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Dare to be VRAI

This International Women’s Day, we celebrate those who make their own rules, embrace who they are at their core and let their true selves shine. We champion those who encourage and uplift others to pursue their goals without bias or barriers and inspire change.

It’s in the spirit of this year’s IWD theme - #ChooseToChallenge - that we wish to highlight multifaceted individuals and their every dimension by asking which challenges they dare to accept. How do they dare to break boundaries, dare to elevate others, and dare to lead and innovate in their fields? In telling us about their personal achievements, they highlight the ways in which we can all raise awareness and take action for equality, as well as challenge us to be daring ourselves.

Oge Egbuonu

 

Actress, producer, and director Oge Egbuonu, speaks of the women in Hollywood who have helped to nurture her - and how she now seeks to not only elevate other female voices, but tear down systems of oppression that marginalize the BIPOC community. Her new documentary “(IN)VISIBLE PORTRAITS” celebrates the extraordinary heritage of Black women and debuts on March 2nd on OWN.

Headshot by Ryan Eng.

Aligning with the theme for International Women's Day 2021, what do you #ChooseToChallenge this upcoming year?

I am challenging the binary and the systems of oppression which keep BIPOC folks marginalized. I am no longer dealing with patriarchal, white supremist ideologies and systems. I am challenging it all and empowering others to do the same because where there are people, there is power. My main hope is that the collective remembers their innate power and remember that it isn’t Hollywood or these systems which create the trend or the culture, it is us.

 

How has the support of women in the entertainment industry assisted you to where you are today?

Two of the women who have really assisted me throughout my career are the actress Halle Berry and the studio executive Adrienne Bowles. They have really nurtured me during my journey of becoming who I am today: I started out as an assistant, then became an associate producer, then producer and am now a filmmaker. Both of those women have cared for me and provided a safety net for me in the moments when I needed them the most, like when I doubted myself or when I forgot my worth. They both, in their own beautiful ways, reminded me of my innate power, reminded me that I have community, and reminded me that no matter what, anything I put my mind to is possible.

 

What would you say to the girls who look up to you and aspire to achieve what you have and to break barriers?

I would tell them what my mother told me, which is “The only goal you cannot accomplish is the one you don’t go after.” They should follow their curiosity! Also, being in this industry comes with a lot of rejection at times. Sit with the disappointment and use that rejection as a redirection in how they go about pursuing their career.

Colleen Rothschild

Aligning with the theme for International Women's Day 2021, what do you #ChooseToChallenge this upcoming year?

Every day, we should all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. This year, I will also choose to challenge women not supporting each other. Ladies, we are all in this together! Let's spread kindness and lift each other up.

 

How have the women in your life lifted you up? What kind of roles did they play as you were starting your business?

I was taught by my mother to be kind, first and foremost. From starting my business to my daily interactions, everything I have been able to do has relied on kindness. What would Colleen Rothschild Beauty be without kindness to customers, employees, and partners? It's a mindset that I am lucky enough to have learned from her very early on. How you treat others impacts every part of every day.

What advice would you give to female entrepreneurs who are just starting out?

Find something that you love, something that doesn't feel like a job. Authenticity comes naturally when you are passionate about something.

Katherine Ormerod

Katherine Ormerod isn’t afraid of exploring femininity in all its forms. The UK-based writer and speaker talks to VRAI about the importance of capturing a more authentic feminine experience in her writing, and how supporting other women is the center of everything she does.

Aligning with the theme for International Women's Day 2021, what do you #ChooseToChallenge this upcoming year?

Over the past couple of years, my work has centred on challenging a lot of the accepted norms of what female experiences should look like. There are a lot of cover ups when it comes to mothering and growing older as a woman - in recent years, the movement towards a greater cultural honesty about the realities of the lows as well as the highs of these stages have been transformative for so many women, myself included. For example: you don’t have to instantly bond with your baby, or breastfeed or enjoy the newborn ‘bubble’ or love everything about looking after children to be a great parent. It took time for me to fall in love with my kids, I have continued to find significant fulfilment outside of caring for them and there’s plenty that I don’t enjoy about raising babies. That doesn’t make me a ‘bad mum’ or ungrateful for the blessings of having children, nor I am not alone in having these feelings. Not conforming to the glowy, idyllic vision of motherhood which we have historically seen in both old and new media makes so many women feel like a failure and also makes them doubt themselves. This year I’m going to continue to challenge the many myths around how we’re ‘supposed’ to experience motherhood through my work as a writer and through my social media channels.

How have the women in your life assisted in getting you to where you are today?

I was raised by a single, working mother, I went to a girls- only school where the vast majority of my teachers were female and have subsequently worked in a career where 95% of my colleagues and audience are women and girls. My whole life has been centred around female culture and without the support of women, nothing important would have happened in my life!

My mum remains a rock of support for me. She came from an underprivileged background and did everything in her power to create a different life for me - working extra hours to pay for tutors, guiding me into gaining scholarships and most importantly giving me the confidence to believe that there was nothing I couldn’t achieve. During the hard times of my life since - from divorce to baby loss - my mum has been there to comfort me at first, but then to help me find my way back to myself; it’s a relationship like no other.

Work-wise, it was another single mum, Sharon Ridoynauth, who gave me my first break in journalism and put me forward for my first staff job on a newspaper, women who edited my work and made me the writer I am today. My literary editor, Abigail Bergstrom, convinced me I had a book in me and has helped build my career as a ghostwriter. And then there are my girlfriends - scattered across the globe - who have kept me sane even over the past crazy year.

As a journalist, author, and mother... how do you balance it all and what advice would you give to other women who are trying to do it all?

I really believe you can have a happy, balanced life where you find satisfaction in multiple roles, but ‘having it all’ isn’t the same as having everything. Since having kids, I’m not flying footloose around the world on crazy assignments and press trips. I’ve had to reorient my career. Freelance journalism didn’t work with caring for young children as so much needs to be written immediately and you just can’t turn around a 1000-word piece from a soft play or music class. Equally the last minute pressures of marketing books as an author are impossible without full time childcare and I wanted to be home for my family at least a couple of days a week. So now I mostly write other people’s books as a ghostwriter, a job which you can schedule around childcare. It means there’s less limelight, but for the next couple of years that’s fine by me - I’m still using my skills and building my CV, I’m just taking a different road to the next stop.

 

The time to be daring is now. Invigorated by these words, we choose to challenge the barriers that still stand in the way of real change, and we dare all individuals to embrace the positive energy behind International Women’s Day and celebrate their own personal light. Together, let us dare to challenge the norm because collectively, we can help create a more inclusive world.

Find out more about how International Women’s Day is being celebrated around the world.


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