The Year's Best "It" Girls In Fashion

by Sebastian Zulch

This year, the "It Girl" has gotten quite the makeover. The push for social justice for causes such as the Black Lives Matter movement, the increase in androgynous fashion, and the ever-expanding powers of the Internet have all acted as catalysts for creating some of the raddest It Girls in fashion and beauty that we've ever seen. And 2015 has certainly been the year of the Millennial, as least as it applies to the new crop of Instagram-famous androgynous multi-taskers who have impeccable style and know how to make their voices heard via creative personal branding.

It Girls like Hari Nef and Amandla Stenberg use their platforms for social justice, and to bring awareness to topics and bodies that are often overlooked in the fashion industry. Those like Petra Collins and Annie Segarra push back when met with politically incorrect and oppressive rhetoric in both the media and their everyday lives. Many of these influencers attempt to analyze and dismantle institutions that oppress, leading to greater diversity in the sartorial world, as well as heightened human compassion in the world at large.

For me, the It Girls who deserve the most kudos are the ones who get things done, challenge norms, and take part in subversive beauty practices, as well as occupy and bring visibility to marginalized identities. That said, here are some of the year's most important It Girls.

1. Hari Nef

In 2015, Hari Nef became the first openly transgender model to be signed to IMG Models. Besides this enormous feat (and being featured in many esteemed publications such as Vogue) she is also a writer and activist.

Nef tirelessly advocates for queer and trans visibility, and has contributed her opinions to Dazed and Vice regarding these topics. She also starred in this season of Transparent, playing Maura's trans aunt Gittel circa Berlin in the 1930s. Her voice doesn't only impact the queer and trans community, though. Nef also made it to "The Forward 50," a list by The Forward newspaper that commemorates the 50 Jewish-Americans who have had the greatest impact on Jewish history in that year.

2. Amandla Stenberg

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The 17-year-old Hunger Games actress had a great year thanks to the release of her first EP with her band Honeywater back in August, as well as the publishing of the comic book she co-wrote with Sebastian Jones called Niobe: She Is Life, released in November. Besides her affinity for writing, acting, singing, and violin playing, Stenberg is passionate about feminism and social activism. She was named one of the celeb feminists of the year by Ms. Foundation, and regularly discusses feminist issues on Twitter.

However, her greatest achievement might just be helping change the fashion world with feminism. She's called out multiple celebrities for cultural appropriation in their sartorial choices, including Kylie Jenner for her cornrows on Instagram. She even formulated a video response to white people and celebrities alike for appropriating Black style and hair choices and calling it a fashion statement. Stenberg is queen of laying down the law regarding racist microaggressions, and that is undoubtedly worth celebrating.

3. Lily-Rose Depp

Besides the fact that she's clearly inherited her father's charming looks, Lily-Rose Depp has become quite the media star this year thanks to her heavy Instagram following. The 16-year-old debuted as a model for Chanel this past summer, was featured in Vogue Paris, and began filming two movies including Planetarium and The Dancer.

Depp also came out about as being sexually fluid by partaking in The Self Evident Project, which includes "100,000 people in the USA that identify as anything other than 100 percent straight," according to its website. Hooray for queer visibility in the Hollywood elite.

4. Zendaya

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Disney Channel star turned fierce lady Zendaya is a force to be reckoned with. In March, Timbaland confirmed that she would be working on her second album with him, which Zendaya described as the "new wave of R&B" in conversation with MTV. The body pos queen also spoke out against photos being retouched for her Modiste cover, and was featured among Taylor Swift's girl squad in the "Bad Blood" music video.

Additionally, her 87th Academy Awards red carpet look was immortalized in a Barbie doll (a win for diverse representation in the toy industry!). Unfortunately, she was made fun of by Fashion Police 's Giuliana Rancic regarding her dreadlocks, but she quickly shut that down too. Most recently, Zendaya covered Complex, essentially solidifying her It Girl status.

5. Tess Holliday

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Tess Holliday, body positive blogger and founder of the hashtag #effyourbeautystandards, is an important voice in the plus size modeling and blogging communities. This year, Holliday made history when she became the largest plus size model to be signed to a mainstream agency, Milk Model Management. She was then featured on the cover of People , starred in H&M's sustainable fashion campaign alongside Iggy Pop in September, and starred in Addition Elle's fall 2015 capsule collection. She even alluded to her own clothing line being in the works.

Yep, Holliday continued to dedicate herself to body positive activism. This summer, she even led a boycott against Project Harpoon, a fat shaming group that Photoshopped images of her and other plus size women in the media without their consent.

6. Willow Smith

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The youngest of the multi-talented Smith family continued to wow us this year with her multiple projects and impressive style. Her subversive beauty and fashion choices, as well as her complete disregard for the gender binary, make her incredibly inspiring.

Thanks to interviews and collaborations with Rookie Mag , Smith effectively transmits her message of gender fluidity, and the new fluidity of Millennial identities in general. Her impeccable androgynous fashion (perhaps channeling some of her stylish mama Jada Pinkett Smith), her crazy colored hair phases, and her alien chic makeup choices make her a style icon like no other. Smith has taken some time off from music and acting, but she surprised fans by releasing her first studio album, ARDIPITHECUS, this month. Her new music is as strange and subversive as her persona, sounding equal parts Sia and Lorde.

7. Tavi Gevinson

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Tavi Gevinson is forever an It Girl in every Rookie's heart, with her multiple outlets for impacting the feminist community. This year, she starred in This Is Our Youth , a play that was shown in both Chicago and New York's Broadway, alongside Michael Cera and Kieran Culkin. She cut her hair short, channeling hair legend Mia Farrow, and rocked no shortage of Peter Pan collars, pastels, and bold patterns as per usual.

The 19-year-old was rewarded for her unique personal style (which has been seemingly unaffected by her recent move to The Big Apple), as Clinique took her on as a spokesmodel for the brand. She had a wonderfully memorable guest appearance on Scream Queens to boot, decked out in pretty pink pastels and a flower crown. Oh, and she wrapped up publication of Rookie Yearbook 4 .

8. Annie Segarra

Radio host Annie Segarra made waves this year with her response to Kylie Jenner's Interview cover, calling out its ableism as well as the lack of representation of disabled bodies in media and fashion. As a queer woman of color with disabilities, she works to raise awareness around marginalized bodies and advocate for body positivity through her Stop Hating Your Body blog. There, she brings visibility to fat bodies, disabled bodies, queer bodies, and bodies of color and aims to provide "a place of encouragement, a place to discuss body image, insecurities, self-esteem, and everything under the umbrella of fighting self-hate and finding self-love," according to the page.

In addition to acting, modeling, and photography on the side, Segarra has a YouTube channel where she regularly vlogs about body positivity, consistently positioning herself as an outspoken activist for self love and media representation of marginalized bodies.

9. Petra Collins

Many of us have been in love with Collins' soft and feminine photography since we first started reading Rookie. Her feminist beliefs leak into both her work and her words, especially regarding feminine body hair. She's spoken out against the censoring of women's bodies in the media through interviews with Dazed and StyleLikeU. This year, she even curated an awesome exhibition called "Fuck Boi Funeral" in a Miami hotel room during Art Basel, meant to reclaim art from cis men and to create an intimate space where all women feel comfortable. "It will feel like the moment after a selfie," she said in an interview with i-D. "When you pull away from your phone or computer and examine yourself."

She also appeared in Season 2 of Transparent, playing a member in an alt all-girl band. Her delightfully '70s aesthetic informs her work, and is appreciated by brands like Levi, who asked her to shoot and be featured in its summer campaign for a new women's denim collection.

10. Laverne Cox

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This year was certainly a year of body positivity for Laverne Cox. She started the #TransIsBeautiful hashtag to bring awareness to trans bodies in body positive conversations. She graced the red carpets with look after fierce look, and bravely posed nude in Allure's Nude Issue. She has also spoken about gender identity and expression, her choice not to feminize her face, and of the privilege she and Caitlyn Jenner have to be able to afford to conform to traditional feminine beauty standards. She was even casted as Frank-N-Furter for FOX's Rocky Horror remake. Cox continues to be a stylish body pos warrior, and will likely keep killing it in the new year.

11. Iris Law

Jude Law's 15-year-old daughter Iris is the newest of this year's It Girls, and may be competing with her father for the title of Coolest Law. The Instagram-famous teen is hopelessly stylish, travels a ton, and has known fashion and modeling legend Kate Moss since she was a baby (thanks to Moss' friendship with Law's mother). She acted in a short film called Sylvie and Iris for her friend and amateur filmmaker Anna McGrane, and just featured in her first fashion campaign for the British brand Illustrated Company. You can tell from her effortless cool girl vibes and her '90s aesthetic that she'll launch into even more stardom come 2016.

I don't know about you, but I can't wait to see what these babes do next year. For me, a true "It Girl" is someone willing to fight oppression; someone who knows the power of subversion through mediums like fashion, beauty, and art. And all of these humans certainly do.

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