2016 Inspirational Peeps

By Denise Rhone, Age 30

Happy New Year!!!

The next twelve (now 11!) months hold endless possibilities, and I am so amped to venture deeper into who I am and what I can do.  But dreams need inspiration like lungs need air, so below you will find ten people that have breathed creative life into me over the years, and who I will continue to turn to for fresh O2. I Hope you find them inspiring too!

Without further ado, here are my 2016 inspirational peeps:

e253f370dc6d73d8ebe01dd83dc4f0391. TRACEE ELLIS ROSS

Profession: Actress, Producer

Why she inspires: What do you want to be when you grow up? Um–Tracee Ellis Ross, that’s what! From her wild hair, successful career, down-to-earth videos, awesome personality and thoughtful writing–this woman inspires me from all sides. I’ve loved her (and her outfits!) since she was “Joan” on Girlfriends, but it wasn’t until I discovered her personal side on her Youtube channel and “Musings” blog that I was totally taken by Ms. Ross (yup–daughter of Diana Ross).

Below is an excerpt from a piece she wrote titled, “Let’s Get Cheeky Part I.”

“May we each spend time getting to know and cherishing our bodies. May we honor the wisdom they hold. May we joyfully inhabit these sacred, beautiful, rhythmic bodies of ours in a way that is empowering and delightful. May we hold space for our sisters, daughters, mothers and aunts to do the same…”

Will definitely be taking my ongoing dose of Tracee this year.

India.Arie_in_2004_by_Chris_Hakkens2. INDIA ARIE

Profession: Singer, Songwriter

Why she inspires: Ah India. When my soul needs soothin’, all I gotta do is hit play. Seriously. Cadent strokes from her guitar coupled with lyrics that embody self-love and spirituality have uplifted me many times over. Top favorites include “Little Things”, “I Am Ready for Love”, “Brown Skin”, “Words”, “Beautiful”, and basically all her songs so what am I talking about I can’t pick favorites! And in moments when I question my beauty and value, she reminds me that,

I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am not your expectation…
I am the soul that lives within.”

Thank you India.

1401x788-732982423. LAURYN HILL

Profession: Singer, Rapper

Why she inspires:  O-M-G. That is the closest I come to describing this incredibly talented artist. Her album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, is one of my favorite albums of all time and will continue to be my go-to this year. On a side note, when my husband told me that he’d never truly listened to the album–I was like, oh heck-to-the-no. We cannot continue in this union like this! We gotta remedy this ASAP–babe, get the speakers out!

But back to Lauryn. She combines her experience, faith, culture, social consciousness, genuineness and genius to make art–all the ingredients I hope to embody in mine. I also love that she sings and raps. There aren’t many female rappers that I follow, and for me, Lauryn spits ¡FUEGO! while never compromising her dignity.  Ever heard her flow on Final Hour? No? Then c’mon, get the speakers out!

If you can handle the heat in your ears, listen to her full album. Amazing.

“Don’t be a hard rock when you really are a gem baby girl”–Lauryn Hill, “Doo Wop (That Thing)”

jrosariocondrey4. JOANN ROSARIO CONDREY

Profession: Singer, Pastor

Why she inspires: Honey child I definitely need my gospel music in 2016. But I’m very picky about what I listen to,  and I am so thankful I found Joann Rosario Condrey. My girl is a bilingual, down-to-earth, Puerto Rican (Boricua!) gospel singer who has serenaded me with beautiful worship music for a decade. And anyone who inspires me to be closer to God is just plain awesome in my book.  It was so empowering to find a Latina who I could identify with, and I am grateful not only for the music, but for her. Though she’s now married (and now I am too!) and a pastor, when I first discovered her she was a young, single woman living out her purpose, and it was just what this semi-bilingual Connecti-Rican needed in her life!

“Satisfy my soul with the best of heaven, satisfy my soul, with the fullness of Your love/
Saciame Señor con lo mejor del cielo, saciame Señor, con la grosura de tu amor.” -“Satisfy My Soul“, Donnie McClurkin and Joanne Rosario Condrey



Profession: Christian Spoken-Word Artist

Why she inspires: Yoooo!! Janette is the TRUTH. That is my first reaction when I think about her and I’m sticking to it. In 2012 I came across this video of this beautiful, bold poet rockin’ an orange ‘fro and uplifting women, and I was like, “Yoooo…(see above)”. She is just raw and talented and speaks her convictions with no reservations.

On her wedding day, she performed a spoken-word piece as her vows. It is a sequel to an original piece she wrote prior to meeting her husband (“I Will Wait for You”). Part II, titled, “I Waited for You”, touched me deeply because not only did I get to follow her personal testimony as it unfolded, but it speaks to my own stand in waiting for and later marrying my husband. Her vows capture her heart, her truth, her humanity, and showcases a woman who makes and keeps her standards.


junot_diaz26. JUNOT DIAZ

Profession: Author, Professor, Editor

Why he inspires:  “A writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.” -Junot Diaz

Please read this man’s work. I’ve read many novels in my life, but it wasn’t until I read The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao back in ’08 (thank you for introducing it Professor Solomon!) did I find an author who’s writing echoed my own style: a vibrant blend of urban/Spanish colloquialism with a sprinkle of sophisticated vocabulary (well in Diaz’s case, heaps of sophisticated vocabulary). It further inspired me to pursue writing in my OWN voice. No substitutions.

Diaz is of Dominican descent and is very vocal about social justice issues. Furthermore, he founded VONA Voices, a writing conference targeted to writers of color.

“Mother[bleep!]ers will read a book that is 1/3 evlish, but put two sentences in Spanish and they think we’re taking over” -Junot Diaz in response to the interview question, “Do you think using Spanish in your writing alienates some of your readers?”

blogger collage7 & 8. NAPTURAL85 & SUNKISS ALBA

Profession: YouTube Vloggers

Why they inspire: A way to a kinky-curly girl’s heart is through helpful tutorials on Youtube, and Naptural85 has got me in hair heaven. I have come away looking fierce after watching some of her videos. Heyyy! She is hands down a guru and hair goddess.

SunKissAlba is a curvy and curly-haired Latina vlogger who incorporates hair, make-up, fashion and health. I appreciate her holistic approach to beauty and have gotten great tips off her channel. Will definitely continue to draw hairspiration from both these ladies in 2016 *flips curly ‘fro*

54d1a3fd89f65_-_esq-baldwin9. JAMES BALDWIN

Profession:  Novelist, Essayist, Playwright, Poet, and Social Critic (deceased)

Why he inspires: Social justice is a fight, and I can’t enter 2016 without arsenal from the great James Baldwin. His words, both written and spoken, awe me, especially given the historical period they came out of. His body of work speaks for itself, still speaks today, and needs no validation from me.

So I’ll just leave this right here:


forcoloredgirls-300x28510. NTOZAKE SHANGE‘s For Colored Girls Who’ve Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enough

Why it inspires: This is specifically an inspirational piece written by an inspirational peep–but this phenomenal play has been with me since high school and I had to-HAD TO  list it. I’ve read, watched and performed in it several times, and it’s voice to women of color truly breathes creative life to my soul.

somebody/ anybody
sing a black girl’s song
bring her out
to know herself
to know you
but sing her rhythms
carin/ struggle/ hard times
sing her song of life
she’s been dead so long
closed in silence so long
she doesn’t know the sound
of her own voice
her infinite beauty
she’s half-notes scattered
without rhythm/ no tune
sing her sighs
sing the song of her possibilities
sing a righteous gospel
let her be born
let her be born
& handled warmly.

There are so many more inspiring people I could list, and so many more to discover.

So tell me–what peeps inspire you?

Young Women Rising encourages Connecticut women ages 18-35 to raise their voices about issues they care about. Each writer speaks for herself as an individual and Young Women Rising as a whole does not intend to endorse the views of any particular writer. If you’re interested in submitting a guest piece please contact us at Michelle.Noehren@cga.ct.gov.

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