As I’m currently in the middle of exams – and I’m always in need of some motivation! – I’ve selected five inspirational quotes to share with you. I’ve done a quick bio of these ladies under the quote, along with the lesson we can learn from each. These quotes are the wise words of famous women, ranging from actresses to activists. I hope they motivate you too!
5: “Failure is a great teacher, if you’re open to it.” – Oprah Winfrey
Oprah – the undisputed Queen of All Media – is no stranger to hardship. She was born in Mississippi and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the daughter of a single mother living in poverty. She herself became pregnant at the age of just fourteen, although her son died in infancy. Despite her troubled youth, Oprah worked exceptionally hard and changed tabloid talk shows forever, creating a more intimate environment and offering more opportunities to LGBTQIAP+ people. Her show was the highest-rated of its kind in history and was nationally syndicated in the US from 1986 to 2011. As well as being the richest African-American of the 20th century and a renowned talk show host, she is also an active philanthropist. Newsday said of her: “Oprah Winfrey is sharper than Donahue, wittier, more genuine, and far better attuned to her audience, if not the world.”
Her advice is poignant – those who have never made a mistake have clearly never tried something new.
4: “Nothing is impossible – the word itself says I’m possible!” – Audrey Hepburn
Born to a British father and a Dutch mother, Audrey could speak six languages, was a talented ballet dancer and a vocal humanitarian. Oh, and she won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA for a single performance (Roman Holiday). Basically, if you don’t want Audrey to be your best friend, you’re either a fool or a liar. She too had a difficult adolescence. She remained with her mother in the Netherlands during the German invasion in 1940 and the struggles of wartime led to her developing respiratory problems and anaemia. However, she continued to dance in secret, raising money for the Dutch resistance. She is often regarded as the most naturally beautiful woman of all time, but it was her personality that made her shine. As a relative newcomer, she managed to secure the lead role in Roman Holiday. The director William Wyler explained his decision thus: “She had everything I was looking for: charm, innocence, and talent. She also was very funny. She was absolutely enchanting…”
The quote is completely correct; go into everything with a positive attitude!
3: “I don’t go by the rule-book; I lead from the heart, not the head.” – Princess Diana
Whilst this says a lot about Diana as a person, I think it’s also excellent advice (I’m not a monarchist, by the way, far from it!). She was a passionate advocate for Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and did extensive work for charity. Compassion and empathy were her finest qualities – she’s not called the People’s Princess for nothing. She often took matters into her own hands, visiting hospitals to see patients with leprosy and HIV/AIDS in order to challenge the stigma surrounding these diseases. She once said about these visits: “It has always been my concern to touch people with leprosy, trying to show in a simple action that they are not reviled, nor are we repulsed.” From her marriage to Prince Charles onwards, Diana was the subject of constant media scrutiny until her death in 1996.
I also want to say that your exam results are not something to fear. Personally, I value kindness in people far more than cleverness. Work hard, revise, but DO NOT stress yourself out. Take care of yourself, both physically and mentally.
2: “When you dream, you can do what you like.” – J.K Rowling
Did you know her initials stand for “just kidding”? She wrote the entire Harry Potter series as an elaborate prank. True story*.
Born in Gloucestershire, J. K. Rowling began writing the first book in the Harry Potter series whilst on welfare benefits as a single parent. Hers is a real rags-to-riches story; she’s now considered one of the most influential women in the UK and possibly the world. She is a philanthropist and supports various charities, as well as being an advocate of the Labour Party (I’m Green, but good on her anyway!). As a resident of Scotland, she was eligible to vote in the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence and participated in the anti-independence campaign, donating £1 million. She suffered from depression early on in the writing process, which later inspired the Dementors from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The Harry Potter series deals with various genres and themes. A lot of readers fondly recall the messages of friendship and courage. However, I feel that the series is so important because it doesn’t patronise its younger readers – Harry faces a corrupt government, the reality of death and prejudice, among other heavy issues. Harry is hardcore, man.
1: “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” – Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou was a poet and author, as well as a dancer, actress and singer. She is best-known for her series of seven autobiographies, the first of which – I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings – brought her international recognition. In 1968, the year before the publication of her first autobiography, Angelou wrote, narrated and produced a documentary series exploring the links between blues music and African-American heritage. She was a close friend of Malcolm X and of Martin Luther King Jr., and she had been assisting both with various projects immediately prior to their assassinations.
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings is generally described as autobiographical fiction. The main character Maya is the young version of the author and the narratives details her life from the age of three until the age of sixteen, at which point she becomes a mother. Maya deals with her suffering through her love of literature and the novel also explores racism, the lives of women and social identity. The metaphor of “the caged bird” refers to racial prejudice and subsequent oppression. The protagonist develops from “a victim… with an inferiority complex” into a woman with great strength and dignity, but, as the quote states, these changes occur after she has overcome terrible suffering.
I hope these helped! Are there any quotes that you focus on when you’re struggling? Let me know in the comments!
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*By the way, that thing about J. K.? Actually an untrue story.