1. President Obama
I still remember the moment that it was announced to the world that America had elected it’s first black president. 10,000 miles away in Melbourne, the significance of this historic moment was not lost on us down under. Whatever your political standing, it’s hard to deny that Barack is one of the more genuine fellas to have inhabited the white house. Having inherited a financial recession and in the face of all kinds of adversity, for the most part, Obama has forged ahead and maintained his vision – to offer a fairer go for all.
2. Eckhart Tolle
If you haven’t read The Power of Now, you should. Tolle was once a depressed, lost soul and at 29 experienced a profound ‘inner transformation’. His simple message: happiness exists in everyone in the now. Having reached the New York Times Best Seller list in 2000 and vehemently endorsed by Oprah, Tolle’s teachings of ego dissipation, ‘presence’ and ‘collective consciousness’ are some of the better contributions to mankind in our lifetime.
3. Daniel Day Lewis
Remember when you first saw My left Foot? Everything about Day Lewis just makes me smile and melt and cry and be amazing also… 3-time Academy Award winner, he’s unprecedentedly selective, having worked on just 5 films since 1997. The kind of actor that elevates the craft to an art form, Day Lewis is known to loose himself so completely in his roles that his health has often been at risk. When he’s not filming, he’s rumoured to enjoy woodwork and make a humble living as a cobbler.
4. Cezary Skubiszewski (my dad)
My dad is my hero. He escaped from Communist Poland (losing his citizenship as a consequence), lost both of his parents by his early 20s and finally found himself in a migrant hostel with nothing but a suitcase in Melbourne, Australia in the 1970s. Fortunate to have arrived during an ultra left government rein, all tertiary education was free and my dad continued his Vet Science studies with a dictionary in his pocket (his English was still very poor). But my dad’s real passion was music, so he set up camp at a hippy commune in Kempsey where he lived in a tent with a piano for a whole year, honing his skills. That’s where he met my mom, and now, some years later, dad is arguably Australia’s most acclaimed film composer, having scored films such as Death Defying Acts (starring Catherine Zeta Jones and Guy Pierce) and The Sapphires (premiered at Cannes Film Festival last year).
5. Ang Lee
One of the greatest filmmakers of our time (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain, Lust Caution, The Life of Pie), Ang’s journey is perhaps even more note-worthy. Post his 2006 Oscar win, an extraordinary essay of his surfaced whereby he explained how, as a Chinese immigrant in New York dreaming of being a film-maker, he endured years of rejection and humiliation. He writes: “There’s an old Chinese saying: ‘At 30, one stands firm.’ Yet, I couldn’t even support myself.” Just when he was about to throw it all in and sign up for a computer course, he writes of the poignant moment when his wife “the heroic huntress”, a pharmaceutical researcher with a “modest income”, said “Ang, don’t forget your dream.” 3 time Academy Award winner (he is the first person of Asian descent to win an Oscar), Ang’s films often shine light on the repressed, hidden emotions in man-kind.
6. Dr. Jesse Clark
Jess is my cousin, we call him Dr Jess. We grew up together in the Otway Ranges (rural Victoria), and while our older siblings were at school, we’d spend our days crawling about, naked, in cow paddocks and eating cheese and mayo sandwiches. It took tremendous grit, determination and discipline to achieve his PHD in Physics at La Trobe University, and now, involved in the ground breaking development of techniques to study nano- and mesocrystals (a technique that makes it possible to see the more complex aspects of these tiny things), he’s working at Stanford University. While I still find it hard to wrap my head around what it is he’s exactly doing, I’m pretty sure it’s a significant contribution to science as we know it, and certainly a long way away from those cow paddocks.
Raised by a single mother in Marcy Houses, a housing project in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighbourhood of Brooklyn, I’m not alone in standing in awe at what this hip-hop legend and entrepreneur has achieved. With no major label to give him a record deal, Jay-Z began by selling his CDs out of his car. Now, boasting 12 studio and 5 collaborative albums, Jay-Z is also a business owner of clothing labels, a sports bar chain, an NBA team, a hotel chain and a record label (to name a few), he’s pretty well set the record straight (excuse the pun). Plus he’s married to Beyonce.