There is one thing I can never get enough — inspirational women. Don’t worry, this post isn’t [entirely] dedicated to fulfilling a feminist agenda, but you can bet your sweet booty it’s filled with some powerhouse women using their voices to keep progressing us forward, together.
If you follow me and my brand, you know I advocate for a balance of confidence and humility. I firmly believe each of these women does just that. Whether their stories resonate with me or open my eyes to worlds I’ve never known or imagined for myself, they captivate me. They motivate me. They push me in a direction I know in my gut to be right.
*Before you read this list of wonder women, please note that you don’t have to agree with everyone’s mentality or mission 100% to learn from them, find them inspirational, or to love them as the beautiful, audacious humans they are.
So, here we go! My top 15 list of inspirational women to follow in 2019:
It isn’t news that Glo is one of my favorite women to follow and support. She is a full-time travel blogger and proud first generation American born and raised by Nigerian parents. Her ability to serve and entertain her audience in unmatched and her honest, humble, and hilarious nature will hook you on your first visit to her blog or Instagram profile.
When you’re looking for travel and/or photo inspo, feedback about the beautiful cultures she explores around the world, or an honest, raw perspective from a black female American traveler on equality and human rights, look no further. There is no voice like Glo’s. She will remind you that with the right amount of courage and tenacity, there is no stopping you from earning your seat at whatever table you so choose.
I am abundantly proud to call her a mentor and friend.
While I don’t know Erin personally, I’ve been following her journey for a couple years now. She’s a travel and wildlife photographer who started her journey as a blogger and adventure trip leader.
She has worked tirelessly for a place in a predominantly male-dominated field, and from the looks of it, she’s kicking ass. Erin blends her background in science and art so effortlessly in her photography and humbles her readers with very honest and thought-provoking writing on ethics, culture, the nature of her work, and the toll it takes on her mentally and physically. She’s a humble lion if I’ve ever seen one. 😉
If you’re interested in traveling and don’t want to do it alone, I’d suggest checking out her group trips. As she puts it, “It’s a group trip for people who never thought they’d go on a group trip.”
I admittedly didn’t start following this legend until very recently. A couple of good friends sent me a video of her passionately teaching to a group of her eighth grade students in Baltimore.
Valencia has built a career educating urban youth using literature as a foundation to prompt her students to analyze culturally relevant matters from a critical stance. She also co-founded a non-profit organization, The Flourishing Blossoms, whose mission is to enhance the growth of young women through mentorship and service opportunities. (She even led a group of these girls to Puerto Rico to volunteer in under served communities!)
This is a woman we need pouring into our youth. She encourages deep questions and thought not only in her students, but in everyone who chooses to follow her journey. We all have something to learn from her. Following Valencia is definitely a “must” for teachers, but also anyone else who would like to promote literacy and self-education as a form of freedom from oppression.
Attention my fellow yogis and literally anyone with an intense inner dialogue, this woman is the medicine you may not know your soul needs. She is a yoga teacher, photographer, nature lover, retreat host, and an eloquent, thought-provoking writer.
While I’m certain she would never call herself an “influencer”, she is, and she has an influence we could all use in our immediate lives. Aubrey has an intensity about her that can’t be described, only felt, and unless you get the opportunity to meet her in person, you won’t know exactly what I’m talking about (though her writing will give you a good idea). So, check out one of her retreats and you’ll see for yourself. I did, and it was one of my favorite decisions I’ve made for myself in my adult life, not to mention it led to several new lovely friendships with like-minded women I would have never met otherwise.
If the only yoga you have been introduced to is the intimidating shit you see on Instagram or Pinterest with sponsored athletes from major companies, you can breathe easy knowing that that’s not Aubrey’s style. While she is, in fact, a yoga instructor (and a kick ass one at that!), you’ll find she writes very in-depth posts dedicated more to self-love and reflection, being mindful in regards to our environment, supporting and honoring others without false flattery or intentions, culture, and so much more.
I have the utmost respect for this woman, and I couldn’t recommend her or her restorative retreats enough.
Roxane Gay is one of my favorite authors. I’m a sucker for collections of essays, so Bad Feminist and Hunger are two at the top of my list. She is honest without being offensive. She uses her own life story to shed light on American culture in a way that is both disturbing and inspiring.
If you don’t understand why we still need feminism, or you are just blatantly against it, I would strongly urge you to read her work. If you’re reading this post, I’m going to take a long shot and say it’s likely that you are not anti-fem, and I still obviously strongly encourage you to stock up on a few of her books.
Gay is one of the women who has opened my eyes to worlds I have never known, deepened my empathy, and reminded me (during the pivotal learning period of my quarter-life era) to always, always question what I see on the surface. While I only mentioned two of her books, you can see more options from her impressive portfolio here.
She is a woman I would love to know, but will continue to fangirl hard from afar.
Beth Kirby is the genius writer, photographer, cook, and creative educator behind the Local Milk Blog. I have been obsessed with her work for years, and as soon as I heard her interview and life story on The Goal Digger Podcast with Jenna Kutcher, I instantly felt a deep adoration for this woman.
Aside from her many creative talents, Beth exudes the honesty you wish you saw from everyone, especially successful creatives. She speaks openly about her journey with her bipolar disorder, how she discovered it, and how she manages it as an entrepreneur. And despite her poetic tone as a food, travel, and lifestyle blogger, she drops the “f bomb” as fast as anyone I know, and I LOVE her for it. She says it’s her favorite word, and it’s one of mine, too. (Sorry, parents and Grandpa.)
If you’re a creative looking for educational content + loads of inspo, follow her right meow. Oh, and she launched her own podcast this year — Raw Milk. It has become my favorite thing to listen to on my commutes and downtime. This is definitely a go-to for those building their businesses, trying to dive into slow-living, the travel-obsessed, and sustainability-seeking money makers.
While many of us know and love her from her prominent role as Sophia Burset on the Netflix series Orange Is The New Black, she has proven to be a crucial advocate for the LGBTQIA community, especially within the transgender community.
I do not mean to imply that Cox is a token transgender woman (before some Internet troll accuses me of that). There are an immense amount of individuals fighting for trans rights. But perhaps for those who have not taken time to research, or even listen, to those in the trans community, Laverne Cox is an exemplary woman to follow as she introduces specificities for trans rights so clearly for people both deeply invested and far removed from the community so valiantly.
And also, follow her because she’s insanely beautiful. And funny. And fierce. And powerful. And a great dancer. And inspirational and ALL THE THINGS.
It’s time we support ALL women, especially trans women. Double especially trans women of color. That starts with leaning in and being willing to learn (for those who haven’t already). Brushing issues that affect the trans community because you “don’t understand it” is not an option. There are plenty of resources available to at least try.
We all know we need to be reducing our footprint, buying more sustainable goods, steering clear of plastics, and investing in ethical and sustainable businesses. I’m sure I’m not alone in the overwhelm and anxiety that can come with trying to actually practice these things.
As with most things, we just have to take things one day and one action at a time. One good first step in the right direction is following people who are leading the way in waste reduction and intentional living.
*Rolls out virtual red carpet for Lauren Singer.*
Lauren has been living a Zero Waste lifestyle since 2012, and she documents her journey on her blog, Trash Is For Tossers. This is one of the most straight-forward resources I’ve found in trying to be more mindful of my own waste and choices that directly affect the environment.
If you’re trying to find alternatives to single-use plastic products and like convenience and simplicity, check out Lauren’s shop, Package Free.
Paola Mendoza is a film director, activist, co-founder of The Women’s March, and author whose voice I have been following the closest to learn more about individuals and families traveling on the caravan in Central America over the past couple of months. The work she is doing would put me in an empathic coma if I tried to do the same at this stage of my life, but damn does she inspire me to use my voice for something similar one day.
She has done an excellent job of humanizing individuals fighting for a better life as so many people try to strip them of their dignity in an already unfathomable situation. Paola calls these people by name. She shares their individual stories in hopes that you will see them as the humans seeking refuge they are, rather than chalk them up as mere migrants causing upheaval.
I’m thankful for the work Paola is doing, as well as everyone else involved.
This woman is one of my favorites to follow (and a really, really awesome friend — her FaceTime dates bring me life, even from half a continent away). She has all the energy this photo exudes and then some. Jess is a saucy little “pop tart”, as she so lovingly calls her those in her fierce community of females on their fitness journeys. If you’re looking for an online health coach (+ blogger + future podcaster), I couldn’t recommend anyone higher.
She’s the person you WANT to go to the gym with (virtually and in real life). She doesn’t bark orders at people, call them out for being “less than” or tell them what should and shouldn’t be in their diet. Nope. She’s just as annoyed by that shit as you are.
If I couldn’t say anything else about this woman, I would say this: she loves burgers and burpees. I feel those are two things most worth mentioning, aside from the fact that she is incredibly kind and uplifting, adventurous and spontaneous, and the most beautiful Canadian (inside and out) you’ll ever meet. (And may I also mention a complete BADASS entrepreneur!)
Jess gets to the heart of things. She hypes you up without talking a bunch of fluff. She’s the kind that’ll slap your ass when you need it and hug you in the same minute.
Ruthie is a renowned speaker, podcaster, and author (with a social media presence we all need in our online lives).
She was hit by an ambulance when she was 17, which left her with chronic issues that didn’t surface until a few years later. Though she lives with physical pain that most of us can’t even imagine, she consciously chooses joy and love. In circumstances where so many of us would crumble and cave into pain, she eventually made the decision to use travel the globe and use her story to empower others to find purpose in their own pain and to “look for beauty in the midst of their brokenness.”
Ruthie has a beautiful way of putting our own pain in perspective. She is the voice and the ear.
Cristina is a conservationist, contributing photographer, speaker, and explorer for National Geographic. She’s a biologist and an artist who brings urgent issues to surface that most of the world neglects to understand because they don’t have to deal with them in their daily lives; she fights to conserve our oceans.
She is the founder of the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP) and the co-founder of Sea Legacy, a non-profit dedicated to promoting the protection of the world’s oceans through digital storytelling. For those who are at all concerned about conserving our oceans, or what that even means on an individual level, check out her work and read what she has to say. She oftentimes gives tips on what you can do to help in your everyday life, organizations you can donate directly to, or other people to follow for a better understanding of conservation efforts around the globe.
21st-century feminist beat poet and total surf babe, Janne Robinson. I’m insanely grateful to the friends who introduced her writing to me a few months back. She is fiercely and unapologetically herself and says so many things on public platforms that many of us will only say behind closed doors, if we dare say them at all.
Have you ever read something and thought, yeah, that’s exactly what I’ve wanted/needed to say for so long, I just didn’t know how? Well, that’s what you’ll be thinking in many of her posts. You can also check out her This Is For The Women apparel and products here.
Jessica Nabongo is a travel influencer, writer, podcaster, and entrepreneur in her early 30s and she is on her way to becoming the first black woman to travel to all countries. HOLY SHIT. If that doesn’t impress you, you are dismissed.
She has seen 150 countries to date with a mere 45 to go! If you look her up and find her and her story inspiring, here are a few ways you can donate to her journey.
I should note she has a degree in English Literature and has photography skills, so her blog is a must.
I’m wrapping things up with a little sass (read: great ass).
Karina is a spunky, beautiful Australian woman, the owner/designer behind Moana Bikini, and co-founder of Bikini Body Burn. Her online presence is hilarious, raw, and inspiring. Warning, if you visit her Instagram account, you’re going to see lots of tush in various cute little bikinis, and she BEAMS confidence in every. single. one. (And why the hell wouldn’t she?)
I love the confidence she exudes. I love that she is a champion for women and that she creates inclusive and empowering swimwear for all bodies. I love that she is helping normalize the very real body types we all see on every beach we’ve ever been to but don’t see often enough on the app we all love to hate — Instagram.
I hope you have enjoyed this post and found a few new wonder women to follow in the New Year (but really, all of them).
As an extremely fortunate and privileged white woman in the United States, I’m trying my best to be sure I’m taking in as many different perspectives as regularly as possible. I fall short, as do many, but I’m trying, and I have been consciously trying for years now. Join me, will you?
The Humble Lion
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Kalu Ndukwe Kalu
The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things you do for others remain as your legacy.