The Year In Badass Women

Photo: Matt Baron/BEI.
This year, we heard the word "badass" a lot more. Except it wasn't used to describe things like purses, dresses, or Kanye. It was used to describe women in all their boss bitch glory.

It's not that we've never had a woman like this before. You have your perennial badasses. These are women who don’t need to do much outside of living and breathing to show us they are fierce. Beyoncé. Jennifer Lawrence. Selena Gomez. Meryl Streep. But this year brought us a fresh collection of women who ran the game without even trying.

They aren’t all newly famous. But in 2015, they certainly held our attention in new and different ways. We saw women doing incredible things — or not doing a damn thing if they didn’t feel like it. It was inspirational. We’re into it. So today, we honor them.
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Photo: PJP photos/REX Shutterstock.
Missy Elliott
After nearly a decade of hiding out and being cool without us, Missy Elliott returned in a full blaze of glory. In February, she surprised everyone at the Super Bowl. Some might say she even upstaged Katy Perry, the event’s supposed main attraction. (You, too, Left Shark.) Then, in November, she dropped a new video for her single “WTF (Where They From)," featuring Pharrell. THERE WERE HOVERBOARDS, YOU GUYS. It’s one thing for Beyoncé to drop an album in the middle of the night. It’s an entirely different thing for Missy to drop a video after 10 years.
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J.K. Rowling
In 2015, J.K. Rowling proved that Twitter might just have been invented for her personal use. She spent the year engaging with fans, sharing Harry Potter fan theories, and using her Twitter for good. We especially enjoyed it when she shut down a fan question about Dumbledore’s sexuality, reacted to a nearly nude Neville Longbottom, and apologized for killing Fred Weasley. If that’s not enough for you, check out these other times she was a total badass.
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Photo: Matt Baron/BEI.
When will Ri drop her new album? Whenever she feels like it, apparently. But to keep us satiated for a while, she did deliver unto us the “BBHMM” single and video. Oh man, that video was insane. And to remind us that she’s forever a lone wolf, she also said she wasn’t really interested in being in Taylor Swift’s squad.
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Ronda Rousey
She finally met her match against Holly Holm, but still won in every other aspect of her life. She openly discusses body image, making her a role model for young girls who may be feeling insecure about themselves. She gave us the incredible story of how she used to street-fight bros for Frappucinos. Oh, and Beyoncé played part of Rousey’s speech before her performance at the Made in America festival. That’s one hell of a year.
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Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones & Kate McKinnon
There isn’t a word to describe the feeling we had when we first saw these four women in their Ghostbusters costumes. It’s just so freaking cool. Look at all the girl power they’re inspiring! Still, the cast faced major backlash from bros who felt like the Ghostbusters original was too holy to reboot and that women ought not to bust the ghosts at all. Well, the cast has been handling that by continuing to live their lives and comment on how lame all that backlash is. Plus, they visited some kids in a hospital in full costume, just in case there was any confusion about how serious they are about not backing down from this bullshit.
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Photo: Matt Baron/BEI.
Rowan Blanchard
Budding feminist Rowan Blanchard has no time for the patriarchy. While her peers were posting selfies, Blanchard was using Instagram to post feminist essays. When a reporter asked her for diet tips, she shut that shit down right away. When she found some spare time, she used it to post about #BlackLivesMatter. Most recently, she connected with Zendaya over Twitter about how everyone expects women to smile all the time.
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Photo: Matt Baron/BEI.
Viola Davis
Davis’ Emmys acceptance speech for Outstanding Lead Actress is the kind of thing Hollywood needed to hear. In it, she didn’t shy away from calling out the inherent bias in the industry. “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity,” she said. “You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.” She also took her time on stage as a chance to lift up other women, like Shonda Rhimes and Gabrielle Union.
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Photo: Ghanssia/SIPA/REX Shutterstock.
Hello. It’s Adele. She’s here to inflate your heart with her lyrics so that when you exhale, only tears will come out. Her new album, 25, became the biggest-selling record of 2015, moving 1.1 million copies in just one week and 4.49 copies since November 20. She announced she’s going on tour next year. Oh, and she gave us this brilliant video in which she pranks Adele impersonators. Where mortals need a year, Adele just needs like three weeks.
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Photo: Matt Baron/BEI.
In February, Giuliana Rancic made some tone-deaf comments about Zendaya’s dreadlocks. And Zendaya handled it with all the grace in the world, taking the opportunity to educate us all about what was wrong with Rancic’s comments. In October, she called out a magazine for retouching her body. She’s the kind of gal more little girls need to see. No wonder there’s now a Zendaya Barbie.
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Emma Watson
This year, the actress continued her habit of being a rad feminist. She gave speeches about #HeForShe, a movement that tasks men with supporting women’s rights. She doled out gender equality advice on Twitter. (And, really, any day on her Twitter account is a good day.) And she interviewed Malala Yousafzai, who credits Watson with making her a feminist. If she ever gets a squad, we want in.
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Photo: Jim Smeal/BEI.
Ariana Grande
We know. Grande has had her off-putting moments. But she also showed everyone she’s got some substance to her. During a November interview with L.A. radio hosts on Power106, Grande was asked if she could only choose between her makeup or cellphone, which one she would choose. “Is this what you think girls have trouble choosing between?” she responded. BURN. Plus, she and her mom have had nice little feminist moments, like the time they were looking at magazines at the airport. If that’s not enough for you, consider how she spoke out against homophobia, calling homophobes “dumb as fuck.”
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Photo: Matt Baron/BEI.
Angelina Jolie
Girlfriend has entered her zero-fucks given stage — and boy does it look good on her. She’s getting married to Brad Pitt on her own damn time. She’s making movies with her hubby because she feels like it. She’s giving interviews about how she and Pitt are dorky parents. She does not care what a high-powered producer called her in a leaked email. We’re really into it.
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Malala Yousafzai
The 18-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner has had a busy year. In September, she delivered a speech at the U.N. about girls’ education across the world. She spent her 18th birthday opening a school for girls in Lebanon. Her documentary, He Named Me Malala, debuted in October. And her interview with Emma Watson about feminism is the stuff dreams are made of.
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Photo: Matt Baron.
Nicki Minaj
See: everything she did this year. Our favorite moment was probably how she shut down this New York Times Magazine interview. Though, her live performance of "Feeling Myself" with Beyoncé is certainly a close second.
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Photo: Jim Smeal/BEI.
Amy Schumer
Schumer broke comedy barriers in 2015 by continuing to tackle important issues, including body image. She made powerful, enviable friendships with other women and wasn’t afraid to flaunt them. Oh! And she posed nearly nude for the 2016 Pirelli calendar. And. she wrote, produced, and starred in a hit summer movie (Trainwreck) and won an Emmy. Not a bad year.
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Photo: MediaPunch/REX Shutterstock.
Leah Remini
It takes guts to defy your high-powered peers — especially if those peers include Tom Cruise and other members of Hollywood’s elite. But it takes even more guts to defy the entire Church of Scientology. In October, the actress released her tell-all book, Troublemaker: Surviving Scientology and Hollywood, in which she goes to town on the organization.