Life & Style

12 Women on the Women They Admire Most

In Grace Bonney’s bestseller, In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs, she asked some extraordinarily successful women to share their female role models. In keeping with our “Kind is Strong” theme on the blog this week, here are answers from women of all ages, races, industries, and walks of life. 

Thelma Golden, photographed by Sasha Israel

Name a woman (or women), past or present, whom you admire or look up to.

“I was really lucky to have studied under two amazing women, Wendy Maruyama and Rosanne Somerson, who are leaders in the field of furniture design. Wendy was one of the first two women to receive a master’s in furniture design. (Gail Fredell was the other.) Wendy is Japanese American and hearing-impaired and, despite adversity, persisted to become a seminal figure in American furniture design. I also had the great privilege of having Rosanne Somerson as my department head, professor, mentor, and friend. I went to RISD specifically to study under Rosanne, who had become one of my role models in design. When I was a student, Rosanne believed in me more than I believed in myself. Having had two strong women at the helm of my career made me feel like the field was ours for the taking.”
—Tanya Aguiñiga, Furniture Designer/Maker, Los Angeles, CA

“So many of them . . . but Patti Smith, Marilynne Robinson, and Pema Chödrön for their beautiful words. My mom and my grandma and my sister.”
—Michele Quan, Ceramicist, Designer, Brooklyn, NY

“Sally Mann.”
—Tavi Gevinson, Writer, Magazine Editor in Chief, New York, NY

“Chef Raji Jallepalli. She was an Indian chef who died when she was only fifty-two years old. She was the first to combine Indian and European flavors and techniques back in the 1990s. I had her book when I was just starting out in cooking professionally fifteen years ago, and it was a huge inspiration to me.”
—Preeti Mistry, Chef, Oakland, CA

“First Lady Michelle Obama.”
—Thelma Golden, Museum Director and Chief Curator, New York, NY

“It may sound corny, but I really do admire all women. I realized how powerful women are when I was a freshman in college in sociology 101. The lecture that day was to the effect of ‘when you change the lives of women, you also change family life—and when that core of family values is changed, you’ve changed the world forever.’ As a trans woman I now experience what it’s like to be a woman today, and to be able to shine while living in a world that seeks to dim your light is a feat in and of itself.”
—Cy Lauz, Lingerie Designer, Long Island, NY

“There are several, including my mentor, Yolanda Garfias Woo; Judy Baca, the muralist; and Marta Moreno-Vega, director of the Caribbean Cultural Center.”
—Amalia Mesa-Bains, Artist, Curator, Author, San Juan Bautista, CA

“Alice Waters. Julia Child. Elena Ferrante. Joan Didion. And my congresswoman Barbara Lee, who was the sole member of the U.S. Congress to vote against the authorization of use of force following the September 11, 2001, attacks.”
—Samin Nosrat, Chef, Author, Berkeley, CA

“Without any hesitation, it would be my mum. A young Trinidadian woman marrying a charming Nigerian in London, then moving to Nigeria, which she knew nothing about, and creating a wonderful life for her family. She worked her way to the top of the civil service ladder and achieved such great success. Even in retirement, she continues to pursue her dreams and goals. She is a Wonder Woman. She is amazing. If I can be half the woman she is, I’ll be good.”
—Lisa Folawiyo, Fashion Designer, Lagos, Nigeria

“Almost all the people I admire are women. I haven’t followed her in years but if I have to name one woman, I’d give so much credit and admiration to Ani DiFranco. Much of my personality and politics came from going to her shows and listening to her, almost exclusively, from age nineteen to twenty-four. She epitomizes empathy, spirit, business autonomy, a more liberal feminism, sexual freedom, and the value of travel.”
—Shadi Petosky, Writer, Executive Producer, Showrunner, Los Angeles, CA

“I admire artists like Louise Bourgeois or Lucie Rie. But the women I most admire are my friends, people whom I really know. I have respect for the things they do and the efforts they make on a daily basis. And I am grateful for their friendship.”
—Frances Palmer, Potter, Weston, CT

“Immediately my mind goes to Frida Kahlo. I relate to her art and her life on many levels. In much the same way as Frida, my personal physical disability is fatefully intertwined with my artistic expression. Frida was a pioneer for artists like me. With a truthful and emotional language, she demystified taboos related to disability, pain, and suffering and presented it to mainstream society in a humanizing way. And she was still successful! Her life inspires me deeply.”
—Mariam Paré, Artist, Designer, Speaker, Naperville, IL

About the Book:

“I want to rip out every page of this glorious book and hang them on my wall so that I can be surrounded by these incredible women all day long.”
—Emma Straub, New York Times bestselling author of The Vacationers and Modern Lovers

Across the globe, women are embracing the entrepreneurial spirit and starting creative businesses. In the Company of Women profiles over 100 of these influential and creative women from all ages, races, backgrounds, and industries. Chock-full of practical, inspirational advice for those looking to forge their own paths, these interviews detail the keys to success (for example, going with your gut; maintaining meaningful and lasting relationships), highlight the importance of everyday rituals (meditating; creating a daily to-do list), and dispense advice for the next generation of women entrepreneurs and makers (stay true to what you believe in; have patience). The book is rounded out with hundreds of lush, original photographs of the women in their work spaces.

Buy the Book
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