amanda de cadenet's notes on being a woman

From embracing past failures to the power of authenticity, British photographer and Girlgaze founder Amanda de Cadenet meditates on what it means to be a woman.

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Jan 4 2018, 8:15am

Am I doing this woman thing right? Do you do this woman thing the same as me? Does it matter? Existential lady crisis -- we all have it. Notes on Being a Woman is an ongoing series that examines the many myths and meanings of what being a woman is all about.

Photographer, actress, author, presenter, producer, director, mother and all-round superwoman, Amanda de Cadenet has been there, done that, and ripped up the T-shirt.

Never one to follow the rules -- especially those laid down by the sodding patriarchy -- she kicked off her career as a TV host for The Word at the tender age of 15, before moving to LA and taking up a role behind the camera -- where she spent the next 15 years photographing some of the creative industry’s most influential and fascinating figures.

Returning to her roots, in 2012 she wrote, produced and directed The Conversation with Amanda de Cadenet, a seminal interview series that explored the many facets of being female. As if that weren’t enough, last year she founded Girlgaze, a multimedia platform that aims to support, nurture and create job opportunities for future generations of female photographers and directors to come. Told you she was badass.

Here she offers her notes on being a woman.

The hardest part of being a woman is what society requires we do to be recognised equally to our male counterparts. Sexism and misogyny are systemic, which means that us women have to take risks and work overtime to get a seat at the table.

The best advice I’ve ever been given about human bodies is that they are all unique and beautifully different, and if you treat yours well it will work better for you. After so many years of navigating my shape, I’ve found what works for me and I’ve committed to never allowing anyone, including myself, to make me feel bad about me. You just have to be realistic with yourself and what you’re working with, and I think you need to find role models who you relate to -- ones that really embrace themselves.

Love is not having to pretend to be anyone or anything, it is about being completely authentically yourself in the relationship and not being judged.

If I could go back in time, I would tell my 16-year-old self that I was wrong about failure. I assumed failure was the worst thing that could happen to me when I was young, but actually it was the best! I learned so much from my failures -- everyone makes mistakes and everyone fails, but you need to be willing to take risks and that means risking failure. If you are not willing to take great risks, then how do you expect to learn and achieve great success? Any failures I have experienced in my lifetime have helped shape me into who I am today.

The most unexpected thing I’ve learnt about being a woman is how resilient we are.

There are many things that I've seen and read that have made me the woman I am today. But most of all, it was the collective voices of so many women who shaped who I am -- from strangers to those I know.

I am happiest when I’m with my family. They are my world.

My favourite song about being a woman is I’m Every Woman by Whitney Houston.

It’s hard to pick one woman who I admire, because there are so many amazing women out there who are doing incredibly inspiring things. In general, I admire women who are authentically themselves and am in awe of those who are able to remain true to themselves when there is so much to culturally conform to. I also admire women who have survived the unthinkable, those are the women I respect.

The best thing about getting older is my confidence grows as I do. I assumed, as a young woman, that getting older would be the worst thing. But as I get older I feel so much more comfortable with myself and my voice and my abilities.

The biggest lie about getting older is that you’ll slow down. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become even more of an overachiever and a multitasker -- always taking on as many projects as I can. I often have to force myself to slow down and disconnect from the world.

I feel like a grown-up when I look back on all my achievements -- all that I’ve accomplished since starting out at my first TV hosting job at 15. Since then, I’ve grown a beautiful family, created and produced The Conversation, started Girlgaze, wrote a book… it hasn’t been easy, it’s been incredibly messy, but looking back on all that I’ve accomplished makes me feel proud and quite grown up.

Nicole Farhi asks: Do you ever envy men? If so, why?
No, why would I envy men?

My question for the next woman doing this column would be: How will you create a better world for women and girls?