We Asked Laura Dern, Mindy Kaling & 8 More Stars About The Women Who Helped Their Careers

By Bustle Editors

This year, Bustle pledged to ask women in Hollywood two questions: not "Who are you wearing?" and "What was it like to work with [insert male actor name here]?", but questions that would allow actors, producers, and directors alike to celebrate the women in their lives who have had a positive impact on their careers. For our final piece in our Awards Season Issue, we asked women like Mindy Kaling, Natasha Rothwell, freshly-minted Oscar winner Laura Dern, and more the following two questions: "Who is one Hollywood woman who has helped you in your life or career?" and "Who is one Hollywood woman we should be paying attention to?" Their responses did not disappoint.

Check out the responses to Bustle's third annual awards season pledge below:

Laura Dern, Actor in Marriage Story and Little Women

Rich Fury/VF20/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Who is one Hollywood woman who has helped you in your life or career?

"Meryl Streep definitely is a huge hero of mine. [She] always has been a deep inspiration, but how she also uses her voice in the world and creates a private bubble as a mother and cares so deeply about others rights and human rights and the state of women in the world. She's been a massive influence."

Who is one Hollywood woman we should be paying attention to?

"It's no surprise, I think the world is already paying attention to her. I've had my own love story with Saoirse Ronan because she's my daughter in Little Women and she's just remarkable. She's an incredible actor and person and true in her bones. I love her."

Mindy Kaling, Actor and Writer of Late Night

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc/Getty Images

Who is one Hollywood woman who has helped you in your life or career?

"In terms of just indispensable advice, I think Reese Witherspoon has given me the most great career advice."

Who is one Hollywood woman we should be paying attention to?

"I am really impressed by Yara Shahidi. I can't believe how young she is [and] she's already so poised and so brilliant. I'm really impressed by her."

Beanie Feldstein, Actor in Booksmart

Amy Sussman/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Who is one Hollywood woman who has helped you in your life or career?

"Sarah Paulson sent me an email about two years ago after she watched Lady Bird. Just cold, in my inbox, I got an email from Sarah Paulson. My absolute idol. I’ve been deeply obsessed with her for decades and so, the fact that she just, out of nowhere, extended her thoughts on the movie and on my character... It was the most heartfelt, beautiful email I’ve honestly ever received from anyone in my life. I was so touched beyond belief, and now we get to start a new journey together next year. I just think it’s so special when an actor that you love, so, so, so much goes out of their way to tell you that they love something you were in. Especially as a very young, very new actor, for someone who’s so deeply experienced and remarkably talented and special like that. Now, whenever I love something, I always try to tell the person, even if I’m nervous or embarrassed, because it was so inspiring to me in that way."

Who is one Hollywood woman we should be paying attention to?

"Pam Fryman. She’s directed over 500 episodes of television and is one of the most spectacular women to exist. Pam created a hybrid form of sitcom storytelling using both multi-cam and single-cam elements on How I Met Your Mother. Ask anyone who has ever had the privilege of her company both on and off set — she’s beloved."

Alma Har'el, Director of Honey Boy

Who is one Hollywood woman who has helped you in your life or career?

"Jen Salke, who is the head of Amazon Studios, has been extremely supportive, not only because they picked up the film Honey Boy at Sundance and have given us a really amazing theatrical platform and didn't keep us just on the streamer. But also because she has gotten Amazon Studios to be one of the founding partners of Free the Work, which is my platform to create talent discovery for non-binary, trans-identifying women, and people of color filmmakers."

Who is one Hollywood woman we should be paying attention to?

"Do you know Zackary Drucker? [Ed note: Har'el reads from online bio found on Free the Work website.] 'An artist, cultural producer, trans woman who breaks down cultural ideas about gender and sexuality. She has performed and exhibited her work at the Whitney Biennial and she's an award-winning producer for docu-series This Is Me, and Amazon series Transparent.'"

Aidy Bryant, Actor in Shrill and Saturday Night Live

Emma McIntyre/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Who is one Hollywood woman who has helped you in your life or career?

"Vanessa Bayer endlessly. When I got to Saturday Night Live, I was totally terrified. And from day one, she was like, 'If you have a question, you ask me, if you don't know where to go, I'll tell you.' Every step of the way. And anytime I was confused or didn't understand the system, she was like, 'Come to my dressing room, I'll explain it to you.' And like, we're so busy at the show so, for someone to take the time... I mean, she was my friend before, but she really shepherded in me incessantly."

Who is one Hollywood woman we should be paying attention to?

"I'm obsessed with Megan Stalter. She's a stand up in New York, she is so funny. She does a lot of like, front facing videos on Instagram and stuff. And I think she's gonna be huge... She's just a badass."

Natasha Rothwell, Actor in Insecure and Wonder Woman 1984

Michael Tran/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Who is one Hollywood woman who has helped you in your life or career?

"There are COUNTLESS women who have helped me, shaped me and changed me for the better. But I’ll take this opportunity to shout out Katie Dippold (Mad TV, Parks and Recreation, The Heat, Ghostbusters). When I started writing features, I sent Katie an email that was the equivalent of the Home Alone aftershave scream. My imposter syndrome felt terminal and I was terrified that the practical application of my writing skills in this new medium would result in a pile of dookie and shame — the likes of which would require my expulsion from the entertainment industry and the United States of America. Not only did Katie answer every fraught email with kindness, insight, and encouragement, but she had her favorite feature writing books sent to my house. Because of her encouragement and thoughtfulness, I was able to silence my inner critic and get to work. I’ve since sold two features and have promised myself to pay it forward."

Who is one Hollywood woman we should be paying attention to?

"I saw Joaquina Kalukango in the masterpiece that is Slave Play on Broadway and my edges are still recovering. Her nuanced performance, her range, her depth—she was magic. I left thinking, 'Please, black baby Jesus, let Hollywood put her in everything and selfishly in something with me. Amen.'"

Sue Kroll, Producer of Birds of Prey

John Shearer/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Who is one Hollywood woman who has helped you in your life or career?

"Sherry Lansing is one of the most brilliant and talented executives that Hollywood has known. Working her way through the ranks, she became the first woman to be named president of 20th Century Fox in 1980. She went on to produce her own films and later became the CEO of Paramount Picture’s Motion Picture Group, another first for women. Audiences have Sherry Lansing to thank for championing films like Fatal Attraction that proved movies with female protagonists could be wildly successful. A pillar of industry, Lansing’s tenacity and boundless ambition paved the way for more women, like me, to have a seat at the table. In what she calls the 'third act of her life,' she is now the CEO of the Sherry Lansing Foundation and approaches her philanthropic work there with the same enthusiasm and creativity from her days overseeing film production, marketing and distribution."

Who is one Hollywood woman we should be paying attention to?

"Margot Robbie is a fierce talent. She is good at every role she takes on and approaches everything with the same level of commitment and tenacity. She loves a challenge, so the more complicated the better. She also has an impeccable work ethic and a very curious mind. Margot can do anything. She has a keen business sense, and while she is now producing and running her own company, I also think she’d be a wonderful director. Margot will be referred to in time as one of the great actors in cinema. She has the same tough presence as Barbara Stanwyck, the sublime elegance of Audrey Hepburn, and the irresistible beauty of Grace Kelly. Even so, she is remarkably humble and grounded and, quite simply, a beautiful person."

Rosana Sullivan, Writer and Director of Oscar-Nominated Kitbull

Rosana Sullivan, left, with 'Kitbull' producer Kathryn Hendrickson, ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Who is one Hollywood woman who has helped you in your life or career?

"Nicole Grindle, co-producer of Incredibles 2. She was not only a close mentor for me, but also established (alongside Mary Coleman, who heads Pixar Development) a support network for female storytellers at Pixar at a time when there were still no female directors actively working at the studio. Because of Nicole's and Mary's hard work, we now have four short films directed by women (Domee Shi, Kristen Lester, Erica Milsom, and myself), and one feature currently directed by a woman."

Who is one Hollywood woman we should be paying attention to?

"Kristen Lester, director of the SparkShort Purl, is one of the funniest, smartest, and ridiculously talented storytellers I know. I'm just excited to see what she cooks up next!"

Harley Quinn Smith, Actor in Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood

Rodin Eckenroth/WireImage/Getty Images

Who is one Hollywood woman we should be paying attention to?

"Carrie Brownstein. If it weren’t for her, I would have never had a band. I went out for a show she was making that was loosely based on her memoir, Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl. In preparing for the audition, I heard Sleater-Kinney for the first time and became absolutely obsessed. I got to audition in front of her, and that whole experience completely changed my life. I went to a show with my friend a few days after that, and we were just kind of watching and being like, ‘Why don’t we make music? Why don’t we have a band?’” Also I admire so much that she has this insane music history, but then also had her own show [Portlandia] with Fred Armisen. To live that duality is so cool to me and what I strive to have."

Miranda July, Director of Kajillionaire

Rich Polk/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Who is one Hollywood woman who has helped you in your life or career?

"Producer Dede Gardner of Plan B. She read the script of Kajillionaire and simply said, 'Yes.' She only cares about what truly matters and doesn’t waste her time with any BS."

Who is one Hollywood woman we should be paying attention to?

"The actor Da’Vine Joy. She has that incredibly dry humor that can come across from just the smallest movement in her face."

Some responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.