Girls I Do Adore: Queen Latifah

Steel Magnolias

As we continue celebrating Women’s History Month, who better to tribute on their birthday than the one and only Queen Latifah.

Turning 43 years old today, the rapper, actress, singer, songwriter, model, comedienne, producer, philanthropist and upcoming talk show host may not have been born into royalty but she’s lived up to her regal title since bursting on to the scene with “Wrath Of My Madness,” her debut single, in 1988. Her work in music, film, and television has earned her a Golden Globe award, two Screen Actors Guild awards, two Image Awards, a Grammy award, six additional Grammy nominations, an Emmy award nomination and an Academy Award nomination.

We love Queen Latifah because she’s as versatile as she is authentic. Who else is as comfortable playing a tough bank robber in Set It Off as she is a dying woman in Last Holiday? A corrupt matron named “Mama Morton” in a classic musical like Chicago and then a revered music maven trying to bridge the racial gap in the 1960s in Hairspray? And that’s just a portion of her on-screen work. How about the fact Latifah started her musical career as a beatboxer who transitioned into one of the most loved female rappers of all time and then shifted to singing soul music and jazz standards, with critically-acclaimed albums and more? Throw in the mix her television career to date (most notably, much-loved sitcom Living Single), hosting duties, endorsement deals with CoverGirl cosmetics, Curvation ladies underwear, Pizza Hut and Jenny Craig plus a signature perfume and there’s no wonder the woman born Dana Elaine Owens in Newark, New Jersey is an inspiration to millions of women worldwide.

I took on the moniker “Boss Lady” back in 2003 when I founded Australia and New Zealand’s most successful hip-hop and R&B publication, Urban Hitz. I wanted a powerful alias, one I’d have to live up to throughout my career and Queen Latifah inspired this concept. I grew up admiring her enviable ability to stay genuine from her early hip-hop days to Hollywood and beyond. She took her adopted name so seriously and I wanted (and still want) to do just the same.

Forever the classy, dedicated and fearless career woman, Latifah is about to try her hand at the talk show game again (The Queen Latifah Show ran from 1999-2001). She’ll be launching her new show with the same name on Monday, September 16 later this year and I’ll definitely be tuned in to support.

Girls I Do Adore: Anna Wintour

WSJ. Magazine's "Innovator Of The Year" Awards - Arrivals

Which Anna Wintour factoid is most compelling? Perhaps the official announcement the 63-year-old has been given the newly-created executive position of Artistic Director for publishing behemoth Condé Nast? Or maybe it’s her immigrant status to the United States that strikes a chord with me? Could it be her reported intense affair with Bob Marley back in the 1970s? Whatever it is, the legendary inspiration behind Meryl Streep‘s character Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada is a boss lady to be saluted for Women’s History Month.

As she moves into senior executive ranks crowded with her male counterparts, Wintour is also celebrating her 25th year as editor of VOGUE. In the cutthroat world of fashion and media, not only surviving but innovating for a quarter of a century makes the London-born icon one of the most powerful women in magazine publishing today.

Wintour came of age in the “swinging 60s” and rebelliously wore her hem lines short and her hair in that famous bob style from the age of 14. “Growing up in London in the 60s, you’d have to have had Irving Penn‘s sack over your head not to know something extraordinary was happening in fashion,” she once recalled. After a string of editorial positions at various magazines, Wintour’s big break came with her first editorship at British VOGUE in 1985. While the publication’s staff at the time allegedly referred to the period as “The Wintour Of Our Discontent” due to her growing control, Wintour set about changing the entire style and direction of the magazine to reflect the times. “There’s a new kind of woman out there,” she told the Evening Standard during her tenure. “She’s interested in business and money. She doesn’t have time to shop anymore. She wants to know what and why and where and how.” She moved to New York to work on House & Garden magazine and 10 months later, landed the coveted role of editor for American VOGUE.

l

Throughout the years Wintour has come to be regarded as one of the most powerful people in fashion, setting trends and anointing new designers. And while many tend to focus on her chilled mystique and tough exterior, we’d like to look at her positive and much more important qualities: namely, her philanthropy. Wintour serves as a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where she’s organized benefits that have raised $50 million for the museum’s Costume Institute. She began the CFDA/VOGUE Fund in order to encourage, support and mentor unknown fashion designers and she’s also raised over $10 million for AIDS charities since 1990 by organizing various high profile benefits.

“I don’t think of myself as a powerful person,” she told Forbes in 2011, when it named her 69th on its list of the world’s hundred most powerful women. “You know, what does it mean? It means you get a better seat in a restaurant or tickets to a screening or whatever it may be. But it is a wonderful opportunity to be able to help others, and for that I’m extremely grateful.”

To get a better idea of Anna at work, be sure to watch The September Issue, the 2009 documentary about the behind-the-scenes drama that follows Wintour and her staff during the production of the September 2007 issue of VOGUE.

Child Brides Around The World: 140 Million And Counting

yemeni-child-brides-husbands-615

As we near the midway point in Women’s History Month, we turn our focus to the worldwide issue of child brides.

According to the United Nations Population Fund, more than 140 million girls will become child brides by 2020 (in less than seven years) if current rates of early marriage continue. A whopping 50 million of those girls will be younger than 15. To put things in perspective, every day approximately 25-30,000 girls become child brides.

While child brides exist the world over, there are certainly more cases in particular regions. In south Asia, nearly half of young women are married by their 18th birthday and in sub-Saharan Africa, the figure is more than one-third.

UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet (the former President of Chile) recently called child marriage a violation of girls’ human rights, as it halts education, increases health risks through early pregnancy and motherhood, and increases the chances of girls being the victims of sexual violence in the home.

Poverty is perhaps the major driver of child marriage. Poor families marry off their daughters young and the prospect of receiving a “bride price”—money or livestock in exchange for a daughter’s hand in marriage—is particularly tempting in difficult times. Girls who resist marriage can face rape, beatings, and sometimes death for doing so. The issue is deeply heartbreaking and we must spread awareness of it as much as we can in an attempt to stop girls from being forced into such horrible situations.

To learn more visit Girls Not Brides, a global partnership of more than 200 non-governmental organizations committed to ending child marriage and enabling girls to fulfill their potential.

Girls I Do Adore: Queen Rania Of Jordan

Queen Rania is considered one of the world's most elegant women

I’ve always been fascinated with Jordan’s royal family and in particular, Queen Rania.

Because we live in a world where people from the Middle East are looked upon with suspicion by even the most moderate Westerners, my heart is always filled with pride when representatives as graceful and relatable as Queen Rania stand at the forefront.

The 42-year-old was born Rania Al-Yassin to Palestinian parents in Kuwait (she’s a fellow Virgo). Ranked the most beautiful consort (queen by marriage) in the world by Harper’s Bazaar magazine in 2011, Rania’s looks are not her only outstanding feature. The tertiary-educated wife of King Abdullah II is passionate and outspoken on a variety of causes both inside and outside Jordan. Her outreach to the world via social networking (her Twitter, Facebook and YouTube pages have millions of subscribers) where she encourages people to discuss cross-cultural dialogue, education and more recently, the use of social media to create social change, have made her (in the words of Oprah), “a modern monarch on a mission.” Using her YouTube channel in particular to openly discuss pertinent issues, Rania often holds sessions with the public to respond to questions about various Middle Eastern and Muslim stereotypes. She’s posted numerous videos on subjects that include honor killings, terrorism and the rights of Arab women.

Queen-Rania-of-Jordan-16-mario-testino

Using an example from her own childhood and surely many other young people from diverse backgrounds, the Queen released her first book in 2010, The Sandwich Swap, a story of two best friends (“Lily” and “Salma”) who argue over the ‘yucky’ taste of their respective peanut butter and jelly and hummus sandwiches and then overcome and embrace their differences. The Sandwich Swap went to the top of the New York Times Bestseller list that year. “Girls really have the power to transform societies,” Rania shares during a promotional appearance on The View during that time.

A mother of four with countless foreign decorations and prestige positions for organizations such as UNICEF, Rania is a role model for all young women across the globe and in particular, the millions of Middle Eastern girls she represents so fiercely. Shukran, Queen!

“U.N.I.T.Y.” — And Why We’re Still Looking For It

We_Can_Do_It!

“Who you calling a bitch?”

Twenty years ago Queen Latifah dropped her Black Reign album, featuring the breakout single “U.N.I.T.Y”. The song is still her biggest hit single to date, scoring the 1995 Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance. The smooth track spoke out against the disrespect of women in society including street harassment, domestic violence, and slurs against women in hip-hop culture.

As we kick off Women’s History Month in 2013, we’re still exploring the same themes and dealing with the same issues in hip-hop and beyond. We’re quick to speak on oppression of women in far away countries like India, Jordan and Somalia but take a look in our own backyard and we’re nowhere near gender equality.

“Too many of us in the United States ignore the oppression on our doorstep,” writes Jessica Valenti, author and founder of the blog Feministing, writes in a Washington Post opinion piece. She says America today is “basking in a ‘girl power’ moment that doesn’t exist; it’s a mirage of equality that we’ve been duped into believing is the real thing.” So let’s set aside the illusion of top-rated, female-driven reality shows, Beyoncé performing at the Superbowl and other feel-good moments to look at a handful of the hard facts:

  • Of all the women murdered in the United States, about a third are killed by a husband or boyfriend. The only country with more women known to have been killed by domestic violence than the US is Russia.
  • Just 17 percent of US congressional seats are held by women
  • More than 85 percent of US counties do not have an abortion provider
  • Females comprise a majority of US residents living in poverty
  • Women earn about 76 cents on the dollar compared with men’s earnings
  • In terms of the global sex trade, an estimated 50,000 women are trafficked into the US each year
  • Up to 700,000 rapes occur in the USA each year
  • Sixty eight percent of women believe sex discrimination exists in the workplace

These sobering statistics are a reminder that while we’re blessed to live in a society that grants us basic rights and freedoms, women are still suffering from oppression in the “first world” and in most cases, sadly not even realizing it. Queen Latifah voiced these concerns two decades ago and while numerous female artists are out there doing the same thing, we need our high-profile ones to step forward and drive the point home once again.

Join Us For Women’s History Month 2013! #BossLadyWHM

WOMEN_2013

Women’s History Month is an annual declared month that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. It’s celebrated during March in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and many other regions across the world.

The whole ethos of being a “boss lady” means standing out, taking chances, making strides and reaching back to help your fellow females. We’re excited to participate in Women’s History Month 2013 (we’ve always celebrated its standout event, International Women’s Day, on March 8) with engaging content, fresh giveaways and more (you can join us by using the hashtag #BossLadyWHM).

We ask you in particular to spend time this month researching and reflecting on the difficult journeys of the greatest women to walk the earth and be comforted in the knowledge that while it’s almost never easy, it’s always worth it.