By Freelance Contributor | Strong Female Leaders

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1. Shonda Rhimes
SHONDA RHIMES is an award-winning writer, producer and director. Some of her hit TV shows include Grey's Anatomy, How to Get Away with Murder and Private Practice. She is the first African American woman to produce Top 10 network series.

WHY WE LOVE HER? Because she chased after big, bodacious dreams.

An early academic achiever, Shonda earned a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from Dartmouth College. Knowing that she wanted to write creatively and specifically screen plays, she moved to Southern California, and earned an MFA from the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts in the school's Writing for Screen and Television Program.

You've gotta be incredibly brave and strong to leave it all behind to chase after your dreams.

Without wasting time, Shonda pursued her film writing career immediately, and slowly gained credibility. Her early successes include the 2002 feature film Crossroads, starring Britney Spears, 2004's The Princess Diaries 2, starring Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews, and HBO's Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, starring Halle Berry. Her breakthrough, though, came in 2005, with popular TV Series, Grey's Anatomy, a drama series about the tangled love stories of young doctors in Seattle. In 2019, Grey's Anatomy went into its 16th season and has won numerous awards, including multiple Emmy's.

Shonda then continued to produce more successful shows, including Private Practice, a spinoff from Grey's Anatomy, How to Get Away with Murder, and Scandal, an intense and fast-paced series about a high-powered Crisis Management Consultant in Washington D.C.

WE LOVE how she just knew who she wanted to be from an early age, and went after it. We wish all little girls would dream as big as she did, and have the audacity to chase after their dreams.

2. Michelle Obama
MICHELLE OBAMA was a lawyer, university leader, bestselling writer and the First Lady of the United States. She was our nation's first African-American First Lady.

WHY WE LOVE HER? Because she dedicated her life to public service.

Despite having a thriving career as an entertainment lawyer, Michelle Obama, along with husband Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, made the decision to dedicate her life's work to public service. Til' this day, the Obamas are serving their country in order to create a better future. Whether you are a Democrat, Republican, an Independent or a member of another party, you cannot deny how strong of a female leader Michelle Obama is. And in our opinion, she makes a great role model for young women because of her efforts and contributions to our nation and the world.

Her story of starting with humble beginnings in a working class neighborhood in Chicago, succeeding at Princeton and Harvard Law School through hard work, quitting a prestigious law position to work in public service, and eventually serving our country as the First Lady, inspires us. We love her incredible spirit, kindness towards others and tenacity to overcome difficulties.

WE LOVE that she gives us hope.
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3. Kym Worthy
KYM LOREN WORTHY is the current prosecutor of Wayne County, Detroit, Michigan. She is the first African-American woman to serve as a county prosecutor in Michigan. Her fame arose from the internationally-known case of then Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in 2008.

WHY WE LOVE HER? She was the first African-American woman to serve as a county prosecutor in Michigan.

After graduating from the Notre Dame School of Law, Kym Worthy started as an assistant prosecutor in the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office. She then became the first African-American prosecutor under Prosecutor John O'Hair. She was the prosecutor in the notable trial of Walter Budzyn and Larry Nevers in the beating death of Malice Green. She was then appointed the judge on the Wayne County Circuit Court; and in 2004, she was appointed by the judges of the Wayne County Circuit Court to replace now Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. Currently, Kym is working on resolving unprocessed rape test kits that have been sitting in a warehouse since 2009. These arduous cases landed her in a documentary produced by Mariska Hargitay, named I am Evidence.

WE LOVE that she is a badass prosecutor who brings justice to rape victims.

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IMAN is a world-class model and actress, and a successful business woman. Her modeling career began when she was in college and was one day discovered by famous photographer Peter Beard. Her striking and exotic beauty sparked massive commercial interest. Soon, she began to dominate the runways and the fashion world. At the height of her modeling career, fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent devoted the "African Queen" collection to her. Eventually, Iman retired from the modeling industry to focus on raising her daughter. She also began charity work in her home country, Somalia, and became the CEO of her own cosmetics company.

WHY WE LOVE HER? Because she is more than a pretty face.

Yes, Iman is beautiful. But she didn't depend on her looks to gain success and fame in life. Even in the extremely superficial beauty and fashion industry, she stayed true to herself.

During the initial stages of her modeling career, magazines and runways were still full of lanky blond beauties. Then, Iman busted in with her bodacious hair and full build. She penetrated the scene with a different type of beauty. Because of her -- and her unapologetic attitude during her entry -- the world began seeing beauty differently.

"She broadened the definition of beauty," proclaimed writer Robin Givhan of the Washington Post, "she made earthiness sensual...and helped to transform fashion into entertainment and models into personalities."

After her modeling career ended, Iman dedicated herself to more meaningful projects, like making a BBC documentary, Somalia Diary, which exposed the harshness of war that torn her home country apart. In 1994, She launched her own line of cosmetics, made for women of color, so that women with various skin tones have access to better color palettes and more flattering choices.

We love that she takes chances with her career, and that she is unapologetic about being different.

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Leopard? But of Kors! Custom suit by @michaelkors

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5. Ursula M. Burns
URSULA BURNS is currently the chairperson and CEO of VEON, a global digital communications company. She also serves as a senior advisor to Teneo, a global consulting firm, and a non-executive director of Diageo, a beverage company. She is also a member of the board of directors of Uber and various technology startups.

In the past, she was the CEO of Xerox from 2009 to 2016, and the Chairwoman of Xerox from 2010 to 2017. In 2014, she was rated by Forbes as the 22nd most powerful woman in the world. From 2009 to 2016, she served as a leader of the STEM program of the White House, and the head of the President's Export Council from 2015 until 2016.


Because she came from humble beginnings.

Though her career in business, leadership and service sounds impressive, we are more impressed with how far she has come since her childhood in poverty. Ursula was raised by a single mother and grew up in a low-income housing project on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. In order to give her children proper education, Ursula's mother ran a home day-care and worked cleaning jobs to pay for Ursula's tuition at the prestigious Cathedral High School.

In school, Ursula excelled in math, which motivated her to enter the STEM field. She went on to study and graduated with a Mechanical Engineering degree from Polytechnic Institute of New York University, and then a master’s in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University. During grad school, Ursula interned for the Xerox corporation, where she started her Engineering and leadership career after graduation.

At Xerox, Ursula continued to excel and took on various leadership opportunities. From 1992 to 2000, Ursula progressed through various leadership roles in Engineering, and took on the role of Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategic Services, allowing her to oversee production operations and broaden her business leadership experience. In 2007, Ursula became the President of Xerox; in 2009, she became the CEO; and in 2010 she became chairman of the board.

Ursula isn't all about business. She also gives back through socially cognitive programs. From 2009 to 2016, she was appointed by President Barack Obama to help lead the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Coalition. She also became a member of the President’s Export Council (PEC), an advisory group to the president about how to grow American exports. She also served on the board of many companies, including Exxon Mobil, Uber, and VEON. In 2018, VEON named her executive chairman, and then she became the company's chairman and CEO.

WE LOVE her focus, goal-oriented mentality and her drive for success. She didn't let her past define her future, and sought opportunities independently. We feel that more young women should mimic her audacity and confidence, and have the determination to go far no matter where they come from.
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