My name is Marc Bushelle and I’m a Brooklyn based photographer. I have been recreating photos of heroines with my wife Janine and our 5-year-old daughter Lily. We started this photo series as a way to teach Lily about history and these heroines in a fun and creative way. We didn’t want to only cover the usual picks but also wanted to include some unexpected women that were trailblazers in their own right.
Lily As Mae Jemison
Dr. Mae Jemison was the first African American woman to get accepted in NASA astronaut training program. She was also the first to go into outer space abroad the Endeavor in 1992. She had been a Peace Corp volunteer and was working as a doctor when she was inspired by Sally Ride to change careers. She said, “never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations” and she reached for the stars.
Lily As Mother Teresa
Born in Macedonia, Mother Teresa became a nun at 18 year old. While serving in India, she received a “call within a call” which told her she needed to live among the poor and create her own order Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta. She wore a blue and white sari and dedicated her life to helping the poor and sick. She was able to travel the world and treat people of many different faiths. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for her work. The order she founded still operates in many parts of the world including the Mott Haven section of the Bronx. When asked what we can do to promote world peace she responded, “go home and love your family.
Lily As Malala
You don’t have to be old to make history. Malala Yousafzai was born in Pakistan in 1997. When the Taliban gained control of her area, they banned the education of girls. Malala was raised in a family that valued education so she used her words to fight them. She spoke out against them and, eventually, gained the attention of foreign media. One day the Taliban came looking for her, busting into her school van asking, “Who is Malala?” When she identified herself, a fearful man shot her three times in the head but she survived. She had to be airlifted out of the country and recovered from her injuries in the UK. On her sixteenth birthday, she addressed the United Nations about the need to educate all children all over the world. She told the packed room, “ So here I stand, one girl among many. I speak not for myself but for those without voice can be heard.” Her birthday, July 14th, has been dubbed Malala Day and has become an international call to action for the education of girls. She became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.
Lily As Grace Jones
Grace Jones was born in Spanish Town, Jamaica but moved with her family to New York when she was twelve years old. Born into a very strict religious family, Jones would rebel and go on to become a model, musician and muse. Her androgyny, sharp cheekbones and fearlessness caught the attention of many when she danced in the legendary Studio 54 or stalked the catwalks of New York and Paris. She inspired designers like Helmut Lang and artist like Andy Warhol and Keith Haring. She was James Bond villain named May Day in “A View to a Kill” and starred in Conan the Barbarian with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Hits like Slave to the Rhythm and Pull Up to My Bumper display her vocal range and her ability to be present stunning and thought-provoking imagery to the world. People still look to her for inspiration because in a world of derivatives, she is a true original.
Lily As Admiral Michelle J. Howard
On July 1, 2014, Michelle J. Howard made history by becoming the first female four star admiral in the US Navy and the highest ranking black woman in the military. She was referenced in the Tom Hanks movie “Captain Phillips” because Admiral Howard played a role in rescuing the actual Captain Phillips from Somali pirates. She was raised in a military family in Aurora, CO. In 1982, Howard graduated from the US Naval Academy. She earned a master’s degree from Army’s Command and General Staff College in 1998. Her current ranking was not the first time she made history. When she took command of the US warship, the USS Rushmore, in 1999 she became the first woman to do so. In an interview to ABC News, she described piloting the huge ship as “fun”. Never shying from a challenge, Howard has vowed to make tackling sexual assault within the Navy an important issue to allow others to achieve their goals.
Lily As Toni Morrison
Born Chole Worfford Toni Morrison was raised in Lorain, Ohio. Morrison became the first Black woman to win a Nobel Prize in literature for her novel Beloved. Other titles included The Bluest Eye, a novel which began as a short story in a writing group at Howard University where she did her undergraduate work. She went on to get a Masters at Cornell. In her work as an editor for Random House, she was instrumental in promoting the works of other Black authers such as Toni Cade Bambara and Angela Davis. She shepherded other young writers as a professor at Howard and Princeton. She is known for the lyrical proses that she uses to tackle compkex issuse like the psychological impact of slavery and colorism in the Black community. In 2012 Barack Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Lily As Misty Copeland
Misty Copeland is an American Ballet Theater soloist whose career began in a San Pedro, CA Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Her start in dance, at 13, was late by ballet standards but she was a true prodigy. She went from knowing nothing to dancing en pointe in three months. Ballet was very structured but her home life was complicated. Her parents divorced when she was three and there was a lot of instability. She was taken in by a family who was able to support her budding career. Ignoring criticism that she was the wrong shade and shape to be a ballerina she focused on technical excellence. Her dedication and natural ability allowed her to silence the critics. She was the first Black ballerina to dance the role of the Firebird for a major company. It was a role which became her signature and the title of her inspirational children’s book. In an interview with “The Washington Post”, she reminds people, “you want to feel accepted, but you don’t have to look like everyone around you, you don’t have to follow the exact same path as someone before you.”
Lily As Nina Simone
Nina Simone was born Eunice Waymon in Tryon, NC. She displayed musical talent early on when she started playing the piano by ear at 3. Her mother cleaned houses for a woman who would become her benefactor providing formal piano lessons which introduced her to Johann Sebastian Bach and other classical masters. Despite her undeniable talent, she was not selected for a scholarship at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. To support herself, she began to teach students and play other people’s songs in nightclubs. Her brilliant improvisations and vocal stylings started getting her noticed. The song “Mississippi Goddam” came about as a result of her anger over the assassination of Medgar Evers and the church bombing in Birmingham that killed four little girls and began the sharp departure she would take from popular music. She mingled with all the great Black minds of her time James Baldwin, Malcolm X, Stokley Carmichael but it was her friendship with playwright Lorraine Hansbery led to the creation of the anthem “ To Be Young, Gifted and Black”. Dubbed “The High Priestess of Soul”, she put out 40 albums in her lifetime. Her performances drew on a lot of musical genres like blues, gospel and folk to create a new type of American classical music. On stage, she presented herself as the epitome Afrocentric regality which challenged and continue to challenge predominant standards of beauty. She was not afraid to call on her contemporaries and her audiences to act. Her legacy continues to inspire. Most recently, singer John Legend started his Oscar acceptance speech with a quote by Simone stating, “it’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times in which we live.”
Lily As Shirley Chisholm
Shirley Chisholm was born in Brooklyn but she did her early schooling with her grandmother in Barbados. She came back and attended the prestigious Girls’ High School. She excelled in politics and debating at Brooklyn College. Afterwards, she became a nursery school teacher, earning her Masters at Columbia University and later an advocate for early education. When a position became available, she stepped up to the New York State Assembly. That led to her running for Congress in 1969 with the campaign slogan “Unbossed And Unbought”. She won and became the first Black woman to be elected to Congress. She went to DC representing Brooklyn and balked when the powers that be sought to put her on the Agriculture Committee which she felt did not have much to do with her community. However, connecting with people despite differences was something that helped to make her effective. A rabbi in Crown Heights, whose support she had sought, gave her advice which led to her creating the WIC program with U.S. Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kansas). She was a politician who stood for integrity and accountability to her constituency. Because of this in January 1972, she announced her candidacy for president becoming the first black woman to do so. While her political achievements were historic and impressive, Chisholm said she preferred to be remembered as, “a black woman who lived in the 20th century and dared to be herself”.
Lily As Queen Latifah
History now includes hip hop. A young woman from Newark demanded the world called her Queen when it wanted to call her anything but that. She was born Dana Owens but selected the name Latifah which means delicate and sensitive in Arabic. Her first album “All Hail The Queen” dropped in 1989. Hits like “Ladies First” brought feminist and Afrocentric themes to the forefront and provided a powerful counterpoint to misogyny in hip hop. Her acting career began with a memorable turn as a surly waitress in “Jungle Fever”. She would find other roles in the sitcom “Living Single” and the movie “Set It Off”. She was nominated for an Academy Award for her role as Mama Morton in “Chicago”. She became a spokes-model for “Cover Girl” releasing the Queen collection providing makeup for women of color. She received numerous accolades including a Golden Globe. She hosted her own talk show in 1999-2001 and again in 2013. Queen Latifah won a Grammy for U.N.I.T.Y. which became an anthem for treating women with respect.
Lily As Bessie Coleman
Bessie Coleman, was first African American to hold an international pilot license and the first African American woman to pilot a plane in the US. Unable to become a pilot in the US, she studied French and went to Europe. When she returned to the US she became a sensation for her ability to do barrel rolls, wing walks and her loop-de-loop trick aviation.
Lily As Josephine Baker
As a young girl Josephine Baker was servery impacted by the violence of the race riots she witnessed in her hometown of St Louis, MO. Her ability to sing and dance led her to her joining a vaudeville troupe which brought her to New York City. Sensing limitations, she went to Paris to star in “La Revue Negre” and became the show’s breakout star. She is the most famous for her risque banana dance. But as her popularity grew throughout France and the rest of Europe, she still remained concerned about the plight of black people in America. She used her celebrity to demand that the venues in the US that she performed at were not segregated. She was one of the few women who spoke at the 1963 March on Washington alongside Martin Luther King. For her work as a spy in World War II, she was the first American woman awarded France’s top military honors.