Celebrities and Historical Figures: 8 Famous Female DIYers
Our list of notable women driven to build, fix, design and create.
In the 1940s and ’50s, this silver screen siren was known for some controversial film choices and her devastatingly good looks. Behind the scenes, however, Hedy Lamarr was an inventor and tinkerer. In fact, Howard Hughes asked for her input to develop a more streamlined silhouette for aircraft. Her lasting contribution was anti-jamming technology that helped keep American subs safe in World War II. Today’s WiFi exists in part because of this groundbreaking, inventive idea.
By day, Elspeth Beard ran an architectural firm in England. But she was also the first Englishwoman to circumnavigate the globe on a motorcycle, from 1982 through 1984. Undaunted by hepatitis, dysentery and multiple crashes, she repaired her bike herself as she went, including stripping and rebuilding the engine. She chronicled her adventure in her memoir, Lone Rider.
The woman who brought Monica Geller to life on Friends and danced in the dark with Bruce Springsteen has significant DIY talents, too. Turns out Cox knows how to diagnose and fix car issues. And she’s long been a DIYer inside the house, too, renovating several homes herself, from rewiring lighting to building furniture. It might be genetic — her dad was a building contractor.
The Czech-born American tennis legend is not only good with a racquet, she also has skills in the woodshop, where she’s built tables and chairs. She once told The Guardian, “I made these two really nice tables and I just thought, wow, I’m so thrilled to have done that! I just love that sense of creating something with my own hands. Now I sure ain’t gonna be as good a carpenter as I am a tennis player, but that doesn’t mean it won’t give me pleasure.”
The ’80s pop star best known for her song “Kids in America” has a whole other life — in the garden. She told The Independent that gardening became an outlet for managing her mental health after a career in the public eye. She even won a gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show for gardening in 2005. She has said “horticulture gave me back my life,” and offers her gardening expertise through her books and interviews to help others reclaim theirs, too.
The mystery of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance remains unsolved, but there are other fascinating facts being uncovered about her life. She took an auto repair course so she could do her own engine work. And she also collected cars, some of which still exist. Earhart drove her first car, a yellow Kissel Speedster she called the “Yellow Peril,” cross country.
First Lady, mental health advocate and activist Rosalynn Carter has traveled the globe as a diplomat to try and improve the world. But she also joins her husband, former president Jimmy Carter, on Habitat for Humanity sites, where they both still lift hammers to help those who need a roof over their heads.
Dana Vollmer, the multiple Olympic-gold-medal-winning swimmer, needed an outlet after competing in the 2012 London Olympics, so she built a wood shop in her garage. That wasn’t a stretch; she says she has a passion for interiors and did lots of DIY with her dad as a kid. Since then she’s turned out furniture and home accents for family and friends, including a headboard and wine rack, and found a fulfilling hobby that has nothing to do with her training in the pool.