Beyoncé, musician/ businesswoman
Few would disagree that Beyoncé Knowles-Carter took 2016 by storm. The magnitude of the 35-year-old’s fame, which has only grown since the “independent women” days of Destiny’s Child, has been matched by the scale of her creative ambition. In the era of Barack Obama, Queen B has also redrawn the expectations of what can be achieved by a person of colour in the western world.
“Formation”, the first single from her groundbreaking visual album Lemonade, was a brilliantly choreographed surprise when it dropped in February, the day before her appearance at the Super Bowl Halftime Show. The video showcased lyrical inventiveness, feminism and, of course, unapologetic blackness. The album itself is a nuanced piece of work, packed with arresting imagery and audio, sprinkled with “black girl magic”. Scoring five-star reviews, it featured tennis champion Serena Williams, actor Quvenzhané Wallis and Sybrina Fulton — the mother of Trayvon Martin, whose death in 2012 kickstarted the Black Lives Matter campaign.
While “FEMINIST” became her slogan after she performed in front of the word at the 2014 MTV awards, 2016 was the year Beyoncé cemented her status not just as a performer and businesswoman (“My parents taught me how to work hard and smart,” she told Elle in May) but also as a trenchant political activist.