Today marks the beginning of Black History Month, and I want to pay tribute to some of the black women who've inspired and instructed me throughout the years…
Josephine Baker – Her refusal to believe a culture that told her she was sub-human (or the idea that a woman needed a man for financial support, for that matter) was totally progressive. She taught me that you can (and should) be the author of your own life whenever possible – even if it seems impossible.
Toni Morrison – The Bluest Eye rocked my world at age 17. It taught me how easily racism is interanlized, and has made me actively question the accepted ideals of beauty and worth handed down to girls in this culture. I'm eternally grateful for the lesson.
Vanessa Williams – Pre-Obama, her win as “Miss America” taught me that anything is possible in America, and her fabulously long and stellar career proves that talent and perseverance can overcome anything – even scandal.
Oprah. I watched all 25 years, so she basically helped raise me. She continues to teach me that vision and confidence (combined with unflinching honesty) can be a recipe for unprecedented success. “Be who you are, because that is enough.”
Lena Horne – I first saw her on 'The Cosby Show', and I became an insta-fan. The obvious joy she took in the act of performing is something I use as a touchstone in my own work to this day. Do what you love, and never work a day in your life.
Phylicia Rashad – 'Claire Huxtable' taught me the importance of carrying myself with dignity, and honing my critical thinking skills. She was elegance and intelligence, personified.
Maya Angelou – This woman has taught me so much about being human, let alone about being a woman of color in the world. Truly, truly, truly a 'Phenomenal Woman'. I know Why the Caged Bird Sings remains a favorite of mine.
Viola Davis – Whether she's on screen for 5 minutes or 2 hours, she infuses each of her charactors with a purity of soul and dignity that is totally inspiring. She always seems to know her 'true north', and I always feel enriched after watching her.
Thank you, beautiful black women! I'll be posting more of my inspirational teachers throughout the month!