I’m about to turn 28, which feels dangerously close to 30. I don’t care much about getting older; in fact, I kind of welcome it. As I approach my birthday, I’ve been thinking a lot about the experiences in my twenties that shaped me, and I’m sharing them with you!
This time on “Kara Turns 28,” I’m giving a little love to the many women who inspire me and shape my life in a positive way. It could be through their writing, their words or just because they’re an important part of my life. Here are 28 women I channel, look up to and learn from.
1. Eloise- Yes, Eloise is a children’s book character, but is she really? I think Eloise is a book for adult women, honestly. I just love Eloise, I really do. The way she sees her world is adorably refreshing, and I give this book to little girls I know all the time.
2. Kris Jenner- Say what you want about Kris Jenner, but she’s a powerful, driven woman who basically made her entire family the most famous people in the world. Think about it. Kendall’s a supermodel, Kim is a media powerhouse and Kylie, Khloe and Kourtney have huge followings too. Who built that brand? Kris. She works tirelessly.
3. Joni Mitchell- No one woman’s words changed my life as much as Joni Mitchell. When she dies, I will be devastated. I need Joni every day of my life. The thing about Joni’s music is that it isn’t easy; you come to it and understand it when you’re ready.
4. Kim Kardashian- See Kris Jenner’s entry above. Kim K is an inspiration to us all. The Kardashian sisters’ body confidence inspired a whole generation of girls to love the way they look, and you can’t discount that contribution to society no matter how hard you try.
5. Margaret Atwood- Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite writers. I love her fiction, but it’s her poetry that I seek out when I need a dose of strength and power delivered in an imaginative, forthright manner.
6. Dorothy Parker- Is there anyone who doesn’t love the wry humor of Dorothy Parker? Nope.
7. Mary Karr- I interviewed memoirist and poet Mary Karr in college and I had to refrain from drooling all over her purple silk blouse. No one writes about their life like Karr. If you’re interested in writing about yourself and your experiences, you should read everything she’s done immediately.
8. My friend Nora- My friend Nora is the shit. Just read her blog. After her husband died, she started a charity called Still Kickin in his honor, helping support other families affected by cancer.
9. Carrie Bradshaw- Don’t roll your eyes! Please! Watching Carrie on TV as a teenager was a formative experience for me, a young, curly-haired writer who liked to wear ridiculous outfits and talk about her relationships, OK? Even though she’s fictional, it was Carrie who made me really want to be a writer. And here we are!
10. Jenna Jameson- I’m not talking about the washed-up, crazy Jenna of today. I’m talking about the Jenna who built a multi-million dollar business all on her own with just her vision and talent to drive her.
11. Beyoncé- Beyoncé is inspiring because she works insanely hard to be the best. Her work ethic is insane. You don’t get to be as famous as Beyoncé with talent alone; you have to work your ass off for it.
12. Barbara Walters- Any female journalist has respect for Barbara, who was the first female co-anchor of a news show and became one of the most famous, accomplished journalists in the world.
13. Estee Lauder- I work for an Estee Lauder-owned company now, but Estee has been one of my inspirations for a long time. Her cosmetics company was founded to appeal to all women, with accessible, beautiful products they could buy for themselves.
14. Marilyn Monroe- Marilyn has been my #1 inspiration since I was 13. Her blend of sexiness and vulnerability is near-mythical. She was underappreciated as an actress while she was alive, and after her tragic death the world began to understand how deeply intelligent and talented Marilyn really was.
15. All of the women in my family- My grandmothers, aunts and my mom have taught me so much about what it means to be a woman in the world, whether that’s as a mother, a sister, a friend … they were my first examples of the many facets of womanhood, and I learn from them every day.
16. Sylvia Plath- We got some of the most intense poetry from Plath before her suicide, and when I read it, I can feel how white-hot her emotions were while writing.
17. Oprah- I love a woman who builds an empire, and who built the best and biggest? Oprah. She is all about spreading love, care and generosity worldwide. I mean, she built a school for girls AND gave away like 200 cars!
18. Gwyneth Paltrow- GOOP is a little out of touch with our reality, sure, but that’s why I love her. We can’t discredit GOOP and its impact in the world of “lifestyle” blogging and e-commerce.
19. Gloria Steinem- Gloria Steinem helped lead the women’s revolution of my mother’s era and remains one of the most influential voices in feminism.
20. Michelle Obama- Is Michelle Obama the best First Lady ever? I think so. I love her dedication to military families and veterans, as well as her focus on healthy meals for all schoolchildren.
21. Madonna- Um, duh. Madonna set out to rule the world and here she is today, arguably the most influential pop star of all time.
22. My girlfriends- I can’t make a list of women who inspire, challenge and support me without including all of my female friends, who are incredible, talented and smart as hell. Every girl should have friends like mine, and be excited to watch them thrive.
23. Emily Weiss- The Into the Gloss founder channeled her passion for beauty into a website that quickly became one of the most influential beauty sites ever, and then turned that success into a legit line of products. She’s proof that an interest in beauty products isn’t silly at all.
24. Jane Pratt- OK, technically Jane is kind of my boss at xoVain, but whatever. Jane, with her “Sassy” and “Jane” magazines and now xoJane.com, built a new kind of platform for women to share what’s important to them in their own voice, a voice that isn’t homogenized like a “normal” magazine.
25. Helen Gurley-Brown- Helen turned “Cosmopolitan” into the go-to magazine for working girls everywhere. It was one of the first to talk about sex, relationships and career in a relatable, (mostly) modern manner. You can make fun of “Cosmo” all you want, but there’s no denying that it’s a powerful brand that many young women still look to. Its latest editor Joanna Coles has done a wonderful job adding political content to the magazine without talking down to its readers.
26. Carole King- King started writing songs with her then-husband Gerry Goffin when she was really, really young. Like, teenager young. Some of the most recognizable, famous songs of the early ‘60s, like “The Locomotion” and “One Fine Day” were born of Carole’s musical genius. Later, she found the courage to fight stage fright and lack of confidence to make her own music, recording her legendary album “Tapestry.” Though the album was released in the ‘70s, it still rings true for women of all ages. King is the ultimate patron saint of the female singer-songwriter.
27. Frida Kahlo- Kahlo is the perfect example of a woman who used her art to work through her pain and the complicated nature of marriage and relationships, as well as her own relationship to her body.
18. Gwen Stefani- Who inspired a legion of young girls in the ‘90s more than Gwen Stefani? Nobody! I fell in love with Gwen and her tough-but-vulnerable stage persona, vintage-inspired style and complex lyrics at a very young age, and all of her albums since then have meant a lot to me. Going through something? “Return of Saturn” is all you need. I promise.