In honor of Women’s History Month we chatted with five firebrands who’ve been a pivotal part of our own history. In their own words, they each remind us who we are, where we’re headed and what it means to be a woman today. We just couldn’t keep all the inspiration for ourselves.

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01

Philomena Kwao

Model and global women’s advocate with Women for Women International. London-born, NY-based, of Ghanaian heritage, Philomena’s influences are as diverse as her passions. More than a cliché beauty with brains, she speaks frequently, and eloquently, on the ever-evolving need for diversity, inclusion, education and healthcare.

On Style

MY STYLE: I don’t like to stress about how I dress. There’s easy Phil: stress free and classic. And there’s flamboyant Phil: loud belle-of-the-ball crazy! CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT: Black skinny jeans, white sneakers and a white shirt. EVERY WOMAN NEEDS: A great blazer that fits really well. It says “I’m here and I’m a boss.” PERSONAL “POWER SUIT”: I actually love wearing suits! But with a bodysuit instead of a traditional shirt. It allows for a little bit of sexy. WHAT’S SEXY: If you feel that you are, you are. BREAKING THE RULES: There’s so many rules. I wear what I want and you can’t tell me otherwise. When you wake up and want to feel fun or flirty you shouldn’t worry about your age or your body. Wear the clothes that allow you to express you at your best. THE POWER OF A GREAT DRESS: Find the dress that fits you really well. It allows you to express yourself and feel really confident. I like form fitting dresses that show off my waist. And I like long dresses that allow you to float on air…so flowy and such an extension of myself. So pretty. GIVING PROPS: I love to rep my Ghanaian heritage with loud African prints and colors. FAVE BODY PART: I really like showing off my shoulders. I think it’s really cute, really sexy.

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“Style is important. Availability is important. Women of every shape, size and age deserve to feel good in what they’re wearing. It’s deeper than just looking cute.”
“Style is important. Availability is important. Women of every shape, size and age deserve to feel good in what they’re wearing. It’s deeper than just looking cute.”

Words to live by

MORE THAN CLOTHES: Fashion really is important. Every time you pick up a piece and wear it, especially when you’ve been told you can’t or you shouldn’t, you’re opening the door for someone else. COMMUNITY MATTERS: When you feel confident about yourself you help others. In your own community or globally, everyone can step up to help women around the world realize their potential. It’s so powerful. Everything really is interlinked. MY CAUSE: Women for Women International works in conflict zones to set up schooling. You can sponsor a sister to learn literacy and numeracy. Helping them realize their agency and their voice allows them to go back to communities and pass along that knowledge and keep building. STOP COMPARING: Trying to change yourself to fit a beauty standard that doesn’t exist is damaging. A 16-year-old girl seeing me in a photograph isn’t thinking about the hair and makeup, the lights, the wind machine. THE NEXT GEN: I would like to see schools take self-esteem classes more seriously. To educate young girls about Photoshop and advertising. I hope that in the next 5 years there’s more education between the real and the unreal, so we stop comparing ourselves to unrealistic standards.

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02

Maiysha Kai

Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter. Model. Writer and editor. One of our favorite campaign faces from, oh, whatever decade. Today you’ll find the media savvy Maiysha Kai fearlessly penning essays for The Glow Up on everything from pop culture to politics. In the meantime, we’ll be over here waiting for another sexy, soulful recording to come our way. (No rush, Mai.)

On Style

MY STYLE: I don’t like to do what everyone else is doing, I like to push it. I always like to say my style falls somewhere between Italian bombshell and Grace Jones, that’s kind of me in a nutshell.  IT’S JUST A NUMBER: I’ve never let my size dictate whether or not someone is paying attention to me. I just go for it really. When I was about 10 I started to get curves. And since high school I’ve been dressing for what looks best on me. I dress for the body that I have, whatever that is. PERSONAL “POWER SUIT”: A killer high waist trouser and a jacket with a nipped waist. STYLE ICON: The woman who does the most with the least is Sade. She made a whole career out of a ponytail, a red lip, a white shirt and jeans…and it was glory. DATE NIGHT: As sexy as I find myself, I might not want to be all that for a stranger…or do I? I dress for the date I want to have. CHANGING IT UP: I’m a shopper for real and I’m lucky to work in fashion. Because just when I think I’m attached to something, something else comes along and takes its place. BREAKING THE RULES: I don’t follow any rules except for the ones that feel right for me and my body. I’m always gonna do my thing. SKIRTING THE ISSUE: I remember very clearly wearing a mini skirt on my 40th birthday. I mean, what is 40 now? What is that? If I want to wear overalls, a mini skirt and a feather in my cap that’s what I’m going to do. THE POWER OF A GREAT DRESS: I love the idea of one piece pulling it all together. A dress is my feminine center. It plays up the parts of me I love the most. I walk differently. I think I might even talk differently in a great dress! GETTING INTIMATE: A woman needs all tiers of lingerie. I might be an everyday cotton girl but there are days I need the extra, not because anyone’s going to see it, but because I need to know it’s there.

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“If I could say one thing to my 12-year-old self: Don’t worry about whether or not there seems to be a place for you…make one.”
“If I could say one thing to my 12-year-old self: Don’t worry about whether or not there seems to be a place for you…make one.”

Words to live by

CREATIVE JUICES: At this point I’m always joking that of my 9 lives I’m on maybe number 5. And all my creative roles fulfill me in different ways. It’s interesting to think that perhaps my voice as a singer was stronger than as a writer. I got the most fulfillment when I wrote a great song. But the performance comes and goes…words on the page are forever. BORN PERFORMER: By nature, I’m gregarious. But I didn’t have a Sasha Fierce persona. I was basically the same person on stage as in life. Maybe I didn’t keep enough of myself for myself? But moving into writing gives me a sense of the public and the personal. A CHANGING INDUSTRY: I remember having a gorgeous, brown skinned, natural hair model on set and nobody knew what to do with her. But today we have Philomena and that is major. AND she’s not the only one. Those in the plus industry were pioneers. As it becomes more mainstream I hope they will keep expanding, not get more restrictive. SOCIAL NETWORK: Pinterest saved my life at a moment when I was not at my best. It helped me rediscover the things that I love. Now I have almost 4 million followers! I’m inspired by color, texture, high fashion, people on the street. And I like to tell people they inspired me, even strangers. People should know! MOVING THE NEEDLE: I’m not an ingénue anymore…and happily so. So, when we talk about being inclusive, when and where we decide someone is relevant, or still appealing, or beautiful or sexy…those are all really important things to me. If I can do anything to keep advancing that conversation, that’s what I want to be a part of.

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03

Emme

Model, mom, designer, author, TV personality, women’s advocate and activist, philanthropist. Did we mention she was the first model to speak in front of a congressional subcommittee on body image? We could go on…and on. But let’s face it, you probably recognize Emme most as the icon she is: the world’s first supermodel with curves. And we’re beyond excited to have her contagious positive energy back with us again.

On Style

MY STYLE: Eclectic. A little bit of this, a little bit of that. The base of my style is classic, but I pepper it with a biker chick kinda thing. CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT: I have to have a killer LBD…times 10! PERSONAL “POWER SUIT”: A beautiful dress that fits me to a T. Or an incredible leather pant and a femme crisp cotton shirt. DATE NIGHT VIBES: The prep is the best…do I have the right lingerie, the right lip, the heel? And you won’t find me in anything boxy. It has to be body-con. STYLE ICONS: From Grace Kelly to Rihanna, it always boils down to the attitude. The way they hold themselves the way they walk into a room, it’s that presence. BREAKING THE RULES: I’m a different girl every day. Young or old, you can be the rocker chick, the goth, the modernist, the conservative. I love that today, all women above a size 12 are able to express themselves however they want. THE POWER OF A GREAT DRESS: I feel very powerful in a dress when it fits you just right, very in my own skin. And you need backup! Girls’ nights, bridal showers. Just change it up with a blazer or a moto jacket. GETTING INTIMATE: Great lingerie kicks it to another level. It brings the attitude and is so key to feeling feminine.

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“As the young women coming up embrace our differences more, we all start to realize that we’re actually very much the same. Age, size…it’s a non-issue.”
“As the young women coming up embrace our differences more, we all start to realize that we’re actually very much the same. Age, size…it’s a non-issue.”

Words to live by

PAVING THE WAY: Years ago, when I started in the industry, I never imagined body positivity would be so embraced today. I hoped. And I wasn’t alone, but I knew we had to use our voice however we could. And to think all the work we did, we did without social media! A CHANGING INDUSTRY: No one was having a size 12 or 14 in campaigns and catalogs, let alone on billboards. But, it’s a beautiful time in the fashion industry. Where exclusivity reigned, it’s opening up to be more inclusive. I see body positivity opening the doors for so many women to lead full and happy lives. It isn’t about size or age, it just is.

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04

Denise Bidot

Model, mom, founder of #NoWrongWay, self-proclaimed “everyone’s cheerleader.” Denise brings an open mind and heart to an industry that’s often criticized for being cliquish. Her fearless, rule-breaking approach to life is no act: she bared her proud mama stretch marks for all to see in last year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

On Style

MY STYLE: Sexy. Cool. Minimal. CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT: Jeans and a tee are my official uniform. EVERY WOMAN NEEDS: Comfort! If you don’t feel comfortable you’re not going to walk around like a rock star no matter what your wearing. PERSONAL “POWER SUIT”: My version is all red. I’m so into the “red to toe” thing. WHAT’S SEXY: You don’t always need your boobs out. You can be sexy and feminine and chic at the same time and that’s important. BREAKING THE RULES: That’s the best part of fashion. You can get a little bit of everything and decide who you want to be. If I feel rock-n-roll I’ll throw on a leather jacket. If I feel like a lady, I’ll throw on a dress. THE POWER OF A GREAT DRESS: A different sort of walk happens and I feel like a superhero, like Wonder Woman! So, finding that dress that hugs all your curves is pretty monumental. WHY LINGERIE MATTERS: It’s so important. You can look mad simple on the outside but have something really sexy going on underneath. It adds that little thing that makes you feel so good. MOM’S ADVICE: She told me walk out of the house the way you want people to see you. And I want to be cool!

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“We’re raising the next generation to be unstoppable, capable and able to do anything. It’s just a cool time to be a woman, to be yourself.”
“We’re raising the next generation to be unstoppable, capable and able to do anything. It’s just a cool time to be a woman, to be yourself.”

Words to live by

MY TAG: In 2016 I started #NoWrongWay. Now it’s 2017 and it’s transformed from a movement to a lifestyle. THE MISSION: It’s so simple, there’s no wrong way to be a woman, to be yourself. People weren’t really prepared to hear or believe that before. But we’re moving into 2018 so secure about who we are and what we’re allowing the world to see from us.  It’s such a cool time to be a woman, to be yourself. ON DREAMS: I grew up and you went to school and got a job. But my daughter knows that if you dream big you’re not limited. THE NEXT GEN: We’re raising the next generation to be unstoppable, capable and able to do anything. My daughter has seen all the woman execs in the industry and she knows her options are endless, she has not a doubt in her mind that she’s perfect.

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05

Bree Kish

Model and YouTube mini-mogul Bree is bucking the stereotype of entitled millennial. At just 21, the Cali native lives for old school manners, dressing up, and getting fashion advice from her very own, very real family, not a reality show family…whose name may or may not also start with a K.

On Style

MY STYLE: Eclectic! CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT: Bold, loud prints and colors. PERSONAL “POWER SUIT”: A midi skirt or dress. It’s 100% what I feel most comfortable in. Plus, it tricks people into thinking you’re super pulled together. DATE NIGHT VIBES: Whether I’m watching a movie out or at home, I’m wearing some version of pajamas! BREAKING THE RULES: I don’t like to dress my age. I stray away from the Cali casual style. I love looking a little more sophisticated. THE POWER OF A GREAT DRESS: They’re my jam! I wear them everywhere and anywhere. They make me feel so good about myself in every way. I stand taller, feel more confident. They even make me more open to talking to people. When I wear a dress I just feel like myself. INSPO MATTERS: I do use Instagram because so many accounts are dedicated to fashion now. But honestly, it’s my mom and grandma who I go to for fashion advice. My grandma is from Spain and is soooo stylish.

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“When I was younger I didn’t fit in. My body, my height, my style. I just wanted to blend in. But now I know how cool it is to be different, to stand out.”
“When I was younger I didn’t fit in. My body, my height, my style. I just wanted to blend in. But now I know how cool it is to be different, to stand out.”

Words to live by

GENERATION GAP: Millennials get a bad rap. Everyone thinks we’re selfish. We don’t say thank you, we don’t hold the door…but I don’t think it’s true. We do have values. I look to my mom when it comes how I want to live my life, how to be respectful. STOP COMPARING: You might feel really different, like you don’t fit in. But that will all make sense one day. If I could, I would tell my 12-year-old self, “It’s all going to be ok.”

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