Who is Your Shero?
As a little girl I grew up learning a set of rules: I should aspire for marriage, but be independent. I should be emotional, but not crazy. I should speak my mind, but not make anyone uncomfortable. I should be sexy, but modest. As a young woman, I'm trying to unlearn everything.
Being a woman is a battlefield of ambiguities and contradictions. For Women's History Month, I collected stories from people who were inspired by a woman. The women honored ranged from their moms to their co-workers to Michelle Obama. Every day in March I illustrated and shared a story answering "Who is Your Shero?" on my Instagram (#bng_womenshistorymonth). This project was a celebration of strong women and an oral history of what it means to be a woman.
Quote by Sheryl Sandberg
"I'm trying to let go of my perception of how things should be. I'd rather make a million mistakes while learning, creating, experimenting, and trying than sit idly by, thinking about what I want to do when the conditions are right. Spoiler: conditions will never be just right and perfect doesn't exist. She taught me to make a mess and clean up later."
Quote by Rhoda I.
"A couple of months later I was on a plane to the U.S. and I have been here since. This is the one story that always comes to mind when thinking about Rhoda and who she is. If she didn't do what she did, I would have been in a totally different place right now. And I mean physically AND mentally."
Quote by Lauren H.
"Lauren is one of my most senior editors at my magazine. I've only very recently realized how much I look up to her and try to emulate her. The journalism industry is notoriously lacking in high-ranking women, so her accomplishments are so loud and striking to me. Our EIC and deputy editor (both men) don't just respect her; in many ways, they look to her for guidance, wisdom, and approval just as much as I do. She is everything that a strong female leader should be: confident, sharp, rational, and endlessly creative. And yet somehow on top of all that, she's just so relatable and down-to-earth. She says good morning to everyone when she walks in, and she smiles and asks me personal questions when we cross paths in the kitchen. That means a lot to me. I guess in some ways, I feel as though I can see a version of myself in her. Or rather, I imagine (hope?) I really could grow into some version of her, into a woman as strong and remarkable as she is. She seems to be living proof that, if I work hard enough, someone like me really can accomplish remarkable things, too."
Quote by Kelli L.
"My mom has always been positive about my body, but destructive of her own. She would harshly critique her own body while I was around. She tells me she never intended for me to feel the same, but being around her while she nitpicked every inch of her body rubbed off on me, and I developed the same habits. When I look in the mirror around her and point out an insecurity of mine, she always tells me the same thing: “You can’t ruin a good thing.” This was a reminder to look at my positive attributes. Not just physical, but my character and who I was as a person. I still use this one, both toward myself and to friends who need a boost."
Quote by Audre Lorde
"Here's one of my favorite quotes of all time. It reminds me to speak my mind as fully and honestly as possible, as often as possible, even though that can be really hard to do. And it reminds me that being a woman, and being a feminist, is an all-encompassing lifestyle, not just a label. I can still "flirt and paint my nails, dress up and party" (if I want to—sometimes I do, sometimes I don't.) Intellectualism and femininity are not mutually exclusive!"
Quote by Brené Brown
"She teaches me something every day and that is why I decided to follow her footsteps. I hope one day I can become half the speaker, the researcher and the storyteller she is. She is an example for me and many women out there. She taught me the importance of showing up in the arena, over and over again."
My personal reflection on International Women's Day
"Growing up I wanted to be a boy because it seemed like they had more fun. Now that I'm a little bit older and wiser, I realized that women are the fucking best. Every day I am thankful for all of the girl bosses that have influenced my life. Women are strong as hell and we should be celebrating them every single day."
Quote by Patti Smith
"What she taught me: Being an artist transcends mediums, no matter what you create. Patti has never apologized or felt the need to explain herself for all the different creative things she's done, whether it's poetry, music or visual art. I really love that about her. It has helped me feel less pressure to define myself and the work I create. Patti has taught me that my identity is in a constant state of flux. A work in progress, if you will. In a society obsessed with labeling people and putting them into boxes, this idea has helped me realize that anything is possible and that I am still me, no matter what I churn out and who I become tomorrow."
Quote by Ruth L.
"Honestly, the first thing I thought of when I saw your project was something my grandma used to say to me. I am a worrier that comes from an ancestry of worriers. I tend to get in my head and freak out about unlikely scenarios. I would say, “What if something goes wrong?” And my grandma would say, “What if chickens shit nickels?” I know, this one is kind of silly, but it was always a nice reminder that you can worry your ass off, but you can’t predict what’s going to happen."
Quote by Warsan Shire
"The first thing I learned growing up was that I'm pretty. Not that I'm smart or hardworking or passionate or loyal. Pretty. Vanity overwhelmed my subconscious before I even knew what that word meant. I spent more time trying to be pretty than smart or kind. I became obsessive over specific body parts. And more than anything I wished I was white because white meant pretty. Pretty meant likable. The day I stopped caring about my perception of pretty was the day I finally felt comfortable in my skin again. We aren't born with this perception of what we are supposed to do or look like. These are things we are taught. I'm still working on unlearning and deciding on my own what feels right for me."
Quote by Truly R. on Angelique P.
"My first out-of-college boss Angelique Power (then Williams) always ordered special purple felt-tip pens for office use. Sounds frilly, but it's a powerful detail in my mind. She didn't believe in red ink ("needlessly stressful"), was a diva in all the best ways (padded barefoot around the office), and best of all...she always had a knack for persuasion through warm personal touches. The felt tip purple pen articulated all of this. She also took the MCA's "Audience Development & Diversity Committee" into new directions that mattered and had long-range reverberations. It took a donor-relations committee into a leadership and action task force that lead national conversations on diversity and inclusion in the arts. She did everything with a down-to-earth, humble, human spirit. She always looked for the silver lining. She was one of the strongest leaders I've ever met -- it was a true privilege to work for her. "
Quote by Melissa Broder (a.k.a.sosadtoday)
"Melissa Broder's tweets and writing give voice to all the weird, unsavory demons inside my head and make me feel all the more comfortable being totally transparent with the ugliest parts of myself. Her openness made me realize that our depression, anxiety, shame, addictions and even our pettiness are all valid emotions; moreover, the more we talk about them, the less power they have over us. This tweet/quote in particular also added another layer to that realization: My feelings, opinions, and creative output (writing/art/etc.) are not less valuable just because I'm a woman. I shouldn't have to hide or suppress the femaleness of my words or my art or worry if my work or message is "too feminine." Fuck that shit. There is great power and creative force in the feminine experience. My womanhood only makes my art all the more powerful."
Quote by Sabine F.
"Sabine is my shero. She taught me how to be a better person. She is my better half. I am without a doubt a more caring, humble, loyal person because of her. Good tidbit: She always falls asleep looking at her phone. I have thousands of pictures. Let me just find one that she won't find embarrassing… "
Quote by Emily S.
"Emily came into my life 4+ years ago and for 4+ years she has been teaching me to love myself. More often than not I put my self-worth into the hands of others. It's a detrimental characteristic that takes my normally bubbly personality and sends it to a dark place. I become this crazy person that asks permission to do or even say anything, terrified that my next move will kick me further down the rabbit hole. Emily has always been there to pull me back up even when I didn't want to be. She reminds me that putting too much faith in others is just another form of self-harm. The girl seems to have it all figured out, even though she would be the first to disagree, but she's wiser beyond her years and I am incredibly lucky to have her in life."
Quote by Angie N.
"First year of college was incredibly difficult because it was a messy mixture of drastic changes, personal loss, and depression. I couldn't imagine a point beyond where I was. All I wanted was to crawl out of my body and leave. But that's not really how life works. My sister gave me the above advice. We are similar, but also total opposites: I am the overly sensitive creative designer and she is the more rational UX/UI designer. She thinks my project is cliche and that quotes aren’t realistic representations, which I can agree with, but also this project isn’t necessarily about exact spoken words as much as it is about sharing stories about how strong women empowered us in some big or small way. But I’ve actually referred to her quote a few times over the years when I hit the lowest point of feeling completely apathetic. The point where nothing anyone can say makes me feel better. I kept this memory my secret, like an emergency, get-your-shit-together life boost.
My sister taught me that life isn't about chasing the perfect situations, instead, it's about making the best of every shitty situation. We often assume we would be happier if we were richer or luckier or prettier. But maybe we would be happier if we stopped escaping from the life we already have. Sit, cry, complain a bit and then do something about it."
Quote by Roxanne Gay
"Roxanne Gay is a badass feminist. She taught me the power of simply trying. Too many people are so terrified of trying that they stay confined within their own boxes. The world needs more bad feminists who are unafraid to try and make a million mistakes along the way. How can we move forward when we're too afraid to make the first step?"
Quote by Truly R. on Ailsa M.
"A boss of mine, Ailsa MacKenzie, was amazing. She was hit by a bus before I met her. She healed and got a good settlement. During the time I worked for her, the settlement came through and she took the entire office out for champagne and oysters to celebrate the fact that we only live once -- enjoy it. In America, many people have "work selves" and "home selves" and "parent selves" and "friend selves" and "family selves." Ailsa didn't do that ever. She was always herself. She always spoke her mind. She swore like a sailor, only way more creative. She laughed with her whole body."
Quote by Anna B.
"I was talking to my mom about the project and asked if her mom ever said anything empowering or inspiring to her growing up. Sadly, she laughed and told me she did the opposite. My Yiayia was an old world Greek woman so I can't say I was too surprised. The way my mom talked about that memory though was moving for me. She laughed and disregarded her mother's words with such ease and didn't care. She didn't care that her mom wanted her to be a baby-breeding housewife that lived to make her husband happy. She wanted a fulfilling career where she made her own money and if she made a man happy along the way with some babies here and there, then those were just bonus points. It's a nice reminder that motherly advice, while well intended, is not law and order."
Quote by Maya Angelou
"I've grown up reading her work and continue to go back on a lot of her pieces to remind me that people in your life take work. It takes an immense amount of patience, understanding, and love to keep the most important ones in your life. It's a two-way street, and I think people don't realize that the reason you lose someone, it's because one or both didn't work at keeping that relationship strong. We need reminders to catch up with people. Something minute as a simple "Hello, how's life going?" can make a world of a difference. Remind people that they matter and that you're thinking about them. Small actions that invoke great feelings can echo so much love!"
Quote by Frances
"This is a quote from my Great Aunt Frances. My grandma and mom quote it all the time. They are both my role models. The women in my family are very confident and strong. They've always shown me through action that a woman is capable of anything. My mom raised me happily alone with an amazing career and my grandma was just competitive and smart enough to reach for the stars. "
Quote by Hannah S.
"Freshman year I took a class taught by Hannah. Everyone was terrified of her because she was strict as hell and didn’t take your bullshit. Since day one I was determined to 1. make her my mentor and 2. impress her. Over the last 4+ years, she taught me everything I know about the importance of white space and discipline, the value of stories, and the word enough.
This conversation with Hannah was a tipping point for my thesis and my creative journey. I was so focused on trying to produce a “designed” thesis that I wasn't even sure what I was doing anymore. I was so worried that if I wasn’t designing on the computer, that would mean I was no longer a designer. In reality, no one cares! Hannah, as she usually does, gave me a wake-up call.
Today people call me an illustrator or the lettering girl, which still feel like foreign identities for me, but I’ll always be a design mom at heart. As a creative, it’s important to avoid setting up strict boundaries for yourself. Be whatever you want, as long as you’re being true to yourself. Follow your curiosities and trust your gut; creative work, like life, is messy and it’s often better when everything spills over and into each other."
Quote by Momo M.
"One time Momo, who I always wanted to kind of model my life after and in a way still do - I was seriously freaking out about study abroad and I contacted her because she had done such awesome things abroad during her college days. Of course, she gave me advice but she ended with "You're awesome and everything is going be great!" and it made me feel so much better. I wrote that quote down and looked at it every day haha."
Quote by Leslie Knope / Amy Poehler
"Leslie Knope is my spirit animal. She made me feel like it’s ok to be obsessed with your work when it’s your passion in life. It’s ok to be a badass, independent driving force in the workplace. She always got shit done. Both Leslie Knope and Amy Poehler made caring cool. Couldn't just pick one quote to share!! Also, both quotes are such important reminders."
Quote by Keli R.
"My best friend Keli is my shero! In high school, our lockers were next to each other and I remember seeing her flirt and play around with this guy I really liked in high school. Well, I threw shade about her to someone who unknowingly was a mutual friend. Keli confronted me a few hours later at our lockers and said so confidently, "So, you like my brother?!!" (lol) We've been best friends for over 20 years now. Love her!
Keli and I are both preacher's kids and we absolutely love Jesus! We were roommates in college and were confronted with some of the many temptations that being in college brings. I watched Keli stay true to her convictions and not waiver. She personified what having a real relationship with Christ looked like...even under pressure. The example she set challenged me to do better and to be better...even to this day."
Quote by Misty Copeland
"Honestly this is so hard! I've never met a woman who hasn't inspired me. Even people who are kind of mean unpleasant inspire me to act differently or see from a different perspective and give me the opportunity to reflect. So of course, I'm lucky to be regularly affected by the amazing women that surround me every day!
One of my all time inspirations is Misty Copeland. I'm inspired by her story as well as her being, just the way she carries herself. I love having a present hero who continues to be outstanding in real time. I love this quote from her.
It resonates with me because I always feel like I'm too late and too uncertain. The world makes it seem like you should or have to be certain about everything in order to be successful and this message so refutes that notion."
Quote by Jessica Hische
"During a time where everyone hid their true identity behind the safety of their glowing blue screens, Jessica Hische was the first creative woman I remember who was unafraid to be herself. She said “fuck” during presentations and was an unapologetic over-sharer. She never hid who she was. The creative field is unlike any job and often times gets up close and personal. She allowed me to give myself permission to be seen as I am: obsessive, resilient, passionate, anxious.. Most people separate their work from their lives, but for me, my work is my life (because it rarely feels like "work").
What I admire most about Jessica is her determination to give back to the creative community. I still refer back to her resource section on her website, which is a great tool for young creative people to use! It's important to make work, but I think it's even more important to give back, in whatever way you can. Another good quote from her: "If there are people out there saying, “We all started out this way and here are the steps,” it makes a big difference."
Quote by Ankit S. about Sunita S.
"My first memory: when I was a kid, my mom used to sit me down every single day while she would take care of household errands to do one of three things – (1) read hooked on phonics books with me, (2) run through multiplication tables with me, or (3) teach me long division. I don’t know how she pulled off raising me the way she did, taking care of the house, helping my dad with his business, and making sure my older brother and sister had their lives in check – but she did. Grateful for that."
Quote by Tina E.
"Tina's background is in social work. Before pursuing @greatdiscontent (with her husband), she worked with homeless youth in Michigan for 12 years. She's technically not "qualified" to run a magazine, but that didn't stop her from following her curiosity.
Discovering TGD changed my life and I don't mean to say that lightly. Through TGD, I pursued my first and favorite personal project #100daysofbetterconvosbng. This project was my first baby. It broke me down. It taught me more about myself than any other project. It made me feel more alive than I've ever felt. Also, it connected me with super talented collaborators I wouldn't have met otherwise.
Whenever I feel like giving up on the creative pursuit due to exhaustion, I read an interview from their magazine and I instantly feel less alone. That in itself is huge. Thank you, Tina for creating an amazing library of inspiration for the world. I hope more people follow their curiosities with as much bravery as you did, even if (or especially if) they feel unqualified. You never know how your personal project can blossom and deeply impact someone."
Quote from Joanne N.
"My mom uprooted her comfortable life to come to the U.S. so that her children could have a better life. My father worked so hard I rarely saw him. My mother basically raised her children as a single parent. She still makes ignorant racist/misogynistic remarks and drives me insane sometimes, but one important lesson she taught me was the value of saying thank you. Even now I always handwrite thank you cards and birthday cards. One of the big themes of this month-long personal project was gratitude. I honestly probably don't show enough appreciation for my mom (I'm trying). Without her, I wouldn't have had half the opportunities I've gotten. I wouldn't even be in America.
If anyone deserved to be honored this past month it's basically every mom! Being a mom is definitely the hardest job I can think of. Today, everyone should go call their mom and thank them."
My personal reflection
"THANK YOU to all the supportive peeps for: submitting your beautiful personal stories + sharing my project + all the kind words!!
Between having 12hr days and trying to be a good friend and human and employee and sleeping, I didn't think I was actually going to make this project happen. Sometimes I think my *very* limited time pushed me to create something instead of overthinking it (as it usually goes).
Fun tidbit: I'm secretly terrified of using colors. So, as a creative challenge, every color I used was unique (over 60). Black and white will always be home for me, but I'm a little less resistant to using colors now? Wow, confidence is just doing something repeatedly!! Who knew."