16 inspiring women to watch in 2016
Grimes

2015 was a pretty great year for women. So great, in fact, that we’ve already made our case for why it should be remembered as the year of the feminist.

We’re very lucky to have a wealth of inspirational women to choose from and we predict that this year will be EVEN better.

Here is our pick of women to watch in 2016…

Music

Grimes

 

Who? Grimes is by no means a newcomer. But that’s not what this list is about. The Canadian artist – real name Claire Boucher – never fails to impress. Not only does she write, record, produce and perform her own material, she made it on to this year’s Forbes ‘Top 30 Under 30’ list. How she has the time, we’ll never know.

Why? Never one to adhere to the pop star mould, Grimes manages to maintain her own unique style and send a positive message to women everywhere. Her album Art Angels topped several ‘album of the year’ lists in 2015 – and bagged a spot in our own Top 5. She’s touring the UK in March, has been announced to appear at Coachella and is generally destined for a year of great things. Go Grimes.

Alessia Cara

Who? Alessia Cara is potentially the most hotly tipped female artist of 2016, having just bagged second place on the BBC’s Sound of 2016 list.

Why? Starting off by posting acoustic covers on YouTube, the R’n’B singer managed to garner plenty of well-deserved attention in 2015. The teenager released her first original recording ‘Here’ – which made it to an impressive 50,000 plays in 24 hours, and the US top 10. She’s set to take the UK by storm this year.

Girls Against

girls against

Who? Girls Against are “five intersectional feminists fighting against sexual assault at gigs.”

Why? After experiencing multiple, unrelated incidents of sexual assault at gigs last year, these five teenage music fans decided not just to sit back and take it. Setting up their Twitter account in the latter part of 2015, they have already racked up more than 10,000 followers and public support in the form of bands including Slaves, Peace and many others.

Providing an open platform to raise awareness and allow others the chance to share their experiences, these girls are the perfect example of what can be achieved when you set your mind to something. How many of us have felt unhappy about something, moaned about it, claimed that we will do something about it, then shrugged and admitted defeat. We are excited to see what 2016 brings for them. 

Read more: Groping at gigs is a real issue that we can’t just ignore

SOAK

SOAK

Who? Bridie Monds-Watson, better known as SOAK, is a 19 year old singer from Derry.

Why? Unnassuming and brilliant, this young talent released her debut album last year to massive critical acclaim. Before We Forgot How to Dream boasts a youthful and fresh outlook that resonated with critics enough to see it nominated for the Mercury Prize. While SOAK missed out this time, it gave her profile a massive and well-deserved boost and we predict brilliant things from her this year. She’s touring the UK in March.

Comedy

Sofie Hagen

Who? 23 year old Danish comedian Sofie Hagen has been building up a name for herself in the UK for her awkward comedy and honest interpretation of British customs and the English language.

Why? Hagen started performing stand-up in 2010, and spent the first two years of her career honing her craft in Denmark. After moving to London, she has steadfastly built up her fan base and now has a trail of glowing reviews and comedy awards behind her. She won the Edinburgh Comedy Award for best newcomer in 2015 and has been pinpointed as ‘one to watch’ at Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival 2016. Her funny, frank and often self-deprecating perspective on being a young Danish girl in the UK seems to ring true with British audiences.

We met her at in Edinburgh last year. Have a watch of the interview.

Michaela Coel

Who? Coel was cast as the lead in new Channel 4 comedy series Chewing Gum, playing 24 year old Beyoncé obsessed Tracy Gordon.

Why? The casting very much propelled Coel into the spotlight in 2015. Not only was the first series of Chewing Gum warmly received, it has been commissioned for a second series and one thing’s for sure: you will be seeing much more of this lady in future.

Mae Martin

mae martin

Who? Mae Martin is a pint-sized Canadian comedian who began writing and performing comedy at the tender age of 13. After building up her reputation on the Canadian circuit, Martin moved to the UK in 2010.

Why? Her frank and funny stand-up style deals with sexuality in an introspective but honest way. Martin gained much recognition this year in Edinburgh (and was one of our favourite comedians we met in the ‘WOW Wagon’) and is set to tour across the UK early this year. We expect that 2016 and onwards will bring big things for Ms. Martin.

Acting

Rebecca Root

BMG DVD signed for prizes. Just another day at the, um, office…

A photo posted by Rebecca Root (@rebeccaroot1969) on

Who? Rebecca Root is the star of BBC Two’s 2015 series Boy Meet Girl and was the first ever leading transgender performer in a BBC comedy.

What? Rebecca finally transitioned at the age of 33, and has spoken about her hopes that landing the role of Judy in Boy Meets Girl could change perceptions and acceptance of trans people in the UK, in a similar way that Laverne Cox has done in America with her role in Orange is the New Black. “We’ve had cisgender actors in trans roles for too long,” she told The Guardian. “It’s about time we had trans actors in trans roles.”

Root also became a patron of the LGBT awareness charity Diversity Role Models as a patron at the end of 2015.

Daisy Ridley

Rey The Force Awakens

Who? Best known for what was potentially the biggest breakthrough role of 2015, Ridley played the part of Rey, the first ever female Jedi and the lead role in the all-conquering blockbuster Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Why? Not only was this a huge positive step for women in film, the critics unanimously agreed that Rey was the star of the show. 2016 is sure to hold big things for this London-born actress. She’ll have a busy schedule filming Episode VIII, but look out for more role announcements outside of the Star Wars universe, as she becomes an A-list name.

Bel Powley

Bel Powley - Getty Images

Who? Bel Powley is a 22 year old actress, best known for her starring role in last year’s The Diary of a Teenage Girl.

Why? Not only is Powley an impressive on-screen talent, she’s committed to starting a conversation about teenage female sexuality. “I related to the concept and wanted to be a part of a conversation that made it OK for young women to have sexual feelings,” she has said. “I hope to teach people that it’s fine to make mistakes because they will learn from them, to be who they are, and to learn to love their bodies.”

This year is set to be even busier for the young actress, with four films in the pipeline.

Humanities and Politics

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai

Who? Pakistani born Malala Yousafzai is an activist for female education and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate.

Why? After standing up to the Taliban in an unbelievably courageous fight to continue her education, Malala’s story has become known worldwide and she is now an inspiration for girls worldwide.

“There’s certainly going to be another chapter,” said Davis Guggenheim, director of the critically acclaimed film about Malala’s story. “She has the capability to do anything – she has the bravery, the moral courage, the intelligence. I would say the only risk would be to underestimate her. She is the full package.”

Amy Peake

Who? Amy Peake is the founder of Loving Humanity UK – a non-profit organisation which focuses on providing sanitary equipment to women in refugee camps. Not only does the organisation aim to provide sanitary care, it has to potential to create lots of jobs and a self-sufficient way in which women affected by the refugee crisis can make sanitary pads, using a machine.

Why? After seeing a picture of families queuing for food at a refugee camp in Damascus, Peake asked herself how she would deal with it if she was there?  “How would I cope with no food, no water, no shelter, no access to medicine?” she thought.  “How would I deal with all of this – and then on top have my period with no sanitary towels? Panic springs to mind.”

But rather than just have the thought, Peake decided to do something about it, and If that’s not inspirational, what is? You can find out more about her work here. 

Mhairi Black

Who? 21 year old SNP politician Mhairi Black is the youngest person elected to the House of Commons for over 350 years. Black was 19 when she joined the party and only 20 when she swiped the seat of Paisley and Renfrewshire South from Labour’s Douglas Alexander.

Why? Whatever your thoughts on Scottish Independence, nobody can deny that Mhairi Black is an impressive politician and a breath of fresh air – age and gender aside. We can’t wait to see what the new year brings for her.

Culture

Jillian Mercado

Who? If you don’t know who Jillian Mercado is by now, where have you been hiding? The fashion blogger and model made waves when she was used in a Diesel campaign in 2014. As a wheelchair user, Mercado had doubted that a modelling career would be possible.

Why? How wrong was she? The 26 year old suffers from muscular dystrophy which has confined her to a wheelchair. In August 2015, she was signed up to modeling agency IGM, whilst continuing to blog and work as a fashion editor. It looks 2016 is going to be another pretty great year for Miss Mercado.

Bambi

A photo posted by Bambi (@bambiartist) on

Who? This London based street artist has been described as “an ardent feminist who she got a taste for graffiti at a very young age and who sees her artwork as a social crusade.” Not exactly a new name in the arts world, with her work being bought by the likes of Kanye West, Bambi has fought to remain anonymous – not wanting her identity to get in the way of what she does.

Why? Bambi’s success and notoriety just looks set to keep on climbing. Her indifference to wealth and fame is refreshing, and, crucially, her art work is great too.

The fact that she is often described as the “female Banksy” does not sit well with her. And in fact she prefers to refer to him as the “male Bambi.”

Mona Awad

Awad at Allen's. #MonaAwad #13WaysofLookingataFatGirl #booklove

A photo posted by Nicole Winstanley (@nicolewinstanley) on

Who? Mona Awad currently pursuing a PhD in creative writing and English literature at the University of Denver. Her work has been published in several journals but this February will see the release of her first debut novel: 13 Ways of Looking At A Fat Girl.

Why? Putting down in black and white the thoughts that most women have had at some stage or other, Awad’s book examines the struggles of womanhood from body image to relationships and everything in between. An honest, no-holds barred debut, and surely not her last.

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