Women In Viva: Words Of Wisdom From The Archives

In honour of International Women's Day, we take a look back at some of the incredible women we've featured over the years and their inspiring words of wisdom



“Both young women and Maori are particularly conditioned to believe they must be very humble, overly grateful and gracious, unassuming, and self-deprecating. I’m critical about why they might be dispositioned to feel this way and I remind myself that a patriarchal Pakeha society is dependent on women and people of colour feeling held-back and inferior.

I’m really big on the power of representation, so the more I think young women get to see other young women out there doing their bad girl thing, the more likely it is that they will be able to see their own opportunities.”

READ: Melinda Williams talks to Tayi

Photo / Mark Mitchell

KAREN WALKER, fashion designer

“Don't be afraid to make the call. No-one’s sitting there waiting for you to show up. You’ve got to get over yourself and get off your arse and make the call yourself.”

READ: Why Karen Walker Is New Zealand’s Fashion Maven

Photo / Supplied

REBECCA WALKER, activist and author

“I’ve done so many different kinds of activism — direct action, political voter registration, writing, speaking, so many different things — and of late I’ve really been thinking about what sustains me and what gives me the energy I need to survive in such a challenging landscape. I keep coming back to this idea that beauty heals; that when I am in the presence of beauty — whether it’s the ocean, or an incredible painting, or a sweet, beautiful face or body, I feel a kind of deep healing and happiness that I think is underrated as a means of empowerment.”

READ: Rebecca Walker On Redefining Beauty

Photo / Supplied


"Get an agent who believes in you. My agent Marama Nicholas at Clyne Model Management scouted me, trained me and signed me up with international agencies. I like to think of a beautiful swan in the water but underneath the surface, its legs are paddling furiously — there’s a lot of work involved that people don’t see.

Like acting, there is a lot of rejection in this industry, so my advice would be to believe in yourself and be aware and knowledgeable of the business so you can make moves and not be at the mercy of the system."

READ: Jessica Clarke On Her Success

Photo / Mara Sommer

GEELING CHING, model, actress and restaurateur

"If something goes wrong I just try to breathe, stay focused and remember that “this too shall pass”. And the pressure is what makes it fun!"

READ: Sleeping Well With Geeling

Photo / Babiche Martens


"I think if we create a platform for women to humourlessly regale their achievements, then that turns out to be the profile that nobody wants to read. That’s just as bad. Our job both from a journalistic side and a photographic side, is to create an exchange with somebody where the reader feels that subject knows that you know, that they know, that they’re fabulous."

READ: Dan Ahwa Talks to Penny

Photo / Thomas Lohr

SOPHIE TAUWEHE TAMATI, founder of Hika Group and educational entrepreneur

”For me, ageing is about living to learn more about myself in ways that make my life worthwhile and fulfilling. Ageing is an exciting process filled with opportunities to be creative and innovative; to make a positive difference in the lives of others.”

Photo / Guy Coombes

GOSIA PIATEK, founder of Kowtow

“The reason is the same as when I started Kowtow 12 years ago: we can’t keep going the way we’re going as humans on this planet. We live in a natural environment but act very unnaturally towards it. We need to have some compassion towards it, it’s our only home.”

Rosie Herdman Talks to Gosia

Photo / Yoan Jolly

JULIE BARTLETT, social entrepreneur and founder/ executive director of Soul

“If we can empower girls to know what’s acceptable and what’s not, and give them the power so that they know how to deal with those situations, not tell them how to do it but give them the confidence to say, ‘Look, I don’t have to put up with that, I can say no to that’, then that will cause a shift for fathers, brothers, uncles too. That’s going to be a little bit intangible, but I truly believe this has a possiblity of making a big difference in the way people think.”

READ: How Soul Demands Respect For Females

Photo / Jason Oxenham

NAOMI SHIMADA, model and author

“I also felt that, as I had become a public person because I had been talking about my own self-acceptance of my body, a small part of me felt like exercising was dishonest to my cause. Now I realise that to truly love yourself means to take care of yourself — mind, soul and body. Those two things don’t have to be mutually exclusive.”

READ: Naomi Shimada On Her Next Chapter

Photo / Lula Cucchiara

REBECCA GIBNEY, food writer

“Slow down, chew your food and pay attention to how you feel afterwards. It’s common sense when it comes to nutrition. Play around and notice if what you eat makes you feel amazing or rubbish.”

READ: Food, Health And Family With Rebecca Gibney

Photo / Babiche Martens

LAURIE FOON, Wellington regional co-ordinator for the Sustainable Business Network and conscious fashion pioneer

"I think it is one of those places of knowledge and awareness - that if you are genuine in thinking about the impact your brand's production actions are having on our world and other people's well-being, you can't go back and you can always improve.

I think it's about being transparent and honest with yourself, your team and your customers about what you can do. We always said, 'there was no perfect but there is better. "

READ: Conscience Fashion Pioneer Laurie Foon

Photo / Mark Mitchell


“I feel like my daughter has taught me a lot. One lesson she taught me is how special life is. How to see the world through a child’s eyes that is not jaded by what life can bring. She’s taught me to appreciate being a girl and a woman. I’ve learned how to harness my inner power, which has really helped me. Having a child fosters that protective instinct within. I’m always learning how to have patience with my kids and instill balance in our lives.”

READ: Ashleigh Cometti Talks To Gemma

Photo / Mark Nolan

THERESA GATTUNG, businesswoman

"Giving birth to a company is not straightforward, nothing is linear. Surround yourself with good people. Pick business partners carefully, get good advisors, hire the best staff you can. No one person has the ability to do it all."

READ: Talking Business With Theresa

Photo / Guy Coombes

DAMARIS COULTER, restaurateur

"I am fortunate to have had wonderful women around me my whole life: my Nana Marie was the love of my life and my mother and sister are my queens! My mother is like a graceful swan, she is a quiet storm. She is sophisticated, intelligent, kind, accepting, strong, humble, hardworking, and aware (she’s also a babe). And my beautiful sister, well she is the yin to my yang. The women in my family are my fabric. My grandmothers, aunties, cousins and sisters-from-other-misters have made me who I am today."

THROWBACK: Damaris Coulter’s Favourite Opshops

Photo / Guy Coombes

AUDETTE EXEL, philanthropist, lawyer and CEO of Adara Development

"Humility is at the heart of all of our work at Adara. Only with humility can you can see your mistakes and work hard to improve. Humility helps you know your limits and have appreciation for the intentions, strengths and perspectives of others, something which is critical whether you are working with vulnerable communities or are doing a corporate transaction. The minute you start believing your own press image, you are seriously in trouble."

READ: Audette’s Tips For Business Success

Photo / Hero Shot Photography

DR LIBBY WEAVER, women's health expert

"Consider that when you say you don’t have time for something, what you are really staying is: that is just not a priority for me at the moment. Try it on for size and see if you are comfortable with that. The truth of this statement can help you let some things go that are less important to you, so you can embrace more of what is truly important to you. Also remember that the opposite of stress is trust and this alone helps us all to experience less tension, to relax and soften."

READ: Dr. Libby’s Advice On Supporting your Body As It Ages

Photo / Supplied


"It’s a huge relief to tell my side of the story through food. I grew up feeling ashamed to be Maori-Samoan. There was this expectation you wouldn’t do well, and teachers didn’t push you as hard.”

READ: Why Monique Fiso Is A Culinary Leader

Photo / Greg Bowker


“I was a very quiet person and I’m still pretty quiet, I guess. It wasn’t until I started to understand the world I was working in and the people, that I realised everyone is the same as me. Everybody has insecurities and feels weird. The best way to feel comfortable is just to be happy and chill.”

READ: Rebecca Barry Hill talks to Zippora

Photo / Tom Gould

TARYN KLJAKOVIC, co-founder of The Women's Collective, Sony Music Publicist

“My hope for women is that they understand they can design their lives however it suits them and their families. I think society can project expectations on others too much, and I think that’s possibly something that being gay has given me; there are fewer expectations on how it’s going to unfold as two working mothers with a child. So it gives me more freedom to design life to be the way that works for me.”

READ: Taryn On Raising Boys

Photo / Rebecca Zephyr Thomas


“I want to be seen as a gay person, but I also want to be seen as a talented musician. Right now, we're not in a place where we can say gender or sexuality doesn’t matter. The industry is getting there but until we are I’m proud to be representing the gay community. If that needs to be loud and proud and talked about all the time. I’m down.”

READ: Sarah Downs Talks To King Princess

Photo / Supplied

ANJALI BURNETT AND RACHEL EASTING, designers of Twenty-Seven Names

"All you have is the connection you have with other people, and every day I’m grateful to sit right next to my best friend. Each collection and milestone that passes further cements the fact that while what we’ve chosen to do is make clothes, in the making of those clothes we have a responsibility to make people feel good about themselves. We’re trying to put positivity out into the world — there’s so much power in helping women feel confident in themselves. Be kind and carry on."

READ: Why The Twenty-Seven Names Show At NZFW 2018 Was A Game-Changer

Photo / Supplied.

SERENA WILLIAMS, pro tennis player

“If you believe in yourself, even if other people don’t, that really permeates through and it shows. And people respect that.”

READ: Serena Williams on Training, Success and Fashion

Photo / Supplied.

HELEN CLARK, former prime minister and former administrator of the United Nations Development Programme

“Any country determined to really move ahead and reach high income developed status, high education, women have to be part of that story. Otherwise the progress is well under potential. It never occurred to me that girls couldn’t do anything.”

READ: Helen Clark’s Global Influence

Photo / Supplied.

JAHRA RAGER WASASALA, dancer and poet

"I was raised in a way that allowed me to seek the beauty, diversity and representation that matters to me and that I align with. And that is what I think is the most important, is to train our young people to be media-literate enough to understand what is unrealistic, and to know what to look for when they need to see themselves represented in the beauty industry. Our role models are out there — they’re just not always on the cover of Vogue. Sometimes they're in your kitchen. And every time, they're in your mirror."

READ: What Beauty Means To Jahra

Photo / Guy Coombes


“Beauty is something that strikes the heart through the senses ... it's all in the mind.”

READ: Get To Know Mercy

Photo / Brett Phibbs

MAGGIE HEWITT, fashion designer

"As a designer, I would never become too unrelatable to a generation I’m trying to speak to and design clothes for. Being young and having a young team is also part of the magic of the brand. There’s this real undeniable sense of optimism amid so much cynicism in our industry. There’s definitely a beautiful sense of naivety in trying to change the conversation and make a difference — and I feel like we can.”

READ: How Maggie Is Taking NZ Fashion Global

Photo / Angela Datre

MAI CHEN, managing director of Chen Palmer Barristers and Solicitors

“I hope that top leaders who are super diverse tell their stories, make the invisible visible, and that the public become more aware of the super diverse women out there. The barriers are higher for them, their journey is more difficult but they don’t lack the merit.”

READ: Bold Women To Admire

Photo / Jason Oxenham


“I’ve noticed in hindsight, that I’ve created a lot of the opportunities I have had throughout my career. I don’t mean that in a pretentious way, I mean in a sort of naive way. There’s that saying: ‘Why do small businesses do well? Because they don’t know any better, and if they did they wouldn’t attempt half of what they do. I feel like a lot of the things I’ve done have been purely out of naivety and courage — the combination of having a purely Australian spirit, being naive in some areas, having courage to give things a go, and also a desire to be purposeful in my choices.”

READ: Jessica Beresford Talks to Elle

Photo / Supplied

RANJNA PATEL, director of East Tamaki Healthcare

“When people say, ‘Oh, you’re nearly 60, are you going to retire?’ I say, no, this is my best time. I’ve got my whole business behind me, I have exposure to three-and-a-half to four thousand people a day — if I want to do anything community wise, it’s my biggest strength.”

READ: Why Age Doesn’t Matter

Photo / Guy Coombes

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