You’ve heard it before.
As a celebrity, doesn’t she have an obligation to be a role model?
From Miley to Kim K to Nicki Minaj, there are plenty of female celebrities out there that sometimes take the role in stride, and other times dismiss it for being too much pressure. Miley has been on the record declaring she isn’t a conventional role model – and doesn’t plan on being one, either. Rihanna also rejected the concept of the package deal, and claimed that although she lives her life as she sees fit, she can’t say she’s a role model.
And she’s entitled to that.
But, luckily there are some budding role models out there – people like Taylor Swift, Demi Lovato, Lorde (she in particular has a pretty realistic take on the whole thing if you ask us), but these girl celebrities are all pretty young and haven’t really stood the test of time in terms of stability.
So…what about women who have been in the limelight for quite some time, and who have already stayed committed to being a true role model for young women? There has to be some we can look up to.
At Blush, although we would love to say that most inspirational celebrities out there have the responsibility to be good role models for girls, we as individuals also have the responsibility to find good role models.
And with that being said, we think we’ve found a few good eggs.
Here are some inspiring celebrity female role models for women that we think you’ll love. They’ve been around for long enough to leave a trail of empowerment behind them, but still have lots more to accomplish – and we can’t wait.
In no particular order…let’s get started.
1. Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Let’s start out with the Queen of them all: RBG.
Ruth Bader was born in Brooklyn, New York and from an early age was drawn to education. Her mother, Celia, was her biggest advocate – but she died shortly before she graduated high school. She went to Cornell University where she met her husband, Martin Ginsburg. The two were married shortly after her graduation.
After moving to Oklahoma and starting a family, Ruth and her husband both attended law school at Harvard University. She was one of nine women out of a class of 500 students. Martin was diagnosed with testicular cancer during his tenure, and Ruth attended her classes and his classes so he could stay on top of his schooling during treatment. All this while she was raising a family.
Upon Martin’s law school graduation, Ruth transferred to Columbia to finish her third year of law school (Harvard would not let her graduate while taking classes in New York). After she graduated, she struggled finding a job at a firm, as being a female lawyer made male partners uncomfortable. She found work at Rutgers Law as a professor and began studying and teaching women’s issues.
RBG took on gender discrimination as her life’s work, and won many cases before being appointed to the Supreme Court by Bill Clinton. She was the second female nominated to the court (and still only one of four women to ever be appointed). The country deeply mourned her passing in the fall of 2020. She will be missed.
Advice from Ruth: “Another often-asked question when I speak in public: “Do you have some good advice you might share with us?” Yes, I do. It comes from my savvy mother-in-law, advice she gave me on my wedding day. “In every good marriage,” she counseled, “it helps sometimes to be a little deaf.”
2. Tina Fey
The sweetheart of 30 Rock. The queen of SNL. The creator of our beloved Kimmy Schmidt.
Yes, we absolutely love Tina in showbiz, but we also think she’s a pretty great inspiration for many girls off the screen, too. Her autobiographical book Bossypants captured us as she detailed stories of her quirky and nerdy adolescence, her bumpy trail to SNL, the struggle she faced with sexism in the industry, and her freakishly accurate outlook on body image, beauty, intelligence and more. Her character “Liz Lemon” on 30 Rock is essentially a hilarious and awkward portrayal of Fey’s own experiences as the head writer on Saturday Night Live – and we seriously dare you not to fall in love with her.
But aside from her charm on screen, Fey has accomplished quite a bit in the male dominated entertainment industry. So far, she has received eight Emmy Awards, two Golden Globes, five Screen Actors Guild Awards, four Writers Guild of America Awards, and was nominated for a Grammy for Bossypants.
Did we mention she wrote the screenplay for Mean Girls? THE MOVIE?
She’s not your conventional bombshell movie star, and we could not be more thankful. She has paved the way for intelligent, sophisticated women in an industry that sets the tone for our culture. She isn’t fixated with her looks, dieting, labels, or any other sense of vanity. She’s obsessed with delivering feminist work that we can all relate to.
And most importantly, we have her to thank for proving once and for all, that YES, women ARE funny.
Advice from Tina: “Don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions; go over, under, through, and opinions will change organically when you’re the boss. Or they won’t. Who cares? Do your thing, and don’t care if they like it.”
3. Serena Williams
When Serena Williams was just 11 years old, she was asked which tennis player she wanted to be like most. Instead of rattling off every pro tennis player she had ever admired, she stated, “I’d like other people to be like me.”
And damn was she ever right.
At that point in time, Serena had already been playing tennis for eight years, and would continue to play for at least 22 more. She would also go on to win 21 grand slam titles, 13 with her sister Venus, and become ranked the number 1 female tennis player in the world six separate times by The Women’s Tennis Association. Incredible. But, not only is Ms. Williams an inspiration from her impressive athletic record, she’s also an inspiration to young women everywhere – regardless of their athletic ability.
She’s passionate about health, confidence, and fitness. She is hardly ever afraid of speaking her mind and has been an enthusiastic advocate for women’s equality. She’s a major fashionista, and has had deals with Puma and Nike and has also started her own line with the Home Shopping Network. Her charity, the SW Foundation, has helped fund a school in Kenya, donated money to fight AIDS in Africa, give scholarships to underprivileged children, and has helped bring awareness to breast cancer.
And let’s not forget that she WON the Australia Open while she was two months pregnant. She recently gave birth to Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr – whom she calls Olympia (her husband Alexis Ohanian, cofounder of Reddit, calls her Junior – so cute), but had serious medical complications throughout and was forced to be an advocate for her own health. and is now on a mission to bring the dangers of child labor for black women to the center-front of our cultural dialogue.
Her recent Facebook post states, “…according to the CDC, (Center for Disease Control) black women are over 3 times more likely than White women to die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes. We have a lot of work to do as a nation and I hope my story can inspire a conversation that gets us to close this gap.”
Not only is Williams elated to be a new mom, but she’s already returned to tennis. We are so excited to hear her candid advice about the struggles of being both a mother and a successful woman, and we have no doubt she has a lot to share with us.
Advice from Serena: “Since I don’t look like every other girl, it takes awhile to be okay with that. To be different. But different is good”
4. Michelle Obama
According to Michelle Obama, if you ask her to describe herself, she will instantly say “Malia and Sasha’s mom.” But we have a few other descriptions to bring to the table. First Lady. Lawyer. Writer. Wife. Advocate. Game changer.
Obama is originally from the South Side of Chicago. Her father was a pump operator, her mother a stay at home mom. She attended all public schools, and was accepted into Princeton University where she studied sociology. She then went onto Harvard Law, and accepted a job at one of the most prestigious law firms, Sidley Austin, where she met her future husband Barack Obama. This woman has worked hard every single day of her life – and it’s amazing to see how dedication and motivation really pays off. Regardless if she married the future POTUS or not, we have no doubt Obama would have been a force.
But aside from incredible work ethic growing up – we also love her for the effort and change she is striving to make now. While she was in the White House, Obama has launched Let’s Move!, a nation wide campaign to fight childhood obesity, Joining Forces (with Jill Biden), an initiative to support veterans, Reach Higher, a post high school education advocacy campaign, and our personal favorite, Let Girls Learn, a global movement to help girls receive an education at all ages.
Since her departure from the White House, Obama has continued to be a voice of support for women of all ages and an advocate for all. Her and her husband joined forces to create The Obama Foundation, a center dedicated to revitalizing the South side of Chicago.
Through her advocacy, her compassion, and her spirit, Michelle Obama inspires us every day to keep pushing for more. She recently started Higher Ground productions in conjunction with Barack – and their goal is to lift up diverse voices within the entertainment industry. Crip Camp was one of their first documentaries and was nominated for an Oscar. We can’t wait to see what else they release!
Advice from Michelle: “There is no boy cute enough or interesting enough to stop you from getting your education”
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5. Ashley Graham
The moment we got wind of Ashley Graham, we were head over heels.
As a model, Ashley has graced dozens of magazine covers, disrupted beauty ideals, and challenged the modeling industry to accept and embrace curvier individuals.
To briefly go over her amazing work, she began modeling way back in 2001 when she signed with Wilhelmina Models. She graced a few covers and was prominently featured in the Glamour 2009 profile “These Bodies are Beautiful at Every Size.”
But what really put her on the map was the 2010 Lane Bryant “controversial” TV commercial.
While Blush personally does not believe this commercial is controversial in the *slightest* (Beautiful, strong women in a commercial? Groundbreaking!) – it made quite the impact on American society a decade ago, and Ashley Graham became a valuable member of the body positivity movement.
In 2017, Ashley Graham released a book titled A New Model: What Confidence, Beauty, and Power Really Look Like. In the book she details some strong life lessons, such as embracing your figure, leaning towards community over competition, and focusing on being strong rather than being slim.
Ashley has been outspoken regarding interracial marriages, breastfeeding practices, eliminating the term “plus-sized” (she prefers “my size”), and of course, accepting our bodies as they are.
Advice from Ashley: “Don’t fall into the trap of sacrificing your self-esteem for affection and acceptance. No matter what your size, you are a sexy goddess. Remember that.”
6. Jameela Jamil
Originally from London, Jameela Jamil is a model, host, actress, and activist currently playing Tahani Al-Jamil on NBC’s The Good Place. At a young age, Jamil struggled with anorexia-nervosa. She combatted this disease all the way up until she was 17, when she was struck by a car and left with multiple broken bones and a long recovery ahead. Steroid treatment caused her to gain weight, and she had to face the relationship she had with her body head-on.
After landing a role as a TV host in Britain, Jamil suffered a breast cancer scare in 2016. She created a bucket list in case she was not actually diagnosed with cancer – and upon hearing the good news – she packed up and moved to America to become a screenwriter. She had no plan, no job, and no place to stay – but managed to make it work.
Not too long after her move, she landed the role of Tahani on The Good Place, and has been in the public spotlight since. But her popularity hasn’t been solely because of her acting – she has spent years as a body positivity activist in London, and has carried that over to the U.S. She has routinely called out other celebrities and brands for selling products that inherently make women feel bad about themselves – including laxative teas, cellulite removing cream, and other weight loss products.
In late 2015, Jamil launched Why Not People? a company dedicated to hosting events and that were easily accessible to those with disabilities. Three years later, Jamil launched “iWeigh,” an Instagram account (and soon to be company) that focuses on female empowerment, body positivity, inclusion, and intersectional feminism.
Advice from Jameela: “Would you tell your friend that she would be funnier, smarter, or a better person if she were more toned? Would you tell her she didn’t deserve love or happiness because she had cellulite or some wrinkles? Would you tell her it didn’t matter how much she had achieved because she didn’t have a thigh gap and that she is a failure in life and a waste of space for not looking like a doll? Then why do you say it to yourself?”
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7. Mindy Kaling
Known for being one of our favorite characters on The Office, Mindy Kaling makes our list for her talent, sass, and comedic honesty. Not only is she the lead actress on her own show The Mindy Project, Kaling is also a writer and a producer. She wrote many episodes of the Office – including Niagara (SO FUNNY) with Greg Daniels that was nominated for an Emmy award – and she also served as executive producer, as well as taking on the character of Kelly Kapoor. She has written two books – Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) in 2011, and Why Not Me? in 2015. Yep. She’s one busy girl.
Her resume aside, what we really love about Kaling is her ability to speak on behalf of the everyday girl. She jokes about trying to manage a healthy lifestyle, dating, work, friends, and dealing with society’s expectations of females and women of color. The Mindy Project, which recently ended it’s series after jumping from FOX to Hulu, depicts a successful doctor that still loves typical girly things, and is constantly trying to find a balance between her love life, personal life, and career. It’s her way of letting women know, they’re not alone – and we want more of it!
Kaling recently gave birth to a baby girl – but wouldn’t confirm the pregnancy herself – that is until Queen Oprah spilled the beans. Her mother passed away before her daughter was born, and her daughter’s middle name, Swati, is an ode to her. Kaling has not apologized nor defended her choice of being a single mother – and thank God for that. We are so excited to see what’s next from her – including her first major movie role in A Wrinkle in Time!
Advice from Mindy: “Teenage girls, please don’t worry about being super popular in high school, or being the best actress in high school, or the best athlete. Not only do people not care about any of that the second you graduate, but when you get older, if you reference your successes in high school too much, it actually makes you look kind of pitiful, like some babbling old Tennessee Williams character with nothing else going on in her current life. What I’ve noticed is that almost no one who was a big star in high school is also big star later in life. For us overlooked kids, it’s so wonderfully fair.”
8. Rosario Dawson
We love Rosario Dawson. We love that she’s determined. We love that she’s unique. And we love that she speaks her mind. But most of all, we love that she fought for everything she has today.
Raised in New York, New York, Dawson’s mother was only 16 years old when she was born. When Dawson was a baby, her mother moved her family, including Dawson’s half brother and step father, into an abandoned building in Manhattan. They squatted on the property and overtime installed their own plumbing and electrical wiring. Eventually she was discovered at the age of 15 on her front porch by a screenwriter who had the perfect role for her in his upcoming film, Kids. Dawson was a natural, and has since starred in over fifty films.
Dawson, who is of Puerto Rican and Cuban descent, is involved in numerous charities and advocacy groups, including the Lower East Side Girls Club, Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, Vote Latino, Amnesty International, and serves on the board of V-day, a global movement to end violence against girls and women. She is also an advocate for equal pay for women and people of color – even going as far to challenge Hollywood pay rates. We appreciate her candor and passion for human rights, women of color, and female inequality. She’s just the best.
Advice from Rosario: “I remember when I was doing ‘Rent’ and I was too thin, and I was doing that on purpose because I’m dying, Im an HIV + drug addict. I remember having to eat raw food and doing all this work to make sure I could stay thin…And I remember everyone asking when I was doing press for the movie, “What did you do to get so thin? You looked great” and I’m like, “I look emaciated”…It’s a form of violence , in the way that we look at women and how we expect them to look and be—for what sake? Not health, not survival not enjoyment of life, but just so you can look pretty. I’m constantly telling girls all the time everything is airbrushed, everything is retouched to the point it’s never even asked. None of us look like that.”
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9. Reese Witherspoon
We have to hand it to Reese – her past five years have been astoundingly impressive.
Although she has been Hollywood’s darling every since Cruel Intentions and Legally Blonde, recently her mission has graduated from romantic comedies to pure unapologetic feminism.
After University of Southern California found that “female characters fill only 28.7% of all speaking roles in film” – she decided to do something about it.
In 2012, Witherspoon joined forces with Bruna Papandrea, an elite female Hollywood producer, and created Pacific Standard Productions. The goal was to acquire as much content that was written by or written with a female lead. Witherspoon would of course star in some roles – but not every one. Their mission was to create more opportunities for females in film – and boy, did she ever succeed. And her poetic viral speech – what do we do now? – has definitely made waves.
Pacific Standard produced films such as Gone Girl, Hot Pursuit, Wild, and of course, Big Little Lies. Recently Papandrea and Witherspoon parted ways, but not before leaving their mark. Female-driven series and movies are more of a force now than ever, but Witherspoon wasn’t done.
In early 2018, Witherspoon united with hundreds of other women to launch Time’s Up, a legal fund put together to pay for legal services of women who have been harassed in the workplace. Cofounders include Shonda Rhimes, Eva Longoria, and Jennifer Aniston. They were the spark behind the black-gown protest at the Golden Globes, and we fully expect their initiative to help eradicate our rape culture once and for all.
Thank you, Reese, for using your power for the greater feminist good, and for always teaming up with strong women to shine a brighter light on the cause.
Advice from Reese: “Here’s the deal: You can complain about these things. You can get stuck in the emotion of it—and sometimes I do, and I get really angry. I’ll get pissed off and stomp around the house. The anger comes from such a deep, real place for me. But my mother always said to me, ‘If you want something done, do it yourself.’”
10. Amy Poehler
Our favorite star of Parks and Recreation as well as the voice behind Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls makes our list because of her dedication to encouraging smart young women to chase their dreams. Her love affair with Tina Fey also doesn’t hurt. She also wrote the ever popular Yes Please that is a must read for ANY human EVER.
But, her leading role as Leslie Knope on Parks and Rec is one of the reasons why we love her so much. Although Poehler herself wrote four episodes, (one of which was nominated for an Emmy). She brings a charming ambition and unapologetic feminist attitude to the role of Ms. Knope, which was refreshing to see on primetime television. And, with the latest election, we love going back to a time where a female politician had successes, failures, and a positive attitude to carry us through.
Amy also has a charitable heart – she traveled to Haiti in 2013 to support the Worldwide Orphans Foundation and even through a “losers party” after the Emmys with Jon Hamm that benefitted the organization. She routinely gives speeches to spread awareness about orphans around the world. LOVE. HER.
Advice from Amy: “The earlier you learn that you should focus on what you have, and not obsess about what you don’t have, the happier you will be.”
11. Amal Clooney
Forget George. Amal has taken the spotlight, and we don’t intend to give it back.
Born in Beirut, Lebanon in the middle of the Lebanese Civil War, Amal and her family fled to England when she was only two years old. She attended Oxford University and NYU law, where clerked for Sonia Sotomayor, who is now a Supreme Court Justice. After NYU she clerked at the International Court of Justice followed by Sullivan & Cromwell. Her clients included Enron and Arthur Anderson – nbd.
In 2005 Clooney left Sullivan & Cromwell to join a United Nations tribunal dedicated prosecute those responsible for the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafic Hariri. She returned to Britain in 2010 and continued practicing law specializing in international law, criminal law, human rights advocacy and extradition. She took on clients such as WikiLeak’s Julian Assange, Muammar al-Qaddafi’s intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi, and Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
As well as practicing law, Clooney contributed to the Global Rights Summit that focused on ending sexual violence and defend the rights of women in war zones, as well as acting as a counsel for drone warfare and the crisis in Syria.
In 2014 she became engaged to George Clooney, catapulting her into the public eye and establishing herself as a style icon. But Amal Clooney is way more than movie star’s wife with a good sense of fashion. We commend her for using her intelligence and work ethic for the advocacy of human rights.
Advice from Amal: “The worst thing that we can do as women is not stand up for each other, and this is something we can practice every day, no matter where we are and what we do – women sticking up for other women, choosing to protect and celebrate each other instead of competing or criticizing one another.”
12. Simone Biles
Simone Biles is an American Gymnast who has won over 30 medals in competitions around the world. She is commonly known as the GOAT (greatest of all time) in the Olympic/Gymnastic world, and she’s definitely earned the right to that nickname. “The Biles” is commonly referred to as gymnast moves that have never been completed by another gymnast before. Most recently, she completed what’s known as the “triple double” on the floor, which is an extremely complicated and difficult move to execute. You can watch it here.
After the worldwide scandal surrounding women’s gymnastics and a USA Gymnastics doctor, Larry Nassar, broke out, SImone came out to advocate for the victims – including herself. “I too am one of the many survivors that was sexually abused by Larry Nassar,” Biles wrote in posts on Twitter and Instagram. “Please believe me when I say it was a lot harder to first speak those words out loud than it is now to put them on paper. There are many reasons that l have been reluctant to share my story, but I know now it is not my fault.”
She has continued to advocate for those around her – including when her teammate, Aly Raisman, came out defending all victims of sexual assault. After critical comments from Gabby Douglas, a fellow Olympic gold medalist, Biles stood in solidarity with Raisman, claiming that all women, no matter their dress or behavior, should be protected from sexual abuse and violence.
It should be no surprise that after winning multiple medals for the USA at the 2016 Brazil Olympics (when she was just 14!) she landed plenty of endorsement deals. However, after feeling slighted by Nike and wanting them to feature more black female athletes, she made the jump to work with Athletica instead.
Biles continues to be an amazing role model for all women, and we can’t wait to see how she progresses in her career!
Advice from Simone: “I would say to always follow your dream. And dream big because my whole career, including any of the things that I’ve accomplished, I never thought in a million years that I would be here. So it just proves that once you believe in yourself, and you put your mind to something, you can do it.”