2014 was the year when women worldwide raised their voices in important discussions of hot topic issues, such as personal identity and equality of the sexes. In the world of entertainment, actresses, musicians, and other talented ladies used their high profile platforms to share their thoughts on being a women and a human being in our day and age, and their advice and hopes for a better future. From the words of these 10 women in entertainment, we can derive several life lessons that can be applied to all aspects of our lives, from careers to relationships, in 2015 and beyond.
The Emmy-nominated actress from the ground-breaking television series, Orange is the New Black is breaking down the barriers surrounding gender stereotypes. As an African-American transgender woman, Laverne Cox is vocal about addressing common misunderstandings and creating an open space for transgendered people to express their identities freely.
She Said: “Each and every one of us has the capacity to be an oppressor. I want to encourage each and every one of us to interrogate how we might be an oppressor, and how we might be able to become liberators for ourselves and each other.”
Life Lesson: We are all raised with prejudiced attitudes. We have all said derogatory statements. But we are capable of shifting our views by listening to and understanding the experiences of those who are different. From there, we will change by becoming open-minded and respectful towards people from all walks of life and inspire others to do the same.
At the Human Rights Campaign’s “Time to Thrive” conference in February, actress Ellen Page came out as gay. She delivered an honest and moving speech about the personal suffering she endured as a result of feeling like she had to conceal this part of her identity, and hopes that through her openness, she can give encouragement to those in the LGBTQ community in their journeys.
She Said: “Love, the beauty of it, the joy of it and yes, even the pain of it, is the most incredible gift to give and to receive as a human being. And we deserve to experience love fully, equally, without shame and without compromise.”
Life Lesson: Recognize and appreciate the love people have for one another, in all forms. Love is life’s greatest gift and no one should be denied that experience. Embracing and celebrating difference is the better way to live, and therefore, the world will be better.
Amy Poehler, best known for her stint on SNL and Golden Globe award-winning portrayal of the fair, kind, and cheerful Leslie Knope on Parks & Recreation, released her first book, Yes Please in October. Her witty insights and eternal optimism are interwoven throughout the stories of her career and motherhood, and within the pieces of guidance she offers for living a good life.
She Said: “The only way we will survive is by being kind. The only way we can get by in this world is through the help we receive from others. No one can do it alone, no matter how great the machines are.”
Life Lesson: As the Beatles once sang, we get by with a little help from our friends. We need the support and encouragement of the people in our lives to move forward on our path. You will learn and accomplish so much more when you collaborate with multiple minds. You will feel happier and fuller when you open your heart and soul to others. Even a simple smile can make a big difference on someone’s day. People helping people is what makes the world function.
Since her breakthrough role in 12 Years a Slave, Lupita Nyong’o has won multiple acting awards (including the prestigious Oscar) and graced the covers of various magazines (including being named People’s Most Beautiful Woman of 2014). As the new ambassador and face of Lancôme, the stunning actress is re-defining what it means to be beautiful.
She Said: “My mother would say to me, “You can’t eat beauty. It doesn’t feed you.” These words plagued and bothered me; I didn’t really understand them until finally I realized that beauty was not a thing that I could acquire or consume, it was something that I just had to be. What my mother meant when she said you can’t eat beauty was that you can’t rely on how you look to sustain you. What does sustain us, what is fundamentally beautiful, is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul.”
Life Lesson: Owning and loving the skin you’re in starts with spreading love to others. A good heart allows your inner beauty to shine through, enhancing your external beauty. Compassion is what makes you whole and will continue to carry you through life when your looks change. In this way, the beauty you produce makes you eternally beautiful.
Viola Davis was the talk of the television scene when she was cast in Shonda Rhimes’ How to Get Away With Murder as the show’s protagonist Annalise Keating, a criminal defense lawyer and law professor who is smart, sexy, and above all, complicated. A multi-dimensional role like hers is unlike the norms of the typecasted roles available to women of different ethnic groups, which shines a light on the deficit of all-inclusive representation in the media, and is a topic Davis doesn’t shy away from speaking out on.
She Said: “I see the kind of work that needs to be put out there in order to make change. Do I think there is a crisis for women over 40, too? Absolutely. But a 25-year-old white actress who is training at Yale or Juilliard or SUNY Purchase or N.Y.U. today can look at a dozen white actresses who are working over age 40 in terrific roles. You can’t say that for a lot of young black girls. That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing.”
Life Lesson: What we see influences what we think, which is why it is so important for women, men, and people of all races to be equally represented in the media. This line of thinking should be applied not only in Hollywood, but to every occupational industry. We need to work towards establishing visible diversity in our industries, so that the following generations can believe in the possibility of striving for their dreams.
As the writer, showrunner, and star of her own television sitcom, The Mindy Project, Mindy Kaling possesses a killer work ethic, all while wearing killer outfits. She is the image of the confident woman in a male-dominated industry, but she is fully aware of the double standards that exist in the workforce, and aims to continue challenging the obstacle at every turn.
She Said: “Of course I’m riddled with doubts like every other creative, neurotic person, but if you don’t display them all the time, you’re seen as overconfident. I’ve worked in television for 10 years straight. If I were a man, it wouldn’t be considered strange [to have confidence] at all.”
Life Lesson: Career-driven women face scrutiny on a daily basis, with their every action turned into something negative. Ambition = arrogance. Assertiveness = attitude. Being a boss = being a bitch. The naysayers are just intimidated and insecure about seeing talented and self-assured women rising through the ranks of leadership in their fields. Don’t let negativity prevent you from doing your job and reaching your goals. Continue to work hard and to aim high, and remember, anything men can do, women can do. Better.
With the release of her full-fledged pop album, 1989, Taylor Swift took the crown of 2014’s biggest pop star. This year of her musical reinvention was also the year she reclaimed her independence. Though the media continues to obsess over her dating life (old news, old sport), Swift is happy to ‘shake it off’ and enjoy the single life with her best girlfriends, including supermodel Karlie Kloss and musician Lorde, among others. Ladies, take note.
She Said: “If we continue to show young girls that they are being compared to other girls, we’re doing ourselves a huge disservice as a society. I surround myself with smart, beautiful, passionate, driven, ambitious women. Other women who are killing it should motivate you, thrill you, challenge you and inspire you rather than threaten you and make you feel like you’re immediately being compared to them.”
Life Lesson: You don’t need romance to complete your social life. What’s more important is having friends who believe in you and who empower you to be the best person you can be. In the case of women’s relationships with women, we should aspire towards motivation and solidarity, not rivalry and competition. Cheer each other on and fight together. #GirlPower
Besides her Academy Award nomination for American Hustle and her role in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, actress Jennifer Lawrence made headlines when she was targeted in the deplorable iCloud hack of 2014, where private nude photos of celebrities (all women) were stolen and circulated on the internet. In a Vanity Fair exclusive, she spoke out on her realization that she really didn’t have anything to be sorry for and how this scandal is more than just an invasion of piracy, but an act of sexual exploitation.
She Said: “It’s my body, and it should be my choice, and the fact that it is not my choice is absolutely disgusting. I can’t believe that we even live in that kind of world… It is not a scandal. It is a sex crime. It is a sexual violation. It’s disgusting. The law needs to be changed, and we need to change.”
Life Lesson: Public figure or not, it doesn’t matter who you are. Nobody asks to be objectified, harrassed, violated, or abused, and nobody deserves to be either. If you or someone you know is feeling unsafe, take action. Stand up for yourself. Stand up for others. Stand up for humanity.
Sure, she’s polarizing, but you can’t deny the impact rapper Nicki Minaj has had on female confidence. Her hit single “Anaconda“, which samples Six Mix A Lot’s “Baby Got Back”, turns the tables on the common narrative of a man conquering women to a woman who is unapologetic about her dominating, in-your-face sexuality. Through her music, Minaj asserts her power as a sexual subject rather than a sexual object at the mercy of men.
She Said: “I just want women to always feel in control. Because, we’re capable – we’re so capable.”
Life Lesson: Women are multi-dimensional beings, and we alone determine how we want to present ourselves. Though women aren’t often depicted positivity as bold, fearless, loud, and confident, there is no reason why they aren’t capable of having all of these qualities and more. Be assertive in who you are, and don’t make apologies for being you.
The Queen B is the symbol of female empowerment. As the conversation surrounding feminism spreads, Beyoncé is doing her work to take this notion of equality for women to the masses. Starting with her song “***Flawless” (which samples Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk, “We Should All Be Feminists“) and culminating at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards, in which she closed the show with a FEMINIST sign blazing behind her, she is reclaiming a term loaded with negative connotations and letting people know that feminism is a necessity.
She Said: “You can be a businesswoman, a mother, an artist, and a feminist – whatever you want to be – and still be a sexual being. It’s not mutually exclusive.”
Life Lesson: There is no limits to the roles women can take on. It’s not one or the other, it’s one or more. Do what you do, and do it with faith, love, and passion. And yeah, if Beyoncé says so, it is law.