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Incredible Women

9 Incredible Women on what they are feeling thankful for this year

Clockwise from top left: Laura Bates; Emilia Wickstead; Jasmine Lee-Jones; Zaina Arafat; Elizabeth Day; Zerina Akers; Marielle Heller; Bettina Korek; Sandra Choi

As we draw towards the end of an extraordinary year of profound challenge and change, nine brilliant and inspiring women share with PORTER the things they are feeling grateful for in the wake of 2020’s enormity. As told to KATIE BERRINGTON

Marielle Heller, director, writer and actor

“As everyone’s least-favorite year finally ends, I am trying to stay focused on all the things I am grateful for: my new kid, who was born during this pandemic and has no idea that people don’t normally wear masks; the way time has slowed down for us all and we’ve learned to savor small things – like the changing of the leaves, or a visit from a bird, or a truly great meal; and especially my family and friends, who are scattered all over but who somehow feel closer to me now than before. We can stay strong through this pandemic when we keep each other in our minds.”

Sandra Choi, designer

“I’m feeling optimistic for 2021: we will all get a chance to start over, start the year afresh and put everything 2020 has thrown at us to the back of our minds. I am grateful for everything I’ve learned this year; I’ve learned how to be more patient, with work and with my family. I’ve also learned to look after myself more; it’s been a time of reflection and introspection – it’s been like a moment of pause to look at everything you do and re-evaluate priorities. I’m grateful for nature, which has been a form of escapism during lockdown; being able to look out into my garden and over the surrounding countryside always lifts my spirits. Watching Mother Nature continue to flourish has been endlessly inspiring. Mostly, I’m thankful for my family. The extra time I’ve had to spend with my husband and daughters has been priceless.”

Zerina Akers, stylist

“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. I’m feeling particularly thankful, first and foremost, for the health of my family in 2020. A close second is the luxury of time; with the amount of unprecedented time, I was able to tap back into an almost child-like creativity, explored mostly on Chloe x Halle’s tennis court. This year, people got to see my passion pour onto the screen with Black is King [Beyoncé’s visual album], which, in 2020, due to much unrest, took on a completely different meaning and allowed many who felt forgotten to feel seen and feel heard. I’m proud to have contributed to a much-needed uplifting of our people. When the year started, I made a promise to myself to launch my first company. I am now on the brink of launching something that is much larger than myself:, an e-commerce platform that will help many Black-owned businesses reach a larger audience. It is by far the most unexpected surprise of 2020.”

Elizabeth Day, writer and podcaster

“This year, I’m grateful for many things, including the health of my loved ones, having a roof over my head and a job that has not been too badly affected by the pandemic. But one of the things I’m most grateful for is resilience. 2020 has, I believe, shown us all we are stronger than we think. We can get through hard times. I feel this year has reminded us of the importance of connection, community and of showing each other we are loved. I’m grateful, too, for the extraordinary people who listen to my podcast or read my books and who do me the honor of sharing their stories, because that makes me feel less alone, too. Lastly, I’m grateful for the perfect floof-iness of my cat’s belly (and his patience when I repeatedly stroke it).”

Elizabeth Day is the author of How to Fail and Failosophy, both out now.

Emilia Wickstead, designer

“Resilience, dedication and a positive spirit are values that I admire and cherish. The people closest to me, who’ve shown their true colors and given these qualities in abundance this year, are what I’m feeling most grateful for right now. From my family, who have kept me laughing through the difficult periods; to my friends, who have shared stories of their own business challenges and successes through lockdown (and listened to me when I needed to share mine); to my team, who have shown remarkable passion and loyalty when it was most needed. Despite the uncertainty and challenges of 2020, I’ve never felt more appreciative, or prouder, of the incredible people who surround me.”

Laura Bates, activist and writer

“I’m so grateful for the tireless activists who have never given up fighting, even in this most challenging of years. Women like Joeli Brearley [of Pregnant Then Screwed], who highlighted massive pregnancy discrimination during the pandemic and battled for the rights of new mothers under Covid-19 policy. The Black Lives Matter activists who forced the world to listen in the wake of appalling murders and police brutality. The staff at the coalface at Women’s Aid, who have worked tirelessly to support the thousands of women impacted by worsened abuse during lockdown. Campaigners like Marcus Rashford, who refused to accept that there could be a ‘rationale’ for allowing children to go hungry. In the face of such horrendous global tragedy, inequality and struggle, I am so very grateful for their courage and their work.”

Laura Bates is the author of Men Who Hate Women, out now

Bettina Korek, CEO of the Serpentine Galleries

“This year, I treasure my memories of the artist Luchita Hurtado, who passed away in August at the age of 99. ‘Say yes,’ she would say, ‘don’t say no to life, ever’. She really lived this maxim and it radiated from her in everything she did. For more than 80 years she made paintings, drawings, even her own clothes, and received little attention for her work until the end of her life. She was driven by the interconnectedness of all living things. She had an intuitive understanding of the mysteries of life and I am so grateful that her images and words live on for all to discover.”

Zaina Arafat, author

“As we approach the end of 2020, one thing I’m especially grateful for this year is my family. I was visiting my mother in Washington, DC, in early March, just as the pandemic took hold, and I was lucky enough to get stuck there for two months. Once we learned how to cohabit without driving each other nuts, it turned out to be a unique and special experience – one that helped bring us closer after years of tension and distance. I’d also recently gone through a break-up back in Brooklyn, and getting away from the city allowed me time to heal.”

Zaina Arafat is the author of You Exist Too Much, out now

Jasmine Lee-Jones, playwright

“It’s been a very difficult year in many ways, whether it’s on the global front or on the personal front – there have been so many difficulties. [But] the thing that I’m grateful for is hope; a semblance of hope, even when it feels foolhardy to be hopeful; the essence of hope; and hope as an idea, because that’s the only thing I’ve been able to cling to in the most desperate of times. When it feels like there’s no way out of a chasm, no way out of a problem, no way out of a personal or collective trauma, hope is the thing that has lured me out of the darkness.”