Phenomenal Women – Iman

Zara Mohamed Abdulmajid or Iman as she is better known is a world-renowned supermodel and entrepreneur.  Born in Somalia to a relatively wealthy family.  Well educated, Iman decided to attend University to study political science, and it is while she was there that she was discovered and embarked on her modeling career.  Her striking features soon elevated her to the title of supermodel.

After 14 years as a model, Iman decided to create her own brand of cosmetics focusing on shades and tones appropriate for darker skin which in those days were more challenging to find.  Exploiting a gap in the market, she is now a successful businesswoman.

Also known for her marriage to David Bowie, Iman is a devoted mother and also pursues philanthropic activities including ambassadorships and award wins.  When David Bowie died in 2016, she paid tribute to him saying

“the struggle is real, but so is God.”

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Phenomenal Women (girl) – Anne Frank

One of the most distressing and compelling books that I read in my childhood was the Diary of Anne Frank.  Anne was born in Frankfurt, Germany and was held captive with her family during Nazi occupation.  The diary she wrote which was published posthumously shares her experiences of hiding with her family in the two years preceding their capture.

The diary is compelling because of its simplicity, written by a young girl there is an honesty and candour that both engages yet creates consternation as the tension and fear in some entries is almost palpable.

This entry from her diary demonstrates the optimism of youth which also creates a bittersweet, moment considering how well-known she has become.

I finally realized that I must do my schoolwork to keep from being ignorant, to get on in life, to become a journalist because that’s what I want! I know I can write …, but it remains to be seen whether I really have talent …

And if I don’t have the talent to write books or newspaper articles, I can always write for myself. But I want to achieve more than that. I can’t imagine living like Mother, Mrs. van Daan and all the women who go about their work and are then forgotten. I need to have something besides a husband and children to devote myself to! …

I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that’s why I’m so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that’s inside me!

When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that’s a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?”

Phenomenal Women – Indira Gandhi

Indira Gandhi holds the record for being the first and only Prime Minister of India, A respected and trail-blazing politician she held office on two occasions making her achievement even more notable.  Her first term ran from 1966 to 1977 and then she was in office from 1980 until 1984 when she was assassinated.

As a female premier Gandhi bucked the trend by being known for her ruthless determination and her strength of character.  She initiated war against Pakistan and was instrumental in the creation of “Bangladesh.”  Although many people found her approach controversial and didn’t agree she is no doubt one of the most influential and most powerful women in politics to date.

Such was the strength of feeling against her that she was assassinated by her own bodyguards in an apparent coup.  Notably, despite her famous name, she is not related to political activist Mahatma Gandhi.

 

 

Phenomenal Women – Laverne Cox

Netflix show “Orange is the New Black” is a firm favourite with everyone at WoK HQ it should come as no surprise that Laverne Cox has made it onto our list.  An outspoke LGBT activist with an emphasis on the T and a talented actress she has racked up an impressive number of firsts including being:

  • The first openly and African-American trans* person to be nominated for an Emmy for a Primetime show
  • The first openly trans* person to grace the cover of Time magazine
  • The first openly trans* person to be on the cover of any Cosmopolitan magazine

Born in Alabama known for its civil rights history Laverne was often teased for being too effeminate a comparison made more apparent because she also has an identical twin brother.  By age 11 she had recognised that she didn’t feel like a boy “should” and as she got older she made the decision to transition and in so doing became the outspoken and proud African-American and trans* activist and pioneer.  In her own words:

“I am a person of color, working class, born to a single mother, but I stand before you tonight an artist, an actress and a sister and a daughter, and I believe that it is important to name the multiple parts of my identity because I am not just one thing, and neither are you”

Phenomenal Women – Rita Williams & Ramona Nedd

Today it is Mother’s Day in the UK, and it is also the 17th anniversary of the passing of my grandmother.  I only ever had one grandmother, so it was heartwrenching when she passed.  Her story is one of strength and resilience she was a domestic for rich plantation owners in Guyana and was descended from the indentured East Indian labourers who were duped into moving to Guyana after the abolition of slavery.  A single mother to 6 children she made immense sacrifices for the good of her family including sending my mom and her sister’s to live in a Catholic orphanage giving them the opportunity to have a good education and raise their aspirations.

My mother obviously got her work ethic from her mom, and she took the opportunities given to her through being placed in the Orphanage a focused student and avid athlete she balanced school work with netball, swimming, and cycling.  As soon as she could start working she sacrificed higher education to begin working to support her younger siblings and to enable her mother to stop working in other people’s houses.

So today I wanted to honour both these women who set the blueprint for the other women in our family, as one of my favourite quotes says,

“Here’s to all the strong women, may we know them, may we be them and may we raise them!”