Friday 28 October 2016

Meet the new generation of female role models stepping into spotlight

As Emma Watson turns 25, we take a look at a new generation of inspirational role models

Published 17/04/2015 | 02:30

UN ambassador Emma Watson
UN ambassador Emma Watson
'Hunger Games' actress Jennifer Lawrence
Presidential hopeful: Hillary Clinton

As Harry Potter's best pal, she was famous for her big hair and even bigger brain. Now it turns out that Emma Watson could actually be a better role model for young girls than Hermione Granger.

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Celebrating her 25th birthday this week, the actress and activist has been hailed the poster girl for a new generation of role models for women: smart, talented and, incidentally, beautiful.

While the outgoing Queen of Everything, Madonna, continued to shock by face-planting Drake at Coachella, famous feminist Emma is just as likely to have spent her birthday working on her next HeForShe speech.

Finally graduating from Hogwarts four years ago, the ascendant star could have been expected to become a full-time celebrity.

Instead the Oxford University alumna has used her star power to promote a UN campaign calling for men to back gender equality.

Shunning sex-symbol status, the UN Goodwill Women's Ambassador says: "I find the whole concept of being 'sexy' embarrassing and confusing.

"If I do a photoshoot, people desperately want to change me - dye my hair blonder, pluck my eyebrows, give me a fringe.

"Then there's the clothes," added the inspirational star, who's next set to play Belle in Disney's live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast in 2017. "I know everyone wants a picture of me in a mini-skirt - but that's not me."

Although Watson is leading the way, she's not the only Hollywood starlet to trailblaze her way into role-model status.

After being targeted in last year's celebrity nude photo hack, Jennifer Lawrence was praised for refusing to bow down to victim-shaming.

"I started to write an apology, but I don't have anything to say I'm sorry for," the Oscar winner says. "It is not a scandal. It is a sex crime.

"Just the fact that somebody can be sexually exploited and violated, and the first thought that crosses somebody's mind is to make a profit from it. It's disgusting. The law needs to be changed, and we need to change."

Famous for playing fiery Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games franchise, Lawrence has previously spoken about the responsibility to promote positive self-image among her female fans: "We have the ability to control this image that young girls are going to be seeing.

"They see enough of this body that they'll never be able to obtain and it's an amazing opportunity to rid ourselves of that in this industry."

In the same week that Hillary Clinton officially threw her hat in the ring to become the first female US President, singer Pink took to Twitter to call out fat shamers commenting on the 'unflattering' frock she wore to the John Wayne 30th Annual Odyssey Ball.

"I can see that some of you are concerned about me from your comments about my weight," she wrote. "While I admit that that dress didn't photograph as well as it did in my kitchen, I will also admit that I felt very pretty. In fact, I feel beautiful."

The superfit Grammy Award winner continued: "Please don't worry about me. I'm not worried about me. And I'm not worried about you either.

"I am perfectly fine, perfectly happy, and my healthy, voluptuous and crazy strong body is having some much deserved time off."

Since publicly coming out at an LGBT youth conference just over a year ago, Ellen Page, meanwhile, has embraced her latest role as a role model.

"I am here today because I am gay," the Canadian star memorably revealed. "And because maybe I can make a difference. To help others have an easier and more hopeful time.

"I also do it selfishly because I'm tired of hiding and I'm tired of lying by omission."

Speaking in this month's Vogue, she told how opening up about her sexuality has inadvertently helped her rediscover her personal style: "Being out, I've allowed my personal and professional styles to fuse.

"I used to feel this constant pressure to be more feminine; a quiet or sometimes not-so-quiet demand - 'You need to wear a dress or people will think you're gay'. Now I feel a sense of freedom in dressing," added the 28-year-old, who's set to play Julianne Moore's love interest in upcoming film Freeheld, "and I'm enjoying it so much. I love wearing a Saint Laurent suit to an event."

Elsewhere at last weekend's MTV Movie Awards, Pitch Perfect 2 star Rebel Wilson donned a sparkly bra, angel wings and skintight leather leggings with the word 'THINK' emblazoned across the butt to make her point about being in the public eye.

"The Bella girls [in Pitch Perfect] are all different shapes and sizes and nationalities," explained the Australian comedian and actress - currently smouldering on the cover of Elle magazine - afterwards. "I think one of the good messages in the movie is that you're all beautiful.

"Sometimes girls will look at Victoria's Secret models and think they have to model themselves after that, but I really don't think that's best.

"Even though they're called models, they're not the best people to model themselves after. I'd like to encourage other girls to think that way, which is why I put that on my butt."

Even Victoria's Secret Angel Karlie Kloss decided to go back to college later this year. "I'm starting as a freshman at Gallatin," confirmed the 22-year-old, who's enrolled in the same New York University independent study programme as actress Dakota Fanning.

"Travelling so much has made me realise, I have to invest in myself. And that's what education is, I think: a great investment in me.

"I'm going to continue working as a model," added Taylor Swift's bestie. "I want to do it all. I think it's possible to keep working while you go to school. Christy Turlington did it. Natalie Portman did it. Emma Watson just did it. And those are just women in the public eye."

And as she turned 25 this week, new-age role model Watson is sure to approve: "I want to be a Renaissance woman. I want to paint, and I want to write, and I want to act - and I want to just do everything."

Irish Independent

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