Famous women have women they idolize just like everyday folks. In time for Women’s History Month, we talked to Black actresses and entertainers about the famous icons they admire.

For instance, the timelessly beautiful Salli Richardson-Whitfield, 48, idolizes the late great Lena Horne. “People think she was just this performer but she really was an activist,” said the actress whose credits include Antwone Fisher and Eureka

“At a time like this in our lives where I find that a lot of entertainers are sitting back and not speaking up on what’s going on in the world, there were people like her who were great and willing to give up the things that they had in order to help others.”

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Richardson-Whitfield’s favorite Horne story was when the singer and actress went out of her way to entertain Black soldiers during World War II. 

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“The Black soldiers were seated behind the German POWs. She got off the stage and sang to the Black troops where they were sitting. The U.S. military didn’t like that so they didn’t ask her back. So she paid her own way and performed for them again. That’s who she was. She was a fighter.” 

Neo soul singer Goapele looks up to the late Miriam Makeba. “She was herself. Miriam Makeba made her own lane and was uncompromising and beautiful. She had a lot of integrity and created a career based on authenticity.”

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Last but not least, actress and writer Lena Waithe admires her lawyer Nina Shaw, a highly recognized talent attorney whose clients have included Jamie Foxx and Ava DuVernay.

“She’s awesome and really saw something in me long before all of this stuff started to happen in my career,” says Waithe, who costars on Netflix’s Master of None and wrote for Fox’s Bones. “I thought she was too big of a deal to be my lawyer but she said, ‘Trust me. I’m in it for the long haul. I think you have a bright future ahead of you.’ And she was right. So I always try to honor and admire people who don’t just look at what’s in front of them but what’s ahead of them.”

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