What We Learned From 6 Forward Facing Women in 2015

By Meredith Lepore

Sara Blakely, Oprah Winfrey, J.K. Rowling, Arianna Huffington: These are all women who endured massive failures, though you probably know them better for their career success. Despite the setbacks, these women have said, in one way or another, that they would not be where they are today without failing forward. And this year we saw a bunch of amazing women also face some difficulties in their careers — but those tribulations didn't hold them back one bit.

1. Blake Lively
Blake Lively is very much the golden girl. Her post-"Gossip Girl" film career is going great, she has a gorgeous husband, and is a new mom. So when she decided to start a lifestyle brand like many of her fellow actresses, we weren’t too surprised. But Preserve, which she admits went live before she was ready, wasn’t quite on par with GOOP or now Draper James. And so she decided to retire the site and speak out about her decision.

She told Vogue, ending it is "very exciting and it’s also incredibly scary. I never thought I would have the bravery to actually do that, to take the site dark and to say, 'You know what? I haven’t created something that is as true and impactful as I know it can and will be.'" Sometimes, you gotta know when to fold and that’s just what she did.

2. Ronda Rousey
After a year of triumphs, the MMA fighter lost in a tough fight to Holly Holm for the first time in her career in November. After throwing repeated punches at Rousey, Holm knocked her out with a kick to the head that left her briefly unconscious and hospitalized overnight (she’s recovered now). With this loss, her flawless record had been tarnished. She could have easily retreated, but Rousey is a fighter. A day after the fight, she wrote on Instagram, "I just wanted to thank everyone for the love and support. I appreciate the concerns about my health, but I'm fine. As I had mentioned before, I'm going to take a little bit of time, but I'll be back."

Mike Foss of For The Win put it so eloquently: "She is a remarkable athlete, and has done a masterful job spinning her athleticism into a career outside of MMA. But if you deconstruct Rousey's success to its foundation, if you dig down to the crux of what makes her successful, you'll find a fighter. Rousey has made herself many things in her career, but she will always be a fighter." She's the essence of getting back up when you get knocked down.

3. Lady Gaga
Though it seems like Lady Gaga is on top of the world right now — she was just named Billboard’s Woman of the Year and is starring in "American Horror Story" — this last year has truly been a rebuilding year for the singer. After her last album wasn't as successful as her previous two, she felt really burned out. So to get through it, she started doing exactly what she wanted to do in her career and not just what would please others. "Why are you letting these people run you into the ground? When did you become the fashionable robot? Can't being an artist be enough? Is talent ever the thing? I think for Adele it is. I think for Bruno Mars it is," she told Billboard.

She took a break from her pop sound and did a jazz tour and album with Tony Bennett, she channeled Julie Andrews with her tribute to the Sound of Music at The Oscars, focused on her Born this Way foundation, and took an acting role on American Horror Story. "This is the year I did what I wanted instead of trying to keep up with what I thought everyone else wanted from me."

4. Serena Williams
The tennis champ had an amazing year. After winning four grand slam titles, there was major pressure on her to complete the "Serena Slam" and win the U.S. Open. But sadly, she lost. However, she truly took the loss with grace and composure. And a few months later, she proved that nothing would keep her down, including a guy who tried to steal her phone. Her inspiring message on social media caught everyone’s attention: "Superhero? Maybe? Or HELL YEA!! I've got the speed the jumps, the power, the body, the seduction, the sex appeal, the strength, the leadership, and yet the calm to weather the storm. Always listen to your superhero inner voice."

Always keep your things close! Fight for what’s right. Stand for what you believe in! Be a superhero!” This is why Sports Illustrated named her Sportsperson of the Year earlier this week. Even though she battled injuries and illness this year in addition to her loss, she could not have come out more on top.

5. Adele
Though Adele's third album has broken records, been lauded by the critics, and has already been memorized by everyone in your office, it was not an easy process. Adele actually had a lot of trouble writing her third album. She felt that she would never be able to write anything as good and she had major writer's block. Her main problem? She had been going through some emotional turmoil during her first two albums, but that had lessened after the birth of her son Angelo.

"I found it impossible [to write] for a while," she told Matt Lauer on "TODAY." 

"I didn't know what I wanted to write about. … What's wrong is I wasn't sad."

Luckily, once she "chilled out," her writer's block subsided and we got one of the best albums of the decade. I mean, hello.

6. Jennifer Lawrence
When Jennifer Lawrence got honest about something she considered to be a failure, she brought a serious issue into the spotlight. In Lawrence's essay in Lenny, titled "Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co-Stars," she wrote, "…I would be lying if I didn't say there was an element of wanting to be liked that influenced my decision to close the deal without a real fight. I didn’t want to seem 'difficult' or 'spoiled.'"

She felt she failed at not standing up for herself, but she turned it around to be a call to action for women to ask for more. Women and men throughout the entertainment industry have commended Lawrence for her bravery and shared their own stories, and she really made the wage gap a hot button issue in Hollywood this year.

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