All Articles Tagged "influential black women"

MN Daily Salute: Tyra Banks

February 26th, 2013 - By Brande Victorian
Share to Twitter Email This

Source: WENN

Source: WENN

Tyra Banks

CALLING: Model and mogul


Tyra Banks ushered in a new type of model when she hung up her angel wings and showed the world you can have a nice body and an even more stellar brain in the modeling industry.

Tyra began pursuing a career in modeling when she was just 15 years old. She was rejected by six modeling agencies before eventually being signed by Elite Model Management at age 16.  Not long after, Tyra  got the opportunity to model in Europe so she put college on hold and moved to Milan. In her very first runway season, she was booked for 25 shows during the 1991 Paris fashion week, walking the runways for Chanel,Valentino, and Fendi. Tyra was also featured in advertising campaigns for Dolce & Gabbana, Yves Saint Laurent, Ralph Lauren, and Nike, and covered several magazines. She was the  first African American woman to cover GQ and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, and in 1997 she became the first-ever African American chosen for the cover of the Victoria’s Secret catalog.

Tyra modeled as a Victoria’s Secret Angel from 1997 to 2005 before hanging up her angel wings and focusing more on television and film. Tyra started her own production company, Bankable Productions, which produced The Tyra Banks ShowAmerica’s Next Top Model (ANTM) and the 2008 movie The Clique. ANTM is now in it’s 19th season and airs in 170 different countries and regions internationally. From 2005-2010, Tyra also hosted the daytime talk show, The Tyra Banks Show, which won a Daytime Emmy Award in 2008 for her work and production, and a second one in 2009 for outstanding, informative talk show.

In 2011, Tyra became a New York Times Bestselling author after publishing her first novel, Modelland.  That same year, she enrolled in the nine-week Owner/President Manager Program at Harvard Business School’s open-enrollment extension school, where she earned a certificate after completing the Executive Education Training Program in February 2012.

Harvard Certificate under her belt, Tyra is now focusing on building up her TZONE program, which  she started in 1999. Aimed at leadership and life skills development, Tyra placed her office headquarters within the Lower Eastside Girls Club’s new Center for Community so that teens and adolescents could see the businesswoman hard at work. The television mogul is also working on a new sitcom, Fivehead, based on her life as an awkward teenager growing up in Inglewood. 

For never taking herself too seriously, but being serious about the business of uplifting young girls, we salute Tyra Banks.

Click here to meet all of our salutes

MN Daily Salute: Mae Jemison

February 25th, 2013 - By Brande Victorian
Share to Twitter Email This

Source: WENN

Source: WENN

Mae Jemison

CALLING: Physician and astronaut 


Mae Jemison is a physician and NASA astronaut who became the first black woman to travel in space when she went into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour on September 12, 1992.

Jemison, who was born in Decatur, GA,  grew up in Chicago, and even as a young girl knew that she would eventually travel into space.  Her inquisitive mind quickly became fascinated with science and nature, although interestingly, she proved to be both left- and right-brained, taking up all forms of dance from African, ballet, and jazz, to modern and even Japanese at age 11. After honing her skills for several years, Jemison was faced with the difficult decision of choosing to go to medical school in New York or become a professional dancer. That’s when her mother told her, “You can always dance if you’re a doctor, but you can’t be a doctor if you’re a dancer.”

Jemison listened to her mother and enrolled at Stanford University at just 16 years old. In 1977, she received a B.S. in chemical engineering and  a B.A. in African and Afro-American Studies. In 1981, she obtained her medical degree from Cornell Medical College and interned at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center before working as a general practitioner. During medical school, Jemison traveled to Cuba, Kenya, and Thailand to provide primary medical care to people living there, which led to her joining the Peace Corps and serving as a Peace Corps Medical Officer from 1983 to 1985, having responsibility for the health of Peace Corps Volunteers serving in Liberia and Sierra Leone. While at Cornell, Jemison also took lessons in modern dance at the Alvin Ailey school and later built a dance studio in her home and choreographed and produced several shows of modern jazz and African dance.

While in the Peace Corps, Jemison was selected by NASA to join the astronaut corps in 1987 and on September 12, 1992, she flew her first and only space mission as a Mission Specialist on STS-47.  Just a year later she resigned from NASA to form her own company, the Jemison Group, which researches the application of technology to daily life.

Since NASA, Jemison has had an illustrious career that includes several television appearances, awards, and honors, including nine honorary doctorates in science, engineering, letters, and the humanities. From 1995 to 2002, Jemison was a professor of Environmental Studies at Dartmouth College and is currently a Professor-at-Large at Cornell University. She even participated n a forum for promising girls in the Washington, DC, public schools with Michelle Obama just a few years ago. For being an extraordinary example of excellence for African American women in the STEM fields, we salute Mae Jemison.


Click here to meet all of our salutes.

MN Daily Salute: Michelle Obama

February 22nd, 2013 - By Brande Victorian
Share to Twitter Email This

Source: WhiteHouse.Gov

Source: WhiteHouse.Gov

Michelle Obama

CALLING: Mother, wife, and First Lady of the United States


As the first African American First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama has reintroduced a new image of Black women to the people of America, while simultaneously inspiring women across the globe as an example that it’s not impossible to be a mother, have a career, and be unwaveringly supportive of your husband and his dreams.

Mrs. Obama’s own career began right at home at the Sidley Austin law firm in Chicago when she was Miss Robinson at the time. After majoring in sociology and minoring in African American studies, Mrs. Obama graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1985 from Princeton and went on to earn her Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School in 1988.

While at Sidley Austin, Michelle was assigned to mentor a summer associate who just happened to be Barack Obama, and after the Harvard grad impressed the First Lady during a community organization meeting, she agreed to that infamous first date screening of Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing.” Four years later, they were married in 1992.

In 1993, Michelle became Executive Director for the Chicago office of Public Allies, which is a non-profit organization encouraging young people to work on social issues in nonprofit groups and government agencies. The  fundraising records she set for the organization during those four years still stood 12 years after she left and went on to become Associate Dean Dean of Student Services at the University of Chicago. There she developed the University’s Community Service Center, and in 2002, she began working for the University of Chicago Hospitals, first as executive director for community affairs, and then as Vice President for Community and External Affairs in 2005.

In May 2007, after Barack Obama, who then had become a Senator, announced his candidacy for President of the United States, Michelle cut back on her professional responsibilities by 80 percent, joining him on the campaign trail more frequently. Concerned about the negative effects campaigning could have on their family, Michelle negotiated an agreement with Barack, saying he had to give up smoking in exchange for her support of his decision to run. As we now know, the rest is history and President Obama has won not one, but two terms in office.

Since 2008, the POTUS has joked on numerous occasions that his wife is more popular than he is, and by most accounts, he’s right. The American people have become obsessed with everything Michelle Obama does, from what designer she’s wearing, to her hair cut, to her Let’s Move! campaign, aimed at lowering childhood obesity. The mother of two has been said to be the key to the President’s election and the humble way in which she supports her husband while at the same time not interfering with his policy decisions has proven to be a key element of their success as a couple and as leaders of our nation. For setting the greatest example of selflessness and integrity, and being the symbol of the type of Black woman we know exists but don’t see nearly enough on the national scale, we salute Michelle Obama.

Click here to meet all of our salutes.


MN Daily Salute: Viola Davis

February 20th, 2013 - By Raven Carter
Share to Twitter Email This

Source: WENN

Source: WENN

Viola Davis

CALLING: Actor and activist


Viola Davis has made us proud on and off screen through dedication to her craft and the ability to intertwine her passion for improving education into her movie roles, while simultaneously introducing a new aesthetic of beauty to be celebrated in Hollywood.

Though Davis’s name has only recently begun to be heard on the tongues of nearly every prominent figure in the movie business, she’s actually been a strong force in the entertainment industry for some time now. Davis majored in theatre at Rhode Island College, where she graduated from in 1988 — and later received an honorary doctorate in Fine Arts from in 2002 —  and a year later attended Julliard for four year as a member of the school’s Drama Division’s Group 22 from 1989–1993.

Only a few years later, the St. Matthews, SC, native won her first Tony and Drama Desk Award for her portrayal of a 35-year-old mother fighting for the right to abort a pregnancy in King Hedley II. A number of roles in major Hollywood productions followed that win, including parts in Antoine Fisher, Out of Sight, and Solaris. In 2008, Davis was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Doubt, and  a year later she was inducted into The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Just one other year after that, Davis won a second Tony Award for her role as Rose Maxson in a revival of Fences, becoming only the second African American woman to win the award after Phylicia Rashad.

It could be said that in 2011 Davis took on her biggest role yet as Abilene Clark in the movie adaptation of The Help. Despite criticism from some who weren’t interested in seeing Black woman portrayed in a servant role, Davis was lauded for her performance with nominations for Golden Globe, BAFTA, Screen Actors Guild, and Academy Awards.

It was during the recognition for her role in The Help, that Viola repped for naturalistas everywhere when she hit the red carpet at the 2012 Oscars without her characteristic straight wigs, but with a teeny weeny afro that she was encouraged to rock by her husband.  For staying true to herself while still giving her all to her roles on the big screen, we salute Viola Davis.

Click here to meet all of our salutes.

MN Daily Salute: Ursula Burns

February 15th, 2013 - By Raven Carter
Share to Twitter Email This

Source: WENN

Source: WENN

Ursula Burns

Calling: Madame Chairperson and CEO

Why we’re saluting her: 

Ursula Burns is the first African-American woman CEO to head a Fortune 500 company and a true example that one can work their way from the bottom to the top.

Burns, the daughter of Panamanian immigrants, grew up in New York City projects, raised by a single mother. After attending a Catholic all-girls school on the eastside, Burns went on to obtain a bachelor of science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Polytechnic Institute of NYU in 1980 and a master of science in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University a year later.

After graduating from the Polytechnic Institute, Burns worked for Xerox as a summer intern and a year later she permanently joined the company after completing her master’s degree. Throughout the ’80s, Burns worked in various roles in product development and planning but then in 1990, a senior executive offered her a position as an executive assistant. Though Burns initially feared the position would be a dead-end job, it turned out to be a role that allowed her to quickly rise through the ranks of the company. Just one year later, Burns became executive assistant to then chairman and chief executive Paul Allaire, and by 1999, she was named vice president for global manufacturing.

In 2000, Burns became a senior vice president at Xerox and in this role she began working closely with soon to be CEO Anne Mulcahy. Nine years later, Burns ended up succeeding Mulcahy as CEO in July 2009.

Three years into her role as CEO, Burns used her position to speak out against Augusta National Golf Club’s male-only membership policy, saying that if they didn’t start accepting women, Xerox wouldn’t sponsor the Masters on her watch. In August  2012, the club opened its membership to women for the first time in 80 years. That same year, Burns made Forbes Most Powerful Women in the World list, ranking at number 17. And for her hard work, determination, and ability to build herself from summer intern to Chief Executive Officer, we salute Ursula Burns.


We Salute You: Robbin King

February 11th, 2013 - By Brande Victorian
Share to Twitter Email This

Robbin King is the mother of 26-year-old First Lieutenant Drexel Rashawn King, a Raleigh, NC, native and Marine who is currently based at Camp Pendleton as an Infantry Officer. Mrs. King, who has been an administrative assistant at Ravenscroft School for 10 years – and followed both of her children there – talked to Madame Noire about what it’s like being the mother of a marine, the values her son has learned through his service to the United States of America, and her advice for other parents of children who are in the service or considering joining.

What is it like being the mother of a marine?

In my case, I’ve learned to adapt and I know what to expect because when [marines] sign on, they sign on to serve our country. So with that concept in mind, it’s not a lot for me to really think about. I have to do a lot of praying because once you sign on, you’re completely committed to the cause and I understand that.

How did you instill the importance of education in your son?

Education is a very valuable tool that allows you to do a lot of things. I had to put myself through college and pay for it myself so doing anything else was unacceptable. Education was [Rashawn’s] only focus and we ingrained in him that if he went to school and got a good education, everything else would fall into place. That was his mission.

Whenever my son comes back home, one of his main objectives is to come back and talk with the children [at his former grade school] and his main topic is education. He goes around and speaks to several classrooms and his number one priority is to tell kids to get a good education and respect their parents. When kids look at Rashawn and see what he’s done with his life it encourages them and they actually start making better grades so it serves a great purpose.

When did you first recognize leadership qualities in your son?

From the day he was born. It may sound funny, but it’s the truth. When he was born he was the only little boy in the hospital who had neck control and who was looking all around and all the nurses talked about that every day. I knew then that he was going to be an alright child.

How has being a Marine strengthened these qualities?

I, personally, would encourage anyone to send their child to the marines because it’s a great foundation. They teach you fundamentals you need to know in order to survive. It’s basic survival; and they reiterated what me and my husband had been teaching my son all along. You have to train a child and you have to be there for that child and you have to be there to go through it with your child. Your child has to know that you are there with them.

What are you most proud of when it comes to Rashawn?

I am proud that my son has two beautiful sons of his own that he is raising and will watch turn into young men.

What will Rashawn teach your grandsons about education?

This is one of those things that’s not debatable. [One of his sons is] already being tutored by his wife and I pick up curriculum for him and he’s only 2. But, you train up a child in the way you would want them to go and teach them those values that would stay with them all their life. So, education is going to be extremely important for his son, and as a grandmother, I’m going to do as much as I can to help out however they need it.

What advice do you have for other Marine parents?

First of all, you have to know you want to be a marine. And once you know you want to be a marine, you have to be disciplined. As a parent, if I know that’s what my child wants, then I am going to support my child unconditionally and I am going to have to prepare myself for war. No matter where he is, I have to be there for him.

Click here to meet all of our salutes.

MN Daily Salute: Maalak Compton-Rock

February 10th, 2013 - By Raven Carter
Share to Twitter Email This

Source: WENN

Source: WENN

Maalak Compton-Rock

Calling: Non-profit Extraordinaire 

Why we’re saluting her: 

You may know Maalak Compton-Rock as simply the wife of comedian Chris Rock, but the former public relations professional has built a successful career all on her own, namely by giving back to the less fortunate.

Compton-Rock started out in the entertainment side of PR and special events, coordinating a number of movie and music release campaigns for clients from Essence to HBO. Later, she went on to accept a position at UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, where for three years she created and executed a number of fundraising and advocacy events with the help of celebrity spokespersons which was aimed at increasing the visibility of the organization and increasing corporate philanthropy.

It was during her time at UNICEF that Compton-Rock realized non-profit work was her true calling. So, she left her job and eventually started her own non-profit, styleWORKS, an organization that provides grooming services, like hair styling, make-up application, skincare services, clothing, accessories, and image consulting to women moving from welfare to work. Now the organization works on a consultant basis and provides monthly mentoring and job-retention based services.

With the success of styleWORKS, Compton-Rock created the umbrella organization, The Angelrock Project, which encompasses all of her causes. The “online e-village” promotes volunteerism, social responsibility, and sustainable change, providing information on  how to volunteer, advice on making monetary donations, and links to life-changing non-profit organizations.

Compton-Rock also founded Journey for Change: Empowering Youth Through Global Service, a program that takes at-risk youth from Brooklyn, New York, to Johannesburg, South Africa, for two weeks of global volunteer service. She also created and manages the Champions for Children Committee, which is a group of well-known individuals committed to raising awareness about the signs and prevention of child abuse. Malaak and her husband, Chris, are also active in The Bushwick Salvation Army Community Center in Brooklyn, and helped open a new library and computer lab there with the support of major retailers. For dedicating her life to making the lives of others better, we salute Malaak Compton-Rock.

Click here to meet all of our salutes.

MN Daily Salute: Judy Smith

February 7th, 2013 - By Raven Carter
Share to Twitter Email This

Source: AP

Source: AP

Judy Smith

Calling: Crisis management guru

Why we’re saluting her: 

Judy Smith is an author, television producer, crisis manager expert, and above all else, a “fixer.”

The real-life Oliva Pope has been making a name for herself ever since her school days. Born in Washington, DC, Smith attended Boston University, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Relations. Afterward, Smith enrolled at American University, earning a law degree from the Washington College of Law. While there, she became the first African American woman to serve as executive editor of the American University Law Review.

Smith’s career in public service began while she was at American University and upon graduation she became Deputy Director of Public Information and Associate Counsel in the Office of the Independent Counsel. Two years later, she was appointed Special Counsel to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, and two years after that she became the Special Assistant and Deputy Press Secretary to President George H. W. Bush. During this time, she was instrumental in advising the Bush administration through several controversies, including the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, the Gulf War, the Iran Contra affair, and the LA riots.

After leaving the White House, Smith started her own crisis management firm, Smith & Associates, and became consultant to a number of high-profile clients, including Monica Lewinsky, Wesley Snipes, and Michael Vick. She also worked for NBC as vice president of communications, handling news, sports and entertainment shows.

Nowadays, Smith continues to work as a communications advisor during high-profile crises as well as a counselor to Fortune 500 corporations, providing strategic advice on everything from mergers and acquisitions to corporate positioning and diversity. She also serves as co-executive producer of Scandal, the hit ABC show inspired by her time in Washington during the ’90s. For her capability to leave no situation unfixed while simultaneously breaking down barriers for African American women, we salute Judy Smith.

Click here to meet all of our salutes.


MN Daily Salute: Shonda Rhimes

February 6th, 2013 - By Raven Carter
Share to Twitter Email This

Shonda Rhimes (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Shonda Rhimes (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Shonda Rhimes


Screenwriter and producer

Why we’re saluting her: 

Shonda Rhimes is one of the most influential women, let alone Black women, in the television entertainment industry right now. The screenwriter, director, and producer is the creator of three of the most-watched shows on TV right now: Grey’s Anatomy, it’s spin-off Private Practice, and our personal favorite, Scandal.

Rhimes developed a knack for storytelling as a young girl growing up in Chicago and while at Dartmouth working on her B.A., she further developed that skill, dividing her time between writing fiction and directing and performing in plays. She then went on to study screenwriting at USC, where that talent fully manifested itself into a Master of Fine Arts from the university’s School of Cinema-Television. Ranking at the top of her class, while there Rhimes earned the prestigious Gary Rosenberg Writing Fellowship Award.

Despite the academic recognition, Rhimes found herself in Hollywood and unemployed after college, working a variety of day jobs, from office administrator to counselor, to make ends meet. All was not lost though, as Rhimes also spent that time working on the 1995 Peabody Award-winning documentary, Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream, and soon after earned an assignment to write the 1999 HBO movie, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, which won numerous awards and established Rhimes as a strong force in the industry.

Ten years and experience writing, producing, and directing several successful movies passed before Rhimes gave birth to Grey’s Anatomy, but since then she’s been an unstoppable force. Grey’s is the highest-rated drama in the 18–49 demographic and was previously ranked as one of the overall top-ten rated shows in the United States. It’s also an exemplary representation of how to do diversity right, and Rhimes has continued to demonstrate that skill in her subsequent projects, especially Scandal, which stars Kerry Washington in the first lead role for an African American woman in 38 years, and the only among the major networks.

Outside of the professional realm, Rhimes is equally inspirational, having adopted her first daughter, Harper, in June 2002 and another girl named Emerson Pearl in February 2012 . For making it her business to display the diversity that occupies American Society on the television screen, we salute Shonda Rhimes.

Click here to meet all of our salutes.