I began my very first Badass Ladies project back in 2018, and since that very first day my list of potential badasses has never been a short one. Whenever I hear about or see someone that is worth further investigation, I open up my handy "note" app and add their name to a running list of badass womxn. As we get closer and closer to the end of a year, this becomes the starting point for my more formalized list, and it helps keep my focus on the project and its importance, resulting in deeper appreciation and pride year-after-year... well before the paintbrush even hits the page! In addition to my own note-taking, the involvement of those around me has increased, and it's not uncommon for me to get an email or text with a link, a screenshot, or a name. My heart and soul always burst with pride when this happens, because it means that they too are bought in. They too are invested. They too are thinking about badass womxn all year long.
I received one such suggestion from an online friend, Adrienne White, the mastermind behind Fempower Media and ShesSoCoolPod (by the way, she's the coolest - we've never met in real life, but connected right after my very first Badass Ladies release!). I had just taken the leap to follow my passion full-time, and put in my two-week notice that day, when I received the message notification from Instagram. I opened it up, and the shared profile was there waiting for me. I immediately noted "Blair Imani" on my list, and gave her a follow.
It took only a few days to determine that Blair was definitely going to have a place in my 2021 Badass Ladies Calendar. As an activist, acclaimed author, organizer, popular influencer on multiple platforms, and sought-after public speaker, she inspires and leads by her extreme talent as well as her, seemingly, tireless commitment to justice. And through all of that, she is real. She's not afraid of hopping on an instagram story halfway through her skincare routine, doesn't hide from "forbidden topics" like alcoholism or eating disorders, and her StarTrek nerdom is unparalleled. She sets the expectation to get uncomfortable, to learn, and to rethink, but she gives you the tools to do it. Every single day, I learn.
If you don't already follow her, I highly recommend it (here is a link to her page).
As a Black, queer, and Muslim woman who uses her powerful voice to educate across so many channels, her impact is as broad as it is transformative. Blair focuses her efforts on uplifting and empowering women and girls, global Black communities, and the LBGTQ community. She has written two widely-read history books, “Modern HERstory: Stories of Women and Nonbinary People Rewriting History” and “Making Our Way Home: The Great Migration and the Black American Dream” and hosts a series of hugely influential Instagram and Patreon lessons that are created weekly and provide applicable knowledge across a range of topics (ex. what is gender?) to her many followers. The latter is my favorite thing that Blair offers.
Her “Smarter in Seconds” series on Instagram is a quick, non-intimidating, and always topical lesson that, simply put, makes learning easier. I am consistently grateful and in awe at how accessible she makes her descriptions on subjects that I, and many, often find hard to explain and, sometimes, don’t fully understand. I have come to find out that this is one of her many superpowers. When she is not breaking complex definitions or practices into bite-size chunks for her audience, I have also taken so much from the openness with which she shares her experience. She invites people into her world to better understand the challenges she, and those who share her identities, face as well as the joys that come with being exactly who she is. Her transparency with her feelings is an act that I find incredibly insightful, but also deeply courageous because, as anyone who creates for a living or simply exists on the internet knows, folks can be brutal. Thankfully, she is a force to be reckoned with.
It was an absolute honor to paint her portrait, inspired by a photograph taken by the talented Allegra Messina. I won't lie, it's my favorite portrait of the year.
My favorite quote: "Be an active participant in making the world less terrible."