In the nature of the Illustrated section of Grapeshot, I have compiled an incredibly biased list of female-identifying individuals, who I have given icon status, to celebrate this year’s Women’s Issue!
1. Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift will forever have my heart for everything she accomplishes and aspires to achieve, and my ears because her entire discography will be playing rent-free in my head until eternity. Along with the entirety of her discography being an absolute bop, it’s also important to appreciate the fact that she holds 49 Guinness World Records, is a Global Icon (as certified by the Brit Awards this year), and is one of the greatest female solo acts of all time. She is also one of my heroes with an enviable wardrobe, especially in her current cottage-core era. Her upcoming Red (Taylor’s Version) will have me singing break-up songs for an undefinable amount of time until her next Taylor’s Version album is released.
2. Meghan Markle and Diana Spencer
The second spot on my female-identifying icons list is a tie between none other than Meghan Markle (Former Duchess of Sussex) and Princess Diana Spencer (Formally Princess Diana of Wales). These two female icons tie for second placing for saying a big F-You to the little known establishment known as The British Royal Family, and rightfully so! Princess Diana largely forwent the royal family in the wake of her divorce from Prince Charles (who famously cheated on her), and that revenge black dress incident is one of my favourite outfits of all time and was most certainly my favourite revenge dress.
Meghan Markle, the former Duchess of Sussex, is also tied for the second spot for similarly saying a big F-You to the establishment of the British Royal Family in the wake of racist and sexist taunts from within the Royal Family and from British and International tabloids who refused to leave her alone and caused her to develop incredibly serious mental health issues. She is tied with her mother-in-law for the second spot because beyond the work both women have done to distance themselves from a notoriously problematic establishment; both are strong women who stood up for what they believed in, in the face of something much bigger than themselves. Additionally, both have worked extensively on humanitarian issues, which is such an important thing to help out in when you’re at the centre of the public eye and have the ability to donate significant amounts of money and help to needy causes such as the AIDS crisis and women’s rights across the world.
3. Britney Spears
Up until recently, Britney Spears likely would have made my list, but wouldn’t have been so far up on my list, but boy, oh boy did she truly stick it to the man recently with her scathing remarks in Court about her notoriously abusive conservatorship. Britney is a classic 2000’s pop star; she embodied everything the 2000s had to offer and arguably, still offers this in 2021. What an icon! She has chaotic energy about her that seems genuine in the face of what she’s experienced, and I respect her immensely for all she has been through and how she seemingly continues to thrive despite it all. Recently, if anyone follows her on Instagram, you may have already seen this, she posts body-positive posts as a major F-You to her father, who previously controlled every aspect of her life. To me, she is ICONIC! She stands up for what she believes in and refuses to back down, and honestly, GET IT, GURL!!
4. Michelle Obama
This list would be incomplete without a reference to the Obama’s. For anyone who knows me, you’ll know that the Obama’s are my favourite US Presidential pairing in history and will likely continue to be forevermore (I acknowledge there were issues with President Obama’s presidency, but for the sake of this article, I will not discuss this).
Michelle, however, comes to serve. Every. Single. Time.
She is such a smart minded woman who I respect immensely for everything she has overcome and continues to overcome in her pursuit to make America a better place — whether that be in her work in the healthcare system in NGOs, or through encouraging American children to exercise more and eat more healthily. I respect her immensely.
I respect her even more for the outfits she wears to everything, with my personal favourite being her 2021 Inauguration look where she came to serve.
She is such a powerful woman, which shines through in her actions and clothing, which is why she is number 4 on my icons list.
Honestly, much like many of my other choices on this list, a female icon’s list is never complete without Queen Bee herself. The only reason she comes in at number 5, as opposed to much higher, is because she makes EVERYONE’S female icon lists, so she’s such an obvious choice that she is number 5, rather than much higher. That is all.
As I’m sure we all know by now, she is one boss ass bitch! From Destiny’s Child, to solo projects, to Ivy Park and Ivy Park x Adidas, she has indeed come and accomplished it all! She’s one very busy business lady, along with being a multi-award winning recording artist with a voice unmatched by most other female singers currently, and is one of the most notorious celebrity activists there is currently.
Her visual album Lemonade remains one of my favourite album’s to date, and the lengths I went to to get a hold of that album shows my true dedication to the beehive. I still listen to it regularly, and honestly, it inspires me to do better and be better and stand up for what I believe in. My favourite power hit from it is Hold Up, the music video with the notorious yellow dress and smashing of car windows and various other things down a street that is literally on fire. It is iconic to the max.
6. Simone Biles
Once again, this list would be incomplete without a reference to none other than Simone Biles, who I have obsessively watched gymnastics videos of since the 2016 Rio Olympics. Simone, who is arguably the GOAT female gymnast in the world is one of my heroes, especially in 2021 following the Tokyo Olympics after she vulnerably and powerfully advocated for her mental health on the world stage, which faced significant amounts of backlash.
For someone in the public eye, standing up for your mental health was never going to be an easy task, but I respect her immensely for being willing to do so, and for getting vulnerable with it and allowing people to understand the issues she was facing.
Along with this, she is also one of the physically strongest women ever, and I watch in awe at how easy she makes gymnastics look when in reality, it is one of the hardest sports in the world.
7. Jameela Jamil
Jameela Jamil, for those who don’t know is an English actress, host of the I Weigh’ podcast and activist, among other career points. She is probably most famous for her portrayal of Tahani Al-Jamil in The Good Place. She makes ranking number #7 on my icons list for several reasons. The first being she is so open about all sorts of issues such as abortions, mental health, body image and calling out body shaming on social media. Much like the other women so far on this list, I respect her immensely for the work she is doing to change the conversation about women and women’s rights in the world currently.
But I also can’t let this piece go without mentioning her hilarious portrayal of Tahani in The Good Place, and the amount of name dropping that is carried out by her and the character. So if you haven’t seen the show, do yourself a favour and watch it. It’s existential, hilarious and just all-around a good time.
8. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
AOC, as she is more commonly known, is one of my favourite female politicians in the world right now for the work she is doing as part of the Democratic Party in the US Senate, fighting for women’s rights, the rights of access to healthcare, rights about Covid protections and The Green New Deal to help the US combat climate change. I have mad amounts of respect for this boss-ass woman who constantly fights a barrage of critiques against her to get stuff done!
She is an absolute powerhouse in the Senate, and her social media presence and vulnerability is arguably unmatched by any other politician in the US currently.
She is also an absolute boss in anything she wears, of which are a lot of powerful suits. She looks spectacular and practical and wears them with ease!
Plus, anyone who can command a room like she does deserve the entirety of the floor, and others could learn from her public speaking skills.
9. Jane Fonda
Jane Fonda is number 9 on my icons list because she is one of the OG political rights activists, of the 1970s and beyond, and has made a name for herself as the queen of home workouts and as an actress.
In her long life thus far, she has protested against: The Vietnam War, Standing Rock, civil rights, sexual assault, Native Americans, and many, many other important causes.
To me, she is one of the original icons. She embodies everything it means to be a powerful woman in her own right who is not reliant on any man, or partner for that matter, to base her success on.
She’s an oldie, but a goodie who still fights for change and I respect her immensely for the work she has done and continues to do to champion women’s rights and various other rights.
10. Ruth Bader Ginsburg
RBG is my favourite Supreme Court Justice of all time! She was a pioneer for female lawyers in the US and abroad, and her activism, especially on equality initially inspired me to enter law school (until I gave up after two years, but we’re not here to discuss my failed law degree and career).
She inspired a generation of female lawyers, showing us that anything was possible if we persevere.
She has gained popular culture icon status, largely in the US, but also across the world, had a movie about her - On the Basis of Sex. Check it out if you haven’t already, it was amazing (a fair warning, it contains Armie Hammer from before he was problematic though). She has been referenced on everything from SNL to New Girl!
Honourable Mention - Julia Gillard
Julia Gillard as PM is one of my least favourites of all time due to her policies on asylum seekers and women’s rights, and the like. The only reason she gets an honourable mention is for her notorious misogyny speech. If you haven’t heard it by now, you’re surely living under a rock in the outback. The speech is from 2012 and is essentially Julia Gillard telling off every misogynist in the Government at the time to shut up. It is one of my favourite feminist speeches ever and has recently been made popular again on TikTok, so go treat yourself to a listen for some major Girl Boss energy and to remind yourself how relevant it unfortunately still is today in the Australian Government.
Honourable Mention - Rita Moreno
Rita Moreno is an absolute powerhouse and such an iconic woman! She definitely makes my top 20 but deserves a specific honourable mention for her candour in telling nearly anyone who will listen about the time that she had an eight-year love affair with Marlon Brando before sleeping with Elvis to make him jealous. This is one of my favourite Old Hollywood stories and makes me long that I was there for the gossip on these sorts of stories!
Well, that’s it from me. If you’ve made it this far, thank you for sticking through my extensive list of female icons, and I hope you either learned something or were inspired!