With the end of the year upon us, we’re taking the time to honour some of the most inspiring women of 2023. The city has been filled with incredible artists this year, whether it was groundbreaking playwrights or influential musicians — here are the most inspiring women in the arts, from performers to designers, in Toronto. You can find the rest of the list of Toronto’s most inspiring women of 2023 here.
The Somali-Canadian playwright received plenty of love for her musical inspired by the Dixon Road community back in 2022, and this year, her spectacular solo show She’s Not Special made headlines for, among other things, the Black Out Night she organised for one of the nights of her almost week-long run.
The model made headlines this year, when she became the first queer, plus-size Sports Illustrated rookie in history, and decided to publicly come out as a lesbian in her cover story.
The British-Ghanian, Toronto-based designer behind fashion label israella KOBLA has received recognition after recognition for her architectural and sustainable designs. She won the Bay Fashion Fund Award in 2022 and the Amazon Black Fashion Innovators Award, and has clearly put the funds to good use — she recently announced that in spring of 2024, her label’s designs will be available in Nordstrom stores across the U.S.
Former artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada and beloved dancer, her final oeuvre and directorial debut Swan Lake received the attention it deserved as the star of Chelsea McMullan’s documentary film Swan Song at TIFF this year.
The Toronto designer has garnered plenty of attention for her genderless avant-garde streetwear, and this year she received the award for emerging talent in fashion at the Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards after an inspiring collection highlighting the fight for freedom for women in her home country, Iran.
A singer, songwriter and speaker, the artist was named a Women in Music Canada Honouree presented by Spotify Canada, was included on the 2023 WXN Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 list as a Woman of Courage and was chosen to perform for Prime Minister of Canada and the United Nations after her advocacy for education and housing rights for children without access.
Children’s book The Hockey Sweater has inspired generations of young Canadian athletes — so this author and decided to create a new book, The Hockey Jersey, that young readers of all backgrounds could relate to. The heartwarming story helped kids see themselves represented in the game — and she also received recognition this year for founding the FOLD (Festival of Literary Diversity) when she received the Professional Association of Canadian Literary Agents’s (PACLA) inaugural Publishing Professional of the Year Award.
Also known as Ebony Naomi Oshunrinde, the Toronto-based producer is behind some of the biggest songs and artists in the world, and she was everywhere this year — heavily featuring on Lil Uzi Vert’s newest album, collaborating with up-and-coming Canadian artists Chris LaRocca and JUGGER, presenting Rosalía with the Producer of the Year Award at Billboard 2023 Women In Music Awards and more.
Now a professional opera singer, she reconnected with her childhood hero Shania Twain onstage more than 20 years after Twain brought the aspiring artist onstage to sing with her.
When the Toronto artist walked onto the court at an NBA all-star game this year to sing the national anthem, she made the choice to change up the lyrics to “our home on native land,” inspiring a conversation about Canada’s history of colonization and earning resounding praise from Indigenous communities across the country.