (2005), Notes on a Scandal (2006), and Philomena (2013). She has also received many other awards for her acting in theatre, film and television; her competitive awards include six British Academy Film Awards, four BAFTA TV Awards, seven Olivier Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, and a Tony Award. She has also received the BAFTA Fellowship in 2001 and the Special Olivier Award in 2004. In June 2011, she received a fellowship from the British Film Institute (BFI). Dench is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA).
…and if that doesn’t make her cool enough, listen to Dame Judi Dench learn grime with Lethal Bizzle.
Cicely Louise Tyson (born December 19, 1924) is an American actress and former fashion model. Best known for playing strong African-American women on screen and stage throughout her career, she is the recipient of three Primetime Emmy Awards, four Black Reel Awards, one Screen Actor Guild Award and one Tony Award. Tyson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour in the United States in November 2016.
Having appeared in minor film and television roles early in her career, Tyson garnered widespread attention and critical acclaim for her performance as Rebecca Morgan in Sounder (1972); she was nominated for the Academy and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress, and won the NSFC Best Actress and NBR Best Actress Awards for the role. Her portrayal of a young slave at the end of the American Civil War in the 1974 television film The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman won her further praise. The role won her two Emmy Awards and a nomination for a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role among other accolades.
Tyson appeared in the 2011 drama film The Help; set in the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement the film had her play the role of Constantine, a maid in Jackson, Mississippi and won her the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Screen Actors Guild Award for best ensemble cast. She has played the role of Ophelia Harkness in American Broadcasting Company’s legal drama How to Get Away With Murder since the show’s inception in 2015. Other notable film roles include the dramas Hoodlum (1997) and Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005), and the television films Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All (1994) and A Lesson Before Dying(1999).
In addition to her screen career, Tyson has also appeared in various theatre productions; she starred as Carrie Watts in the Broadway play, The Trip to Bountiful, winning the Tony Award, Outer Critics Award, and Drama Desk Award for Best Actress in a Play. She had previously received a Drama Desk Award in 1962 for her Off-Broadway performance in Moon on a Rainbow Shawl. Tyson has also been honoured by the Congress of Racial Equality, the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, and the National Council of Negro Women. In 1977 she was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame and named a Kennedy Centre honouree in 2015.
Angela Evelyn Bassett (born August 16, 1958) is an American actress and activist. She is best known for her biographical film roles, most notably her performance as Tina Turner in the biopic What’s Love Got to Do with It(1993), for which she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress and won a corresponding Golden Globe Award. Bassett has additionally portrayed Betty Shabazz in both Malcolm X (1992) and Panther (1995), Katherine Jackson in The Jacksons: An American Dream (1992), Rosa Parks in The Rosa Parks Story (2002), Voletta Wallace in Notorious (2009) and Coretta Scott King in Betty & Coretta (2013). Bassett’s performance as Parks was honoured with her first Primetime Emmy Award nomination.
Bassett began her film career in the mid-1980s, after earning a bachelor of arts degree from Yale University and a master of fine arts degree from drama school. In the 1990s, she appeared in films nearly every year. The 2000s saw a succession of films starring Bassett, with her appearing in at least one film every year. Bassett’s success has continued into the 2010s. Bassett earned nominations for her roles in films such as The Score (2001), Akeelah and the Bee (2006), Meet the Browns (2008) and Jumping the Broom (2011) and won awards for her performances in How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998) and Music of the Heart (1999) among others.
In 2013, she had a recurring role on the FX horror series American Horror Story: Coven, earning her second Primetime Emmy Award nomination for her performance as Voodoo queen Marie Laveau. She returned for Freak Show, the anthology series’ fourth season, portraying a three-breasted woman named Desiree Dupree for which she received another nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie. In 2015, Bassett returned for the fifth season Hotel portraying Ramona Royale, a famous movie star. In 2016, Bassett returned to the series’s sixth cycle, Roanoke, portraying an alcoholic actress named Monet Tumusiime, who plays struggling mother and former police officer Lee Harris in the My Roanoke Nightmare documentary.
Marianne Deborah Williamson (born July 8, 1952) is an American spiritual teacher, author and lecturer. She has published twelve books, including four New York Times number one bestsellers. She is the founder of Project Angel Food, a meals-on-wheels program that serves homebound people with AIDS in the Los Angeles area, and is the co-founder of The Peace Alliance, a grassroots campaign supporting legislation to establish a United States Department of Peace. Williamson serves on the Board of Directors of the RESULTS organisation, which works to end poverty in the United States and around the world. Williamson also produces the Sister Giant Conferences, highlighting the intersection of spirituality and politics. Her moving statement “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure ” has resonated globally and has been used by many in speeches, schools and even films.
Marian Keyes (born 10 September 1963) is an Irish novelist and non-fiction writer, best known for her work in women’s literature. She is an Irish Book Awards winner. By March 2017 over 35 million copies of her twelve novels preceding The Break (2017) have been sold and been translated into 33 languages. She became known worldwide for Watermelon, Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married, Rachel’s Holiday, Last Chance Saloon, Anybody Out There, and This Charming Man, with themes including alcoholism, depression, addiction, cancer, bereavement, and domestic violence. She is one of the many authors who amaze me. From one desk, with one pen, and one sheet of paper, books are created that resonate with people globally.
My daughters Morggan and Kamarane – the next generation
I find myself constantly wondering what these 2 young ladies are going to contribute to the world. Will the parenting they have received be enough for them for make the decisions on how they are going to contribute to and change the world? I would certainly like to believe so. We can only do our best with our children, just as the mothers of the women in this feature had parents who did their best. Whether publicly known or not, our daughters will one day be celebrating International Women’s Day, I hope whatever your daughters contribute to the world, they grow up to be content, well rounded, and passionate women in whatever field they choose.
What women have inspired you? Made you grow? Made your heart swell or helped you change? Would love to hear all about it in the comments or on Facebook Twitter and Instagram.
Let’s talk about it!