From holding high positions in the White House to honing in on their art, our women run the culture and manage not to miss a beat while doing so. Since the beginning of time, women have been there to lead the charge and are responsible for giving birth to some of the greatest ideas (and people) the world has ever witnessed. The legacy Black women have created in the past, present and for the future is so vital to the world as we know it.
It would take ages to list all of the life lessons we’ve learned from women from all walks of life over the years, so REVOLT narrowed it down. In honor of Women’s History Month, check out some powerful nuggets taught by 11 contemporary Black woman icons below.
1. Elaine Welteroth
If “Leave that job if it does not serve you” were a person, it would be Elaine Welteroth. In 2016, the young icon made history when she was named editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue, becoming only the second Black person to hold such a title in Condé Nast’s 107-year history at the time.
Still, Welteroth did not let the title and monumental achievement deter her from making the moves that were best for her. Her persistence led to her spot on CBS’ “The Talk” where she served as a co-host alongside Sheryl Underwood, Amanda Kloots and Sharon Osbourne (prior to her controversial exit). After just nine months, Welteroth would again choose herself, noting that “When the music changes, so must your dance” in the announcement of her departure.
As the author of the best-selling memoir “More Than Enough,’ Welteroth is living proof that leaving places that no longer serve you will always be a win-win.
17 years ago, a little island girl by the name of Robyn Rihanna Fenty took the world by storm after she was discovered by producer Evan Rogers in her home of Barbados. Today, Rihanna is a household name who continues to show the world there is no limit to what she is capable of.
While Rih got her start as an entertainer in the music industry, the 34-year-old wears many hats. Her work in philanthropy recently earned her the Barbados Hero award, for example. She has also broken glass ceilings within the fashion and entrepreneurship industries through her Savage X Fenty and Fenty Beauty ventures. Not to mention, the superstar has secured billionaire status and is one of the world’s richest female musicians.
Sis is a reminder that although people will try to put you in a box, there is much more to life when you think outside of those constraints.
As a true child of destiny, Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is considered one of the best entertainers the world has ever witnessed, but it is the work that she put in to her goals that is absolutely remarkable.
Since she was a child, this superstar has worked diligently, sharing her talents with the world and using the power of music to touch many lives. From Girls Tyme to Destiny’s Child to her solo career, the Houston native put in blood, sweat and tears. Bey ultimately established herself as a true boss, with creative control over her entire life and career.
Although Beyoncé has tons of accolades under her belt and has reached pinnacles of success that many people only wish to accomplish in a lifetime, she never shies away from the work that is needed to achieve her next goal. If we all could take a page from her book, it would be to never doubt your ability to create the life of your dreams through a remarkable work ethic.
4. Meghan Markle
The world celebrated when Meghan Markle’s marriage to Prince Harry made her the first person of African descent to join the Royal Family. She soon revealed that everything that glitters isn’t always gold, however.
After a successful “Brexit” of their own, Markle and her husband spoke out against the Royal Family, causing a rift in a power dynamic that is still very much rooted in racism. In 2021, Markle sat down with Oprah Winfrey to shed light on the way she was treated during her time as Duchess of Sussex.
After leaving the royal life behind, Markle is an inspiration to all the young women who believe they have to fit into the mold of what the world wants them to be. Not only is the worldwide icon capable of giving a class on etiquette, Her Royal Highness can share a word or two on the importance of standing up for yourself and how speaking out can lead to a life of peace over chaos.
5. Missy Elliott
There is no other artist, male or female, that can measure up to Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, which is probably why we have yet to see her go against anyone else in a Verzuz battle.
Since her inception as an artist, Elliott has not only created a lane of her own, but she has paved the way for other women in the music industry to always remain true to themselves no matter what.
As a creative powerhouse, she boasts huge accomplishments in her own artistry and has also had a hand in the careers of some of the most influential names in music. We’re talking Aaliyah, Jazmine Sullivan and a host of others who she has loaned her pen or production talents to. Over the decades, Elliott has been a catalyst for self-expression and individuality — not just for her peers in music, but for fans and the culture alike.
6. Misa Hylton
As the architect of some of the culture’s hottest looks, Misa Hylton deserves all of her flowers for ensuring the world sees what hip-hop has to offer through style. Over the years she has worked alongside Lil’ Kim, also producing historic looks for the likes of Mary J. Blige, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Jodeci and more.
Additionally, Hylton is the founder of the Misa Hylton Fashion Academy, where aspiring creatives have a place to gain first-hand experience within the fashion industry. An incomparable icon, she is a living, breathing example of what it means to remain true to yourself — and the joy that comes with using your talents to push the culture forward.
7. Mary J. Blige
If we were to describe Mary J. Blige, the words “soul,” “icon,” and “real” would come to mind. As an artist, her albums have served as the soundtrack to many Black women’s lives. Decades later, Blige continues to tell stories that we might not always be ready to open up about as a community.
Never one to shy away from showing the world the real, Blige’s pain has been used for a greater purpose. She has healed generations of women through music and she isn’t letting up anytime soon.
In this era, the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul continues to be transparent in her journey of heartache and how it led to a love of self like never before. She inspires the world to find the purpose in pain and to never underestimate your own strength.
8. Issa Rae
From YouTube to HBO, one thing has remained consistent in the life of Issa Rae and that is: Creativity knows no bounds.
The creator of “Insecure” has opened the door for other change-makers by merely existing and, of course, using her own platform to lift her peers as she climbs. Rae’s out-of-the-box thinking will be talked about for generations because she has shown that, while the world doesn’t always believe it, Black women really can be all of the things.
Creating outside of the lines is one of the greatest takeaways from this Black woman’s journey because, although Hollywood thought that things should be done one way, Rae didn’t necessarily sit around and wait for a “yes” to create what will go down as one of the greatest sitcoms of this generation.
9. Shonda Rhimes
Never underestimate the potential of a great story because Shonda Rhimes certainly does not.
Rhimes, who once served as a hub for some of ABC’s best shows, including fan-favorites like “How To Get Away With Murder” and “Scandal,” has since hopped in her Netflix bag. She’s gone on to bless TV lovers with hit series such as “Bridgerton,” “Inventing Anna” and more, wooing the world through thoughtful and captivating stories.
Storytelling is a true art and Rhimes understands the influence that diverse stories have and that there isn’t just one place to tell them.
10. Michelle Obama
Our Forever First Lady has never stood in the shadows of her man. In fact, Barack Obama is very clear that it was Michelle who often taught him the ropes and inspired him along the way.
The Chicago native opened up about how her relationship and navigating life made her who she is today in her memoir “Becoming.” Just the first few chapters alone are inspirational, but you’ll definitely want to take notes when she starts dropping relationship gems.
Mrs. Obama teaches us that while refusing to lower your standards in your relationship is key, the art of remaining whole and not getting lost in your partner’s dreams along the way is also essential.
11. Simone Biles
Women athletes have always showcased strength in their profession and lives, but Simone Biles is teaching the world that mental health comes first — even when you’re strong and even when you’re an Olympian.
A member of the USA Gymnastics team, Biles has become a household name and role model to young girls across the world, which surely comes with its own pressures. Biles, however, became even more of an inspiration when she decided to focus on her mental health during the most recent Summer Olympics. The young athlete was following in the footsteps of peer Naomi Osaka, who made the same decision during the 2021 French Open.
Thanks to people like Simone Biles, more Black women see that prioritizing your health over your job is mandatory and not an option.
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