Years in review are always tough: How can you possibly include every single thing that had an impact, that led to an action, that held meaning, big or small, even if for a brief moment? Just look back at some of the biggest news in the last year alone, like the record number of women being elected to Congress, the Parkland shooting and the March For Our Lives, the outrage over Trump's "zero-tolerance" policy that resulted in families being separated at the border, the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court — all things that spurred anger, and action, and in some cases, hope, for so many of us. And taking a look at more of the pop culture side of things, this was also the year of Black Panther, of Crazy Rich Asians, of Sharp Objects, of To All The Boys I've Loved Before. Watching Lana Condor's Lara Jean was probably the first time I've ever actually said aloud, "I feel seen."
And then here at Bustle specifically, this was also the year of our first Rule Breakers list — honoring women who are breaking the mold and changing the world for the better — as well as our first Rule Breakers event, featuring the incomparable Janelle Monáe. It's also the year we launched our very first digital issue, Owning It, with cover star Samira Wiley.
So yes, years in review are tough. But I'm always one for reflection — for seeing where we've been so that it can inform where to then go. After all, it's important to consider not just what is being covered, but how it's being covered — what voices are being elevated? What's the overarching message being sent? What action can we, and should we, take in response to it?
Ahead, find 50 stories and packages that I believe are some of Bustle's most impactful work this year. From exclusive interviews to powerful perspectives, I hope you'll scroll through this list and give some (or all!) of these pieces and packages a read. And what better story to start out the list than with our interview with the star who made me feel seen in 2018? (You can check out the 2017 Best of Bustle list here.)
“To All The Boys I've Loved Before' Star Lana Condor Is Ready To Be Your Girl Next Door,” by Olivia Truffaut-Wong
“What's so revolutionary about To All The Boys I've Loved Before isn't that it features an Asian American lead, it's that being Asian American isn't Lara Jean's main character trait. ‘There are stories where you specifically focus on race, and then there are stories where you just tell someone's life,’ Condor explains.”
“What Seeing Your Mental Illness On-Screen For The First Time Is Really Like, According To These 19 Women,” by Rachel Simon
“In the movie, Theron's character was clearly mentally ill; it was obvious to anyone who saw the bald spot form on her head. But until that moment in 2011, I'd never thought of my own pulling as an illness, too, something that wasn't ‘quirky,’ but dangerous. Realizing that my problem was akin to Mavis' was painful, but necessary; it forced me to confront a part of myself I'd previously chosen to ignore.”
"Bustle's Lit List," edited by Cristina Arreola
"Meet the women who are transforming the book industry — and, in the process, changing the world."
"Janelle Monáe Is Breaking Rules & Creating A Space For Others To Do The Same," by Jessica Hopper
"Through the first half of the interview, Monáe speaks vaguely, referencing herself within a 'we' that is alternately women, conscientious Americans, and — broadly — humanity, but she’s quick to clarify that the 'we' of womanhood is complex. 'We’re not monolithic. We can be a part of the great divide. We can support evil men. We see it happening right now,' she says."
“I Can't Stop Thinking About Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's One-Piece Swimsuit,” by Veronica Walsingham
“Most women can name a seemingly insignificant thing that saved them from an unwanted sexual experience.”
"The Life And Death And Life Of Mandy Moore," by Lindsay Mannering
"'It’s funny because I think back to being the 15-year-old on stage opening up for the Backstreet Boys, and I was fearless and clueless. I didn't know any better to be scared. I wish I could just capture that feeling and that attitude, bottle it, and just sprinkle it all on me whenever I needed it.' Would it smell like cucumber and melon? 'Bath and Body Works, obviously.'"
“Hillary Clinton's 2018 Midterms Plan Is To Fight Like A Republican,” By Katie Thompson and Jenny Hollander
“Despite the air of optimism crackling in the conference room, Clinton’s warning for Democrats expecting a midterm wave was clear: ‘I don’t think we can take one election anywhere for granted,’ she says.”
“Sandra Bland's Sisters Say HBO's New Documentary Will Show You Who She Really Was,” by Clarissa-Jan Lim
“‘I think the person who has the answers to those questions and who can shed some light on that for us — she’s no longer here,’ she says. ‘And it’s frustrating, it’s disheartening at times, and honestly at the end of the day she should still be here. What it drives home is that she should've never been there in the first place.’”
“The Ruling In This 'Friends' Lawsuit Set Back The #MeToo Movement By Years — Now The Woman At The Center Of It Speaks Out,” by Kelsey Miller
"’At the heart of the matter, this isn’t just about harassment. It’s about diversity and inclusion, and all of those things that we didn’t take for granted,’ Lyle says. ‘I would love to say that Hollywood has had this collective epiphany. But I think, no. It’s just — the lights are on now.’”
“A 'Hocus Pocus' Oral History Of The Movie's Most Famous Scene, As Told By Cast & Crew,” by Shannon Carlin
“Kirschner, whose story was the basis for Hocus Pocus, says that he originally hated director Kenny Ortega's idea to add a musical number into the movie. ‘When I heard that they were going to do that, I was so concerned. I just thought, 'You’re going to ruin the movie,'’ Kirschner recalls over the phone. ‘This is a movie that puts you on the edge of your seat and you’re going to stop it for this musical number?’
‘And yet,’ Kirschner continues, ‘I’m a billion percent wrong. I love seeing how wrong I was about it.’”
"Seeing Double," by Bustle Entertainment Editors
"Women doing Hollywood stunt work are kicking ass on-screen, creating lifelong friendships off-screen, and making monumental changes for those to come."
"Bustle's Rule Breakers of 2018," by Bustle Editors
"These 29 individuals refuse to do as they’re told — and we’re all better for it."
"R.L. Stine's Office Is Just As Spooky As The Books He's Been Writing For Kids For 26 Years," by Gabrielle Moss
"'It's actually wonderful,' says Stine. 'I always say, I get to scare so many generations. How lucky is that?'"
"There's Privilege In Relating To Nostalgia & It's Time To Start Talking About It," by Katie Dupere
"While some people remember Bath & Body Works Cucumber Melon Lotion as the inexpensive lotion everyone had, others may remember the tiny one ounce bottle they got during the holidays and cherished. While some people remember wearing their heart-shaped Tiffany bracelet every day to high school, others can’t even fathom touching a Tiffany’s bracelet."
"See You Next Tuesday," edited by Bustle News Editors
"Bustle’s approach to the 2018 midterms is to be of service to you — without pandering. Midterm elections are more important than many people realize, and turning out to vote in them does make a difference. We want you to have all the tools you need to make your voice heard on Nov. 6. We answer the questions you may be afraid to ask, and lift the veil on a complicated political process that isn’t as accessible as it should be. We hold elected officials accountable on the gender pay gap. And we reveal what some of your peers are hiding from the ones they love when it comes to their personal politics."
"Inside The Fantastical World Of Disney Fashion Bloggers," by Madison Stacey
"Retired princess Jenny Rose Hutzler worked at Disneyland in Anaheim and Tokyo. She remembers the day she got fitted to be 'friends with' Belle. 'It was like that little girl princess dream suddenly coming to real life,' she says. 'You get goosebumps just thinking about it. It was magical.'"
"Samira Wiley On Doing Right By Her 'Handmaid's Tale' Character, Her Wife, The Queer Black Community — And Herself," by Britni Danielle
"Though she no longer subscribes to a specific spiritual practice, Wiley is more open to talking about her religious background than most people in Hollywood and says her parents’ faith has positively impacted not only how she approaches her life but also the work she pursues. 'With the roles that I have played on Orange is the New Black, and now on Handmaid's Tale, they're these strong women, especially Moira. [She] has a very strong sense of self, which is something that I have because of my parents,' Wiley says. 'They're just people of integrity, and I think that that spills over into my creative process, just wanting to be someone who has some artistic integrity. I think I get that from them.'"
"Can You Be Addicted To Watching ‘The Office’? Here’s Why You Actually Can’t Get Enough," by Lia Beck
"A few weeks ago, I tweeted that I was looking for fans of The Office who can't stop, won't stop rewatching the series, and that they should email me if they'd like to contribute to an article about their obsession. By the next morning, I had 32 messages in my inbox with subject lines like, 'I will rewatch The Office until I'm dead' and 'YES I WATCH THE OFFICE ON REPEAT AND I HAVE NO SHAME.'"
"Standing By Our Sisters," edited by Kayla Greaves
“Black women are 20 to 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer, but it’s still widely thought of as a ‘white disease.’ Standing By Our Sisters explores young black women’s journeys with breast cancer, body image, and beauty.”
"8 Women Who've Been Arrested At Protests Share What Their Activism Has Cost Them," by Celia Darrough
"You've seen the images. Roads shut down by people making it known that black lives do matter. People with disabilities dragged from their wheelchairs by Senate security. Thousands of women marching in the streets. For many who have decided to protest injustice — again and again and again these past few years — there's often a cost to activism, both financial and otherwise."
"I've Paid $18,000 To A $24,000 Student Loan, & I Still Owe $24,000," by Kaitlyn Cawley
"When I was 18, I fully believed that taking out student loans was the only way to achieve my dream and my parents’ dream for me — to transcend my working class upbringing. I was desperate and uninformed and, because of this, I entered into a dangerous relationship with a loan company that will last half my lifetime. Now, I’m finally facing up to the brutal details (after years of sticking my head in the sand) and learning the ins and outs of my debt — and the truth is mind-blowing."
"The Powerpuff Girls' Original Cast Revisits The Groundbreaking Show, 20 Years After Its Cartoon Network Premiere," by Jamie Primeau
"It transcended all ages, genders, countries of origin. It was one of those things that spoke to everyone on inclusivity, on girl power. It had enough adult humor that you could watch with your kids. It was clean enough that the kids could watch. It was just, as far as I'm concerned, a perfect show."
"Deb Haaland Doesn't Know What To Expect On Capitol Hill — But She Knows What You Want From Her," by Lauren Holter
"I go to Congress humbly, knowing what it’s like to struggle, and being a voice."
"Bustle's Must Follow: Latinx Heritage Month," by Bustle Editors
"Bustle’s Must Follow series highlights the game-changing voices we're excited to follow on social media. And in honor of Latinx Heritage Month, we've compiled a special list of women and nonbinary individuals who are advocating and representing the best of Latinx culture and shining light on the oft-forgotten issues facing the community. From Women’s March co-founder Carmen Perez to the multi-talented America Ferrera, these women are speaking out on topics that deserve following, in a way that’s irresistible to watch on social media."
"Dee Rees, Whitney Cummings & 29 More Women On What Working Behind The Scenes In Movies & TV Is Really Like," by Rachel Simon and the Bustle Entertainment Team
"For nearly all the women we interviewed, gender has been a factor in their treatment on set for as long as they've worked in Hollywood in some way or another. For Sorensen, who's also a screenwriter, that meant being put in 'romantic comedy jail' in the '90s; for Loving Vincent director Dorota Kobiela, that meant watching the men on her set shake hands with each other, but not with the women; for producer Ashley Van Buren, that meant once being paid half the salary of a male co-worker in the same position; for UnREAL showrunner Stacy Rukeyser, that meant being told, on more than on occasion, that a series she pitches is 'too female.'"
"Inside The Wonderfully Scented World Of Extreme Bath & Body Works Fans," by Olivia Muenter
"'How's the penguin?' is a common question 26-year-old Serina Cota is greeted with when she stops by her local Bath & Body Works — a trip that she makes about once a week, every week. The penguin in question — a roughly 3 feet tall, $150 tall stuffed animal named Piper — was purchased by Cota on one of her regular BBW trips. At just 4 feet 10 inches, Cota struggled to carry the supersized penguin out of the store, barely making it to her car. But she had to have that penguin. There was only one available per store each holiday season, and she had missed the chance to purchase the massive toy the year before, so she snatched it up. Cota tells me that this feeling — the impulse to purchase products before they disappear — is exactly what has created her current, massive Bath & Body Works collection, one that includes over 180 candles and more than 250 body care products."
"The Best Swimsuits For..." by Amanda Richards
"If you've ever had a difficult time shopping for a plus size swimsuit, you're certainly not alone. It's a soul-sucking voyage that I am intimately familiar with. I've been plus size my entire life, all the way back to childhood. Shopping for a swimsuit has never been simple, but in the past five years or so, things have gotten significantly easier. While we used to have to settle for dull one-pieces in black or navy, skirted suits that our grandmothers loved, or sometimes, just a T-shirt and shorts. Now, we have a strange and beautiful new thing to explore, a thing that our straight size peers have had their disposal for years: Options."
"'Ocean's 8' Star Sarah Paulson Is Ready," by Patti Greco
"Sarah Paulson is killing me. I’ve asked to read the text chain she has going with her Ocean’s 8 co-stars (weeks before it was reportedly deleted), and though she’s given me a firm 'nope' because she doesn't 'want to get kicked off the chain,' she’s now holding her phone a foot-and-a-half from my face, offering a glimpse of the thread but scrolling too quickly for me to actually fix my eyes on a single word."
"Leana Wen, Planned Parenthood's New President, Gets Candid About Overcoming Self-Doubt & The Fights Ahead," by Alicia Menendez
"This is what's at stake when women don't have access to health care, and when women don't have access to safe, legal abortions. It's a health care issue. It's also an economic justice issue. It's also a privacy issue. Why should government and politicians be making decisions for women about their bodies and their health?"
"The Women Of Arrowverse Get Honest About Pushing For Inclusion In The Industry — And In The Fandom," by Sydney Bucksbaum
"I never saw myself represented on any television, until I was an actor myself and encountering the reasons why, or the limitations that existed in the media. When the closest thing you can identify with is Aladdin, that’s a problem."
"Braving BRCA," by Sara Altschule
"If you would have told me at the beginning of this year that I would be writing a column on BRCA, I would have thought you’d got the wrong gal."
"Black Panther' Star Danai Gurira Didn't Let The World Tell Her What Black Women Could Be. She Showed Them," by Kadeen Griffiths
"After moving from Iowa to Zimbabwe when she was five, Gurira — then known as 'Dede' — wore her American name like armor in this foreign land. Until she realized that it wasn't armor — it was a weight, chaining her to the idea that she, Danai Jekesai Gurira, was not good enough exactly as she was. It's a weight that every black woman is familiar with; the lesson that we are not enough is constantly taught to us in big ways and small ways by the world around us. But Gurira refused to learn that lesson, and now she won't let other black women fall for it either."
"Chelsea Clinton On Her Book, Twitter Trolls, & What REALLY Infuriates Her About Trump," by Erin Delmore
"'Women's issues are not actually just women's issues,' Clinton says. 'They're core American issues, they're family issues, they're economic issues, they're rights issues. They're attached and intimately connected to anything that anyone may care about. They can't be ancillary, they have to be central.'"
"I Got Styled By 'Queer Eye's Tan France & Realized I Still Have A Lot Of Fashion "Rules" To Unlearn," by Olivia Muenter
"Trying on clothes in front of just yourself can be emotionally taxing as it is. Trying on clothes in front of strangers is downright terrifying. When that stranger is a stylish, famous person you admire... yeah, it's pretty scary. But as soon as I met Tan, all of my anxieties melted away — well, for the most part."
"'The Hate U Give' Author Angie Thomas Writes For Teens Because She Wants Them To Change The World," by Cristina Arreola
"'I definitely had a lot of people tell me that the book has changed their perspective and opened their minds and their hearts,' Thomas says. 'I've had children of white supremacists who said that it opened their eyes and it helped change them and that was amazing to me, you know? In Mississippi, one gentleman — his family was part of the cover-up with the Emmett Till case — and he watched the movie and it opened his eyes and he sobbed through the whole thing because he realized the error in his ways and his family's ways.'"
"How 'The Parent Trap' Became The Most Loved Movie Of Your Childhood, As Told By The Cast & Crew," by Rachel Simon
"In honor of The Parent Trap's 20th anniversary, here's an exclusive look at how the beloved movie came to be, complete with insights on prank wars, camping trips, and why we still hate Meredith Blake after all this time."
"The Complicated, Empowering, Messy History Behind Our Obsession With Princesses," by Lucia Peters
"Why are we so obsessed with princesses when we’re young? And — perhaps even more bizarrely — why are we later shamed for that same obsession? Because that’s definitely a thing; when women reach a certain age, 'princess' becomes a Bad Word. To be called one is an insult, rather than a delight, even if the qualities princess stories and princess play taught us to cultivate when we were kids are qualities we’re still expected to maintain as adults."
"Family Thread," edited by Melanie Mignucci
"Bustle’s ‘Family Thread’ series looks at the many ways our family relationships and our mental health are connected — and how that shapes us."
"I Was Old Enough To Watch My Friends Die, So Don’t Say I’m Too Young To Talk About Guns," by Lauren Hogg
"I keep doing what I do despite all the hate, because, to be frank, I have friends that no longer can. I have friends that will never get to do the things that we talked about. We had conversations about going to college, having families, living lives, where we’re going to live when we’re 20, who we’re going to date. And they’re never going to be able to do these things."
"The Fitting Room," edited by Olivia Muenter
"The nuances of finding clothing that fits your body in an industry with sizing that is inconsistent and almost always more exclusive than inclusive are virtually endless. And the further your body gets from the 'average' size, the more complicated things become."
"Author Jenny Han Never Saw An Asian-American Girl As The Lead In A Teen Movie — Until 'To All The Boys I've Loved Before,'" by Kerri Jarema
"'The fact is, if this movie does well, other Asian-American YA stories will get greenlit,' Han says. 'That means more points of view, more representation of all kinds. No one story will ever represent everyone, but I really hope we keep getting cracks at bat, because I have many more stories to tell, and so do so many others.'"
"It Took Heather Graham Years To Make A Movie About Women Ditching Toxic Men. The Reason? Men," by Kelsea Stahler
"They say you should write what you know. But in Hollywood, that age-old advice apparently needs an addendum: Write what you know — as long as men are into it. And for actor and newly minted director/screenwriter Heather Graham — a woman who swam through the sea of toxic masculinity that is Hollywood and survived to tell the tale — writing what she knew was both the only choice and the reason it took her five years to get her directorial debut off the ground."
"All American," edited by Sara Tan and Amanda Richards
"It wasn't until I went to college that I realized my experience wasn't as weird or unique as I thought. I wasn't the only one who grew up in a bicultural household, who had to balance both the ideals of their immigrant parents and the ones valued by the country they were born into. Sure, our ethnic upbringings were not portrayed on the TV shows we grew up watching or seen in the magazines we read, but it didn't make us any less American. Suddenly, I wasn't embarrassed by my differences: I was proud of them."
"The Real Effect Of ‘Insatiable’s Fat-To-Thin Narrative, According to 3 Fat Activists," by Samantha Puc
"'The triggers [sneaked] in like smoke through a crack in the door and I found myself not eating due to intrusive thoughts and then binge eating in attempts to silence them.'"
"This Is Us' Highlights PCOS In Season 3, But It Got A Lot Wrong About The Actual Condition," by Tanya Ghahremani
"That sort of accusatory, your-pain-is-your-fault implication hasn’t been exclusive to any one doctor, either. And, being younger and uncomfortable in my body, I believed them."
"This Is The Rehearsal Dinner Toast Meghan Markle Deserves," by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan
"Thrill to the fact that you’re part of history, and that girls who don’t look like the stereotypical princesses — or who ever felt less-than — can see you opening people’s eyes and hearts. We know you’ll work hard and represent the best of what it is to be an American. We believe you’ll rise to the occasion of having a voice that’s amplified far beyond what it would’ve been before, of being able to meet and learn from anyone you can imagine, and of driving actual change — both in the world, and yeah, in that stuffy old monarchy. (Like, say, freeing the female pelvises from their nylon prisons.) And we hope you’re unafraid to take this flashy royal marriage and make it as real and passionate and supportive as if you were both commoners. Talk to each other. Complain, rant, rave, and rejoice. Have each other’s backs and be each other’s backbones. You are the only ones who know the truth of this journey, and that makes you each other’s best sounding boards."
"After the Storm," edited by Melanie Mignucci
"Only eight days after Hurricane Maria, the Center for Investigative Journalism published a story that revealed the morgues and hospitals were filled to capacity with direct and indirect victims of the hurricane. My titi was one of them. Though she had been hospitalized prior to the hurricane, the hospital was at capacity and its generator collapsed shortly after the hurricane. There is no doubt in my mind that the Category 4 storm impacted the date and circumstances of her death."
"Why Female Monsters In Fiction Are Always Single — And What It Says About How Society Views Unattached Women," by Charlotte Ahlin
"'But yes, being single makes one extra monstrous — and not just if one is a female monster,' says Goss. 'If you’re single, you don’t have a husband to curtail your movements or opinions, you don’t have childrearing responsibilities—so you have time to do things that are dangerous and subversive, like getting a university education or agitating for the vote!'"
"Sex IDK," edited by Michelle Toglia
"Emma McGowan, certified sex educator and writer, answers all your questions about sex in her Sex IDK column."
"Let Me Paint You A Picture Of My 25 Minutes With Noah Centineo," by Allison Piwowarski
"It takes about two minutes of hanging out with him for me to realize that Centineo is the Evolved Male Lead™ come to life. He's got edge, but is incredibly introspective. He talks about religious texts, but sings along to Nicki Minaj's 'The Night Is Still Young' on set of his photoshoot. He thanks his parents, dark times, and heartbreak for teaching him to respect others. ('You learn from these experiences that can be traumatic,' he tells me.) And now he's playing characters like Jamey (in Sierra Burgess) and Peter (in To All The Boys), who are not 'aggressive' or 'hyper-masculine' like rom-com leads from the past (i.e., John Bender in The Breakfast Club), marking a change in what we have come to expect from leading men."