Remona Aly
Friday 06 March 2015 BBC Radio 2, Pause for Thought


“Heroines”: Pause for Thought, BBC Radio 2, Vanessa Feltz Breakfast Show

As a shy girl growing up in the 80s, the first woman to make me go ‘WOW’ was She Ra: Princess of Power. She had big blonde hair, could lift men with her bare hands AND she had a winged unicorn for Sky miles. Even though she was fictional, I was drawn to that kind of independent power woman, being completely the opposite myself – clumsy, unconfident, and definitely not blonde.

As I grew older, I was awed again by another princess – a real princess this time – who was actually from my parents’ hometown in Bhopal, India. Her name was Nawab Sikandar Begum, a 19th century British Raj princess who came from a line of Muslim female rulers.

Sikandar Begum was a formidable, Amazonian type leader – she was a skilled archer, an expert polo player, and when it came to social and educational reform – she had it covered. Sikandar Begum knew that she not only had to be equal to the men around her, she had to be better, stronger, smarter.

What I find really inspiring about women like her is they did it on their own – not depending on anyone else. These women made their own history.

I know I’ve talked about two princesses – not that I have a princess complex – but I guess when you look for heroines, it reveals something about yourself. For me, I often look for what I am not – it’s the awe factor that makes me think – how could I ever be like her? But the flip side to that is pushing myself towards goals I thought were impossible. These female leaders teach me that self-belief is empowering, and it can make anything possible. Self-belief can lead to radically changing things for the better. So if it drives you to do good, maybe this kind of princess complex isn’t such a bad thing after all.