Fate seemed ready to drop-lift Hillary
Clinton (who would ditch the Rodham and then even the Clinton in her
Democratic campaigning) onto the path to the White House. The former first lady
didn't win her party's nomination, but she cracked that political ceiling as
the first viable female candidate for the Oval Office. The hard-fought contest
between Clinton and Barack Obama
swelled the searches and the Democratic voter rolls that ultimately helped the
party in November. The race cemented the New York senator as her own independent
A place in the history texts was also guaranteed to Sarah Palin
(already distinguished as Alaska's
first female and youngest governor) with her appointment as the Republican vice
presidential pick. Beauty pageant looks and frontier skills established her as
a wildly polarizing character, at once hailed as a conservative savior and disparaged
as a drag on the ticket. However, it would be Michelle
Obama who would pack her bags to move into the White House. Searchers
intently scrutinized her background for her intellectual and social leanings,
but both fans and skeptics compared her accomplished elegance to the
aristocratic Jackie Kennedy.
returned again to the big screen,
but her biggest impact appeared on her old stomping grounds, "Saturday Night
Live." The late-night show's first female head writer, Fey heralded Clinton's
strengths on a Weekend Update, and her eerie similarity to Palin made multiple
return visits inevitable. Among the analysts, Fey has been partly credited
with, if not diminishing Palin's glow, then defining her "political
narrative." She even stood next to John McCain
himself the weekend before Election Day, in that strange-bedfellow scenario
that political satire makes.
Politics tested the power of Oprah
Winfrey, who risked her star-building track record by supporting Barack Obama
before the Democratic primaries. Alienated female viewers called
her a traitor, while others felt she escorted the Illinois senator into another level of the
mainstream. Winfrey witnessed the fruits of her first political sponsorship at Grant Park, weeping on the shoulders of a stranger. The titan even stopped the downward slide of the
newspaper industry for one moment by buoying sales
of the Chicago Sun-Times.
disdained for bringing her populist morning approach to the evening news and
blamed for CBS' sinking ratings, came back leading a crusade of female
political reporters on the left, right, and center. Couric was recognized for asking
Clinton one of the smartest questions of the campaign—why Palin had an
action figure and Clinton a nutcracker—and was lauded for her alternative YouTube
outlet. Then in Palin's interview, Couric reminded people once more of her
velvet-gloved journalism—always civil, always insistent—and why she deserved the anchor desk's solo seat. Barbara
Walters recapped her history of firsts (including being first female evening news co-anchor) in a biography this year. "The View" co-creator and co-host especially reaped Search activity with the
admission of a youthful affair with a married senator.
Heavily pregnant with twins, Angelina
Jolie proved to be a fertility goddess (in
vitro aside) who could be an avenging fighter onscreen. Perhaps the first crossover action heroine A-lister, she voiced the
female tigress in "Kung Fu Panda," proved the main attraction as the tattooed
assassin in "Wanted" (which pulled a higher-per-screen average than the G-rated box-office
hit "Wall*E"), and embodied fierce motherhood in Clint Eastwood's "Changeling."
As for her own motherhood, celebrity tabloids' false labor accounts convulsed Searchers
to seek a peek of Jolie's offspring. With the latest trend to sell baby photos
rather than have paparazzi profit, Jolie and Brad
Pitt donated the record
$14 million payout to their charitable Jolie/Pitt Foundation. Magazine covers tracked multiple stages of Jolie's pregnancy, and a W magazine showcase of Pitt's intimate photos made breastfeeding glamorous.
The Olympics provided ample opportunities for a generation of athletic stars such as the new gymnastic crop and the beach
volleyball duo, but it was hard to resist the story of Dara
Torres, who already made a record as the oldest female swimmer in the 2000 Olympics (and
also kicked off the trend to be the first athlete modeling for the Sports Illustrated
swimsuit issue). Searchers poured over her attempts to be the first and oldest
swimmer to make five Olympics.
Undefeated kickboxing champ Gina Carano
upped her profile in her turn as Crush on "American Gladiators," then later
made television history in the first primetime
female fight. The TV venue died
within a few months, but Carano's appeal proved she was unstoppable...like so many other women in 2008.