Nicole’s Favorites: Digital Must-Reads

Friday is here, and with the weekend officially upon us, you might feel like relaxing before jumping into your weekend plans. Whether your agenda includes going out every night, sampling every brunch in a 30-mile radius or cozying up with a good book, it won’t hurt to celebrate the start of the weekend with a bit of inspiration from some of the most powerful women around.

So before diving into your busy — or lazy — weekend schedule, be sure to give these online reads a glance:

How Shania Twain Learned to Feel Beautiful After Tragedy and Self-Doubt” – Without a doubt one of my favorite artists of all time, Twain imparts her tale of self-doubt, tragedy and eventual acceptance and self-love to InStyle‘s Sarah Cristobal. From feeling anything but pretty as a child to learning how to feel comfortable in her own skin through the loss of her parents, a divorce and a vocal cord injury, Twain’s determination to overcome all that life has thrown at her is the definition of beauty and grace.

TIME magazine’s “Firsts” series – A series of video and print interviews with women who have been the first in their industry to achieve success, this project aims to inspire women and girls to “find someone whose presence in the highest reaches of success says to her that it is safe to climb, come on up, the view is spectacular.” With interviews ranging from Oprah Winfrey to Serena Williams, Barbara Walters to Selena Gomez, this series will not only make you believe in the power of women, but also in the power of your own abilities. Two of the most notable interviews come from Ava DuVernay, the first black to direct a film nominated for a Best Picture Oscar (Selma), and first female secretary of state Madeleine Albright; I would be lying if I said I didn’t cry watching them speak.

So wherever your weekend takes you, be sure to get a healthy dose of empowerment from some of the most inspirational women of our time.



Rihanna takes on new role in Malawi

Rihanna is changing the world, not just in her music but in everything she does.

According to TIME, the singer visited Malawi in January to “learn about the educational challenges facing students there,” even “teaching math, reading with kids, and leading chants on the playground.”

Through Global Citizen, its Global Partnership for Education and her Clara Lionel Foundation, TIME says Rihanna is on board to help improve “access to education for some of the world’s poorest students.” Her trip came as an attempt to sway world leaders to pledge $3.1 billion to the Global Partnership for Education, reports TIME, which helps to improve the quality of schools in 89 countries.

In a video released highlighting her trip, TIME says Rihanna discussed the impact of minimal resources on students.

“It’s such a pity that they have to drop out, because they are so smart,” she said. “Everybody’s learning together, and learning at the same pace it seems. It’s sad that has to end for some of them, because they could probably do so much if they had the resources to continue and complete.”

Here’s hoping the efforts of Rihanna and others will help give students the supplies and opportunities they need to thrive.


Minaj makes pledge to pay fans’ college tuition

Paying for college can be a daunting task, but Nicki Minaj just made some of her fans’ pursuit of higher education a little easier.

According to TIME, after a fan tweeted her asking the rapper to pay her college tuition in the midst of a contest to join Minaj at the Billboard Music Awards, she responded by saying “Show me straight A’s that I can verify w/ur school and I’ll pay it. Who wants to join THAT contest?!?! Dead serious. Shld I set it up?”

From there, the #NickiBBMAs contest turned into getting her attention to have her pay for fans’ college tuitions, textbooks and even student loans, says TIME, and Minaj responded asking some to direct message her with their contact information.

TIME reports that by the time she concluded the spree, “Minaj said she would pay for about 30 fans’ college tuition, student loans or other education-related fees. The fees ranged from $500 to books to $6,000 for tuition.”

Glamour says Minaj spent $50,000 in total paying for her fans’ education,” all of whom provided proof that the money was for school.”

Minaj’s generosity will not be forgotten, that’s for sure.


Winter learns body acceptance from ‘Modern Family’ co-star

It takes a wise, knowledgable teacher to impart a valuable lesson to their student. And that’s exactly what Sofia Vergara became to Ariel Winter when Winter struggled to accept her body.

According to Motto by TIME, the 18-year-old Modern Family actress told that Vergara was a role model of sorts to her after struggling with her developing body.

“She could see that I was struggling a little bit with how to deal with my body, and was always trying to give me advice, like, ‘Here are some brands that would look good on our body type,’ or ‘Wear whatever you want, and feel good about yourself,'” Winter said of Vergara.

Adding to her difficulties adjusting were social media naysayers, says Motto, which Winter said was not only “the worst” for her self-esteem, but also a constant struggle to not succumb to the online negativity.

“It was hard for me in the beginning to deal with people’s comments and deal with everybody having an opinion on absolutely everything I did,” she said, according to Motto. “It was hard for me to not fall prey to wanting to change the way I felt and the way I did things and the way I looked because of what other people said.”

However, with the help of her older sister, Shanelle Workman, and Vergara, Motto says she was able to combat the criticism, learning that it’s only her happiness that matters most:

“But as I got older, I started to realize that as long as I’m positive in my life and as long as I feel good about my decisions and stick to how I feel and the things I want to do, that’s what’s most important,” Winter shared. “And that’s what’s going to get me through in life.”



Rowling gifts books to young Syrian girl

J.K. Rowling just made a young girl’s wish come true — and it was all made possible because of a single tweet.

According to TIME, 7-year-old Bana Alabed’s mother took to Twitter to ask the Harry Potter author how she could get her hands on a Harry Potter book; after watching the film, she said her daughter wanted nothing more than to read the text.

Based in Aleppo, Syria — the center of a heated civil war — TIME says the books are not available in the war-torn area for Alabed to read. But after reaching out to Rowling, Alabed’s wish of reading Harry Potter came true: TIME reports that Rowling and her team were able to send her an e-book. Alabed even shared a photo on Twitter  on Wednesday, Nov. 23 to send her thanks to the author.

Never underestimate the power of a single tweet — or of one generous heart.

To see Alabed’s Twitter exchange with Rowling, click here.


Mirren makes it known that she’s a ‘nasty woman’ in Hollywood

ELLE‘s Women in Hollywood event celebrates the most prominent female forces in Hollywood today, so it’s no surprise that Dame Helen Mirren tops this year’s list. The outspoken, no-holds-barred actress showed off this week just why she deserves to be considered a top woman in Hollywood — or should we say, a “nasty woman” in Hollywood.

According to TIME, Mirren used her speech at this week’s Women in Hollywood gala in Los Angeles to point out just how she is “the nastiest of all nasty women,” alluding to the now-infamous line spoken by presidential candidate Donald Trump about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the third and final presidential debate.

So how does Mirren advise we become nasty women? TIME paraphrased the actress’s advice this way:

“Never drink alcohol (unless celebrating, upset, or on a day that ends with the letter — luckily, quite a flexible policy); don’t be in a rush to get married; give your partner freedom to achieve their ambitions; always split aces, eights and nines on the blackjack table; connect with friends daily — beyond social media; and ‘ignore anyone who judges the way you look, especially if he or she is some anonymous miserable creep lurking on the Internet or is a bloated, small-headed dinosaury-handed candidate for President.'”

While these sound like surefire ways to become a nasty woman, Mirren also shared one more vital piece of advice with ELLE: the last time she “gave zero f*cks.”

“That’s a great question,” she said. “Probably this morning when I went out with any makeup on and I just put jeans on. That’s one of the greater things about getting older is that you give zero f*cks more often.”

Here’s to being a nasty woman who “gives zero f*cks.”

Dunham and Kirke pose for new lingerie campaign

There’s nothing like a healthy dose of body positivity to get your week started — and leave it to Girls stars Lena Dunham and Jemima Kirke to deliver.

According to Motto by TIME, the actresses star in a new ad campaign for Lonely, a New Zealand underwear company that “celebrates the strength and individuality of women and creates lingerie, swimwear and clothing that embraces and empowers them.”

Dunham and Kirke look stunning as they model the sexy lingerie styles for the campaign, which Motto says is part of the brand’s “Lonely Girls Campaign, a series of Photoshop-free photographs of women wearing the brand in their own spaces as a rebuke traditional lingerie advertising.”

Motto reports the underwear company explained in a statement to Dazed the mission of the campaign, as well as the decision to feature the duo:

“Instead of being objectified, the women who participate in these campaigns—in this case, Lena and Jemima—are empowered and exhibit real beauty that will hopefully help women everywhere feel a little more liberated.”

Amen to that.



DuVernay makes history

Major congratulations are in order for lauded Hollywood director Ava DuVernay.

According to Motto by TIME, the Selma director will “be the first African-American woman to head a live-action feature film with a budget over $100 million with her forthcoming A Wrinkle in Time.” Motto says that DuVernay’s Academy Award and Golden Globe nominated Selma was produced with a budget of $20 million.

DuVernay shares this achievement with two other women, reports Motto: “Kathryn Bigelow, who was the first to direct a film with such a budget in her 2002 K-19: The Widowmaker, and Patty Jenkins with Wonder Woman, which comes out next year, reports Women and Hollywood.”

As if this recent accomplishment isn’t enough, DuVernay’s new OWN series, Queen Sugar, has also been renewed for a second season ahead of its Sept. 6 premiere, reports CNN. OWN President Erik Logan said the network instantly knew they wanted another season of the show the second they saw DuVernay’s work.

“When we saw the first cut from Ava we knew right away that we wanted a second season,” Logan said in a statement, according to CNN. “We think viewers are going to connect with the deeply layered characters and powerful story and are excited to be able to share with them Ava’s director’s cut on premiere night without interruption. We are proud to be a network that supports a filmmaker’s creative vision.”

First female governor for Tokyo

There’s a first time for everything, and the city of Tokyo just elected its first female governor this week.

According to TIME, the Former Defense Minister Yuriko Koike was elected on Sunday, July 31, pledging to the city that she will “regain control of the capital’s 2020 Olympic spending” — a problem that has accrued a bill that has “tripled the initial budget of $7.14 billion.”

TIME says Koike defeated 20 other candidates, winning the governorship by a 700,000-vote margin with only 2/3 of the total votes counted. The election followed the resignation of former governor Yoichi Masuzoe, who TIME says may have stepped down over “reportedly embezzling public funds for personal expenses.”

Koike, an independent, said that she has a new vision for Tokyo, according to TIME.

“I will lead Tokyo politics in an unprecedented manner, a Tokyo you have never seen.”

Built on the shoulders of giants

It’s hard to reflect on the career of Serena Williams and not be inspired. Sports Illustrated reports that not only has she been ranked No. 1 in the world for the past four years, she also has six Wimbledon singles titles (just to name a few of her many accolades) — and she’s a fierce advocate for women, often speaking on body positivity and women’s rights. So seeing Williams as a role model of strength, perseverance and skill both on and off the court is quite an easy task — just ask Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas.

According to TIME’Mottothe 20-year-old gold medalist told Teen Vogue about her journey to the get the gold for their August issue, explaining that believing in herself didn’t always come easily. “It took a long time for me to see my own potential — a long time,” Douglas told Teen Vogue, according to Motto.

Even after her gold-medal wins in the individual all-around and team competitions — which, Motto says, made her the first American gymnast to achieve such a feat — Douglas was still not the confident competitor and woman we see today. Teen Vogue reports that she was persistently bullied over her appearance, something that will eat at anyone’s self-esteem.

“Sometimes I would be in the bathroom, bawling my eyes out, wanting to quit,” Douglas told Teen Vogue, according to Motto. “I felt like I was all alone. But when I came through it, I felt as if I could overcome anything.”

Cue Williams, who became Douglas’ source of inspiration. Motto says Douglas’ mother, Natalie Hawkins, explained to Teen Vogue how her daughter came to draw strength from the legendary tennis player.

“I remember when everyone was talking about her arms, and she became very self-conscious about how muscular they were,” Hawkins told Teen Vogue. “Then Gabrielle saw the elegance with which Serena Williams handled all the negative criticism of her own body. It was liberating for my daughter to see that. She said, ‘I don’t have to apologize to anyone about my body. My body is beautiful.'”