Throughout her husband’s first term First Lady Michelle Obama worked tirelessly against childhood obesity and extended her service to military families by launching the ‘Joining Forces’ initiative to raise awareness about their unique needs. But mostly, it was Mrs. O’s exemplary ways as a mother and wife that made us want to do and be better. And now we get to see her for four more years? Winning!
“From Viola to Jill to Willow, our sisters in the spotlight rocked super short strands this year and looked stunning!” writes ESSENCE.com associate beauty editor Nicole Marie Melton. “Viola proudly proclaimed about her 2012 big chop: ‘I feel very powerful… I feel more powerful every day, more secure in who I am, and I’ve waited so long for that.” This just goes to show that our light comes from within, not from what’s on our head.
After a rocky start filled with lackluster ratings and bad press, Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network seems to have found its groove with shows like Iyanla, Fix My Life and Welcome to Sweetie PIe’s and Oprah’s Next Chapter. With shows focused on self transformation, Winfrey is ushering a new era of TV programming that’s resonating with audiences.
Sybrina Fulton was catapulted into the national spotlight after the killing of her son Trayvon Martin, 17. Stricken by grief, Fulton, along with her ex-husband Tracy Martin, fought for her son’s rights, spoke up for every mother who has lost a child, and demanded accountability from the justice system.
What a moment it was for Black female athletes at the 2012 summer Olympics. For the first time in 16 years, the U.S. women’s 4×100 relay team walked away with a gold medal. Sprinters Carmelita Jeter, Bianca Knight, Allyson Felix and Tianna Madison also set a new world record, completing the race in just 40.82 seconds, while Gabby Douglas made history by becoming the first African-American woman to win the gold medal, Claressa Shields became the first American woman to ever win a middleweight title, and so many more.
“It’s good to see more brown-skinned faces representing in the multi-billion dollar beauty industry especially since you know how we sistas love to spend big bucks on beauty,” writes ESSENCE.com associate beauty editor, Nicole Marie Melton. “Sanna Lathan for Pantene, Janelle Monae for CoverGirl, Nicki Minaj for Mac, Sherri Shepherd for LUX Hair, LaLa Anthony for Motives Cosmetics, and the list goes on and on! “
“The indie filmmaker proves that, as Black women, we often don’t wait for opportunity — we seize it,” writes ESSENCE.com managing editor, Dawnie Walton. “Instead of hoping for a Hollywood studio to appreciate her vision, DuVernay last year helped found the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement, a group dedicated to getting quality Black films into theaters, and in 2012, her second feature Middle of Nowhere knocked everybody out: DuVernay became the first Black woman to win best director at the Sundance Film Festival in January, and now her movie is part of the Oscar conversation.”
“I am so happy to see Iyanla Vanzant back on television. Her hit show on OWN, following her public reunion with Oprah, proves you can have successful and riveting programming featuring a Black woman that is uplifting. I learn something every time I watch,” writes ESSENCE associate editor Charreah K. Jackson.
Sixteen-year-old Gabby Douglas stole the show in 2012 by becoming the first African-American to win Olympic gold in the women’s individual all-around finals. On the day of her historic win, Gabby told ESSENCE she read scripture, particularly a passage from Joshua 1.9 that read: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Portia Simpson Miller, 66, became Jamaica’s first elected Prime Minister, making her the first woman to ever lead the Caribbean nation. The beloved politician is affectionately known as ‘Sista P’ and ‘Comrade Leader’ by her constituents.
“I was filled with pride when Vice-Admiral Michelle Howard became the first Black woman to earn three-star-rank in the U.S. armed forces,” writes ESSENCE.com sales planning manager Elosi Ikharo. Howard is also the first Black woman to command a U.S. Navy warship, the first Black woman to command an expeditionary strike group at sea and the first female graduate of the Naval Academy to achieve the rank of rear admiral.
“Emayatzy’s performance in Middle of Nowhere was flawless,” writes ESSENCE.com partnerships editor Charlise Ferguson. The actress is already getting Oscar buzz for her portrayal of Ruby, a nurse struggling at a crossroads: Should she continue standing by her incarcerated husband, for whom she’s already sacrificed her dreams, or should she make moves toward building a new life?
“Bursting onto the music scene in 2012 with her acclaimed debut, Is Your Love Big Enough?, this British singer/songwriter represented the creativity, originality, style and deep soul that still exists in modern Black music,” writes ESSENCE.com managing editor, Dawnie Walton. “No wonder she was nominated for the BBC’s annual “Sound of 2012” poll.”
“I loved seeing First Lady Michelle Obama giving Olympian Gabby Douglas high five on Jay Leno’s couch. They were there as two of the most notable Black women of the time. It’s a moment that will always make me smile,” writes ESSENCE.com associate beauty editor, Nicole Marie Melton.
Earlier this year Joyce Banda made history by becoming Malawi’s first female president and the second woman to lead an African country. Banda, 62, is ushering a new form of leadership in Africa. She has a long track record of fighting for women’s rights and most recently advocated for the repeal of laws criminalizing homosexuality in her country.
At just 19 years old, Raven Magwood is already an author, motivational speaker, and talk show host. This month, she will graduate with a degree in Communication Studies from Clemson University after just four semesters of study. After graduation, Magwood plans to continue her motivational speaking while completing a screenplay she hopes to sell in Hollywood. Asked what could possibly keep a teenager so focused, Magwood said it’s all due to her “dedication, determination and discipline.”
“Yes, 2012 was a challenging year for the Good Morning America host and breast cancer survivor — she was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder, then had to mourn the loss of her beloved mother just before she began a medical leave from her top-rated TV show,” writes ESSENCE.com managing editor, Dawnie Walton. “And yet Roberts handled it all with unwavering bravery and grace, inspiring not only Black women but everyone who watched her.”
Courtney Roxanne Pearson became the first Black Homecoming Queen at the University of Mississippi (a.k.a. “Ole Miss”). Pearson won her crown on the 50th anniversary of the institution’s controversial admission of James Meredith, the first African-American to attend the school.
“Many of us made history in 2012, including Spelman alum Rosalind Brewer, who in January became the first woman and the first African-American to become a CEO at a division of WalMart (Sam’s Club, a $50 billion company). Now that’s power,” writes ESSENCE.com managing editor, Dawnie Walton.
“My girls and I caught a bus to Atlantic City to see Beyoncé’s first concert since becoming a mom, and she rocked it! It was thrilling to see this young woman return to doing what she loved, and it was a reminder that you can still chase your dreams after becoming a mother,” writes ESSENCE associate editor Charreah K. Jackson.
“Little Q was just 6 years old when she was cast in Beasts in the Southern Wild, and yet she displayed grown-folk talent, starring in the acclaimed Oscar contender as fierce bayou survivor Hushpuppy. Watching her raise her tiny fists in the air on screen, you can’t help but feel as proud and astounded as her own mama must be,” writes ESSENCE.com managing editor, Dawnie Walton.
Jackie Lacey was sworn in as Los Angeles County’s first African-American and first female District Attorney on December 3, 2012. Lacey’s election is especially significant in a department who’s leadership has been near-uniformly white and male, in a district where men of color are disproportionately incarcerated.