Kathy Ireland, CEO and Chief Designer of kathy ireland Worldwide

It is an honor to be given the opportunity to bring a special light to my personal role models.

I’ve been very blessed, from childhood to now, with extraordinary people who gave their time and talent to mentor me. There isn’t only one role model in my life, there are several.

[pullquote]My mom, dad and Elizabeth Taylor are three incredible role models of mine. True heroes who inspire me each day.[/pullquote]

Dad worked as a Labor Union organizer, day and night, with Cesar Chavez. Mom worked as a nurse. Both jobs were very challenging, especially for a young couple, raising three daughters. Our parents are amazing: they always showed resiliency no matter the circumstances of their day. When I was a child, my dad brought all of us to protest marches and rallies. We walked together with Cesar Chavez seeking equal justice and dignity for people, whose work placed food on the kitchen tables of America. It is hard to believe the circumstances that people were working under. Oppressive. Basic necessities including toilets were not available to the very people who were feeding our nation.

In those moments, I learned, the importance of human rights and needs. Dad and mom insisted that we never take anything for granted. They taught us to be grateful for whatever we have. Those lessons gave me the knowledge and the understanding that there are countless people around the world who have needs that will never be met.

My mom gave me my first design assignment. Growing up in the 70’s, mom taught me how to design handbags that coordinated with Mom’s own beautiful halter dress designs. We would then walk to the art fair on the beach to sell them.

Because, of my mother, I found my faith. She quietly placed a Bible in my suitcase when I left for a modeling job in Paris. I came across the Bible while sitting in a dark room. Out of boredom and loneliness… my life was forever changed.

Today, my parents continue to support their daughters, in everything we do — in life and in business.

Finally, one of my great role models will always be Elizabeth Taylor. Elizabeth is an icon who became a dear friend and then a member of our family. How do you describe an unbelievable amazing mentor who took me under her wing? She is a hero, a brilliant artist, designer, entrepreneur, humanitarian, and genius. So genuine, she gave the world and me a broader sense of perspective in life, philanthropy and design. She was so strong, so tough — Elizabeth would always stand up for anyone in need. Before Elizabeth: everyone infected with AIDS died. Because of Elizabeth: millions of people are living with HIV. She will always be the Joan of Arc of HIV/AIDS.

These three people have true servant’s hearts for everyone.

These are three of my personal and incredible role models.