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Women Who Shape the World

Aerin Lauder: Beauty Entrepreneur

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After spending years working behind the scenes of the business started by her legendary grandmother, Estée, Aerin Lauder branched out earlier this fall by launching her own lifestyle brand. Called simply Aerin, it—like its creator—is the epitome of effortless beauty. Phase one was a carefully curated cosmetics collection featuring mistake-proof shades and dual-purpose formulas.

“My goal,” says the 42-year-old mother of two, “was to help women living multifaceted lives look natural, refreshed, and on trend while keeping their beauty routine special and, above all, easy.”

Small decorative objects (think floral nesting bowls) were unveiled in November, and there will be a home line in the spring and then jewelry and other accessories. The desire to go beyond her beauty roots isn’t surprising; in fact, considering how closely Aerin is compared in style and spirit with the pioneering Estée, it seems very fitting.

Stella McCartney: Eco-friendly Fashionista

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Her famous father sang about wanting to change the world, and Stella McCartney is doing just that in her own stylish way. Dubbed “the cool conscience of the fashion industry” by Vanity Fair, McCartney—a lifelong vegetarian and avid horseback rider who eschews the use of animal-derived materials—successfully manages to create clothing and accessories that are both ethical and elegant. Though admittedly far from perfect in her planet-saving efforts, the 41-year-old estimates that up to 30 percent of each collection contains some sort of sustainable element, including a leather-like plant derivative in her shoes and boots.

Further cementing her eco credentials, this year McCartney, who also has a line for Adidas, became the first designer to team up with the Natural Resources Defense Council on its Clean by Design initiative to reduce the industry’s environmental footprint. More than ever before, it seems like green is the new black.

Kathryn Bigelow: Director Extraordinaire

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Female filmmakers aren’t that unusual anymore, but Kathryn Bigelow is still in a class by herself. One of only four women in Oscar history to be nominated for the Best Director award, she was the first to claim the statue—in 2010 for The Hurt Locker, a pulse-pounding thriller that followed a bomb disposal unit deployed in Baghdad during the Iraq War. Besides being known as a director who really means it when she says, “Action,” Bigelow, 60, also admirably seeks out material that allows her to open a window into important current events.

“I’m interested in social commentary,” she says. “What’s most galvanizing for me is the opportunity to be topical and relevant and entertaining.”

Her latest effort is the much-buzzed-about Zero Dark Thirty (out December 19, 2012), a fact-based flick about the unsung heroes who worked to find Osama bin Laden. Billed as an account of history’s greatest manhunt for the world’s most dangerous man, it promises to keep you on the edge of your seat with your eyes wide open.

E L James: Libido Lifter

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There’s no gray area when it comes to the influence of Fifty Shades of Grey and its two sequels: The titillating trilogy, written by Erika Leonard James under her pen name, sparked a sexual awakening in women this year. With more than 30 million copies sold, the 49-year-old Brit is credited with bringing more X factor into the bedrooms of readers as they try to emulate the “kinky f***ery” of the novels’ domineering protagonist and his submissive partner. Whether the books serve as escapism or how-to manuals, Leonard says her fans are quite satisfied.

“The main tenet of the thousands of emails I’ve received has been, ‘You’ve really spiced up my marriage. Thank you very much—and my husband thanks you too!’ ”

Kathleen Sebelius: Wellness Warrior

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Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius may work in a Democratic administration, but her position on women’s well-being is anything but political: “Healthy, strong women are essential to having healthy, strong children and communities,” she says. “But too often, women place the needs of others before their own.”

To ensure that budgetary concerns don’t keep women from seeing their physicians, Sebelius, 64, helped push through the Affordable Care Act. As a result, starting this past summer, all new insurance plans are required to stop charging co-pays for such things as FDA-approved contraception, breast-feeding support, mammograms, domestic violence screening, flu shots, and more. Also launched on her watch: the Million Hearts campaign, which aims to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes—the leading killers of women—over the next five years. And since there’s nothing like regular physical activity and good nutrition to keep us in the pink, she also reinvigorated the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. Now those are causes we can get behind.

Lorena Garcia: Culinary Crusader

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When it comes to healthy eating, Lorena Garcia has cooked up a number of creative ideas—from founding Big Chef, Little Chef, a program that teaches children and their parents how to prepare well-balanced meals, to bringing good-for-you, gourmet grub to hungry travelers at her Miami, Atlanta, and (opening next year) Dallas airport restaurants. But in a more wide-reaching move, this summer the Venezuelan-born chef, TV host, and author helped Taco Bell raise its nutritional game by creating the Cantina Bowl menu, which features simplified recipes loaded with fresh produce. Its signature item, the Cantina Bowl, includes cilantro rice, black beans, guacamole, pico de gallo, fire-roasted-corn salsa, and a choice of protein.

“It has 560 calories and 9 grams of fiber, and it costs less than $5 for a full
meal,” says the 40-something Garcia. “It’s a start.” Her next goal: persuading the chain to switch to brown rice. Olé!

Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings: Golden Girls

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It wasn’t enough for Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings to just three-peat at the summer Olympic Games: The beach volleyball duo captured their third gold medal in spectacular style, maintaining a perfect Games record of 21-0. Though their 12-year partnership has ended (May-Treanor, 35, is retiring from the sport; Walsh Jennings, 34, plans to compete in the 2016 Games), their supremacy in the sand will never be forgotten.