By Lisa VanDyke Brown
All hail the Women of Creative Influence Hall of Fame! Fasten your hairpins and drink in this list, in random order, of some of the creative arts’ finest females.
Dorothy Parker—poet, short story writer, critic, satirist.
This legendary literary figure is best known for her acerbic wit, wisecracks and keen observations of 20th century urban quirks. She wrote for Vogue and Vanity Fair in the early 1900s and was a founder of the legendary Algonquin Round Table, an illustrious group of New York City writers, critics, actors and humorists. A vocal advocate of civil liberties and civil rights, Parker’s estate was left in full to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the NAACP.
Words of wisdom: “Brevity is the soul of lingerie.”
Grace Jones—singer, actress, model.
She survived Studio 54, walked the runway for Yves St. Laurent, performed onstage with Pavarotti and had an original character created specifically for her in a James Bond film. In a word: ferocious.
Words of wisdom: “My husband used to shout at my mother, 'What is wrong with your daughter? I'm married to a man!'”
Martha Graham—dancer, choreographer.
Her impact on dance is often compared to that of Picasso’s on painting. In her quest to express emotional and spiritual matters then-ignored by other dance, Graham—with spastic movements, trembles and falls—completely transformed the art form and revolutionized movement theories in all the performing arts. Her pupils included such greats as Alvin Ailey, Merce Cunningham and Twyla Tharp. She was the first to dancer to ever perform at the White House and receive the highest U.S. civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Her plethora of honors also include the Key to the City of Paris and Japan’s Imperial Order of the Precious Crown.
Words of wisdom: “The only sin is mediocrity.”
Phyllis Diller – comedian, actress.
This is what happens when you combine wigs galore, wrist-length gloves, cloth-covered ankle boots, a bejeweled cigarette holder and limitless self-depreciating humor. Before fame arrived, Diller was a housewife, mother and advertising copywriter.
She first appeared as a stand-up at San Francisco’s The Purple Onion on March 7, 1955, and remained there for 87 straight weeks. Movies, TV and Broadway soon followed. Although the long cigarette holders were a staple of her comedy routine, Diller was a lifelong nonsmoker. She was also an accomplished pianist and painter. On the morning of August 20, 2012, Diller died from natural causes in her California home at the age of 95, with—according to her family—a smile on her face.
Words of wisdom: “You can say the nastiest things about yourself without offending anyone.”
Sally Mann – photographer.
Since the 1970s, Mann has photographed in the American South. Her series production includes portraiture, landscape, architecture and still life. Evocative and sometimes controversial, Mann’s work is unquestionably influential.
She is perhaps best known for her 1992 series, Immediate Family, featuring her three children, then all under age 10. The series, shot in the Virginia woodlands, features typical moments in the children’s daily lives (eating, sleeping, playing), yet it also addresses broader topics such as death, autonomy and cultural sexuality notions.
Proud Flesh is a six-year series of candid portraits of her husband, Larry. In typical Mann style, many shots are quite frank, yet they reflect honesty, deep vulnerability and true love.
Words of wisdom: “If it doesn’t have ambiguity, don’t bother to take it.”
Lisa VanDyke Brown is a bad-ass beeotch and seasoned media pro. She's also the mother of twin preschoolers, so no time for long bios. Her heroes include Dorothy Parker, Phyllis Diller, and Grandma VanDyke. Fun fact: She's the most metal chick you'll ever meet.