Power bars, power lunches, power yoga, power brokers, power
suits, power bras -- power bras? What do YOU think of when you imagine
women in power? Strippers swinging their tits? Moms spanking their
kids? Movie stars firing their directors? Bloodlusting, barebreasted
amazons? Blissed-out earth mamas? Knife-wielding wives? Dot.com
dames? Vengeful witches? Highwire bitches?
THE BOOK asked a range of L.A. women what made them feel powerful.
We tried hard for a splash-mix of blue-collar, white-collar, celeb
and non-celeb, young and old, black white brown yellow purple and
green -- as a gesture toward L.A.'s dizzingly diverse populace.
We were stoked by the responses! Read on, and see if your own
sense of power cranks up a notch.
I feel powerful driving my car. I labor happily
under the illusion that I am an incredible driver, (not true) and
that I rule the roads. I am the Roads Warrior. I exert my power
verbally. By twisting my words around a turn of phrase. When it
sings over the plate, when I hit it out of the park, I win the war
of the words and feel free.
Carrie Fisher, writer,
Money. Money money money.
Money, diamonds, tennis shoes, money.
Caroline Tweedy and Vamonica,
LAX transport employees.
I've grown up with the idea of being powerful
because of my size, so it was about embracing that size at age 17
or 18. I feel most powerful when I'm not fighting it. Powerful doesn't
mean I don't have the normal things like fear and doubt, but I don't
allow them to dictate my actions. So like a kill in volleyball,
that's a physical moment, but what makes me feel powerful is all
the stuff that led up to that moment.
Gabby Reece, beach
I don't like the concept of individual power.
The way I create power is by corralling the powers of individuals
together, and organizing them. If someone's exerting power, it's
usually over someone else, and inherently there's something exploitive
about that. Whereas people exercising their power collectively,
that's something powerful and strong and good.
Triana Silton, labor
organizer, Local 1877, Justice for Janitors strike.
Power is having writers for glossy magazines
call you up and ask you what your definition of power is. You exert
power by making them wait for your answer.
Anne Beatts, comedienne,
Motherhood. Giving birth with a fifty hour labor and no drugs made
me feel powerful, and how amazing it is to be a woman and be able
to do that. I exert my power by trying to stay positive.
When you go on a critical patient call, you
are basically God. You have the power to save someone. Something
as basic as a choking might be critical. They were just eating,
and you fish out a hotlink the size of your arm. You've prevented
braindeath. It's just a totally bitchin' job. I help people. And
I'm on my own. I'm independent. I don't have to be a wife to be
a functional person in this world, I don't have to have kids to
Pat Morse, veteran
Knowing that I own the room. Stalking the stage
in my kickass gogo boots, singing like a woman possessed.
Erika Amato, lead
singer of Velvet Chain.
What really makes me feel good, powerful, is
God in my life, Jesus in my life. Plus my family, childrens, then
my job. That's the main thing that makes me feel good. He gives
Maria Martos, immigrant
from Nayarit, Mexico, mother, bus driver.
I'll be 80 in September, I look like I'm 60
and feel like I'm 30 and act like 20 and I'm the happiest I've ever
been. When my husband Ben and I came back to Hollywood from thirty
years in France, I sold the Examiner the idea of a column. Getting
a column out every week made me strong. I became the strong one.
When Ben died, I flowered. At his death, lots of people were upset
that I flowered. Since then I've really come into my own.
Norma Barzman, one
of original Hollywood Blacklist.
Being submissive makes me feel powerful.
I feel very powerful because I always know
when I have a rip in my pants. I can squeeze into places no one
else can. I fit in a duffel bag with my legs around my neck.
April Tatro, contortionist.
When I was sixteen I gave birth to a baby boy
with missing heart chambers. He lived until the day before his first
birthday. I became anorexic after he died. I don't know how I got
through it, but seeing my son fight for his life the way he did
made me hold onto mine. The strength my son gave me makes me a powerful
Dalia Lopez, peer
education/HIV counselor at LA Free Clinic, mom.
Honesty. Speaking my mind.
Heather Graham, actress.
As a garment worker and a woman, I know I have
power because I have made an impact. I have defended my own rights
and fought for respect for workers. I have also raised a family
and having children and working full-time, I have struggled. Many
people think women are weaker, but we are strong when we value ourselves.
Graciela Ceja, garment
worker 18 years, Mexican immigrant.
Some days a pair of Manolo Blahniks. Nice and
spiky! How do I exert my power? Y'know...I'm a woman! W-O-M-A-N!
Women are already powerful from the moment we're born. The best
use for power is to show understanding and compassion through thoughtfulness.
I've learned that from being a mother.
Trudie Styler, producer,
actress, activist, wife of Sting, and most of all, mother.
Driving fast or doing nothing.
Deanne Stillman, writer.
Power rests gently in my hands. These hands
are what I use to chop and mix for the making of meals. To say "fuck
you" to bad drivers, caress the faces and bodies of oh-so-good
lovers. Or give myself pleasure on loveless nights. There is strength
in these hands. The way they braid my daughter's hair. Hold the
pen and write poetry. There is no-one that can see these hands,
beautifully gloved in the blackness of my skin; there is no-one
that can watch them curl tightly into two defiant fists, and tell
me that history does not hold them as a symbol of power.
Meri Nana-Ama Danquah, native of Ghana,
The fact that I can just smile, and, not only
get what I want (most of the time), but cause a bulge in some guy's
trousers. When the smile fails, my command of the English language,
you know, like, totally makes me feel as though I can talk my way
into, out of, or through any situation.
Brandy Alexandre, ex-porn star.
Being in the ring, feeling the ropes, the mat
beneath my feet, grappling with my opponent, and then picking up
my opponent and slamming them to the mat and going for the pin.The
hands of the fans reaching out and touching me as I make my way
to and from the ring.
Cindy Taylor aka "RIO STORM,"
Knowing that we (people, things, earth, all
beings) are all Equal AND all Different. How do I exert my power?
Ouch! It's tough living from that place!
Sensei Wendy Egyoku Nakao, Abbott of
Zen Center of Los Angeles.
At 30 mph on a horse and swinging a big stick,
I am queen of the world. Horses are the great equalizers. I'm more
of everything when I'm on one.
Jennifer Olds, poet, polo player, student,
I feel powerful in platforms.
Jessika Wood, painter, artist, girl.
Most of us don't say, I feel powerful -- not
in the main. Though I do realize I am powerful because of what I
represent as a very active and productive woman of my age -- which
is creeping up there.
Angela Lansbury, actress.
As a civil rights lawyer, it is my responsibility
to see that the legal system does work even for those without money.
When the workers ask me why I am so committed to fighting sweatshops
and to defending their humanity, I tell them that I believe that
using my power in this way is defending the humanity of all of us.
Julie Su, lawyer with Asian Pacific American
Legal Services, defended El Monte Thai sweatshop workers.
My only sense of power these days exists in
the yielding of 'self' at the end of a yoga class; in 'savasina'--
a total surrender where there is no struggle; when boundaries don't
exist, when past and future aren't linked in platitudes like 'everything
happens for a reason', when one's place in the world feels, for
that moment, known.
Lizzie Borden, director, screenwriter.
The power that I am is this beautiful clit
and cunt between my legs.
Pommela de Terre, ex-dental hygienist,
The more I resist cynicism and meanness, the
more powerful I am. For a long time I wasn't sure how.Now I think
I'm getting more of the hang of it. I don't have a television, or
read the newspaper, and I live in a beautiful, small, slow town
in a third world country. Having a lot of birds and water around
is power. It's powerful to have a small tribe of really honest friends.
Joy Nicholson, writer, former stylist,
Money. Not doing what I don't want to do.
Eve Babitz, writer.
My power comes from within. I am my toughest
critic and if I succeed in being pleased by something I have created
-- like perfecting my favorite dinner: yellow split peas with crispy
basmati rice -- I feel downright omnipotent.
Mary Sue. I have
to say that I feel most powerful when the restaurants are totally
swamped, and every minute of my day is crammed full of meetings,
and I DON'T FEEL OVERWHELMED. When it all works like a well-oiled
machine it's an amazing feeling. Susan
Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, chefs, restaurateurs,
cookbook authors, radio and TV personalities.
My business power is derivative. I am powerful
because my clients are powerful. I understand it is not about me.
It is my job to guide my clients in exercising their power. But
what makes me feel powerful? A perfect triple pirouette, making
good decisions, running fast, conquering my fears, being asked my
Melanie Cook, lawyer to the stars, dance
teacher, soccer Mom.
Clarity equals power.
Judith Freeman, critic, writer.
When I was drumming a whole lot with my band
in NY it made me feel like I had disappeared. I would not feel my
physical body but just pure energy, and I'd meld it with the sounds
and the people in the room I was performing to. It was like a wave,
a constant wave, that flowed out through the entire place and came
back to me.
Tia Sprocket, multi-instrumentalist.
I don't feel that we ourselves 'generate"
power, I feel that we channel the energy available in the world.
I don't feel it's "my" power. I think we often mistake
power for dominance, for control. I feel most powerful when I feel
least "I"--when I'm very simple, just a conduit.
Janet Fitch, writer.
To be free. I feel more powerful when I keep
it quiet. I think nobody knows how much power I have. It's like
when you have a turbo engine -- you don't put it on full gas unless
you're going uphill.
Veronique Vial, celebrity photographer.
Every time I put a needle into a patient, I
imagine I am releasing dammed energy from a river. When a patient
yells and screams, energy releases and is restored in a patient's
Dr. Victoria Liao, acupuncturist, herbologist,
There's always that feeling of power when I
can surf better than the guys out there. I am my happiest when I'm
in the ocean. When I surf, I'm able to blend the power of the ocean
with my own.
Ashley Sherwin Lloyd, one of the world's
top female longboard surfers.
When I step out to dinner with my distinguished
husband on one arm, my handsome just-graduated from college nephew
on the other, and I'm wearing a black miniskirt, sheer black lace
shirt, and high black Gucci stiletto heels. I feel powerful because
even though the vet said my dog is in end stage renal failure, and
should have been dead last August, because of the intense care I've
given him (dialysis twice a day) he's alive 9 months later.
Jo Giese, writer.
There's one customer who always complains.
"Why do you order if you hate the food? Why put yourself through
it?" I say. I'm real direct. I try to communicate. But people
don't always listen. When they do, that makes me feel powerful.
Waitress. Name of waitress and establishment
withheld on request.
Being happy...that and a fresh bikini wax,
and my Gucci python stilettos.
Katherine LaNasa, ex- pro ballet dancer,
mother, actress, Mrs. French Stewart.
Not wanting anything more than what I have
-- that AND writing and performing my shows, rousing an audience,
having the audience rouse me. ALSO --- Joshua Tree, any time spent
there makes me feel powerful.
Ann Magnuson, actress, journalist, performance
Power is everywhere all the time. It's in every
conversation we have, every deal we make, every face we kiss. It's
in the hands of every driver, every player, every hater, every lover.
It can be used or abused. It can be about pleasure or desire. But
desire only exists where pleasure is absent. Power is everywhere
all the time.
Barbara Kruger, artist.
My power comes from having "Fuck You"
money. I never actually saying fuck you. Instead I have a really
naughty smile and a kind of dirty look around the eyes, and I only
do the projects I want to do.
post-op transsexual, screenwriter, producer, director.
Cooking and sobriety. When I cook for friends
and family, I feel like an earth mother, feeding the weary travelers
on their various quests. Being sober eighteen years, I feel an inner
day-to-day power that has grown like the tree rings on a redwood,
adding up to something like that purple heartwood you find in a
really great tree.
Jo-Ann Mapson, novelist.
When the Death card comes up in a reading and
I know I can transform someone's fear of Death and destruction into
rebirth and a new direction.
Julie Feldman, astrologer.
The ability to say "fuck it" and
mean it. That's power. And despite all the naysayers, despite the
racism, ageism and sexism rampant in the entertainment industry
and the world in general, I keep laughing, saying "fuck it!"
and jumping off the cliff.
Sid Clifton, director of TV development
at Film Roman,
writer, mother, wife.
I feel powerful when I think that my mama picked
cotton and my daddy picked fruit and that they pushed and clawed
their way out of that life and gave me and my sisters a better one.
Earlene Fowler, mystery novelist and
first generation American-hillbilly.
Being attacked by my 200-pound male mountain
lion "Phoenix" and living to tell you all about it!
Mollie Hogan, Founder and Director The
Nature of Wildworks Wildlife Care Center.
Maya, 7 years old.
Pindella, 5 years old.
Cheyenne, 5 years old.
Three sisters at Topanga's Earth Day celebration.
Wearing shoes that stilt me up to 6'1"
makes me feel powerful. I like to tower. Even Jimmy Carter was tall.
Less obvious is the power I feel when I, however fleetingly, annihilate
Christine Ben-Yehuda, reporter, event
planner for "Sweet Relief."
The experience of pushing my baby out, and her
lying there on my chest, and knowing I did it. I did this. It wasn't
done to me.
Cordelia Satterfield Hanna, professional
labor companion, homebirth mother.
I exert my power through my writing, and midriff
Sharon Yablon, playwright.
When I think of what makes me feel powerful, I remember
smashing girls' shins with my hockey stick, tackling women on a
muddy rugby field, beating a friend in arm wrestling. I think of
clomping around in beat-up combat boots; speed-driving a cherry
red metallic pickup in sexy clothes and high heels. Cumming multiple
times. Exhibitionism. Anger. My tongue as branding iron. My words
a fiery plague. Men desiring me. Dreaming of me. Money. Escaping
traps, changing. Eating fear. Big silver wrist cuffs. Travelling
far away. Not staying still. Staying still. What makes YOU feel
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