WAiB Pages

Famous women who happen to be Buddhist...

or, famous Buddhists who happen to be women

Ernestine Anderson

Blues and jazz singer Ernestine Anderson was born on November 11, 1928 and started her career at the age of three years, when her father discovered her singing along with a recording by Bessie Smith.  Her singing career has spanned half a century, except for a break from the business in the late 1960's, when Anderson devoted herself to family life and her study of Buddhism.  Jazz Profiles calls her "one of the most versatile jazz vocalists to emerge from the big band era".  See National Public Radio's profile of Ernestine Anderson for more biographical details, along with RealAudio links to interviews with Anderson.


Performance artist Laurie Anderson has such a following that there is even a newsgroup dedicated to her!  The group's FAQ says: "Laurie Anderson is perhaps one of the most significant artists of this century; a poet, writer, visual artist, sculor and social commentator, she is perhaps best known as a recording artist, one whose technical wizardry and live shows have earned her a reputation as one of the most eccentric performers in the business."  To learn more, consult HomePAGE of the Brave: Laurie Anderson or check out her 1994 interview with Wired Magazine.  See also Adrienne Redd's interview with her in "The Speed of Darkness".

Laurie Anderson


Dr. Susan Blackmore

NEW Dr. Susan Blackmore is a Zen Buddhist, a parapsychologist, a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of the West of England, and a professional skeptic.  Her book Dying to Live: Near-Death Experiences attempts to give a non-mystical (neurological) explanation of NDEs, or Near-Death Experiences (see a fellow "non-believer" review it here).   She also wrote In Search of the Light : The Adventures of a Parapsychologist and, most recently, The Meme Machine (on Richard Dawkins's idea of the meme as a unit of culture that spreads information).  For a taste of Blackmore's writing, read her online articles Lucid Dreams and OBEs, Science tackles the self, and Demolishing the Self.


NEW Dadon (the singer Dadon Dawadolma) is the star of the film Windhorse, the most recent big-screen release on the subject of Tibet.  While not explicitly a Buddhist film, Windhorse is a passionate and moving treatment of the lack of religious and human freedom endured by modern-day Tibetans living under Chinese occupation.  It focuses largely on the ethical dilemma of two women:   Dolkar (played by Dadon), a young Tibetan woman who has forged a career for herself as a singer of Chinese pop, and her cousin Pema, who has followed a different path as a Buddhist nun.   See Dadon's page on moonsite.com to read her biography and listen to sound clips of her music.

Dadon Dawadolma


Diane di Prima

Passionate writer, poet, and feminist Diane di Prima was born in 1934.  In the 1950's she moved to Greenwich Village and joined Bohemian intellectual culture.  She wrote and was associated with such "Beat Poets" as Le Roi Jones (Imanu Amari Baraka), Allen Ginsberg, Audre Lord and Jack Kerouac.  In the late sixties she began to study Zen Buddhism.  Di Prima is widely published, her work translated into more than eight languages, and her opus includes such works as The Calculus of Variation (1972), Memoirs of a Beatnik (1969, 1988), Revolutionary Letters (1968, 1969, 1971), Selected Poems, 1956-76 (1975), and Seminary Poems (1991).  She has taught poetry at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado.  For more, see Joseph Matheny's online interview with di Prima.

From Revolutionary Poem #16:

we are eating up the planet, the New York Times
takes a forest, every Sunday, Los Angeles
draws its water from the Sacramento Valley
the rivers of British Columbia are ours
on lease for 99 years...


Author Becky Johnston wrote the screenplay to Seven Years in Tibet.  She speaks about her experience in To see the contracted soul expand, an interview with Laurence Chollet of the Shambhala Sun.

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Joanna Lumley

English actress Joanna Lumley, OBE was born in Srinagar, Kashmir in 1946.  She is especially well known for playing the roles of the glamorous Purdey (successor to Mrs. Peel) on The New Avengers (1976-77), and the hard-drinking, chain-smoking Patsy Stone in the BBC-TV comedy Absolutely Fabulous.(1992-96).   Lumley has narrated two BBC documentaries with Buddhist content:  Kingdom of the Lost Boy (April 1996), the excellent film about the young Panchen Lama, and Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon (November 1997), a documentary about her visit to the mountain kingdom of Bhutan.  Lumley also supports Choose Cruelty Free, a non-profit organisation dedicated to stopping produt testing on animals.   More recently Lumley appeared as the piemaker Mrs. Lovett, engaging in some very unwholesome karma in the film The Tale of Sweeney Todd, and NEW was active in fundraising for the victims of the 1999 floods in Orissa (India).


Screenwriter Melissa Mathison developed the screenplay for Kundun (Martin Scorsese's film about the life of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama) in conjunction with H.H. the Dalai Lama.  She speaks about her experience in The Making of Kundun, an interview with Angela Pressburger of the Shambhala Sun.  Mathison's earlier screenwriting credits include The Indian in the Cupboard, Twilight Zone: The Movie, The Black Stallion, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, for which she received an Academy Award nomination.  (NEW For more on Kundun, visit this site or see the new video In Search of Kundun with Martin Scorsese.) Melissa Mathison


Me'shell Ndegéocello

NEW Me'shell Ndegéocello is a revolutionary musician, singer-songwriter and activist whose work - which consistently addresses issues of racism, sexism and homophobia in a fluid range of musical genres - has won critical acclaim and numerous awards.  See her sites:


"Belligerent bohemian punk poet.   Street-hot rock and roll messiah.  Ultimate female rock rebel.  The Queen of Piss. That was the Patti Smith of the 1970's ...  Mother of two.  Widow.   Poet and performer.  Student of religious imagery.  Author.  That is the Patti Smith of 1996."  Thus begins The Death and Rebirth of Patti Smith, the Shambhala Sun interview with the rock-and-roll legend Patti Smith.  The article includes her account of meeting H.H. the Dalai Lama and a short poem/prayer that Smith later wrote in his honour.  NEW Patti Smith talks about death in The power and the glory, the resurrection and the life. Shambhala Sun cover with Patti Smith


Renee Tajima-Peña

NEW Renee Tajima-Peña, Japanese-American filmmaker, directed and produced the documentary My America, or Honk If You Love The Buddha, a tour of the Asian-American experience.   Visit the PBS site of the same name to explore her "virtual tour of Asian America".  Born in Chicago and raised in Altadena, CA, Tajima-Peña's other filmmaking credits include the Academy Award-nominated Who Killed Vincent Chin? (PBS), an investigation of the beating death of a Chinese-American in Detroit; Jennifer's In Jail (Lifetime Television), a profile of teenage girls in trouble with the law; and many others. Read Renee's question-and-answer page for some incisive comments on anti-Asian racism in America.


The extraordinary American pop singer Tina Turner (Anna Mae Bullock) is possibly the most famous Buddhist woman in the west.  She is a long-time student of Soka Gakkai International (SGI).  The story of her life, and how she derived enough strength from her meditation practice to be able to leave an abusive relationship, is told in the film What's Love Got To Do With It -- Celebsite also has a short biography of the performer. Tina Turner


Ruby Wax

Ruby Wax is an American-born actress (ex-Royal Shakespeare Company) and comedienne who frequently appears as an interviewer on BBC-TV (such as "Ruby Wax Meets").  She also starred in the 1996 BBC series "Ruby's Health Quest" ... and visited the Buddhist monastery Kagyu Samyé Ling in Scotland for the episode on dealing with stress!


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This page was last amended on 1 January 2001.
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