16 Women We’re Thankful For

As much as we tolerate like the “say what you’re thankful for” tradition, it’s not always the optimal time to gush about your favorite new author or which politician you admire. Sometimes, it’s best to keep the dinner table and our soapbox separate. And, yet, when it comes down to it, there are more than just a few women we could thank for making 2013 a year that stands above the rest — and they deserve much more attention than the 10 seconds we’d get at the table. 

And, so, in the spirit of the season, we’re honoring 16 next-level ladies who may not be seated around your cornucopia but fully deserve a horn of gratitude this year. These gals have scored Oscars, Pulitzers, and Man Booker awards; they’ve led by example and led Harvard classes; and, yes, they’ve even gotten pixie cuts (well, one of them did). It’s been a big year, and we think there’s no better way to give thanks than with a legit shout-out that trumps a turkey leg any day.

PHOTO: GREGORY PACE/BEIMAGES.

Malala Yousafzai
Granted, it was 2012 when the name Malala Yousafzai first became a household one. Then, Yousafzai was a Pakistani teenager fallen victim to an attack requested by the Taliban for her efforts to promote women’s education — something the terrorist group opposed. Yet, in 2013, it became explicitly clear that the 16-year-old could not only overcome a brutal attack, but also become the voice of change and empowerment even in the face of fear and great adversity. This year, the activist has continued to push forward to help ensure that women have access to a quality education. Of course, along the way, she’s found amazing platforms from which to voice her cause, including The Daily Show, her new book I Am Malala, and her Nobel Peace Prize nomination.

PHOTO: CAMILLA MORANDI/REX/REX USA.

Jennifer Lawrence
Maybe we’re just girl-crushing — hard — but we think it’s quite obvious that 2013 has been Jennifer Lawrence’s year. Oscars and blockbusters aside, over the past 11 months, we’ve all come to know the actress a little better. And, not in the generic celebrity-magazine-profile kind of way. Actually, no matter the topic, Lawrence has proven to be one of the most refreshingly endearing and candid celebrities of the moment. When we hear her talk about diets, when she has a minorwardrobe malfunction, or when she photobombs her friends, it’s a nice reminder that celebritiesare just like everyone else. Except, maybe not when she takes to the red carpet. She’s on a whole ‘nother level there.

PHOTO: ASTRID STAWIARZ.

Amy Cuddy
If you haven’t had an awkward encounter with a coworker because you’re power posing in the office bathroom before a big meeting, you’re missing out. And, if you have, you can thank Amy Cuddy, too. After the Harvard professor’s TED Talk, “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are,” debuted this past October, we suddenly all became very conscious of how our shoulders slumped over our keyboards and the crossed-arms position we held while we talked to a group of our peers. And, more than recognizing problematic posture, we learned how to empower ourselves à la Cuddy’s insightful guidance. Simply put: If you haven’t watched her speech, do so now. Thank us her later.

PHOTO: COURTESY OF H&M.

Isabel Marant
Over the past several years, Isabel Marant has helped us realize that good style is inclusive, comfortable, and doesn’t require us to be someone we’re not. You can love, and live in, your skinny jeans, sneakers, and cozy, quilted jackets — and her collections have brought us the best versions around. Thankfully, this year, Marant really extended her reach, making her luxury label accessible with an H&M collaboration that provided months’ worth of hype and mere hours after the launch for the collection to sell out. This was the first, but hopefully not last, time we saw the Marant brand truly setting an example that impeccable style is not attainable through luxury only.

PHOTO: BOB DAEMMRICH.

Wendy Davis
When we elect officials to represent us, we imagine they are willing to stand in our corners regarding the issues we care about. However, Texas state Senator Wendy Davis’ 11-hour filibuster demonstrated another level of commitment we don’t often see. Her now-famous stand-in was a victory for women’s rights, as she fought against a bill that limited access to abortion. And, despite the eventual passing of the legislation, her perseverance will be impossible for us to forget years from now.

PHOTO: SHANAE NAE/ BFANYC.COM.

Robyn Lawley
The Australian model has made headlines most recently for her swimwear line, super-sexy Cosmo Australia spread, and the exhibit “Size Does Matter,” where her costars are a bunch of fuzzy animals. But, Lawley doesn’t just represent the present state of fashion — she the future as well. She’s not your average straight-size model, and, frankly, we’d rather not label her at all. She exemplifies a face and body in the industry that’s diverse, healthy, and, if this year is any indication, ready to take on even bigger projects in 2014.

PHOTO: TAL COHEN.

Eleanor Catton
We admit that not everyone here has picked up a copy of The Luminaries just yet, but it’s most definitely at the top of our must-read list. The second novel by New Zealand author Eleanor Catton has not only earned critical acclaim, but has also won the 28-year-old a Man Booker Prize this year — and she’s the youngest writer ever to do so. While there’s certainly something to be said for gaining experience over the years, every once in a while, we’re psyched to see a young’un seriously soar her way to the top. Age ain’t nothin’ but a number.

PHOTO: COURTESY OF NETFLIX.

The Cast of OITNB
Through an ensemble of smartly cast, widely diverse, and truly complex characters, Orange Is the New Black was easily one of our favorite new shows this year. While it’s hard not to mention names like Jenji Kohan and Jodie Foster, who worked behind the scenes, it’s the cast of women who brought the prison to life, fascinating us with each of their stories of hardship and survival, that got us thinking (and talking) about being in their shoes. How far would we go for the person we loved? For your freedom? But, perhaps what we’re most thankful for of all is that the series will be making its return next year.

PHOTO: XURXO LOBATO.

Rosalía Mera
While she may not be a household name per se, Rosalía Mera’s legacy is. She’s the woman you can thank for your — and our — Zara obsession. Mera passed away this summer, but she claimed a spot on our gratitude list a long time ago. At the most basic level, yes, we are thankful for the brand she created. But, beyond that, the self-made billionaire — the richest in the world — has served as an inspiration, as she built her business from the ground up, beginning as a seamstress and eventually creating a company that not only designs, but manufactures, its products in house.

PHOTOGRAPHED BY PHOEBE CHAUSON.

Lena Waithe
Even those of us who are not 20-somethings were thankful for Lena Waithe this year. The writer — who’s often compared to another writer named Lena (ahem) — is behind the script for TWENTIES, a loosely autobiographical and honest portrayal of those who make up the age bracket. Waithe may still be working on securing an official television deal, but we’re already devoted fans. She’s a woman who represents a new, refreshing voice of Gen Y and puts the spotlight on black millennials in a way that, sadly, cannot often be found on network TV.

PHOTO: ANNA WOLF.

Anna Holmes
Actually, it’s about once a day that we get to thank Anna Holmes, the founding editor of Jezebel. And, of course, we’re referring to the time we catch up with the site’s insightful, irreverent, and humorous stories. But, while Holmes officially stepped down from her role in 2010, this year, we gained new appreciation for her impact on the way we think about personal style, politics, relationships, and, most importantly, feminism. Just last month, the writer released The Book Of Jezebel, and we now have a reason to laugh and engage forever with the smart Jezebel ladies, even without an Internet connection.

PHOTO: FRED CONRAD/NYTIMES.

Jill Abramson
As journalists, we admire Jill Abramson, but the executive editor of The New York Times is really an inspiration for any woman looking to kill it in her field. While in 2011 she became the first lady to be appointed to her prestigious job title, this year, Abramson really wowed us as she helped the daily land four Pulitzer Prize awards. On a day-to-day basis, the media power player’s work and decision-making skills are under constant scrutiny — be it from how she chooses to run a news team to how she chooses to run a story. So, even if you can’t agree with every word she prints, we’re firm believers that she’s one amazing boss lady we can admire.

PHOTO: COURTESY OF ABC.

Amy Robach
It was only a few weeks ago when Good Morning America anchor Amy Robach was brave enough to get her first mammogram on air. Yet, while her example alone would have inspired us, we’re also truly appreciative of her actions that followed, when the reporter announced to the show’s millions of viewers that she had breast cancer. Her story is heartbreaking yet so inspiring, and her display of courage during such a personal, confusing, and scary time in her life is nothing short of beautiful. Robach is currently in treatment, and we’re rooting for her all the way.

PHOTO: PICTUREPERFECT/ REX USA.

Melissa McCarthy
Yes, Hollywood is filled with waifs and perfect, tiny-waisted hourglass shapes, and Melissa McCarthy is neither. And, while we’re thankful to see a woman who doesn’t fit the typical mold in the spotlight — and on the cover of magazines — so often this year, we really love McCarthy because she makes us laugh. Like, tears-rolling-down-our-cheeks, feels-like-we-just-did-100-crunches laugh.

PHOTO: PATSYLYNCH/ REX/ REX USA.

Michelle Obama
It’s almost hard not to have a certain level of admiration for the FLOTUS, no matter where your political beliefs lie. Besides her husband, she holds one of the most demanding and highly criticized roles. Yet, she never seems to break a sweat, lose her cool, or not gracefully respond to questions or criticism. While last year Michelle joined Twitter, this year, she made it on to Instagram, further connecting with the public in a way that simply wasn’t possible for the first ladies of the past. She supports causes we can all get behind, like increasing graduation rates and promoting healthier food and lifestyle choices. And, though she appeared on her second Vogue cover this year, it’s also refreshing to know that one of the most powerful women in the world can appreciate a great dress from Target just as much as we can.

PHOTOGRAPHED BY ROCKIE NOLAN.

Kelsey Miller
Call us biased — maybe we are. But, we’ve been feeling pretty grateful lately that when we grab for a cookie or a kale smoothie, we’re no longer feeling like we have to justify why. Our fellow editor Kelsey Miller has not only introduced us to The Anti-Diet project this year, but she’s also inspired us to finally pay attention to how we care for our bodies and change the way we think about food and exercise. And, we’re no longer shaming ourselves if, every once in a while, we’d rather watch reruns of Parks and Recreation than take a 20-mile hike. Kelsey’s leading by example and showing us how to work out smart and eat intuitively. Plus, did you see her hair on GMA ?

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