Meeting in 2008, Viola Davis and Meryl Streep have been close friends ever since. In 2016, Viola Davis credited her friend and mentor with giving her advice about her career and life. In an interview with ELLE, Davis recounted how Streep gives lessons in confidence all the time.
“Meryl [Streep] does it all the time. She [gives lessons in confidence] all the time. I think she does it in a way that she doesn’t even understand or think she’s doing it. You know, she just sent me an email, and I was like, ‘That’s perfect.’ She was like, ‘Yes, Viola, now that you’ve just had your vow renewal … this is the best part of your life now. There’s not anything that you don’t know anymore in terms of what’s good and bad out there, so now you can just fly.’ She’s always imparting wisdom like that.”
Streep was also there to watch Davis receive her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and constantly publicly praises her former co-star for her talent.
Jane Fonda has previously opened up about how Katharine Hepburn served as her role model when it came to her career. The duo starred together in On Golden Pond in 1981 alongside Fonda's father Henry, a role that won Hepburn her third Academy Award.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in December 2011, Fonda spoke about her mentorship with Hepburn, crediting her for her brutal honesty.
“I think the best advice a mentor could have given me was, ‘Jane, you know you can say no if the script isn’t good.’ I was just so surprised anybody ever wanted me in anything! I didn’t pay enough attention. I think the only actor who ever taught me much about life, more than acting, was Katharine Hepburn in On Golden Pond."
She continued: "Even though I did the movie for my dad, I produced it, who I learned from was Hepburn. I was 45 when I made that movie, and it was she who taught me to be self-conscious. I used to think that was a bad thing, but that means being conscious of the self you project to the public; having a persona, a style, a presence. I had none of that. I didn’t know how to dress!"
"When I went onstage for my father at the Oscars, because he was too sick, I couldn’t believe how I looked and how I was dressed. I never paid attention. Hepburn taught me to pay attention and that style is important.”
Having worked together on hit comedy series Broad City, creator-star Abbi Jacobson and executive producer Amy Poehler have always been open about the importance of strong female friendships. Speaking about her mentorship with Poehler, Jacobson opened up about their friendship in an interview with Channel Guide Mag in January 2014.
“Throughout the whole writing period Amy [Poehler]’s on all the notes calls, she directed the finale episode of the show, and she’s also in it. She just gives feedback on all the stuff, and she has a broader view of the series, and our careers. She’s a great role model in this industry… She’s like this mogul. She’s sort of calm and just like a boss b**ch.”
Although Nora Ephron and Lena Dunham are from two different generations, they both shared a love of story-telling, particularly when it came to telling stories about women. However, their mentorship began after Ephron reached out to Dunham after seeing her film Tiny Furniture and the rest was history.
Dunham has even credited Ephron with giving her the advice that she’s taken with her in all of her endeavours, “You cannot wait around for someone to give you permission to tell your stories.” Until her death in 2012, Nora and Lena remained close and Lena eulogised her in an essay in The New Yorker, detailing how much her friendship and mentorship meant to her.
“Over the course of our year-and-a-half-long friendship, Nora [Ephron] introduced me to, in no particular order: several ear, nose, and throat doctors; the Patagonia jackets she favoured when on set because they were ‘thinner than a sweater but warmer than a parka’; ordering multiple desserts and having small, reasonable bites of all of them (I thought, Oh, so this is what ladies do); the photography of Julius Shulman; the concept of eating lunch at Barneys; self-respect; the complex legend of Helen Gurley Brown; the Jell-O mold; her beloved sister Delia … The opportunity to be friends with Nora in the last year of her life informs the entirety of mine. I am so grateful.”
Upon receiving the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award, Tina Fey opened up about her strong likeliness to Sherry Lansing herself and how she looks up to the former actress and film executive. Speaking at The Hollywood Reporter’s 2016 Women in Entertainment breakfast in December 2016, Fey called Lansing her role model, complimenting her grace and efficiency in an industry dominated by men.
“I have been thinking over the last month, how can we proceed with dignity in these increasingly ugly times," she said.
"And it occurred to me that Sherry [Lansing] is the perfect role model. Talk about someone who remained graceful and effective in what must have been an incredibly misogynistic environment. She’s too refined to ever say, but you know Sherry Lansing has witnessed some nonsense and encountered some behaviour. Things that the young people today would call ‘triggering.’ And yet she was able to flourish and lead, with all her humanity and femaleness intact. Maybe we can all make that our mantra over the next four years. ‘What Would Sherry Lansing Do?’”
While most look to one mentor in particular, actress Sophia Bush has a stream of famous friends who she turns to for words of advice and support. Speaking to Makers in August 2016, Bush listed her favourite females and opened up about why she relies on them.
“It can be so easy to operate like an island, and never ask for help. I find that I am finally comfortable reaching out more. Eva Longoria. Connie Britton. Debra Messing. Those ladies are always there for me. More recently I’ve been spending time with Ava DuVernay and Sarah Lewis — she is a beyond brilliant Harvard professor and fellow Super Soul 100 change maker—and they both just blow my mind.”
An icon in her own right, actor Laverne Cox has become a role model for countless others throughout the world. However, Cox publically called on Tracey Africa as the person who gives her the most inspiration throughout her career. Speaking to Cosmopolitan in 2016, Cox said:
“[Tracey Africa] was a Black trans woman who modeled in the ’70s, and had cosmetics deals and a hair contract with Clairol — it was a big deal. People think, ‘Oh, this trans revolution is just starting,’ but we’ve been around for a very long time. It’s important to know that there’s been a path blazed for me.”
As most famous females are turning to those they aren't directly related to for advice, sometimes it's your mother who knows how to set you straight. In an interview with ET in 2016, Chelsea Clinton referred to her mother, Hillary Clinton, as her role model, saying:
“My mom is my role model in life. She’s my role model as a mother, she’s my role model as a working mother, and so I just am so grateful that she raised me with unconditional love, but also [by] her magnificent example … I hope I can give that same gift to my kids. I hope they are even just a fraction of as proud of me as I am about my mom.”
Oprah Winfrey has served as a mentor for countless women around the world, but there is one woman in particular who has paved the way for her. And that women who inspired, challenged, and guided Winfrey was poet and author, Maya Angelou. After Angelou's passing in 2014, Winfrey wrote about their friendship in an Instagram post, saying: “She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life.” No doubt, her invaluable life lessons helped Winfrey to become the source of inspiration for so many others.
Dolly Parton may be Miley Cyrus’ godmother, but she is also the 27-year-old's mentor. Speaking to the Standard, Parton opened up about her relaxed approach to mentoring Cyrus, saying: “If she needs my opinion on something I will surely give it, and there have been times we’ve talked. But I would never dream of calling her and saying, ‘Well why are you doing this?’ or, ‘You shouldn’t do this or that.’”
Despite working in a cut-through industry, Tina Turner has managed to hold onto the adoration of her fans and the admiration of her peers. But there's one famous female in particular that Turner looked up to for inspiration. Speaking to Rolling Stone in 1986, Turner admitted that Jackie O had always been her role model, thanks to her elegance and class.
“My role model was always Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis… My taste was high. So when it came to role models, I looked at presidents’ wives. Of course, you’re talking about a farm girl who stood in the fields, dreaming, years ago, wishing she was that kind of person. But if I had been that kind of person, do you think I could sing with the emotions I do? You sing with those emotions because you’ve had pain in your heart. The bloodline of my family didn’t come from that kind of royalty. Why I relate to it, I don’t know. That’s the class I wanted to be. But I wasn’t, so I dealt with the class I was in. I have never disrespected myself, and I’m still very proud of myself.”
Typically a role model to most of Generation Z, The Hunger Games' Amandla Stenberg has credited Rihanna has the one famous female who's inspired her to achieve more. In a 2016 interview with W Magazine, she opened up about why she holds Rihanna to such a high regard.
“I had the chance to go to the Black Girls Rock awards the other night in New York and Rihanna was getting this award for a rock star. And basically Black Girls Rock is all about being role models for black girls. And when she got on stage she was like, ‘I really appreciate this award because I don’t normally get awards for being a role model,'" she admitted.
"And I was thinking about that and then I had the chance to talk to her afterwards. And I was like, ‘You really are a role model and you probably don’t realize it. You’re a huge role model to teenage girls who experience all kinds of crap for enjoying their sexuality, for being themselves, for getting what they want, for not letting the perceptions of men get in the way of what they want to do.’ And I told her that she was a role model in that way and that she’s been a role model to me oftentimes when I’ve been navigating high school, letting boys dictate what I wear or how I present myself or what I decide to do and being afraid that they will judge me."
"But then a Rihanna song comes on and I don’t care about that anymore. And so I realised that basically the best way for me to be a role model is to be as true to myself as possible. And that doesn’t mean I have to achieve some kind of image or be this icon or mold myself into a role model. It just means I have to keep doing my thing. Oftentimes your authenticity is your activism and being as true to yourself as possible is the first step toward revolution.”