Reese Witherspoon, Janelle Monáe, and 15 other stars offer creative inspiration for 2019

As we march toward a brand-new year, we figured we could all use some creative inspiration from some of the most successful people in entertainment.

Reese Witherspoon, Janelle Monáe, and 15 other stars offer creative inspiration for 2019
[Photo: Jordan Whitfield/Unsplash]

The fast Fast Company staff is forever on the lookout for the most imaginative minds in all aspects of our culture–and this year was no exception.


So with an eye toward helping you feel inspired and energized for 2019, we compiled the top 17 quotes from our interviews with entertainers. Read ahead and get ready for a new year of newfound creativity.

“I don’t mind making mistakes and having something fail, I just don’t keep making the same mistake. It’s trying to be smart about where the intersection is between what you’re interested in and what other people are interested in.” — Steven Soderbergh, filmmaker

“I had no idea what I was doing. In four years, I produced one film, Penelope, with Christina Ricci. It was beautiful, and I loved it, but it was clear to me that I wasn’t ready to tell stories–because I didn’t know what stories I wanted to tell.” — Reese Witherspoon, actor and producer

“One of my biggest strengths is I’m unafraid to say no. I’m not into people owning me. I have a strong vision, and any companies or partners who want to work with me have to match my purpose: shaping culture, redefining culture, and moving culture forward.” — Janelle Monáe, singer and actor

“You have to believe in yourself. The bigger the film, the more experts come to the foreground and go, ‘You should do it this way–this is how we do it here.’ But I believed in myself. That’s my biggest lesson, is that I do have a voice and I can stand behind it. And as long as I’m supported, I can do some good things with my artistry.” — Ruth E. Carter, costume designer

“I’m not a woman. James Baldwin is not a woman. And yet [If Beale Street Could Talk] is dominated by women. It’s told from the female point of view. So anytime the actresses had a suggestion or thought they felt very firm about, I had to check my directorial ego and listen.” — Barry Jenkins, director


“The biggest lesson I learned was about things being a straight, white guys’ club and allowing that to make me question what my voice is and what I bring to the table. If I could talk to younger me, I would say, ‘Stay true to what is important and authentic to you. Don’t look to the left or the right, just focus on what you’re doing–your art will make room for you.'” — Jessica Williams, comedian and co-host of the 2 Dope Queens podcast

“My core is to explore. That curiosity, people lose that, because they think they know everything.” —Tyler, The Creator, rapper and producer

“Opinions will be the death of you. If I cared about what other people thought, then I would not be here today. I’ve been ridiculed my whole life, a lot of people didn’t understand me because I guess they’ve never seen anyone like me. But when you come from the hood, unique is not cool–they fear what they don’t understand. I just had to believe in myself enough to know what I was doing was right.” – A$AP Ferg, rapper

“[The key component about creativity] which I don’t think many people get nowadays, is silence. That’s really, really important–to be in a secluded, quiet place where you can hear your thoughts. When we get bored, we pull out our phones and [get] instant gratification. I embrace the idea of being bored and just sitting around. That’s when the best ideas come to you.” — Questlove, musician

“The way to bounce back from any major setback … is to plow forward. Because if it does knock … away your ambition, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it. Every successful person I know in show business or any other business is just driven, driven, driven, and won’t take no for an answer.” — Paul Feig, director

“The reason I’m so calm with this show coming out is that, back on SNL, one week you’d be called a genius and the next week, not only should you be fired but they should murder you. You just realize it’s all in waves. At the end of the day, nothing makes sense, so you should just do whatever you want and hope it works.” — Bill Hader, actor


“I would like to represent as many aspects of blackness as possible. That’s such a beautiful thing to do, to me. It’s really that mindset that is equal parts conscious and creative that is something I’m striving to participate in as much as I can. We need to champion difference, particularly as we display blackness. Everybody should be comfortable with all kinds of blackness, so the more we can telegraph that in people’s living rooms, the better.” — Daveed Diggs, actor

“These are things outside my organic experience and I wanted to work with writers who could write from their experience. The more different kinds of minds I have in the room–not just ethnicity, but more cerebral minds, more emotional minds–the better the mix is going to be just to generate stories that are more fully formed and actually have some meat to them.” — Alan Ball, TV writer and producer

“You’ve just got to be comfortable taking that risk. And we’ve had in the past things that have been less successful. But fuck it–it’s just clothes. And I think people need that these days.” — Marcus Wainwright, founder of Rag & Bone

“I just had to learn that decisiveness is one of the most important characteristics as a director. It dawned on me that I had to make the final decision on everything and that me being very clear about what I want is not the same as me being selfish or bossy.” — Cory Finley, writer-director, Thoroughbreds

“I had a vocal coach say to me once, “Your voice is 60% emotion, 40% technique.” And he said that’s the strength of my voice. You can’t train the emotion out of it, and replace it with technique. It’s about finding the balance, being able to do what you need to do to express the emotion.” — Lauren Mayberry, lead singer of Chvrches

“I refuse to take no for an answer on anything. I was told MTV VJs have no career after MTV, and I’m like, that’s never going to be me. I was always about not feeding into the negativity and proving to people that I can do more than one thing. There was a time, and still now, where people want to put you in a box. Why can’t I do a lot of things and also be great at a lot of different things?” — La La Anthony, actor and fashion designer


About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America," where he was the social media producer.