Neelam Gill, supermodel and activist | MAKERS
“I grew up collecting Elle. For me to be on the cover of that twice is something I still can’t wrap my head around,” fashion model Neelam Gill said. Today, Gill is one of Britain’s fastest-rising fashion models, but there was a time when the young beauty didn’t think she was beautiful at all. “My body looked like a little boy’s,” she said. “I was so skinny and gangly, and awkward.” It wasn’t just adolescent insecurity that Gill battled, but a larger message from her community and culture that she wasn’t the mainstream definition of beauty.
She proved the world and herself wrong though when she got a fateful call from Christopher Bailey who wanted her to model for Burberry during London Fashion Week. She would become the first British Indian model to represent Burberry, and model for other brands ranging from L’Oreal Paris to Adidas and Abercrombie & Fitch. “It’s something I feel extremely proud of,” Gill said before adding “I want to be a testament that anyone can do anything.”
That success hasn’t come without struggle though. At the age of 18, Gill was traveling the world and missing her friends and family back home. “I had to grow up very quickly,” she said. Still, she’s incredibly grateful for the career she has and is using it to campaigning for more inclusivity within the fashion industry. “If you want to make a change and push the boundaries, then you have to talk about things that may be uncomfortable at times.”
Nicola Adams OBE, pro boxer and double Olympic champion | MAKERS
How do you pursue a dream when the world is pushing back against you? It’s a challenge that boxer Nicola Adams knows all too well. Adams didn’t let the obstacles in her path to becoming a world champion boxer stop her, instead, she used them as stepping stones to help her rise to her athletic and professional peak.
Born to a single mother in Leeds, Adams life changed forever one day when he mother couldn’t find a babysitter. Instead, the Adams children went down to an after school program at a boxing gym and from that point on, she was in love with the sport — even if others didn’t want her there.
“I’ve heard it all,” Adams said. “From ‘women should be in the kitchen’ to ‘why don’t you play tennis?’” Despite the pushback, Adams had a coach who treated all boxers equally and she continued to push for her dream of someday becoming an Olympic boxer. While there were setbacks such as a 2009 injury, Adams finally did reach that summit she’d been climbing towards. It was at the 2012 London Olympic games that she won Great Britain’s first-ever female boxing Gold medal. “Getting into the ring, I remember thinking ‘this is my moment, I’m fighting for all the girls that come after me’,” Adams recalled.
Adams went on to attain numerous world titles and is only looking up and forward, ready for any obstacles that may come her way. “Don’t settle, always want the best for yourself,” she said.
Clara Amfo, Nikita Gill and Poorna Bell | The Barbie Be Anything Workshop
Barbie has been a staple toy of young girls for generations, but the brand has both grown with the times and shifted its focus to not only entertain young girls, but help to inspire them. It’s called the Barbie Dream Gap Project and the goal is to eliminate a disturbing trend that can sideline a girl from achieving her full potential. “Starting at age 5, many girls begin to develop limiting self-beliefs. They stop believing their gender can do or be anything.”
Barbie x Makers UK presenter Poorna Bell sat down with two very accomplished women, BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge host Clara Amfo and poet Nikita Gill, to discuss how they came to realize their passions. The purpose of the chat wasn’t only for the audience to better get to know the women on the panel and how they found success, but to leave with a feeling of confidence. As for closing the dream gap, it’s all about believing in yourself and shutting out the negative.
“Listen to that voice that we all have that tells you anything you want to do, you can do it,” Amfo said. And when it comes to standing up to those who don’t believe in you, Gill left the girls with some parting words of wisdom. “If anyone tell me you can’t do it because you’re a woman… all it deserves is a laugh and I’m doing it anyway.”
Yewande Akinola and Mala Mawkin BE INSPIRED – Dream without limit
Fields in the area of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) are expected to double over the next 15 years, yet the pool of workers in the field is currently male-dominated. While young girls often have an interest in STEM during the early years of primary school, that drops off by middle school and as a result, only less than 25 percent of the STEM workforce is women.
Barbie is working to close that dream gap by showing young girls that there are smart women making strides in STEM careers. Two of those women are engineer Yewande Akinola and scientist Mala Mawkin. Barbie x Makers UK presenter Poorna Bell sat down with the women to talk to them about how they developed an interest in their respective fields and what they hoped for the next generation of female scientists and engineers. Akinola for example, decided she wanted to design buildings while playing in her living room as a child. “I used to spend hours building these all these models in the corner of our living room.”
Bell also touched on what shaped the women when they were growing up and molded them into who they are today. “When I was young I was always playing with these doctor sets,” Mawkin said. “These are the games that will shape us into who we are, working out who we want to be and what our career should be. While not all the girls in the audience may go on to be engineers, they were all given a message that it was possible to close the dream gap and become anything they wanted.
Reni Eddo-Lodge , journalist and author | MAKERS
Sometimes it’s when we’re at the end of our rope that something truly great happens and a final effort results in a breakthrough. That was the case for award-winning author and journalist, Reni Eddo-Lodge. Of course, Eddo-Lodge wasn’t always an award-winning writer. There was a time when she was getting nothing but rejections from every writing job she pursued and was on the verge of being broke.
The feminist writer has been an activist in women’s rights, particularly women of color for a decade and has always been an avid reader. After graduating with a degree in English literature though she was having a difficult time finding work. With nothing left to lose, she began writing about the clashes in feminism between white women and women of color. It was during her frustration that she made a final effort with a blog post titled Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race. The blog went viral and led to a book deal with her first book being published under the same title and winning the 2018 Jhalak Prize and the 2018 British Book Award for Narrative Non-Fiction.
The real feedback that what she’s doing matters though has been the women who have approached Eddo-Lodge at book events. “At one of the first book events I did, somebody probably my grandma’s age came up to me and said ‘You’re the person who’s speaking up for us, we’ve been trying to say this for 34 years’ that’s really heartwarming to me.”