Meet The Modern Female Icons

Then and now

Whether protesting the government’s inaction on climate change, pushing back on gender stereotypes or simply inspiring us to embrace our best selves, marie claire rounds up six modern-day icons inspiring women and girls around the world.

1. Jennifer Lopez


An appearance in Janet Jackson’s That’s the Way Love Goes scored Jennifer Lopez, then an aspiring dancer, her breakthrough role in the film Selena. Since then, Lopez has dominated the international music charts (the singer has released eight albums since 1999), starred in a string of Hollywood hits (including 2019 Oscar-nominated Hustlers), performed alongside Shakira at the 2020 Super Bowl and carefully honed a signature style that’s both bold and timeless.

It’s her statement sense of style that’s seen Jennifer Lopez become a global ambassador for Coach. The luxury fashion house tapped the multi-hyphenate star to collaborate on a new handbag with creative director Stuart Vevers. The Coach x Jennifer Lopez Hutton features a classic, box-shape silhouette and statement details, making it the perfect everyday accessory. Crafted from refined calf leather and snakeskin in a trio of pinks, the versatile chain-strap bag is finished with a special hangtag featuring the star’s signature.

“Designing my first bag with Coach was a great experience,” said Lopez. “I really wanted the Coach x Jennifer Lopez Hutton to feel like me. The colourblock leather and polished hardware details are really my style. It’s a bag that makes me look pulled together and ready for anything, and I can’t wait to share it with everyone.”

The bag reflects Lopez’s self-proclaimed “uptown downtown” aesthetic and celebrates her daring approach to life.



Coach X Jennifer Lopez Hutton Shoulder Bag In Colourblock With Snakeskin Detail, $895

2. Jane Fonda


Jane Fonda could be considered the original slashie. The 82-year-old actor/activist/environmentalist/model has enjoyed a stellar career and used her profile to further causes she believes in. From protesting the Vietnam War in 1972 (Fonda toured Vietnam where she spoke out against U.S. military policy) to helping launch Fire Drill Fridays at Washington D.C., after being inspired by the work of climate activist Greta Thunberg, Fonda has continuously blazed her own trail, inspiring others to make a stand. 

“An icon is somebody that you hold up as an example to represent something. And when you mention their name, people know what it is you’re talking about,” Fonda said in an interview with Glamour. “And, I guess, in my case, it’s a strong, brave woman who hasn’t steered away from controversy. A woman who, more than anything, has kept going.”

3. Michelle Obama


Michelle Obama will forever be known as the FLOTUS that broke the mould. Despite facing unfair media scrutiny throughout her husband’s time in office, the former first lady relentlessly served with grace, using her sharp intellect and activism to steer the public agenda back to what mattered, and in doing so became a role model for women everywhere.

Since stepping out of her role in 2017, the lawyer and mother-of-two has continued to inspire and drive change. Obama released her autobiography, Becoming, in 2018, and followed it up with a book tour that saw her chat with other female powerhouses such as Oprah Winfrey, Sarah Jessica Parker and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. 

Throughout her career, Obama has relentlessly fought for the rights of women and girls, shining light on the accessibility of the US’ education systems. From her buzzed-about sense of style (who can forget that metallic, thigh-high Balenciaga-boot moment) to her memorable, motivational speeches, Michelle Obama will forever be celebrated for a bold and modern icon. 

4. Phoebe Waller-Bridge


Responsible for bringing a new breed of woman to our television screens (female characters that are captivating, real and, in the case of Killing Eve, a little murderous), Phoebe Waller-Bridge has flipped the script on the film and television industry. Her brilliant writing explores ideals of modern feminism and sheds light on the stark realities of relationships, love and family, and has won fans across the globe, including Daniel Craig, who selected Waller-Bridge to help write on the upcoming James Bond film.

With the story of Fleabag officially wrapped, we know it’s only time before Phoebe Waller-Bridge introduces us to yet another iconic femme fatale.

5. Ramla Ali


Born in Somalia, Ramla Ali was still a baby when she and her family fled the civil war when her brother was killed by a bomb. After a dangerous nine-day journey on a crowded boat, Ali and her family arrived in Kenya where they entered a refugee camp, before eventually relocating to East London.

As a teenager, Ali was bullied for being ‘overweight’. She took up boxing classes at her local gym, and after training her way up, eventually went on to win the British and English titles in 2016. Despite her success, Ali initially hid her love of the sport from her family, worried it was not an acceptable sport for a Muslim woman.

Ali, who has been enlisted as the newest family member of luxury fashion brand Coach along with Jennifer Lopez, has plans to represent Somalia in the Olympics. Before then, she continues to inspire women around the world to be brave enough to be themselves by fighting for what they want. 

6. Kamala Harris


Shattering glass ceilings is part of Kamala Harris’ DNA. The new vice president-elect was born in California to two immigrant parents—an Indian-born mother and Jamaican-born father—and after he parents’ divorce, was raised primarily by her single mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, a cancer researcher and civil rights activist.

Harris’ mother ensured she grew up deeply engaged with her heritage. In her autobiography, The Truths We Hold, Harris sheds light on her mother’s parenting style.

“She knew that her adopted homeland would see [my sister, Maya] and me as black girls and she was determined to make sure we would grow into confident, proud black women,” she explains.

Taking to the stage on 7 November with Joe Biden to celebrate the Democratic achievement, Harris’ dedicated her appointment to vice president-elect to her late mother and other inspiring women.

“I’m thinking about her and about the generations of women—Black Women, Asian, White, Latina, and Native American women throughout our nation’s history who have paved the way for this moment tonight. Women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality, liberty, and justice for all, including the Black women, who are too often overlooked, but so often prove that they are the backbone of our democracy.”

Whether she’s bravely questioning those in power or voicing off on issues that affect women of colour, Harris is leading by example and breaking barriers for women everywhere.

Brought to you by Coach.

Related stories

wedding veils

The Most Unique Veils To Wear On Your Wedding Day

In the excitement of trying on wedding dresses, veils can quickly become an afterthought. However, veils are not simply a piece of fabric—they can be a timeless symbol of mystery, meaning and tradition. Like with wedding dresses, the modern bride may be searching for a different type of veil than in times gone by. From […]