A lot of people did incredible things this year, overcoming challenges and rising to the occasion–from standing for sexual assault survivors to protesting at Standing Rock. VocaLady Magazine is highlighting our favorite folks who did great things this year:
Lady Gaga opened up this year about experiencing sexual assault in her teens and released her powerful song “Till It Happens To You.” Her performance at the 2016 Oscars, in which Vice President Joe Biden, who has led the It’s On Us campaign, introduced her, included survivors of sexual violence and was a truly emotional moment. Later this year, she opened up about her battle with PTSD as a result of the violence she’s experienced. Sing on, Gaga. We’re all with you.
Kesha has been in the spotlight this year over her battle against producer Dr. Luke, who she claims sexually assaulted her, as well as emotionally and physically abused her. She could not get out of her contract with him and Sony, thus forcing her to work with her rapist if she wanted to continue her music career. Kesha has brought awareness to the scrutiny that women face when it comes to sexual assault. She continues to fight and refuses to give up, despite continually losing this legal battle. Kesha showed us the importance of fighting for yourself and never letting someone bring you down.
Carrie Fisher, the actress who portrayed Princess Leia Organa and brought a breath of feminist air to the Star Wars franchise, passed away this year. While fans everywhere are very shocked at her passing, it’s important to look back on the many achievements of her life. Fisher was very open about her diagnosis of bipolar disorder and was an activist for those suffering from mental illness, being awarded the Annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism from Harvard College in 2016. She was also outspoken about her struggles with addiction and self medication, and opened up about these topics in her autobiography The Princess Diarist. Carrie Fisher and her bright, sometimes eccentric personality will definitely be missed as we move into 2017.
Transgender activist Sarah McBride made headlines this year after she became the first openly transgender person speak at a major party convention: the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Today, McBride is an American LGBT rights activist and the current National Press Secretary of the Human Rights Campaign. McBride is also credited with the passage of legislation in Delaware that bans discrimination on the basis of gender identity in housing, insurance, employment, and public accommodations. We can’t wait to see what she does next.
Simone Biles is an American gymnast who won four gold medals and the bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics. For anyone who missed it, Biles’ floor routine was a thing of beauty as she performed one of the most difficult routines in the competition. She ended her floor routine with a score of 15.966, something truly astonishing in a sport that is as critical and technical as gymnastics. In more recent news, Simone Biles stood up to internet trolls who attempted to body shame her, saying that she loves and is comfortable in her own skin. You go, Simone!
This November, Democrat Kamala Harris won the 2016 US Senate election, becoming the second black woman and first Indian-American elected to serve the United States Senate. Harris was elected California’s Attorney General in 2010 and re-elected in 2014. She was the first woman, the first African-American, the first Asian-American, and the Indian-American attorney general in California. While Harris was working as a lawyer, she created a special Hate Crimes unit which focused on hate crimes against LGBT children and teens in schools. We’re excited to see the good work she does in Senate.
In her last year as First Lady, Michelle Obama continued to shine and win all of our hearts. This year, she campaigned for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and made an impactful speech condemning then-candidate Donald Trump for his bragging about sexual violence. There’s absolutely no shortage of accomplishments for Michelle Obama. She is a lawyer, writer, and activist. She is a graduate from both Princeton University and Harvard Law School and worked at a law firm during the early part of her career. Not only did she speak at three Democratic National Conventions, she also became a role model for women and young girls. She is a well-known advocate for poverty awareness, physical activity, and healthy eating habits. In the early months as First Lady, she visited homeless shelters and soup kitchens, and hosted a White House reception for women’s rights advocates. Her popularity soared during her husband’s second term as president, and many speculated over whether she would run for presidency herself. We’re sad to see her leave the White House.
In December of 2015, Time printed Nadia’s impactful story of being taken and sold by ISIS fighters from a village in northern Iraq. During her time in captivity, Nadia survived sexual violence and a genocide that took her family. Today, Nadia is a Yazidi human rights activist, a UN Goodwill Ambassador, and a Nobel Peace Prize nominee. She was a Glamour Women of the Year nominee for 2016 and has used her voice to bring awareness to the crimes committed by ISIS.
Gloria Allred is the high-power feminist lawyer who challenged Donald Trump’s history of sexual assault in 2016. She represented three of the women who shared their stories about Trump’s predatory behavior, and swore to him, “you will not intimidate me.” When Trump threatened to sue the women who brought forth the accusations, Allred promised to sue him right back. For her powerful and unyielding support for victims of assault and for her fearlessness in the face of Trump, Gloria Allred has certainly earned her place in VocaLady’s 2016 Hall of Fame.
Issa Rae is the first black woman to write, produce and star in a scripted series for the premium cable channel. Her show, HBO’s Insecure, has been nominated for both Golden Globes and NAACP Image Awards, and is a smash hit according to fans and critics alike. By infusing her unique personality and humor, Rae is completely redefining how black women are portrayed on television. Void of stereotypes and tropes, Rae’s characters are complex, universal and real. As production begins on season two of Insecure, Rae and her cast and crew pave way for young creative black and women to flip the script on Hollywood portrayals.
Divergent star Shailene Woodley gained national attention for her involvement in the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests labeled “#NoDAPL” on social media. Her arrest following an October 10 protest at Standing Rock Indian Reservation gained national media attention but more importantly drew attention to the cause, which objected to the construction of a pipeline that indigenous tribes insisted threatened the region’s clean water and ancient burial grounds. Woodley subsequently sold T-shirts, often promoted on her Instagram page and publicized her arrest on Facebook Live, drawing further attention to the cause. Though many other protesters contributed to the cause, including the many who checked into Standing Rock Reservation on Facebook in order to confuse police who would attempt to quell protests, Woodley’s actions remind us of the necessity of protest at a time when protest is increasingly being met with backlash by police officers and even select media.