2016 was a rough year. A year that would have been overwhelmingly unbearable if it weren’t for Black women.
In a year plagued with bad news, from a divisive election to numerous losses of beloved celebrities, recalling any good from this year seems difficult. Leave it to the most educated group in the US to find ways to excel across the board. From from the big screen to youtube, and the Olympics to the Grammy awards, #BlackGirlMagic proved to be legitimate, and desperately needed.
In no particular order, here are the black women that saved 2016.
Michelle Obama – The first lady has been continuously classy for the past eight years. All of her speeches were nothing short of legendary, and her speech from the 2016 Democratic National Convention is inspiring to this day. She’ll be sorely missed in office, but we’ll never forget the impact she’s made.
Beyoncé – Queen Bey absolutely owned 2016, dominating in more ways then one. Her surprise track “Formation,” was the lead single for her album Lemonade. The song reflected on black issues in America, and she brought the message to millions when she performed alongside Bruno Mars and Coldplay in Super Bowl.
The visual album also debuted on HBO and went on to be Beyonce’s sixth album that has debuted at #1. She had a follow up World Tour that sold over 2 million tickets and earned over $250 million. We’re still in formation, obviously.
Solange – The ever-elegant Solange Knowles had a big year of her own, with her album A Seat At The Table going #1 on Billboard. The album covered a wide array of topics in the black community, and her live performances delivered a fresh take in music.
Her album marked the second time in history that siblings both had #1 albums, the other being Michael and Janet jackson, with Invincible and All For You, respectively.
There’s also a documentary on the making of the album, that’s definitely worth watching.
Issa Rae – With TV circling around the shows, concepts, and remakes year after year, it can be easy to forget how refreshing and relatable even the simplest of concepts can be. Enter Issa Rae, with her hit-show Insecure, which follows a self-proclaimed “awkward black girl,” through love, friends, and the workplace.Rae also writes and executively produces the show.
The show has already been approved for a second season, and Rae received a Golden Globe nomination for lead actress in a comedy TV series. #GirlBoss, for sure.
Rihanna – To say that Rihanna had a good year would be an understatement. ANTI was not only a new, daring sound, but it was also the first album of 2016 to go double platinum.
The lead single (and catchiest song of the year) “Work,” went triple-platinum and spent 9 weeks at #1. Rihanna is also currently 3rd on the list of artists with the most #1 singles on Billboard, only surpassed by the likes of The Beatles, Mariah Carey, and Elvis Presley. A legendary group of artists to be among, but with Rihanna’s career still going strong, we don’t see her slowing down any time soon.
Rihanna has also spent a collective 60 weeks at #1 on billboard, only behind Mariah Carey, who has spent 79 weeks at the top.
Kamala Harris – While you may not exactly know her name, Kamala Harris broke color barriers this year when she became only the second Black female senator ever elected to Senate. (Her competition, Loretta Sanchez, would have been the first Latina in senate).
Harris supports equal pay, wants immigration reform, and even earned the support of President Barack Obama. We hope to see her bring #blackgirlmagic to the political forefront.
Danai Gurira – Danai Gurira is synonymous one word: badass. Portraying Michonne on AMC’s The Walking Dead. Being one of the few characters to survive is not an easy feat, but she has been a leading powerhouse, and fan-favorite, for since her introduction on the show.
Gurira will also portray Afeni Shakur, Tupac’s mother, in the upcoming Tupac biopic All Eyez On Me and in the upcoming Black Panther move from Marvel studios. With her expanding and diverse filmography, we’re definitely watching Gurira all year long.
Lupita Nyong’o – Ever since she won an Academy Award for 12 Years A Slave in 2013,Lupita Nyong’o has been one to watch. Now, she’s been challenging diversity in films to give more opportunities for people of color. She also spoke out about the #OscarsSoWhite controversy earlier in the year.
With Queen of Katwe, her latest film, in select theaters, we’re proud to see her using her platform to bring these issues to the forefront. We also can’t wait to see Maz Kanata in the upcoming Star Wars film, who Nyong’o voices.
Franchesca Ramsey – Starting out as one of our favorite YouTubers, Francesca Ramsey has been speaking on racial topics for years now. Her hard work and dedication has gotten her featured in round table discussions on Yahoo, MTV, and multiple podcasts for quite some time.
Her MTV web show Decoded also teaches about different aspects of culture, race relations, and who to interact with others in society about these topics (All of her content is great teaching material).
Simone Biles – The 2016 Olympics in Rio this year were dominated by the U.S. Women’s gymnastics’ team. Of course, Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles were a big part of the team’s winning performance.
Biles won 5 gold medals, claiming the record for most gold medals won by an American female gymnast in a single Olympics. She even has a signature move named after her. Iconic.
Simone Manuel – In what was a historic moment, Simone Manuel became the first African-American woman to win gold in an individual swimming event when she took 1st place in the 100-meter freestyle.
Manuel also set an Olympic record with her win. She also helped the U.S. swim women’s swim team win silver in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay. We hope to see her dominate again in 2020!
Janelle Monae – While we know Janelle Monae for her musical ventures, which are as eccentric as they are catchy, her acting skills were on full display in 2016.
She made her big screen debut in the film Moonlight, which has received multiple Golden Globe nominations, with Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Director being just a few of the categories. Monte also portrays Mary Jackson in Hidden Figures, who was a mathematician and aerospace engineer for NASA. We recommend you see both films, and check out Monae’s music label, Wondaland Records, which she leads.
Viola Davis – No one dominated the year a single facial expression like Viola Davis. The cutthroat attitude showed by her character Annalise Keating also landed her a role in Suicide Squad, in which she portrayed Amanda Waller. The TV show and film were both success and highlights in the year, with How To Get Away With Murder landing yet another season, and Suicide Squad rumored to have a sequel in production soon.
Serena Williams – Arguably the greatest athlete of our time, Serena Williams has dominated tennis like no other. With 22 gland slam titles under her belt, Williams is on track to break Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24. She even teamed up with her sister, Venus, to win the women’s doubles championship, their sixth time doing so.
And none of us can forget her cameo in Beyonce’s “Sorry,” which she also danced lived to on stage.
With all the disarray that occurred in 2016, the one constant was the determination and representation of Black women in multiple forms of media throughout the year. While there’s still progress to be made, the one constant is the growing attention that different communities are receiving, through various platforms.
Who was your favorite source of #BlackGirlMagic in 2016? Let us know in comments below, and be sure to look out for the impact that Black women will make in 2017.