Honoring Women’s History Month in Movies: Female Celebrities That Re-Define Star Status

It’s women’s history month, and even though we should always take the opportunity to honor the great achievements of female celebrities, we’re taking time to shine an even brighter light on actresses around the globe that may not be known to some of you.

Female celebrities have made a profound impact on the entertainment industry both as actresses and viewers. But unfortunately, female actresses are not always heralded in the same way as their male counterparts.

In the past, only a small number of films had female leads that were responsible for carrying the bulk of the movie’s storyline on their shoulders. This exclusion created a gender gap and a type of Hollywood “boy’s club” that was continually criticized for presenting weak female characters who were relegated to the creative shadows and given secondary, or overly sexualized roles that didn’t add to the heart of the main story.

But thankfully, the 21st century is starting to evolve when it comes to women and film, and women-driven movies are more prevalent and have become a financial boon for studios.

This financial spike can be attributed to three things: 1) casting interesting, talented and compelling female celebrities; 2) writing storylines that appeal to and address the reality of all types of women; and 3) having the unwavering support of female directors and producers, plus women viewers of all ages, races and walks of life who finally have onscreen images that reflect their full-scale and diverse lives.

Women flexed their box office muscle and helped actress Amy Schumer’s R-rated runaway hit Trainwreck rack up $138 million worldwide; while pushing Melissa McCarthy’s undercover comedy, Spy all the way to a whopping worldwide cumulative box office of $236 million. That’s the real definition of girl power.

Film studios have also upped the number of female leads being cast in dramatic movies with compelling and complex plotlines that became some of the most critically acclaimed films of the year. Just recently, in the 2015 hit film Room, Brie Larson took home an Oscar for her raw and searing performance of a battered and weary, yet tough and determined young mother who, along with her young son, escapes years-long captivity by an abusive, misogynistic stranger.

Here is our list of 10 female celebrities who rule the world in more ways than one.  These international actresses are not only living the definition of diversity in their own lives, but they are also bringing the beautiful collage of multiculturalism and acting excellence to the big screen.

TOP GLOBAL FEMALE CELEBRITIES

Zhang Ziti (age 37)

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Femme Facts: Zhang Ziyi is an incredibly talented and beautiful Chinese actress that is considered one of the Four Dan Actresses of China, meaning she is considered one of the four top-grossing actresses from Mainland China.

Breakout Film: In 2000, Ziyi starred in one of my favorite films, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.

Her performance as Yu Jiao Long was electrifying and introduced her to the Western world. And although Ziyi looked extremely badass in the film’s exciting fight scenes, she doesn’t actually know Chinese martial arts, but rather utilized her extensive and expert level acrobatic and dancing background to make the fight choreography look real. For the role, she received BAFTA and Independent Spirit Award nominations.

Girl Empowered: After 2000, Ziyi continued to expand her acting roles and transitioned into the American culture with her role in Rush Hour 2. This was her first American film and Ziyi did not speak English, but thankfully her good friend Jackie Chan was also in the film and helped her with Chinese to English translations. She eventually taught herself English by listening to rapper, Eminem. She had no reference for the connotation of the English language or rap music and was later quoted saying, “Later, I understood how rude the lyrics were.”  Additionally, Zhang is a Global Ambassador for the Special Olympics and a spokesperson for the Chinese-based foster-home program “Care for Children”.

Omotola Jalade Ekeinde (age 38)

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Femme Facts: The queen of Nollywood, Nigera’s booming film industry, is not only a actress, singer, and businesswoman, Ekeinde is also a dedicated social activist who was named Ambassador to the United Nations World Food Programme in 2005 that sent her on missions to Sierra Leone and Liberia. Last year, she received recognition from global humanitarian organization Amnesty International for her tireless efforts to make Africa and the world a better place.

Breakout Film: In 1995 she was given the lead role in Venom of Justice, directed by Reginald Ebere. This role led to a bigger role in Mortal Inheritance, which was released the same year and is regarded as one of the best Nigerian films ever made. In the film she plays a Sickle cell patient fighting for her life. Since then, she’s been in over 300 movies, becoming one of Nigeria’s top movie stars.

Girl Empowered: There is not much that this woman can’t do, including getting over 1 million likes on her Facebook page and being named by Time magazine as one of the top 100 influential people in the world. “Omosexy,” a nickname given to her by her husband, is part of “New Nollywood,” a movement to increase the quality of Nigerian films.

Golshifteh Farahani (age 32)

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Femme Facts: Before leaving Iran for France, Farahani was part of an underground rock band called “Kooch Neshin” which translates to “Nomads”.

Breakout Film: At the tender age of 14, the Iranian actress won Best Actress from the International Section of the 16th Fajr International Film Festival in Tehran, for her role in The Pear Tree In this 1998 film, Farahani received global praise for her playful and tender portrayal of “M”, a free-spirited teen who was once the object of desire of the film’s main character, a writer (and cousin of “M”) whose childhood memories are sparked by the sight of an old “pear tree” on the family property. To this day, the film is hailed as one of the greatest films of Iran.

Girl Empowered: Despite her amazing acting talent, Farahani is not welcomed in her homeland of Iran. This is the result of her 2012 nude appearance in a short promo video for the Cesár Awards, which is the French equivalent to the American Oscars. In the promo, each actor/actress featured takes off an article of clothing to show they’ve committed their body and soul to their art. Farahani chose to show her right breast, saying in the promo, “I will put flesh to your dreams”. The video, and the backlash from her home country started a huge discussion around divisions in Iranian society. The actress was banished from the country and called an embarrassment. While she compared her exile from Iran to “death,” this brave actress has now found peace in her new country, France, where she says she’s never felt more appreciated as a woman. Farahani also donned the role of “Nefertari” in the 2014 film Exodus: Gods and Kings directed by Ridley Scott.

In 2017, you’ll be able to catch her in the Disney franchise behemoth, Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.

Shannon Baker (age 32)

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Femme Facts: She was born in Stellat’en First Nation reservation, British Columbia, Canada, and is of the Carrier tribe. She was raised by her grandmother who made sure that Baker and her twin sister Shauna (known as the “Baker Twins”) were raised under the proud traditions of the First Nations people. When Baker was just a little girl, a tribal elder covered her little hands in bee honey which they believed would give her strong artistic abilities. She vowed to bring pride to her tribe in everything that she did and when Playboy offered her a lucrative deal to appear in their magazine, Baker quickly turned it down. She also competed in the 2007 Miss Universe Canada Pageant.

Breakout Performance: Her breakthrough as an actress in America came in 2006 when she (alongside Shauna) was featured on the television series Smallville. In 2015, she also appeared in the long-running series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Girl Empowered: Baker is also known as Carrier Dene and is not only a beautiful face, but she’s also a motivational speaker for the youth and one of the loudest voices when it comes to the lack of representation of Native Americans and First Nations people in the entertainment industry.

Baker has appeared in numerous films and is slated to star in the 2017 film, The Red Man’s View, a remake of D.W. Griffith’s 1909 classic silent film of the same name that pays homage to the plight of the Native American Indians during the Civil War. Baker is also one of the Associate Producers of the film.

Lupita Nyong’o (age 33)

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Femme Facts: The Kenyan actress/director, who was born in Mexico, has a master’s degree in acting from the Yale School of Drama, and was named “The Most Beautiful Woman” by People in 2014.

Breakout Film: While many of the films in this blog you’ll have to look up, you probably recognize Lupita’s name and face from the 2013 critically-acclaimed historical epic, 12 Years a Slave. Nyong’o found out that she had landed the role just weeks before graduating from Yale. The film was based on the 1853 slave narrative memoirs of Solomon Northrup, a New York African American who was born free, but was kidnapped and sold into slavery. In the film, Solomon became her protector, but he couldn’t save himself or Patsey from the demoralizing evils of slavery. Nyong’o immersed herself completely in the role and for her steadied and masterful portrayal of “Patsey”, the long-suffering but spiritually strong slave who was repeatedly assaulted by her sadistic slave owner, “Nyong’o won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Girl Empowered: She is not only a talented actress, but a critically acclaimed filmmaker as well. In 2009, she directed, edited, and produced the documentary In My Genes which told the story of Kenyans living with albinism, which is a defect of melanin production that causes the skin to lose it natural pigmentation.

Nyong’o also raised HIV awareness when she became the star of Shuga an MTV/UNICEF- backed television series that investigates sexual relationships among youth in Nairobi.

Carolina Tejera (age 39)

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Femme Facts: The Venezuelan actress/model is known for her star role as Eva Granados in the telenovela, Gata Salvaje.
Breakout Performance: The role that got her career started was as Angela in the RCTV (Radio Carcas Television) series: Volver a vivir, a very popular Venezuelan telenovela. It lasted for 127 episodes and is one of the country’s most famous series.

Girl Empowered: She’s one of Venezuela’s most beautiful and famous female celebrities, appearing in nearly 20 film and TV series. Her mother is from Spain and her father is from Mexico. Want to take a guess at her favorite film? Considering her sexy image, I’m quite sure that you probably didn’t guess that Tejera’s favorite film is: The Passion of the Christ.

Audrey Tautou (age 39)

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Femme Facts: This French actress/model is considered a fashion icon by the press and is the face of many ad campaigns including L’Oreal and Montblanc.

Breakout Film: Tautou received international fame for her performance in the French film Amelie, which is the highest grossing French language film released in the United States. The film tells the sweet story of a shy waitress (played beautifully by Tautou) who goes out of her way to help other people improve their lives, even though her own life is in disarray. It won a slew of international awards, and was nominated for five Academy Awards. The film is currently being adapted into a Broadway musical.

Girl Empowered: Unlike most international actresses who receive acclaim, Tautou has repeatedly turned down offers from American filmmakers. However, she did appear in the 2006 Tom Hanks thriller The Da Vinci Code, but she mostly sticks to French language films . Even though Tautou is a highly respected actress in America, she has repeatedly refused to move to LA and prefers to base her career in her home country of France. In 2009, the highly sought-out actress and model parlayed both her strong suits and played fashion designer Coco Chanel in the film Coco avant Chanel (Coco Before Chanel).

Tatou played the lead role in the biopic, which nabbed four BAFTA Awards nominations. Her performance reminded audiences of how both Chanel and Tautou have continued to exemplify the modern day and sophisticated woman.

Fumi Nakaido (age 21)

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Femme Facts: In 2014, The New York Asian Film Festival named this talented Japanese actress “International Rising Star”. That same year, she was touted by Variety as an “International Star You Should Know”.

Breakout film:  Her star began to quickly rise after her 2011 performance as an abused girlfriend in the film Himizu.

In the film Nakaido portrays a young, disillusioned adolescent in love with a young man who is tetering on the brink of insanity and murder after his parents abandon him and their business in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster that had actually happened in 2008. Nakaido was praised for her subtle interpretation of her multifaceted character and when the film screened at the Venice film festival, Nakaido won the award for “Best Young Actress”.

Girl Empowered: Nakaido speaks fluent English and is very aware of her image, stating in a tweet that she wants to lose her reputation for being strange and eccentric, tweeting “normal is best, but normal is hard”. In a 2014 Variety article, it was revealed that she is a fan of the Sex Pistols and that she enjoys binging on classic films and Manga, comic books published in Japan that utilize lettering and black and white formatting reminiscent of 19th Century Japanese art.

Ana de Armas (age 27)

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Femme Facts: This Cuban actress first gained success when she was only 16, starring in the Spanish film, Una rosa de Franci with Alex Gonzalez.

Breakout Film:  Ana’s breakout role was in the 2015 film Knock, Knock directed by Eli Roth. In this erotic suspense thriller, de Armas plays the role of Bel, a dangerous and beautiful woman who, along with a friend, knock on a stranger’s door under the pretense of being lost; and once invited in by the home owner (played by Keanu Reeves), the two women proceed to torture him.
Girl Empowered: Ana de Armas has been working hard and her efforts are paying off. She has four films slated for release in 2016, including: Exposed, a crime thriller starring Keanu Reeves; and Hands of Stone, a sports biopic in which she will star alongside Robert De Niro.

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (age 42)

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Femme Facts:  Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is the belle of Bollywood and she was also Miss World 1994. She is one of the only actresses to have endorsed both Pepsi and Coca-Cola and she has starred in over 40 films.  She is also one of India’s top grossing film stars with a net worth of over $35 million.

Breakout Film:  Bachchan’s breakout film was the 1997 film, Iruvarfor which she received rave reviews for her performance.

That same year, she appeared in her first Bollywood film Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya and won the “Star Screen Award for Most Promising Newcomer – Female” and the “Best Female Debutant Award” which is the Indian equivalent to the Oscar.

Girl Empowered:  In 2008, Bachchan appeared in the blockbuster movie, Jodhaa Akbar and it made Hindi cinema history when it was one of India’s highest grossing films ever, pulling in a half billion rupee, which is the equivalent of $15 million US dollars.  The film was released across 25 countries in 1,500 screens worldwide and was dubbed into Tamil, Telegu, Dutch and Arabic. Bachchan and her co-star’s sizzling chemistry and master class acting were credited with the movie’s worldwide success and acceptance.  But, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is more than just “the most beautiful woman in the world,” she is also a global humanitarian who cares deeply about bettering the lives of the people of India and the world. She is a Goodwill Ambassador for the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) and in 2003, she was the first Indian actress to be a jury member at the Cannes Film Festival.  Her philanthropic and social activism were rewarded and in 2009, she received the “Padma Shri”, the fourth highest civilian award in the Republic of India. This honor is awarded to citizens of India in recognition of their distinguished contribution to their community and country in various fields of interest, including the Arts, Education, Literature, Science, Sports, Medicine, Social Service and Public Affairs.   After a 5-year hiatus, Bachchan starred in the 2015 action film Jazbaa and will star in two films, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Sarabjitwhich are slated to hit the screens this year.

Margot Robbie (age 25)

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Femme Facts:  This Australian actress worked three jobs at the same time when she was just 16 years old in order to help her single mother pay bills and other expenses for her and her 3 siblings.

Breakout Film: The film that brought Robbie worldwide fame was the 2013 film, The Wolf Of Wall Street, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring recent Oscar winner, Leonardo DiCaprio. In the film, Robbie played the spunky wife to bombastic character “Jordan Belfort” (played by DiCaprio) and her stellar performance mixed with a spot-on Brooklyn accent brought her praise from critics across the board. The film went on to gross $392 million and was nominated for five Academy Awards.

Girl Empowered: Robbie began acting at the age of 17 and has never looked back. She is also a big hockey fan and claims the Rangers as her favorite team of all time. Even though she’s from the outback, she learned to play ice hockey in Australia and now that she’s Stateside, she plays right wing for an unnamed amateur female hockey team.  But, acting is her main activity and after landing a huge co-starring role in the 2015 film Focus alongside A-lister Will Smith, Robbie has been quite busy. She can be seen in the recently released Tina Fey film Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot; she’s slated to star as “Jane Porter” in the upcoming action adventure movie, The Legend of Tarzan; and you’ll also be able to catch her in the highly anticipated DC Comics superhero film, The Suicide Squad.

There are so many great female celebrities around the globe and the awesome names listed above represent only a handful of talented international actresses who are bringing honor, beauty and adept acting abilities to the stories of women around the world.

 

 

 

 

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