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Reese Witherspoon Embodies ‘The Works’ Method: Her Whole Self Is Why We Love Her

by Debra Bednar-Clark

When I think about women who inspire me, I think about women who really bring their whole selves forward. When I think about women who downright blow me away, I think about the ones who do so (seemingly) effortlessly. Reese Witherspoon is one of those people.

I first fell in love with Reese’s work when she starred in Election in 1999 (there’s nothing I love more than watching a character with passionate ruthless ambition!). But 2001’s Legally Blonde really spoke to me, as she taught a whole generation — and generations to come — that style and substance are not mutually exclusive, a belief that fuels my business.

In the years since, I’ve watched her evolve and grow into the multi-faceted woman she is today: She’s an Oscar-nominated actress, yes, but also the founder of Hello Sunshine, a media and production company that focuses on bringing female-led stories to the screen, as well as a leader of the company’s Hello Sunshine Book Club that inspires a community of women to read stories with strong (and flawed!) female characters.

At the same time, she’s drawn upon her southern roots to launch a successful lifestyle brand, Draper James, which now comprises an online business and four brick-and-mortar stores. She’s also an activist, as she’s involved in the Girls Inc. non-profit that empowers young women to achieve their dreams and the Time’s Up activism movement, which helps women advocate for their rights in the workplace, all the while being the matriarch in her family with husband of seven years Jim Toth and her three children.

Reese is The Works personified: In terms of Intellect, she’s using her skills and experiences to advance conversations on- and off-screen; the Emotional Intelligence piece is that she’s purpose driven, completely dedicating herself to helping women throughout every aspect of her work; and her Personal Style is obvious, as she’s doing it in her own way — with a touch of southern charm injected into everything that she does. There is no doubt in my mind that her uniting of her personal and professional selves has gotten her to where she is today.

I actually love to use her as an example to my coaching clients, especially when we talk about what it means to be ambitious. “I believe ambition is not a dirty word,” she famously said at the Glamour Women of the Year Awards in 2015. “It’s just believing in yourself and your abilities. Imagine this: What would happen if we were all brave enough to be a little bit more ambitious? I think the world would change.”

She’s been ambitious since she started working as a teen and she hasn’t stopped since. And you can, too. It’s time to ask yourself, how are you embracing ambition today?

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