Monday, 6 September 2010

I is for Inspiration

So many people and things inspire me. Any given day, song or a book can inspire me to be stronger in a personal attitude or make a decision, a friend’s poise and dignity can inspire me to behave in a similar way, a commuter’s bold choice of outfit can inspire me to experiment and those further ahead down the route to being A Writer can inspire me to stop dwelling on the ‘what ifs’ and carry on. I thought I’d write a little ode to those who push me and motivate me and encourage me to be a better, braver or simply more fabulous person.

Caitlin Moran
You probably know this if you’re a regular reader, because I reference Moran’s wit and wisdom quite a bit. It’s hard to describe her if you haven’t read any of her stuff, but as a freelance writer, interviewer and all round journalistic firecracker, she inspires me to work harder or risk never being as well-read, articulate and funny as her. She’s also from humble beginnings and the state school system but works for The Times, as well as having fabulously punky tastes and a penchant for overexcited capitals (usually when tweeting the word *SCREAM*). If you’re still not sure, follow her on Twitter and I guarantee she will have you howling in minutes.

Angelina Jolie
*Sigh*, no, not for the husband-stealing or the wafer-thin calves, but because the woman’s a bloody phenomenon. Jolie shows that no amount of personal craziness or bad PR record can obscure true talent, and looking at her you just know she’s never stopped to think ‘What if this wrecks my chances of getting that next big part?’ Because she’s hypnotic as a psychotic teen in Girl, Interrupted, she’s harrowing as a courageous mother in Changeling and funny as an assassin with a suburban double life in Mr and Mrs Smith. Because she’s the only choice for icons as diverse as Marilyn, Cleopatra and Lara Croft, and because she kicks more ass per movie than most Hollywood males put together. When I read she’d turned down a Bond Girl role because she’d rather be the next 007, I could’ve kissed her. As well as being a thrill-seeking badass and a stellar actress, Ange also manages to be wonderfully chic and feminine on the red carpet. I'm going to ignore all the 'rainbow mom' stuff as i'm sure it's just too many years in Hollywood, but she is also genuinely and deeply involved in the UN and not afraid to speak up on important matters. If you hate her, I'm pretty sure it’s just because you want to be her.

My Mum
My mum is the most direct inspiration for me because she has always seemed to ‘have it all’ – not in the material sense, but in terms of style, intellect, friendships, work ethic, ambition and maternal brilliance. So I suppose she’s always ‘balanced it all’, and taught me the equal importance of further education and being able to whip up a sublime bread and butter pudding. She was an amazing stay-at-home mum (due to being creative with working from home and sacrificing lots of luxuries) for years, studied her socks off to get a degree, worked her way up to management level in fewer years than anyone I know and even managed to wedge in an MA this year as well as getting her dream job and celebrating 30 years of marriage. Need any more reasons? She’s also the best hugger in the entire world – fact.

Lady Gaga
There’s been a bit of a Gaga backlash of late and I honestly can't understand it. People seem to think she’s a fame-whorish type who is all exhibitionist and no substance, but I can only assume they haven’t listened to a note of her music. It’s pop, but it’s crazy, bold, lyrically sharp pop, vocally challenging and endlessly catchy. She’s also absolutely incredible live – I won’t hear a word against this – just watch this for starters. She has famous fans ranging from Elton John, the hard-to-please Perez Hilton, Janet Jackson and Helen Mirren, and is a very vocal gay rights activist, as well as giving all her little teenage ‘freaks’ and ‘monsters’ a powerful role model to identify with during adolescence. In an industry filled with bland, girly, autotuned one hit wonders, we should surely regard Gaga as some sort of female messiah? More than anything, she just seems fearless – I love that she puts all of her money back into her live shows and designs her performance concepts. More vulnerable than Madonna and saner than Michael Jackson, a better songwriter than Kylie and ten times more talented than Britney; she’s just a tiny little thing under all the glitz and theatrics, but Gaga’s a budding icon and should be recognised as such.

Christine Stovell
I have only had the pleasure of meeting Chris once, but I follow her blog and have watched the well-deserved publication of her brilliant book Turning the Tide in the last year. She is inspirational because she decided it wasn’t too late to do the thing she’d always wanted to do, and proved she had the metaphorical balls to do it. Not only do I respect her as a writer, but she has reminded me that the urge to write never goes away; so on those days when a nondescript but well-paid job beckons to me with its perks of a stable life and steady income, I know I shouldn’t give in so easy. Follow her on Twitter and look out for her next book!

Blair Waldorf
Oh well... there had to be a fictional one. Gossip Girl's Blair is a purely aesthetic idol of mine, a perfectly groomed Park Avenue princess with pearls, gloves and a pout to match. It's funny as it isn't really my style, but the first time I saw actress Leighton Meester as the scheming anti-heroine of the show, I just fell in love with Blair's buttoned-down look. If you're unfamiliar with the addictive trash TV that is Gossip Girl, this blog explains Blair's look pretty well. She may not be the 'world peace' type, but she's impossibly chic and I can't help but covet her from her beret to her Mary Janes.

Jason Robert Brown
Finally, an inspirational male! Brown is one of my favourite composers (and in my opinion, one of the best in musical theatre), and I'm practically hyperventilating at the thought of seeing him performing his work live in less than three weeks' time. His musicals and song cycles, including Songs for a New World, Parade and The Last Five Years include some of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard, so technically complex and lyrically witty, moving and brutal that I never get tired of listening to them and always hear something new each time. JRB is so good that I bought two of his piano books - and I can barely play Happy Birthday. If you're not a fan of the genre (described amusingly in Bridget Jones' Diary as 'men standing with their legs apart, bellowing') I suggest you listen to Lauren Kennedy's album Songs of Jason Robert Brown, but if you do like a musical - and a real story, none of your Sweet Charity nonsense - I would recommend The Last Five Years.

Nigella Lawson
I adore Nigella. I adore her buttercreamy, olive-oily, chocolate-saucey TV shows and cookbooks, her cooking community website, and her glorious sex bomb image that confirms that 50 really can be your prime. They say that after a certain age you have to choose between your face or your arse (the logic being, I presume, that plumper women have a sort of natural collagen effect happening) but I think Nigella is living proof you can have your cake and eat it.

Jo March
My favourite literary heroine, a tomboy with a hot temper and a desire for independence who never lets the fact that she is a girl push her to give up her dreams or conform to a small-town ideal. I like Jo because she's flawed, impulsive and has big dreams, as well as being the at the centre of one of my favourite childhood books. If Louisa May Alcott and her literary avatar Jo could pick up a pen and compete with the male novelists of their time, hindered by huge petticoats and cultural prejudice, I really don't have a reason to moan in 2010.

Lindy West
Another writer, brought to most people's attention with her less-than-rave review of Sex and the City 2 (some harsh language, folks) and who keeps me smiling regularly with her original style and ponderings on the world. Her column in Seattle paper The Stranger is a cult hit, and many of my favourite writers have followed her work since that review. Why do I love her? Because no subject is too obscure to comment on, from hippy rituals to liquorice. She can transform anything into excellent reading, and that inspires the hell out of me.

This ended up being a slightly weird combination of the very real, the loosely acquainted, the fictional, the obscure and the mega-famous. But it's all true, and I don't think a girl should have to pretend she's only inspired by Mother Teresa or the Lorax. Feel free to drop me a comment with your own inspirations.


  1. I feel more of a horrible warning than an inspiring example, so I'm very touched to be included here. As corny as it sounds, don't lose sight of your dream, hold tight to what you want and believe you'll get there... that way you'll achieve it much sooner than I did. Good luck.

  2. Absolutely Chris! And I am also a great fan of Caitlin Moran - she always makes me howl with laughter!