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Female Icons of the 80s: Beyond the Big Hair

The female icons of the 80s were not just about big hair, shoulder pads, and power suits. These female celebrities were also instrumental in fighting for women’s rights and otherwise elevating women during this decade with their music, movies, TV shows, political views, and fashion statements.

Cyndi Lauper

Lauper was a trailblazer for female artists during this decade with her music and fashion. Cyndi signature look included big hair, lots of makeup, loud clothes in bright colors, tights or leggings paired with skirts, sweatshirts tied around her waist over cutoff shorts, and knee-high boots. Her most notable songs during the 80s include “Time After Time” and “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”. Lauper’s music is still popular today, she is a Grammy winner with over 30 million albums sold worldwide.


Madonna was a force to be reckoned with in the 80s. She is known for her music, style, and provocative dancing during her live performances. Among Madonna’s most notable songs from this decade are “Like A Virgin” and “Papa Don’t Preach”. Her songwriting skills were also on display at this time as she helped write “Like a Prayer”. Madonna continues to be one of the most iconic female icons in entertainment today.

Geraldine Ferraro

Geraldine Ferraro was a trailblazer for female politicians, leading to her nomination as the 1984 Democratic Vice Presidential candidate. She was in and out of government after that time period, including stints working with Hillary Clinton during her 2008 Presidential campaign and working as a United States Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

Nancy Reagan

Nancy Reagan was the wife of President Ronald Reagan. She has continued to be an icon, even after her death in 2016 as she is remembered for her style and grace during his presidency.

Sheila E

Her music career started with Prince when she was just 18 years old and continues to this day with various female-centric projects including a female-centric jazz album.

Sheila E has been a female icon of the 80s for her work as an in demand drummer and percussionist who helped Prince to create some of his most well known albums including “Purple Rain” and “1999.”

Jane Fonda

Fonda rose to fame in the 60s as the daughter of Henry Fonda, a political rights activist, and a movie star in her own right, featuring in films like “Barbarella” and “Klute.” She found another gear in the 80s, though, when her workout tapes became a sensation and she expanded her brand to include female empowerment.

Whitney Houston

Houston rose from humble roots in the church choir to become one of the biggest female pop stars on Earth, with platinum-selling albums like “The Bodyguard” soundtrack and ‘I’m Your Baby Tonight.’ Her tragic downfall was very public, but she managed to make a comeback at the end of her life with 2009’s “I Look To You.”

Tina Turner

After falling out of the public eye during an tumultuous end to her marriage to husband Ike Turner, Tina Turner re-emerged in the 1980s with a new album and hit singles like ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It.’ She has continued to perform, produce movies and TV shows, and even found love again with husband Erwin Bach in the 1990s.

Heather Locklear

Another female icon of the 80s, Heather Locklear was a favorite with television audiences for her roles on ‘Dynasty’ and ‘T.J. Hooker’. Since then, she has continued adding credits to her resume, appearing in TV series like ‘Spin City’ and ‘Scrubs.’ In 2009, Locklear also reprised her role of Amanda Woodward on a reboot of her 1990s nighttime soap opera classic, ‘Melrose Place.’

Cindy Crawford

Cindy Crawford is a female icon of the 80s and beyond. The supermodel, actress, author, and entrepreneur has continued to forge her own path with projects that span industries. In addition to modeling for brands like Pepsi-Cola in an iconic commercial from 1985 (which she recreated this year), Cindy’s personal brand includes a line of beauty products and a lingerie collection.

(Like Female Icons of the 80s? Then you might like our article on Male Icons of the 90s, click here. Or how about 80s Pop Band List, click here.)

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