Melissa Harris-Perry, Sloane Crosley, and Crystal Renn. A political talk TV show host, a humor writer, and a supermodel. It seems these three women have nothing in common, but they do. They are all atop my very long list of girl crushes.
I’ve written about some of my girl crushes before, confessing my love for the likes of First Lady Michelle Obama, pop icon Beyonce, actresses Zoe Saldana and Scarlet Johansson, and broadcast journalist Soledad O’Brien. And lately it seems the girl crush has become some sort of phenomenon, regularly popping up in the media.
The “girl crush” may sound silly, but sometimes it takes something unserious to get us talking about a serious subject: the ambitions of young creative women and the need for worthy role models. Among my own nominees for inaugural members of the Girl Crush Hall of Fame are Zadie Smith, with her daring, brilliance, and wild success; Joan Didion, with her cool, spare prose; Patti Smith, with her soul and wisdom; Sofia Coppola, with her chic grace and unmistakable taste; and Tina Fey, with her goofy smile and razor wit. Each of them has accomplished something the rest of us dream of doing. And because they’ve done it, we feel we can too.
She’s right. We all need role models, not superheroes, but real people doing the very things we want to one day achieve. And girl crushes are exactly that.
Harris-Perry, an educator, black feminist writer, and host of The Melissa Harris-Perry Show on MSNBC, encourages me to hold fast to my feminist beliefs, even if they’re not always popular, and shows that I can and should find a way to make my voice heard. Sloane Crosley, author of I Was Told There’d Be Cake and How Did You Get This Number, is the model I look to as I dream of publishing a collection of essays. And Crystal Renn, plus-size supermodel and author of the memoir Hungry, motivates me to learn to love my body and write about my journey to self-acceptance once I’ve actually achieved it.
Furthermore, Harris-Perry and Renn both teach a lesson about the importance of platform. If you have something you believe in — whether it’s feminism, empowering racial minorities, or promoting healthy body image in women and realistic beauty standards in fashion — build a platform and get your voice heard. And you will find there are plenty of people out there who feel the same and were just waiting for someone to speak up.
Girl crushes can cultivate our creativity as they push us to work toward our artistic goals.
Thessaly la Force also argues that the prevalence of girl crushes could indicate a slight narrowing of the gender gap:
I can’t help but believe our current generation’s embrace of girl crushing signifies something larger: evidence that a professional world once dominated by men has evened out—maybe not totally, but to a reassuring degree. When Didion first set out to become a writer, she copied the sentences of Ernest Hemingway; today, my friends and I copy hers.
Young women dreaming of hosting their own political talk TV show no longer have to solely look to Larry King. They have women like Harris-Perry as role models too. And anyone who says women can’t be funny has clearly never read one of Crosley’s essays.