I have always considered myself fortunate that from a young age I was exposed to incredible female role models in my life and on the screen. I remember Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds and Mary Tyler Moore’s iconic roles and how they helped change the fate of women in and out of Hollywood. Each of these fearless artists shaped me into the woman I have grown and fought hard to become, making their deaths all the more devastating.
When Carrie Fisher passed, I was upset to see the life cut short of such a talented artist with so much left to say. A new chapter in her career had recently emerged through the new installments of the Star Wars Saga and the publishing of her third memoir. Her character Princess Leia taught me that I could be more than what society wished for me as a woman. Little girls are often taught to make plastic meals in tiny play kitchens and to take care of baby dolls.
However, Fisher’s Star Wars alter ego showed me that I could be an independent and intelligent force to be reckoned with. Carrie Fisher was so much more than just an iconic role. Creatively and personally, she changed lives with her words. Her honesty and courage to talk about mental health brought people hope, comfort, and laughter. She took her pain and turned it into something to make the world a better place. I thank her for empowering me to be outspoken, determined, and own my flaws and hardships while still having a sense of humor.
Debbie Reynolds, Fisher’s mother, died the day after her daughter. She was literally human sunshine. Few have beamed with such joy, hopefulness and delight. Everyone loved her as if they knew her, making her America’s original sweetheart. In a time where movies provided a much needed escape, Reynolds took each audience member by the hand and helped them forget their troubles, even if just for a bit. Moviegoers are still sentimental about her work, especially “Singing in the Rain.” Watching her work instilled optimism in me. Stars like her are rarely found in Hollywood today. Reynolds merely wanted to make people smile. Beyond film, she was also one of the first people in Hollywood to advocate compassionately for mental health issues, which was a personal fight for her due to her daughter’s diagnosis. It absolutely breaks my heart that her final hours were spent in mourning for her daughter.
Lastly, I consider Mary Tyler Moore undoubtedly one of the finest role models for girls of any generation. I am forever in debt to this incomparable woman because her television work taught me so many vital life lessons. Both her work on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and her own program, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” presented female characters that were groundbreaking for their time. For example, on the former, sponsors were shocked that she wore pants while on the latter she played the first unmarried, career woman on American TV. As a child, I used to watch VHS tapes of the show religiously and was in complete awe of her character, Mary Richards. I admired her grace, independence, determination, vulnerability, compassion, wit, and infamous “spunk.” Moore herself has all of the qualities, as well. Just as this innovative show changed the course of television forever and created a feminist icon, I, too, was inspired to never give up on myself and my dreams. My goal in life is still to embody the show’s theme song. I have always kept a letter F on my wall, like Mary Richard’s M as a reminder that love is all around and that I’m going to make it after all. Now more than ever, my F shines brighter.
Each of these women have inspired me to be a better self that is independent, graceful, creative, and strong. It saddens me that future generations will not be able to experience their talent like I have; however, I believe their work will live on and inspire the women of tomorrow in new ways. Recent events show many answering the call for fearless female role models. I see the presence of Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds and Mary Tyler Moore in contemporary women who are brave enough to stand up for themselves and their sisters.