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Why Joan Rivers Made a Difference to Our Daughters

Judging by the response to her death, I’m not the only one deeply saddened by the passing of comedienne Joan Rivers. Truthfully, I’m not one to feel personal sadness over the passing of a celebrity. But when I heard the news that Joan Rivers, a woman who survived countless plastic surgeries, died from complications from a minor outpatient procedure she was due to have on her throat, I felt like I had lost a member of my own family.

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I never met Joan Rivers, but like many of you I felt like I grew up with her. She wasn’t just funny, quick and witty, she was a feminist icon who made her way in the male-dominated comedy world. She was a housewife turned superstar. She was an industry unto herself. And ultimately she was a mom, making a second career for herself alongside her daughter Melissa doing their famed red carpet and award show coverage.

As the mom of a daughter, I’d put Joan Rivers on the list of people my daughter should know about. Having done stand-up comedy myself, poorly I might add, I’m cognizant of just how difficult it is for a female comic to succeed. Audiences and club owners are predominantly male and female comics are often referred to as “girl comics” as if they are toddlers in pre-school. Funny females are told they are, “funny for a girl” as if that’s a surprising sub-category of funny people ranking just below men.

I hope my daughter does what Joan Rivers did, which is to live a life working hard at something she loves with the people she loves.

But Joan Rivers never tried to blend in or be just one of the guys. She wore her heart on her sleeve, making fun of her own looks, confessing to her countless plastic surgeries and publicly sharing with the world her struggle after the suicide of her husband Edgar Rosenberg in 1987.

She was unapologetic when Johnny Carson banished her from “The Tonight Show” and resilient in creating a second, third and fourth act for herself. She was, by all accounts, a tireless technician who loved nothing more than to get onstage and tell jokes. She was a brand, a personality and an icon. And all her success came from her own hard work, night after night, joke after joke.

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When I think about my hopes and dreams for my now 3-year-old daughter, I hope she’s driven, tenacious and determined. I hope she never tries to be one of the guys and instead embraces her own power as a female. I hope she’s unapologetic and unwilling to be treated like she’s, “just a girl” as if being a girl is anything less than spectacular. And I hope she does what Joan Rivers did, which is to live a life working hard at something she loves with the people she loves.

What a way to live and how sad that she’s gone.

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