Some people think that celebrities shouldn’t be role models, that role models should be parents, teachers and people who play a part in children’s every day lives. But let’s face it, many people, me included can point to various ways that famous people have had impacts on our lives.
Since it’s Women’s History Month, it’s a good a time as any to pay homage to two amazing women from different generations.
Let’s start with American author and poet Maya Angelou. Her accomplishments speak volumes. She has published six autobiographies, five books of essays, several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning more than fifty years. As her poem eloquently states, she is “a woman. Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman.” That’s her.
But she’s special to me for more than just that.
I met Ms. Angelou on a field trip with my 8th grade English class. She was in St. Louis to deliver a lecture about expressing your passion through writing. As a budding writer, I was more than engaged … I was enthralled. She delivered the information as only a storyteller of her caliber would … in lilting eloquence that kept her young audience captivated.
During the small meet and greet that followed, I was able to speak with Ms. Angelou and shake her hand. She asked me the expected questions and just as I was ready to move on, she gripped my hand a little tighter and said, “You are a girl with something to say. I see it and one day every one else will too.”
The fact that the moment is still frozen in my 13 year old brain became evident when I interviewed Ms. Angelou for the first time. I cried the entire time. Not only did her words change the way I saw myself, but changed the way I carried myself. I was a girl/woman with something to say and I still am. It has shaped my career, my passion, my life. I will forever be grateful to Ms. Angelou for her generosity and grace.
It should be a reminder to all of us that if positive words can have such a lasting effect, imagine how negative words can break a young girl’s spirit, and sometimes that brokenness can last a life time.
As women, whether we’re talking to little girls, teenagers or our peers, we should recognize the power of our words and make sure we’re doing more building up than tearing down. We act like it’s our nature to throw shade on the accomplishments of other women who are doing well when in reality, it’s a combination of insecurity and envy.
Last week, CNN announced that Soledad O’Brien’s morning show “Starting Point,” had been canceled. Her presence will be missed not only because she was bright, energetic and not afraid to “go there,” with guests who often just didn’t get it, but because she was an example of someone who worked hard and paid her dues.