While the most influential ladies in my life are, in fact, real people, I can’t help but bring attention to those of fiction: the women concocted from someone else’s imagination that have taught me lessons and inspired me to be brave, stand up for what I believe in and live life to the fullest.
The titular character from my favorite novel is someone I could write about forever. She is passionate and stubborn and yearns for excitement, yet instead of just settling for her tragic upbringing, she works hard to overcome her situation and finds love in the process! And even when all these things do fall into place, she is still able to deny it because giving in would mean compromising her morals! (Don’t worry, Jane still gets her happy ending.)
Lessons learned: Change your circumstance, or change your disposition (this is essentially the motto I strive to live by).
Cinderella has and always will be my favorite Disney Princess (arguably my favorite Disney movie*, as well). An eternal optimist, Cinderella practices what she preaches and truly gets rewarded because of her character. Even in the most dire of situations, Cinderella never succumbs to her anger or sadness, and more importantly, never stops dreaming.
Lessons learned: Kindness always wins, even if it’s not immediate.
Without Hermione, there would be no Harry Potter. She is the glue that holds the entire series together with her intelligence, her bravery and her heart. Hermione is unlike any character in literature in that she is equal parts practical and tender, and she has paved the way for other literary heroines like Katniss Everdeen and Tris Pryor.
Lessons learned: Anything is possible with enough dedication, courage and most importantly, love.
The Hitchcock Blondes
In a time when women were seen as pretty accessories, these leading ladies were dynamic, cunning and witty counterparts to their male costars. Actresses such as Grace Kelly, Eva Marie Saint and Tippi Hedren brought Alfred Hitchock’s thrillers to life with both their brains and their beauty, breaking down gender stereotypes and setting the example in Hollywood of what a female on film should be.
Lessons learned: You define your worth, not people who treat you with inferiority.
I love superheroes, and the fact that Wonder Woman is among the same ranks in the DC Universe as Batman and Superman is just plain awesome. Yes, she hasn’t gotten her own movie (although there’s one in the works and a fantastic tv show from the 1970s). Yes, her outfit isn’t exactly a feminist’s dream. But the truth is that Wonder Woman can inspire little girls to be their own heroes, and that makes her a role model in my life.
Lessons learned: Strength is doing the right thing, even when it’s difficult.
American Girl Dolls
While I could easily write a case for each of the American Girls, the common ties are the reason why the American Girl series were the most influential books/dolls/interest in my childhood. As a young girl who never really fit in, I found comfort and happiness in the fact that girls from different times and places in history felt the same things that I did (at least, they could have).
Lessons learned: Loving yourself is more powerful than any external negativity.
How cool is Olivia Pope? She is smart, fearless and truly strives to do good. When everyone else is falling apart, Olivia remains stedfast in her leadership and loyalty. Don’t misunderstand me, Olivia Pope is not perfect, but she acknowledges her weaknesses and actively tries to fix them…all while looking FLAWLESS.
Lessons learned: The moment you compromise your integrity is the moment you fail.
*In acknowledgment of the Cinderella film coming out this Friday, I cry every time the trailer comes on because I’m so excited.