Who would have thought 25 years ago—when Marie Claire first launched in the U.S.—that in 2019, there would be social media, self-driving cars, or a shot at colonizing Mars? To commemorate our first quarter century, we chose 25 women sure to leave their mark on the next. Read four of their stories, below, and stay tuned for more women who are breaking records and breaking ground, making history and making change.
In case you didn’t notice, Megan Rapinoe had an excellent summer. There was the World Cup soccer victory, of course, and the Golden Ball trophy for best player, and the Golden Boot trophy for highest scorer. There was a whirlwind of television appearances: Jimmy Kimmel. Seth Meyers. Rachel Maddow. Good Morning America. Even Meet the Press, for God’s sake. Let’s not forget the ticker-tape parade through Manhattan, with the mayor handing her a key to the city. And, oh, were there parties! Rapinoe was everywhere, champagne in hand, pink hair gleaming under the spotlights. Her triumphal pose—arms outstretched, head thrown back, loving it, owning it—became an Internet meme. And in the aftermath of this dazzling athletic performance, something even grander became evident: Rapinoe and her 22 teammates on the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team have served notice that strong, irrepressible, ass-kicking females are taking the world’s stage—and they’re not asking for anyone’s permission.
By now, the events have been stamped into history. Rapinoe, caught on video months before the 2019 World Cup began, was asked a hypothetical question: If the American women won the title, would they be excited to go to the White House? She looked startled for an instant, then shot back, “I’m not going to the fucking White House.” —Susan Casey
When singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves was coming up in Golden, Texas, a sawmill town in the Bible Belt, she spent as much time as possible outdoors, running barefoot through the woods, hair wild, feet dirty. Weekend nights, she dolled up and sang Western swing for folks twice her age. That juxtaposition of down-to-earth country girl and polished music prodigy has informed her outlook ever since. The contrasting touchstones lend Musgraves, 31, a palpable depth and enticing complexity in an industry that prefers its women in tidy boxes.
After her 2013 debut, Same Trailer Different Park, Musgraves shotgunned into stardom. She was named CMA New Artist of the Year in large part due to her brain-teasing lyrics, as sharp as they were melodic. She’s since won six Grammys, including four for her latest album, Golden Hour, a stirring departure from her previous wordplay and a lean into a future she’s building for herself, one deliberately more vulnerable than cerebral. “Before, my songwriting hinged more on turning phrases,” Musgraves explains. “I like that style, but I wasn’t using all the colors in the box. This time, I wanted to speak from the heart. It was time to shift gears and feel things and let people in a little bit more. I’m a perfectionist. I had to let go.” —Allison Glock
Asked what always makes her laugh, Nora Lum, better known as Awkwafina, tells a story about fornicating squirrels. “They were aggressively lovemaking on top of a garbage can. I went to throw out a soda, and both of them turned, looked me in the eye, and just kept going at it. I felt so disrespected.” Awkwafina busts up anew, admits she thinks about those squirrels all the time, and then, barely taking a breath, dives into another recent memory. “I was at my aunt’s house in North Carolina, outside, petting the neighborhood cat, Sushi. I might have been toking on something. Anyway, I looked down, and it was an opossum.” She chuckles again, long and hard, then asks, “Do you have a cat?”
Awkwafina, 31, is a wholly original five-foot-two-inch ball of wax. Part raunchy teenage boy, part fierce feminist, the actress-rapper is kind and irreverent and respectful of tradition and incapable of not creating something new, subversive, and sunny. Above all, she is a tidal wave of cool, largely because “cool” is the last thing she views herself as. “I’ll always be insecure,” she says candidly. “I’ll always critique myself, I’ll always want to evolve, and, yeah, I’ll always hate myself a little bit.” —A.G.
Lilly Singh wants to throw up. The actress-comedian is hip-deep in prep for the September 16 premiere of her late-night NBC talk show, A Little Late With Lilly Singh, a debut that will make Singh the only woman hosting on a Big Four broadcast network.
“When my show got announced, people said to me, ‘Ohhh, two billion people are counting on you,’” Singh, 31, says of the pressure funneled her way, not just a result of her being a woman breaking into a man’s world but because she’s a bisexual Indian Canadian woman unleashing a much needed swell of diversity into an aggressively vanilla landscape. She’s also encountered fan after fan relying on her to detonate the glass ceiling. “I’m not viewing that pressure as negative, to be honest,” Singh says cheerfully. “I feel lucky to be in this position. I’m a minority in many, many ways, and I want to make sure that anyone, no matter where they are in the world, can relate and feel represented.” —A.G.