Bold Alphas From Oprah To America Lead The Time’s Up Movement

These fierce pack leaders are also dog owners

By Si Si Penaloza

Photo: Facebook / Oprah Winfrey

Time’s Up, the anti-harassment action plan unveiled by some of Hollywood’s most powerful women, has made headlines for the big names behind it, the big bucks backing it (its legal defense fund is $13 million), and its viral momentum. We can’t help reading into the fact that five of the more high-profile founders of the Time’s Up movement are also unified by their love of dogs. Oprah, Reese Witherspoon, America Ferrera, Natalie Portman & Tracee Ellis Ross are all effusive, devoted pet parents. Specifically, card carrying dog owners.

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These women are vocal about how much pets bring to their emotional lives, and often express dog love through formal magazine photo shoots, or posting sweet selfies with their pup directly to social media.

How does being a strong pack leader in your household translate and manifest in taking a movement global? We take the mantras of establishing yourself as an alpha and apply it to the larger realm of creating a safer, more fair and balanced world.

“Be a model to your pack.”

Photo: Facebook / Oprah Winfrey

Let’s begin with Oprah. The actor and entrepreneur spoke passionately about the #MeToo movement while accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 2018 Golden Globes. It was the most electrifying moment of night: she rallied the industry and the world by calling out the systemic inequality that’s rooted at the heart of the entertainment industry. But Winfrey’s speech also offered a note of hope. It will be women, she said, who “become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say ‘Me too’ again”. The media fixated on the speech as a defacto 2020 campaign announcement, but even more profoundly, her words captured the complicated dynamics of an evening where virtually all the women present were wearing black.

In the #TimesUp Movement, Oprah’s Cecil B. DeMille “close up” was clearly her rousing speech. We see the pack leader behaving with dignity, surety, confidence, authority, and intelligence.

Photo: Facebook / Oprah Winfrey

Oprah once said that dogs are her favorite role models. She identifies with the purity of a dog’s intention and purpose, saying, “I want to work like a dog, doing what I was born to do with joy and purpose. I want to play like a dog, with total, jolly abandon. I want to love like a dog, with unabashed devotion and complete lack of concern about what people do for a living, how much money they have, or how much they weigh. The fact that we still live with dogs, even when we don’t have to herd or hunt our dinner, gives me hope for humans and canines alike.”

“Reprimand fairly and quickly, then don’t hold a grudge.”

Life is too short to carry a grudge that eats away at too much of your mojo or bandwidth. No one knows this better than Reese Witherspoon. While the anti-harassment action plan is truly a team effort, Witherspoon was instrumental in leading the charge.

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It all started with Reese rallying her inner circle. “It was emails and friends telling friends, and everyone getting to each other through Reese,” Allison Janney, who’s nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role in I, Tonya, told ET at the Palm Springs International Film Festival earlier this month. “A lot of friends, and [Reese’s] friends, told their friends. It was sort of a network of women who found out. So, yeah, it happened like that.”

Witherspoon has opened up publicly on her own experiences with sexual assault. At ELLE’s 24th Annual Women in Hollywood Celebration last October, Witherspoon heightened awareness, revealing onstage that she, too, was a victim of harassment. The incident happened when she was 16 years old.

“[I feel] true disgust at the director who assaulted me when I was 16 years old and anger at the agents and the producers who made me feel that silence was a condition of my employment,” she explained. “I wish that I could tell you that was an isolated incident in my career, but sadly it wasn’t. I’ve had multiple experiences of harassment and sexual assault and I don’t speak about them very often.”

Witherspoon was also directly responsible for official pin of the movement. In a private meeting at Creative Artists Agency, she asked Nocturnal Animals costume designer Arianne Phillips to create the pin supporters proudly donned on the Globes red carpet.

Photo: Facebook / Reese Witherspoon

Witherspoon’s own wolf pack at home is constantly evolving and growing. Scroll through her Instagram to see the Southern star’s utter adoration of dogs of all shapes and sizes. We love watching Reese’s reaction to Hank the lab’s antics. And Pepper’s precious outfits? We’re addicted to posts featuring her sweater sportin’ frenchie.

Photo: Twitter / @RWitherspoon

When Reese corrects her pups, she does it with confidence and authority. When she’s created discipline and harmony in her space, she gives her dogs great big bear hugs. That’s alpha.

“You are the alpha not because of your size, but because of your attitude and how you hold yourself”

Natalie Portman is one of the most petite actresses we’ve ever met. Yet when she speaks, we hear her loud and clear. She is a very public advocate for animal rights and chose to become a vegetarian at the age of eight. She has been a vegan since 2009 and also released her own brand of vegan footwear in 2007.

Portman’s first yorkie was named after Charlie Chaplin. Natalie and Charlie were inseparable, like her current yorkie Whiz. Charlie has since passed away, with Natalie naming her production company Handsomecharlie Films in his honor. Whiz has been spotted with her in oodles of paparazzi shots and even at award shows. He even appeared with Natalie for an appearance on Zach Galifianakis’ Between Two Ferns.

Photo: X17 Online

Choosing her roles wisely, Natalie Portman resists roles where women are passive, door mats. We can draw much wisdom from this, from training our puppy, to not being a mere passenger in our own work life or marriage. Portman has won acclaim for her portrayal of strong, complex female characters that she’s portrayed on screen. Despite this, the actress resists resting on her laurels and believes that Hollywood still has a long way to go when it comes to women being objectified in movies and off-screen.

“We are so often put in roles as objects of desire, with a male view, as opposed to subjects of desire with complex weaknesses, and moments of strength and focus – and you can be all of those things,” Portman said in an interview with the Radio Times. In emphasizing that the issue crosses sectors, the Oscar winner added: “We’re having a problem with female leadership – in business, in government, in storytelling.”

“Praise quickly and warmly, keeping it succinct.”

Most dog trainers recommend not dragging out praise of a working dog. Fawning over your dog just because he did one sit-stay doesn’t do much for either of you.

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Tracee Ellis Ross, like any parent, can’t help but gush about her furbaby. “She, I think, is gorgeous like a supermodel,” the Black-ish star told People of her dog, Ladybug. “I think she looks like a cross between Naomi Campbell and Gisele Bündchen.” Like any other ravishing beauty of her caliber, Ladybug laps up the praise.

Photo: Instagram / @traceeellisross

Jokes about supermodels aside, mentoring is playing a major role in the #MeToo moment. Like her famous mother, Ross has been vocal in her support of younger women in the industry. She made headlines with a powerful and touching letter that she wrote to her teen co-star, Yara Shahidi, winner of the 2017 ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood “Generation Next” award. She read the touching letter at the ceremony, provoking much feel good applause.

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“Do not let your dog jump on you. Discourage such behavior; though sweet and cute, it is a crude, undisciplined greeting and associated with dominance.”

Dogs have a literal sense of hierarchy; if she is up on the couch looking down at you, she will feel more dominant. That is why dogs love to jump on their humans when they work out or do yoga. Never let anyone threaten your personal space; don’t be afraid to command or take up space. Set boundaries with subtle hints of sovereignty over your work area. America Ferrera has a penchant for the working dog breeds, and we can only imagine that she has had a lot of practice in training her dogs to not to jump up on people. She and her two dogs were regulars at the Madison Square Park dog run back in the day.

Photo: Facebook / America Ferrera 

Earlier this month, actress America Ferrera and Mónica Ramírez, president of the National Farmworker Women’s Alliance, appeared on the Today show, to talk about the new Time’s Up campaign to end workplace sexual violence and harassment. Ferrera paid homage to the work that farmworkers, who have been on top of this issue way longer than Hollywood, have brought to the table in sheer organizing power, expertise, and knowledge.