Some of the greatest trailblazers of our time are women! Our 2013 Voices of Influence roster of women shows strong examples of how racial, economical and stereotypical barriers can be broken down with great skill — and a great pair of heels! WAOK salutes these powerful women for using their voices of influence to spark positive change in the community and impact the world!


Michelle Obama

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As the first African American to become the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama has made tremendous strides in community service and leadership. Working with young people has remained her mission, as she continues to champion the fight against childhood obesity through her Let’s Move program. In addition to raising healthier generations of kids, she makes efforts to support military families, encourage national service, promote arts education and so much more! WAOK salutes the inspiring voice of First lady Michelle Obama!



Best known as the creator, head writer and executive producer of the acclaimed television series Grey’s Anatomy and its spin-off, Private Practice, Shonda Rhimes clearly knows what it take to shape the world with just her imagination. Her ground-breaking scripts are redefining “must-see TV” and with the smashing success of her latest, most riveting and jaw-dropping contribution to television, Scandal, continues to build her reputation as the “Queen of Primetime Television.” WAOK salutes the pioneering voice of Shonda Rhimes!




Award-winning talk show host, actress, producer, philanthropist and network owner, Oprah Winfrey is the very definition of “trailblazer.”  After changing the face of daytime TV with the 25-year run of the Oprah talk show, she became the first African American female to own a film production company and has now achieved a life-long dream with the growing success of the Oprah Winfrey Network, which is seen in over 80 million households! WAOK salutes the commanding voice of Oprah Winfrey!



U.S. Women’s Artistic Gymnast, Gabrielle Douglas, took the world by storm at the 2012 London Summer Olympics. Winning gold medals in both team and all-around competitions, Gabby made Olympic history by becoming the first African American woman, or any woman of color and nationality, to become the Individual All-Around Champion. Her grace and talent has become an inspiration to young women of varying races all over the world. Gabby plans to compete in the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro and without question, the world will be watching! WAOK salutes the rising voice of Gabrielle Douglas!



Mara Brock Akil has written and produced some of the most popular African American television shows of our time. Her credits include South Central, Moesha, The Jamie Foxx Show, Girlfriends and The Game. She also served as writer and co-producer for the 2012 big-screen remake of Sparkle featuring Whitney Houston. As the co-founder of Happy Camper Productions with her husband, Salim, Mara Brock Akil does her part in preserving the African American image on film and TV. WAOK salutes the productive voice of Mara Brock Akil!



Beverly Bond’s passion for music solidified her role as one of the most popular female DJs in the world, but it was her passion to build the self-esteem and self-worth of young women of color that made her one of America’s most influential voices. After founding the Black Girls Rock organization in 2006, Beverly Bond has empowered, mentored and changed the lives of 12-17 year old girls through education, cultural exploration and public service. She has since partnered with BET networks to televise her annual Black Girls Rock Awards show, which has become a monumental broadcast for and about exceptional women of color. WAOK salutes the passionate voice of Beverly Bond!

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Since she came on the scene, Kerry Washington has wowed audiences with her timeless beauty and captivating roles. Starring in films like Our Song, Lift, Save the Last Dance, Ray, For Colored Girls and most recently, Django, Kerry Washington has remained a consistent example of superb African American talent. Even though she’s had a successful movie career, it’s her latest television role as Olivia Pope in ABC’s Scandal that has kept the world on the edge of their seats. Beyond her on-screen talents, Washington used her political voice at the 2012 Democratic Convention to motivate support for the re-election of President Barack Obama. WAOK salutes the expressive voice of Kerry Washington!




Allyson Felix is a world renowned track and field sprint athlete who competes internationally for the United States. Her specialty is the 200 meter race, but she also competes in the 100 meter and 400 meter distances, and as a part of the United States’ women’s relay team, she brought home three gold medals in the 2012 Summer Olympics. That’s the most a female track athlete has won since 1988. Running isn’t the only thing Allyson Felix prides herself with. As a participant of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s Project Believe program, she helps to educate and fight against performance-enhancing drugs. WAOK salutes the athletic voice of Allyson Felix!




Mellody Hobson is one of the most sought after financial experts of our time. Her financial prowess has made her a recognized voice on financial literacy and investor education. Hobson is a regular contributor on ABC’s Good Morning America and serves on the board of many organizations including the Starbucks Corporation, the Estee Lauder Companies, Dreamworks Animation, Groupon and many more. In January 2013, Hobson became engaged to her longtime companion, famed filmmaker, George Lucas. WAOK salutes the valuable voice of Mellody Hobson!


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