People Magazine probably thought it was doing something noble when it named Julia Roberts as its “Most Beautiful” woman of 2017. After all, she’s nearly 50—practically prehistoric in Hollywood terms, especially compared to the first time she graced the issue’s cover in 1991 at the ripe old age of 23. But when you’ve chosen the same actress a record five times, the tradition starts to seem stale. Society’s perception of beauty continues to evolve, but People’s formula remains the same. Maybe it’s time to shake things up? Here are just five women who’ve redefined beauty on their own terms, earning them the right to the title (even if they didn’t make the list in the first place).
One quick glance at the “Most Beautiful” list reveals that Oprah Winfrey’s the oldest person on this year’s roster. (She’s 63.) But why must People perpetuate the notion that youth equals beauty? If age truly isn’t an issue for those doling out the title, White surely deserves the honor. (They could’ve included her, at least.) She’s America’s sweetheart. She’s devoted literal decades to the entertainment world and, at 95, she’s still as spry, feisty, and funny as ever. Honestly, she’s beautiful in ways that these younger women can only aspire to achieve one day.
When it comes to Clinton, the term “nasty woman” comes to mind. But after the impact she’s had on the women’s movement in recent months, her legacy will be one of the most beautiful things to emerge from our tumultuous political situation. Though she might’ve lost the 2016 election, Clinton’s attempt to break the glass ceiling has inspired 11,000 women to seek office, while encouraging countless others to fight for their human rights. She embodies the adversity women face every day, yet she still persists. If that sort of resilience and tenacity isn’t beautiful, then this world’s uglier than we thought.
Despite the fact that many people claim they’re inclusive, the transgender community has yet to gain complete acceptance throughout society. Cox, however, has been working diligently to fight for both transgender rights and women’s rights ever since she broke into the business. She represents the beauty America has to offer, if only we’d take the time to listen and understand, and such an honor could be instrumental in sparking critical conversations. Yes, it’d likely create controversy, but that’s precisely why we need to increase transgender visibility. Cox not only deserves the title, but naming her “Most Beautiful” might also help young people struggling with their own transition recognize that they’re not alone.
Our former First Lady has always been the embodiment of class and dignity. She’s beautiful on the outside thanks to her love of physical fitness, and she’s beautiful on the inside because she stands up for what she believes in no matter the obstacles. Beyond all else, Mrs. Obama has always been a champion for young girls. She’s taught this generation that education and intellectual pursuits are far more important than fixating on your outward appearance. She inspires females of all ages to pursue their passions and ignore the haters. In this instance, beauty isn’t just visual—it’s mental, too.
Jerry Lewis once claimed women cannot be funny. But anyone who’s witnessed McCarthy’s scathing impression of Press Secretary Sean Spicer on SNL knows that assertion couldn’t be further from the truth. McCarthy has emerged as one of the leading comedians of our time. While she might’ve initially won our hearts as Sookie St. James on Gilmore Girls, she has since become one of the most in-demand actresses in the industry (all without some stick-thin figure, mind you). From the looks of things, Chrissy Metz and Adele appear to be the only full figure gals on the list, perpetuating the notion that bigger isn’t always considered beautiful. But when “big” applies to the laughs you get from the live studio audience, dress size doesn’t (and shouldn’t) matter.
(This post originally appeared on Storia.)