I spend a disproportionate amount of my day thinking about all the awesome women in the world, and how I can be more like them. I've always felt like there was something special about being a woman: an innate, magical strength that could overcome any obstacle. Women are deep, feeling creatures. We spend our days in between the layers of the things that are said, mulling over each moment for a sense of purpose.
It was strange, then, when I got older and realized that the world didn't always get that girls — women — were magical beings. The older I got, the more I felt the need to defend my specialness, and that of the women around me.
There are those who aren't interested in what women have to say — they would rather place us as props in a man's story. It's hard not to get dejected when you realize you may not be the protagonist of your own life, but I found solace in the lives of of the strong, interesting, complicated women around me. Women who didn't wait for the world to come to them but rather went after the world. Women who refused to be furniture in someone else's house. These were the women who saved me from myself, who made me want to grow up, and into, the fullest expression of who I could be.
For as long as I can remember, I've kept a running list of exceptional women in my mind. This is my list; it's not perfect or complete. There are still those whose stories and voices have yet to be heard. I hope one day I can add them to my list. But mostly, I hope you have your own list, and that it never stops growing.
1. Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, singer/mogul
2. Gloria Steinem, feminist icon
Known for: essentially starting the modern feminist movement, co-founding Ms. magazine
Best quote: “Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke... She will need her sisterhood.”
3. Mindy Kaling, screenwriter/showrunner/actress/author
4. Emma Watson, actress/activist
5. Aung San Suu Kyi, politician/Nobel Peace Prize winner
6. Christiane Amanpour, broadcast journalist
7. Tina Fey, screenwriter/showrunner/actress/author
8. Laverne Cox, actress/activist
9. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice
10. Tavi Gevinson, Rookie Mag editor-in-chief/actress
11. Melissa McCarthy, actress/producer
12. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany
13. Veronica Roth, author
14. Emma Thompson, actress/ screenwriter/author
15. Oprah Winfrey, former talk show host/ OWN CEO/philanthropist/actress/mogul
16. J.K. Rowling, author
17. Emma Stone, actress
18. Nicki Minaj, rapper
19. Lena Dunham, actress/director/showrunner/author
20. Angelina Jolie, actress/activist/director/producer
21. Shonda Rhimes, showrunner
22. Marissa Mayer, Yahoo CEO
23. Jennifer Lawrence, actress
Known for: portraying Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, tripping and falling at practically every award show (and not caring if she does), and most importantly, always speaking her mind
Best quote: "I'm never going to starve myself for a part.I don't want little girls to be like, 'Oh, I want to look like Katniss, so I'm going to skip dinner.' That's something I was really conscious of during training, when you're trying to get your body to look exactly right. I was trying to get my body to look fit and strong — not thin and underfed."