3 Inspiring Women On Achieving Greatness Under Pressure

For trailblazing women like Skylar Diggins-Smith, Elliott Sailors, and Ezinma, shattering the glass ceiling isn’t so much a call to action as it is a way of life. Whether they’re breaking the boundaries of athletic achievement, redefining the societal standards of beauty, or reinventing a classical sound, respectively these women have each found a way to foster greatness under adversity, and continue to inspire change each and every day. In partnership with Luminous Diamonds, whose daring, one-of-a-kind stones formed a dazzling fluorescence (a distinct glow that’s visible in UV light) under unique geological pressure, we celebrate three inspiring women who embody beauty and strength in their lives and work.

“Greatness in people, like diamonds, is made under pressure. When a woman follows her inner light, others see it,” says Rebecca Foerster, president of Alrosa USA. “Our diamonds are an enduring reminder of this light.”

Ahead these changemakers share how they achieved greatness against the odds by staying true to themselves.

Mother, wife, friend, advocate, and all-star WNBA basketball player. For Skylar Diggins-Smith, she’s going through her life one step at a time, and always with gratitude. “My journey has been blessed,” Diggins says. “The road has been paved with challenges, hardship, wins, losses, and triumphs. I’ve met some of the most incredible human beings and have learned how to remain myself regardless of the situation.”


As point guard for the Phoenix Mercury, Diggins-Smith knows a thing or two about breaking boundaries. She’s been a decorated professional player for six years, setting new career highs at every turn. In college, she played point guard for Notre Dame, which led her to three consecutive Final Fours and two consecutive NCAA championship appearances. But even amidst the tremendous pressure, she stares down her fears with grace. “There are high-pressure situations in everyday life, Diggins-Smith says, “and the way that I face everything in life is to be prepared and to never let outside forces dictate who I am.”

She’s constantly setting examples for generations of women and girls to follow, whether through her fight against childhood obesity or at the “Shoot 4 The Sky” basketball camps she hosts around the world. Her hope is to inspire women to follow their dreams and use their voices. “Today, in every avenue, women are continuing to break so many glass ceilings,” Diggins-Smith says. “I just hope to encourage women, and others, to not be afraid of challenging the status quo.”

Elliott Sailors didn’t set out to shatter gender norms in the fashion industry when she began modeling full time at 19. It wasn’t until she turned 30 that she discovered her own inner glow by cutting her hair and modeling menswear. “I looked younger as a perceived ‘male’ model, and it did enhance my career, but it was not for the sole purpose of elongating my career,” says Sailors. “I wanted to embrace all of who I am, and that includes my gender fluidity.”


What resulted was a powerful shift in Sailors’ notion of beauty and how she chooses to define it. As the oldest of six children, Sailors is used to setting powerful examples. But labeling herself as a gender fluid model was an industry-defying move that made her a role model for young people who don’t subscribe to the same patriarchal cultural standards.

“Beauty is being entirely yourself,” Sailors says. “I know sometimes it isn’t safe to express our gender or sexuality the way we want to, but we do know when we are being honest with ourselves and being true to the human being we know we are. Our beauty radiates in empowering others to be safe in fully being who they are.”

“As a kid, I always felt alone because I never saw anyone who looked like me playing classical,” says Ezinma, the 29-year-old musician who’s taking the world stage by storm with sounds that fuse classical orchestral with contemporary rap and R&B. The Lincoln, Nebraska native, Ezinma—whose full name is Meredith Ezinma Ramsay—knew at a young age she was meant to light her own path. She discovered the violin at age four and took to it immediately, shocking her parents and the rest of her small town when she went from studying medicine at college to pursuing music in New York. “In Nebraska, you don’t see artists walking around, and the way I was raised, it wasn’t an option,” says Ezinma. “It wasn’t until I got to New York that I finally felt like I belonged and could be who I am.”


From there, Ezinma began to shine as a freelance musician. She was playing orchestras, doing string quartets, and touring with bands. A defining point came when she played a show with one of her idols. “We had so much fun, and I’ve never felt so much freedom,” says Ezinma. “I wanted more of it. I started pulling away from classical and began to evolve into my sound.”

Within months the Queen B of Pop and R&B (Yes, that Queen B) asked Ezinma to join her 2016 album tour and play with her at Coachella. “It was an influential experience to work with her and all the women of color she brings on her journey,” says Ezinma. “It was quite powerful.”

As epic as that experience was, Ezinma knew she needed time to work on her own music. She started recording her first album and is now focused on her work as a solo artist. She’s also thriving in the elite classical music space that for too long has excluded women of color. “I want young instrumentalists, young females, and children of color to know that anyplace you want to go, you belong there,” Ezinma says. “It might be scary, you might be the only person like you, but it’s possible.”

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