For Princess Mette-Marit it was her own mother and daughter; Angelina Jolie cited "women fighting against the odds for the survival of their families"; meanwhile, Michelle Obama paid warm tribute to a Sudanese activist.
On International Women's Day, the world's most high profile female figures turned the spotlight on those whose courage impresses them.
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Norwegian royal Mette-Marit tweeted a tender tribute to her "favourite role models" mum Marit Tjessem and her little girl.
Ingrid, her eight-year-old daughter with Prince Haakon, is destined to be among the next generation of reigning queens – along with newborn Estelle of Sweden, Amalia of the Netherlands and Belgium's Princess Elisabeth.
Drawing on her experience as UN Goodwill Ambassador, Angelina talked eloquently about the "amazing women" she met who are refugees.
"They have inspired me and taught me to be better," said the actress, who was joined by magazine editor Tina Brown and IMF head Christine Lagarde.
Closer to home, Angelina mentioned her "wonderful mother" Marcheline Bertrand who died in 2007.
"I learned a lot about women through her.
"I have great daughters who teach me a lot about the strength of women and little girls."
Meanwhile, US first lady Michelle and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined forces to honour 10 female activists, among them human rights campaigners Hawa Abdallah Mohammed Salih of Sudan and Shad Begum from Pakistan.
The emotional ceremony brought tears to the eyes of Major Pricilla de Oliveira Azevedo, one of the few women in Rio de Janeiro's military police, who has made a career of fighting gang violence.
Of their bravery, Michelle said: "They saw corruption, and they worked to expose it.
"They saw oppression, and they worked to end it. They saw violence, poverty, discrimination, and inequality – and they decided to use their voices, and risk their lives, to do something about it."