29/09/2015 14:40 BST | Updated 28/09/2016 06:12 BST

Here's to All Those Women

The sad passing of icons such as Jackie Collins and Cilla Black hit me hard.

These glamorous, bright, fiercely intelligent women who were legendary in their field, universally known but generally seeming good eggs, despite the wealth and fame are no longer here? It doesn't seem possible.

I cried last week when I heard about Jackie Collins, just like I did with the news that Cilla Black had died.

Jackie Collins showed so much dignity in the face of a terrible prognosis. Continuing to write her classic 'bonk-busters' whilst facing the daily pain of advanced cancer, or as she referred to it in her final interview 'a chronic illness'. She had stuff to do, so she put on her lippy and she did it.

I've always had admiration for the 'Jackie Collins' type women. I love that she once described her weakness as 'wearing too much leopard print'. This reminds me of my mum, who rocked up at my 40th birthday party in, wait for it, triple leopard, and looked fabulous for it.

I've always been drawn to these strong females who do whatever they do with absolute sass. My mum worked in Woolworths in the 80s when my brothers and I were kids, but she went to work every day looking like a film star. She is still the most glam person I know.

When Cilla Black died I was so upset. The sadness I felt for her didn't surprise me though, because I felt like I had known her since I was a young girl, and in a way, I had. All sitting down together to watch Blind Date in our old prefab in Essex signified the weekend had arrived. A vague waft of Aramis in the air as my big brothers got ready to go clubbing. Of course I shed a tear when Cilla died. How could I not?

It got me thinking about the women who have impacted on and inspired me throughout my life so far.

From my mum, who I love with a passion, to the female writers I admire, right down to my school dinner lady who I have never forgotten. She gave me some wise advice in the early 80s when I was being bullied at school. She told me straight that 'at least I could sleep at night'. The bullies however would one day be awoken thinking of their actions long after I would have forgotten them.

I'm not actually sure she was right about that (invisible scars run deep) but I always remember Mrs P saying that to me. I've never forgotten her kindness or her bright red lipstick, which she wore every day alongside her tabard. You see, these women are everywhere, building us up as we go.

Now in my 40s I can honestly say the fierceness of female friendship will be some of the strongest platonic yet passionate love affairs I will ever have.

The grief I felt when my pal Lisa Lynch died burns away inside me now, almost three years later in a way I could never of anticipated. Lisa was one of these women I am talking about, always looking amazing and doing incredible things. Even in the face of fear she wrote a blog, which became a book then film. The C Word saved lives. The fact that Lisa died between the film being made and airing is one of the saddest things I have ever experienced. But Lisa was one of these women who built you up.

The Jackie's, Cilla's, Mrs P's and Lisa's all inspire me to cherish the fact that I'm grateful to the women like my mum and my friends who have made me the woman I am. Now, living with chronic illness myself, I always put my lippy on and face the day my way. Like these girls do and did.

What started as an ode to Jackie and Cilla had ended as a love letter to all the women who have made me the person I am today.

I can't think who it may be, but I hope in years to come my niece will be nostalgic about all the women who have inspired her. I hope she looks closely around her, because there are women all around us, supporting other women, inspiring us to be the best we can. And so many of them are doing it in perfect red lipstick.

Here's to all those women, and long may I try and be one.