The Jezebel 25: Kick-Ass and Amazing Women We Love

In 2007, Gawker Media launched Jezebel.com; five years and over three million readers later, we figure it's time to celebrate. But rather than toot our own horn, we decided to honor 25 game-changing women who we think embody what we're all about: names you may know, names you should know, and names you'll be hearing much more about in the future. All are ladies who caught our attention, and we think they deserve yours. We rounded them up this week in New York where they were photographed by Nikola Tamindzic.

Today we're sharing their profiles and portraits; on Monday, you can check out the fancy Sears Portrait Studio-style group shots. In the meantime, click through and get to know 25 very inspiring ladies.

The Jezebel 25: Kick-Ass and Amazing Women We Love

Sandra Fluke

When 30-year-old then-Georgetown Law Student Sandra Fluke was denied the chance to testify before a Congressional committee on the role birth control plays in the lives of women on Catholic university campuses, she ignited a firestorm of controversy that incensed conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh so much that he devoted several days worth of his program to hurling sexist insults at her. But Fluke didn't fight fire with fire; instead, she responded with dignity, poise, and class, and has emerged as an important voice of reason in the political cacophony that has been the War on Women. -ER

Emily May

Emily May is the co-founder and Executive Director of Hollaback, as well as a leader in the anti-street-harassment movement. Hollaback uses mobile technology to empower women and LGBTQ individuals, giving them a platform, a voice, a community and a safe space to document the culturally accepted gateway crime that is public sexual harassment. May explains: "The number one piece of advice women get about how to deal with street harassment is to shut up and keep going, and I think that's the worst possible advice you can give. Strength is being loud about something, even when the world tells you that you should just put up with it.When one person comes forward to share her story, it inspires others to do the same — it's like when you're at a show and three people start dancing. You gain control back over your life. That's the personal impact; but there's a political impact, as well. This is how social change has always been made." -DS


Photographs by Nikola Tamindzic.

The Jezebel 25: Kick-Ass and Amazing Women We Love

Peta Lindsay

Even though she's technically not old enough to hold the position, political activist Peta Lindsay is a black feminist running for president. A graduate of Howard University, Lindsay is an advocate for the rights of working people, and believes in prioritizing the leadership of working class women and women of color, who have often been historically sidelined in feminist struggles. Lindsay, who has been a feminist since childhood and got involved with the anti-war movement at the age of 17, says her campaign is in the tradition of the legendary Shirley Chisholm: "Knocking down barriers, demanding inclusion, refusing to be put 'in our place.' I don't meet the criteria of the 'typical' candidate in a lot of obvious ways, and like Chisholm, I know the political and media establishment will use that to ignore or discredit my campaign. Considering all the racist attacks she faced, including assassination attempts, I bet her advice to me would be: 'Don't let the odds intimidate you, don't be turned away, ignore the haters.'"-DS

Julie Klausner

Julie Klausner is hilarious and wise. The author, podcaster, and comedian lampoons the self-delusions and foibles of modern womanhood — dating, dieting, douchebags — with deft wit and eviscerating sarcasm. Her first book, I Don't Care About Your Band, is a funny, vulnerable, self-deprecating look at her dating history, and has been optioned by HBO (with Lizzy Caplan in the lead!). Her podcast, "How Was Your Week?" was named one of the 10 best comedy podcasts of the moment by Rolling Stone. Her Twitter feed is addictive. Pay attention: Julie Klausner is blowing up.-LW


Photographs by Nikola Tamindzic.

The Jezebel 25: Kick-Ass and Amazing Women We Love

Jean Grae

South African-born and New York-bred, Jean Grae is widely regarded as one of the most underrated MCs in the game. Coming up in the mid-'90s in the hip hop group Natural Resource, Grae later struggled as a solo artist to find her footing in a rap landscape that was overpopulated with hyper-sexualized female artists. Refusing to assimilate, Grae has truly epitomized the spirt of an independent artist. At her core, she's an innovator, with raw and incredibly personal lyrics that touch on the kind of shared female experiences that no other rapper has dared explore, like the complexity of mother/daughter relationships. -TM

Julie Zeilinger

Julie Zeilinger is the kind of accomplished woman you'd like to be when you grow up — except she's still a teenager. Making the rest of us look like slackers, Zeilinger founded The FBomb, a blog and community for and by teenage girls "who care about their rights as women," when she was just 16 years old. Utilizing the medium to its fullest potential, Zeilinger fused a generation gap when she created a space where young feminists could connect with one another, feel a little less alone in their beliefs, and have their voices heard. For decades, adults have been talking about the future of feminism — the FBomb allows the future of feminism to join the conversation. With her first book, A Little F'd Up: Why Feminism Is Not a Dirty Word, released this year, Zeilinger — currently an undergrad at Barnard in New York City — is a role model for young girls (and their moms, too!).


Photographs by Nikola Tamindzic.

The Jezebel 25: Kick-Ass and Amazing Women We Love

Mac McClelland

Mac McClelland is an intrepid human rights reporter for Mother Jones magazine and the author of For Us Surrender Is Out of the Question, a book about the time she spent living with refugee activists on the Burma-Thailand border. Whether she's going undercover as an online-shipping warehouse worker in Mississippi, winning numerous awards for her coverage of the BP oil spill (including the 2010 Sidney Award and 1st place in Outstanding Beat Reporting from the Society for Environmental Journalists in 2011), or writing frankly about how violent sex helped ease the PTSD she experienced after working in post-earthquake Haiti, Mac's badass attitude mixed with her old-school reporting skills always makes for reading that is as provocative as it is enlightening. -KB

Elizabeth Herman

In the two years since she graduated from college, Elizabeth Herman has traveled around the world to countries like Bangladesh, Vietnam and Egypt, interviewing current and former female combatants for a long-term documentary project entitled "A Woman's War" about the impact of conflict. The work was named a 2011 Finalist of The Aftermath Project, a 2011 Top Finalist of the Fotovisura Spotlight Grant and shortlisted for the 2011 Lucie Foundation Scholarship. Elizabeth, a former Fulbright fellow, was also recently granted the 2012 Tim Hetherington Award to continue working with women of the Bosnian War. And she also somehow manages to find the time to run a blog focusing on the importance of narrative and language called "The Stories We Tell." -KB


Photographs by Nikola Tamindzic.

The Jezebel 25: Kick-Ass and Amazing Women We Love

Kate Zambreno

Kate Zambreno's novel Green Girl — a finalist in the Morning News's 2012 Tournament of Books — has been almost universally praised in thinky literary circles. It's the story of Ruth, a somewhat infuriating American girl drifting through London, selling perfume, getting drunk, having sex, being beautiful, obsessing over fashion, and struggling to carve out her identity. Ruth is a challenging character and a controversial one — Zambreno calls her an antiheroine, a "hot mess" — but that search for identity is infinitely relatable. And does a girl really have to be palatable? Nice? Of course not. She also writes a fantastic blog about life, literature, and overlooked female contributions to same called Frances Farmer is My Sister. -LW

Minya Oh, AKA Miss Info

As News Director and on air personality at New York City's top hip-hop and R&B radio station Hot 97, Miss Info is the widely revered town crier of the hip-hop community. Born Minya Oh, the daughter of Korean immigrants, she's used her wit and Ivy League education to lend a credibility and depth to her brand of celebrity gossip. Honing her craft as an editor at the biggest magazines in the industry — The Source, Vibe, XXL, and Rolling Stone — Oh went on to be work at MTV News and VH1, and wrote a hip-hop fashion book (Bling Bling: Hip Hop's Crown Jewels) before starting her critically acclaimed hip hop blog, MissInfo.tv. Frank and fearless, she's been outspoken about the portrayal of Asian Americans in media.


Photographs by Nikola Tamindzic.

The Jezebel 25: Kick-Ass and Amazing Women We Love

Sara Ziff

Sara Ziff is a model, a community organizer, a documentary filmmaker, a native New Yorker, a Columbia graduate — and a bit of a hell-raiser. Scouted at age 14 by a photographer in Union Square, Ziff rocketed to the top of the industry in her teens, walking for designers including Christian Dior, Chanel, and Marc Jacobs at all the world's fashion weeks, all the while notching up magazine covers and ad campaigns for the likes of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger. Her and other models' experiences in the industry — of long hours, few breaks, the pressure to delay educational opportunities, and few consequences for superiors who engage in sexual harassment — formed the basis for her acclaimed 2009 film, Picture Me. Following the release of Picture Me, Sara worked with the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham Law School to form the Model Alliance (where Jezebel's own Jenna Sauers, also pictured, is also an active board member), a nonprofit that aims to give fashion models a voice in their work, and to promote fair labor standards throughout the fashion supply chain. -JS


Photographs by Nikola Tamindzic.

The Jezebel 25: Kick-Ass and Amazing Women We Love

Samantha Garvey

Long Island teenager Samantha Garvey has an exceptional mind. This past January, 18-year-old Garvey became a semi-finalist in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search after spending two years researching aquatic ecosystems. As if her study wasn't challenging enough, Garvey, along with her entire family, had been living in a homeless shelter at the time. Since Samantha's story broke, her family has been moved into a three-bedroom apartment, she has attended the President's State of the Union Address and she has received a fifty thousand dollar scholarship from Ellen Degeneres. Throughout it all, Samantha has remained devoted to her studies and love of science. -MD

Brittany Gibbons

While the majority of us spent our senior years of college perfecting our beer pong technique and sleeping through class, Brittany Gibbons was furthering the development of the offshore wind power industry. For her senior honors thesis project, the SUNY Oswego meteorology student collected data and created computer generated maps to assist in the establishment of a wind power corridor that would run, hypothetically, from Cape Cod to New Jersey. Gibbons' research has greatly advanced the case for offshore wind power, showing it to be both an effective and possible solution to the nation's energy crisis. -MD


Photographs by Nikola Tamindzic.

The Jezebel 25: Kick-Ass and Amazing Women We Love

Ai-jen Poo

Ai-jen Poo is an American activist and labor organizer who has worked tirelessly to promote the interests of domestic workers in the US. Currently serving as the director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and co-director of Caring Across Generations, Poo's efforts were essential in the passage of New York's Domestic Worker's Bill of Rights. Informed by her Taiwanese parents' devotion to social justice, she's dedicated her life to fighting for fair working conditions for and giving voice to domestic employees, women who society treats as second-class citizens. -ER

Grace Brown

Grace Brown founded Project Unbreakable in October of 2011, hoping to give a voice to survivors of sexual assault. Brown's Tumblr features pictures of women (and a handful of men) who have been assaulted, holding handwritten posters of the words their attacker said before, during, and/or after the assault. Submissions poured in, and already the blog has over 13,000 followers. Project Unbreakable is raw, moving, and challenging, and pushes back against a society that ostensibly condemns abusers while simultaneously silencing their victims. -LW


Photographs by Nikola Tamindzic.

The Jezebel 25: Kick-Ass and Amazing Women We Love

Christina Tosi

Any dessert lover worth their salt (or, in this case, sugar) is likely a big fan of Christina Tosi: she, along with mentor and Momofuku chef David Chang, is the talent behind the New York City sweet spot Milk Bar, beloved by foodies and non-obsessives alike. This past May, Christina was named the Rising Star Chef by the prestigious James Beard Foundation and is the author of her own cookbook, aptly titled, Momofuko Milk Bar. If you need to convinced of her delectable brilliance, one taste of Milk Bar's famous Compost Cookies (filled with goodies such as chocolate, pretzels and potato chips — trust us, it works) should do the trick

Amanda Kludt

Amanda Kludt is so good at working her way up the food-blogging chain that the website she used to edit, Eater New York, actually created a new national position just for her: Editorial Director. Now she works with Eater editors in 17 cities across the country, covering restaurant reviews, events, food industry news, and all the delicious gossip that goes on behind the scenes. It makes sense, since Amanda got her job at Eater in the first place by being enterprising and all-around awesome at what she does. "I constantly read Eater, and when I heard they needed someone to take over, I begged them," she told Elle. "I was the most obsessive, so I got it."


Photographs by Nikola Tamindzic.

The Jezebel 25: Kick-Ass and Amazing Women We Love

Jennifer Baumgardner

Where would feminist dialogue of today be without the contributions of Jennifer Baumgardner? The author, filmmaker, and activist is a thought leader for modern feminism, spearheading groundbreaking campaigns like 2004's I Had an Abortion project and 2008's It Was Rape project, both of which encourage women to speak out about events that are shamed and misunderstood by mainstream society. Baumgardner was also Ms.Magazine's youngest-ever editor and has written about grassroots activism, bisexuality, and the obsession with female sexual purity. -ER

Winnifred Bonjean-Alpert

Winnifred Bonjean-Alpert is a New York City-based writer and actor, and one of three subjects of a new documentary that examines social pressure on female sexuality called Sexy Baby. And she's only 15. Bonjean-Alpert is also a member of an all-teen, all-girl theater troupe called The Arts Effect, which writes and performs plays based on teen girls' struggles to navigate an increasingly complex, increasingly technology-obsessed world. -ER


Photographs by Nikola Tamindzic.

The Jezebel 25: Kick-Ass and Amazing Women We Love

Lake & Stars: Mayaan Zilberman and Nikki Dekker

Friends Mayaan Zilberman and Nikki Dekker founded the Lake & Stars lingerie brand. The designers work in beautiful silk prints and laces to create unique long-line bras, high-waisted briefs, and bodysuits that are simply out of this world. Zilberman and Dekker are often inspired by vintage lingerie, but thankfully without the kitsch (and without the problematic, unexamined reification of bygone generations' understanding of a woman's role) that that phrase implies. Their brand imagery explores a more personal and idiosyncratic kind of sexuality, and steers well clear of the woman-as-object tropes of most lingerie modeling (and of the high-def, artificially-colored-and-flavored aesthetic of the brands that dominate the industry, such as Victoria's Secret). And when it comes to its models, the Lake & Stars has some of the best casting in the business: not only do they always make sure to have a truly multi-ethnic cast, including plus-size models, but I've also seen them hire "real women" of various ages who they feel represent the qualities of the brand. I don't think there's another lingerie company on earth that would hire a breast cancer survivor as a model. The fact that they don't make a big deal about any of that — no press releases touting the brand's body-positivity, no self-congratulatory show notes — suggests that inclusivity comes to them innately. -JS


Photographs by Nikola Tamindzic.

The Jezebel 25: Kick-Ass and Amazing Women We Love

Natalie Difford

Natalie Difford spent several years working at an organization called Chicken & Egg Pictures, dedicated to supporting female filmmakers taking creative risks. Difford is a programmer for the Tribeca Film Festival, and served as a producer on this year's SXSW best film Gimme the Loot, which also played in the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year. She's now involved with Cinereach, a not-for-profit film production company that empowers and funds filmmakers around the world. -DS

Deb Perelman

When Deb Perelman started her now ubiquitous food blog Smitten Kitchen almost six years ago, she never expected that one day she'd be winning prestigious awards on the regular (Best Food Weblog in the 2012 Annual Bloggies Awards, for example), getting name-dropped by celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, or receiving over 4 million unique page views a month from fans desperate to master her delicious quiches, cakes, and other delicacies. Not that it's hard to do so, since Deb guides readers through easy-to-follow, wittily-written recipes ranging from simple pestos to something called seven-yolk pasta dough. It's almost easy to forget that down-to-earth Deb, whose first cookbook is coming out later this year, is a food blogging mastermind. -KB


Photographs by Nikola Tamindzic.

The Jezebel 25: Kick-Ass and Amazing Women We Love

Sheila Heti

If you're not already reading Sheila Heti's second novel How Should A Person Be? (which had its long-awaited U.S. release this week), you should be. Heti's rousing, unapologetically messy, beautifully written, insightful and provocative book explores the frustrations and rewards of female friendship, and of trying to make art as a young woman in the 21st century. "I look at all the people who are alive today and think, These are my contemporaries," writes Heti. "These are my fucking contemporaries!" In making an argument for the importance of female subjectivity, and in doing her part to help throw into question the public/private hierarchy women are taught to adhere to, the one that tells us our feelings and private experiences are not matters of any wider importance, Heti is doing something very exciting within the form of the novel. -JS

Jamala Johns

Jamala Johns is a photographer, art director, blogger, woman-about-town and founder of Le Coil, a curated online collection of images of women with natural hair. In the mainstream media, black women are predominantly seen with chemically straightened hair; finding images of black hair in its natural, curly state, whether it be of celebrities or models in magazine photoshoots, is very rare. Le Coil isn't just a collection of gorgeous photographs — many of of them taken by Johns herself — it's inspirational, aspirational, motivational and celebratory. Beautiful, proud, stylish ladies sadly underrepresented in other venues are at the heart of Le Coil, thanks to Johns' vision. -DS


Photographs by Nikola Tamindzic.