I'm inspired almost daily, either by a song that I hear, an article that I read, a film that I see or even a tweet that I stumble upon. No matter the medium, it's always refreshing to see people hone their crafts, especially while living openly and authentically.
With March being Women's History Month, I wanted to pay homage to a myriad of women whom I've been inspired by, some in more ways than one. From Liz Carmouche to Laverne Cox to Cynthia Nixton to Wanda Sykes, there are countless visible queer women who are painting the world with their bravery, boldness and tenacity. Obviously this list doesn't nearly cover every woman who is making strides, but these are some of the ones who have been the most inspiring for me. Who's your favorite? Sound off in the comments section below.
After starring in her own sitcom <em>Ellen</em> (and famously coming out on it), Ellen DeGeneres entered our living rooms once again with her syndicated Emmy Award-winning talk show <em>The Ellen DeGeneres Show</em>, through which she has kept fans in stitches with her jokes and hilarious dance moves for nearly a decade. And not only is she an Emmy winner; she's won 13 of them! She's also an actress and has appeared in over 10 films, including <em>Coneheads</em>, <em>Dr. Dolittle</em> and <em>Finding Nemo</em>. Inspiring me and many others, she's been living out and proud for over 15 years.
Liz Carmouche is a former Marine and a mixed martial arts fighter who currently competes in the UFC's women's bantamweight division. She's currently ranked as the number-six 135-pound female MMA fighter in the world. She is also the first open lesbian UFC fighter.
A former writer and editor for People magazine, Janet Mock is now penning her memoir, "Fish Food," and has been gracious enough to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/janet-mock/transgender-coming-out_b_1146414.html">share her story</a> of transitioning and finding love. She has been a voice of the transgender community, advocating for transgender women with her campaign, "Girls Like Us".
Jane Lynch is an actress, singer and comedian. She's won several awards including a Primetime Emmy Award, Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, People's Choice Award and more. She's mostly known for her roles on "Two and a Half Men", "Glee" and "The L Word." She's also appeared in films such as "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" and "Julie & Julia."
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/23/staceyann-chin-interview-lesbian-poet_n_2638073.html">Staceyann Chin</a> is a Tony award-winning poet, writer, author and activist. Over a decade ago, she burst onto the scene via Russell Simmon's "Def Poetry Jam" on Broadway. In 2010, she released her critically acclaimed memoir, "The Other Side of Paradise." She's currently penning a book about motherhood.
Illene Chaiken is the woman who brought us the groundbreaking television show <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/02/ilene-chaiken-real-l-word_n_1850477.html"> "The L Word"</a> and then later extended it with the reality spin-off "The Real L Word." She's a TV producer, director and writer who has been making waves in television since the late '80s. She was the coordinating producer for the "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" and has fought hard to make women from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community visible in mainstream TV. Not only has she championed for telling same gender loving women's stories to the forefront, she's also out and visible in her own personal life.
Known as having been the muse of Givenchy, Lea T is a trans fashion model currently heating up the runway. She has graced the pages of Vogue Paris, Hercules Magazine, Interview Magazine and more.
<a href="http://www.kin4life.com/">Kin4Life</a> is a hip hop duo that has been rapping, songwriting and producing for over a decade. Their video for their single "Make Up Girl" held a spot on the Click List Countdown on Logo for 11 consecutive weeks and was nominated for the Click List's Top 10 Videos of 2009. The multitalented artists have also won "Group of the Year" at the Out Hip Hop Awards. Their music has garned placement in films such as "Changing The Game," "Black Womyn Conversations" and the "Lovers and Friends" web series.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/03/tammy-baldwin-senate_n_2404459.html">Wisconsin's Tammy Baldwin</a> is the first openly-gay American senator.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/12/laverne-cox-transgender-actress_n_2629916.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices">Laverne Cox</a> is an actress and producer who is also an advocate for transgender rights. She has received critical acclaim for her role in the independent feature film "Musical Chairs," which has also been nominated for a GLAAD Media Award. Cox is also the first African American transgender woman to produce and star in her own television show, 'TRANSform Me," as well as the first black transgender woman to appear on a reality television program, "I Want To Work For Diddy."
Suze Orman is an author, financial advisor, motivational speaker and television host. She's won a Gracie Award for "Outstanding Program Host" on her show "The Suze Orman Show" on CNBC. Orman has written over five books including, "You've Earned It, Don't Lose It," "The Nine Steps To Financial Freedom" and "The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous and Broke." She also has a column for O Magazine and contributes to publications such as The Philadelphia Inquirer, Lowes MoneyWorks and Your Business at Home Magazine.
Last year, <a href="http://www.gomag.com/article/number_one_on_the_ones_an/">DJ Mary Mac</a> celebrated 20 years in the music industry. Throughout her career she has toured with Def Jam, held a 15-year residency at a prominent New York City night club and spun for celebs like Queen Latifah, Rosie O'Donell, Spinderella. In addition to being a DJ, Mary Mac is also a producer and photographer.
Isis King is an actress, fashion designer and model. King is known for being the first transgender woman to compete on "America's Next Top Model." She has graced the pages of Us Weekly, Seventeen Magazine and Out Magazine. She also became American Apparel's first transgender model. The multifaceted Maryland native has appeared in films such as "Hello Forever" and "Bella Maddo." She also recently presented her collection, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/16/isis-king-collection-nyc-fashion-week_n_2669281.html">"The Goldest Winter Ever,"</a> during New York Fashion Week.
Wanda Sykes is an award-winning actress, writer, comedian and voice artist. In 1999, she earned an Emmy Award for her writing on "The Chris Rock Show." She has appeared in films such as "Monster-in-Law," "My Super Ex-Girlfriend" and "Evan Almighty." Sykes has also won an American Comedy Award, a Comedy Central Commie Award and a GLAAD award.
Tegan and Sara are award-winning Canadian singers who are identical twin sisters and both openly gay. They've released seven studio albums and won two Western Canadian Music Awards. They have also been nominated for several Juno Awards and for a 2013 Grammy Award.
Dee Rees is a screenwriter and director who directed the groundbreaking and critically acclaimed film "Pariah." Before "Pariah" became a full length feature film, it won 25 shorts awards including the Audience Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival. After screening "Pariah" at the Sundance Film Festival, Focus Features picked up Rees' film. The out lesbian is currently working on an HBO series starring Viola Davis.
<a href="http://www.curvemag.com/Curve-Magazine/Web-Articles-2012/Cupcake-Royale-is-a-Seattle-Sweet-Treat/">Jody Hall</a> is an out lesbian owner of the Cupcake Royale chain in Seattle. She has recently opened up her sixth location. She has used her profits to benefit organizations such as Dan Savage's It Gets Better Foundation and to support marriage equality.
Cynthia Nixon is <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/07/cynthia-nixon-yale-artist-equality-gay-rights_n_2639125.html">an award-winning</a> actress best known for her role of Miranda Hobbes on the popular HBO series, "Sex and the City." Nixon has received many awards such as two Screen Actors Guild Awards, two Emmy Awards, a Tony Award, a Grammy Award and a GLAAD Media Award. Nixon has been vocal about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights and an advocate for marriage equality.
<a href="https://twitter.com/Siya_">Siya </a>is a Brooklyn-bred rapper who has been adamant about not selling her soul and changing her image to meet the mainstream music industry's standards. She's released a critically acclaimed mixtape titled, "Elevator Dreams" and most recently dropped her mixtape, "D.Y.K.E." which garnered her <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbEeINNRKy8&feature=share&list=PLE0DCFE97ACAF4373">an endorsement</a> by popular rapper T.I. She's currently a part of R&B singer Tank's Soundbase Entertainement imprint.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/toni-newman/">Toni Newman </a> is an author and writer who was nominated for a 2012 Lambda Literary Award. She is currently working with Equality California and volunteering as a legal assistant to assist transgender people who are caught in the legal system with little or no support. She has been honored by her alma mater, Wake Forest University, as a "Face of Courage." She's currently preparing to executive produce a comedy web series episode called "Douche Bros."
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/21/frenchie-davis-comes-out-the-voice_n_1616960.html">Frenchie Davis</a> is a Broadway performer and soul, dance/electronica and pop singer. She first burst onto the scene during the second season of "American Idol." She has performed in "Rent" on Broadway and was a member of the cast for four years. In 2011, the openly bisexual singer was a top 8 semi-finalist and came in second place on Christina Aguilera's team on the first season of "The Voice."
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/28/leisha-hailey-southwest-airline-removal-_n_985188.html">Leisha Hailey</a> is an actress, musician and songwriter most known for her role of Alice Pieszecki on Showtime's "The L Word." She's one half of the electro pop duo Uh Huh Her. She's also a former member of the duo Gush (formerly The Murmurs). Hailey has appeared in television shows such as "Boy Meets World," "Grey's Anatomy," and "The New Normal" and in films including "Fertile Ground."
Rosie O'Donnell is an award-winning actress, comedian, author and talk show host. She has worked on a myriad of television shows including "Gimme a Break," "Ally McBeal," "Third Watch" and "Queer as Folk". She's also starred in several films such as "The Flintstones" and "Sleepless In Seattle." The multitalented comedian has won over 10 Daytime Emmy Awards, an Emmy Award and a Kid's Choice Award. O'Donnell is also an avid advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights.