In her last book, Visionary Women (Assouline), Angella Nazarian explores what made women such as Miuccia Prada, Marie Curie or Malala Yousafsai so successful. Some incredible lessons for our own lives and sources of inspiration to “lean in” !
What is visionary women about ?
Angella Nazarian: Visionnary women is about unleashing the powerful voices of women all around the world and learning from their life example. My background is in psychology; I was a psychology professor and one of the most important finding i made is that the best way to transform life is through the life stories of others, through storytelling. It is about what we can learn from their life and what we can incorporate for our own life. I look at women from all over the world, from different backgrounds, working in different disciplines and trying to understand what are the common treads of all these women that made them successful.
What are the common points between a Marie Curie, a Miuccia Prada and a Malala?
Angella Nazarian: Interestingly enough they are are many commons treads, the first and most important one is the fact that these women where deemed as outsiders in their field. When you want to inject a new prospective into a field, a fresh kind of thinking, it usually comes from people that aren’t well entrenched in that discipline. When you think about Madame Curie. First of all, she was someone from another country who came to France. She was the only woman in her department and when she had this intuition about the nature of matter nobody would listen to her.
When you think of Malala, this is a girl who is not supposed to have a voice and she is injecting in her voice, in a deeply patriarcal society, talking about education. For Miuccia Prada, i love the fact that she has a PHD in Political Sciences so she was not a fashionista and she says as well “i am not in the business of fashion”. She is trying to look and conceptualise what is the idea of beauty in women.
What are their main qualities?
Angella Nazarian: The most important one is having courage and i think that courage means that you come and stand up. You stand up in your life and you are ready to take a chance without knowing what the final destination is. Another thing they had in common is that they were very well aware of their strengths. When women know exactly where are their talents and strengths, they concentrate on that more than on their weaknesses, they have a much more fulfilling life, personal life and career life. Finally with their vision and their enthousiasm these women pulled other people into their field of vision so they were able to bring other women into their movement to support them and were also “ok” to face disapproval.
Some of the women featured started a meaningful life in their forties ?
Angella Nazarian: Some of them said that they had to do some leaving in order to really understand what their true passion was. Women in their forties can benefit from their experiences of their life and from all the skills that they’ve learnt in their prior experiences and i can definitely say that around 65% of the women that i interviewed said that their second part of their life were far more influential and productive than their first half of their life. It is a great message for all women to really always ever know that every seven years you go into a transformation and that your biggest transformation can happen at mid life of later.
Those women also knew more about who they were, their talents?
Angella Nazarian: Yes, they had a kind of self awareness which often happen during midlife, you really try to assess, if i have another forty years left, what do i want to really do? How am i going to be happy? What makes me happy and how can i contribute to that? .
Did those women had mentors ?
For many of these women their mentors were their fathers. Funny enough a male figure telling them in their early life that their are intelligent capable goes a long way. There was really somebody who really believed in them and saw that seed of growth in them and nurtured it.
Who was the woman who inspired you?
Angella Nazarian: I am an iranian woman and i spent the first 11 years of my life in Iran and then moved to the United States. I have to say that when i was younger, the only person that i marvel in my own family was a distant relative who was the first woman to have a first very successful education institution in Iran and was very involved in the government for women’s rights. She was a person that i looked up. What i learnt from my early chilhood is that all these women were very very strong, my mum, my sister. I took those attribute to the United States so many options were available to me.