Time has taught me that it’s tough being a 20-something. I’m in that awkward transition between living with my parents and being completely independent (or so I tell myself), and sometimes it’s difficult to know what the hell I’m actually doing with your life. Thankfully, us millennials have a plethora of female celebrities that have forged their own paths in order to inspire us to similar greatness.
While it’s a struggle to get through college, pick a major, and then actually apply that major to a real life career, here is a list of women who figured out what they wanted and didn’t stop until they achieved it. These women give me hope that the terrifying future might just work out after all.
1. Emma Watson – 26
Need I elaborate? When it comes to inspiring female celebrities in their twenties, Emma Watson is tough to beat. From the moment she came onto our radar as the quirky but lovable Hermione Granger, Watson has grown as an actress, model, student (Brown University), and activist (UN Goodwill for Women).
2. Rihanna – 28
Who else watched Bring It On: All Or Nothing and was instantly inspired by Rihanna’s powerful words: “I’ve learned that a lot of talented people come out of the ghetto.” This line was gold to every little girl watching at home and aspiring to…be a cheerleader? While Rihanna wasn’t born in the ghetto herself, she did come out of Barbados to become an international pop sensation, fashion icon, and mononym amongst players like Cher, Madonna, and Prince. With experience in acting, dancing, singing, and now fashion design, Rihanna inspires us to pursue anything we’re passionate about.
3. Tavi Gevinson – 20
I’m just thrilled Tavi is finally old enough to make it to this list. While she’s a newly-minted twenty-something-year-old, Gevinson has been an inspiration since she was only 12. She became a public figure through her style blog, Style Rookie, and has gone onto become editor-in-chief of Rookie Magazine (which she also founded) and appears regularly with fashion icons such as Anna Wintour and Andre Leon Talley. Today Gevinson is a writer, a feminist, and a reminder that we’re never too young or irrelevant to start a conversation.
4. Emily Ratajkowski – 25
Although she rose to fame simply for being “that hot girl” in Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” music video, Ratajkowski has made waves among third-generation feminists like herself. She actively speaks out for women’s rights, starting with her essay published in Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter addressing how her sexuality has been used against her and how she refuses to apologize for it. Ratajkowski is proud of what makes her a woman, something we are told to hide and be ashamed of.
5. Taylor Swift – 26
She’s notorious for being the girl who whines every time she gets dumped, but Taylor Swift is so much more than just the “scorned ex-girlfriend.” She’s a brave singer and songwriter, one who bares it all with her lyrics, and this has earned her the spot as one of the most popular female performers of our generation. We’ve watched her transform from sweet little country girl to badass feminist with a covetable group of friends and a killer fashion sense.
6. Demi Lovato – 24
Demi Lovato went from child actress to singer, but the most inspiring thing about this woman is what she’s overcome. Lovato is famous for battling with eating disorders, depression, self-harm, drug abuse, and bipolar disorder, but the fact that she openly speaks about her past and encourages others to be strong is much more relevant.
7. Dakota Fanning – 22
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been jealous of Dakota Fanning since we were both 7 and she was nominated for a SAG while I was nominated to be hall monitor (and lost). She’s a truly talented actress, someone who has been perfecting the craft since she was old enough to walk. Along with being one of the most accomplished actresses of our time, she’s a model and an NYU graduate. And I’m sitting here in my sweatpants eating yogurt.
8. Kimiko Glenn – 27
Glenn portrayed Dawn in Broadway musical Waitress, but the rest of the world knows her as Brooke Soso, Poussey’s annoying but cute girlfriend on Orange Is the New Black. Glenn has both brought attention to the LGBTQ community and garnered much needed attention for Asian-American actresses.
9. Samira Wiley – 29
Since we were already talking about OITNB (and I love talking about OITNB), Wiley portrays the aforementioned Poussey, the black lesbian daughter of a military leader serving time for drug possession. Wiley, a lesbian in real life, just got engaged to her girlfriend and is an LGBTQ rights activist.
10. Shay Mitchell – 29
Another onscreen lesbian is Shay Mitchell, who plays Emily Fields on Pretty Little Liars and can charm even the straightest girl in the room with her coy smile. While not a lesbian in real life, Mitchell has spoken out for LGBTQ rights and has helped progress gay rights through her powerful depiction of Emily.
11. Jennifer Lawrence – 26
Perhaps the most inspiring female celebrity of 2016 is Jennifer Lawrence, the first female actress to make more than her male counterpart because she had the balls to come out and state that she deserved it. While the glass ceiling pitifully remains intact, Lawrence poked a hole in it when she demanded she get what she had earned—because why are women supposed to be quiet and gracious? Why can’t we get what we deserve without being thought of as whiny or a bitch? Thank you Jennifer, for paving the way for females everywhere!