Celebrating the sisterhood: Kiwi women kicking ass

Spy News,
Publish Date
Thursday, 2 June 2016, 9:55PM
Georgia Currie, Parris Goebel and Finola Dwyer
Georgia Currie, Parris Goebel and Finola Dwyer

You don't have to look far to find Kiwi women achieving big things.

Up and down the country (and sometimes around the globe), across a myriad of professions and pastimes, there are positive female role models everywhere we turn.

Here are just a few New Zealand women Spy thinks have been knocking it out of the park this year.

Hannah O'Neill

The extreme demands of professional ballet are well-known, yet Kiwi dancer Hannah O'Neill takes it all in her stride as she continues along a stellar career path.

Last month, the 23-year-old was named dancer of the year at the Benois de la Danse competition, a prestigious event often described as the "Oscars of dance".

O'Neill, who started dancing when she was three years old, is currently in her fifth season with the Opera National de Paris.

Her advice for young Kiwis keen to follow in her graceful footsteps? Stock up on motivation, work ethic and a belief in yourself.


Parris Goebel

Of course, O'Neill isn't the only Kiwi dancer making waves internationally, with choreographer Parris Goebel still in hot demand.

As Elle magazine declared in February: "Everyone wants to work with Parris Goebel."

The list of Goebel's famous clients is well-documented. There were the music videos she choreographed for Justin Bieber's latest album, her most recent collaboration with Jennifer Lopez as part of the singer's Las Vegas residency and her work on Rihanna's current Anti World Tour.  And if that wasn’t enough, Goebel is also working on her own "evolution" as a rap artist.    

But what we really applaud is her attitude to female dancers, especially in the world of hip hop.

"I feel like my whole career has been very girl power," she told Elle.

"Any performances I've done are mostly with an all-girl group. It always has that intention behind it, to empower women. Or to represent, you know? I'm dancing on behalf of females, or girls, in general. I feel that's me in general: Any time I do something, or put myself out there, it's on behalf of females all over the world."


A photo posted by Parri$ Goebel (@parrisgoebel) on Apr 10, 2016 at 6:50pm PDT


Sarah Robb O'Hagan

This Kiwi businesswoman's CV is one of the most impressive you'll find – amongst other things, she's been General Manager at Nike, President of Gatorade and the President of American luxury fitness company Equinox.

But her latest project might be her most exciting yet. The marketing guru left her job at Equinox this year in order to focus her attention on her own startup, ExtremeYOU.

Robb O'Hagan has described the new project as a content platform dedicated to helping people at all levels of their career learn how to achieve their full potential. The idea for the business came to her while she was conducting research for her book, due out next year.

She interviewed a number of high-achieving executives and athletes and realised that many of their experiences and insights would be useful for those just starting out in their career – and now she's aiming to get that word out to the masses.

Watch this space...


Georgia Currie

It's also been a big year for the Christchurch-born designer behind the Georgia Alice fashion label.

After winning the Emerging Designer of the Year title at the Elle Style Awards in Australia last year, Currie presented Georgia Alice's first Resort collection at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia last month. She was the only Kiwi designer with a solo show at the event.

And she wowed the crowds too, with The Huffington Post describing her collection as "cleverly commercial, while still being cool".

It’s little wonder Vogue wrote last month that Australia would certainly like to "claim Georgia Alice as our own".

Keep trying, Australia!


Dana Johannsen

Despite the increasing number of impressive female sports reporters in this sports-mad country, that particular domain of news is still often dominated by men.

But thanks to women like Dana Johannsen, that tide is starting to turn.

The chief sports reporter at the Herald recently won Sports Reporter of the Year at the Canon Media Awards and is using her work to shift the conversation in New Zealand sporting circles.

She and Rikki Swannell recently launched She's Got Game, a fortnightly online show that celebrates the nation's top women athletes.

In launching the series, the co-creators said they hoped to "challenge the misconception that women don't care about sport by presenting sporting news in a way all genders can engage with".

"New Zealand's sporting women can no longer be ignored. They're too many and they're too good."

Hear, hear.


Finola Dwyer

Kiwi film producer Finola Dwyer made history at the Oscars this year.

In being nominated for Best Picture for Brooklyn, she and Amanda Posey became the first female producing team to be nominated for the prestigious prize twice. (The first time was in 2010 for An Education.)

Based in the United Kingdom, where she is co-owner of one of that nation's leading independent production companies, Dwyer maintains she is still very much a Kiwi and remains a source of advice for other New Zealand filmmakers around the world.

She told the Herald earlier this year that being a New Zealander was a big factor in her success.

"We tend to cut to the chase, push on and just get on with things. That's always been my approach."


Lydia Ko

2016 is shaping up to be another big year for 19-year-old golf star Lydia Ko.

The world number one is set to compete at the Rio Olympics, where golf is making its Games debut, and Kiwi hopes are high that she will walk away with a shiny gold medal.

Already this year, Ko has won her second major (the ANA Inspiration in April), and just this week she made ESPN's Fame 100 list.

According to ESPN, Ko is the 81st most famous athlete in the world. She was one of just eight women on the entire list.



Helen Clark

Finally, we have what may become one of the biggest ever achievements by a New Zealand woman.

After seven years in charge of the United Nations Development Programme, former Prime Minister Helen Clark is a leading candidate to take over as the UN Secretary General when Ban Ki Moon steps down later this year.

In its 70-year history, no woman has ever led the United Nations, but Clark is in a strong position to do just that - and become an inspiration to women not just in New Zealand, but around the world.


Follow Spy on Facebook and Twitter