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10 Real Life Role Models From The 90s

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For those of us who grew up in the 90s we already know the decade wasn’t just about the fashion or the music or the demanding whims of your tamagotchi (I’LL CLEAN UP YOUR DAMN POOP WHEN I’M GOOD AND READY). It was also about looking up to the artists and innovators of the time who were changing the world and daring you to dream bigger. Here are just a few I’ve always looked up to who still remain leaders in their field. Side note, every one of them poops, learned THAT in the 90s too.

Kathleen Hanna

kathleen mic yell


A part of me wants to make all ten people on this list notable “Riot Grrrl” and “Riot Grrrl adjacent” bands but I’ll spare you my well intended obnoxiousness by choosing one of the most influential; Kathleen Hanna. Like the other artist lumped into this unintentional yet deeply politically motivated movement, Hanna rallied for a higher visibility and a change in attitude regards to female sexuality, gender, LGBT issues, violence against women and the disenfranchised. All that and her music was fun and empowering – attributes that are much missed in this day and age.


Mae Jemison

mae space suit


“It sounds a little gross, but I was fascinated with pus,” and with that one of the coolest space pioneers developed a love for science at a young age. Jemison was not only the first black woman in space, but an esteemed educator and advocate. She was also a total Trekkie holding the title as the only actual astronaut to ever appear on the show.


Margaret Cho

margaret cho american


Regardless of how funny you find her, Margaret Cho is an artist that matters. Besides upping Asian American visibility in popular culture she has built her career on her transparency; about her sexuality and body issues and the importance of not giving a single f$%*. She’s brash and vulnerable and still one of the most poignant humorist’s today.


Pedro Zamora

pedro z golden gate


It’s hard to believe that the Real World was ever about more than hot tubs and hook ups but there was a time when the strangers reflected and spoke for the era. One stranger, Pedro Zamora, openly gay and living with AIDS, was a ground-breaking figure in popular media. Even Bill Clinton credited him as being influential in humanizing the cause and educating America about the AIDS crisis.


Roseanne Barr

roseanne goodman 90s


Roseanne and her self-titled, award winning, show may have begun in the 80s but the lasting impact and most controversial subject matter happened in the 90s. Not only was it groundbreaking to portray a “warts and all” blue collar family that looked like your neighbors but the show wasn’t shy to tackle hot button issues like: poverty, alcoholism, drug abuse, menstruation, birth control, teenage pregnancy, masturbation, obesity, abortion, race, social class, domestic violence, infidelity, and gay rights. And most all of these huge televised strides would not be possible without the crazy lady at its heart.


Eddie Vedder

eddie vedder unplugged


This is what a feminist looks like. Also what an eco-activist, political activist and by all accounts a nice human being looks like. Like contemporary Kurt Cobain, he could have just been a handsome face slinging the “Seattle Sound” aesthetic, but neither could stomach that. It’s a shame more contemporary artists don’t use their notoriety to affect social change, even at the risk of their fanbase.


Ice Cube

ice cube fishing


I love hearing that Ice Cube sold out. Ice Cube was raised in an upper middle class family and went a High School in the San Fernando Valley (a place that couldn’t be further from South Central). Why he’s on this list is because he had the talent and the drive to take a significant cultural moment, align himself with authentic people and use his intelligence to craft some of the best rap lyrics ever spit. And when the genre began to wane in popularity, he segued into a film career pleasant enough for the whole family. Ice Cube never sold out, he just played the game to win.


Gwen Stefani

gwen Stefani girl


Growing up in Southern California, Gwen Stefani was everything to me. She wrote her own lyrics, she was healthy and active, she rolled with the boys and reflected a strong femininity that was uncompromising and fun. Later in the decade there was some hero worship growing pains when she started to obsess over marriages and babies and started to give up the ska spunk we all worshiped. But now that my butt hurt has transitioned into an appreciation for her entrepreneurialism and her maintained relevancy I consider her a hero all the more.


Danica McKeller

danica then now


Danica McKeller, aka Winnie Cooper from The Wonder Years, was every boys fantasy. After the show ended she could have just continued to be hot and desirable in print and TV but she continued her education graduating summa cum laude (stop giggling) with a degree in mathematics. She co-authored a paper with a professor and fellow student that later became a recognized theorem as well as made the best seller list with a book about her love of math. To this day she continues to be a badass babe both in body and mind.


RuPaul Andre Charles

rupaul eyeglass


”If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you going to love somebody else?” RuPaul has unquestionably been the most influential drag performer of this or any era. But it’s not just her glamour that has made the star so popular it’s his charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent.


Who inspired you from their 90s presence? Let me know in the comments!

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