Angella Nazarian plays favorites in her new book, Visionary Women (Assouline, $50). The Iranian philanthropist-author spotlights 20 women, living and dead, who not only inspire her, but plainly just rock. The powerful ladies run the gamut: There’s swimmer Diana Nyad, who broke a world record at 64; late, great novelist Doris Lessing, who was still writing into her 90s; and African-American haircare mogul Madam C.J. Walker, the country’s first female self-made millionaire. We spoke to the L.A.-based Nazarian, who attended a luncheon to launch the book at The Grill at Bal Harbour Shops.
What was the writing process like?
It took me two years of research, reading, and interviews. I had a rigorous selection process for picking the women whom I wanted to showcase. I wanted to make sure that I covered individuals from all over the world and from different cultures — women who made a significant impact in their fields. Above all, I wanted to make sure that each of these women had an important message to share.
Is there one visionary woman who stands out from the rest?
This is a difficult question because I love each and every one. Push comes to shove, I believe that Maya Angelou led an extraordinary life — she went through so many transformations: a female pimp, a prostitute, a waitress, a cook, a nightclub singer. She later became a civil rights activist, a bestselling author, danced at La Scala, acted on Broadway and was nominated for a Tony, Pulitzer and won three Grammys. How can someone not be amazed of such talent and spirit?
Is there one quality that all the women featured share?
All the people highlighted in Visionary Women are courageous, trust their intuition and know how to summon an inner reservoir of strength. As I have noted in my book: “Sight is the ability to see the physical world, while vision is the gift of seeing beyond it.” They are out of the box thinkers and doers. They also had mentors in their lives who planted seeds of encouragement. This comes to show how important personal relationships are in one’s growth. Finally, successful women focus on their talents and strengths rather than thinking about their weaknesses.
What is your favorite quote in the book?
Probably Helen Keller’s: “There are two worlds: the world that we can measure with line and rule, and the world that we feel with our heart and imagination.” My all time favorite quote is from the poet Rumi: “Set you life on fire, seek those who fan your flame.”