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2017's Winners: Men And Women Who Defined the Year

Meet the men and women who helped shape 2017, a tumultuous year that bore witness to a battle of the sexes, social and political paradigm shifts, and other mind-bending changes in the world as we know it. 

 

Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, Miss Universe 2018

 

Demi-Leigh Nel Peters, South Africa's Miss Universe bet, took home the coveted Mikimoto crown and a title that officially names her the most beautiful woman in the world, or in this case, the universe. Demi-Leigh's win isn't just a typical pageant triumph, though; hers is a solidification of the new kind of beauty queen on the rise. While beauty still defines much of a candidate's potential for success, Demi-Leigh is beauty, brains, and brawn. The 22-year-old is a Business Management degree-holder from North West university whose most notable achievement is advocating teaching women self-defense. A few months before the pageant, she was a victim of a carjacking incident and was held at gunpoint. The experience was harrowing beyond words, and it prompted her to partner with Women Empowered, an organization that instills women with the skills to defend themselves in situations like this, both physically and emotionally. Miss Universe 2018 further stressed the importance of this skill set in light of countless men in power being publicly called out for their sexual misconduct and ill-treatment towards women in the workplace. Beautiful, she is, but defenseless, she certainly is not — a great role model for women around the world. 

 

Malcolm Turnbull, Australia's Prime Minister

 

Prime Minister Turnbull was key in making happily ever after a reality for couples in Australia's LGBT community. Just a few days ago, Australia legalized same-sex marriage after a same-sex marriage bill had been turned down by Parliament a whopping 22 times in the past. This progressive Prime Minister has been known for supporting equal rights for LGBT individuals as well as religious freedom even during the early stages of his political career. He's also the first Australian Prime Minister to attend Sydney's world-famous Gay and Lesbian Mardis Gras that invites members of the international LGBT to join the celebration every year. The man believes that his Australia is an Australia for all its citizens, regardless of their sexual orientation and preferences. 

 

Rose McGowan

 

Actress Rose McGowan is probably the most vocal member and frontliner of the #MeToo movement. #MeToo was born out of millions of women from around the world coming forward with their experiences of sexual harassment and assault at work in light of high-profile men being exposed for their sexual misconduct. She openly condemns both the accused men, their equally powerful enablers, and Hollywood's despicable "casting couch" culture without fear of being made an industry outcast. She has taken to social media to out the guilty, oftentimes identifying them by their names, and demanding that justice be served to them. She too was one of Weinstein's victims and claims that she had been raped by him. 

 

Jack Ma, Alibaba founder and CEO

 

Global business icon Jack Ma was rejected from Harvard 10 times and 30 times during 30 separate job applications. After all, who would be willing to fund the dreams of then school teacher who knew no one in the industry, had no money to his name, and let alone had no business experience? Today, he is the proud owner of online company Alibaba that's worth billions. As an innovative platform for online retail and e-commerce, Alibaba has helped usher in a new era of business and customer connectivity. According him, the defining feature in Alibaba's business model (that's ultimately good for the world) is the ability to power the world's economy through the strengthening of small businesses, rather simply depend on large-scale enterprises as we do today. Unlike most capitalist business owners, he supports the lowering of trade barriers, giving chances to the underdog, and believing in the dreams of the youth. Last October, Jack Ma received an honorary doctorate degree from De La Salle University where he gave a two-hour talk that inspired its students to never stop trying and keep striving to make their aspirations a reality. 

 

Geisha Williams, the first Latina CEO to make it to the Fortune's Most Powerful Women List 

 

Cuban-born Geisha isn't just a woman breaking glass ceilings. Sure she's a lady boss, but her success story is compounded by the fact that she's the first Latina to make it to Fortune's most successful woman list — an immigrant success story at its core, but one that aims to add dimension to the trope. As the current CEO of PG&E, California’s largest gas and electric utility company, she's not just out to succeed at what she does. She wants to reform the industry by leading efforts of creating new pricing models and delivery systems to increase customer satisfaction, sustainability, and production efficiency. Why? Because the world is changing, and she acknowledges that for large organizations like hers to keep up with the times, it too much change and adapt. In fact, Fortune has credited her and said that"Under her leadership, the $17.7 billion firm has already reached its 2020 goal of generating a third of its electricity from renewable sources." The woman has goals, and at the same time, is goals herself. 

 

Anthony Rapp

 

The world had mostly turned child star Anthony Rapp into a distant memory, until he resurfaced in October to make claims of sexual harassment against Oscar-winning actor, Kevin Spacey. Rapp recounted the time when he was only 14-years-old while Spacey was in his mid 20s, wherein the latter had reportedly made unwelcome sexual advances towards him while they were alone in a bedroom during a private house party. Rapp's story opened up another dimension to the current sexual harassment scandal Hollywood is facing: men can be victims too, and they can be victimized both as minors and as adults. He has become the voice of other men — members of society wrongfully assumed to be immune to unwelcome sexual advances — and has given those with similar experiences the strength to speak up. 

 

Danica Roem, the state of Virginia's first elected transgender official

 

 

Danica Roem successfully defeated Bob Marshall when running for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. What makes this so important? Bob Marshall was the type of politician to bring forth the "Physical Privacy Act," which is a bill that essentially segregates transgender people from everyone else when it comes to toilet and changing area use, while Danica is the USA's first openly transgender state legislator in its history. She is also a vocalist for a metal rock band and a journalist, by the way. Without the need for much explanation, her win is a reflection of changing attitudes towards gender equality and rights in America. Inclusion and acceptance were common themes in politics this year, values that have become more important than ever given the country's attitudes towards the LGBT community as influenced by the current administration. 

 

Geoselle Dela Cruz, the University of the Philippines' "Diskarte Queen"  

 

When there's a will, there's a way — even if "the way" means taking on eight part-time jobs to take care of your siblings and parents, put yourself through college, then graduate Cum Laude. Geoselle Dela Cruz and her family spiraled into extreme poverty during her undergraduate years at the University of the Philippines due to circumstances she had no control over. While the brainy Tourism major oftentimes did not have enough money to buy lunch, pay for class reading copies, attend field trips, or even pay jeepney fares, she became an event host, rappelling and dance instructor, research and student assistant, weekend tutor, and clothes and snack vendor to make up for the difference. Miraculously, Geoselle graduated on time, and received a standing ovation from students, professors, and parents in the audience. Her graduation message posted on her Facebook account has received thousands of likes and shares from people she had inspired to become ambitious and hardworking. In the process, she also says the she found God: the reason behind her transformation from helpless teen, to millennial on a mission. 

 

Ronan Farrow 

 

Ronan Farrow is credited for the starting the ripple that turned into the tidal wave of sexual harassment revelations we're witnessing today. As a journalist, lawyer, and activist, he bravely published his expose on Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein that narrated countless instances of his sexual misconduct in October in The New Yorker. He conducted interviews with Weinstein's victims in secret and corroborated multiple accounts over time to produce a history-making news break that's finally getting society to change its attitudes towards sexual misdemeanor in the workplace. His report has encouraged other men and women in and outside Hollywood to speak out, while the men accused of these actions have been met with legal and civil consequences. 

 

Meghan Markle 

 

She's much more than just a girl about to live out a real-life princess fairytale. She may be marrying a prince, but her engagement to Prince Harry symbolizes much more than that. Meghan Markle isn't only not royal; she's also American, and has been married in the past. A conservative monarchy like Britain's would not have approved of a union like hers and Prince Harry's decades, or even just years, ago. This goes to show that even a powerful institution like the British royal family have adjusted their stance on and measure of suitable spouses for their members. The world's values are changing, and it looks like they're changing for the better.