Are we all in agreement? 2016 was a dearth of joy. From the extremely worrying Brexit, election of Trump and the passing of so many celebrity treasures (Terry Wogan, Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Victoria Wood…) to the more trivial, but still vexing, break-up of Brangelina, the armed robbery of Kim Kardashian and the whole Taylor Swift-Tom Hiddleston saga (what was that?!).
Despite all of this, there are some stars who have almost singlehandedly, it seems, been trying to boost public morale as the rest of the world took a swim up shit creek. Here they are in all their splendour...
Millie Bobby Brown
Why? The 12-year-old English actress made Netflix 80s nostalgia-fest Stranger Things. Forget #JusticeForBarb, it was all about Eleven, who made it cool to be ‘different.’
A little Oscar-winner in the making, it was Millie Bobby out of character that really shone. How many girls do you know who would be brave enough to shave their heads, wear Converse avec ballgown on the red carpet and do a word-perfect Nicki Minaj rap on live TV? Girl’s got sass by the bucketload.
In her own words: “I’d probably say I’m very strong. If somebody says something horrible, I’m like, ‘Okay, whatever.’ With Eleven, people call her the weirdo and she really doesn’t care. She’s very badass and I think when I can be, I will be.” - W Magazine
Why? If you didn’t watch BBC3’s Fleabag and think ‘oh god, that’s me,’ then you’re either a) lying, or b) lying. In equal measures bleak and hilarious, Fleabag is a warts and all look at the modern British woman. Fleabag’s boyfriend keeps leaving her, she runs a failing cafe, her best friend is dead and she sleeps with a bloke who, after sleeping with her, comments on her breasts, ‘they’re so f*cking tiny. They’re hardly even there. Where the f*ck even are they?” A dark comedy that embraced the hot messes that most of us women actually are.
In her own words: “I know a lot of my female peers feel really angry. I think that a woman’s response at first is to feel guilty and apologetic about it without knowing why… The idea of the ‘angry young man’ is so deeply embedded [in culture] but the angry young woman seems never to be addressed.” - Guardian
Why? We’re still grateful to Margot Robbie for taking the decision-making process about 2016’s Halloween costume off our hands. Harley Quinn it was.
The career of this rapidly-ascending actress was launched by 2013’s Wolf of Wall Street but it was this summer that she became a bonafide household name (this writer’s 74-year-old dad has even heard of her, so you know she’s mainstream) with not one but two blockbuster movies: Suicide Squad and The Legend of Tarzan. N.B. She also gives great interview, watch her chat with our Joshington Hosts here.
The Aussie nailed both roles, out-shining her male co-stars, at the same time as pulling off a remarkable feat… the more we saw of Margot, the more we heard about Margot, the more we liked her, not least because she refused to lose weight for her role as Jane in The Legend of Tarzan.
In her own words: “I’m not extravagant. I share my house in London with five roommates. I take the Tube. I intend to stay the exact same person I always was.”
Read more: Margot Robbie quotes that prove she's incredibly normal
Why? Queen Bey became the soundtrack to our summer overnight when she surprise dropped visual album Lemonade back in April, featuring all the revenge songs a guy or girl could ever want. ‘Who the f*ck do you think I am? You ain't married to no average bitch boy. You can watch my fat ass twist boy. As I bounce to the next dick boy,’ she, and we, raged all summer long.
Mrs Carter also nailed the small matter of a 49 stadium sell-out tour and aligned herself openly with the Black Lives Matter movement, starting with that SuperBowl performance.
As an aside, Yoncé also singlehandedly made yellow the colour trend of both AW16 and SS17 with that mustard Roberto Cavalli dress from Lemonade’s Hold Up video.
In her own words: “Out of everything I’ve accomplished, my proudest moment hands down was when I gave birth to my daughter, Blue.” - Garage
Why? From one global megastar to, well, Craig David. 2016 has been something of a renaissance (akin to the Matthew McConaughey McConaissance of 2013, but we couldn’t think of a catchy name for it…) for the Re-Rewind singer. After a decade hiding away in his Miami penthouse from that Leigh Francis gag, Craaaaaiig Da-vid released single When The Bassline Drops, featuring Big Narstie, in late 2015 and it went OFF. Up next was the Following My Intuition album, gazallions of festival appearances, including Glastonbury (oh, how we danced…) and, next year, the good times look set to keep rolling with a UK arena tour. Long may the Cranaissance continue. No? Ok then.
In his own words: “Do you know what? It's overwhelming. The love that I've seen from people has been crazy." - BBC News
Why? Let’s take a minute to remember the short-lived global obsession that was Pokemon Go. We may be totally over it now, but only a few short months ago politicians were being called out for playing the game in parliament, a guy walked into a river trying to catch a wild Rattata and it even helped police catch an attempted murder suspect. For one brief time the augmented reality app captured the collective imagination. Until we swiftly forgot about it again. We loved it so much we created a Pokemon Go makeup look.
Why? HBO’s The Night Of is the best thing we’ve seen on TV this year (with the exception of The Crown… Vanessa Kirby, we heart you). Star of the show, Riz Ahmed is on the ascent and about to become one of the most famous faces in the world with the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. He’s also been outspoken about racial profiling and his powerful Guardian essay about being typecast at airports was a refreshingly honest account about the specific experiences of trying to make it in Hollywood as an Asian actor. Riz, we dig you.
In his own words: “You see, the pitfalls of the audition room and the airport interrogation room are the same. They are places where the threat of rejection is real. They are also places where you are reduced to your marketability or threat-level, where the length of your facial hair can be a deal-breaker, where you are seen, and hence see yourself, in reductive labels – never as “just a bloke called Dave”. The post 9/11 Necklace tightens around your neck.” - Guardian
Why? Being Brits we should probably have picked someone from our esteemed Team GB Olympic squad to be included in this round-up, but, if we’re completely honest, it was Simone Biles that we became obsessed with during Rio 2016. Hell, we even attempted to copy her signature move… So many LOLs at InStyle HQ on that day!
Thanks to four gold medals and a dazzling floor routine that left us gasping, ‘but, how?!’ the 19-year-old left Rio as one of the greatest Olympic gymnasts of all time. Plus, she used her newfound fame to flirt outrageously with Zac Efron. Girl's got game.
In her own words: “I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps,” she said. “I’m the first Simone Biles.”
Why? Michelle Obama’s powerful speech about Donald Trump’s treatment of women was inspiring, moving and basically made her everyone’s dream presidential candidate for 2020. She attacked Trump’s “sexually predatory behaviour” and rallied for Hillary Clinton with the perfect balance of poise and emotion. In a nasty election, the First Lady seemed to be the only voice of reason - all that, and she did one of the best carpool karaoke’s we’ve ever seen. #MichelleForPresident.
In her own words: “The shameful comments about our bodies. The disrespect of our ambitions and intellect. The belief that you can do anything you want to a woman. It is cruel. It’s frightening. And the truth is, it hurts.”
Why? Leo finally won his Oscar and the world breathed a sigh of relief. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride, he bagged the Best Actor prize for The Revenant more than twenty years after his first Academy Award nomination. Taking the high road, Leo used his acceptance speech to shine a light on his climate change work. Such a class act.
In his own words: “Climate change is real, it is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating.”
Why? It was Vanessa Kirby’s Princess Margaret that we were mesmorised by during our binging of The Crown. The lavish Netflix show pulled a masterstroke casting the actress as the chain-smoking, fabulously fashionable and vivacious younger sister of the Queen. Cue endless Google searches about the Princess and her ill-fated love affair with Peter Townsend. Netflix, if you’re reading this, a spin-off series just about Margaret and the captain would go down well. Just sayin'.
In her own words: “I was walking down the street and it just dawned on me: I think I might be Princess Margaret.”
Thanks for the good times, guys.