International Women's Day: Virgin Radio’s Jayne Middlemiss shares her 5 most inspirational women

Virgin Radio

8 Mar 2023, 07:23

Credit: Virgin Radio / Getty

To celebrate International Women’s Day, Virgin Radio’s own Jayne Middlemiss has put together a list of the most inspirational women in the creative industries.


Singer, actress and artist Madonna is definitely one of the most influential women not just in music, but of all time.

She changed the music scene forever when she burst onto the scene in the 1980s with Everybody, and became one of the most successful recording artists not just of that decade, but of a generation. 

Madge, better known as the Queen of Pop, truly changed the game forever with her imagery, style and lyrics, often causing controversy that is still discussed to this day, and created a decades-long career most artists can only dream of. After selling over 300 million records worldwide, Madonna became the best-selling female recording artist of all time.

On why Madonna made her list of the most influential women, Jayne shared: “As a woman who grew up in the 80s, Madonna has to be in this list because I'd never seen anybody like that before. She broke so many boundaries, she took on so many issues. I mean, she was the first person that I'd ever seen to talk about female sexuality. She was the first person that I'd ever seen to really champion the LGBTQI community. She took on religion, she played with the version of sexuality but also used it to her advantage.”

Taylor Swift 

Speaking of generation-defining artists, Taylor Swift paved the way for young female artists everywhere when she started to effortlessly traverse across genres.

From humble country beginnings to becoming a pop megastar, Taylor certainly proved being a hopeless romantic can take you right to the very top, and there’s no slowing her down, with her latest single, Anti-Hero, breaking all-time streaming records. 

For Jayne, Taylor Swift was a later discovery, and one she’s grateful for. Jayne said: “ I love Taylor Swift, I'm really late to the Taylor Swift party, about 15 years too late, to be honest. But when I started getting involved with listening to her, and seeing her being interviewed, she's just so eloquent, but also, she owns the whole side of herself that I suppose generations of women have been taught isn't okay. To have the emotional sides of our personalities, and I suppose men have been told that as well. I love that there is a woman in that arena who was owning that part and almost bringing up young girls, and as a woman who's older, teaching me things as well, that it's okay to be a certain way. I love her for that. I think she's so powerful.”

Tracey Emin 

Best known for her autobiographical and confessional art work, Tracey Emin is another powerful woman who shook up the norm with her often-controversial but staggeringly thought-provoking work. 

She won the Turner Prize for the unforgettable My Bed installation in 1999, and has since displayed her phenomenal work in numerous exhibitions, using fabric, sculpture and found objects as her tools. 

Jayne added: “Firstly, it's really hard to be seen as a female artist, if you look at how many male artists there are in the art world compared to female, but Tracy not only did not take her being born a woman to hold her back, but she actually would shake you to the core when you saw her artwork. When she did that tent of people, the ‘names of people I've slept with’, you're just walking around going, ‘this is both completely incredible, challenging, and just strange.’ But it worked.

“You can't come away from a Tracy Emin show not having a feeling. You either love it or you hate it. Usually it will bring up more questions than answers, and that's what I love about her. She is somebody who challenges me to sort of think wider about who I am, but what the world is.”

Patti Smith

American singer, songwriter, poet and author Patti Smith was massively influential in the punk rock scene, and soon became known as the ‘punk poet laureate’ due to how music was fused with her written work. 

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer used her words to evoke change, and for Jayne, Patti was instrumental in her upbringing and love of music. She explained: “I suppose Patti Smith is where it all started. She was around many, many years ago. She's probably the first punk, female punk artist who had this voice and I honestly think if I had found Patti Smith as a teenager, I would have been fronting a band. 

“When I found Patti Smith, I just went, ‘why did nobody show me this?’ She's the one artist that I think all women should be given when they get to 13 to listen to, because she was the first one that took on all of the subjects that you didn't talk about. She's a poet. She's an artist, she stands in her power. She's somebody who has not played into the stereotypical roles of women who have to be beautiful and quiet, and good girls. She is just herself, regardless of the fact that she's female, and that's what I liked most about her.”



Oprah Winfrey, otherwise known simply as Oprah, has been dubbed the Queen of All Media, and one of the most influential people in all of broadcasting. 

Starting her now-infamous talkshow, The Oprah Winfrey Show, in 1986, the series ran until 2011, and in that time, she put a new focus on wellbeing, spirituality and self-improvement, and made her mark with those unforgettable showbiz interviews. 

Her vast empire expanded with the creation of her OWN Network, and for Jayne, the broadcaster completely changed the telly game. 

“She has been an inspiration of mine, obviously, because of my background in TV. I mean, Oprah was the first woman that I knew…she owns that company. It's a multi million pound corporation, but not just that. She is the person that started that whole self-care movement in the States and the whole spirituality thing. She brought it into the mainstream, and that has really changed things. 

“It's changed the entire horizon of television, how we think, and she is a woman who wouldn't have been allowed to be on TV, and she just did not take any of the restrictions of what society had said, she just went, ‘I'm doing this’ and she did it. She's completely amazing.”

You can listen to Jayne Middlemiss on Virgin Radio UK weekdays 1-4pm on DAB, online, Sky TV, smart speakers or via the 'Virgin Radio UK' app.