In our 23rd annual celebration of women who light up the screen (and, resultantly, our worlds), we honor eight female supertalents: the magnetic Kristen Stewart; the dazzling Lupita Nyong'o; the radiant Amy Adams; the electric Anna Kendrick; the stunning Aja Naomi King; the fierce Felicity Jones; the incomparable Kathy Bates; and the Queen herself, Helen Mirren.
On opening up about her love life:
"I'm not ashamed, and I'm not confused. Things have changed. And not just with me-we're really allowed to encourage this new acceptance to develop and be awesome."
On her success, despite an agent telling her that her skin was "too dark for African television":
"I grew up with a very limited mirror of myself. I watched a lot of TV, but the people on it were always light skinned. And now I have a platform that takes me into people's houses and onto the pages of their magazines."
On spending the majority of her twenties trying to find her own voice:
"I wasn't working, and I wasn't happy. I kept trying different acting techniques, like, I'd try to act like the actresses who were getting hired. I thought maybe then I'd get a job. I spent the majority of my twenties trying to figure out who I was and where I fit in, not just in Hollywood, but also in the world. It took me a long time to sort of find my own voice."
Aja Naomi King:
On looking to the inspiring people she works with to get started on her future as an artist:
"I want to write, I want to direct, I want to produce-I want to inhabit what I think it means to fully be an artist. I always wanted to do that, but I didn't think I had the tools. Now I look at Viola [Davis] and I look at Nate [Parker] and I look at Shonda [Rhimes] and it's like, You just do it. You just begin, you know?"
On being mostly surprised by her later-stage career:
"I have no idea why. I think it's a lucky combination of elements, not the least of which is that I happened to fall in love with an American [director Taylor Hackford] in my late thirties, the man who is now my husband. Even though I still think of myself as absolutely British, I was here in [Los Angeles], so I was visible."
On gratitude for her career:
"Sometimes, it feels like I'm standing in one of those rooms, in a riddle, where there are all these doors. And it's like, why wouldn't I keep opening them? Even if what's behind is something kind of annoying, I'd rather find out. I think it will be hard for me to know if I should ever take a break, or focus on something else, because I feel so grateful that I get to keep opening that dang door."
On starring in the upcoming Star Wars film, Rogue One, and welcoming the level of fame and fandom that comes with it:
"I think you make those decisions when you take on that kind of work. It comes with responsibility." She names Helen Mirren, with whom she worked in 2010's The Tempest, and Ralph Fiennes, her costar in the 2013 Charles Dickens biopic The Invisible Woman, as role models. "They know that it's a privilege to do what we do. You can't suddenly go, 'I don't want any of this,' because you're in films that people respond to. So you find a way of navigating through it."
On always knowing that she wanted to be an actress:
"I think we all feel those moments when we're just hit by something so powerful, and we suddenly know, 'That's what I want to do. I'll do anything I have to be a part of that.' It's not like, 'Oh, my God, I want to be famous' and all that shit-it's something much deeper than that, something that grabs you by the breastbone and just shakes you."
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