Queens of the Year: Those artists, activists and trailblazers who inspired us to think bigger

By now you guys are familiar with our “Queens of the Day,” a regular feature in which we celebrate female artists, activists, trailblazers and power-bosses for being straight-up great and making the world a better place. As the year comes to a close, we wanted to give some of these women extra-special props for all the good they’ve done for us over the past twelve months. So, without further ado, I present to you our 2014 “Queens of The Year,” long may they reign.

Misty Copeland

This ballet superstar who dances for American Theater Ballet is the third African-American soloist (and the first in two decades) for the company. It’s been a big year for Copeland—her memoir “Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina” was released in March, in April she was named to the President’s Council of Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition, she judged for So You Think You Can Dance, AND AND AND somehow managed to find the time to dance the lead roles in Coppélia and Swan Lake. And did you see her awesome Under Armour campaign? Yeah, she crushed it this year.

Jillian Mercado

This fashion blogger modeled for a Diesel campaign and for a Nordstrom’s catalog in her wheelchair this year, revolutionizing the fashion world’s beauty standards with her modeling fierceness. “It’s pretty much a unexplainable feeling knowing that all your hard work has an unbelievable pay-off,” Mercado wrote of her success, on her (very awesome) blog. “This just shows you that anything in this world is possible, with a bit of hard work you can move mountains.”

Mo’ne Davis

This Little League pitcher was one of only two girls to play in the 2014 Little League World Series and is the first girl to earn a win and pitch a shutout in Little League World Series history. Girl SUPER earned her Associated Press “Female Athlete Of The Year” and her Sports Illustrated “Sports Kid Of The Year” awards. And we haven’t even gotten to her upcoming book, aimed at inspiring girls to break boundaries in any field they choose.

Tatyana Fazlalizadeh

This illustrator/painter turned to street art to fight street harassment. Her street art series “Stop Telling Women To Smile” featured posters of women staring stoically at their audience, accompanied by statements like “My Outfit Is Not an Invitation,” and “Women Do Not Owe You Their Time or Conversation.” Throughout the year, as the conversation about street harassment gained steam, Fazlalizadeh’s work served as a template for raising awareness about the issue and mobilized other artists and activists to join the cause.

Roxane Gay

We should really be calling 2014 “The Year of Roxane Gay.” Gay published two books, the novel Untamed State and the book of essays Bad Feminist to insane acclaim. And if you follow her on Twitter (@rgay), then your feed is always awesome, because Gay is both super prolific and super always on point.

Janet Mock

Writer and trans activist Janet Mock has had a huge year. Her memoir Redefining Realness was released, she became a contributing editor over at Marie Claire, and played an instrumental role in a campaign against a Phoenix, Arizona law which allows police to arrest anyone suspected of “manifesting prostitution,” a law which is believed to target transgender women of color.

Malala Yousafzai

The Pakistani activist for female education made history this year when she became the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate at the age of 17. She was awarded the prize for her fight against the suppression of children and for her work to provide all young people with the education they deserve. While going to school full-time and running The Malala Fund, she also urged the Nigerian government to rescue 200 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram and lent support to the girls’ families. “I can see those girls as my sisters,” she said, according to USA Today. “And I’m going to speak up for them until they are released.”

Kara Walker

Artist Kara Walker rocked Brooklyn’s world in 2014 with her first large-scale public project, a massive, sugar-coated, sphinx-like woman. She describes “A Subtlety (or The Marvelous Sugar Baby)” as  “. . .an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant.”

Megan Amram

Comedy writer Amram killed it this year, finishing up writing the final season of Parks and Recreation and releasing her first book Science…for Her! a parody text book that is should be used as a real text book when it comes to hilariously teaching everyone about why sexism is the worst.

Emma Sulkowicz

The fourth year visual arts major at Columbia University was allegedly sexually assaulted her second year of school. Horrified with how her university handled the crime, she created the performance art piece “Mattress Performance: Carry The Weight” in which she will carry her mattress around campus until her assailant is expelled from Columbia. Artnet called this piece “one of the most important artworks of the year” and Sulkowicz has received the National Organization for Women’s Susan B. Anthony Award and the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Ms. Wonder Award for the piece. Her activism has also spawned a movement, Carry That Weight Together, and a national day of protest that saw hundreds of students carrying mattresses around the country in solidarity with victims of sexual assault.

Shonda Rhimes

This fall, television showrunner Shonda Rhimes completely took over ABC’s Thursday nights with three shows she executive produces: Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How To Get Away With Murder. Shonda’s shows, in addition to being insanely quotable and addictive, have always made women, people of color, and the LGBT community a priority in their storytelling, and she is leading the movement to make television a more inclusive place. She also brilliantly used her Twitter prowess this year to respond to racism and homophobia in the New York Times and on social media. And then there was this gorgeous speech about cracking Hollywood’s glass ceiling.

Laura Bates

The boss lady over at “Everyday Sexism,” a project that exists to catalogue instances of sexism experienced by women on a day to day basis, is our total hero.  While she lent her strong voice to feminist issues throughout the year, she kicked off the year with a bang. In January, her organization successfully campaigned for the removal of the mobile app Plastic Surgery & Plastic Doctor & Plastic Hospital Office for Barbie Version from the App Store and Google Play. The product, which could negatively impact young girls’ body image (seriously, just look at the app) was removed thanks to Everyday Sexism’s targeted Twitter campaign.

Jacqueline Woodson

Author Jacqueline Woodson won the National Book Award in the category for her novel-in-poetry “Brown Girl Dreaming.” When NBA host Daniel Handler (AKA Lemony Snicket) proceeded to crack a racist joke, Woodson wrote a powerful op-ed in the New York Times in response, in which she states that her mission is “To give young people — and all people — a sense of this country’s brilliant and brutal history, so that no one ever thinks they can walk onto a stage one evening and laugh at another’s too often painful past.”

Ava DuVernay

Film director DuVernay made history this year when she became the first woman of color to be nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Director for her film Selma, which tells the story of the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights marches led by Martin Luther King Jr., and currently boasts an almost-unheard of 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Anita Sarkeesian

Sarkeesian’s “Feminist Frequency” videos placed her at the center of the conversation re: misogyny in gamer culture. She’s been an outspoken critic of the #gamergate movement and she even got Steven Colbert to say he is a feminist. Our kind of girl.

(Images , , via)

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