The superheroes who inspire me
Interviewing the truly remarkable tech genius and all-round superstar, Anne-Marie Imafidon at a recent Women of the Year event (you can see the post I wrote about it on the These Are The Heydays Facebook page) I was struck how heroes come in many different guises. Including ones with flamboyant style and a wicked sense of humour.
Anne-Marie warrants her hero status in my book for so many reasons, but predominantly for the tireless work she does to inspire, encourage and support girls and young women to follow her into careers in science, technology, engineering and maths.
But she also got me thinking about the career heroes whose examples and achievements have inspired and instructed me over the years. It’s a longish list, which I’m sure you’ll be happy to know I have no intention of sharing in its entirety, and one which I’m happy to say I still add to.
This, then, in absolutely no order of importance, is a small selection of my career superheroes:
Poet, writer, actress, producer, singer, civil rights activist and one of the greatest all-round wordsmiths of all time. Everything she ever penned or said is pure, straight-to-the-heart gold dust. If you don’t know her peerless poem ‘Still I Rise’, click here immediately and listen to her reading it (the same applies even if you do know the poem. Hearing her read her own words is spine-tinglingly powerful).
My career has included stints as a presenter on both radio and TV, and I’ve interviewed countless people for both broadcast and print, so I understand a little about what it is that Graham does. He may make it look effortless to interview the often entirely random selection of stars who settle down on the sofa on his TV show each week so entertainingly, but let me assure you, it’s nothing of the kind. What he does, and how he does it, is peerless in its brilliance. Then there’s his radio show, his writing (books, a newspaper agony uncle column), his acting, his comedy, and his other presenting work, including his frankly genius presentation of the Eurovision Song Contest. I rest my case.
A force of journalistic nature if ever there was one (and just as riotously entertaining in person). I don’t always agree with what she says, but I always admire, and often love, the way she says it. She writes with power, passion and humour. And at times, with tear-inducing beauty.
Here’s an example of what I mean from a column of hers that took the form of a letter to her daughters in the event of her death:
‘See as many sunrises and sunsets as you can. Run across roads to smell fat roses. Always believe you can change the world - even if it’s only a tiny bit, because every tiny bit needed someone who changed it. Think of yourself as a silver rocket - use loud music as your fuel and books like maps and co-ordinates for how to get there. Host extravagantly, love constantly, dance in comfortable shoes and never, ever start smoking. It’s like buying a fun baby dragon that will grow and eventually burn down your f***ing house.’
Felicity isn’t famous in the way the previous superhero slot-holders are, but she’s a legend in the journalism world. She created the womens’ pages in the Daily Mirror, and spent almost 20 years there, rising to become the first woman on the board of a national newspaper. She was the launch editor of the Marks and Spencer magazine which is where I met her when I became editor there, and I have been hugely fortunate that she has been my mentor and friend ever since. She has nurtured generations of journalists ( Eve Pollard amongst them) with her fierce, no-nonsense wisdom and even now in her nineties, is as stylish as she is astute.
She’s also, by the way, one of our inspiring Heydayers
I couldn’t complete this superhero snapshot without including the person who is probably more responsible for the working life I’ve had and loved than any other. It’s true, she’s neither a journalist nor a broadcaster. She’s a lawyer. But what she is, is a heroically powerful example of someone who forged a working life in a profession that was shamefully short of women, at a time when it was practically unheard of to do that as a wife and even more unusually, as a mother. She was a loyal and dutiful wife, a loving and attentive mother to me and my three siblings and all the while built a career and a reputation in an intensely demanding profession. As if that wasn’t enough, she’s also always volunteered, for causes as diverse as water skiing for the disabled, hospitals, youth work and international women’s projects, for which she was made a CBE.
Oh and she’s also a Heydayer (obviously)
If she doesn’t have a superhero cape hidden somewhere, I want to know why.
Who are the heroes who have inspired you?
Other posts you’ll enjoy