Celebrating Proud Moments on International Women’s Day

We chatted with some brilliant female leaders about empowering moments on their journey.


Behind every woman is a story, and here at Chantecaille, we believe every story is worth telling. From our brilliant conservation partners across the globe to the savvy, creative, inspiring women we’ve been lucky enough to connect with through the world of beauty, the coterie of women we’re celebrating today are sure to inspire. They also prove that even though breaking the bias (this year’s IWD theme) is no small feat, with determination, vision, and a healthy dose of optimism the world is truly a better place when women follow their dreams. 

This year, we asked some of the most inspiring women we know to tell us about a moment that made them feel empowered and accomplished. We also asked them about women who inspired them to pursue their passions.

 

J.J. Martin, Founder of La DoubleJ

Proud moment
One of the things I am most proud of is that I started La DoubleJ from an itch inside my stomach, it came from a very authentic place in my heart. Yes, I had a business plan in mind, but it didn’t really evolve along that path. I went on a hunch and followed what I loved doing, which was collecting vintage and shining a light on remarkable Italian women. All around me I heard voices that were challenging my decision because I had no guarantee of success. Yes, I had my ex-husband to guide and advise me, but there was no investor, so I was relying on my instincts, my smarts, my willpower. Now to see this whole project pumped up and following the wild tree of life is amazing. I created La DoubleJ in the aftermath of not being able to have children, so it was really nice to give birth to something. 

Who inspires you?
I am really into the Divine Mother and the five archetypes, which I ended up commissioning as an art piece across the walls of the La DoubleJ Milan store: Mother Mary, Isis, Kuan Yin, Tara, and Kali. I am interested in the qualities of feminine energy, which are receptivity, creativity, compassion, inspiration and transformation.

 

Dr. Laurie Marker, Founder & Executive Director, Cheetah Conservation Fund 

Proud moment
In the late ‘80s, I made the decision to leave my job at the Smithsonian Institution’s New Opportunities and Animal Health Sciences (NOAHS) Center, sell ALL my belongings, and move to Namibia to save the cheetah.

Over thirty years later, I can look back now and realize how freeing that decision was, and I haven’t looked back. Once I made the decision every step seemed to fall into place, not all easy steps but all steps forward in creating the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), which is the longest-running and most successful cheetah conservation program in Africa. 

Who inspires you?
My parents were inspirational figures. My dad, Ralph, came from a farming family and was an agricultural economist and accountant. But it was really my mom, Marline, now 95, who embodied strength and showed me that a woman could do and be whatever she wanted. She has been the rock of the family for my entire life. As an elementary and high school teacher, she kept the family active in the community by staying engaged with happenings and with supporting nonprofit work. Being a very strong woman figure in my life through her actions and words, she made it clear that I could do anything. I never doubted that if I could dream it I could do it.

 

Grace Bailey, YouTube Beauty Expert at Everyday Edit

Proud moment
I’ve always loved the world of beauty, and when I discovered YouTube in my 40s I found myself watching several beauty videos as part of my daily routine. As an Asian woman over 40, there were few examples I could relate to. At age 44, I decided to launch Everyday Edit. After 6 years and at almost 50 years old, accomplishments that come to mind both stem from one-on-one engagement with viewers. When a viewer DM’s me or leaves a comment that they really love a product I recommended, that lets me know I am accomplishing the mission of my channel. I was also recently told by a viewer that she and her young daughter watch my channel together regularly and that her daughter told her family that she "styled her hair just like Everyday Edit". I wish I had that sense of empowerment and identity as a young girl, but I am certainly honored to serve as a source of representation now.

Who inspires you?
My mom, who raised me with the value of looking inward to always improve myself without worrying about competing with others, and I take that with me into the sometimes unbeautiful world of beauty. As I embarked on my career, I found myself watching women like my friend Michele Wang grow her channel. Despite her tremendous success, she has always been willing to advise and mentor not just me, but other women in the YouTube luxury beauty world.

 

Stephanie Fennessy, Co-Founder & Co-Director, Giraffe Conservation Foundation

Proud moment
When the first giraffe set foot on the southern bank of the Nile River in Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda. Operation Twiga was the first translocation we supported in Uganda in collaboration with the Uganda Wildlife Authority. That moment was pretty special and for the first time I realized that we were making a difference for giraffe in Africa. I now try to occasionally take the time and reflect—it is so easy to get caught up in your day-to-day stresses and frustrations and forget why I am doing this. I want to make a difference. 

Who inspires you?
I grew up with a working mum. My mum was a teacher, so there was never a question in my mind that I would work, but I have never found a real professional role model. But overall, I admire the quiet achievers and people with high integrity—I find Malala Yousafzai inspirational—she stands up for her beliefs, no compromise. Or Sophie Scholl.

 

Mali Thomas-Boykin, Makeup Artist

Proud moment
I felt immense pride and empowerment 2019 when I taught, what was at that time, my first and only masterclass in Lagos, Nigeria. This was extremely important to me because I had the opportunity to return to my home country to share my knowledge and love for beauty and inclusion. Nigeria inspires me to become the best vision of myself. The support and generosity from my people is the ultimate feeling of success.

Who inspires you?
I have an extensive list of women who inspire me daily. I am deeply moved by our courage and perseverance. Maya Guez, a renowned beauty photographer, exemplifies not being defined by what happens to you but by your ability to reset and create your own destiny. She just keeps going. On several occasions, when anyone else would’ve relented, Maya has made the impossible happen for other people. She’s an inspiration.

 

Lele Sadoughi, Founder of Lele Sadoughi

Proud moment
Opening our first store this year was a wonderful moment. We started as an online company, and now we are able to showcase all our accessories with our brand vision. On opening day, people drove and flew in from all over the country to be there for the celebration. It was also bittersweet opening in my hometown of Dallas. More stores to come!

Who inspires you?
Diane Von Furstenberg has been such a force of leadership in the fashion industry. She has really championed women and inclusion. I have enjoyed going to her lectures in her store, as she is able to bring together so many interesting people that transcend fashion.

 

Angela Sheldrick, CEO, Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Kenya

Proud moment
Working in conservation, our accomplishments are measured in a tapestry of moments, spanning many years. They spring forth every single day: orphans rescued in the nick of time, wild lives saved through our vet teams, poachers apprehended or bushfires extinguished. Collectively, these moments amount to a transformational difference for Kenya’s wild spaces and the creatures who live there. Our wild-born babies are another poignant reminder of this. Over the years, we have been introduced to 48 calves born to orphaned elephants we rescued, raised, and reintegrated back into the wild. They are only here today because we saved their mothers all those years ago. As these little miracles remind us, by saving one life, we are paving the way for generations of elephants. 

Who inspires you?
I was blessed to spend much of my life living and working alongside my hero. My mother and the Trust’s founder, Daphne Sheldrick, was everything I could have wished for in a human being. Daphne was a woman of unwavering optimism and incredible strength, through good times and bad. She had an absolute passion for the natural world and was fiercely dedicated to being a voice for the voiceless. The world knows her as the first person to successfully raise infant orphaned elephants, but the path to get there was fraught with challenges and heartbreak. However, it never crossed her mind to give up. In fact, I think every setback galvanized her to just try even harder, until she ultimately succeeded. And on top of it all, Daphne was just great fun. I never laughed so much, or so hard, as when I was with her.

 

Laura Gelfand, Founder of Le Lion

Proud moment
Getting a job at Ralph Lauren was a tremendous accomplishment for me right out of college but in my second year there, after proving myself, I was moved to a different position where I was fortunate enough to work with a lot of the collection design team. Soon, I found myself in meetings and fittings with Mr. Lauren, and every time I felt an immense amount of pride. I had wanted to work there since I was a young girl and I only dreamt of working with him, so I was really proud to have made that dream come true on my own.

Who inspires you?
My maternal grandmother was a huge inspiration to me while I was growing up. She was very stylish and would show me all of the beautiful pieces of clothing and jewelry that she designed and had made. She was also fiercely liberal and cared tremendously about social issues. I recently found lots of old letters of hers that my mom had saved, and among those were several letters she had written to presidents over the years! She was a real representation of wear what you want, be whoever you want, do what you think is right… and as a woman, that was quite impactful.

 

Lisa Hywood, founder, Tikki Hywood Foundation

Proud moment
Releasing my first pangolin. We were giving freedom back to an animal who had been so abused at the hands of humans and we’d managed to rehabilitate it and set it free back to a wild life. That was a very proud moment for me. Not much was known about pangolins back then—this was about 1996—and I had learned so much with that first pangolin and knew I wanted to continue working with and for them and be their voice. 

Who inspires you? 
There is no particular woman whom I feel that about specifically. I have had many strong, influential women in my life. However, the women I feel inspired by most currently are the women on my team. From enduring challenges and their resiliency, their ability to weather all manner of storms with me—it’s them I lean on and appreciate daily.

 

Ashlee Piper, Sustainability Advocate & Author

Proud moment
When I first got into sustainability over a decade ago and wanted to bring my message to mainstream publications and tv, few people in the media were actually interested in the topic. I was communicating with a local television producer and I must’ve annoyed her or something because she wrote me a scathing message saying I didn’t have ’the right look’ for television and people didn’t want to hear about sustainability anyway. I allowed this momentarily to make me doubt everything I was doing. But I kept on keeping on... and I’m glad I did. I’ve now done 250+ television segments, have a bestselling book on eco-friendly living, and recently did a well-received TED Talk—and people and the media are more interested in sustainable living than ever before. I often think back to this low moment as a reminder to 1) Always be kind; and 2) Always bet on yourself, even when others don’t.

Who inspires you?
My mom inspires me. Though she followed a more traditional path of wife and mother, she’s a creative, and tough as nails. Despite much adversity, she always found ways to cultivate and express her artistic talent and big imagination even when she was busy with life’s demands. She kindled my imagination and never balked when I’d say I wanted to do something audacious or that I’d never done before. She never held me to some traditional standard of working a corporate gig or having a family. She’s always just wanted me to experience life, try things, not be afraid to fail (because what is failure anyway but learning?), and helped me to see my potential and the possibilities, even when I’m not in the best headspace. To this day, she is my biggest supporter.

 

Stephanie Dolrenry, Co-Founder & Director, Lion Guardians, Kenya

Proud moment

I feel immense pride and accomplishment when I see or hear the Guardians (often formerly lion killers) go above and beyond to save the lives of “their” lions. When they tell their story of transformation and how they have bettered their lives and the lives of their children in immeasurable ways by being protectors of lions instead of killing them, I feel so proud and so grateful to have played even a small role in enabling this change.

I am also overwhelmed by my “proud mum” feelings when I am with lions. I can sometimes instantly recognize a lion—even if it’s a younger individual I have never seen. I can see their mother or father’s characteristics shining out of their faces. I think of all the hard work it took to keep their mother or father or grandmother or grandfather alive. Thanks to all of our hard work, that individual lion lived on and had cubs who had cubs. It makes me so happy and hopeful for a future where generations of wildlife are thriving on landscapes where people are also thriving.

Who inspires you?

My mother was always supportive, even when it meant letting go of her only daughter and allowing her to roam all over the earth, as far as the wilds of southern Kenya, to conserve lions. She never hesitated in her encouragement, even when things seemed impossible. She taught me how to keep my head up and press ahead, one small step at a time, never losing faith or purpose.

 

Maggie Holladay, Founder of Claude Home

Proud moment
At the height of the Black Lives Matter movement back in 2020, I felt strongly empowered by individuals challenging the societal structure and how it negatively impacts the black community. As a BIPOC woman-owned business, I felt that I was making a mark and paving a path towards representation in the interior and design industry. Elevating black voices and being a source of reference for my community is something that I am passionate about and want to continue striving for as we have a unique creative and cultural lens to provide.

Who inspires you?
My biggest influence and one of the most important people in my life is my mother, Terry Holladay. Each and every day, she exemplifies what it means to be a strong, independent, and successful woman. As an accomplished tennis player turned real estate mogul, she has an extraordinary drive for success that inspires me to do the same. She makes me feel safe while also motivating me to break the glass ceiling and reach for higher goals for my brand and myself. Her support and strong belief in my work ethic and talent is what helped bring the Claude Home brand to life.

 

Liz Eichholz, Founder of Weezie

Proud moment
Just 4 years ago, Weezie was merely an idea on paper. Watching this turn from an idea to a luxury towel company that employs 40+ women across Georgia and in many other countries via our suppliers has given me a great sense of pride. There have been high highs and low low’s, but our confidence in our vision for Weezie has enabled us to put in the hard work and continue to chug along. 

Who inspires you?
Any time I hear of another founder with children I am inspired. Not that you ever really have it figured out, but I love hearing how other people make it work. I have a distinct memory of hearing Carrie Morey, founder of Callie’s Hot Little Biscuits, speaking at the Create and Cultivate conference. She was talking about how she was struggling to make it all work and even talked about closing the company but, to her surprise, her kids begged her not to because they thought it was so cool. As a mom with two daughters who have never known a life without Weezie (and have never known a mom not pulled in a million different directions), I find it inspiring to think about the positive impact this will have on my kids and hopefully the pride it will give them one day. 

 

Belinda Mackey, Founder & Executive Director, Grevy’s Zebra Trust

Proud moment
When we launched our strategic plan with the entire Grevy’s Zebra Trust team, more than 100 people, the majority of whom share resources with wildlife. To witness people from different ethnic communities deeply bonded by their passion, fulfillment and joy from their work in saving a species and uplifting people’s lives, was one of the greatest moments of my career.

Who inspires you?
One of the most inspirational women in my life is Ngeeti Lempate, a Samburu woman who I have had the honor of working with for the last 20 years. After training with us on land regeneration, Ngeeti returned to her village and rallied her female peers to help her start a voluntary land regeneration movement. This required both immense physical and mental strength that has already yielded results despite the current drought. Her courageous leadership in a patriarchal society is testament to the amazing power of women.

 

Rebecca de Ravenel, Founder Rebecca de Ravanel

Proud moment
In 2017 a stylist confirmed that our signature Bonbon earring made the cover of Jennifer Lopez’s album and was heavily featured in her music video. I actually cried that day, everyone in our office did, and I still well up a little when I see the video. I remember all of us gathering around a laptop in our Los Angeles office to watch it. It gave me a huge sense of pride and realization that this happened because of everyone’s hard work and dedication, J Lo is such a star, and she was wearing something that I made, it was a major wow moment. Although I also have to say that when I’m in the street and I see someone wearing a pair of my earrings, that really never gets old. It is one of the best feelings ever.

Who inspires you?
That is such an easy answer. My mother. She is so many things to me and has always been an example of a woman I want to be. She is gracious and light-hearted, the most incredible entertainer, she is kind and loyal and, in my opinion, just the world's greatest mother. She has lived in many different places, doing so many different, interesting things, and has kept this very charming, beaming sense of humor all her life. To be kind and gentle and wear a real smile as one goes through life is definitely an accomplishment to me.

 

Suzanne Roy, Founder, American Wild Horse Campaign, US

Proud moment
The year was 2017, and the threat to America’s wild horses and burros was more serious than it had been in more than a decade. The White House had asked Congress to lift the long-standing ban on slaughtering these federally-protected animals. The House of Representatives was quick to comply, voting to overturn the prohibition. All eyes turned to the Senate, and our organization launched the most intensive grassroots mobilization and awareness campaign for wild horses and burros since the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act was passed in 1971. The strategy paid off when the U.S. Senate declined to go along with the House’s decision. The following year, the Administration announced that it was taking slaughter off the table in clear recognition of the strong public opposition we were able to demonstrate. It was incredibly gratifying to have played a key role in ensuring that wild horses and burros would be protected from this horrific fate. 

Who inspires you?
We lost one of my personal role models, Dr. Shirley McGreal, the founder of the International Primate Protection League, this year at the age of 87. Shirley worked for 50 years on the protection of non-human primates from wildlife smugglers, testing labs and zoos throughout the world. Like her contemporaries Dr. Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey, Shirley is a true hero in the field of primate conservation

 Shirley became a leader in the animal protection and conservation movements at a time when they were fueled by women but dominated by men. She led the way for more women to ascend to leadership positions in these fields and leaves behind a legacy of integrity, hard work and significant impacts on the cause to which she dedicated her life. 

 

Roopa Pemmaraju, Founder Roopa Pemmaraju

Proud moment
Being able to empower maker communities through every collection I create is what empowers me the most. A big part of my work is creating jobs and collaborating with artisans, specifically in Bengaluru where I grew up. In the beginning of the pandemic it was extremely difficult for our maker communities and being able to partner with Anthropolgie at that time allowed us to support them. Being able to give work to our talented artisans and atelier in Bengaluru, whose communities are struggling the most, makes me feel immense pride and accomplishment in my work.

Who inspires you? 
My mother has always been an inspiration and the biggest support system throughout my life and career. She retired from her teaching career to run our atelier in Bengaluru and gives me so much confidence in the work that I create especially when I can't be there right now. She tells me how things work better for all of us when we work for each other and that has become a big part of my work today.

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