Ladies, leaders and mentors

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016


Whether it was your mom, sister, granny, aunt, or a female role model you looked up to, women have played an instrumental part in helping all of us become the people we are today. Throughout history there have been many women that have changed the way we think and act.

Re-shaping cultures, customs, civilisations and pretty much everything that we know today. They have been friends, mothers, mentors and leaders. What you might not know is that many of these women had mentors of their own.

J.J. Harris and Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron is a world renowned, Oscar-winning actress, born right here in sunny South Africa. Early on in her career, she saw the importance of having a mentor that she could learn from and look up to. She found this mentor in her manager, J.J. Harris.

The two formed a strong bond. They had more than a working relationship, they were friends. JJ Harris also managed other world-renowned Hollywood talents, Kevin Costner, Drew Barrymore and Dakota Fanning.

Sadly, on 31 August 2013, JJ Harris passed away. She played an immense part in Charlize’s life and this is what she had to say about her.

“J.J. Harris was my manager for many years, and I wouldn’t be standing here today if it wasn’t for her. She was an incredible woman in my life. As far as business is concerned, she taught me what it meant to be a woman and to be able to say no — to not just take a job because you are so grateful that a man gave you a job. She used to say to me, ‘It’s okay, you can say no, ‘ and, ‘You’re going to make a career on saying no.'”

Maya Angelou and Oprah Winfrey

We all know Oprah Winfrey for her hugely popular talk show and numerous programmes to help women. She has been a mentor to many people around the world. But even Oprah insists that the impact that she has made is only due to the lessons she learnt from her mentor.

Oprah grew up reading books written by renowned author Maya Angelou. She dreamed of one day meeting her as the books helped her through a difficult childhood. When she was in her 30’s, she got her wish. After they met, they formed an immediate bond. She gave her a piece of advice that would change her life.

“I was sharing with her some of the mistakes I’d made in my twenties, and I shall never forget what she said to me: ‘That was when you were twenty, and now you’re in your thirties. When you know better, you do better.’ It was one of the great lessons of my life.”

“She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life, ” Winfrey said. “Mentors are important and I don’t think anybody makes it in the world without some form of mentorship, “

In South Africa, women form the pillars of our communities

We thank you for all that you have done and all that you will do. To our women mentors, we thank you for your dedication to the #BeTheMentor programme. Your pledge has made an impact. To those of you who are still looking for a way to really make a difference, take the pledge today and be the mentor you wish you had.

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