Who is your hero?
I have heroines, not heroes – and there are two of them, just to be contrary. My heroines are Coco Chanel and Oprah Winfrey.
Well, we use hero as a catch-all term for both sexes. Female heroes – heroines – are welcome of course!
Glad to hear it. I think it’s important that we have female role models – and those who are willing to be disruptive. I chose Coco for those reasons. I think she was an extraordinary example of a great, feminine businesswoman. She was a complete visionary in business and highly disruptive in her field.
Disruptive is an interesting adjective. Many people wouldn’t see it as a positive. Why do you?
Coco lived over 100 years ago. If she lived today, she still would have been successful but I think in the time and place she lived – amid the social strictures of France at that time – I think she was hugely challenging and disruptive. And that was necessary, a very good thing. Her simple designs, her clean lines, her androgynous styles, they were major factors in the way businesswomen dress today – not just in trouser suits but in skirt suits too.
You see her femininity as an asset too. What was it about Chanel that makes you see her as a champion of women and womanliness?
Coco encouraged being both feminine and different. She said there were two things a girl should be: classy and fabulous. And she knew that, in order to be irreplaceable, you have to be unique.
Let’s turn the camera from France to the US, and from past times to modern. You also chose Oprah Winfrey as a heroine. Why?
My reasons for choosing her are quite different. She is a survivor. She had a very difficult childhood. Yet she used the empathy and humanity these experiences gave her to drive her business as the world’s greatest and most successful chat show host. I have also nominated her for her philanthropy role – she is an extraordinary giver. She complements Coco in that respect!
That’s an interesting comment. Are you suggesting Coco was a taker?
No, but I think she was more individualistic, certainly, than Oprah. But both women gave a lot in its broadest sense – they gave great things to women and the world generally. I think they are both superb female role models in their own way and, although very different, they have that in common. That’s why they are my heroines.
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