Black women continue to be victorious, but 2022 was a year where we shined brighter than ever. Whether it was Sheryl Lee Ralph’s historic Emmy win or KeKe Palmer’s epic pregnancy reveal, the best cultural moments from the last 12 months were (mostly) courtesy of Black women. Here are 15 of them who showed up and out in 2022.
Megan Thee Stallion
Megan Thee Stallion had quite the tumultuous year, but still came out on top. The star released her sophomore album, Traumazine, to critical acclaim. She also launched a website called Bad Bitches Have Bad Days Too, which provides diverse and free mental health resources. In addition, Meg hosted “Saturday Night Live” for the first time and delivered a heartfelt performance. 2022 also saw a guilty verdict in the Tory Lanez trial, where he was convicted of shooting the “Anxiety” rapper. Far too often, Black girls are forced to be stronger than they have to be. We remain in awe of Megan’s vulnerability and strength.
Our forever FLOTUS was crowned the #1 honoree on this year’s Root 100 list. Not only did Michelle Obama share her wisdom in a Q & A with The Root, but she also imparted precious gems during her national book tour for “The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times.” Obama was shockingly transparent, especially when it came to discussing her marriage as well as the societal pressures she faced as America’s only Black first lady. “I wasn’t just representing myself, I was representing the United States,” she told The Root. “In the end, I feel proud of the choices I made—and the example I tried to set.”
Ziwe has changed the way we consume modern day talk television. Her eponymous Showtime series boasted a slew of impressive guests including everyone from Wayne Brady to Amber Riley to Michael Che. Not only does the show also consist of skits in which Ziwe sings and dances while simultaneously addressing cultural hot topics, but she’s not afraid to tackle tough subjects like cultural appropriation, critical race theory and misogynoir. Did we mention she looks remarkable while doing it?
Was there anyone this year that Stacey Abrams didn’t captivate? The Root 100 honoree–who also spoke at The Root Institute–tried her hand at becoming governor of Georgia for a second time. Although she lost to her Republican opponent, Brian Kemp, she inspired millions across America with her fiery resolve toward progressive causes including voter suppression and abortion rights.
During Waikinya Clanton’s moving speech at The Root 100, she made it a point to emphasize that her work as the Director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mississippi state office is personal. Her guidance during the Jackson water crisis was crucial: she made sure water and other supplies were delivered to elderly and disabled residents who couldn’t access water distribution sites. Clanton also increased efforts from Mississippi Rapid Response Coalition for residents, pointing out the crisis was a result of a racial and political divide.
Lizzo won 2022 by simply minding her Black beautiful business! She hosted Saturday Night Live for the first time, won an Emmy for her reality show “Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls” and had white conservatives beside themselves when she twerked while playing James Madison’s historical flute at one of her concerts. Despite being the routine target of online bullying and body shaming, her success quiets the haters by speaking for itself.
No one could silence Meghan Markle this year. Her cover story for The Cut surprisingly revealed her peaceful new life in California after exiting the UK. Markle’s successful podcast, “Archetypes,” examined the roles women have historically been relinquished to. In addition, Harry & Meghan–the Netflix docuseries featuring her and hubby Prince Harry–took a harrowing look at the racism deeply embedded in the British monarchy. With their new endeavor, Archewell Productions, we are certain Markle is just getting started with telling her truth.
Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, the Global Contributing Fashion Editor-at-Large for Vogue, put Kanye West in his place earlier this year during Paris fashion week. The controversial rapper, who now goes by the moniker Ye, pulled one of his most ridiculous stunts to date: he had models at one of his shows wear “White Lives Matter” shirts. He also brought out Candace Owens as a special guest. Even though it made her a target of the artist, she wrote on Instagram: “I do think if you asked Kanye, he’d say there was art, and revolution, and all of the things in that T-shirt. There isn’t.”
If Tiffany Cross has a brand, it would definitely be truth-telling. She bravely tackled Tucker Carlson, called out Megyn Kelly’s stupidity and advocated for diversity in media when she made a guest appearance on The Root video series “The Callout.” When news broke that MSNBC wouldn’t be renewing her popular show The Cross Connection, outrage from Black journalists was swift and powerful. As expected, Cross took the high road regarding the whole situation: “But, after more than 20 years in journalism, I will not stop. The attacks on me from other outlets and former hosts will never control my narrative.”
Oriaku Njoku was honored this year at The Root 100 for their work to protect women’s rights as the Executive Director of The National Network of Abortion Funds. This proved vital in a year where Roe v. Wade was overturned. In 2015, Njoku co-founded ARC-Southeast, which provides funding and support for Southerners to receive safe reproductive services, including abortion. They also made the 2022 TIME100 Next list.
Mama-to-be KeKe Palmer had a reign in 2022 that just wouldn’t let up! From that daring pregnancy reveal during her Saturday Night Live hosting duties to stealing the spotlight in Jordan Peele’s Nope, all eyes were on KeKe as she reminded folks that she is definitely a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood. She was number 22 on The Root 100 list for a reason: there will never be anyone like her, periodt.
Sheryl Lee Ralph
Sheryl Lee Ralph made history this year by becoming the second Black woman to win an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. Her breakout role on Quinta Brunson’s ABC hit series, “Abbott Elementary,” garnered her the honor. Ralph’s victory was long overdue, as the Hollywood veteran boasts a career that spans nearly five decades. In addition, this year she also received the Honorary Order of Jamaica and TV Humanitarian Award from the Creative Coalition. Ralph will continue to be an inspiration for generations to come.
Chloe X Halle
Is there anything these sisters can’t do? Chloe and Halle Bailey both have had a remarkable year. The former was not only an honoree of The Root 100, but she also accepted her award at the ceremony in person declaring the vitality of Black womanhood. Halle, on the other hand, had racists undone when the trailer for Disney’s upcoming live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid was released. However, it was long overdue that Black girls saw themselves as Disney princesses. The director of the film, Rob Marshall, told Entertainment Weekly that Bailey was chosen for the role because she was “incredibly strong, passionate, beautiful, smart, clever.”
Aisha Pinky Cole
Aisha Pinky Cole changed the face of the food industry by specializing in vegan cuisine. The Slutty Vegan–her plant-based burger empire–has amassed a cult-like following which led to a cookbook this year called “Eat Plants, B*tch.” The Root 100 honoree, who was born and raised in Baltimore by her two Jamaican immigrant parents, showed how diverse and successful Black girls can be. In fact, her viral freestyle on Sway in the Morning from earlier this year, perfectly illustrated this point.
Karine Jean-Pierre made history earlier this year when she became the first Black person–and the openly LGBTQ person–to be named White House press secretary. Although she had racists crying that she was an affirmative action hire (as if white privilege isn’t a thing), her background speaks for itself. Before her latest stint, Jean-Pierre has served as Deputy Battleground States Director for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign as well as a political analyst for NBC and MSNBC.