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Some Famous Black Women Who Have Left Their Marks On The 21st Century So Far

1. Rihanna

Claim to fame: Singer, designer, businesswoman

Why she’s extraordinary: Her fans are not-so-patiently awaiting news of her ninth studio album, but it’s safe to say Rih couldn’t be bothered. In 2019, the mogul officially became the world’s richest female musician and is valued at a whopping $600 million. Much of that is due to her extremely successful brand Fenty Beauty, which launched in 2017 at Sephora.

2. Tamron Hall

Claim to fame: Broadcast journalist, talk show host

Why she’s extraordinary: Despite her sudden departure from the Today Show in 2017, Hall bounced back and now hosts her own self-titled syndicated talk show.

3. Meghan Markle

Claim to fame: Duchess of Sussex, former actress

Why she’s extraordinary: Though Markle—along with her husband, Prince Harry— has made an unprecedented move to step back as a senior member of the royal family, since she joined the world of the monarchy in 2016, the former actress has established herself as an advocate for a variety of causes including gender equality and climate change.

4. Gabrielle Union

Claim to fame: Actress, activist

Why she’s extraordinary: Though we’ve seen Union on the big and small screen since the ’90s, in recent years the star has become open about everything from fertility struggles to racial and gender inequality in Hollywood and raising her children with love, no matter what. Her outspoken voice has set her apart in the acting world as an advocate and ally for a number of underrepresented communities.

5. Taraji P. Henson

Claim to fame: Actress

Why she’s extraordinary: The Oscar-nominee (for 2008’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) is a celebrated actress and Hollywood mainstay. And what would we do without her beloved Empire character Cookie Lyon?

6. Regina King

Claim to fame: Actress, director

Why she’s extraordinary: King has been absolutely killing it in a career that spans decades, culminating in three Emmys, a Golden Globe, and a supporting actress Oscar for her role in If Beale Street Could Talk. And her critically acclaimed new HBO dystopian drama, Watchmen, riveted audiences.

7. Michelle Obama

Claim to fame: Author, lawyer, and the first Black FLOTUS of the United States

Why she’s extraordinary: The author of 2018’s bestselling novel—her memoir Becoming- Mrs. Obama captivated many with her show of warmth, strength, and positivity as the country’s First Lady from 2009 to 2017. In her role, she fought against childhood obesity and championed education for young girls. And in the face of dark political times, during her speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, she delivered a line that still resonates with many today: “When they go low, we go high.”

8. Ava DuVernay

Claim to fame: Director, producer, screenwriter

Why she’s extraordinary: With films like 13thSelma, and A Wrinkle In Time (starring our very own O of O), DuVernay has made a point to put representation at the forefront of her critically-acclaimed work. She’s also racked up countless firsts: The first Black woman to win the best feature directing award at Sundance in 2012; the first Black woman to get a Best Director Golden Globe nomination; the first woman of color to direct a Oscar-nominated best picture film; and the first woman to direct a film that grossed more than $100 million domestically.

9. Condoleezza Rice

Claim to fame: Politician, diplomat

Why she’s extraordinary: Currently a professor at Stanford University, from 2005 to 2009, Rice held the post of Secretary of State under George W. Bush’s presidency. She was the second woman and first Black woman to do so.

10. Halle Berry

Claim to fame: Actress

Why she’s extraordinary: In 2002 Berry became the first—and still only— Black woman to be named Best Actress at the Oscars for her leading role in Monster’s Ball. “This moment is so much bigger than me,” she said at the time. “It’s for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened. Thank you. I’m so honored.

11. Shonda Rhimes

Claim to fame: Producer, screenwriter, author

Why she’s extraordinary: At the helm of beloved shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder, Rhimes’ production company Shondaland owns ABC’s Thursday night slots. With Grey’s, she’s the first Black woman to create and produce a top 10 network series. Most recently, Rhimes signed a multi-year $150 million deal with NetflixShe’s now developing eight new series for the streaming giant.

12. Gabby Douglas

Claim to fame: Olympic gymnast

Why she’s extraordinary: At the 2012 London Summer Olympics, now 23-year-old Douglas became the first woman of color to win the title of Individual All-Around Champion in artistic gymnastics. She’s also the first Black woman to earn gold in both the individual all around and team competitions at the Olympic games.

13. Carla Hall

Claim to fame: Chef, author, TV personality

Why she’s extraordinary: A co-host of the now-canceled Emmy winning talk show The Chew, Hall’s warm, bubbly personality, the expertise of Southern comfort food, and her “philosophy to always cook with love” made her incredibly popular with fans all across the country. Hall has written three cookbooks: Carla Hall’s Soul Food, Carla’s Comfort Food, and Cooking with Love

14. Simone Biles

Claim to fame: Olympic gymnast

Why she’s extraordinary: Part of the gold-winning U.S. women’s artistic gymnastics team at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Biles is a highly decorated gymnast in her own right. She’s the first female gymnast to win three World all-around titles in a row; the most decorated American gymnast with 14 total medals; and she’s won the most World Championship medals by a woman gymnast in history with a total of 10 gold ones.

15. Beyoncé Knowles-Carter

Claim to fame: Singer, songwriter, entertainer, actress, entrepreneur

Why she’s extraordinary: Known to her loyal fanbase as Queen B, Knowles-Carter is arguably one of the best entertainers of our time. (We all know who runs the world, thanks to her.) She’s earned the most Grammy nominations for a female artist with 62 total, and she’s the second most decorated female Grammy winner with 22 wins. She’s performed at the Super Bowl twice, and in a move that many couldn’t pull off, successfully dropped a surprise self-titled album in 2013.

16. Misty Copeland

Claim to fame: Ballerina and athlete

Why she’s extraordinary: A fierce advocate for dance as a form of expression for people of color everywhere, Copeland became the first African American woman to become the American Ballet Theatre’s principal dancer after 75 years. Known to many as a prodigy in the dance world, Copeland was dancing en-pointe three months after her first dance class and was then performing professionally within a year’s time.

17. Venus and Serena Williams

Claim to fame: Professional tennis players

Why they’re extraordinaryThe sisters are incredibly decorated athletes, with 121 combined career singles titles and a total of nine Olympic medals between the two of them. Serena, 38, is the first tennis player to win 23 Grand Slam titles and has won more than $88 million in prize money—the highest of any female athlete.

18. Sheila Johnson

Claim to fame: Businesswoman, entrepreneur

Why she’s extraordinary: As the co-founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET), Johnson earned her spot as the first Black female billionaire on a Forbes list in 2000. She’s also the first and only African American woman to have a stake in three pro sports teams: the Wizards, Capitals, and Mystics.

19. Phylicia Rashad

Claim to fame: Actress, singer

Why she’s extraordinary: Though the 70-year-old star stole our hearts decades earlier as everyone’s favorite TV mom, Clair Huxtable, Rashad won a Tony Award for her turn in the 2003 revival of the groundbreaking play A Raisin in the Sun. She was the first Black woman to win the honor in a dramatic lead role.

20. Tracee Ellis Ross

Claim to fame: Actress, social advocate

Why she’s extraordinary: The daughter of singer Diana Ross— legend, and another fierce Black woman on this list—Tracee is a shining light in Hollywood. From her role as the ambitious Joan in the early 2000’s show Girlfriend’s to her current groundbreaking gig as Dr. Rainbow Johnson on the hit sitcom Black-ish, the actress is guaranteed to put a smile on your face with her fashion, goofy, Instagram antics, and passion for movements like #TimesUp and #BlackLivesMatter.

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