Role Models

Some things will always change: the weather, the latest fashion trends and role models. Growing up I had a multitude of role models but now in hindsight I looked up to them for all the wrong reasons. Lusting for fame and fortune in my younger years I often looked up to celebrities and artists in magazines and on TV for inspiration and motivation. I realise now how that had a major impact on my mentality because to think that these celebrities would inspire or even motivate me was utterly counter-intuitive; they made me question how I looked and what it meant to be a young woman for all the wrong reasons. Their success didn’t inspire me to improve myself or arouse any ambitions for me to change humanity for the better. And I realised it wasn’t only because their lives were supremely unrealistic to mine but because the majority didn’t inspire themselves to do the same. It was only in my early teens I realised how blind I had been and I realised who my forever role model was: my mom.

It’s incredibly difficult to express or even summarise the love I have for my mom or all the things she has done for me. She has sacrificed so much for my happiness, health and education. She is unbelievably thoughtful. On my birthday, she always has balloons or something special at the end of my bed. She has been there with me through all my hard times and she’s my number one fan.

As well as this, my mom works relentlessly. Early mornings, late nights and working on the weekends is a very familiar timetable for my mom. In between all her work she has earned a master and a PhD. While most days I see my mom as someone who just gives out about unfinished chores, I sometimes take a moment to look at her in awe; how the hell has she done all of this and still do it? This is exactly what drives me to best the best person I can be.

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I think this applies universally too because love or hate your mom, she is the one who brought you into this world. The love between a mother and her child is unparalleled to any other kind of love in this world. When your mom gave birth to you, her love for you was instant. From that moment, she knew she would do anything to make you the best you could be and love you no matter what. 

Isn’t it strange how the most ordinary of people can become the most inspirational?

As a young girl, Malala Yousafzai wanted to become a doctor but faced a hurdle of accessing education. Malala grew up in Pakistan, where the Taliban banned girls from enrolling in further education. Enraged by this, Malala spoke out against the Taliban and became an activist for women’s education. Death threats from the Taliban lead to an incident on her way home from school: a masked gunman boarded her school bus and shot Malala in the head. Although she was critically injured, Malala survived and continued to stand up for what she believed in. She set up a school in Lebanon for Syrian refugee girls aged 14-18. She has received countless awards for her efforts and is the youngest person to ever win a Nobel Peace Prize


Serena Williams has broken unhealthy stigma against the appearance of female athletes and how playing “like a girl” is powerful. On the verge of 36 years of age, Serena Williams has won 23 grand slam titles. This is more than Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. What’s that I hear you say about paying “like a girl”? Consider the fact that she has earned these titles through constant hurdles: a knee surgery, a clot in her lung and the loss of her half-sister. Did I mention she won her most recent grand slam while pregnant?

Serena is frequently scrutinised by the media for her strong body shape. While she admits that she didn’t feel confident with her strong body shape, she counteracted her doubts and embraced her strong physique, breaking the stereotype of what female athletes and beauty should look like.

We have paired up this month with XINLELU X KUNMANMA for this August issue of empowering and redefining women. XINLELU X KUNMANMA’s new collection offers a chic, sophisticated and audacious look that aims to redefine and empower Shanghai women as they carry on in their daily busy lives.


KUNMANMA was founded 5 years ago by Fiona Ma. After studying architecture at university, she persevered into the world of fashion; KUNMANMA was born, a brand that represents the redefined women of Shanghai: fun yet sophisticated, playful yet elegant, sharp yet feminine.

“A powerful woman is a survivor, a leader and an adventurer with free will and self-awareness.

I don’t have a specific role model. I have met many amazing women who I consider as my role model. They are self-disciplined, well-organised, perseverant, motivated, and free-willed.”

—— Fiona, KUNMANMA

XINLELU was founded in 2011 when the founders, Yilei and her partners, spotted a gap in the market for good-quality, individual clothing pieces at affordable prices. Their objective was to bridge the gap between fast fashion and luxury clothing. Since then they have grown into a shop and online store who truly embody the message of redefining Shanghai women.

“A powerful woman is one who keeps good balance in life, and is inspirational and aspirational. I don't have one specific model. Nobody is perfect. But I learn from everyone around me, from naive kids to the wise elders.”

——Yilei, XINLELU

XINLELU X KUNMANMA aren’t the only ones empowering women. Let’s look at these organisations who inspire ladies to tech and grow as professionals. We asked them what defines a powerful woman and who their role models were:

Ladies Who Tech is a social initiative created by Charlene Liu who had the objective of inspiring and encouraging women to be in STEM and for STEM corporations to close the gender gap in hiring. 

“A powerful woman is someone who can influence people around her for positive change. Being powerful doesn't mean only being aggressive, it could also be caring. I really admire Edie Windsor, engineer in the 50's at a time when there were hardly any women engineers. She's also an inspiration for the LGBTQ community, she helped overturn DOMA.”.

——Charlene Liu, Ladies Who Tech

FEW (Female Entrepreneurship Worldwide) is an international platform and organisation that aims to empower and connect women globally for entrepreneurial success. With over 3000 female members in global communities like Shenzhen and LA, FEW gives a large voice for start-ups through their social media. One of their main objectives is hosting entrepreneurship skills workshops and conferences which helps new entrepreneurs gain essential contacts and advice. 

“A powerful woman is someone helps herself and others to lead a better, happier, healthier life. She could be a stay-at-home mom who is committed to the family and raises her children to be the future leaders; a young woman who uses technology to disrupt a traditional industry and create a better world; a successful businesswoman who created a business that empowers customers, employees, and community. 

My mom is my role model because she always encourages me to live my true purpose and have a positive impact on the lives of other people by helping them and inspiring them.”

——Anna Wong

IPWS (International Professional Women’s Society) is an organisation that was founded 24 years ago in Shanghai. A group of 13 professional women started IPWS with the objective of connecting with like-minded people. Today, they have more than 5,000 members from diverse professional backgrounds.

“A well connected, strong & intelligent woman who can empathise and lead is very powerful. I have so many role models, for my life & career I feel inspired by different people. I gravitate towards women leaders who are daring and take innovative measures, colleagues who are brash and bold and people who tell strong stories. To name a collection of people: Marieke Hardy, Australian Writer & Bon Vivant Creative, Jill Soloway, US Film Director Transparent TV series, Roxane Gay, US Author 'Bad Feminist' and Michelle Garnaut, Restauranter, M on the Bund.”.

——Amelia Chappelow, IPWS Board of Directors - Marketing & Communications Executive

And… That’s it!

Words / Fashion Editor: Dearbháil Kent