Hanukkah starts tonight, which means it also kicks off our eight-day long celebration honoring the stars who lit up our year. You've already met our shamash, Andy Cohen, but now it's Emma Watson's time to shine. The 24-year-old thesp has had quite an impressive 2014 — and, not to downplay the importance of her myriad of achievements, but we can't help but note that she looked completely impeccable every step of the way. Long gone is the bushy-haired Harry Potter girl. This poised, polished, powerful woman is here to stay.
We Celebrate Her Chutzpah: She might be a movie star, but Watson has some serious moxie beneath her designer duds. In May, the British beauty graduated from Brown University with a bachelor's degree in English literature. While this would be an accomplishment for anyone, it was especially notable because her path to graduation wasn't always an easy one. After enrolling in 2009, Watson ended up having to take a hiatus just two years later to promote the final Harry Potter flick. Despite being one of the most famous (and highly paid) young actresses in history, Emma was determined to return to school and complete her degree. Which, for the record, is exactly what she did.
We Celebrate Her Mitzvoth: Emma isn't someone who only thinks of herself. Most recently, while accepting the Britannia Award for British Artist of the Year, she made a touching speech in which she dedicated the award to a long-lost friend: her deceased hamster. The intention of her speech was to praise the British film industry for becoming a surrogate family for her, but she illustrated this point by recounting the time her hamster, Millie, passed away during the filming of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and set decorators built Millie a deluxe, hamster-sized coffin to help comfort the actress.
"What I'm trying to say is that you're all very special to me, and that your vote of confidence means a lot," Watson told the audience. "Rest in peace, Millie. This one's for you."
We Celebrate the Miracle of Emma: Her consideration for others goes far beyond pets and film industry folk, which brings us to our final — and most important — point: Emma Watson might not be a wizard in real life, but she still performs miracles in her own way. Back in September, Watson delivered one of the most poignant, moving speeches on gender equality that we've heard in a long time — and, what's even more notable, the world actually listened. Speaking at the United Nations, the Goodwill Ambassador talked eloquently on gender equality as she launched her initiative, HeForShe. Most striking about Watson's campaign is that it urges men to get involved and take a stand against gender injustices, which, it goes without saying, is both an uncommon and brilliant approach.
"I was appointed as Goodwill Ambassador for U.N. Women six months ago and the more I've spoken about feminism, the more I have realized that fighting for women's rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop," the Ivy-league alum opined before addressing men directly. "Gender equality is your issue too. Because to date, I've seen my father's role as a parent being valued less by society despite my needing his presence, as a child, as much as my mother's. I've seen young men suffering from mental illness, unable to ask for help, for fear it would make them less of a men — or less of a man. In fact, in the U.K., suicide is the biggest killer of men, between 20 to 49, eclipsing road accidents, cancer and coronary heart disease. I've seen men made fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of what constitutes male success. Men don't have the benefits of equality, either."
And just like that, Watson reached across the aisle transformed from a blockbuster actress into a bona fide activist, delivering one of the most compelling arguments for gender equality that we've heard in decades — sure sounds like a miracle to us.