In Greek mythology, a Phoenix is an immortal bird that’s cyclically regenerated and reborn. In honor of this inspiring bird, we’ve collected a list of seven women who rose from struggle to success and continually reinvent themselves. We can all take a page from their stories to learn how to turn our greatest tragedies into our greatest strengths.
In 2014, a girl named Saa (a pseudonym to protect her family back home) jumped from a truck in Nigeria, escaping from the Islamist militant group Boko Haram. Saa was one of hundreds of girls abducted from a Nigerian boarding school. Since her harrowing escape, Saa has been hard at work in Washington, D.C. ensuring that public awareness of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign doesn’t falter. Many are calling Saa the “Malala of Africa” as she continues to call for international intervention for her 219 peers still in captivity by Boko Haram. Currently, Saa, one of four escaped school girls, is attending a small Christian school outside of the Washington area as she continues to speak out regarding her hellish experience.
Born in Brooklyn, Iyanla Vanzant’s alcoholic mother gave birth to her in the back of a taxi cab. At the age of nine, Vanzant was sexually molested by an uncle and at 16 she became a teenage mother herself. When Vanzant turned 21, she found herself a mother of three with a physically abusive husband. After escaping her abusive home life, Vanzant raised her kids on public assistance until going to school to study law. Vanzant later left the legal world and gradually grew into a career as a writer and inspirational public speaker, attracting the likes of Oprah Winfrey. And yet, in 2002, her canceled talk show seemed to spark a great deal of loss: the loss of her home, marriage and multimillion-dollar book deals. Through all her tragedy, including the loss of her daughter to cancer, Vanzant has rebuilt her empire and continues to share her strength and message as a minister, life coach and television personality on the Oprah Winfrey Network.