Many people know the United States to be a place where citizens of other nations across the world migrate in search of a better life and better opportunities. This article is an ode to immigrant women who have inspired all of us by their sense of purpose, work ethic, and grit.
Zara Mohamed Abdulmajid (Iman)
Before she was a world-famous model, entrepreneur, and activist, Iman, born Zara Mohamed Abdulmajid, migrated to the United States from Kenya when she was just under 18. Because of the political unrest in Somalia, she had initially moved to Kenya from Somalia with her family when she was about 16 years old. Barely two years later, she moved to New York City without her family to start a new chapter. Although her path to immigration was unconventional, she took the risk, and it paid off. Today she is one of the world's most renowned fashion icons, and she is proof that you can make lemonade out of life's lemons.
We know her as a big-time Hollywood actress, but before she gave us hit movies like “Frida” and recently, “House of Gucci,” Salma Hayek started her film career in Mexico, where she was born and raised. Her first screen appearance was in the 1988 television show Un Nuevo Amanecer. Although she began to gain recognition, she decided to move to Los Angeles in 1991 to study acting and test out the Hollywood world. Although she faced many challenges on her journey to getting a big break, she eventually became a massive success. Despite her massive success, Hayek still remains true to her Mexican roots.
According to Kyle Munzenrieder of W magazine, Beyoncé, Madonna, Björk, and Lady Gaga have all been inspired in one way or another by Grace Jones. At a young age, Jones left Jamaica with her family for the United States, and at 18, she realized that she wanted to start modeling and devoted herself entirely to her modeling career. Her distinct features, dark skin, and fearless, androgynous style quickly took the fashion industry by storm. Even when she launched her music career, her sounds were unique, captivating, and futuristic. She is now one of the world's most renowned and revered trailblazing icons.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a best-selling author, educator, and activist whose work has been translated into more than 30 languages. She is the author behind “Americanah” and “Purple Hibiscus,” two of her most prominent books. Adichie is also an immigrant who left Nigeria at 19 for the United States. After graduating summa cum laude in communication and political science from Eastern Connecticut State University, she went on to earn a master's degree in creative writing at Johns Hopkins University. She later attended Yale University for a master's degree in African Studies, all while writing and publishing. Her TED Talk, The Danger of A Single Story, is currently one of the most-viewed TED Talks in TED Talk history. Her writings tackle topics centered around religion, sexuality, feminism, and politics. Her 2012 talk We Should All Be Feminists was even featured on Beyoncé's song "Flawless." Adichie is the epitome of the American Dream.
Ifeoluwa Ajayi (Luvvie Ajayi)
At the age of nine, Ifeoluwa Ajayi, also known as Luvvie Ajayi, moved to Chicago from Nigeria. Ajayi kicked off her professional career in digital marketing and strategy in 2003. Her blog kicked off some steam and amassed a significant public following. Ajayi published her first book, “I'm Judging You: The Do-Better Manual,” in September 2016; and it earned a number five spot on the New York Times bestseller list. In 2021, she published “Professional Troublemaker: A Fear-Fighter Manual,” which earned another spot on the New York Times bestseller list. Ajayi has carved out a path for herself and has shown that there is room at the table for everyone who dreams it and works hard and smart. Despite her massive success, respect, and following, the vibrant and outspoken Nigerian-American is fully devoted to her roots and never forgets her humble beginnings.
Yvonne Anuli Orji
Long before she graced our screens as Molly, the bougie fan-favorite on “Insecure,” Yvonne Orji was hustling in New York City for her big break. Although she was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, Orji grew up in Maryland, in the United States. In 2009, Orji decided to move to New York City to pursue an acting career. After six years, she got her big break and landed the role of Molly. Recently, Orji started working on developing a series called “First Gen” for Disney+. Orji represents an immigrant woman who beat the odds to be a dynamic trailblazer, and she is only getting started.
Lupita Nyong'o took the world by storm when she starred in 12 Years a Slave. Born in Mexico but raised in Kenya, Nyong'o always knew she was meant to do great things. Beyond her Oscar win, fluency in four languages, and impressive Yale degree, Nyong'o is a force that challenges all immigrant girls like her to dare to dream. She's played roles in movies that have showcased her versatility as an actress, and she only keeps getting better with time. With each passing year, Nyong'o continues to prove that her flawless, silky brown skin, symmetrical face, and polished speech are just the proverbial cherries on the top, and we are here for it.
If you ever watched the American comedy-drama series called “Desperate Housewives,” you remember Gabrielle Solis, the self-centered, eccentric, and fiery character played by Eva Longoria. Born and raised in South Texas to a Mexican-American family, Longoria grew up on a ranch near Corpus Christi. She identifies as a ninth-generation American. Longoria is always an advocate for education, and she founded The Eva Longoria Foundation, an organization that empowers Latinas to carve out better lives for themselves through entrepreneurship. She is also an advocate for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) careers and encourages minority women to pursue STEM careers.