Glitz Spotlight: Celebrating International Women’s Day With Award-Winning Journalist and Influencer Ethel Da Costa

An inspirational woman
By: Farah Khan
March 8, 2024

Here at Glitz, we will always look up to and admire strong, inspiring, and capable women — what’s not to love about a woman who can do it all? In honour of International Women’s Day 2024, we’re shining a spotlight on a very special lady and longtime friend of Glitz and Beauty Insider: Ethel Da Costa. We talked about all things women-related with Ethel, from women in the workforce to soothing our younger selves.

If you’re not familiar with Miss Da Costa, we suggest you to read up! She’s an award-winning international lifestyle journalist and influencer with over three decades of experience in media across India, Malaysia, and Dubai. Da Costa is also the Editor-in-Chief of her eponymous website and the founder and Managing Director of Think Geek Media, an internationally acclaimed lifestyle media content, concepts, PR, and communications company headquartered in India and Malaysia. What a superwoman! Here’s what this accomplished lady had to say about being a woman in the 21st century.

Our Interview With Ethel Da Costa

1. Reflecting on your journey as a woman, what empowering message would you share with your younger self on this International Women’s Day?

First, I would hug my younger self really tight, do the victory hoop together, and tell her `Hey kiddo, we made it, we did it together.’ My younger self did not give up on her dreams and aspirations and goals, no matter which battles we survived, which crazy dreams we hitched our future on to. This International Women’s Day I will hug her even harder, `Girl, we’re good!! We damn fine!’ What’s next?!’

2. In what ways do you believe women’s voices have reshaped the narrative of gender equality globally, and what role have you played in this transformation?

The battle for equality has been fought hard on many levels by women across history. These are the women who have survived with their own unique stories through the generations, creating a universal celebration of their legacy. What stands really apart is that these battles have been fought in true embodiment of femininity. We didn’t have to become `like men’ to fight for our rights, ambitions, careers, though having said that in unsafe spaces women automatically adorn their masculine energy to survive, to nudge their own corner offices. In recent times, the `Me Too’ global movement shone the light on inequality, harassment and discrimination causing many powerful heads to roll. It has certainly empowered women to demand a shift in policy, legal systems, in marriage and property to know that she deserves more, and is absolutely worth it.

As a journalist-editor-writer-author for the last 30 years, and now as media entrepreneur, I have lived by my own example of practising what I preach and write. Aligning my words with my actions in the choices I make for myself, both personally and professionally. As a bi-racial, bi-cultural, bi-ethnicity woman of colour, my career has been my best voice and platform to highlight injustices I’ve personally experienced, and exposed to by way of the women I have met and written about. Getting their stories out there used to be the highlight of my magazines and weekend editions. Luckily, I had kindred spirited bosses and mentors who fuelled my flames while also ensuring I did not burn up in my own angst. It is really important to make use of the platforms given to us to make a difference. Like my firm belief that the Universe puts you into places where you can bloom. It is your responsibility to water the soil, tend to the leaves and be self-disciplined to do justice to the chair given to you. I aspire to be the voice of change till today.

3. Who is a woman from history or present-day that inspires you the most, and why?

I’ve been inspired by Marilyn Monroe to Mata Hari, Jackie Kennedy, Indira Gandhi, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Wonder Woman, Annie Frank, Audrey Hepburn, each of them so uniquely gifted leaving a mark on this world. A legacy with continuity. I think every woman who wants a better life for herself and will work hard for it, is my inspiration.  

4. How do you envision a world where women of all backgrounds have equal access to education, healthcare, and opportunities for growth and success?

I am a big believer in HOPE. I choose to be inspired by Hope despite all the cynicism of what’s not right, and the reality that all women in this age and time still don’t have access to education, basic health care, safe water and sanitation, and that these circumstances create situations which threaten their full potential. I am particularly anguished when women who want more are at the disadvantage to receive, while some take their privileges and access for granted. I envision a world when women rule it, really, because there will be balance, there will be emotional intelligence, there will be more attempts at peace and distribution of basics for a just and equal life for man and animal, and there will definitely be more love.

5. What steps can we take to ensure that women’s achievements are celebrated and recognized not just on International Women’s Day, but every day?

A community that celebrates women is already a winning space to encourage more women to win. We are not in competition with men. Women are actually in competition with their own selves. And sometimes we are really hard on ourselves in our pursuit for perfection. Speaking from experience, I believe women should strive for progress, because we will then also learn to accept failures as a natural way of life on the journey to progress. Once we are safe within, we are able to harmonise with our external to create a sense of safety outside. If each woman understands this, she is so much more able to support another woman rise as a partner in progress.

6. Can you share a personal experience where you overcame gender-related challenges, and how did it shape your perspective on gender equality?

I choose my freedom to `be myself’ at a very young age. My choice to `be’ did come with a lot of external conflict as a defiance of oppressive tradition, non-conforming to abuse, and that a man is always right. I said NO! I’ve been saying `No’ since then. Lucky for me, my parents also said `No’ alongwith me, and celebrated my voice, my choices, the conviction and discipline that goes with it. I believe this really set the course for my professional and personal life. I am a 100% NO to abuse, and my former editors will vouch the ferocity with which I applied this philosophy to my articles on domestic violence, women’s columns, and living a really full life as a non-conforming independent daughter, woman, mother and boss.

7. In what ways can women support each other better in the workplace, fostering an environment of collaboration and empowerment?

First and foremost, to understand and accept that we are not in competition with each other. Societal conditioning has been so deep-rooted and hardwired to believe that women are their own worst enemies. When they lack authenticity, are disconnected with themselves they are always looking over their shoulders creating spaces of distrust rather than safety. We’ve not learnt Self-Love because nobody taught us that it is the greatest virtue to imbibe. This has been a great hurdle in women’s true and full liberation to embrace and celebrate each other. Hopefully I see a turning of the tides these last three years and we are getting more comfortable in our own skin. Safety creates an environment of collaboration and true empowerment. Only when you are self-empowered can you truly empower another.

8. What initiatives or projects have you been involved in that have made a tangible impact on improving the lives of women in your community or beyond?

As a media entrepreneur, one of my core visions has been to create initiatives for my company where women can be given platforms for knowledge sharing self-expression. So, I set about creating initiatives like `Empower, Influence, Inspire’ in India where women authors would be taken on a road show to share knowledge – college interactions with students, organisations like Rotary to get community leaders together, involve media, radio. As Station Director of the Times of India radio station, I initiated rural outreach for children, musicians, art because I am a big believer in expression, communication, content with imagination and emotional intelligence. When Covid hit, I started Heart 2 Heart with Ethel Da Costa and The Stiletto Foodie on FB LIVE with individuals who live their truth by example. Most of them were women from across Malaysia and India. We have to consciously endeavour to make our own life an example of self-actualisation. Be your own hero, your own champion. You never know who is inspired by your authenticity.

9. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, what are your hopes for the future of gender equality, and what steps do you believe are crucial in achieving those aspirations?

My hopes for the future are to ensure that I live a good present with clarity, simplicity, humility and a mindset of a student. Imagine if all of us focus on the present, do what is necessary to become self-free from trauma, prejudices, limiting beliefs, work the mind in equal (if not more) measure as we work on our bodies. What a wonderful life to look forward to. This is my own self mission. Now imagine if every woman on this planet thinks like this and sets out to do it!! Wow!! All the Presidents and Prime Ministers of the Planet will be Women.

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