After curating this list of amazing, fearless, astounding women and writing about all of their achievements, it reminded us (it actually slapped us in the face) just how powerful women are. Despite being told no, or you can’t, these women have. So the next time you feel like you’re unable to do something or it feels out of reach, look to these women for inspiration because we have no doubt they’ll inspire you to do better, be better, and create the change you want to see in the world. Happy International Women’s Day, ladies. We’ve earned it.
1. Yara Shahidi
Who she is: American actress turned political advocate. Yara Founded Eighteen x 18, a platform that encourages young people to be more engaged and active in politics.
Why she inspires us: Yara uses her platform to remind others that their opinion matters and their voice should be heard. She educates the younger generation on how politics can affect their daily life and why their right to vote should not be taken for granted. She’s engaged, insightful, and proactive.
True story: Oprah encouraged Yara to run for the presidency, saying, “I hope I’m still around when she becomes President of the United States.” Now that’s an endorsement!!
2. Ashley Graham
Who she is: Ashley is a supermodel, television personality, author, clothing designer, podcast host, and businesswoman.
Why she inspires us: Ashley continuously uses her social media platform to break down barriers and dispel unrealistic beauty expectations inherited by women. She’s currently tackling the myths of mommyhood and speaking its truths, aka normalizing stretch marks, the trials and tribulations of breastfeeding, and post-partum nappies. If you don’t follow her, you need to start. Even if you’re not a new mom, we guarantee you, she’ll empower you in some way.
True story: During a TED Talk back in 2015, Graham shared her mantra “I am bold. I am brilliant. I am beautiful. Beauty beyond size.” These words have since become a popular self-love hashtag with more than 300,000 untouched images of beautiful women being shared on social media.
3. Laverne Cox
Who she is: Emmy nominated actress and LGBTQIA+ advocate.
Why she inspires us: Laverne is a spokeswoman for her community, who uses her platform to speak out on the daily struggles of being trans. She has accomplished many “firsts,” paving the way for other trans men and women to do the same. She was the first trans woman to appear on the cover of Time Magazine, which brought awareness to millions of Americans. Seeing her accomplish her dreams in the face of stigma and hardship, demonstrates to women everywhere that you can achieve anything. #TransIsBeautiful.
True story: Laverne Cox has a twin brother who played her character, pre-transition, in the Netflix phenomenon Orange Is the New Black.
4. Greta Thunberg
Who she is: Greta is a climate change activist who has brought the topic of climate change into the forefront of global politics.
Why she inspires us: The 17-year-old set a new precedent for the title: activist. At the age of 15, she staged the first-ever climate school strike, which after three weeks gained the attention of the Swedish parliament and has since started a global movement, proving you’re never too young to implement change. Greta is fearless, powerful, and resilient. She doesn’t back down or hide from anyone, not even the President of the United States.
True story: Due to the environmental cost of flying, when Greta traveled to New York for the UN’s Climate Action Summit, she sailed in a zero-emission yacht for two weeks across the Atlantic.
5. Eva Longoria
Who she is: Rising to fame as Gabrielle Solis in the iconic Desperate Housewives series, Eva Longoria was not defined by her role as an actress but became a philanthropist and spokeswoman for the Latino community.
Why she inspires us: Eva Longoria is one of the kindest, most generous, humble women we’ve ever met. Her list of charitable acts, at times, feels endless. Whether she’s empowering and enabling the Latino youth in America or making dreams come true for children with life-threating medical conditions, she leaves a mark wherever she goes. She is a true inspiration.
True story: The Eva Longoria Foundation has helped disburse more than $1.5 million in microloans to Latino entrepreneurs, who have used it to grow their own businesses, creating more than 500 jobs for the Latino community.
6. Malala Yousafzai
Who she is: A Pakistani activist for female education. She was shot in the head by the Taliban after attempting to go to school, which was banned at the time. The shooting sparked a global outcry and the Taliban was denounced worldwide. Since moving to the UK, Malala set up the Malala Fund, a nonprofit organization, and became the youngest Nobel Prize laureate after she wrote her biography I Am Malala, which btw, is a must-read!
Why she inspires us: Malala’s sheer determination to get the education she knew she deserved, can only be described as inspiring. To then use her struggle to benefit young girls around the world is what makes her an iconic activist. In her own words “I raise up my voice not so I can shout but so that those without a voice can be heard… We cannot succeed when half of us are held back.”
True Story: When asked who she despises the most, Malala answered, “That’s something I don’t even think about. My mind never goes there.”
7. Adwoa Aboah
Who she is: Model and mental health campaigner, and Founder of Gurls Talk, an online platform for young girls to discuss mental health, sexuality, and education.
Why she inspires us: Whenever we listen to Adwoa’s podcast, we’re in awe of her authenticity, honesty, and vulnerability. She never shies away from hard topics, speaking openly about her own suicide attempt and how she overcame depression. By doing so, she reminds girls that they’re not alone in their struggles. Because of this, she has created an online community of girls who empower, listen, and support each other, providing solace in their darkest times. If you haven’t listened to her podcast, you need to ASAP! Although a prewarning, they can be real tearjerkers.
True Story: Adwoa has a tattoo on both of her wrists that reads ‘All the women. In me. Are tired,’ a line from African-American poet Nayyirah Waheed. In reference to her tattoo, she told Time Magazine, “I’m made up of so many women… My mom — a woman who’s helped me through this journey, the girls I meet through Gurls Talk, and all the wonderful people that come into my life,” she says. “I take parts of them and that’s what I’m made up of.”
Who she is: Grammy award-winning singer, female boss, feminist, and all-round badass b*tch!
Why she inspires us: After listening to just three minutes of her fierce raps, you literally feel like you can conquer the world. Case in point: “Yeah, I got boy problems, that’s the human in me. Bling bling, then I solve ’em, that’s the goddess in me.” Or another one of our faves, “I was born like this, don’t even gotta try, I’m like chardonnay, get better over time.” Listen to Lizzo and we promise it will make you feel more powerful, and at times, we all need that!
True Story: 10 years ago Lizzo was homeless sleeping in her car. Now she’s worth 2.3million. Never. Give. Up!
9. Sinead Burke
Who she is: Sinead Burke is an Irish writer, activist, lecturer, and broadcaster.
Why she inspires us: When Sinead Burke was 16, she realized there was a real lack of representation for people with disabilities in the fashion industry, so she set out to change it. She co-founded the Inclusive Fashion and Design Collective (IFDC) with U.S. disability advocate Liz Jackson, to challenge designers to create clothes for the disabled community. She became the representation she needed so that other people like her wouldn’t have to feel the same way. Now that’s #girlpower.
True Story: Sinead Burke was the first little person t0 attend the Met Gala.
10. Tracee Ellis Ross
Who she is: Actress, model, feminist, and most recently Founder of hair care line Pattern, which encourages men and women to embrace their natural hair texture.
Why she inspires us: Tracee is bold, fierce, and unapologetic, and her hair care line has encouraged a powerful self-love movement within the curl community. She reminds men and women that you should love yourself and the characteristics that make you, you. She’s also a style and beauty QUEEN, whether she’s wearing a neon suit or an Avant-garde braid lewk, she can do no wrong in our eyes.
True story: Tracee co-founded the Time’s Up movement to help protect women in the workforce from sexual harassment.
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11. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Who she is: Award-winning author and feminist writer, who wrote the essay We Should All Be Feminists, which featured in Beyoncé’s song Flawless. She also wrote the novel Americanah, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was crowned one of The New York Times Top Ten Best Books of 2013.
Why she inspires us: Chimamanda’s ability to call out the subtle nuances of the inequality women face is remarkable. They’re discreet, but she reminds you that they are there, and teaches you how to overcome them. Her way with words is breathtaking, relatable, and empowering.
True story: Her TED Talk, which was sampled in Beyoncé’s song Flawless, was distributed in book form to every sixteen-year-old in Sweden.
12. Cynthia Nixon
Who she is: Sex and the City actress turned political activist, Cynthia Nixon campaigns for women’s health and public education. She recently spoke in the Girls Girls Girls Magazine, Be A Lady They Said video, which has created a feminist movement online.
Why she inspires us: Cynthia Nixon has been inspiring us since the 90s. Her character Miranda was undoubtedly the most progressive woman on TV at the time, teaching us that you should never apologize for your success or be embarrassed by your sexual needs. Since, she has campaigned for women’s health and public education. Most recently, she highlighted the many contradictions that society dictates to women via her narration in the ‘Be A lady, They Said’ video, which has been viewed more than 3 million times on Instagram.
True Story: Inspired by the Dior T-shirt that reads ‘We Should All Be Feminists,’ the Instagram account @EveryOutfitOnSATC, rebranded the T-shirt to say ‘We Should All Be Mirandas,’ which was worn by celebs like Kendall Jenner and ASAP Rocky.
13. Reese Witherspoon
Who she is: Reese Witherspoon is a feminist hero. The American actress rose to fame as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, then went on to become a producer who works predominantly with female actresses to create more female-lead movies and TV series. She’s also the actress that spearheaded the Times Up movement, which calls out sexual harassment in the workplace.
Why she inspires us: Reese Witherspoon started one of the most powerful and important movements of our generation. She speaks out, she speaks up, and she proves how powerful women can be when they come together.
True story: At the end of 2017, she single-handedly started the Times Up movement by texting and emailing all of her close Hollywood friends, she even donated $500,000 of her own money to the movement.
14. Halima Aden
Who she is: Halima was the first person to wear a burkini at the Miss Minnesota USA pageant. She then went on to become the first hijab-wearing supermodel. Her modeling contract includes her Hijab, as she has made it a non-negotiable part of her work.
Why she inspires us: Halima’s sense of identity does not waver for anyone or any brand. She is an example to women everywhere, that regardless of your religion, ethnicity, or political beliefs, you belong and deserve to be seen and heard.
True story: Halima Aden now has her own 47-piece hijab collection, Halima x Modanisa.
15. Sheryl Sandberg
Who she is: Chief Operating Officer of Facebook and the Founder of the Lean In Foundation, a non-profit organization offering women ‘the ongoing inspiration and support to help them achieve their goals.’
Why she inspires us: Sheryl refuses to accept the negative perception of women in business and tech, she instead sets the record straight and is the perfect example of a strong, intellectual, powerful woman. She has paved the way for the younger generation to dominate in the workplace: to lead rather than follow.
True story: Sheryl Sandburg was the first woman to be elected onto Facebook’s Board of directors. She also set up the #banbossy social media campaign with Beyoncé to encourage girls to seek out leadership roles. Remember ladies, you’re not bossy, you’re the boss!
16. Adut Akech Bior
Who she is: Former Sudanese refugee, Aduta models for some of the most famous designers in the world including YSL and Burberry. She was most recently crowned 2019 Model of Year by the Business of Fashion.
Why she inspires us: Rather than tell you why she inspires us, we will let her words inspire you: “Whatever it is that you want to do, you should never doubt yourself or let the world convince you that it is not possible. Because if a little dark-skinned refugee can do it so can you, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
True story: She was supported by Meghan Markle, who included Adut Akech in her iconic September issue of British Vogue, entitled “Forces of Change.”
17. Hunter Schaffer
Who she is: American model turned actress, Hunter rose to fame when she starred in the TV show Euphoria.
Why she inspires us: Hunter’s character in Euphoria, Jules, was actually inspired by Hunter and her own personal experience growing up a trans woman in America. She used her story to shine a light and normalize the trans experience despite noting how it made her feel uncomfortable at times. By doing so, she gave hundreds of trans people representation within pop culture as she selflessly overcame her fears to represent her community.
True story: As a high school student, Hunter was a plaintiff in the American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against a North Carolina bill, which required people to use the restroom for the gender they were assigned at birth.
18. Emma Watson
Who she is: British actress and UN Goodwill Ambassador, Emma helped launch the HeForShe campaign, which encourages all genders to work towards gender equality.
Why she inspires us: Emma Watson used her fame to implement positive change. She does not follow paths or accept expectations. Most recently, she rejected the term “single” and favored her own definition “self-partnered.” Ladies, take note from Emma and don’t welcome any label that makes you feel uncomfortable.
True story: Once the Harry Potter franchise ended, Emma Watson attended an Ivy League college in the U.S., Brown, and graduated with a degree in English Literature.
19. Amika George
Who she is: Amika George is an activist in the UK who has made it her personal mission to end period poverty after discovering that girls in the UK were forced to miss school due to a lack of sanitary care. She started the campaign Free Periods, which strives to end period poverty in schools. Her campaign has since garnered the support of celebs like Adwoa Aboah.
Why she inspires us: At the age of 17, Amika took the initiative to create a campaign to dissociate shame from periods and provide free sanitary products in schools across the UK. Reminding women that you shouldn’t feel the need to hide your period or feel embarrassed about it. She did all this while studying for her finals from her bedroom at the age of 17. Now that’s dedication and determination.
True story: The #FreePeriods protest that Amika led in December 2017 had groups of teenage boys wearing red T-shirts and waving banners and singing “You’ll never bleed alone.”
20. Serena Williams
Who she is: Record-breaking tennis champion, feminist, mother, and fashion designer.
Why she inspires us: On and off the court, Serena is a feminist force. She speaks out on issues of inequality in sports and fights for representation and equality for women of color. She also defies societal expectations and female dress code ideologies, often wearing sneakers instead of stilettos. In fact, Serena wore sneakers at both her wedding and the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. She creates her own rules, and so should you!
True story: Serena Williams also has the highest winning percentage at the US open among both male and female singles players in the Open Era.
What women inspire you? Tell us about someone you know or any woman you find inspiring, in the comments below.