20 Female Celebrities Who Girls Can Look Up To

There are female celebrities whose behavior makes us cringe. The ones that parents don't want their daughters listening to on the radio, or seeing at the movies. But then there are those who exude confidence, intelligence, and perseverance. The ones who are excellent examples of both self-love and self-respect. These are women we don't just want our daughters to look up to -- we look up to them, too!

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In a town where women are often told to look a certain way, talk a certain way, and perhaps even think a certain way, these female celebrities are a breath of fresh air. For many different reasons, we found these ladies to be excellent role models. From actresses to singers to athletes and more, here are 20 famous women who have something positive to teach our girls. We love a strong lady and want our little ladies to grow up thinking that anything is possible -- and these women are just the ones who prove that this is true. Talk about girl power!

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While it may not be possible to make kids have the role models we want them to, it couldn't hurt to nudge them in the right direction.

Image © Brendan McDermid/Reuters/Corbis

  • Misty Copeland

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    She was one of six siblings sleeping on a motel room floor when Misty Copeland discovered ballet at age 13, way too old by conventional standards. She was told her muscular physique was not typical of ballerinas. But overcoming obstacles is what Copeland does. The ballet prodigy became a history-making superstar as the American Ballet Theatre's first African American principal dancer. Her words for those with big dreams: "Be strong, be fearless, be beautiful," she says. "And believe that anything is possible when you have the right people there to support you."

  • Zendaya

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    At just 19, Disney's latest star, singer and actress Zendaya (K.C. Undercover) stands up for herself fearlessly. When E! host Guiliana Rancic ridiculed her locs, she delivered a searing but mature Twitter response about black hair pride, respect, and societal expectations. When a magazine severely photoshopped her body, she posted unretouched photos in protest, and the issue was pulled. "Anyone who knows who I am knows that I stand for honest and pure self love," she says.

  • Jessica Alba

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    More than a gorgeous face and figure, Jessica Alba is also a savvy, hugely successful businesswoman who started a baby and beauty products company now worth billions. It took Alba three years to convince investors she wasn't a brainless celeb looking for a quickie side business. "I spent a lot of nights crying and devastated but more determined the next day to make it happen," she says. "That 'I have nothing to lose' attitude I took from acting and applied it to business, and tried to trust my gut."

  • Jennifer Lawrence

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    Image © Phil McCarten/Reuters/Corbis

    The world's highest-paid actress, Jennifer Lawrence is one of the strongest and most down-to-earth women in Hollywood, regularly ridiculing Tinseltown's obsession with thinness. She recently also spoke out about her experience with sexism and the gender wage gap, writing about being paid less than male costars. "I'm over trying to find the 'adorable' way to state my opinion and still be likeable," she wrote in a Lenny essay. "F---that." Amen, sister.

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  • Demi Lovato

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    Image ©Axelle Woussen/Bauergriffin.com

    Not everyone is willing to talk about their weakest moments, but then Demi Lovato sees her struggles with depression, bulimia, and body image issues as an opportunity to help others. "I don't think it does anybody any good to hide something, or cover it up or lie," she says. "Being a role model isn't...about being perfect. It's about speaking about your issues and inspiring others to get help."

  • Emma Watson

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    As well-rounded as actresses come, Emma Watson split her time between acting and attending college after wrapping up the Harry Potter films. She gave the world another reason to love her when she became a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador and her speech urging men to advocate for gender equality went viral. "I think it is right that socially, I am afforded the same respect as men," she says. 

  • Malala Yousafzai

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    After surviving being shot in the head by the Tailban in her native Pakistan for demanding that girls be allowed to get an education, Mala Yousafzai became an even bigger advocate for girls on the world stage. She's the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize winner and the subject of a documentary. "One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world," she says.

  • Taylor Swift

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    Image © Danny Moloshok/Reuters/Corbis

    We love TS because she writes and sings her own songs, puts girlfriends before boyfriends, has built a career without having to crush anyone underfoot or put anyone down, and has the kind of self-respect and confidence every mom wishes for their daughters. And because she's not afraid to be scared. "To me, fearless is not the absence of fear, she says. "To me fearless is having fears...doubts. Lots of them. To me fearless is living in spite of those things that scare you to death."

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  • Beyonce

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    Image © Brendan McDermid/Reuters/Corbis

    Who runs the world? Bey. Beyonce has taken a very public stance on feminism and the empowerment of women permeates her music, and it's clear why. As a kid set on becoming a performer, Beyonce practiced her dance moves and singing for hours at a time. That focus and perfectionism stayed with her. It's why everything she does seems flawless. "I don't have to prove anything to anyone," she says. "I only have to follow my heart and concentrate on what I want to say. I run my world."

  • Tina Fey

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    By her own admission, Tina Fey was a nerdy teen outcast who sought refuge in the drama club. Now in her forties, the SNL alum has created her own shows and penned her own successful films. She says: "When faced with sexism or ageism or lookism or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question: 'Is this person in between me and what I want to do? If the answer is no, ignore it and move on."

  • Michelle Obama

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    She has led a years-long campaign to fight childhood obesity and looks amazing standing shoulder-to-shoulder with POTUS in off-shoulder gowns. And oh yeah, she mentored a future president, when she was a law associate and he a mere intern. "I am an example of what is possible when girls from the very beginning of their lives are loved and nurtured by people around them," she says. "I was surrounded by extraordinary women who taught me about quiet strength and dignity."

  • Bethany Hamilton

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    A shark took Bethany Hamilton's left arm, but it couldn't take away her passion for surfing and life. Hamilton got back in the water just a month after the attack and continued to build a successful surfing career. Her autobiography became a bestseller. "I've learned life is a lot like surfing," she wrote. "When you get caught in the impact zone, you need to get right back up, because you never know what's over the next wave. And if you have faith, anything is possible."

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  • Gina Rodriguez

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    Early on in her career, Gina Rodriguez promised herself that she would never play a maid like so many Latina actresses have had to do in Hollywood. So she turned down a role in Devious Maids and fought to become the title character in Jane the Virgin, a show whose catchy title belies its nuanced approach to Latino experiences. "With great blessings, come great responsibilities," she says. "You cannot separate the two."

  • Lupita Nyong’o

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    She came out of nowhere to deliver a heartrending performance in 12 Years a Slave and win an Oscar. And it's hard to underestimate the impact that Lupita Nyong'o's has had. Her talent and mere presence as a dark-skinned black woman finding success in Hollywood have given many others hope. Her Oscar speech said it all: "No matter where you're from, your dreams are valid."

  • Ronda Rousey

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    She is everything that little girls are told not to be: Big, muscular, and brash. A UFC champion. But Ronda Rousey, who clearly took her mom's lesson that "no one has the right to beat you" to heart, has a message for those who call her cocky: "I just think, 'How dare you assume that I should think less of myself? The problem isn't me thinking I can achieve any goal I set for myself, the problem is you projecting your own self-doubt on me.'"

  • America Ferrera

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    Long before it became fashionable to tout body confidence, America Ferrera was living it onscreen in her career, most notably in the movie Real Women Have Curves and her breakout TV comedy, Ugly Betty. But Ferrera is also an activist on behalf of immigrants, women, and children. "Take your time and your talent, and figure out what you have to contribute in this world," she says. "And get over what the hell your butt looks like in those jeans."

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  • Missy Franklin

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    She's golden—four times over. Missy Franklin owned the pool during the London Olympics, stunning millions by setting new world records and handling her races with the confidence and talent of a much older swimmer. She came back home to endorsement offers worth millions but turned them all down to live out her dream of swimming for a college team. Turning pro is inevitable as are future Olympics. Not that she's stressing it: "It's not the destination. It's the journey," she says. 

  • Gabby Douglas

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    Oh, no big deal. Gabby Douglas only became the first black gymnast in the world to win an individual all around gold medal, at the 2012 London Olympics. By then, she'd overcome separation from her family as she trained in a different state and racism from fellow competitors. In 2015, she helped Team USA win gold at the World Championships. Can there be any doubt that the athlete will form part of future Olympics? "Sacrifices are not in vain," she says. "At the end, everything will pay off."

  • JK Rowling

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    Forget that she's the billionaire who has sold millions of books. Read what JK Rowling says about failure: "Failure meant stripping away the inessential," she once said during a Harvard commencement speech. "I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I succeeded at anything else, I might not have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged." Words to live and work by. 

  • Serena Williams

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    Image © Mary Altaffer/AP/Corbis

    She's the number one female tennis player in the world and has been for years, longer than anyone else in history. Her domination is matched only by her determination and focus to get there. Along with sister Venus, Serena Williams broke down the barriers of a traditionally white sport and changed it forever. "Luck has nothing to do with it," she says. "Because I have spent many, many hours, countless hours, on the court working for my one moment in time, not knowing when it would come."

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