The year was full of newsworthy figures. Oil spills, miner debacles, and politic shakeups were rampant. A new pop star rose to fame. Gay issues took center stage with legislature changes, tragedies among teens, and religious scandals. The fashion industry saw shifts and suffered losses. And the major media figures such as Oprah, Larry King, and Jay Leno were in the news. It was an interesting year and many people crossed my mind as being the most captivating. Here is who made the cut.
1. NICKI MINAJ
One woman has single handedly revived female rap. Well, she had help from her trademark alter egos. Love her or hate her, [I'm somewhere closer to the latter] you can't escape her. It seems like every top 40 hit this year was followed by the phrase "featuring Nicki Minaj". The quick rise to fame wasn't so quick. As with last year's topper of this list, Lady Gaga, much underground preparation went into making Minaj a pop culture phenomenon. Many people claim that she is too pop, but Nicki has every intention of laughing all the way to the bank. Shattering Billboard records, causing envy from her predecessors, covering countless magazines, and outshining many of hip-hop's male heavyweights were no easy feats. But what do you expect? She's "a muthaf--kin monster!!!"
2. THE TEA PARTY MOVEMENT
Barack Obama admittedly received a shellacking in this year's midterm election. Republicans took control of the House and made serious gains in the Senate. Republican zeal is at an all time high and much of it is fueled by those who refer to themselves as the Tea Party. The party isn't an official political party but has so far supported mostly Republican candidates. That's not to say that Republicans were immune to the sting of the party, named after the famed protest known as the Boston Tea Party. The group is very anti-Washington and many times pushes toward being racist and intolerant. They are for less spending, reduced taxes, tighter immigration regulation, etc. Over 80% of the members of this movement identify as Republicans and many see it not as a new party emerging, but as a rebranding of Republican values.
3. BISHOP EDDIE LONG
The black church was rocked by allegations that one of its most prominent leaders had been accused of using his power to extort sexual relations from various young men. The claims are even more shocking due to Long's avid crusades against homosexuality in the past. Even if Long doesn't receive any punishment for the alleged acts, the situation should have forced the black church to come to terms with its taboo treatment of sexuality. Only time will tell if those conversations will ever occur.
4. GAY TEENS
The sudden rise in attention to gay suicides due to bullying took hold of our attention this year. The Trevor Project and the It Gets Better campaigns tried to shed light on these tragedies along with help from many celebrities. Bullying has been a problem among youth for a long time. However, among gay youth, suicides seemed to have spiked. No one should be made to feel hopeless. Studies show that people come out at younger ages and hopefully we make great strides to make our kids feel safe and comfortable. That's going to take more than a few people wearing purple for a day.
5. OPRAH WINFREY
All that needs to be uttered is one letter: "O". The media giant announced this year that she would be leaving her talk show after 25 years of being a fixture in our homes to pursue new dreams of her own network. The Academy Award nominated actress, producer, talk show host, humanitarian, and magazine editor had to find ways to top herself for her final season. A tearful and intimate interview with Barbara Walters is perhaps the defining moment for Oprah's year. Behind the power and prestige resides a woman who is human. And that's why she has captivated us for so long.
6. ANTOINE DODSON
Hide your kids. Hide your wife. Nobody was quoted more than Dodson this year. It all spawned from one crazy television interview following a home invasion in which his sister was the victim. That resulted in auto-tuned remixes, youtube videos, marching band renditions, countless merchandise and a large cult following for the overnight sensation. It also sparked a serious conversation about the media's portrayal of African-Americans. Dodson's 15 minutes of fame may be up, be we won't forget his red bandana and his antics. "They raping everybody over here!" Enough said.
7. CONAN O'BRIEN
Conan O'Brien's feud with NBC played out in front of the cameras. Long removed from his humble beginnings as an SNL writer, O'Brien was handed the reigns of The Tonight Show. Taking the place of Jay Leno, O'Brien seemed to be on top of the world. Leno was offered a primetime spot ahead of The Tonight Show. Then a snag was hit. Leno's ratings suffered and at the start of this year, producers wanted to move him back to late night. They proposed pushing The Tonight Show back and giving Jay Leno a late night time slot right before it. However, O'Brien was not having it. A nasty war of words ensued and most fans took the side of O'Brien. Many saw Leno as a greedy fading star. After being bought out of his contract, O'Brien maintained that he didn't feel harmed.
"It's crucial to me that anyone seeing this, if they take anything away from this, it's I'm fine. I'm doing great," said O'Brien. "I hope people still find me comedically absurd and ridiculous. And I don't regret anything."
8. WILLOW AND JADEN SMITH
Will Smith is one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood and a pioneer in rap music. Jada Pinkett-Smith, his wife, is a star in her own right having landed many prominent roles in film and now starring in the television medical drama Hawthorne. However, it is their kids that have garnered the attention in 2010. After previously acting alongside his father in the 2006 critically acclaimed film The Pursuit of Happyness, Jaden's starring role in the remake of Karate Kid was a hit and his acting career seems to be budding. Willow made her own name for herself with the smash hit Whip My Hair. People of all creeds and ages couldn't deny that the catchy song was pop magic. The two kids seem to be following in their parents' footsteps, continuing the dynasty.
9. ALEXANDER MCQUEEN
The fashion world was shocked and saddened after the suicide of famed British designer Alexander McQueen. The rebellious 40 year old avant garde designer had recently lost his mother. Those around McQueen noticed a grim change in him surrounding his mother's death and he was quoted as saying:
"From heaven to hell and back again, life is a funny thing. beauty can come from the most strangest of places even the most disgusting places."
The designer had recently become good friends with Lady Gaga and styled her on many occasions. It was a sad, sad scene as his death came just days before the start of London Fashion Week and weeks before he was due to unveil his new collection at Paris Fashion Week.
10. THE CAST OF MODEL CITY
The BET network known as Centric set out to show the world of African-American male fashion models. The diverse cast centered around Red Model Management based in New York and followed the lives of the models including super model Wendell Lissimore. Red Model Management is known for its models of color. The show chronicled the behind the scene ego clashes, issues of race and sexuality, and the flashy sides of the industry. The fashion industry is notoriously prejudiced in terms of color. With shows like these, the tide seems to be changing. Outside of the show, Sessely Lopez was named model of the year, David Agbodji nabbed the Calvin Klein for the second time in a row, and the faces of Naomi, Chanel, and Arlenis were everywhere. Maybe the places for a young person of color are growing.
Check the links below for the list from the two previous years: