Monday, March 8, 2010

Celebrating La Festa della Donna (International Women's Day): My personal female role models

So as most of you who know me know, I come from Italian heritage. In Italy they have a wonderful holiday celebrated today, March 8, called the Festa della Donna. It is essentially a day where all men (and women) celebrate the wonderful women in their lives (Moms, Wives, Girlfriends, Sisters, Aunts, Friends, etc.). In fact this "International Women's Day" is celebrated as an official holiday in over 30 countries ...... yet for some reason never really caught on in America. This is annoying. I could rant about why America doesn't celebrate it ... going on quoting some Puritanical and sexist B.S. reasons .... but rather I would like to take this post to celebrate the International holiday despite the origin of my Passport. Here are the women that I most admire and look up to in my life:


Me with my mom after one of my operas (hence the amazing wig and heavy tranny makeup)

My mother puts up with me. That should be enough to earn her numero uno on this list. She supports me in my crazy and sometimes tumultuous adventures pursuing my dreams, and has encouraged me to be the best I can be since I read my first word at age 3. In addition she is extremely accomplished woman herself working her way through three degrees, owning her own Chiropractic practice, holding the position as the President of the State Board of Chiropractic of Texas, all the while raising me and my sister. Even at a young age she was accomplished as an intense athlete making the US Olympic Team Finals in swimming and fighting to pass Title 9 in order to ensure Women's Sports go as much funding as Men's in Universities. Today she shares her medical knowledge with others as a teacher as an instructor at the Dallas Nursing Institute. Pretty great lady eh? :)


Carol singing Tosca with tenor Luciano Pavarotti

My voice teacher at Indiana University, the internationally renowned soprano Carol Vaness. She worked her butt off from an early age to achieve some of the greatest success one can ever hope for in an operatic career, singing at every major opera house in the world. Best known for her Mozart roles, where still not many today can touch her interpretations (Finally someone singing Mozart with BALLS! See her Donna Elivra or Anna). She later moved on to become one of the greatest Tosca's of her generation (Watch). Pavarotti himself requested that she star along side him at his final performance at the Metropolitan Opera. This lady is amazingly accomplished and is a wonderful teacher and friend, always encouraging me (and all of her students) along the hard road of singing.


On me dit que nos vies ne valent pas grand chose, Elle passent en un instant comme fanent les roses. On me dit que le temp qui glisse est un salaud que de nos chagrins il s'en fait des manteaux pourtant quelqu'un m'a dit... Que tu m'aimais encore, Serais ce possible alors?
(English: I'm told that our lives aren't worth much, They pass like an instant, like wilting roses. I'm told that time slipping by is a bastard, making its coat of our sorrows. Yet someone told me... That you still loved me, Could that be possible?)

A modern woman who truly has done it all. In her early years, she became highly educated excelling in archetechture and speaking three languages. She harnessed her beauty and started a modeling career excelling to be known as one of the "supermodels" of the 90s. Then moving on to channel her musical roots (the daughter of a concert pianist and classical composer) she transitioned to music. With her breathy and emotive songs (Listen: Quelqu'un m'a dit) she became one of Europe's most celebrated singer/songwriters. Now married to the President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, she slipped into her role as First Lady of France with infinite grace. Always impeccably classy in manor and dress and extremely dedicated to doing good in the world with philanthropy work. She tackles issues such as illiteracy, AIDS, supporting the arts, and a unique program that creates $100 laptops to bring technology and learning to children all over the world. She truely embodies the saying "Behind every great man .... is a great woman."


One of the best lyric mezzo sopranos of all time, and in my opinion the best alive today. Her coloratura (for all you non-opera readers: all those really fast notes in a row) is second to none. She worked hard to get where she is today, fighting the political B.S. of the opera world and many discouragers early on along the way. Now she is not only one of the most famous and accoladed opera singers performing today, from what I hear she is by far one of the most gracious and friendly singers around. I look to her artistry daily as inspiration to remind me of why I pursue this crazy profession. Watch her amazing rendition of Rossini's Non Piu Mesta (fast forward to 5:35 if you wanna be blown away). You can read her adventures in singing on her Blog.


“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.”

Audrey will forever define feminine glamour, dignity and grace. Not only was she an actress that touched us all with her work in such films such as Breakfast at Tiffany's, Sabrina, Roman Holiday and My Fair Lady, but after her acting career ended in the mid 1960s, she devoted the remaining period of her life to humanitarian work with UNICEF. She was a woman who embodied what it is to be a truly classy lady. I wish some of today's starlets would follow her example more.


"I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love."

Devoting her life to the service of the poor and dispossessed Mother Teresa became a global icon for selfless service to others. Through her missionary of Charities organisation she personally cared for 1000s of sick and dying people in Calcutta. She was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1979. Her compassion should inspire us all to try our best to be better people.


"I never realized until lately that women were supposed to be the inferior sex."

An iconic figure of twentieth Century film Katharine Hepburn won 4 Oscars and received over 12 Oscar nominations. Her lifestyle was unconventional for the time and through her acting and life she helped redefine traditional views of women’s role in society. Her movies usually depicted her as a take charge kind of woman that took no guff from anyone, not even her love interests in a time. This during a period where most females on screen were just decorated "damsels in distress" waiting for a man to save and complete them or even worse... arm candy. Every man she was paired with was held accountable for their actions whether they betrayed her legally and emotionally. And she lead her real life very similarly to the characters she portrayed ... a woman who although was beautiful, was strong, independent, and who needed no help from any man to get where she wanted to go.


“Elegance does not consist in putting on a new dress.”

One of the most innovative fashion designers Coco Chanel was instrumental in defining feminine style and dress during the 20th Century. Her ideas were revolutionary; in particular she often took traditionally male clothes and redesigned them for the benefit of women. Listed by TIME magazine as one of the top 100 influential people of twentieth Century, she redefined lady-like style forever in a time when fashion was a Boys Club.


"I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too. "

Queen of England during a time of great economic and social change, she saw England cemented as a Protestant country. During her reign she witnessed the defeat of the Spanish Armada leaving Britain to later become one of the world’s dominant superpowers. Never marrying to let a "King" take the credit, she became perhaps one of the first 'true feminists' and will forever be remembered as one of, if not the, most important monarch England ever had. If you want to learn more about Elizabeth's story I suggest the Cate Blanchett's tour de force in Elizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

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