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The women of 2012


As we hurtle towards 2013 - or doomsday horror if you believe the Mayan prophets - take a look back at some of the women who rose to prominence in 2012, be it for the right or wrong reasons.

Some we celebrate for their bravery, their achievements, others we marvel at how they managed to gain our attention so incredibly over the last 12 months. It's not a "top ten" so feel free to add your suggestions below or tweet us at @StylistMagazine.

Words: Anna Pollitt. Images: Rex/University Hospitals Birmingham/Cambridge Satchel

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai, a 15-year-old Pakistani, attracted worldwide interest when she blogged about her battle to access education in the Swat Valley, where the Taliban routinely blows up girls’ schools.

In October, the fundamentalist group, which says educating females leads to “adultery and [would] herald the destruction of Islam”, shot Malala in the head. With the same strength and stubbornness that kept her committed to voicing her opinions, she survived the cowardly attack and is recuperating in a Birmingham hospital. Her bravery reminded the world that education is a human right.

Jessica Ennis

Jessica Ennis not only triumphed awesomely at the Olympics, she became Britain’s postergirl for the world’s most important sporting event.

Described as “easily the best multi-event athlete in the world”, the Sheffield heptathlete took gold with ease. She also charmed the world with a down-to-earth, cheerful demeanor that belies a rigid commitment to her craft.

EL James

They weren't to everyone's taste, but for millions of others, Erika Leonard hit the spot this year with her racy boy meets girl tale.

We'll never look at a popsicle the same way again, but nonetheless, the trilogy has made a multi-millionaire of the unassuming first-time novelist from Brentford.

Ellie Simmonds

Paralympian swimmer Ellie Simmonds beat her personal best on home turf this summer, taking two golds, a silver and a bronze, as well as setting a World Record in her 400 metre freestyle event. Like Jessica Ennis, the Walsall-born teen has been a high achiever for years, but it was not until her 2012 Games wins, along with her beaming smiles, that propelled her to household-name status.

Speaking about being nominated for the coveted BBC Sports Personality award, she told The Telegraph: "I was doing a masterclass recently and there were 20 disabled swimmers there. I hope that one of those 20 go on to the Paralympics like I did.”

Nicola Adams

In 2012 Nicola Adams became the first woman to ever win an Olympic boxing Gold medal and the first female to be awarded the Boxing Writers' Club's 'Services to Sport' prize - smashing a 60-year tradition of male winners. Certainly her breakout year.

The Leeds flyweight wanted to fight in the ring from the age of nine, when she first watched the Rumble in the Jungle with her dad. She said of her victory: "Even though I am a woman boxer, I am not just inspiring women, I hope I am inspiring boys as well.”

Marissa Mayer

The longtime Google superstar made a surprise move over to an ailing Yahoo in July, prompting the underperforming web company’s stock to soar and nerves to jangle at her former workplace.

Three hours after her appointment was announced she revealed she was six months pregnant - making her the first mother-to-be to ever take a major CEO position. She chose to disclose her pregnancy to Yahoo before taking the job and while it was a non-issue for the firm, her condition prompted a flurry of debate. Why was such ground only now being broken? Should she take more time off than her planned few weeks? Were other companies likely to follow suit in hiring pregnant women?

Naomie Harris

Naomie Harris smirked and shot James Bond into the 21st century this year in her role as an MI6 agent in the highly anticipated movie Skyfall.

Women who flirt with the legendary agent for any decent length of time are traditionally vulnerable or mysterious, lack dimension and smoulder in some kind of impractical gown. Harris took on the dual role of modern Bond’s respected colleague and potential lover with depth and personality – banging another nail in the “Bond girl” coffin.

Lena Dunham

Lena Dunham, the director, writer and star of HBO comedy drama Girls saw her creation become an instant hit - and one of the most talked about TV shows on both sides of the Atlantic.

Depicting a group of women maneuvering neurotically through their 20s in New York’s hipster capital Williambsurg, Girls has attracted both fierce adoration and scathing criticism. As well as securing four Emmy Award nominees for the show, Dunham can add “writer” to her already burgeoning skillset after landing a $3.7 million (£2.3 million) book deal.

Julia Deane

Julia Deane turned a £600 kitchen table start-up into the £1 million-a-month Cambridge Satchel Company - named in honour of her home town - in under four years. Who needs Lord Sugar?

The spotlight beamed on Julia in the summer when she starred in a Google TV ad to show how her family-run business had grown organically through search engines, bloggers and social networks - as well as Sophie Ellis-Bextor's partiality to a fluoro number.

Samantha Brick

In April The Daily Mail unleashed Samantha Brick, a journalist who wanted to tell the world of how her “lovely looks” regularly scored her freebies such as, wait for it, a glass of champagne, and also invoked hatred and envy among other women.

Luckily for Brick she lives in France. Unluckily for the rest of us, her article spread like the noro-virus through the web. Instant infamy followed and she addressed her many critics on TV shows across the world. Celebrity Big Brother 10 perhaps inevitably beckoned, along with many more pieces on how her general gorgeousness has hampered her...



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