Women of the Year: The Visionaries and Disruptors Who Inspired Us in 2018

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On January 1, 2018, hundreds of women in Hollywood joined forces to unveil #TimesUp, a legal fund that piggybacked off the #MeToo movement by offering financial and legal support to victims of sexual assault, physical abuse, and misconduct. A week later, in an act of solidarity, all of the attendees of the Golden Globes wore somber shades of black to reflect their backing of the #TimesUp movement, while many of the celebrity organizers brought activists like #MeToo founder Tarana Burke with them as their dates. By February, the fund had raised $18 million for victims embroiled in legal battles.

It was an auspicious start to the year, one that signaled the strength of women in numbers  – women standing shoulder-to-shoulder to say “enough is enough”. In 2018, women stood out as the arbiters of change in society, as the individuals responsible for exposing abuse, and as the new vanguard for hope in the world. Inspiring women used their celebrity platforms to promote messages of positivity, while others worked to uproot the old vanguard and replace it with fresh political ideas from the inside. From launching inclusive brands to cutting lucrative business ties with abusive men in power, these women have been very effective at enacting tangible change in the world this past year.

1

Rihanna

Rihanna has proven to be one of the most significant disruptors in the beauty and lingerie industry – and she’s only just getting started. The success of Fenty Beauty and its inclusive range of foundation shades completely upended the beauty industry, causing several other brands to expand their offerings as well. Rihanna told Time, “I never could have anticipated the emotional connection that women are having with the products and the brand as a whole. Some are finding their shade of foundation for the first time, getting emotional at the counter. That’s something I will never get over.”

Her lingerie line via Savage x Fenty has proven to be equally disruptive thanks to its inclusive size range, which offers sensual lingerie for women up to a size 3X. Not only are her products gorgeous, high-quality, affordably priced, and beautifully packaged, but they are also accessible to women of all sizes, shapes, and colors.

2

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

A 28-year-old community organizer by the name of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stunned the political establishment this year when she pulled off the extraordinary defeat of incumbent Congressman Joe Crowley. The more powerful and prominent Crowley had raised $3 million to campaign with, while Ocasio-Cortez crowdfunded only $200,000 with the average donation coming in at less than $200 per person. She also refused corporate and lobby-sponsored donations, and received her contributions directly from the people. She is the youngest woman to serve in Congress in the history of the United States.

Her progressive platform promised Medicare for all, criminal justice reform, and a federal jobs guarantee program. Ocasio-Cortez has proven adept at bypassing traditional means of political communication to relay her messages directly to the people via Instagram ‘Stories’, in which she shares everything from an inside look at her shiny new Congressperson job to holiday recipes.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Photo: Courtesy of Foundation for Economic Education
3

Serena Williams

Not only is Serena Williams one of the greatest athletes in the world, but she had people calling her “Wonder Woman” this year when she won the Australian Open while pregnant. Williams also exposed the double standard within the sport when she was banned from wearing a catsuit that she quickly pointed out was used to save her from life-threatening blood clots. 

Williams also became a champion for birthing mothers worldwide when she came forward about her own traumatic birth experience during which she almost died. In a personal essay penned for CNN, Williams revealed that a pulmonary embolism led to doctors finding a large hematoma in her abdomen. After this, she had to undergo another surgery to remove clots from her lungs and spent the first six weeks of motherhood in bed.

4

Christine Blasey-Ford

The eyes of the world watched as a soft-spoken woman in her early 50s quietly swore in to testify in front of Congress in September. Her name was Christine Blasey-Ford, and she was there to reveal brutal allegations of sexual assault against Brett KavanaughPresident Trump’s nomination to the Supreme Court – which incidentally is a lifetime appointment. Her powerful testimony had even opponents stunned by her strength, calm demeanor, and convincing recall.

Despite the fact that she and her entire family had received death threats, Blasey-Ford went ahead with her testimony because she felt it was her “civic duty” to expose what Kavanaugh had done. Her incredible act of bravery prompted other women to come forward with similar allegations of abuse. Up until he was nominated to the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh faced 87 “serious” complaints against him. Since the hearing, Blasey-Ford has kept a low profile, but made a rare public statement last week in which she revealed that some of the $600,000 raised for her legal defense in a GoFundMe campaign would be donated to organizations that support trauma survivors.

Christine Blasey Ford
Photo: Courtesy of Time
5

Beyoncé

Not only did Beyoncé have an incredible year artistically – with the surprise release of a joint album with Jay-Z and a global joint tour – but also politically. The Houston native used her voice on social media to stump for progressive candidate Beto O’Rourke during America’s vital midterm elections. Beyoncé also spoke candidly about the trauma she experienced during the birth of her twins, Sir and Rumi. Her personal account of the harrowing time she spent in the hospital – swollen with toxemia, undergoing an emergency C-section, and nearly dying from preeclampsia – caused a spike in searches for the terms mentioned, which brought increased awareness to the high rate of maternal deaths in both developed and undeveloped nations.

Additionally, the legendary artist used her status to boost the profile of other black artists while on tour by wearing predominantly black designers. And when Sir Philip Green of Topshop was revealed to be a serial abuser, Beyoncé hit back right where it hurts by severing her business relationship with the retailer and buying back all of her Ivy Park shares.

6

Halima Aden

From a child living in a refugee camp to the living embodiment of the American dream, Halima Aden’s story is astonishing and rare. In an exclusive interview with Savoir Flair, the young supermodel shared her incredible journey with us in illuminating detail, from her impoverished origins to her overnight success.

Her story alone will inspire you, but if that’s not enough, Aden has become one of the industry’s most in-demand models in less than two years – all while refusing to compromise her faith and her decision to remain covered. She is paving the way for all the young women whom the fashion industry has long ignored, and she is a passionate ambassador for UNICEF – in fact, Aden had a full-circle moment after returning to the same refugee camp where she once stayed as a child. We couldn’t be prouder to support her incredible work.

Halima Aden Savoir Flair
Photo: Courtesy of Jeremy Zaessinger
7

Stella McCartney

As multinational conglomerates continue to buy up fashion houses, there is one that has decided to go the opposite direction. Earlier this year, Stella McCartney bought back full ownership of her house from parent company Kering, making her an anomaly in the field of fashion. We applaud her independence and her decision to defy the status quo.

Not only has McCartney decided to take the road less traveled, but she has also been one of the most important voices in fashion for tackling issues of sustainability. Since the inception of her brand, the designer has been committed to using faux fur, faux leather, and other synthetic materials in place of real animal skins. She was also leagues ahead of her peers in the development of bespoke textiles that mimic the look of the real thing. Meanwhile, every fashion house on the planet is racing to ditch fur and exotic skins – now that fur and exotic skins have fallen “out of fashion”. We commend McCartney for having the vision and fortitude to have committed to sustainable practices since the very beginning.

8

Meghan Markle

From a “suitcase girl” on Deal or No Deal to a starring role on Suits to one of the most high-profile women in the entire world as the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle’s rise has been meteoric. Millions of people around the world tuned in to watch the royal wedding in May, and then rejoiced when the young couple announced their pregnancy in October. Throughout it all, Markle has remained the picture of grace and calm, even as tabloid rumors about her extended family dogged her wedding.

As the media raced to drum up false gossip about conflict between Markle and Kate Middleton, the two sisters-in-law laid rumors to rest with acts of true friendship. Markle’s poise, philanthropic interests, and unflappable demeanor have made her one of the more inspiring women of the year – no easy feat given the feverish levels of attention lobbied at her every move, decision, sartorial choice, and even nail polish color. With the knowledge that everything she does is clocked by the media, the duchess has also used her status to promote sustainable fashion brands by often wearing them during public appearances.

meghan markle rememberannce day
Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images
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