I find art, films and pop culture incredible at lighting the fire of my own desires within me. And what an indulgent way to motivate us to create change through our own inner compass and the work that we do in the world. If you are thinking about joining me for HER WAY, here in chronological order from the most recent all the way to the ’40s, 13 series & films to inspire the HER WAY woman inside you
1. Self Made (2020), Madam C.J. Walker
Equal parts an entertaining account of the first woman millionaire, and a sharp critique of the margins along which Black people endure in a long history of systemic racism and gender-based oppression. The first to be born free of her six siblings, Walker, born Sarah Breedlove, withstood the blows of familial betrayal and rancour competition to revolutionize Black haircare. Walker’s story is one of devotion, shifty ingenuity and absolute mettle against the backdrop of post-slavery racial and gender oppression.
2. Girlboss (2017), Sophia Amoruso
Inspired by Sophia Amoruso’s best-selling book, this series follows the rise of Amoruso’s multi-million dollar fashion empire, Nasty Gal. Britt Robertson plays the starring role of Sophia, a rebellious, broke anarchist who decides to start selling vintage clothing online. As her passion — and retail fashion empire — begins to grow, Sophia unexpectedly becomes a businesswoman, who starts to realise the value (and difficulties) of being the boss of her own life. Alongside the likes of Charlize Theron and Kay Cannon, Sophia Amoruso serves as an executive producer.
3. Joy (2015), Joy Mangano
If you love rags-to-riches tales, this one’s for you: delve into the makings of Joy Mangano’s million-dollar household industry empire that’s also based on a true story. Ms Mangano, played by the illustrious Jennifer Lawrence (who has signed on to play disgraced biotech entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes in the upcoming movie, Bad Blood), starts as a single mother who scrapes by as an airline booking agent. After her breakthrough invention — a self-wringing mop — Ms Mangano navigates tricky business terrain in which betrayals abound, and allies become adversaries. But in the end, the woman this movie revolves around is the one true heroine we admire.
4. The Intern (2015), Jules Ostin
How the tables have turned. Anne Hathaway, who played Miranda Priestly’s fashion-unsavvy assistant, plays Jules Ostin, an enthusiastic CEO and founder of About The Fit, a Brooklyn-based e-commerce fashion startup. In the span of eighteen months, she builds her startup from her own kitchen to a full-fledged company with more than 200 employees. Pair her with an old-school Robert DeNiro playing Ms Ostin’s senior intern and you have a blossoming friendship packed with plenty of career advice. And if that doesn’t make you break out the popcorn, the movie portrays her husband, Matt, as a stay-at-home dad who gave up his career to take care of their daughter. Well done, Hollywood.
5. The Devil Wears Prada (2006), Miranda Priestly
Though she isn’t really an entrepreneur, she’s one of the most powerful and iconic bosses in recent movie history: the queen of all queens, Miranda Priestly. Played by a scathing Meryl Streep, Ms Priestly is the editor-in-chief of the fictional fashion magazine, Runway — it’s widely speculated that her character was based on Anna Wintour, the real-life editor of Vogue. When she’s not striking fear into all of her employees’ hearts, she’s juggling fashion shows, meeting with designers, and building one of the most cutthroat but powerful companies in movie history.
6. Sweet Home Alabama (2002), Melanie Smooter
Reese Witherspoon plays Melanie Smooter, a successful fashion designer in New York who has reinvented herself to hide her small-town Southern roots. Though the movie’s more interested in her love life than entrepreneurial ventures, there’s something in Ms Smooter’s character that we don’t see enough in romantic comedies. She refuses to sacrifice her work for love (why should she be expected to, anyway?) and embodies the talent and ambition of a self-driven woman relentlessly following her dreams. Who cares about the drawling countrymen of the South and the McDreamies of New York? Melanie Smooter is the only character we should care about, and the only one we need in our life.
7. Chocolat (2000), Vianne Rocher
Forget Johnny Depp — Juliette Binoche is the real star of this delectable movie as Vianne Rocher, an expert chocolatier who opens her own chocolate shop in a small orthodox French town. Part-time single mother part-time business owner, she does much more than sell chocolate, though. Over the course of the movie, her shop helps bring together families and empower individual women despite conservative challenges, and we can see the long-lasting effects of her business as Ms Rocher uses her artisan craft to transform the town’s community for the sweeter. Tradition meets revolution: Ms Rocher mixes together a dash of sumptuous romance, a sprinkle of entrepreneurial magic, and tops it off with everybody’s favourite chocolate chips.
8. You’ve Got Mail (1998), Kathleen Kelly
Kathleen Kelly, the proud owner of the NYC-based bookstore, The Shop Around The Corner. Ms Kelly, played by Meg Ryan, struggles to keep her family business afloat after a mega bookstore chain, Fox Books, moves into the neighbourhood Though the movie takes a Shakespearean turn with the owners of the rival bookstores soon falling in love, Ms Kelly’s fearless determination to overcome financial challenges, not to mention her incredible passion and dedication to her job, is one of the top-selling points of this movie. Whether you find Ms Kelly’s online relationship with a stranger heartwarming or alarming, watch this movie for her character alone. (Tom Hanks as a capitalist isn’t bad either.)
9. The Associate (1996), Laurel Ayres
If you set the movie Tootsie on Wall Street and switched Dustin Hoffman for Whoopi Goldberg, you would have the basic premise of The Associate. Goldberg plays financial analyst Laurel Ayres who is determined to break into the male-dominated world of investment banking. After getting passed for a promotion, Ms Ayres decides to start her own firm — as a white man. She dreams up the impossibly well-connected fictional persona of Robert S. Cutty as the face of the business, and with her own financial expertise as well the help of a complicit secretary, Ms Ayres proves to be a successful independent stockbroker behind the man. If for nothing else, watch this to see Goldberg in a heavy pound bodysuit and how good her make-up job will be.
10. Steel Magnolias (1989), Truvy Jones
In one of the earliest movies that put Julia Roberts on the map, she and the other four female main characters share the spotlight in this touching movie about a close-knit group of women getting through tough times. Truvy Jones, played by Dolly Parton, owns a hair salon in a small Louisiana suburb — it’s at the salon where the women meet by coincidence and the rest of the plot follows. In a movie where none of the men really matter, Truvy’s boss character marks a positive portrayal of women in business, and her leadership and responsibility in the group reminds us that, sometimes, we all need someone to lean on.
11. Baby Boom (1987), J.C. Wiatt
Watch this if you love babies — a radiant Diane Keaton plays J.C. Wiatt, a work-obsessed management consultant in Manhattan whose world gets turned upside down after inheriting a toddler. As she raises the baby on her own, she tries to climb the male-dominated corporate ladder and is faced with both the hardships of single motherhood and gender discrimination. Will she accept demotion after demotion, or will she venture out to new business prospects? Without spoiling the end, there may or may not be baby applesauce involved. Whatever she decides to do, though, Ms Wiatt represents the struggle of balancing personal and work lives and reminds us to thank our mothers more often.
12. Mildred Pierce (1945), Mildred Pierce
When your husband leaves you for another woman, what do you do? If you’re Mildred Pierce, you raise two daughters on your own and independently finance yourself through selling baked goods, waiting tables, and finally opening your own restaurant. Even if black-and-white films aren’t your thing, this crime drama will leave you on the edge of your seat quietly cheering for Ms Pierce, played by a stunning Joan Crawford. As her life takes a turn for worse at every corner, Ms Pierce remains a strong-willed and empathetic character who wants the best for her children – as a former wife, current mother, and successful entrepreneur, she gives hope to working women everywhere.
13. Lucy Gallant (1955), Lucy Gallant
Don’t let Hollywood’s 1950s chauvinist themes stop you from watching this gem: follow jilted-at-the-altar New Yorker Lucy Gallant, played by Jane Wyman, set up shop in a fictional Texas boomtown and straddle the conflict between pursuing career and love. She runs her dress store out of a brothel, relies on loans from shady bankers, and is continually courted by a romantic interest, but Ms Gallant’s journey from humiliated bride to fashion designer is, for lack of a better word, quite “gallant” indeed. If you know how old movies usually end, this one will be no surprise, but Ms Gallant’s self-made path to success feels very true to life and inspires the entrepreneur within us all.
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