INFLUENCE: HOW THE #GIRLBOSSES TOOK OVER

7 -min. read

It’s been four years since Sophia Amoruso sent #girlboss stratospheric with the launch of her book of the same name – whilst her fortunes might have taken an unexpected path since, that hashtag – and the feminist essence behind it – has soared, with #girlboss having been attached to 10 million Instagram posts at the time of writing. Confirming that ladies can be self-sufficient, in charge of their own destiny, and bosses in their own right, #girlboss is empowerment in a hashtag. Quite simply, it’s never been a better time to be a woman proud of her own ambition and drive.

The hashtag’s rise to omnipresence has brought with it a whole host of social media–savvy women driving their own way to success – not influencers in the much-derided sense, but powerful females using tools such as Instagram to exert their own influence how they see fit. And what an influence, with tens of millions of followers hanging on the every move of influential ladies who write their own rules. As Virginia Woolf said in her girl-power classic, A Room of One’s Own: “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Independence is inspiring, and independent ladies inspirational.

“It’s cool, women doing cool shit”, admits Amoruso (603k), “but it’s not why we’re doing it. We’re not really patting ourselves on the back in some weird way over that. It’s not why we’re here.” Defining the essence of this new wave of go-getting influencers, the original girl boss points out that success is merely a by-product of following your passions – a fact shown daily by the talented entrepreneur behind The WW Club (Working Women’s Club) and author of The Working Women’s Handbook, the eternally cool Phoebe Lovatt (13.8k).

“It’s a tongue-in-cheek reference to working men’s clubs, which were these spaces, these physical clubs, across the UK”, the New York–based Londoner explains of her collaboration-based concept. “They’re dying out now because the industries that they catered towards are dying out – but they were for men who did manual labour, and wanted somewhere where they could go and socialise with their co-workers after work. A space where they might want to hear a speech, or take a course, or something like that. They always had this dual focus.”

Squintin’ for Sandy. @sandyliang yung princess of the LES.

A post shared by Phoebe Rose Lovatt 🌹 (@phoebelovatt) on

A “space for working women worldwide”, The WW Club is a no-nonsense international support network for the sort of inspiring girl bosses who are exerting such influence around the world – a concept to stimulate collaboration and learning, a host of ad-hoc international events, mentoring sessions, and lectures for life and career.

International Girl Crew
International Girl Crew

Having hosted events at spots like Mexico City’s Habita Hotel and Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles, the importance of travel brands educating their guests and faithful locals should not be overlooked: forward-thinking hotels should be knowledgeable of such collectives, and collaborating with these inspiring forces is essential in order to further culturally conscious credentials.

Naturally, Lovatt surrounds herself with women of equal style and influence, and her #InternationalGirlCrew consists of talent like rising fashion star Paloma Elsesser (141k) –“we’re all inspired by one another”; WAH Nails-founder Sharmadean Reid (28.3k) – “it’s not about competition: we’re actually stronger when we’re together”; and director and Skepta manager Grace Ladoja (27.5k) – “we never talk behind each other’s backs.” A group of honest and successful young talents who met one another through mutual friends – the girls’ collective influence is such that they were invited to create a custom line of Nike Cortez sneakers, a collection of three individual colourways inspired by New York, Los Angeles and London (the cities the ladies call home).

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Discovered on Instagram, plus-size model Paloma Elsesser is vibrant proof that social media has democratised the fashion industry, and is a shining example of how having the right people to lean on can drive you forward. “I highly suggest surrounding yourself with like-minded and supportive individuals”, she confirms in a conversation with Vogue. “I can’t say enough how important it is for me to have a band of women and people who I feel comfortable with, accepted by. In the industry, you will feel excluded and unheard at times, so it is a necessity to carve out spaces where you are amplified and appreciated.”

Talking to Interview Magazine, Elsesser validates the importance of powerful women extorting influence on the next generation of doers: “I grew up with a lot of women who I respected and loved. I just always thought women and girls older than me were so cool. I’m always in awe of the things that women do in the day-to-day.” With legions of young Instagram fans now in awe of the things she does day to day, the model gives hope that future generations will adopt her self-confidence, passion, and hard-work ethic. “My parents always supported me and complimented me on other things, not just my looks”, she reveals of her empowered personality. “They told me I was capable, that I was smart, that I was creative. This kind of admiration helped steer my confidence where I found pride and happiness internally. I feel dignified and confident in who I am as a person, not just a body.”

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“Identity is big.” States Elaine Welteroth (231k), the social media–savvy former editor of Teen Vogue, who has been lauded for her efforts in changing notions of beauty and femininity, placing more emphasis on feminism, gender issues, and activism than beauty tips and Caucasian faces at the Condé Nast title. “We want to help make them feel better about themselves – whether that’s giving beauty tips, or empowering them with political information to have smarter conversations and feel they can stand up for themselves.” The February 2016 cover starring Hunger Games’ Amandla Stenberg (1.6m) was somewhat of a turning point for the publication. “She’s a brown girl who had a big afro”, said Welteroth, “which one could say is progressive for a Condé Nast title.”

Equally so was that Stenberg was without a major movie to promote, and was instead in the process of schooling millions of YouTube fans on cultural appropriation, with her “Don’t Cash Crop On My Cornrows video clocking more than 2.3 million views and rising. “It was smart. It was badass”, admits Welteroth, herself only the second African-American editor of a Condé Nast title in its 108-year history. “And it was not finger-waggy. To me, she emerged in that moment as a voice for her generation.” Which is the power of this new breed of assertive influencers – they have talent, drive, ambition and a voice. They might be Instagramming, but they are not Instagrammers. Social media is merely a conduit by which empowered young women are making their voices heard.

Hi all- I am in shock and in this moment all I can do is express my love and gratitude for you. I feel a responsibility to see how you are because I care about you and the platform you have given me. I am grateful for the community of people I am surrounded by. I am amazed that close to a million people share my beliefs and keep faith in the voice we can cultivate together. I am honored to build this relationship with you and use the love we have for each other to change the world around us. I'm fucking furious and I do not expect you to be brave or optimistic. You are entitled to your pain, fear, and anger. It is important to process those emotions. However, all I can do if offer up my hope. It is easy in this moment to feel that our efforts- our dialogue, our fighting, our campaigning, our self acceptance and growth- has been futile. It's a slap in the face to recognize that the world is not as we thought it was. It is harrowing and dreadful to feel that our work has been pointless. But this was a fear driven response. This was a white retaliation against the progress that we have made. This is evidence that we are rapidly shifting the narrative, changing our cultural climate, and demanding equality- and that is a terrifying and immediate threat to white privilege. Trump's presidency is a final desperate attempt to hold onto the white world of the past that is destined to die. It will die because we are powerful. If you look around you and at the kids, I know you will see your efforts reflected in the hearts of others- whether that is in the people you see or what you view here on this page. You will see it in the way media and culture is shifting to include us because we are forcing it to. I am your friend and I believe in your actions. I only believe in myself because you have allowed me to. I hope my page is a space where you can feel safe to speak and be angry. I encourage you to use it as such. I am not denying the concrete and physical danger of the future. I am telling you that your identity and strides are valid- even when you are tired, even when you are just existing as you. I hope you are able to take care of yourself right now.

A post shared by amandla (@amandlastenberg) on

Like Amandla Stenberg, many women in the spotlight are turning their attentions to matters more pressing than fame or celebrity: from Alyssa Milano (1.5m) promoting the #MeToo movement, to Jessica Alba (12.7m) proving that movie-star ‘moms’ can be founders of billion dollar businesses, too; to Tavi Gevinson (557k), who, at just 21, has almost a decade in feminism-conscious journalism behind her; to Solange (3.5m), who has used her position to reveal vulnerability, discuss health issues, and vent vehemently against racism.

Yara Shahidi (2.1m), the 18-year-old star of ABC sitcom, Black-ish, has formed Yara’s Club – a partnership with The Young Women’s Leadership School that brings high school students together to discuss social issues – and has worked with Michelle Obama on her Let Girls Learn education initiative. “I try to use it as a tool for good”, she says of social media. “There is just a lot going on in the world, and as overwhelming as the hashtags on Twitter can be when they’re Comey and everything else, it’s also inspiring because that is the same place where I’ve met a lot of my friends, my peers who are activists and killing the game right now, and helping to save the world.”

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“Women are very hungry right now to really be heard and really be seen, and not be put in boxes and not be held to impossible standards of beauty or behaviour that are unnatural.” Talking on the occasion of her 43-foot neon sculpture – a glowing, white outline of a woman’s uterus wearing oversized boxing gloves – crackling into life above The Standard, Hollywood, British-American artist Zoë Buckman (23.9k) is in an ebullient mood. “We’re used to neon telling us something like where to go or what to buy, so it’s really exciting for me to take this material that really came to be in the ’50s, which was both incredibly oppressive and visually so rich for women, and make a statement. My neon says: ‘we are here, we want to be seen, and we are taking up space. We’re celebrating ourselves, and we are fighting for our rights.’ ”

Zoë Buckman, "Champ", The Standard, Hollywood. Photo by Spencer Lowell Opens a New Window. .
Zoë Buckman, “Champ”, The Standard, Hollywood. Photo by Spencer Lowell Opens a New Window. .

A very different neon message for the notorious LA thoroughfare, Buckman’s Champ is also a reminder of how the travel industry can harness the might of this new generation of empowered ‘bosses’. From business to fashion, celebrity to art, inspirational ladies can no longer be ignored. In positioning this inspirational lady’s feminist message in 43 feet of neon above their hotel, The Standard are proving their commitment to powerful female figures – and signalling their intent to the industry at large.

Events, collaborations, social media takeovers… Providing a platform for these voices is vital. “I want it to empower”, says Buckman of the platform her work has been given. “I want it to provoke thought and discussion, and I want it to challenge the status quo – whether that’s what’s happening in Washington, or the standards of beauty that promote young, white-skinned females. I want it to disrupt that space by bringing people together and by bringing people in.” Allowing a stage for disruption and discussion, hotels have a chance to bring those people together. The time is now.

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Lisa Davidson
A traveller with a nose for curiosity, Lisa Davidson co-runs online culture-led travel magazine We Heart and has an insatiable appetite for the hidden corners of cities, long empty beaches and well-crafted cocktails.

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