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Behind every great woman … are a couple more!

08.03.2012 Olga Allon


It may not always feel like it, but March really is a great month. It’s not just the approach of spring - although that helps - but the double opportunity to celebrate women. First, on 8th March, there’s International Women’s Day, a global event that’s been taking place since the early 1900s. Then, on 18th March, there’s Mother’s Day, a chance to think about our relationships with our mothers, grandmothers and, for those of us who are mothers ourselves, with our children, too.

It’s the perfect time, then, to pay tribute to a few of the women who’ve inspired me, and who continue to do so. 

Anne Frank was probably the first. Although my Jewish roots meant I was aware of her from a very young age, it was when my parents took me to her house in Amsterdam, when I was about 12, that her story really hit home. Her diary’s an extraordinary fusion of the personal and the political. She talked about all the normal stuff I was going through at that age - boyfriends, friends, family quarrels - but set against the most incredibly challenging times. Her diary’s a powerful reminder to fight prejudice wherever we find it.

Later, at university, being a woman studying and then qualifying as an architect could feel a bit of a lonely furrow to plough. In a male-dominated world, Zaha Hadid’s incredible vision and her position as a leading architect gave me the belief that I could succeed.

Another huge influence was Paula Radcliffe. Both yoga and running have always been massively important to me and Paula’s determination, her pushing of her body to the limits of its capabilities, was inspirational. I remember reading about her running even while she was heavily pregnant and (although the times we achieved were very different!) it encouraged me to keep running through my pregnancies, too. 

Madonna’s another woman whose physical energy is incredible. I wasn’t a huge fan when I was young, but she’s just always been there - reinventing herself to stay fresh and ahead of the game. Add together raw talent, masses of style, some great tunes and her physical and mental toughness and you have to admit the results are pretty amazing!

In the world of yoga, Emmy Cleaves who takes the advanced Bikram class, teaching the teachers, is one of my biggest inspirations. Now in her 80s, she’s a reminder that Bikram is open to people of all ages and conditions, and proof that you really can grow older gracefully.

Last, but most definitely not least, the constant backdrop is my mother. She’s played a huge part in making me who I am and in shaping my values. Her incredible capacity for love gave me an enviably secure and happy childhood. It’s the foundation for everything I do and it inspires me to try to provide the same for my children. Thank you, Mum – and happy Mother’s Day!

Keep sweating!
Olga