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From Doctor Who to Miss Great Britain: the women making waves this week

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Dropping every Friday, Women Making Waves is a series highlighting the women who rocked the boat, pushed for change and made history around the world this week.  

Jodie Whittaker brings the house down at Comic Con

Jodie Whittaker at Comic Con 

Jodie Whittaker, the first ever female Doctor Who, appeared at Comic Con in San Diego on Thursday (20 July) – the first time she has appeared in public representing the beloved sci-fi series.

Speaking on a panel in front of 6,000 pop culture super-fans, Whittaker said that the time was right for a woman to take control of the Tardis. “It’s 2018. It’s the direction that [the show] was always going to go in,” she said.

However, she emphasised that her gender would not significantly influence how she chose to embody the character of the Doctor. “The thing about this role, which is why it is so amazing for any actor to play the role, is that essentially gender is irrelevant, and that’s completely liberating,” she said.

“As a woman who is into a genre, and as just a woman, I’ve never approached a role as ‘Well, how would a woman do this?’ I’ve just done it from my perspective. The wonderful thing about playing the Doctor is that I’m playing an alien. So all those roles are irrelevant to the approach.”

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In another interview published this week, Whittaker said she hoped to show girls that they could be the star of their own story. “Being the first female Doctor and showing children that their heroes in shows don’t always look the same is a huge honour for me,” she said.

Watch the first trailer for the new series of Doctor Who here

Dee-Ann Kentish-Rogers becomes first black Miss Universe Great Britain

On Saturday (14 July) Dee-Ann Kentish-Rogers made history as the first black woman to be crowned winner of Miss Universe Great Britain. The 25-year-old will go forward to represent Britain at the International Miss Universe competition this December in the Philippines.

“It’s really humbling and I think it’s also a privilege for me to become the first black woman who is crowned Miss Universe Great Britain,” Kentish-Rogers told BuzzFeed.

She said she believes the pageant, now in its 66th year, “has been going in [this direction] for the last couple of years because Britain is a diverse nation, we are a multicultural society and it is time that that diversity is seen on a stage where other young black girls and girls of all ethnicities can see that this is something for everybody not just some of us.”

Kentish-Rogers’ win wasn’t the first time she made pageant history. During the competition, she became the first dreadlocked woman to walk across a Miss Universe Great Britain stage. She adds these accolades to being a silver and bronze medal-winning athlete, a law graduate and winner of Miss Anguilla 2017 (Anguilla is a British Caribbean island and Kentish-Rogers’ hometown).

During the pageant, Kentish-Rogers competed against 40 women from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and British Overseas Territories. Great Britain has yet to win the Miss Universe title, but Kentish-Rogers might just be the one to change that. 

Sexual abuse victims gather to accept courage award 

From L-R: Survivors Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber, Tiffany Thomas Lopez and Sarah Klein on the ESPYS red carpet 

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Earlier this year, the world was rocked by the courageous testimonies of more than 100 women who were sexually abused by doctor Larry Nassar while training as youth gymnasts.

On Wednesday night (18 July), 141 of those women united on stage at the ESPYS to receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. A standing ovation broke out as Jennifer Garner introduced the women – including Aly Raisman, Sarah Klein and Tiffany Thomas Lopez – who she described as “an army that has come here tonight to be heard”.

Before accepting their award, the survivors spoke once more of the abuse Nassar subjected them to. The doctor was sentenced to up to 300 years in prison at two separate trials in January and February, after pleading guilty to seven counts of sexual assault of minors and three counts of sexual assault. The previous summer, he was sentenced to 60 years in prison on child pornography charges.

“1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016. These were the years we spoke up about Larry Nassar’s abuse,” said Raisman, an Olympic gold medal gymnast. “All those years we were told ‘You are wrong. You misunderstood.’”

She urged other survivors of sexual abuse to speak out. “We may suffer alone, but we survive together.” 

Former teacher of the year announces run for office 

Jahana Hayes accepting the ‘National Teacher of the Year’ award at the White House in 2016

Jahana Hayes had quite the year in 2016 when she received the US National Teacher of the Year award (from President Obama, no less). Now, she’s got her sight set on an even bigger goal – running as a Democrat for the House seat in Connecticut’s 5th District.

Inspired by her pupils, Hayes decided to follow in the footsteps of other ‘ordinary’ Americans who are running for Congress this year despite a lack of political experience.

Her new campaign video touches upon her tough upbringing – she was raised by her grandmother while her mother struggled with addiction – and how she became a mum at 17. Hayes credits the community she now seeks to represent for supporting her through those difficult times, and ultimately allowing her to grow into the woman she is today.

“Teachers are nation-builders. That’s our job – to effect change, and to improve outcomes,” Hayes said. “But that’s the job of Congress, too. So I’m running for Congress.”

If elected, Hayes promises to fight for better jobs, stronger schools, social justice and affordable healthcare.

Women Making Waves is part of Stylist’s Visible Women campaign to raise awareness of women who’ve made a difference. See more Visible Women stories here.  

Words: Millie Richardson, Moya Crockett. Images: Getty Images