Like A Boss: 10 Women of Color I Look Up To
Shoutout to Trevor C for this awesome idea for an article!
Spoiler alert: I am overly dramatic in this piece. I already know. There's no need to tell me. I freaking LOVE powerful women of color, I love women who uplift each other, I love when women bring the spotlight to important issues! It's the best thing ever. So I'm featuring 10 women of color that I personally look up to.
It's worth noting that I have a few entertainment icons, and I don't want to hear that they're not good role models because of their sexuality or their look because guess what— that's lowkey racism! We don't point out when men or white women are bad role models for their sexuality, it's mostly because black women historically are over sexualized. So I'd rather if we took all of those stereotypes and just put them away and focus on these powerful women and their contributions!
10. Laverne Cox
I had the pleasure of hearing Laverne Cox speak at the University of Maryland and oh my goodness. She's so well spoken, she articulates issues affecting the trans community so clearly. She boils down complex concepts and gives real solutions. She's so brave for bringing attention to the trans community through her acting and public speaking, and everytime I hear her speeches I walk away with more respect for her and her fight towards equality.
9. Comediennes of Color
Comedy is typically seen as a white man's game. But historically it has been a site where white men speak over women and people of color—think about where blackface got it's start. There is a wave of women of color moving into comedy, standup and otherwise-- and I'm completely here for it. A few names that stand out to me are Mindy Kaling (so talented and so important!), Maya Rudolph, Lena Waithe, Leslie Jones and Quinta B.
They're not proving that women can be funny— they're showing that women ARE funny.
8. Amandla Stenberg
I'm pretty sure I've written about Amandla before but I can't find the article. Amandla Stenberg is one of the most vocal intersectional feminists I've observed in the public sphere. She brings attention to intersectional topics like racism, sexism, and cultural appropriation. She's unapologetic about her stances and straight up tells it like it is. Always. She's definitely someone I want to be like. I find myself worried about boldly stating my opinions for fear of who might be listening. People like Amandla make me want to state my truth regardless of the environment.
Poppin'. Smart. Unapologetic.
In September, Rihanna launched her makeup line in collaboration with Sephora and I'm still gagging. The Fenty Beauty line is the most inclusive makeup lines ever launched, starting with 40 foundation shades. I found my shade. My sister found her shade. My mom found hers too. The fact that my mom, sister and I can wear the same brand of foundation with a flawless shade match is unprecedented.
Rihanna has always been authentically herself. I probably have a soft spot for her because she's also from the Caribbean. She came from nothing and became a singer, song writer, makeup brand face, and the recipient of Harvard University's humanitarian of the year. The girl meets with the prime minister of France for goodness sake. Those are boss moves, and I want to get on her level.
6. Malala Yousafzai
Bravery. Passion. Dedication.
Malala Yousafzai is 3 months older than me and has won a Nobel Peace Prize. Like. Are you kidding me? And she 100% deserved it for her commitment and dedication to women's education in the Middle East. Definitely check out her biography I Am Malala and hear her story about how she started as a blogger for the BBC, survived an assassination attempt where she was shot in the head, and her subsequent activism and passion for access to education.
5. Jackie Aina
Bold. Vocal. Humble.
How can you be bold and humble at the same time? Ask Jackie Aina. For those of you who know me, you know that I am obsessed with beauty gurus on Youtube. Specifically, I really like black beauty gurus because their advice is a lot more applicable to me and my skin tone. What sets Jackie Aina apart from most beauty gurus is her constant support for the black community and lobbying for diverse shade ranges. She's currently working with the makeup brand Too Faced to widen their shade range to include deeper darker shades. I definitely recommend watching her speech at brandcast here:
4. Venus and Serena Williams
Dedication. Strength. Courage.
Fun fact: I was captain of my varsity tennis team. No big deal. I'm just a tennis beast.
My dad also likes tennis a lot, he plays pretty much every weekend and is very good at it. I've known the names Venus and Serena since childhood because they are the GOATs. Their story of coming from adversity and becoming the best female tennis players of all time (some would argue the best players of all time, period, I mean it's not like Roger Federer ever won the French Open while pregnant....) is so inspiring! Add on top of that the racism and sexism that has been dealt their way by the tennis community and it seems almost impossible for them to have maintained so much composure and grace. The Williams sisters rock!
3. Issa Rae
Kind. Talented. Vocal.
One of Issa Rae's best moments was when she was asked who she was rooting for at the Emmy's and she plainly responded:
The backlash was insane, so many people called her racist for saying she wanted to root for black people. I obviously don't see it that way because I understand that black people were oftentimes uncredited and undervalued in movies (take for example Louise Beavers in Imitation of Life (1934), who was a main character in the film and was credited only as her character's name and featured in none of the advertisements) (you could also consider how black women were limited to roles portraying domestic workers not because white casting directors thought they were good actresses, but because it was the natural state of a black woman). Even Hattie McDaniel, the first black person to get an Academy Award, wasn't allowed in the theater where Gone With the Wind premiered. So Issa Rae, in all her wokeness, was making an intentionally bold statement in saying she is rooting for everybody black, because historically no one rooted for black people at awards shows. Also her show Insecure on HBO is fantastic. It gives such multidimensional looks at black life and black women in particular. SO IMPORTANT.
2. Beyonce Knowles Carter
Talent. Self-aware. Influential.
Don't tell anyone but I used to be in the camp that thought Beyonce was overhyped. Like, yeah, she's a good singer, but there are a lot of good singers in the world. What makes her special? Then the Lemonade album dropped, and my life was forever changed. There is only before Lemonade and after. If you haven't seen Lemonade the visual album, PLEASE LET ME KNOW. I have it, I am more than happy to play it for you. I've now written three academic papers analyzing the Lemonade album (both visually and lyrically) and I've barely scratched the surface.
Beyonce has used her platform to bring attention to black issues. To police brutality, to racism, to housing segregation, to so much! I admire her for taking her massively huge platform and putting it towards her community. Towards uplifting black women. She featured so many important black women in the Lemonade album that you need multiple views to catch them all.
1. Michelle Obama (aka my queen, my everything)
Intelligence. Grace. Humility. A heart for service.
I hold Michelle Obama as the best human being on this Earth. Like, forget about minorities and gender— she is just the best person. Period.
While her husband was in office, Michelle Obama dealt with so much racism and hate. There's a laundry list of names and slurs she has been called. She never once retaliated or let it affect her duties as FLOTUS. Her dedication to affecting change and helping children are the icing on an already perfect cake.
Don't diminish the importance of the fact that she, a black woman, is our most educated first lady thus far. She graduated cum laude from Princeton and then attended law school at Harvard. Just thinking about the black community's relationship with education and knowing that gets me teary eyed.