We Are All Trailblazers!
Let’s be clear, the mere possibility of breathing in the same oxygen as Nancy Pelosi and Cher is all the inspiration I need to be a better trailblazer. The good news? According to Pelosi, everything we need to be a trailblazer is already within us.
During a grey drizzly evening in Hollywood, VH1 celebrated women trailblazers at the annual Trailblazer Honors on Wednesday, February 20th at the Wilshire Ebell Theater in Los Angeles. The evening included a sit-down dinner, a live show and taping, and an after party reception (with Trailblazer cocktails and a female-driven playlist) to honor the achievements of this year’s celebrated women.
The red carpet erupted in yells and camera shutters for every guest from Tarana Burke to Alyssa Milano to Rita Ora. During any other event, it might just be called a red carpet. But this? This is an brightly lit alley of awesomeness, of female achievement, and of inspiration. And I didn’t take this lightly.
If there was ever a time to wear a white blazer in honor of Trailblazer and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, this was it. And if I was going to be on the carpet, I needed to stand out. Cher taught me that. The white blazer was a hit by the way with Diane Warren, and Peppermint, an everyday Trailblazer honoree. Peppermint was the first trans woman contestant on Ru Paul’s Drag Race and delighted to attend and be celebrated this evening. “I’m really happy that I’m able to not only contribute to but also participate in the conversation about trans, trans folk and how they fit into, trans women and how we fit into this conversation of uplifting women,” Peppermint shared.
VH1 now plays a role in that uplifting and celebration of women through their Trailblazer Honors. So, what does it mean to be a trailblazer?
“You have to make history, obviously, you have to be the first,” says Everyday Trailblazer Honoree and 2019 U.S. National Ice Skating Champion Alysa Liu. “You have to be amazing. And you just have to be you!” 13-year old Liu added.
Performer Elle King echoed the sentiment of authenticity. “You have to be true to yourself and you have to be a strong person on your own and that’s how good things come to you,” King shared. As for the definition of a trailblazer, King defined it as “I think it’s sticking up for yourself and leading by example and doing the right thing and so the trailblazers here tonight deserve to be celebrated.” That celebration included a performance of “Baby Outlaw,” a tune focused on empowerment and for speaking up for your true self.
As for legendary songwriter and guest Diane Warren, she isn’t sure she is a trailblazer (I, for the record, beg to differ). “I don’t know if I’m a trailblazer [here, I confess, I gave her a look]. There’s other trailblazers. I’ve just been doing what I do since I was like 14 or 15 just sitting and coming up with songs…And I’m still the same all these decades later I just do the same thing. I just had my blinders on, not thinking I’m a woman, I’m a this or a that. Just thinking I’m a songwriter, I just want to write great songs.” As for her inspiration and motto, she shares the following: “I just got this thing made; it says believe in your passion, believe in your power, believe in never taking no for an answer…I live by those words.”
Diane Warren had the chance to meet and take a picture with Trailblazer Honoree Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, whose presence shook the red carpet. Leading up to her arrival, the entire carpet wondered: would she come for interviews? This author in turn, wondered: Would it be possible to see the very person who inspired this white blazer?
The answer: Yes. Pelosi and her family graced the red carpet and gave interviews, a nod to celebrity-dom and the importance of her work. After the carpet calmed, guests headed inside the Ebell theater for the acceptance of awards.
A performance by Rita Ora opened the evening, followed by Mindy Kaling bestowing the first honor to filmmaker Ava DuVernay. DuVernay shared that her mother inspired her to make films: “I wanted to make films about women like her. Better than they think they are.” She also hopes that her work, and that of her fellow trailblazers, help other young women to conquer their goals: “A girl will see a Mindy, an Ava, a Nancy, [and say] – this dream is mine and meant for me.”
Fellow honorees included activist and founder of the #MeToo movement Tarana Burke, introduced by actress Alyssa Milano, and author of The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood, whose award was presented and accepted by actress Samira Wiley.
The Everyday Trailblazers were introduced by Anita Hill, and included Peppermint, Alysa Liu, and Mayor Aja Brown. Each shared their story, ending with “I am a trailblazer” to rapturous applause from the crowd.
Go ahead. Try saying that now. Just for fun.
I’d like to think that Cher has, too.
Cher had the honor of introducing friend Nancy Pelosi, highlighting the male history of this country’s government: “Since the day of our founding fathers our country has been led by old white guys. Thankfully, because of Nancy and other strong women, this is changing.”
As Pelosi accepted her honor, she acknowledged that the achievements of women are achievements for all: “Your work gives truth to the words when women succeed, America succeeds.” Pelosi also celebrated the many trailblazers in the room. “You have a goal, you have a plan, you know why you are doing this, you know what you believe in, you know how to get the job done, you know how to attract support. That’s a trailblazer. You are all trailblazers.”
We are all trailblazers. And through this, VH1 and Pelosi has reminded us of our trailblazing power.
Or at least the power of a blazer.
To watch these trailblazers in action, catch the VH1 Trailblazer Honors on Friday, March 8th at 9PM ET/PT simultaneously on VH1 and Logo.