This year, there was something in the air.
This year, it seemed like whichever way we turned, amazing women were doing amazing things. Despite the heartbreak and horrors we saw on our television screens, and in the news, there was still a bounty of inspiration to be found out in the world – and you didn’t have to look too far to find it.
This is a list of the women who inspired us this year.
These are the women that impacted our thinking. These are the powerful women – celebrities, entrepreneurs, executives, and sportspeople – who went for it. What they all have in common is the ability to dream big – whether that means standing up for their convictions, never giving up, or merely knowing there can be a better tomorrow.
By dreaming big, they inspire us to want to dream big – and we think you’ll feel the same way. Here’s our list of the most inspiring women of 2015.
1. Sienna Miller
After a few years of staying under the radar and enjoying motherhood, British actress Sienna Miller made it her mission in 2015 to return to the headlines for the right reasons.
She spent six weeks on a Broadway stage, starring as Cabaret‘s Sally Bowles. She sat on the jury at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. She filmed countless movie roles, including The Lost City of Z and Live by Night.
And in a year when the Hollywood wage gap was making headlines (for a good reason), Miller knew her worth. “I walked away from a play I wanted to do because I was offered less than half of what the other man was offered and it was just the two of us,” Miller told E! News. Kudos to her.
2. Amy Schumer
There’s no doubt about it; this was Amy Schumer’s year.
In 2015, Schumer hit the big screen in the super-sharp rom-com Trainwreck, which she also wrote. She advocated for both stricter gun control laws and increased mental health spending. She posed nude and gloriously unabashed for the Pirelli calendar. She won an Emmy and was nominated for a Golden Globe, and somewhere in between became one of Time‘s most influential people and one of Barbara Walters’ most fascinating.
All this while using comedy to tackle critical feminist issues such as body image and women’s tendencies to over-apologise.
3. Michelle Phan
This year, beauty vlogger Michelle Phan proved the only way is up.
Not content with a YouTube channel boasting more than 8 million subscribers and 1.2 billion lifetime views, Phan continued to solidify her place in the entrepreneurial arena.
Shortly after, Phan announced she was buying her makeup line, Em Michelle Phan, back from L’Oréal Paris, with whom she initially created the range.
Finally, in October, Phan posted an open letter discussing further endeavours, including a comic book project.
Phan might consider herself a dreamer, but in 2015 she proved she’s also a doer.
4. Karlie Kloss
In 2015, supermodel Karlie Kloss proved she is way more than a pretty face.
The former Victoria’s Secret Angel started taking coding classes at The Flatiron School in New York. So inspired by her experience, Kloss partnered with the school to launch the Kode With Klossy scholarship for girls aged 13 to 18.
“I think it’s crucial that young women learn to code as early as possible to ensure that we as young women have a voice and a stake in what the world looks like,” Kloss said in a video.
Considering more than 80% of the world’s app developers are male, we’re totally into Kloss’s Kode With Klossy movement.
5. Sheryl Sandberg
It takes everything you have to mourn a loss – and a little extra on top when you are grieving in public.
Such was the case this year for Lean In author and Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg. Sandberg’s husband, Dave Goldberg, died suddenly on May 1, while the couple and their children were vacationing in Mexico.
Little more than a month later, Sandberg posted a 1,700-word message to Facebook about grief and choosing life and meaning over everything else.
Sandberg’s profoundly inspiring words – in particular, her promise to “kick the shit out of option B,” though she would “always mourn for option A” – struck a chord for many of us.
6. Serena Williams
It’s hard to imagine a bigger superstar than Serena Williams.
In the first six months of the year, Williams won her sixth Australian Open title and third French Open title. In July, she nabbed her sixth Wimbledon title and thus completed her second “Serena Slam.” Although she was knocked out in the semi-finals of the US Open, thus ending her chance of scoring a Grand Slam, it didn’t matter. Williams had cemented her status as one of the greatest and most powerful athletes of all time.
In October, Williams ended her 2015 season, but that didn’t stop her from nabbing the headlines. In November, she chased down a man who stole her phone, and earlier this week, William scored the title of Sports Illustrated‘s Sportsperson of the Year.
When it comes to keeping it real in 2015, you needed to look no further than Zendaya.
The triple-threat – she’s a singer, actress and dancer – was thrown into the spotlight in February, after Giuliana Rancic made a tone-deaf comment about Zendaya’s faux dreadlocks during a spot on the Oscars red carpet.
Zendaya posted a polished and polite response on her Instagram account and quickly won our hearts and minds.
In October, Zendaya was at it again. After Modeliste magazine published retouched photographs of the star, a quick call-out on Instagram was all it took for Modeliste to remove the photos and for Zendaya’s fans to be wowed once again. What a woman.
8. Reese Witherspoon
Earlier this year, Reese Witherspoon earned a second Best Actress nomination for her starring role in Wild, which she also produced.
In Wild, Witherspoon portrayed a troubled yet spirited woman setting out on the journey of a lifetime. Sadly, films such as this don’t come around all that often, but Witherspoon is aiming to change that via her production company, Pacific Standard.
In May, it was announced Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman would co-star and co-produce a limited HBO series, Big Little Lies.
In October, Witherspoon revealed the next production project on her slate: a TV adaptation of the book Tiny Beautiful Things.
If 2015 set the tone for what we can expect from Witherspoon in the coming years, it’s safe to say we’re truly inspired.
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