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International Women’s Day: Top 10 Black Women Who Have Influenced Me

International Women’s Day: Top 10 Black Women Who Have Influenced Me



It’s the the 100th International Women’s Day.  So I have to give props to women who have made a difference in my life.

1.  Rosia Lee Ivey

My maternal Grandmother.  August 20, 1912-October 24, 2010

She taught me the most important lessons in life.

2.  Celia V. Brown

My mom.  July 9, 1936-June 29, 2005

A true superwoman.  And quite the beauty.

3.  Angela Davis

Political and social activist, scholar, professor

In 1970 when Ms. Davis was jailed in Marin County, we used to drive by the jailhouse and my parents would say to me, “That’s where Angela Davis is.”  When I read If They Come in the Morning before entering my all-white high school, I grew my afro and thought I was such a radical. And she has the fiercest afro I have ever seen.

4.  June Jordan

Poet, activist, teacher, and essayist  1936 – 2002

I read so many black poets works in the ’70s, including Nikki Giovanni and Ntozake Shange, but I think June Jordan touched me first.  My daughter recently hones her poetry skills in the Poetry for the People program and the University of California at Berkeley—a program founded by Ms. Jordan.

5.  Maya Angelou

Poet, memoirist, novelist, educator, dramatist, producer, actress, historian, filmmaker, and civil rights activist.

I discovered I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Gordon Parks The Learning Tree on the same day in my public library as a teenager.  Those books were the start of my thirst for literature written for blacks, by blacks.

There are so many more women writers that I love—Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison (I’m re-reading Beloved right now) and Alice Walker among them.

Now, for women in beauty!

6.  Susan Taylor

Editor, writer, journalist, Founder of National CARES Mentoring Movement

As Editor-in-Chief of Essence of magazine, Ms. Taylor set the tone for the glossy fashion magazine filled with pages of  women who looked like me, and I am still ever-so-grateful.  Her In the Spirit columns were uplifting and illuminating.  I recently had the opportunity to meet Ms. Taylor while she was in Oakland working with her mentoring group, and she is truly a stunning and gracious woman.

7.  Iman

Supermodel, actress and entrepreneur

I love her looks, her spirit and that fact that she has been the authority on makeup for women of color.

And meeting her in NYC was a treat.

8.  Sharon Martin

Makeup artist

Sharon was the first makeup artist to mentor me, giving me loads of exposure to all mediums for makeup artistry, from televison to video to print.  A truly generous and gracious women who understood the need to bring up young people in the industry. I fell out of touch with Sharon and she died sometime in the last few years.  It pains me that I can’t even find any information about the  women who taught me so much about professionalism as a makeup artist.

9.  Mikki Taylor

Beauty Editor at Essence for 30 years.

She had my dream job.  That’s it.

10.  Pat McGrath

Makeup artist extraordinaire





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