Seize the Moment
The list of women we admire is long, and while we often see them as role models and motivators, it’s easy to forget the challenges they faced on their way to success. Every woman has a moment when she chose to accept the solution to her problem, whether that problem was physical or emotional. Womensforum profiles 10 well-known women who decided to embrace their fear and seize the day.
Malala Yousafzai has accomplished a lot in her pursuit of education equality—and she's only 18. She's grown up with a father who championed education himself, and she began writing a blog for the BBC Urdu when she was just 12 years old. When she decided to start the blog, she knew how dangerous it could be for her and her family, but she decided that she had to take that first step towards her goal of making sure girls around the world had access to an education. Because of her efforts, she became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Malala was targeted by the Taliban and shot in the head when she was 15, but that only fueled her fire to continue her mission of seeing women everywhere get an education.
Inspiring women are constantly being inspired by other amazing women, and Malala is no exception. She told Emma Watson in an interview that she didn't call herself a feminist until she heard Watson's HeForShe speech at the U.N.
Photo Credit: Simon Davis/DFID
When we think of Oprah, we tend to remember her talk show that spanned 25 years, her incredible wealth or her philanthropic endeavors. But Oprah had to overcome a tough childhood of bouncing between her grandmother in rural Mississippi, her mother in a poor neighborhood in Milwaukee, and her father in Nashville. Although she was always a very bright child, she got involved with the wrong crowd in Milwaukee, even giving birth (and losing the baby) when she was only 14. She has said that a turning point for her was when she was sent to live with her dad because he was very strict with her and forced her to turn her life around. It was because of this move that she decided to embrace her gifts, continue her education, and not let others influence her actions.
Photo Credit: Luke Vargas
She's best known as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series, but Emma Watson has done much more than acting since the last movie premiered. She is currently a United Nations Women Goodwill Ambassador and helped launch the UN Women campaign HeForShe, which calls for men to advocate gender equality.
She's struggled to balance her acting career with her education and other pursuits. A watershed moment for her was when she decided that she wouldn't renew her contract for the last two Harry Potter films unless changes were made to accommodate her desire to go to college. Warner Bros. agreed, and she attended Brown. She learned that she had to stand up for herself and do what she wanted to do. She told Vogue in 2011, "I just realized at one point that I can't fight everything. I have to move in the direction of it—and go with it."
Photo Credit: Georges Biard
Lupita Nyong'o is a relative newcomer to Hollywood, but she is already an inspiration to not only young black women, but women everywhere. Her tear-jerking speech at an Essence Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon in 2014 highlighted her struggle to accept herself and feel beautiful in her dark skin. The actress opened her speech by telling the story of a young woman who had written to her, saying that it was seeing Nyong'o on screen and in the press that kept the young woman from bleaching her skin to help her fit in. Nyong'o also had a moment like that in her youth, when she saw Sudanese model Alek Wek, who finally inspired her to be proud of who she was, inside and out. "I couldn't believe that people were embracing a woman who looked so much like me, as beautiful," she said. "My complexion had always been an obstacle to overcome and all of a sudden Oprah was telling me it wasn't."
Photo Credit: Gordon Correll
Jodie Sweetin is best known as Stephanie Tanner from the hit '90s show Full House, but her life after the show was canceled was far different from on screen. She quickly became an alcoholic and meth addict, which continued through her first marriage and divorce. The turning point for her was her two daughters. She told Us Weekly in 2009 that she realized she hit rock bottom after drinking and driving with oldest daughter, then a baby, in the car. "I not only put myself in danger, but also my daughter, who I loved more than anything. I felt terrible."
Sweetin has been sober now for five years, and has turned her life around. She is now back in the Tanner family, revising her role in the show's sequel, Fuller House.
Her name is now a household word, but Coco Chanel did not always live the glamorous life that is synonymous with her name. She was born to a poor family that sent her to live in an orphanage after her mother died. Chanel claimed that the turning point in her career was when she fashioned a dress out of jersey, previously used primarily for men's fashion, which piqued the interest of many women. It was this moment that Chanel knew she had a talent, and she decided to use it. Since then, her brand has been known for chic, simple and comfortable designs that revolutionized fashion by incorporating elements from menswear.
J.K. Rowling is the author of the Harry Potter series, the first person to become a billionaire off of a book series, and the queen of Twitter. But Rowling almost never even wrote Harry Potter and the Philospher's Stone. She was struggling to feed and raise her daughter after a nasty separation and divorce, and was on welfare. She spent five years dreaming of Harry Potter, but it wasn't until her turning point that she finally accomplished her goal of being an author. She decided one day that she was going to give herself exactly one year to write the manuscript for the first book, no matter what it took. She stayed on welfare and juggled a part-time job, a baby, school and writing, and eventually finished the book in her set time frame. During that year, she was given the ability to go off welfare by a friend, which helped give her more time to write and type up her manuscript. And the rest is history.
Photo Credit: Daniel Ogren
Beth Brooke-Marciniak might not be a name you've heard before, but she is certainly someone to know. She's currently global vice chair of EY (formerly Ernst & Young), but when she was 13, she was diagnosed with a degenerative hip disease and was a told by doctors that she may never walk again. She chose to have surgery, and she promised herself she would not only walk again, but she would become a great athlete. She chose to do whatever it took to work through her disease, and not only did she walk again, she went on to play Division I basketball in college. This determination has continued throughout her career and is one of the reasons she ranks today among the 100 most powerful women in the world.
Photo Credit: EY Website
Most people just remember Audrey Hepburn as the pretty actress who starred in some of our favorite movies and as the iconic image from Breakfast at Tiffany's that graces many young women's walls. Many forget that she devoted most of her life after movies to working with UNICEF and helping some of the poorest communities of Africa, South America and Asia. She's one of the few people to EGOT (win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award), and she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Hepburn was born in Belgium in 1929, and worked as a courier for the Dutch resistance during World War II. She was also an acomplished ballet dancer, and secretly danced for groups of people to collect money for the Dutch resistance. One pivotal moment for Hepburn was when she was offered a small role in a film being shot in both English and French called Monte Carlo Baby. She jumped at the offer because it let her go on location and wear Christian Dior gowns. But it was there that she was found by famed writer Colette, who then cast Hepburn in the Broadway play Gigi, which launched her career.
She's now known as the Queen of Primetime with three wildly successful shows on TV, but Shonda Rhimes didn't realize that she wanted to be in this business until she saw Whoopi Goldberg in her TV special, Direct from Broadway. "It was a really pivotal moment for me," she said. "It was the first time I had seen an African-American woman play that many characters and be that complex, and it felt very possible."
Photo Credit: Greg Hernandez
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