Thanks to paparazzi and celebrity blogs (ahem, Perez Hilton), just about any Hollywood D-lister can now make iconic pop-culture status.
This decade a new breed of pop fems have captivated our short-attention-span society. And they filled it with drama.
We scanned past bald Britney Spears tabloid photos to read about ditsy Paris Hilton's jail days. Jessica Simpson's “chicken or fish” reality TV moment left us scratching our heads. A very together Brangelina (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) left America's sweetheart Jennifer Aniston without many friends.
Our picks for the most successful and visible female pop icons of the decade:
She's had the most dramatic journey — sweet and naive to train-wrecked — of all. Britney started her solo singing career in 1999 at age 17. In the 2000s, she shed her schoolgirl persona for a bad-girl image. She danced with a python, tongued Madonna and won her first Grammy in 2003. By 2004, she was a freight train off the rails. She married and divorced, twice. She checked in and out of rehab, shaved her head. Then, in 2008, Britney slowly began turning things around. She topped the charts again with her comeback album “Circus.” A year later, Britney topped the charts again with “The Singles Collection.” In 2008, it was estimated she brought in $40 million for her record company and generated $100 million in sales for her perfume company. She made business good for others, too — images of her accounted for 20 percent of the entire U.S. paparazzi business and sent tabloid sales soaring by 33 percent. We find ourselves cheering for her again, especially now that Britney made the 2010 Elle magazine cover.
Beyoncé unleashed a phenomenon — hit single “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” — that became a dance craze of both the new millennium and the Internet. Beyoncé first came to us in the late 1990s as the lead singer of R&B group Destiny's Child. She took us by storm in 2003 with solo album “Dangerously in Love.” She made her mark on the big screen, in “Austin Powers in Goldmember,” “Dreamgirls” and “Obsessed.” Her most-noted album, “I Am ... Sasha Fierce,” came out in 2008 and earned 10 Grammy nominations. One of Beyoncé's best moments came when she gave up her 2009 MTV Video Music Awards podium to Taylor Swift after Kanye West had earlier interrupted Swift, proclaiming that Beyoncé's “Single Ladies” was “one of the greatest videos of all time.”
She began the decade as a man-stealing Hollywood actress who turned into a hopeless romantic and endearing humanitarian. She became romantically involved with Brad Pitt while filming “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.” Pitt's very public split from America's sweetheart, Jennifer Aniston, was splattered across tabloid covers. Jolie's charity work with the U.N. Refugee Agency and multiple adoptions (she and Pitt now have six children, three of them adopted) softened our hearts.
She was the head writer for “Saturday Night Live” who left in 2006 to create her own television series, “30 Rock.” The Emmy-winning show is loosely based on her experiences at SNL. In 2009, she won an Emmy Award for her spot-on impersonation of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in a guest appearance on “SNL.”
She's a TV host, producer and philanthropist, best known for her self-titled, award-winning talk show. The show has become the highest-rated program of its kind in history. She's been ranked the richest African-American of the 20th century and the greatest black philanthropist in American history.
Sarah Jessica Parker
She's best known for her leading role as Carrie Bradshaw on the HBO television series “Sex and the City.” Women strived to look like Carrie and accumulate her enormous shoe and designer wardrobe collection. In 2000, Parker appeared in no fewer than 15 different costumes while hosting the MTV Movie Awards.
She's a Billboard hit maker who has three gold and two multi-platinum albums. But she's become infamous for her on-again, off-again romances, first with former husband Nick Lachey, with whom she starred in the MTV reality show “Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica.” In 2005, the couple split, and Simpson has reportedly had romances with comedian Dane Cook, Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine and musician John Mayer. In 2007, she began dating Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and was dubbed “Yoko Romo” for supposedly distracting the NFL player. Romo reportedly dumped her this summer, the night before her 29th birthday.
In 2003, she went to a bunch of red-carpet events and made a sex tape that got leaked. Hollywood and Las Vegas nightclub owners paid her to hang out, which later led to booze-fueled nights, her 2006 arrest for drunken, reckless driving and a 45-day jail sentence.
A Disney movie star who tried to break into independent film roles, her career was interrupted in 2007 with two drunken-driving incidents and three visits to rehabilitation facilities, as well as nonstop tabloid bashing.
She's regarded as one of the most talented and respected actors — theater, television and film — of the modern era. She gave us “Adaptation,” “The Hours,” “The Devil Wears Prada,” “Mamma Mia!” “Doubt” and “Julie & Julia.” Not to mention showing us in “It's Complicated,” currently in theaters, that a woman can stay sexy even at age 60.
(Sources: Pop culture experts Karen Bard of eBay and Rob Weiner of Texas Tech University)
Nebraska's Pop Icon of the decade
She's an Omaha-born actress who starred in films “Bring It On,” “Bad Boys II,” “Deliver Us From Eva” and Tyler Perry's “Daddy's Little Girls.” She also played a medical doctor in the CBS drama series “City of Angels” and more recently appears in the ABC series “FlashForward.”
Other pop icons who didn't make the tops list:
Kat Von D — She starred in “Miami Ink,” exposing and embracing tattoo culture for women.
Jennifer Aniston — She's famously known for her role as “Rachel,” the gal with phenomenal hair on the “Friends” TV series.
Victoria Beckham — A poppy Spice Girl-turned-fashion diva.
Hillary Clinton — She's a successful businesswoman and politician who has stripped away all preconceived notions that women cannot work well in a “man's world.”
Kelly Clarkson — The first “American Idol” winner who became a multiplatinum-selling singer.
Scarlett Johannson — The new-aged buxom blonde.
Miley Cyrus — Two words: Hannah Montana.
Michelle Obama — The first African-American first lady, who has a keen fashion sense to boot.
Ellen DeGeneres — A stand-up comedian who danced her way into our hearts on her Emmy-winning daytime TV show.
Pink — She rose to fame in 2000 singing R&B, but then switched to pop-rock music.
Anna Nicole Smith — The original overnight celebrity who became a model, sex symbol, reality TV personality and media darling.
Mary J. Blige — One of the strongest female R&B musicians; she's open about abusive and broken relationships.
Rihanna — “Good Girl Gone Bad” fired her into the global pop stratosphere. She's a vibrant, high-energy performer and fashion icon.
Jennifer “J.Lo” Lopez — A backup dancer-turned-entrepreneur. She's one of the first widely known Latino artists.
Halle Berry — She began as a model but proved her versatility and talent. She's the first African-American actress to receive an Oscar for Best Actress.".
Tyra Banks — Supermodel-turned-late-night talk-show host; empowers women.
Serena and Venus Williams — They've taken tennis to a new extreme.
Danica Patrick — She runs laps around the race-car driving circuit.
Female Pop Icons through the Decades:
1950s: Marilyn Monroe
1960s: Jackie Kennedy
1970s: Farrah Fawcett
2000s: Britney Spears
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