19 Women In Beauty Tell Us Who's Inspiring Them Right Now

In honor of International Women’s Day, Refinery29 is asking women to pay-it-forward by endorsing a female colleague or expert in their field. Head here to discover inspiring women across all of the categories R29 covers.
As proud beauty fans and feminists, we celebrate groundbreaking women every damn day. So how can we one-up our love for the industry’s biggest innovators on International Women’s Day? By asking these bosses to reveal which women inspire them to work stronger, live bolder, and give back more.
Ahead, boundary-breaking models (Ashley Graham and Diandra Forrest) beauty CEOs (Jessica Alba, Drew Barrymore, and Lisa Price), activists (Amber Rose and Gregg Renfrew), a legendary makeup artist (Pat McGrath), and more highlight the women who galvanize their own inner badass.
Game recognize game? That’s just the start. From one inspiring story to the next, you’ll find women who are lifting each other up, inviting everyone to the table, and advocating for an inclusive beauty industry that actually reflects the people it serves.
1 of 20
Photographed By Hudson Taylor
The Innovator: Jessica Alba, actress and Honest Beauty founder

Shouting Out: Lisa Price, founder of Carol's Daughter

“Lisa Price is such an inspiration to me. The fact that she started out making products in her kitchen and has grown her beauty business into the widely successful company that it is today is a true example of the importance of passion when starting a business.”
2 of 20
Photographed By Ben Hassett
The Innovator: Pat McGrath, makeup master and Pat McGrath Labs founder

Shouting Out: Naomi Campbell, model, actress, and activist

Naomi Campbell is the original McGrath Muse – the thoroughly modern woman who, for more than three decades, has never stopped empowering me and billions of other women across the world of all sizes, sexual identities, and skin tones. To the world, she is an icon. To me, she is my friend, sister, confidante, and inspiration.”
3 of 20
Photo Courtesy: Revlon
The Innovator: Ashley Graham, Revlon ambassador, model, designer, and advocate

Shouting Out: Noor Tagouri, journalist and activist

“In addition to Noor Tagouri's many accomplishments as a journalist raising awareness for serious issues like human trafficking, she is a strong advocate for making sure all women and all cultures are represented in media. As seen through her inclusion in Playboy, she is unapologetically authentic, challenging stereotypes and pushing the envelope to ensure the voices of Muslim women are heard and respected.”
4 of 20
Photo Courtesy: Jackie Aina
The Innovator: Jackie Aina, YouTuber, U.S. Army soldier, and Global United Nations Change Ambassador

Shouting Out: Alissa Ashley, YouTuber

“When I think of women helping women, I think of [YouTuber] Alissa Ashley. Not only is she one of the hardest working creators I know, she’s a problem solver, too. She’s always evolving and improving her content and striving to make quality videos. Alissa never hesitates to help when needed.”
5 of 20
Photo Courtesy: Flower Beauty
The Innovator: Drew Barrymore, Flower Beauty founder, author, actress, and producer

Shouting Out: Zanna Roberts Rassi, fashion editor, co-founder of Milk Makeup, and Glam Masters judge

“I call Zanna Roberts Rassi my ‘sister in beauty,’ as that’s what she really feels like! To be able to support and celebrate other women doing great things in our industry is so great, and I am incredibly inspired by what Zanna is doing with MILK Makeup. It feels exciting, modern, and different – and that’s no easy feat in today’s industry.

"The creativity, energy, and true belief in self-expression that MILK brings is what we need more of! And it’s not easy running a beauty company – especially when you’re juggling it with having two young daughters at home, like we both have – but Zanna does it all with a smile on her face and a sense of humor!”
6 of 20
Photographed By Mike Rosenthal
The Innovator: Jen Atkin, hairstylist and co-founder of The Ouai and Mane Addicts

Shouting Out: Kim Kardashian, reality TV star and founder of KKW Beauty

“Kim Kardashian West is one of the most hardworking women I know and has paved the way for smaller brands and businesses to succeed.”
7 of 20
Photographed By Brenden Forbes
The Innovator: Amber Rose, actress, author, activist, and Flirt Cosmetics spokesperson

Shouting Out: Priscilla Ono, Global makeup artist for Fenty Beauty and educator

“Priscilla Ono is my sister, my son’s Godmother, and the first makeup artist that I used once I stepped into the public eye. Her sweetness, dedication, and passion about women inspires me. I adore this woman so much because of her hard work and how she started her own beauty school from her apartment. She worked with me on FLiRT and now is an ambassador for Fenty, traveling the world and doing what she loves best amongst doing many other things! She is one of the coolest people I know and I cannot think of a better person to nominate!”
8 of 20
Credit: Courtesy of Dr. Pimple Popper
The Innovator: Dr. Sandra Lee, a.k.a. Dr. Pimple Popper, dermatologist and TLC host

Shouting Out: Mimi Choi, makeup educator and illusionist

“I wish I could watch everyone’s first reaction to Mimi Choi’s amazing makeup transformations. It’s like she bends space and time, creating realistic optical illusions with makeup! I would LOVE to be her model. She is truly pushing the limits of creativity and ingenuity — and no doubt in my mind is a trendsetter and sets the bar really high for other makeup artists out there. She encourages and teaches others to think out of the box and pursue their dreams.”
9 of 20
Photographed By Susan Bowlus
The Innovator: Maye Musk, CoverGirl ambassador, model, and nutritionist

Shouting Out: Jillian Mercado, model and activist

“Jillian Mercado, one of my fellow IMG Models, is breaking barriers not just by being a Latina model, but by also physically showcasing that nothing should stop you. Her story and visual beauty has set the trend of normalizing diversity in the fashion and beauty space. As a wheelchair user, she is one of the few professional models who has a physical disability in the fashion industry, who is not afraid to be herself and tell her story. One attribute about Jillian is that her beauty shines just by being true to herself and being a nice person. I believe being nice is beauty.”
10 of 20
Photo Courtesy: Beauty Bakerie
The Innovator: Cashmere Nicole, Beauty Bakerie Founder

Shouting Out: Jackie Aina, YouTuber and Global United Nations Change Ambassador

“Jackie Aina has consistently backed up her words with actions. I’m proud of her for being willing to go forward and control her narrative at all costs. She says I inspire her, but really she inspires me. On the heels of an era where we’ve been silenced in so many ways, we are entering powerful times. We are seeing women break through barriers not just for themselves but for all — and she’s a reminder to all of us who wonder how to use our voices and platforms to create change."
11 of 20
Photo Courtesy: Soko Glam
The Innovator: Charlotte Cho, Soko Glam founder, esthetician, and author

Shouting Out: Renée Chao, a.k.a. Gothamista, influencer

“Renée Chao is one of the few influencers that truly helps others navigate the wonderful (and complex) world of skin care in a thoughtful and educational way. Her technical and scientific understanding of skin care shows and is appreciated, as her followers are extremely loyal and follow her recommendations religiously. With 275K subscribers on Youtube, she is often dubbed their ‘skin care guru,’ without being intimidating at all! I've met her personally and she is extremely down-to-earth and sweet.”
12 of 20
Photo Courtesy: Beautycounter
The Innovator: Gregg Renfrew, Beautycounter founder and clean beauty advocate

Shouting Out: Senator Dianne Feinstein

“I nominate Senator Dianne Feinstein, who has worked tirelessly for years to protect the health of women and to ensure legislation supports both companies and consumers.”
13 of 20
Photo Courtesy: Carol's Daughter
The Innovator: Lisa Price, Carol’s Daughter founder

Shouting Out: Bobbi Brown, makeup artist, founder of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, and author

"Bobbi Brown is a woman who supports other women. She gives back. She shares advice, emails, and sometimes phone numbers. She is there when you need a push, a shove, or a reminder you are not crazy. She has such a humility that belies her success and brilliance. Although we have been taught to expect arrogance and condescension with great success, she has turned that perception on its ear.

"I have looked up to Bobbi throughout my career and I am honored that I can call her a sister in this game of beauty. I am blessed to have her wisdom and strength as an example of the excellence that I know is within me."
14 of 20
Photographed By Kevin Jude
The Innovator: Zanna Roberts, fashion editor, Milk Makeup co-founder, and Glam Masters Judge

Shouting Out: Kandee Johnson, actress and YouTuber

“I nominate Kandee Johnson! Why Kandee? She started creating YouTube beauty videos before most of us even knew what YouTube was. She initially became famous for imparting brilliant beauty tips and tricks and mind-boggling transformational videos (30m+ people have watched her turn herself into Barbie!).

"Aside from being a pioneer in the space, for over 10 years she has used her platform to promote kindness and help prevent online bullying and negativity in the beauty world. She is the unofficial poster child for spreading positivity on the internet and beyond. She shares a wealth of uplifting messages to her followers like, 'You're more beautiful than you know. More talented than you think. And more loved than you can imagine.'

"I was lucky enough to sit next to her every day for three weeks (over loooong 17-hour shoot days). Not once did she complain or fail to inspire the contestants in front of us. Yes, she knows how to create a killer 'cut crease,’ but more importantly she knows that it’s about the person underneath that really matters. Kandee has created an empire out of acceptance, inclusion, and celebration of all… and to me, that is the future of beauty.”
15 of 20
Photo Courtesy: Wet n Wild
The Innovator: Diandra Forrest, model, Wet ‘N’ Wild #BreakingBeauty ambassador, and activist

Shouting Out: Mari Malek, actress, model, DJ, and activist

“Mari Malek is extraordinarily beautiful, and also uses her platform for activism. She is South Sudanese, and has built two all-girls schools in Sudan through her foundation, Stand For Education. Having such a beautiful soul focused on empowering and educating young women is a breath of fresh air for the industry."
16 of 20
Photographed By Albert Sanchez
The Innovator: Nikita Dragun, YouTuber, model, and activist

Shouting Out: Moj Mahdara, CEO of Beautycon

“As the CEO of Beautycon, Moj Mahdara built a huge industry out of a beauty convention that now stands as a place for women to celebrate all forms of beauty."
17 of 20
Photo Courtesy: Laura Nelson/Colourpop
The Innovator: Laura Nelson, Seed Beauty co-founder

Shouting Out: Victoria Tsai, founder of Tatcha

"I love Tatcha founder Victoria Tsai's involvement with Room To Read; Tatcha donates to the organization for every full-size skin-care product purchased. I also love how in touch Tatcha is with creating a cohesive story through their branding. From their mission statement and product assortments to the tiny details in their packaging, Tatcha's overall marketing is seamless and takes the brand to the next level."
18 of 20
Photographed By Ryan Liu
The Innovator: Nikki Nelms, celebrity hairstylist

Shouting Out: Pat McGrath, makeup master and founder of Pat McGrath Labs

“The September 2007 issue of Vogue was a memorable moment for me. On the cover, I read the “The Magician of Makeup: The Most Powerful Woman in Beauty” and inside I read about Pat McGrath, an incredible industry trailblazer who revolutionized beauty trends and just so happened to be Black. What stuck out to me in that moment was that the cover didn’t say “The most powerful BLACK woman in Beauty.” She was (and still is, in my opinion) the most powerful woman in beauty, PERIOD.

"Pat McGrath entered the industry being undeniably her. To this day, she continues to be an innovator that is constantly recreating the blueprint for beauty and, because of that, she has opened up new opportunities for people within the beauty industry regardless of size, hue, or gender. Pat McGrath is proof that it is okay to color outside of the lines if it means you’re staying true to who you are as an artist.”
19 of 20
Photo Courtesy: Tata Harper Skincare
The Innovator: Tata Harper, Tata Harper Skincare founder and green beauty pioneer

Shouting Out: Tara Foley, founder of Follain

“I am incredibly inspired by some of the female leaders who are reshaping the retail industry, including Follain founder Tara Foley, a woman I feel proud to work alongside. She, along with Kerrilynn Pamer and Cindy DiPrima of CAP Beauty and Annie Jackson of Credo, are creating a retail category that, not too long ago, did not even exist.

"When I first began the journey to start Tata Harper Skincare, the only places to shop for natural beauty products were natural supermarkets or tiny apothecaries. This new group of ‘clean beauty’ retailers has created a space for customers of the future... it’s a lot of risk, but they have all done it so well."
20 of 20
Like this post? There's more. Get tons of beauty tips, tutorials, and news on the Refinery29 Beauty Facebook page. Like us on Facebook — we'll see you there!