Tim Howard; Shonda Rhimes; Jeremy Meeks
MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images; Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI; Facebook/Stockton Police Department

For some, 2014 was made of win. Success was found both through hard work and happy accident. These beings shone the brightest. They stood out the most. They were highly tweeted on the Twitter. They lived up to the hype—or at least benefited from it.

Here, the winningest people and things of 2014.

Ferguson Protesters

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When’s the next phase of the civil rights movement? Well, as a matter of fact, it’s right now. The protests that spread nationwide in 2014 out of the police shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown of Ferguson, Mo., are youth-led and not dying down anytime soon. Ferguson became a rallying cry on- and offline as organizers put together sustained campaigns through social media, primarily Twitter, spawning marches and civil disobedience. What will be the result? It’s still early, so that is unknown, but if organizers keep mobilizing as they have, what happened in Ferguson will go beyond a moment and become a movement that leads to real change.

Obamacare

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The Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, had a rough go of it when it was launched last year. The federal website was slow and clunky, users had trouble logging on and enrollment numbers suffered as a result. But things got better in 2014 as the site was fixed, and the uninsured rate has dropped from 18 percent to 13.4 percent. Now, as we head into 2015, 2.5 million have enrolled to get coverage by January, with a million of those sign-ups happening in one week.

Model Convicts

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In 2014’s social media world, photo sharing of the absurd and unusual in everyday life was common. But through those memes and candid shots, a steely-eyed “made for the runway, but heading to the jailhouse” look emerged. The age of the “hot felon” was on. Jeremy Meeks, aka #PrisonBae, currently sitting in a federal prison awaiting sentencing for gun charges, was the biggest and brightest fresh face to emerge from a mug shot. He was offered modeling contracts. People photoshopped his face into ad campaigns. The lovelorn called for his release because he was too pretty to go to prison. But off to prison he went! Oh, well—there’s always hot-mug-shot runner-up Sean Kory.

Black Twitter

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The revolution was televised this year because black Twitter live-tweeted it first. Black Twitter, a righteous Internet superhero who also likes to watch Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta when not getting bigots fired from their jobs, is like regular Twitter but hashtag-organized. Whenever danger rang out in the black community in 2014, black Twitter went out like Paul Revere’s ride on a smartphone, but instead of saying “The British are coming,” black Twitter tweeted what was racist and ratchet. From #Ferguson to boycotting VH1’s Sorority Sisters, black Twitter was on the case in 2014.

The Notorious G.O.P.

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So what if your entire party platform is “We’re not Obama”? That’s still a platform! And Republicans beat up on the Obama administration every chance they got in their race to take over the Senate. Hapless Democrats spent all their energy running away from the Obama administration in a rush to the middle, not reaching out to black voters until the very last minute. In turn, the Democrats were crushed by the GOP’s crimson tide, suffering huge losses and losing the Senate, and thus ending an era as Mary Landrieu, the last Democratic senator standing in the South, lost her bid for re-election in Louisiana. Now 2015 will belong to a Republican-held Senate and House. Hope folks liked the Congress-White House standoffs we got in 2014, because 2015 will be full of more of the same.

Misty Copeland

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American Ballet Theatre soloist and The Root 100 honoree Misty Copeland had been turning heads in the world of dance for some time, so 2014 was the year everyone else caught up. Much of this was thanks to a commercial that went viral, in which Copeland danced to a fictionalized rejection letter. Copeland, who most recently starred in The Nutcracker at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York City, started training later than most and defies the typical ballet body type by being brown, muscular and curvy instead of white, waiflike and sinewy. Up next for the dancer: a reality show on Oxygen in which Copeland helps look for new dancing talent.

The Knowles-Carter Family

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They loved. They went “On the Run.” They carried around an insanely cute child whose hair was the subject of a petition and way too much conversation. They got into fights in elevators. They made up. They got married in monochrome. They met British royalty while being a form of American royalty all by themselves. Yes, Beyoncé and Jay Z—with special guest appearances by sister Solange and daughter Blue Ivy—continued their pop-culture dominance in 2014, rounding out the year with Beyoncé’s nomination for six Grammys. Will she add to the family’s collection? Only 2015 will tell.

Marijuana Enthusiasts

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Do you like weed? 2014 did! Especially if you lived in any of the 23 states with relaxed marijuana laws. It was even more of a party in Colorado, where marijuana was officially for sale in stores this year. During the midterm elections, Washington, D.C., Alaska and Oregon all passed bills that would effectively legalize marijuana. And while one congressman sought to ruin D.C.’s push toward decriminalization, the rest of Congress quietly ended the federal ban on medicinal marijuana. So if you like to smoke it legally, you’ve got options.

Shonda Rhimes

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On Thursday nights in 2014, producer Shonda Rhimes, who was No. 2 on The Root 100 list for 2014, took all of us thrill-seeking fans to ShondaLand—a magical place where the men are unfaithful, the black women are fierce and the outfits are killer. Some tried to dim her shine with some “angry black woman” stereotyping, but Rhimes kept it moving, focusing on making killer TV. Her newest show, How to Get Away With Murder, wrapped its first season this fall, leaving its star Viola Davis up for a Golden Globe. What’s next for Rhimes? Accepting the Writers Guild of America, West’s 2015 Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television Writing Achievement.

Tim Howard

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The United States is known for football, not fútbol, which was probably why Team USA didn’t stand much of a chance during the 2014 World Cup. But that wasn’t for a lack of trying, thanks to goalie Tim Howard, the summer’s “secretary of defense” (and a The Root 100 honoree). Howard made a record 16 saves during a match against Belgium and became a household name.

Black Cinema

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Just a few years ago, it was all Tyler Perry, all the time, but something amazing happened while Perry was getting rich: Other black actors, directors, writers and producers started getting more opportunities, too. The film world is still not perfect, and movie pundits still express shock anytime a film like No Good Deed tops the box office, but black films in 2014 went beyond broad comedy and ventured into more universal themes. No Good Deed and Addicted were thrillers, Dear White People was a college-age satire, Beyond the Lights was a romance set in the entertainment industry, the current Top Five is a comedic character study and Golden Globe-nominated Selma explores a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement.

Also on The Root:The Biggest Losers of 2014