Letter From the Editor
“Be steady. stay focused. Remember your purpose. And always press forward.” This was journalist Yamiche Alcindor’s tweet after going toe-to-toe with President Trump in the White House press room. The women in this year’s “Women Shaping the Future” issue have much to teach us about persistence, grit, and the power of staying true to yourself. Amid the unprecedented challenges of 2020, many of them found a path to their best work. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ leadership through a tumultuous year of pandemic and protest have made her a rising star in the Democratic Party. Meanwhile, many of the artists and musicians we spoke to took time during isolation to reflect and go deeper than ever with their craft. “It’s been a spiritual kind of year,” says the rising reggae star Koffee, who took piano lessons and released new music, including her upbeat jam “Lockdown.”
For our March cover star, crossover country singer Kacey Musgraves, these unexpected months of contemplation have been a gift, she says, a chance to slow down after years of the 2018 Grammy winner moving at full speed. Musgraves talked to senior writer Alex Morris about her upcoming album and the deep, personal journey she’s been on — with a little help from a guided psychedelic mushroom trip that was like “10 years of therapy in one sitting” — in the wake of her divorce. “I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on growing up as a woman in the South,” Musgraves says. “We were told to please, to make this person happy. . . . So I’m trying to examine things that may not be useful anymore and maybe unlearn some things.”
Throughout the issue, you’ll find women who are rewriting the stories we’ve been told about ourselves and our world. Garrett Bradley found a stunningly personal way to address the devastation of mass incarceration in her documentary Time. Marielle Heller has become one of Hollywood’s most in-demand directors through sheer confidence in her own vision — by being unafraid to shoot down pitches even from the great Tom Hanks. And Pen15 co-creators Anna Konkle and Maya Erskine turned the repressed shame of adolescence into a radical work of humor and pathos, exposing their own deepest, darkest secrets so that we could all laugh and cry in relief along with them.
We also asked some of music’s most innovative female artists to tell us about the women who’ve inspired and taught them the most, in our “Icons and Influences” feature. The Haim sisters recall their mom introducing them to Joni Mitchell’s Miles of Aisles when they were kids. Brandi Carlile looks back on her “origins as a little baby lesbian who was obsessed with the Indigo Girls.” Sister R&B duo Chloe x Halle reveal the defining advice their mentor Beyoncé taught them: “It’s OK to be yourself, wholeheartedly. Shine. Be yourself. Be free with it. Because she has done that, she has made us believe that we could do that.” The women of this issue are doing the same for us all.