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Kim Gordon, Sonic Youth |©Anders Jensen-Urstad/Flickr
Kim Gordon, Sonic Youth |©Anders Jensen-Urstad/Flickr
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10 Pioneering Creative Women From Los Angeles

Picture of Monique Elliott-Smith
Updated: 6 December 2016
Los Angeles is a haven for empowered, creative women. Here, we celebrate 10 women who have each made a mark on the culture and history of Los Angeles.

Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling has certainly made her mark on Hollywood recently. Her eponymous show, The Mindy Project, was recently picked up by Hulu after being cancelled by Fox and tells the story of an intelligent, successful OB-GYN living in New York City and navigating both her love and professional lives as the two become intertwined. Kaling has also published two books, which both expand on her early life and her experience as an Indian-American woman working as a screenwriter-turned-actress in Hollywood. We love Mindy’s fresh perspective and attitude, and she is certainly a modern pioneer for women of color in Hollywood.

Mindy Kaling at Paley Fest | ©
Mindy Kaling at Paley Fest | ©

Diane Keaton

Over the years, Diane Keaton has become a household name in Los Angeles, which also happens to be her birthplace. She is truly a chameleon and has worked as an actress (on both stage and screen), producer, director and screenwriter. Keaton is also notable for her distinctive personal aesthetic and tomboyish fashion choices, and she even inspired women to rock men’s clothing after she appeared in Annie Hall in 1977. Keaton is not afraid to share her beliefs, either — she is an outspoken opponent of plastic surgery and has also petitioned to restore and protect historic buildings in Los Angeles.

Sarah Silverman

Silverman is anything but shy, making her distinctive voice one of the most original in comedy today. Her stand-up routines regularly attack topics such as sexism and racism in an ironic manner. While Silverman is best known for her stand-up, her show The Sarah Silverman Project also ran on Comedy Central for 3 years. Silverman has won two Primetime Emmy awards for her television work and also authored a hilarious autobiography, The Bedwetter, in 2010. Silverman is vocal about her political beliefs and has previously spoken out against discriminatory voter identification laws.

Kim Gordon

Kim Gordon, raised in Los Angeles, is best known for her role as the guitarist and vocalist in the alternative rock band Sonic Youth, which was prominent in the 1990s. Gordon’s father was a professor at UCLA, and Gordon herself attended a UCLA-affiliated elementary school and an arts academy in Los Angeles. Courtney Love has cited Gordon as an influence, and Gordon even produced Love’s band’s album, Pretty on the Inside, proving that her musical talents extend beyond her instruments. In addition to her musical success, Gordon is also a well-regarded visual artist and the author of an acclaimed memoir, Girl in a Band, which was released in 2015.

Kim Gordon, Sonic Youth |©Anders Jensen-Urstad/Flickr
Kim Gordon, Sonic Youth | ©Anders Jensen-Urstad/Flickr

Madeleine Brand

Brand is the host of a popular radio show in Los Angeles, Press Play, which focuses on news and culture. Brand has been a radio personality on several NPR broadcasts in both northern and southern California, but she is a Los Angeles native. Her show focuses on cultural trends in Los Angeles — a recent broadcast was entitled ‘The Rodney King Beating 25 Years Later; and the Real Life Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,’ alluding to a significant historical event in Los Angeles and a forthcoming film starring Tina Fey.

Shonda Rhimes

Even if you don’t know Shonda Rhimes by name, you likely watch at least one of her hit Thursday night shows, which all air on ABC. Between newer successes like Scandal and the long-running Grey’s Anatomy, Rhimes has redefined what it means to be a female writer and producer in television. Though Rhimes received her undergraduate degree on the East Coast at Dartmouth, she later studied screenwriting at the University of Southern California and subsequently attended USC’s School of Cinematic Arts for her master’s degree. While Rhimes was living in Los Angeles and working as an intern on movie sets, she began to work towards the career she has today. Check out her TED Talk and book about how saying ‘yes’ changed her life.

Rachel Zoe

As a fashion designer and stylist to the stars, Rachel Zoe has certainly made her mark on the Los Angeles fashion scene, which she has been a part of for several decades. Zoe had her own television series called The Rachel Zoe Project from 2008 to 2013, her list of celebrity clients is endless, and she has also been credited with starting many fashion trends, like the boho-chic trend that lives on today.

Niki Nakayama

Nakayama is the head chef at the renowned Los Angeles restaurant n/naka, which specializes in serving delicious and modern interpretations of traditional Japanese kaiseki cuisine. She was recently featured in Netflix’s docu-series Chef’s Table, in which she relays fascinating personal and professional stories. Japanese cuisine is traditionally dominated by male chefs, but Niki has proved herself time and time again with her artistic and technical reproductions of kaiseki. Despite the tremendous success of her restaurant Nakayama remains incredibly humble and is dedicated to creating the best experience for each and every customer.

Geena Davis

Davis is a woman of many talents — she has worked as an actress, producer, fashion model, writer, and was even an Olympic semi-finalist! Davis won her first Academy Award in 1989 for her role in The Accidental Tourist, and her on-screen success did not end there. Davis is perhaps most well known for her role in Thelma and Louise alongside Susan Sarandon, for which she received an Academy Award nomination. She also founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, an organization focused on conducting research to empower women and reduce sexism in Hollywood.

Geena Davis | ©ITU Pictures/Flickr
Geena Davis | ©ITU Pictures/Flickr

Kate and Laura Mulleavy

These sisters are the masterminds behind the high fashion label Rodarte, which is based in LA. While the sisters live in Pasadena Rodarte has seen enormous success through its couture pieces that celebrate both femininity and quintessential California style. Several of their older collections are on display at LACMA if you want to check out the evolution of this brand.

Rodarte Fall 2008 | ©Juliette Cezzar/WikiCommons
Rodarte Fall 2008 | ©Juliette Cezzar/WikiCommons