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Women Speaking Truth to Power

For the third consecutive year, NYU Shanghai marked International Women’s Day with photos and stories that celebrate female empowerment. Created by 2017 alumna and artist Nicole Chan, the 2018 series of portraits again features NYU Shanghai women responding to the question, “What empowers you?”

Ashler Uebele, photo by Ng Meizhi, Shanghai, China, 2017

The women in my life empower me. Ever since I started my transition, I’ve struggled with my gender identity. The ladies that I am close with have helped me feel like the woman that I know I am, even when I am struggling with my own internalized transphobia.

Adele Liu Kramber, photo by Ng Meizhi, Shanghai, China, 2018

The first time I picked up a violin I was three years old. It was plastic and I held it backwards. Sixteen years, four violins, twelve orchestras, and dozens of performances later, I am empowered by the music that I make, teach, and spread. There is a subtleness to the force of music. It somehow simultaneously emboldens and soothes, transforms and preserves. Music is a vehicle of ingenuity and compassion. Nothing brings me more joy.

Sabina Olsson, photo by Ng Meizhi, Shanghai, China, 2018

I’ve struggled a lot with self-image, especially on the basis of my acne, and for a long time I was ashamed of it. However nowadays, I never wear make-up. I hate the restriction and limits of make-up, I feel most like myself when I’m bare-faced. It’s me, no more and no less. I want to normalize natural skin and show girls that we’re fine without make-up. Additionally, I see my natural face, complete with its blemishes, as a sign of power. I feel powerful in my self-acceptance. In a society where women are supposed to hate themselves, living a fulfilling life despite acne, is like a giant middle finger to society, and I’m proud of that.

Cameron Shetler, photographed by Amy Ernst, Shanghai, China, 2018

I'm empowered and incredibly blessed to be surrounded by some of the most inspiration, successful and wicked-smart female scientists around. In moments of weakness, they never fail to remind me how the world is intricate, spectacular, and will never cease to amaze me.

Cecilia Cai, photographed by Daisy Qianyi Chen, Shanghai, China, 2018

My dance shoes empower me because they support me when I dance, extending my strength and giving me the confidence to present myself before others. It also enables me to communicate with others in another way, expressing my emotions through dance movements. It encourages me to explore my potentials and gives me power.  

Yan Zhao, photo by Cindy Hu, Shanghai, China, 2018

My clothes empower me because they make me realize that human beings can not only be driven by fears and desires. While selecting the perfect clothes or mix-and-match, all my efforts are driven by creativity, which keeps reminding me of who I am and who I wanna be.  

Yu Xia Yao (Prudence), photo by David Santiano, Shanghai China, 2016

Arduino empowers me because it turns my creativity into reality, and because thinking as a maker makes me feel like everything is in my control.  

Joanna Waley-Cohen, Provost and Affiliated Professor of History, NYU Shanghai, photo by Nicole Chan, Shanghai, China, 2017

Reading empowers me by expanding my knowledge and firing my imagination. Writing books gives me the opportunity to empower others by doing the same for them.

Millie Wong, photo by Brian Ho, Shanghai, China, 2017

My skills, my knowledge, and my experiences empower me, but since these things aren't tangible... I brought my laptop because I am proud with what I can do with just it and a little Internet access– to express myself and my skills while using it to learn even more, every day. And throughout my most formative experiences, I would not have survived without my access to a computer.  

Simone Francis, photo by Nicole Chan, Shanghai, China, 2017

I am empowered by my culture. It is the nutrition for the roots of my existence-running deep and nurturing my individual tree of pride, confidence and tenacity; cultivating strength in my collective tree of family, community, and love.

Cindy Luo, photo by Cindy Yifan Hu, Shanghai, China, 2018

Thanks to inspiring songs written by female artists like Yui and Little Mix, I became more confident of myself and realized that I was someone who wanted to share her laughter with the world. I'm still in the middle of writing my own music but when I'm ready to publish it, I hope that the message of my songs can also motivate other women to stay true to themselves.

Lizbeth Pantoja, Photo by Brian Ho Shanghai, China 2017

My younger siblings empower me. As the eldest child, I've always felt a responsibility not only to care for my brother and sister, but also to become someone that they can be proud of and look up to. I'm inspired by their kindness and creativity; it compels me to strive to be a better person and to fight a better world for them to live in.