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Black women have long had the responsibility and privilege of establishing exceptional careers, discoveries and achievements while also using their platforms to inspire the world to change in ways that make room for more of us to thrive. This Women’s History Month finds me both extremely grateful for the band of Black women that have laid the groundwork for the privileges that we enjoy today and enthusiastically optimistic about the future of our Black girls.

With the explosion of social media and women’s rights and Black livelihood still under threat, our agency — the capacity and autonomy for each one of us to think and take action to express our individual power — has taken on a more significant role in the conversation around success. In recent years, we have witnessed the ushering in of a new wave of Black women who are bold, brilliant and authentically themselves, proving that success is not measured solely by what we achieve as we integrate into institutions that were not designed for us but by how we own our uniqueness as a powerful value-add while doing so.

Here are 10 inspiring Black Women making history and uplifting our girls with their brilliance, inspiration and authenticity, inside and outside of their crafts:

1. London Breed

Breed is making history as San Francisco’s first Black female mayor. Whether she does it sporting curly hair, straight hair or locs, she is determined to fight for the dignity and well-being of those experiencing poverty and homelessness. Having been raised in poverty in San Francisco herself, she has the lived experience to make a meaningful impact. She’s a living and breathing embodiment of the mantra that guides so many of us: “If you don’t like it, change it.”

2. Melissa Viviane Jefferson

Jefferson, more widely known as Lizzo, is a Grammy-award-winning singer, songwriter and entertainer also recognized for her advocacy and dedication to practicing body positivity and self-love. Her Instagram posts have “broken the internet,” sparking conversations around outdated mainstream beauty standards, fat-shaming and the unwritten boundaries of body positivity. And for her fans (“Lizzbians”), which includes a strong LGBTQ+ following, she embodies the love, acceptance and celebration that we all crave. 

3. Natasha Mayne

Mayne, affectionately dubbed “The Vogue Attorney,” is a Florida-based attorney that uses her platform to call others to greatness. To that end, she is also the founder of Natasha Mayne, Inc., a consulting firm, focusing on empowerment. While her eclectic and impeccable fashion sense may reel you in, it is her inspirational wisdom, encouraging words and unshakable confidence that keeps us coming back for more. This Jamaican-born divorce attorney makes no apologies for knowing and showing that she is a badass in the courtroom and the world is her runway. Her accomplishments include winning “Best Overall Advocate” at the prestigious Florida Bar Trial Competition, receiving the National Order of Barristers Award for Outstanding Oral Advocacy and inspiring legions of women to be audacious, non-traditional, authentically themselves, even in traditional white-male dominated professions.

4. Michaela Cole

Cole is widely known for being a writer, actress, and the award-winning creator (and star) of Chewing Gum and I May Destroy You, but not many people know just how much of a multi-talented force she is. In addition to the work she’s done on screen, she is also a talented musician and poet. She has been vocal about her personal experience of being sexually assaulted in 2016 and has done phenomenal work in creatively highlighting the multilayered societal and legal issues around sexual assault and rape culture in I May Destroy You, for which she made history as the first Black woman to win the Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special at the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards. If turning your pain into purpose was a person, well, you know the rest!

5. Jasmine Mans

Mans is a Newark, New Jersey, born and raised poet and author of Black Girl, Call Home — “a love letter to the wandering Black girl and vital companion to any woman on a journey to find truth, belonging, and healing.” Through her poetry, she has shared reflections on the experience of being a queer Black woman. Not only does her powerful storytelling and poetry honor and celebrate Black girlhood/womanhood but her products donning phrases like “buy weed from women” and “stop stealing art from Black girls” proudly and publicly uplift Black women at the margins of our community.

6. Elaine Welteroth

Welteroth made history when she became the youngest Editor-in-Chief in Conde Nast’s history at the age of 29-years-old. She is a recurring judge on Project Runway, 2021 co-host on The Talk, former Teen Vogue Editor-in-Chief and New York Times Bestselling Author of More Than Enough: Claiming Space For Who You Are (No Matter What They Say). Adored by many for her transparency, fashion, curly girl hairstyles, backstage dance sessions with her glam squad and #BlackLove, her fans enjoy watching our millennial “sister’s” life and career unfold in the most beautiful and inspiring way. Her journey reflects her desire to inspire girls, especially the underestimated or undervalued, to be both great and authentic.

7. Lindsey Granger

Granger is a journalist, writer and producer. She is currently a host on a nationally syndicated talk show, The Daily Blast, and CEO of her own production company, Lindsey Granger Productions. You may have seen the viral videos of her boldly challenging racist rhetoric and acts of violence against members of the Black community. We not only love that she is uncompromising and passionate in bringing the facts in response to current events, but that she does so with style. Whether she’s rocking cornrows, box braids, a high bun or a silk press, her presentation never disappoints. She expertly balances her hardcore journalistic ability with her fun, relatable and down-to-earth personality — inspiring Black girls to be bold and brave.

8. Melissa Ward

Ward is making history as the first African-American female captain for a major U.S. carrier. Captain M’Lis Ward is also a former USC women’s basketball championship player. Being a pioneer is also the legacy of her mother, who was the first Black woman to graduate from the University of Chicago medical school. Having that kind of role model, it comes as no surprise that she is breaking barriers to inspire young girls to enter and thrive in predominantly male-dominated spaces. She hopes that other young women will aspire to become pilots, and the opportunities are ripe with the industry facing a pilot shortage. I don’t know about you but I would love to greet a Black female pilot — in the loving way that we do — on my next vacation. We see you, sis!

9. Yrsa-Daley Ward

Ward is a Nigerian-Jamaican Author and Poet born and raised in England. Her powerful, introspective poetry has garnered her much acclaim but her co-writing on Beyonce’s Black Is King has made her more of a household name in the United States. Through her poetry books, including her memoir The Terrible, which won the PEN/Ackerley Prize, she has highlighted societal issues surrounding trauma and sexual assault. Now, she is inspiring readers to engage in the practice of getting to know their authentic and most intimate selves and focus on self-worth and healing through her latest book, The How: Notes on the Great Work of Meeting Yourself.

10. Chloe Bailey

Bailey is a singer, entertainer, actress extraordinaire. Best known for being one half of the Grammy-nominated musical sister duo Chloe x Hailey, she has become a star in her own right with the 2021 release of the lead single “Have Mercy” from her upcoming debut solo album. The Grown-ish actress has blessed the internet streets with behind-the-scenes looks at her musical genius at work — producing beats, running riffs or playing musical instruments. She embraces and celebrates her sexuality, musical genius and fierce love for her sister. When the world tries to box her in, she invites critics to a front-row seat of her “breakout” performance.

With these women embodying the change they desire to see, challenging convention and sharing their authentic voices with the world, we are sure to see a new generation of intelligent, confident and self-assured Black girls choosing to pursue and dominate in their chosen career paths, even if they do not see their personalities, style or image represented. We are not white men (or women), we are not a monolith and we won’t pretend to be for the comfort of anyone. We are a force of unique measure, unyielding in our demand that the world expands to receive us. Shrinking to fit in is not an item on Black women’s agenda. Meeting adjourned.