virginia admiral

Robert De Niro Sr. & Virginia Admiral

Admiral & De Niro were both promising young artists in 1940s Greenwich village when they met in a Hans Hoffmann painting class. 

The couple surrounded themselves with bohemian artists and writers of the time. Admiral was also a poet and worked for a time as a typist for her friend Anais Nin, both she and De Niro Sr. wrote erotica briefly for Nin. 

The couple married in 1942 and in 1943 had their son, the actor Robert De Niro Jr. They divorced soon after but remained close friends throughout their lives.

Both became highly acclaimed abstract painters in their own right and have work included in the Guggenheim collection.

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This morning, I started to dream up a cool lesson plan for International Women’s Day. True, I’m a few months early…but we should be celebrating amazing females every day! Here are some fabulous ladies to inspire you this morning…

1. Betty White

Betty’s an actor and comedian who inspires me with her positive attitude and her devotion to animal rights. She is a great example of beauty and strength at every age, and at 92 (today, happy birthday!) she’s still going strong.

2. Tasha Tudor

Do you know Tasha? Maybe not. She was a children’s book author and illustrator who lived in my home state of Vermont. Through her work, she has created a cozy world where it’s always Christmas in New England, and a fire is always lit in the hearth. Tasha is just one of many female illustrators I admire for their ability to create magical worlds with only pen and ink.

3. Jane Goodall

Who doesn’t love Jane? She has inspired generations of young people to care about their world on a new level, and to remember that our actions influence other species. I got to attend one of her speeches a few years ago, and felt so moved!

4. Anne Frank

Anne’s words left me in awe as an adolescent, and continue to resonate with me as an adult. Her little gingham diary has caused millions of people to evaluate their own lives, and reflect on all we have.

5. Audrey Hepburn

More than just a pretty face! Audrey’s glorious bone structure and magnetism on screen is what first attracted me to her as a teenager, but I’m more inspired by her humanitarian works offscreen. She worked with UNICEF beginning in 1954, and eventually received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

6. Lucille Ball

I admire Lucille Ball’s professional career–her ability to collaborate and man the helm of some of the biggest and best projects in the entertainment industry of her day. Being female wasn’t a deterrent–she embraced femininity without denying it’s many facets. Shocker–women
can have it all: brains, beauty and a ridiculous sense of humor.

7. Frida Kahlo

Frida has inspired me since I was a young teenager. Frida lived her life bold, unafraid and unapologetic. She experienced so many physical ailments, but physical and mental pain only served as further inspiration for the colorful works that sealed her status as one of Mexico’s finest artists.

8. Virginia Woolf

I’ve always admired Woolf’s writing style, which (to me) has a sort of timeless quality. Self-identity, and the continuous cycle of asking oneself what it’s all about–these are not just important questions for teenagers. They’re important for everyone.

9. Lizzie Velasquez

Lizzie is a young American woman with an extremely rare medical condition that has caused her to have several ailments, and an unusual appearance. She has used her condition to speak out against bullying and judging others based on physical appearance. Lizzie’s determination and courage is truly inspiring!


10. Michelle Obama

Yeah, I went there. Why do I like Michelle? She’s a strong role model for American girls (and women everywhere). She has chosen to advocate for LGBT citizens, working moms, military families, and changing the obesity rate in American households through healthy choices.

11. Malala Yousafzai

I think we can all agree on this one. Malala’s extreme courage in the face of adversity, and her ability to bounce back stronger has endeared her to the entire world. She is a fierce advocate for women’s educational rights, and she’s only 16!

Who inspires you?

Robert De Niro as a baby with his mother Virginia Admiral and father Robert De Niro Sr. in New York City, 1944

De Niro’s parents, Virginia Admiral and Robert De Niro Sr., separated when he was 2, and his mom raised him. Years later he found out his father was gay. “My mother sort of intimated [it], but he would never say, ‘Son, I want you to know …’ That only happens in the movies. He was private.”

Few people ask from books what books can give us. Most commonly we come to books with blurred and divided minds, asking of fiction that it shall be true, of poetry that it shall be false, of biography that it shall be flattering, of history that it shall enforce our own prejudices. If we could banish all such preconceptions when we read, that would be an admirable beginning.
—  Virginia Woolf, The Second Common Reader