All Articles Tagged "Inspirational African American Women"

MN Daily Salute: Tyra Banks

February 26th, 2013 - By Brande Victorian
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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.

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MN Daily Salute: Mae Jemison

February 25th, 2013 - By Brande Victorian
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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.


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MN Daily Salute: Michelle Obama

February 22nd, 2013 - By Brande Victorian
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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.

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MN Daily Salute: Viola Davis

February 20th, 2013 - By Raven Carter
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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.

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MN Daily Salute: Black Female Athletes

February 18th, 2013 - By Brande Victorian
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In honor of Black History Month, MadameNoire is sending a daily salute to the African American women who inspire us every day of the year. Today we’re recognizing the black women athletes who make us proud everywhere from the tennis courts to the track, the balance beams, and the swimming pool.

"Venus Williams PF"

Source: WENN

Venus and Serena Williams

Venus and Serena Williams took the tennis world by storm when the two brown girls from Compton with braid and beads showed up on the courts and dominated their opponents. Venus has been ranked World No. 1 in singles by the Women’s Tennis Association on three separate occasions, and when she was named so in 2002 for the first time, she became the first African American woman to achieve be given then title during the Open Era. Venus is also a four-time Olympic gold medalist and as of February 2013, is ranked number 22 in the world in singles.

Like her big sister, Serena has also ranked up a number of World No. 1 rankings — five to be exact since July 2002.  Serena is the only female player to have won over $40 million in prize money and she is regardedas one of the greatest tennis players of all time, having won 30 Grand Slam  titles and four Olympic Gold medals.

MN Daily Salute: Ursula Burns

February 15th, 2013 - By Raven Carter
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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.


MN Daily Salute: Susan L. Taylor

February 14th, 2013 - By Brande Victorian
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Source: WENN

Source: WENN

Susan L. Taylor

CALLING: Writer/editor/journalist


Susan L. Taylor put black beauty and brains on the map in the national media as editor-in-chief of Essence magazine and the mastermind behind the brand we know and love today.

Taylor’s entry into the media world started at Essence. She became a freelancer for the magazine in 1970, the same year it was founded, after a line of customized cosmetics and natural skin-care products she developed came to the attention of it’s founding editors. At the time, Taylor was a single, divorced mother without a college degree, but that didn’t stop the magazine from promoting her to beauty editor a year later, or from becoming editor-in-chief of the magazine in 1981. During the ’80s, Taylor attended night school at Fordham, and eventually earned a bachelor’s degree from the university.

While serving as EIC from 1981-2000, Taylor wrote a monthly inspirational column, “In the Spirit,” which became one of the glossy’s most popular features, and led to the publishing of three volumes of select pieces from over the years as part of Essence Books, which she started in the ’90s. Taylor was also executive producer and host of Essence, a syndicated television interview program that was broadcast on more than 50 stations from 1984-1988. Taylor also functioned as executive producer of the annually televised Essence Awards and the annual Essence Music Festival. These triumphs led to Taylor being named vice-president of Essence magazine in 1986 and senior vice-president in 1993.

In 2000, Taylor was promoted to publications director of Essence and remained in that position until she left the magazine in 2008. Because of her contributions to the magazine world, Taylor was inducted into the American Society of Magazine Editors’ Hall of Fame in 2002 .In 1999, she also became the first African American woman to receive The Henry Johnson Fisher Award, an award which recognizes people who have dedicated their lives to the magazine business and helped the industry thrive and expand, or through their editorial policies, address social, political, economic or lifestyle issues. For establishing a lane for a magazine for and by black women to flourish, we salute Susan L. Taylor.

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MN Daily Salute: Mara Brock Akil

February 13th, 2013 - By Raven Carter
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Source: WENN

Source: WENN

Mara Brock Akil

Calling: Television Writer/producer

Why we’re saluting her: 

Mara Brock Akil is the writer and producer behind a number of our favorite TV shows in the ’90s and 2000’s, from The Jamie Foxx Show and Moesha to Girlfriends and it’s spin-off, The Game.

Akil, who was born in LA, traveled to the midwest for college, graduating from Northwestern University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1992. In 1994, Akil got her first gig as a writer for the critically acclaimed Fox series South Central, but the comedy-drama was canceled after just one season and 10 episodes. Akil took her talents to UPN where she wrote for Brandy’s sitcom, Moesha, for four seasons. After which became a supervising producer and writer on The  Jamie Foxx show in 1999, and in 2000, she created and executive produced another UPN favorite, Girlftriends, with Kelsey Grammer. Akil also created and executive produced it’s spin-off, The Game, for the same network.

In June 2007, Akil and her husband, television director Salim Akil, signed to independent American film studio The Weinstein Co. for the creation of various projects, the first of which is a film about a woman who starts a business to investigate the partners of high-powered women after she is left at the altar. Mara will reportedly write the screenplay and Salim will direct it.

In 2011, the Akils also signed a  multi-year deal with BET to continue production of The Game for another season and develop new shows through Akil Productions, one of which is the upcoming dramedy, Being Mary Jane, starring Gabrielle Union. For making quality programs for brown people with brown people and allowing African American viewers to see see their tales on the small screen, we salute Mara Brock Akil.


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We Salute You: Robbin King

February 11th, 2013 - By Brande Victorian
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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.

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MN Daily Salute: Maalak Compton-Rock

February 10th, 2013 - By Raven Carter
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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.

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