Happy International Women’s Day! To celebrate we revisit an article, where we speak to accomplished women about the women who have inspired and influenced them throughout the years.
Keysha Davis, Editor of Blackhairmagazine.co.uk
Inspired by… Sharmadean Reid – Beauty Entrepreneur
I’m inspired by the fabulous entrepreneur Sharmadean Reid who has successfully managed to create a dynamic brand by being her authentic self as a businesswoman. Oftentimes I think as women we feel we have to conform to acting in a certain manner and dressing a certain way to gain access to a world that has traditionally been seen as out of our reach, in this case, the world of the mainstream cosmetics industry. But what Sharmadean has managed to create with WAH Nails and the whole nail art movement is hugely commendable, from having headquarters in the flagship Topshop store, selling a range of nail polishes in Boots, and just believing in the beauty and fabulousness of nail art, a creative expression that has historically been ghettoised and looked down upon. I look forward to seeing what Sharmadean has in store for the next phase of her career.
Jessica Huie MBE – Author/Founder of JHPR, and Colourblind Cards
Inspired by…Maya Angelou – Poet and Civil Rights Activist
I am more than inspired by Maya Angelou. It is not just her best known or most highly lauded work or poems, but the woman I came to know in ‘All God’s children need travelling shoes’ for example. Her evolution as a human being, her growth as a woman and her bare boned honesty, as she recounts her life journey through her books, is beautiful. I, like so many who read her works, cannot help but recognise myself in Maya at various stages in her life and that resonance, given that despite huge challenges, she grew into this incredible wise soul, is comforting and encouraging. Maya Angelou for me, is an example of how beauty stems from pain, wisdom from ignorance and that we are all constant works in progress. I’m grateful that she allowed us all into her most intimate thoughts through her writing, as for me it continues to be real chicken soup for the soul in life’s most testing moments. As I’ve gotten older my idea of success has evolved and shifted, so while professional success is still part of my desire to be the greatest version of myself, Maya is my ultimate successful woman because of who she was and who she remains to the world.
Akesha Reid, Beauty Writer
Inspired by…Zadie Smith – Novelist and Civil Rights Activist
While writing articles is my bread and butter, writing fiction is my heart song. Delving into landscapes and building characters from the bare bones is something that I could get lost in for hours on end. Forming poetic sentences and romanticised descriptions of the smallest increment of time, oh boy, I could be here all day. I love Zadie Smith as a writer because of this; she is the master of it and flourishes in it brazenly. Not a detail goes untouched, yet it doesn’t feel forced or fantastical and stays firmly in the realm of realism. I love the fact that her books are based on what she knows: culture, ethnicity, London life. Some say that sticking to what you know as a writer lacks imagination, but personally I think it showcases your creativity even further – to build a world for your reader that has never been seen before makes your reader use their own imagination to create it, if it’s a world or place that’s already there, it forces your reader see it in a whole new light, through your characters’ eyes, which is what Zadie does. Every. Single. Time. Even her essays, which are available to read for free online, are a showcase in how to develop a story in the often straight-forward fact-heavy world of non-fiction. When I grow up, if I can be half the writer, author, novelist, essayist, professor, generally cool-ass woman as Zadie, I’ll be very, very happy.
Ronke Lawal, Founder of Ariatu Public Relations
Inspired by….Lucy Quist, International Business Leader & Technology Professional
I first heard about Lucy through a good friend who knows her. I then watched her interview on The BBC online “Women of Africa” series and she inspired me beyond measure in that moment. Not only is she a woman who has had to navigate the STEM corporate world in Ghana (often quite a patriarchal society like many of countries in across Africa), but she seems so down to earth. In a world filled with people who seek to be clones of other leaders, hiding their true selves to be accepted in big business, Lucy’s authenticity shines through. What I particularly love is that she credits her ability to just laugh (I love to laugh) and be herself that allows her to be successful. She also recognises the power of her visibility in inspiring other.
Ronke Adeyemi – Founder of brownbeautytalk.com and #BBT
Inspired by…Issa Rae – Actress and Director
As a somewhat geeky girl who used to be very shy I totally relate to Issa Rae. She created the concept of the ‘Awkward Black Girl’ long before it was a thing. I didn’t even know that such a term existed until I saw the TV series. That was when I had a complete ‘Aha’ moment and I felt like I was not alone. Not only was Issa revolutionary in the way she presented women of Colour by doing a complete fingers up to the stereotypical way we are portrayed, she created a mini revolution by showing that you didn’t need the approval of big TV execs to create a successful TV show. Instead of running after powerful TV bosses she had them chasing her. Awkward Black Girl was a huge success and gained Issa Rae a lot of acclaim and then she went on to create Insecure. The last I heard she had a Golden Globe nomination. The rest is history.
Joanna Abeyie – Founder and Managing Director of Hyden Talent
Inspired by… Karen Blackett – Chairwoman and CEO of MediaCom
Karen Blackett inspires me because she has achieved so much and always has time for those coming up behind her, giving up so much time to mentor and support others. Karen was the first person to tell me that the sincerity of my ambition to make the media and creative industry more diverse through my organisation Shine Media wasn’t weakened by charging for that, offering and creating a financially sustainable business. Before this conversation with Karen, I felt like charging businesses for my service removed my genuine passion for making a positive change. I later realised that by creating a financially sustainable business model meant I could make more impact and help more talented people. Karen’s words gave me the assurance I needed and was the catalyst for my transition from a bedroom business into a professional inclusive recruitment offering. Her second piece of advice was ‘You have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion’. I’ve learnt so much by listening more. I am now a sponge for new information and learnings.”
Marverine Cole – Award-winning Broadcaster
Inspired by… Oprah Winfrey – Media Mogul and Philanthropist
My inspiration is Oprah Winfrey. For me what she’s achieved in the media industry over more than four decades has been absolutely phenomenal. She started out as a Local TV News Reporter and Anchor, and then was offered her own show because someone saw potential in her. She grew into becoming a TV Producer, Media Business Owner and creator of her own TV Network, a Film-maker, Business Investor, a Writer and so much more there’s not enough room to mention it all. Oprah spread her gift of helping people to help themselves globally to the maximum effect. I also started my Journalism career as a Local TV News Reporter with ITV Central News in Birmingham. I went on to be a News Anchor at Sky News in London. My career in the media spans 24 years now and my dreams of achieving what she has were made that much harder – because of the attitudes of mainstream broadcasters in the UK – I was still spurred on to keep striving because I saw Oprah excelling, and being the kind of broadcaster I wanted to be. Her achievements boosted my will to succeed.