Women are amazing. There should never be a question of the perseverance, innovation and ambition of women everywhere. If there was ever a year that tested these traits, it was 2016.
In a year of so much heartache and loss, one in which rapists were often left without just conviction and “politicians” bragged about sexual assault, women continued to do as they have always done and achieved, making so many of their own dreams a reality, advancing entire industries, creating much-needed conversations and leaving no question of the ever-enduring power of female ability.
All women deserve celebration and though this list is only made up of 10 women, there are countless others, nameless or A-list, who deserve recognition for their contributions and triumphs in 2016. In no particular order, here are 10 extraordinary women who slayed 2016, even as the odds were against them.
1. Marley Dias
Like most kids, Marley Dias was tired of reading. But in Dias’ case, she was simply over reading stories about boys and dogs. She decided to create her own movement, #1000BlackGirlBooks, celebrating the diversity of black women’s stories and encouraging the celebration of black female literature, learning and representation. After the overwhelming success of her initiative, Dias is now serving as a speaker and activist, earning major props and much-deserved paychecks for her contributions.
2. Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama turned her time in office into a history-making opportunity to change a nation. Though the First Lady’s position wasn’t always as renowned for being one of major political and judicial influence, Michelle Obama used her voice for change, her sense of positivity for good and reassured a nation of women that they could not only achieve, but empower, as she hosted female empowerment events, created conversation and spoke artfully on the nation’s greatest platform. Damn, we’ll miss her.
3. Solange Knowles
Solange is living proof of never counting out the underdog. Though she was an indie darling after the release of “Losing You,” she wasn’t known worldwide for anything other than an elevator fight. This year, Solange made her first chart-topping debut with her artistic and soul-stirring A Seat At The Table. Expectations were high for the woman often diminished to being simply Beyonce’s younger sister, but she created a work of art that incorporated themes about blackness in America, hope, depression, love, politics and so much more.
4. Amber Rose
There are people who will balk at the mere mention of Amber Rose. And in 2016, she proved that not only didn’t she give a damn about those people, but that there were even more people who loved her. Her rise as the face of the anti-slut-shaming movement and her increasing vocal presence in conversations about sexual assault, misogyny and intersectionality served as the basis of the creation of her empire. Rose is now not only working on a makeup line and a sunglasses collection, but also hosting a highly successful podcast and appeared on Dancing With the Stars. She’s bringing feminism to the mainstream, and for as many people who seemed disgusted at the idea, Rose attracted thousands for her groundbreaking Slutwalk.
5. Beyonce Knowles
Beyonce is full of surprises. Though no music was always suspected to be coming from the superstar, she turned her first single “Formation” into a statement with a video full of racial messages and symbolism. She celebrated her roots during a time of discussion about “cultural appropriation” and an already heated national discourse about police brutality. She took over the Super Bowl, dropped the critically acclaimed Lemonade and then proceeded to break award show records, while also releasing an extremely popular clothing line and even breaking into country music. What can’t Beyonce do?
6. Laverne Cox
Laverne Cox is multi-talented, and she used each of her talents for good this year. She earned praise for her role on Orange Is The New Black and reprised an iconic role with her reboot of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Cox also made television history with her RHPS role and her upcoming role on the new Shondaland show Doubt, and eventually received an honorary doctorate from The New School. She didn’t let the success stop her from speaking of her own experience as a black, trans woman and informing others about the rising rate of hate crimes against the trans community, particularly against trans women of color.
7. Simone Biles
Simone Biles may be young but she has already accomplished the feat of becoming the “greatest gymnast of all time.” Biles is the first United States gymnast ever win four gold medals and was joined by a team of other Olympian women that established an American legacy. Despite the drama of the Olympics, it was clear that the adorable Biles was the breakout star.
8. Samantha Bee
Samantha Bee could have let the end of The Daily Show break her. Instead, Bee moved on to host her very own show, the hilarious Full Frontal. Bee interviewed President Barack Obama, covered politics hilariously and made sure Americans remained informed and humorous during a particularly depressing election cycle. Bee did it all while employing one of the most diverse writing staffs on television.
9. Ashley Graham
In an industry that relies on perpetuating archaic beauty standards, Ashley Graham changed the game. Graham’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover made history and she refused to back down when confronted with haters and body shamers. She graced the covers of several magazines, including Vogue, and serves on the judging panel of America’s Next Top Model, which just saw its most successful premiere ever. Ashley Graham is representing fearlessly, and before you call her “plus-size,” know that just calling her “curvasexaliciousfl” will do.
10. General Lori Robinson
Gen. Lori Robinson broke barriers as she became the first woman to become a lead military combatant commander, an extremely important role in the military. Robinson’s appointment leads the way for women to gain access to higher roles in combat during a time when the military has been fraught with controversy and criticism over its treatment of female members of the service.