What a year! Amid all the bad and sad news, we still should celebrate our wins.
HuffPost reporters picked several moments where celebrity women stood in their own power, reclaimed their time or just quite frankly were an absolute joy.
From Adele’s soul-stirring comeback to Keke Palmer’s viral Met Gala video, here are some moments we’d like to remember from some of our favorite women in culture and entertainment.
Taylor Swift’s 10-minute version of “All Too Well”
With the reissue of her 2012 album “Red,” Taylor Swift did something her 22-year-old self couldn’t back then: release a 10-minute version of a song that was already regarded as some of the finest songwriting of her career. The original “All Too Well” artfully chronicled the painful, bittersweet breakup of a love affair that burned bright and fast (allegedly with someone whose name rhymes with Shmake Shmyllenhaal). It was an odd choice for a fan favorite — Swift had never picked it as a single off of the original “Red” — but the preciseness and illustrative quality of the song’s lyrics lodged it firmly in many Swifties’ mosaic broken hearts over the years. A 10-minute version had long been rumored and was finally confirmed with the announcement of “Red (Taylor’s Version)” earlier this year, her second reissue in the ongoing quest to regain ownership of her discography prior to 2019′s “Lover.” The hype was real, but Swift rose to the occasion, doubling the length of the original and getting a production assist via longtime collaborator Jack Antonoff. The new lyrics are catchy, clever and angrier than Swift (or her label, perhaps) allowed herself to be on its first iteration. A stunning short film and “Saturday Night Live” performance only added to the song’s popularity, eventually leading it to unseat “American Pie” as the longest-ever Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 single. Seeing a female musician fully own both her creative work and her rage over lost love? That’s something the industry will remember all too well. —Jillian Capewell
Oprah’s interview with Meghan Markle
I wasn’t expecting this to be a bombshell interview. But every interview bloc featured headline-worthy moments between Meghan Markle and Oprah Winfrey in this sprawling conversation on primetime TV. Markle revealed that the family had racist concerns over Archie’s skin color before he was born. She contemplated suicide at one point as a working royal and was denied help. Though Prince Harry later joined the conversation, Markle’s candid revelations — alongside Oprah’s expert interviewing — showed audiences the power in speaking truth to power, no matter what feathers may be ruffled in the process. —Erin E. Evans
Adele turned 30 and gave us her heart with her latest 12-track album, “30,” one of our favorite projects of the year. On the album, she digs into her feelings post-divorce, pens an ode to her son Angelo and gives every wine lover a theme song of their own with “I Drink Wine.” Each week my favorite song on the album is different, but I’m closing out the year with “Woman Like Me” on repeat. The line is perhaps the best lyric I’ve heard in a very long time: “That’s why you think I make you feel small/ But that’s your projection, it’s not my rejection.” Whew! The “Adele: One Night Only” TV special featured a live performance of her past hits and new cuts and an exclusive interview with Oprah Winfrey. 2022 will be a busy year for the singer as well, with a confirmed Las Vegas residency already on the books from January to April. The ticket prices are sky-high, so I’ll keep blasting the album in the comforts of my own home. —Erin E. Evans
Megan Thee Stallion graduating from college
Megan Thee Stallion is living her lyrics: “2021 finna graduate college.” The Grammy winner graduated from historically Black college Texas Southern University in Houston, with a bachelor’s of science in health administration. “I want to get my degree because I really want my mom to be proud,” Megan told People in 2020. “She saw me going to school before she passed.” On Dec. 11, she posted her graduation pictures in her TSU regalia, and received congratulations notes from everyone from Cardi B to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. The rapper has big plans now that she’s received her degree. “I’m still going to open up these assisted living facilities and I definitely want to hire new college graduates,” she told Rolling Stone after crossing the stage. “Nobody ever wants to hire you fresh out of college. They feel like you have no experience, so I want to create a place where you can get experience.” Her graduation has already inspired others: The program director of the college’s health administration program told TMZ that Megan prompted an enrollment spike among new and former students, who are interested in the same course of study that the rapper completed. Now that’s real hot girl sh**. —Erin E. Evans
In truth, #FreeBritney was launched long before 2021 and regarded as a soft fan call to liberate pop star Britney Spears from her dad Jamie Spears’s conservatorship. It had already been over a decade that she had been in this situation, but something shifted in June when the recording artist detailed in a court testimony the disturbing terms of the guardianship. “I want to be able to get married and have a baby,” Spears said. “I was told right now in the conservatorship I am not able to get married or have a baby.” We all had a hunch that her plight might be severe, but when she revealed exactly what she was experiencing for now 13 years, #FreeBritney was no longer merely a hashtag. It was an aggressive movement to remove Spears from her father’s care. And after two sensationalized documentaries, amid the performer’s daily personal updates on Instagram as the world watched, she was finally freed. —Candice Frederick
Keke Palmer wins the Met Gala
Yes, the Met Gala is known for its fashion, but Keke Palmer hosting on the red carpet stole the show. The actor created one of the most viral moments of the year, and then everyone and their mama started recreating the scene on TikTok. Palmer had spotted rapper Megan Thee Stallion in an Old Hollywood glam look on the Met Gala red carpet; her custom dress was created by Gucci. “Oh, oh, oh, oh, uh oh, I know it ain’t, I know it ain’t, the Staaaalllionn!” Palmer said as she greeted Megan. “You know it’s your girl!” I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I have greeted a couple people in this way … and also randomly screeched it at myself in my apartment. An iconic and funny moment for Palmer, who had a pretty epic year, appearing on “Insecure,” lending her voice to “Big Mouth,” and landing a role in Jordan Peele’s upcoming film “Nope.” We want more Keke Palmer all the time. —Erin E. Evans
Jazmine Sullivan kept the wins coming
Jazmine Sullivan released her long-awaited third album “Heaux Tales” in January 2021, and it was one of the best projects of the year. That same day, NPR dropped the singer’s Tiny Desk performance of the album, and audiences witnessed the true power of Sullivan’s voice. In June, she won the BET Award for album of the year; and in November, she won the same award at the Soul Train Music Awards. “I wrote this project for women to love themselves, no matter what stage of life that they’re in,” she said onstage. “You have to love yourself, especially because society would have us — especially Black women—not love anything about ourselves. I realize I can’t just talk about it, I got to be about it. I love you so much.” We love you, too, Jazmine! —Erin E. Evans
Simone Biles chose herself
She was the one we were all waiting to watch. The GOAT, the gravity-defying gymnast who’s appeared on countless magazine covers and inspired Black girls and women around the globe. So when it was announced that Simone Biles would return to the Olympics this year in Tokyo, we already knew we’d be glued to the screen. After all, we followed her journey as a Black prodigy from Ohio, and were (virtually) by her side when she bravely released a statement in 2018 confirming that USA Gymnastics physician Larry Nassar had sexually assaulted her. But as extraordinary as she already was in our eyes, she became even more so when she pulled out of the Olympic team finals after “struggling with some things” in a prior competition. Despite mass opposition, Biles’s difficult decision drew attention to Black mental health and ultimately helped her become Time Magazine’s Athlete of the Year. All because she, as The Cut wrote, chose herself — and implored the rest of us to do the same. —Candice Frederick