June 1994
Photo editor: Suzanne Hodgart

When Grace Mirabella started this magazine five years ago, at a time when half of all new magazines were folding, she didn't just have a vision -in high-concept Hollywood terms, a thinking woman's style magazine- she had the courage to go after it. "I wanted to take the chance to talk to women differently," she said. So while we're tossing this backhanded bouquet at you, the thinking reader (without whom, etc.), we'd also like to cheer that thing called FEARLESSNESS, without which, nothing… We're celebrating Mirabella's fifth anniversary by honoring one hundred women who, in one way or another, embody everything we like, admire, want to be. Traditional notions of "best" or "important" don't necessarily fit these women. Some of them are powerful, in the political or financial sense, and some are important because of the institutions they've founded or guided. But most exemplify power in an intangible sense -something more akin to influence. They are the women we just can't take our eyes off, the women whose doings and sayings stick in our minds. They have changed the way we see the world.



Never send to know for whom the clock ticks. Not for these women. And not for anyone who remembers that most of what we have to fear from time is fear itself. (Now, if only that went without saying…)


Gloria Steinem

She wasn't just "the glamorous feminist" of the movement's second wave. A co-founder of both Ms. and New York magazines, Steinem was also the first successful woman of her time to come out for the radical commie-fems who were putting hexes on the Stock Exchange and flinging false eyelashes and merry widows into the Freedom Trash Can at the 1968 Miss America pageant. Steinem knew a nifty political statement when she saw it. At 60, she is still celebrating the revolution within and without.


Crashing barriers, forging empires, changing society. Look out.


Betty Friedan

Author of the 1963 groundbreaker The Feminine Mystique and co-founder of the National Organization for Women, Betty Friedan has been told “You’ve changed my life” often enough so that we can forgive her her raging ego (calling herself “the mother of you all” at a 1992 rally, for instance). Left in the dust long ago by more radical feminists, she’s turned her attention to another oppressed group –the elderly- in what may be her latest groundbreaker, The Fountain of Age.


Norma Kamali

Norma Kamali has always been independent. After her divorce, in 1977, she started her own company, OMO, which stands for On My Own. And if you look at what she’s created, you realize the originality of her ideas: jumpsuits cut from parachutes; the down sleeping bag coat; dresses made out of sweatshirt material; and ultra-leggy maillots –when everyone else was doing bikinis. Kamali was also one of the first to experiment with stretch fabrics, to tap athletic clothes for streetwear and to use videos to show her clothes. She’s never looked over her shoulder because she’s always one step ahead.


They have a saving grace, and use it on city streets, in bureaucracy-riddled museums, at charity galas. Bronzable.


Ganga Stone

As the founder and president of God's Love We Deliver,, Ganga Stone, left (with her son), provides hot meals to hundreds of homebound people with AIDS-she's one of Now York City’s civic saints. A self-described "nice Jewish girl from the Bronx," Stone jettisoned her urban existence in 1977 to follow the Hindu spiritual teacher Swami Muktananda. When she returned from India, Stone searched for same sort of mission. She found it in her organization's clear-cut credo-you're sick, you're hungry, you get a meal.


Helen Prejean

Sister Helen Prejean took her first look at hell In 1982, when she began corresponding with a murderer sentenced to death in Prejean's native Louisiana. The Roman Catholic nun soon became convinced that the death penalty is cruel (not to mention sacrilegious), discriminatory, a nondeterrent and, for that matter, expensive to carry out (Florida executions cost about $3.18 million each due to court costs). Her 1993 book, Dead Man Walking (Vintage), is a call to conscience and a plea for the death penalty's abolition. Knowing that pain is democratic, Prejean counsels not only murderers but the families of their victims, who often begin by resenting her. But Prejean isn't asking for approval; she's one tough saint.


Romana Kryzanowska and Edwina Fontaine

Some gurus sit on mountaintops. For others, life is more of a stretch-as it was for Joseph Pilates, founder of the eponymous studio where dancers (Balanchine and his troupe among them) and athletes of all stripes go to align their bodies with their perfect wills. Now Romana Kryzanowska, far right and Edwina Fontaine, two veteran ballerinas, expound their serene but strenuous brand of muscle management to the Nautilus-weary, in studios across the United States. Permit us to catch our breath…


They work in fabric and film, stone, music, dance and words-wrestling each into a personal rendering of our world. These women behold not just beauty but the future and the past.


Maya Lin

Maya Lin knows how to squeeze poetry from a rock. In 1981 the sculptor and architect cut her teeth on the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial in Washington, D.C., and has continued to engage the public with her striking monuments to historical memory. From the hypnotic black granite of the wall that lists the names of those who died in Vietnam to the composition in water and stone of the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama (built in 1989), Lin crafts her structures with bedrock faith that abstract art can speak to the soul. She reads the terrain of a site as if it were a map of clues, and translates it into a testimonial-her success can be measured by the emotional response of the thousands who flock to see her work. Lin has eased the pain of history with a laying on of hands.


Our patron saints and guiding spirits. Far, far more than mere role models, these living legends seem to float on air. They could rest on their laurels. But thank God, they don't.


Lily Tomlin

Except for a certain long-forgotten romance flick with John Travolta, Lily Tomlin has mastered everything she's tried. She won over TV-land in 1969 with her Laugh-In characters: switchboard snarl Ernestine and impish five-and-a-half-year-old Edith Ann. And her two one-woman theatrical shows-written with longtime partner Jane Wagner-won her two Tonys. And then there are the movies. We knew she could do comedy but her dramatic roles-in Nashville, Short Cuts, And the Band Played On-have been no less impressive. She's the queen of all she surveys.


Kitty Carlisle Hart

"You wonder where I get my energy? My dear, it was an absolute necessity." Kitty Carlisle Hart has a show-must-go-on spirit that's kept her going full tilt for 18 years as chairman for the New York State Council on the Arts-not to mention for more than 75 years on the planet. The widow of theatrical legend Moss Hart, a veteran performer (on screen: A Night at the Opera, She Loves Me Not with Bing Crosby and Six Degrees of Separation; on TV, she was a panelist on To Tell The Truth for 21 years) and a champion of aspiring artists (she helped film directors Spike Lee and Barbara Kopple before they became hot) Kitty Carlisle Hart knows the arts from the inside out. But rather than seeking out national posts like the top job at the NEA, she wants to continue scouting for local talent. After all, there are many more stars to be born.


To gaze, to stare, to see: a remarkable talent. But what's even more extraordinary is to look at the difficult, the challenging -even the horrifying- and not avert your eyes. The gaze of the women on these pages catches and holds, clear and steady.


Mary Ellen Mark

For the camera's eye to capture and reveal, yet not exploit or objectify, is an ever-looming challenge for photographers. But this is exactly Mary Ellen Mark's stock-in-trade. Her disparate images-of Seattle street kids, a mental institution's denizens, circus contortionists, the prostitutes of Bombay's Falkland Road-manage to convey both information and beauty, in a manner neither invasive nor glorifying. Her fashion work has made her one of this magazine's favorites, but her true gift is for exploring society's margins. In so doing she creates images at once spare and luxurious.

Photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders