To start the year off right, why not gather a little extra inspiration? Whether it’s for your mood board or your morning read, here are ten women who are at the top of their game:
1. JJ Liu: Professional Poker Player
“I had time on my hands so I started playing lowball, and eventually limit hold’em. It was probably $2/4 limit hold ’em, you know—the lowest stakes possible. But I worked my way up to the bigger games; I ended up playing the $100/200 limit hold’em.” (J.J. Liu)
Known for her colorful hats and remarkable playing style, J.J. Liu has been a household name in the poker industry for years. From humble beginnings in small-stakes games to competing in some of the world’s largest tournaments, her legacy continues to impact new players to the game.
2. Lizzie Velasquez: Activist and Influencer
“If you’ve had that rock bottom moment already, I hope you know that you can get back up again. And if you haven’t had that rock bottom moment, I hope that if one day you do come upon it, that you’ll know that you’re strong enough to overcome it and get right back up.” (Lizzie Velasquez)
At a young age, Lizzie Velasquez was criticized for her appearance. Harmful videos, memes and other malicious content were made at her expense, yet she chose to leverage this experience to build an inspirational anti-bullying platform. Her messages of positivity, hope and even helpful hair tips have influenced many young women to love themselves and who they are—authentically.
3. Cynthia Marshall: Chief Executive Officer
“Use your voice. Think about these 6 things to engage in or create for others. Advocacy. Awareness. Availability. Accessibility. Affordability. Action.” (Cynthia Marshall)
As the first black woman to own a NBA team, Cynthia Marshall is breaking down barriers in an industry that is otherwise predominantly dominated by men. She has successfully navigated the Dallas Mavericks franchise through a tumultuous year, anchoring her work in extensive community outreach and development.
4. Chloe Kim: Olympic Snowboarder
“I’ve always just been about spreading love and positivity, and for being a good person and having a good heart. And if you’re helping others out, that’s the best person you could be.” (Chloe Kim)
Chloe Kim, American snowboarder and singer, became the world’s youngest woman to win an Olympic snowboarding gold medal at the 2018 Winter competition. Her humility and desire to do good has made her the perfect role model for all young athletes with aspirations to make it to the big stage.
5. Malala Yousafzai: Activist and Humanitarian
“We have to believe in girls, we have to believe in our sisters, in our daughters and allow them to be who they want to be. As my father says, you do not have to do something, just do not clip their wings, just let them fly and let them achieve their dreams.” (Malala Yousafzai)
Born in Mingora, Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai spent her early life dedicated to the empowerment and education of women in her community. Her remarkable advocacy work made her a target to counter-groups, and put her life in severe danger. Despite these challenges, she graduated from the University of Oxford in Philosophy, Politics and Economics and continues to build systems that support the education of women.
6. Megan Rapinoe: World Cup Champion
“We win a lot because we really, truly, deep down believe that we’re going to win. I think that comes from battling against each other all the time and understanding that it takes more than just a desire to win. It takes a belief, it takes determination, and it takes hard work. It takes a trust and it takes a vulnerability with each other to show up in that way, and to be able to kind of lay it out all on the line all the time.” (Megan Rapinoe)
Both an incredible athlete and advocate for equal pay, gender equality and racial equity, Megan Rapinoe has consistently made headlines for her commitment to improving the world around her. The support she offers her teammates is extended to women around the world, as she has continued her advocacy work post-season.
7. Ava DuVernay: Filmmaker
“Girls will see this, [and] if I had seen a brown girl doing these things, I would say, ‘Oh, it loves me back!’ It’s an emotional thing. That’s why I did it, [and] that’s why I chose to do this.” (Ava DuVernay)
As a creative visionary and pioneer, Ava DuVernay’s award-nominated work speaks to her incredible talent and drive. With titles like Selma, When They See Us and The Middle of Nowhere in her repertoire, she is an inspiration in film and has set a new standard for her industry.
8. Dr. Amani Ballour: Doctor
“I insist and I want to challenge [men] and prove that a woman can [do this work]…I have to support women because if I succeed, all women will be supported. That will make men think that of course women can succeed and they can do that.” (Dr. Amani Ballour)
Born in Syria, Dr. Amani Ballour has dedicated her life to the rights of both women and children globally. Her story was recently shared in the Oscar-nominated documentary The Cave, detailing her experiences running an underground hospital during the Syrian civil war.
9. Beth Ford: Chief Executive Officer
“The reality is that it’s about showing up as a consistent person, not being pushed around or not being inconsistent with the way that you judge good performance or poor performance. It’s about showing up as an authentic, consistent person.” (Beth Ford)
Beth Ford made headlines as she became the first openly-gay woman to lead a Fortune 500 company as the CEO of Land O’ Lakes. She has been a consistent champion of the LGBTQIA+ community and continues to serve as a source of support to those of all identities.
10. Yara Shahidi: Actress and Activist
“I can say, ‘My friends look great today, let’s take a picture,’ and be equally concerned with issues globally. There’s power in just displaying joy.” (Yara Shahidi)
Well-known for her roles in Black-ish and Grown-ish, Yara Shahidi has made a name for herself as both an actress, model and activist throughout the past five years. Her education has been a central focus of her activism, and has used her platform to activate other Gen Z and Millennial individuals who want to become the catalyst for better change in the world.