2023 Changemakers

Changemakers: 25 Women Who Made a Difference in 2023

From to Ava DuVernay to Lily Gladstone to Beyoncé to Greta Gerwig, here are the extraordinary women who pushed culture forward this year

It’s been yet another tumultuous year in media. In May, the Writers Guild of America went on strike, which shut down most TV productions, postponed awards shows and put lots of films on hold. Then, in July, the actors union followed suit, striking (much like their WGA counterparts) for better pay and protections against being replaced by A.I. The dual strikes left Hollywood in limbo until finally, just last month, both unions had reached agreements with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

For our fourth annual Changemakers list (in conjunction with the Power Women Summit, now in its sixth year), we salute 25 women from all corners of culture who stood out in 2023 for their creativity, courage and leadership. In addition to a special digital cover featuring the star of the new big-screen “The Color Purple” musical, you will find the fiery president of SAG-AFTRA, whose steadfast stewardship helped actors reach a historic billion-dollar deal; the visionary filmmaker whose latest movie grapples with American racism through the prism of Nazism and India’s caste system; the dynamic duo behind the year’s biggest box office hit; the dazzling breakout star of Martin Scorsese’s blistering drama about the murder of Osage people in the 1920s; the irrepressible marathon swimmer who achieved the impossible at 64 — and the Oscar-nominated legend who plays her in a new biopic. We also look beyond the entertainment industry to applaud a White House whistleblower and two fearless peace activists who were kidnapped in one case and murdered in the other by Hamas in October.

We raise our glass to all of them.


Annette Bening

Photo by Getty Images

Annette Bening triumphs in Jimmy Chin and Chai Vasarhelyi’s “Nyad” as the 64-year-old Diana Nyad who, in 2013, became the first person to swim 110 miles from Cuba to Florida without the use of a shark cage. Bening trained intensely for the part, working with an Olympic coach and swimming some six hours a day to approximate Nyad’s skills as an elite athlete. Her performance is towering, both physically and emotionally: Her Diana is an uncompromising figure of ambition and persistence, qualities that Nyad took pride in on the road to her victory. “I was thrilled at the idea of trying to bring Diana’s extraordinary accomplishment to life,” Bening told TheWrap. “Getting to know her, I was immediately drawn to her intensity, charm, intelligence and humor.”

The more time the two spent together, the more they were able to unlock each other. Nyad is known for her larger-than-life personality and rough edges (which the film does not underplay), but Bening was especially stirred by Nyad’s curiosity and tenderness. “The look in her eyes moved me,” the four-time Oscar nominee said. “Her love of her crew on the swims, her deep investigations of her own family story, and of course, the details of what it was like to start swimming again at age 60 after having taken 30 years off, when she knew she had to attempt the Everest of swims.”

Female friendships have always been among the most meaningful parts of Bening’s own life, so she was thrilled to explore one such relationship through Nyad and Bonnie Stoll (played by Jodie Foster). “Diana and Bonnie have a deep, soulful friendship that is complicated and loving, funny and spicy, full of history, nuance and mutual affection,” Bening said. “[It’s] the vital heartbeat of the movie. When Jodie agreed to do the movie, I was over the moon. We were just crazy about the two of them, and we developed a mutual respect and trust.”

When asked how it felt to be a Changemaker, Bening said, “Those of us in the spotlight are fortunate to have the chance to shine a light on issues and causes that we care about. So I try to express my gratitude in everything I do.” Among her contributions to the causes she cares about is serving as the board chair for the Entertainment Community Fund, a charity that financially supports performers and behind-the-scenes folks in the arts. “During the strike, we were all very focused on raising money for our work stoppage fund, because of the enormous financial hardship so many of our colleagues were going through,” she said. “I supported the strike 100%. But the number of people behind and in front of the camera who were losing their homes, who couldn’t pay their medical bills or even buy groceries was heartbreaking. The ECF is an ethical and well-run social services organization that we in show business can be proud of.” —Tomris Laffly

Danielle Brooks

“The Color Purple”
Photo by Jeff Vespa

Danielle Brooks knows Sofia from “The Color Purple”: She earned a Tony nomination for her performance as the outspoken young woman in the Broadway musical revival. But when it came to reprising the role for the new big-screen adaptation (based on Alice Walker’s 1982 novel), she knew she faced a different challenge. So she turned to the person we all wish we could: Oprah Winfrey, who played Sofia in the 1985 film directed by Steven Spielberg and is a producer (along with Spielberg and Quincy Jones) on the new movie directed by Blitz Bazawule. Winfrey shared a quote from Maya Angelou: “You come as one, but you stand as 10,000.” 

“These are huge shoes to fill, not only because of Miss O’s legacy, but it is true, I am representing the 10,000,” Brooks said, referring to both the many real-life Sofias out there and all the actresses who have played her over the years. “What she did [in her performance] was life-changing to so many people because of the healing that happened. I know that I have the same responsibility.”

And now, she’s reaping the rewards of her performance. “People are writing me monologues in DMs. I’m getting voice memos that are five minutes long. I’m getting calls from people I’ve never heard from in years,” Brooks said. “I’m trying to learn how to stand in my power, and it’s exciting to start becoming the person you are inside without this doubt. For years, I’ve had doubts about am I good enough? Can I really achieve the things that I feel in my heart are possible? I’m at that point where I believe they are.” —Kristen Lopez

Read more about Danielle Brooks and “The Color Purple” here.

Lily Gladstone

“Killers of the Flower Moon”
Photo by Jeff Vespa

Kelly Reichardt’s haunting 2016 film “Certain Women” wasn’t the first time Lily Gladstone graced the big screen with her quiet command. But it was the first time audiences took notice of her star qualities. The Native American actor from the Blackfeet Nation demanded our attention with a kind of arresting aura we just couldn’t look away from.

Now Gladstone has stepped into the spotlight in a major way with Martin Scorsese’s scorching epic “Killers of the Flower Moon,” which tells the harrowing story of the period in the 1920s when a group of white men in Oklahoma carried out the systematic murders of Osage people to take their oil-rich land and money. As Mollie Kyle, an Osage woman in a toxic marriage with the cunning Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio), Gladstone is the film’s heart — and a strong candidate for a Best Actress Oscar nomination.

Gladstone’s gripping performance has brought a level of attention she hadn’t experienced before — and with that, a newfound clout. “Where I’m finding a lot of power, if that’s even the right word, is I’m in a better position to advocate in rooms with people who can affect change immediately,” she told TheWrap recently. “I don’t necessarily like the cliché of opening doors. It’s setting the table. There’s a chance to bring community to the table in a way that I haven’t really had the influence to do before.”

Her goal is to create more opportunities for native audiences to see themselves represented in every kind of role, reflecting the rich diversity within the 574 different recognized nations. “I think people, when they want to include Native American storylines, often feel like they have to shoehorn it in or carve a space where it would be feasible that there would be a native person there,” she said. “We’re everywhere. So that’s one of my other aspirations: to help expand our lens a bit to help place us in these moments where we always should have been.”

Wherever the acclaim from Scorsese’s film takes Gladstone, she is loyal to her indie roots. She won a Gotham Award for her lead performance in “The Unknown Country,” Morrisa Maltz’s understated, partially improvised road movie that deals with grief (and for which Gladstone received a writing credit). She also stars in Erica Tremblay’s “Fancy Dance,” a contemporary story (currently without distribution) that tackles the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) epidemic, a topic in dialogue with both “Killers” and the mission of the non-profit “National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center” (NIWRC), which Gladstone works closely with. “Fancy Dance,” Gladstone said, is “one of my favorite films that I’ve ever done.” —TL

Aria Mia Loberti

Actress, “All the Light We Cannot See”
Photo by Victoria Stevens

Aria Mia Loberti is a first-time actor, but you wouldn’t know it watching Shawn Levy’s “All The Light We Cannot See,” a four-part Netflix miniseries that Loberti elevates with the finesse of a veteran performer. Maybe it’s because she always wanted to be an actor. “But I squashed the dream when I was about six or seven,” Loberti, who has low vision, recently told TheWrap. “In any marginalized community, the world tells you what they expect of you and confines you to a particular space. I never thought it was a possibility — [any more than] being a rocket scientist or going to the moon.”

So Loberti followed other ambitions, building an impressive academic résumé in studies spanning political science, philosophy and history of communication. She earned a Master’s Degree at the Royal Holloway University of London as a Fulbright scholar. Then came her acceptance to a PhD program in ancient rhetoric at Penn State. But something didn’t feel right. She was unhappy and didn’t know how to pursue a career change towards more creative endeavors.

Then she received a text message from a former teacher informing her of upcoming auditions for Levy’s project. And there she was, competing against — and beating — countless candidates worldwide for the lead role in an adaptation of Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer-winning novel that had always meant the world to her. “Every single place I ever moved, that book was on my bedside,” Loberti said with a chuckle. “Shawn did a fantastic job of distilling this story into something that’s accessible to everyone.”

That story follows Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a French woman who is blind and crosses paths with a German soldier during WWII. The director and star built a trusting relationship during the shoot, with Loberti learning the language of acting, while Levy unlearned various misconceptions around blindness. “The media has enforced stereotypes, and even within beautiful pieces of art, some inappropriate stigmas have been enforced unknowingly,” Loberti said. “We’ve seen blindness portrayed by vacant expressions. When I got to the set, there was this expectation that they were going to be working with someone who was very different from them. And that wasn’t the case. So [Shawn and I] were teaching each other every single day.”

Loberti performed almost all of her own stunts, putting her athletic background as a former ballerina to good use. “I got drowned in a cave. I learned how to shoot a 1917 Colt Revolver. I got blown up by a grenade,” she said. “I had such an amazing crew who made sure everything was safe.”

Loberti believes in the world-changing power of storytelling — and even though she knows the door is always open to return to her PhD, she wants to continue on her new path. “I definitely broke a glass ceiling as a performer who is blind and in a substantial role in a production of this caliber. But,” she said, “I don’t want to cut myself on those shards. I’m very thoughtful of the performers who will come after me.” —TL



Singer, Songwriter, Director
Photo by Getty Images

Taylor Swift

Singer, Songwriter
Photo by Getty Images

Ask anyone, anywhere in the world, to name the biggest music stars, and chances are, the answer is going to be: Beyoncé and Taylor Swift.

For good reason. With their distinct musical styles that span multiple genres, their dizzying charismas and the boundless devotion of their global fanbase, Beyoncé and Swift have redefined pop stardom for the 21st century. And what a year 2023 has been for both women, now officially two of the top-selling musical artists of all time. As of November 2023, the Recording Industry Association of America clocked Beyoncé’s total sales as a solo artist at more than 174 million. In July, Swift notched her twelfth No. 1 album on the Billboard chart, beating Barbara Streisand’s record. And she became not only the first living artist in 60 years to have four concurrent albums in the Billboard Top 10 but also the first woman (and only living soloist) with 11 concurrent albums on the Billboard 200 since the list took its present form in 1963.

No wonder both Beyoncé’s “Renaissance Tour” and Swift’s “Eras Tour” proved to be last summer’s hottest tickets, breaking sales records and contributing a staggering $5.4 billion to the U.S. economy. According to estimates, Beyoncé is expected to make $579 million from her concerts, which hit 39 cities over 56 dates; Swift could bring in as much as $4.1 billion from her ongoing tour.

Of course, there is more to their success than numbers. There’s also that ineffable emotional ingredient that keeps their fans — the world, really — enthralled. Swifties exchanged friendship bracelets with each other at the shows. And the 2.7 million members of the Bey Hive who snagged tickets to the Renaissance tour heeded the Queen’s call and dressed up in glittery silver. As entertainment strategy expert Fri Forjindam noted at TheGrill in October, “It can’t just be about seeing the artists; there needs to be something deeper, and it needs to be a shared experience that allows you to feel authentic and have agency. Beyoncé and Taylor Swift highlighted that it is possible and women can be at the helm of that.”

The thrilling energy of both live experiences is now charging through cineplexes. After bypassing studios, Swift released “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” directly through the AMC theater chain in October, and it smashed records for concert films on its way to a $249 million worldwide gross. (Its success even garnered praise from Christopher Nolan, a fierce advocate of the theatrical experience.) In December, Beyoncé released her tour documentary “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé” through AMC as well. It was greeted with stellar reviews (the word “auteur” came up more than once) and ruled its opening weekend.

In this age of passing trends and internet viciousness, it’s heartening to see how consistently Beyoncé and Swift support each other. Beyoncé attended the L.A. premiere of “The Eras Tour” last month, and Swift did not hold back on what this meant to her: “I’m so glad I’ll never know what my life would’ve been like without Beyonce‘s influence,” she wrote on Instagram. “The way she’s taught me and every artist out here to break rules and defy industry norms. Her generosity of spirit. Her resilience and versatility.” This month, Swift returned the favor when she joined Beyoncé at the London premiere of “Renaissance.”

Even Beyoncé’s mother, Tina Knowles, was impressed by their achievements. “Proud of them both,” she said on Instagram in September. “To be able to stimulate the economy is no small feat! Just being young women and being able to say this, is so awesome!!!” —TL


Kaouther Ben Hania

Writer-Director, “Four Daughters”
Photo by Getty Images

Tunisian filmmaker Kaouther Ben Hania has been signing her name under groundbreaking achievements for a while now. Her 2020 film “The Man Who Sold His Skin” was the first Tunisian film to ever land an Oscar nomination in the Best International Feature category. Her latest movie, “Four Daughters,” a provocative blend of documentary and fiction, is the third Ben Hania film that Tunisia has selected as its Oscars submission. Earlier this year, “Four Daughters” also played in the Main Competition at Cannes, a coveted spot no Tunisian film had held since 1970s.

“I feel proud,” Ben Hania told TheWrap. “[Our] Oscar nomination [in 2020] was historic for Tunisia. We are in the race again, not only in the international feature category, but also documentary.”

A searing film on womanhood, “Four Daughters” excavates and reconstructs the memories of Olfa Hamrouni and her four daughters. Two of them, Eya and Tayssir, are still with Olfa, and the other two, Ghofrane and Rahma, her eldest daughters, were drawn into the web of radical Islam and joined the Islamic State in Libya. They are now in prison there. In the film, the eldest daughters are played by actors, as is Olfa herself at times. (The Egyptian-Tunisian star Hend Sabri plays her.) Often, all six women interact as themselves as they discuss painful moments of the family’s life.

Contextualizing her interest in the intersection of documentary and fiction, Ben Hania said, “When I first saw Abbas Kiarostami’s ‘Close-Up,’ it was an important moment in my cinephilia.” In her own genre-bender, she wanted to turn the formulaic tool of reenactments on its head. “I told myself, ‘I will hijack this cliché.’ I used it to access the past of this family, to question memory. It gave me the possibility to render complexity and address something universal [about] mother-daughter relationships, teenhood, generational trauma and patriarchy.”

Peeling back the layers of patriarchy was especially fascinating to Ben Hania, who discovered a strong woman in Olfa, both unafraid of men and contradictorily, a guardian of patriarchy. “You have women with archaic ideas like this everywhere. They think they can survive by being more royalist than the king.” Ben Hania was also moved by how therapeutic her film was for the family. “The girls kept repeating, ‘Thank you for giving us a voice.’ When I started shooting, they were fighting all the time. And then we see them kissing, saying ‘I love you.’ Telling each other deep truths made them closer.”

Ben Hania is already well on her way to expanding her cinematic terrain. “I have a feature film I’ll shoot next year in Tunisia. It’s about beliefs and images, called ‘You Shall Not Make an Image,’ which is the second commandment,” she said. “I also have a sci-fi project in English, ‘Hapax.’ It’s about a distant future where the globe is like a paradise created by A.I., but there is no free will.

“In every movie,” she continued, “I explore new territory. I experiment. As a filmmaker and artist with my background, I have [a different] sensitivity and something to say about what it means to be human.” —TL

Ava Duvernay

Writer, Director, Producer, “Origin”
Photo by Getty Images

The exquisite “Middle of Nowhere” put Ava DuVernay on the map in 2012. Since then, she has soared  with both fiction and nonfiction on the big and small screens, with “13th,” “Queen Sugar,” “When They See Us,” “A Wrinkle in Time” and the Oscar-winning “Selma.”

Now, with “Origin,” DuVernay delivers a flawless adaptation of Isabel Wilkerson’s seemingly unadaptable nonfiction book, “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.” The film follows Wilkerson (played by Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor) as she navigates personal grief while writing her bestseller about systems of inequality around the world. Laying bare the similarities among some of the world’s biggest historical injustices, the film engages with WWII Germany, the Jim Crow South and India’s caste system. It’s a massive canvas that DuVernay distills into the kind of film that could change the world.

Regarding the disparate timelines and geographies, DuVernay told TheWrap, “I wanted to unify them visually through the use of the 16 millimeter, in my transitions in the script, through our use of the character of Isabel Wilkerson. I wanted them to all feel like the same thing because that’s the premise — there’s a sameness to these oppressions that we need to recognize.”

A Changemaker since she emerged more than a decade ago, DuVernay leads by example, creating space for women and people of color. She even made a pledge to only work with women directors for her OWN drama “Queen Sugar.” (Throughout its seven seasons, the series employed 42 women directors.)

“If I just talk the talk and don’t walk the walk, then I don’t have a place to go,” she said. “Yes, a lot of the work that I’ve done benefited other people. But it’s also created a safe space for me, to be able to create crews that look like the real world. When I entered the industry in 2010, I could not look to a Black woman director who was consistently [creating] without pain. And there were many, many years between each [of her projects]. It was challenging to see a viable career in it. That’s not the case for filmmakers of color who are women anymore. There are more of us to look at. I’m proud to have been a part of the change.” —TL

Greta Gerwig

Writer-Director, “Barbie”
Photo by Jeff Vespa

Margot Robbie

Producer-Star, “Barbie”
Photo by Getty Images

Movies rarely shine brighter than Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie,” a critical darling and the box-office champion of 2023. Surpassing the $1 billion mark, it became both the first movie solely directed by a woman to cross that threshold and the highest-grossing global hit in the 100-year history of Warner Bros.

Shepherded by LuckyChap Entertainment, the production company that “Barbie” star and producer Margot Robbie co-founded in 2014 to tell women-centered stories told by women, the fiercely feminist “Barbie” broke many a glass ceiling. And it was in no small part thanks to Robbie and Gerwig’s unique partnership in front of and behind the camera.

The two multihyphenates first met around 2017 and hit it off. After getting Mattel’s blessing for a “Barbie” movie that would embrace our culture’s love-hate relationship with the doll that represents both female independence and dangerously unrealistic body standards, Robbie turned to Gerwig.

“The first thing that made me interested was Margot,” Gerwig told TheWrap. “I admire her as an actor so much, but with ‘I, Tonya,’ I knew she was a real force as a producer. So when she came to me and said, ‘Would you like to write “Barbie” for me to produce?’ I responded instantly to the idea of writing for someone like her. I thought, I can do anything I want, because you can do anything.

Robbie has said that she felt that she and Gerwig “could ignite something” with “Barbie,” which Gerwig’s thoroughly subversive screenplay (co-written with Noah Baumbach) certainly did. Slyly philosophical underneath the bright-pink set pieces and hilariously overwrought dance numbers, the movie contemplates patriarchy and selfhood and ruminates on how “literally impossible” it is to be a woman via a blistering monologue delivered by America Ferrera. “Barbie” is also the only summer blockbuster to ever employ the sentence “I’m here to see my gynecologist” as a triumphant declaration of freedom. “The anarchic quality of the movie was so pleasurable,” Gerwig said. “It was a feeling that there’s a kind of controlled chaos within the movie that we allowed to be a driving force.”

For both artists, it was a dream partnership. Robbie has cited the “delightful vibe” Gerwig established on the set, where a spirit of sisterhood that is virtually unheard of on a Hollywood project of this scale ruled the day. You can see it in every frame of the movie and in every choice Gerwig made, including Emerald Fennell appearing as Barbie’s pregnant best friend “Midge” (one of the dolls that, the film explains, Mattel deemed “just too weird” to continue selling). Gerwig had been moved by photos of Fennell directing and later accepting a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for 2020’s “Promising Young Woman” while pregnant, and she wanted “Barbie” to acknowledge women in all stages of being.

Though proud of her indie film roots, Gerwig always felt a pull toward big Hollywood movies. With “Barbie,” she was able to create a groundbreaking piece of cinema while also speaking to her younger self. “It feels very connected to my childhood dreams,” she said. “I grew up in Sacramento, where it gets really hot in the summer. So you’d go to a dark, cold theater in the middle of summer and have a movie overwhelm you. I have a sense memory of being at a big movie theater with a lot of people in the summer. So not only do I get to make a movie about a doll that’s so intimately connected with childhood, to see audiences dressed in pink is like getting to enact a version of the excitement I felt going to movies in childhood.” —TL (additional reporting by Steve Pond)

Zakiya Dalila Harris

Author, Executive Producer, “The Other Black Girl”
Photo by Mark Elzey

When author and exec-producer Zakiya Dalila Harris started writing her 2021 bestseller “The Other Black Girl,” she was thinking about cultural changemakers — particularly, who gets to make change — in the publishing world where she once worked and where the novel’s story takes place. “They have so much influence over what people talk about and deem important,” she told TheWrap. “Being a Black woman there, I saw what it’s like to be the only one. I was not as seen as I wish I was.”

Harris was no stranger to that experience of solitude, having grown up in a largely white Connecticut suburb, where she was the only Black girl in the classroom. “Occupying these two worlds as a young person was something that I didn’t really process until I got to college. It’s when I finally found my Black girlfriend group: awkward like me, spoke the way that I spoke.”

So Harris poured the duality of all those experiences into her thriller that navigates all the cringey microaggressions and virtue-signaling that Black women are regularly subjected to. Now a hit Hulu horror dramedy that Harris developed as an executive producer alongside Rashida Jones, “The Other Black Girl” follows Nella, a junior at a publishing firm (played by Sinclair Daniel), and the company’s new hire Hazel, a welcome Black ally with dubious intentions (Ashleigh Murray). “It’s the story I would’ve wanted to see when I was 12,” Harris said.

In both the novel and the series, Black women’s hair plays a central role, serving as the gateway to an insidious assimilation conspiracy not unlike the one Daniel Kaluuya’s character uncovers in Jordan Peele’s “Get Out,” a key influence that gets a shout-out toward the end of the season. Harris has always embraced horror. “I was big on ‘Are You Afraid Of the Dark?’ and ‘Twilight Zone,’” she said. “I’m a very anxious person. I overthink a lot: What if…? The thing that really influenced the end of the book is ‘The Night Of the Living Dead.’”

With Harris’ blessing, that ending got an update in the show for something a little more open-ended and optimistic. “We’ve seen so many tragic endings for Black and brown people on TV and in the news. So I wanted to make Nella more of an active person,” she said. “If we get a season two, we’ll get to see her fight.”

Hulu has yet to greenlight a second go-around, so until then, Harris will keep working on her next novel — a horror story titled “Kinfolk Island,” about a Black couple taking a trip to a historically Black vacation island. “It’s about ancestry, family and a lot of bizarre occurrences, hopefully horrifying for readers,” she said with a chuckle. “But I definitely intend to stay in the multi-genre space. It’s where I have the most fun.” —TL

Maryam Keshavarz

Writer-Director, “The Persian Version”
Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty

Born in New York City into a liberal Iranian family of immigrants, Maryam Keshavarz was quick to ruffle some feathers with her art. In 2011, her debut feature “Circumstance,” a sensual film about the attraction between two young Iranian women, won the Sundance Audience Award —and got her banned from returning to Iran in 2011. It also earned her a succinct reaction from her mother: “You do this to hurt me.”

But “Circumstance” proved to have legs with young people in Iran who saw the film on black-market copies. And more than a decade later, the fraught mother-daughter memory became a scene in Keshavarz’s latest film, “The Persian Version,” an exuberant, semi-autobiographical dramedy about the experiences of a queer American woman of Iranian descent. With “The Persian Version,” Keshavarz had another Sundance winner (it took the Audience Award for U.S. drama), but the review that mattered the most came from her mother. “She grabbed my face [at the afterparty],” Keshavarz told TheWrap. “I thought she was going to slap me. But she said, ‘You did us justice.’”

Movies have always been important to Keshavarz. Recalling her adolescence spent at a local cineplex, she said, “I would pay for the first ticket and sneak into all the movies until 9 p.m. I learned how to be an American by watching films and sitcoms.” She also learned how rarely her immigrant experience got reflected on the screen. After 9/11 and the widespread vilification of Muslims in the media, she quit the PhD in Middle Eastern Studies she was pursuing at the University of Michigan and to go into filmmaking as a way to dismantle xenophobic stereotypes.

Now, on the heels of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” liberation movement that began in Iran last year, Keshavarz reflects on her storytelling instincts under new light. “Every film I’ve ever made has always been about women who break the status quo,” she said. “I come from a long line of strong women. I’ve always been taught to fight. In the film, my mom is truly the essence of a woman who fights against society and creates her own future. That’s how I see the world.”

Keshavarz wants to remake “The English Patient” from a Middle Eastern perspective one day. Most of all, she wants to continue challenging viewers through stories of empathy. “With ‘The Persian Version,’ I wanted to show my culture in a way that people haven’t seen, where people don’t see you as so different. That’s cinema at its best for me.” —TL

Celine Song

Writer-Director, “Past Lives”
Photo by Getty Images

Celine Song, the renowned Korean-Canadian playwright of “Endlings” and “The Seagull on the Sims 4,” enjoyed a unique upbringing as the daughter of two artists. “It was an amazing advantage, having parents who understand you,” Song told TheWrap. “It’s a different kind of support when they know what it’s like to be a freelance artist.”

Through that nurturing environment, Song grew into her confident voice as an artist, which she expressed in her haunting debut feature, “Past Lives.” One of the best reviewed films of the year, “Past Lives” is the semi-autobiographical story of Nora (Greta Lee), a writer living happily in New York City with her husband Arthur (John Magaro). But a visit from her childhood sweetheart Hae Sung (Teo Yoo) from her native South Korea (she emigrated to Canada with her family at 12 years old) makes her wistful of the past.

The film is at once specific — it plumbs questions of identity from an immigrant’s point of view — and universal, tapping into a sense of longing and nostalgia that every human being feels. “Past Lives” hit a sweet spot with moviegoers, who pushed the film’s per-theater average in its second weekend to an impressive $20,000, topping “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” and “Spider-Man: Across the Universe.”

Song based the film on a memory from her own life. “I found myself sitting at an East Village bar between my childhood sweetheart from Korea and my husband,” she said, describing a scene that also appears in the movie. “I wasn’t just translating between these two people, I was translating between two parts of my own history.” Song tells the story delicately, even when grappling with big emotions like grief, when Nora eventually chooses to turn the page on her past. “There are many types of grief. Saying goodbye to part of yourself is grief, but it can also be a celebration. The audiences, depending on where they are in their own present, respond differently to the grief that Nora feels.”

Song chose not to shoot “Past Lives” on digital, as so many first-time filmmakers do these days, for a very specific reason. “The movie is about analog experiences, about seeing your friend for the first time in person,” she said. “That’s why I thought it was important to shoot on film, because this is about the part of you that remembers the analog, the old way, your childhood.” —TL


Julie O’Keefe

Wardrobe Consultant, “Killers of the Flower Moon”
Photo by Brandon Miller

When Julie O’Keefe got a call about being the Osage wardrobe consultant on Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” her first reaction was, “I don’t know anything about the movie business!” No matter. Her distinguished career in Native American art curation and fashion was all the experience required for her to become the backbone of the costuming department led by Jacqueline West, who previously worked with Scorsese on “The Revenant.” And the proof is in the stunning costumes showcased in the movie, from traditional-patterned shawls and blankets to military-inspired bridal coats to lavish furs and jewels.

O’Keefe’s interest in sartorial arts started during a high school career day in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, which led to her studying fashion merchandising at Oklahoma State. Fast forward to 2011, when O’Keefe, a member of the Osage Nation, opened her own store in the region, specializing in Native American regalia. She kept growing her résumé, working with local artists to build items for the First Americans Museum gift shop in Oklahoma, restoring and curating collections for various institutions, working for a high-end home furnishings store in Washington D.C. and developing and supplying gifts for clients that included the White House during the Clinton administration.

When she stepped onto “Killers of the Flower Moon,” O’Keefe understood that Scorsese had set the authenticity bar high. “That’s never been done. Not like this, ever,” she told TheWrap. It was important to the team to honor the different shades of the Osage experience with precision.

Referring to the 1920s period depicted in the film, she said, “Money was not a part of our value system. But there were [Osage] people trying to acclimate to a world that was being forced on them. There’s actually six different ways for a woman to wear a shawl or a blanket. And there’s at least four for men. It tells your status. When I walked into [Jacqueline’s] studio, I could see thousands of research photographs. She had traditional women and men and Osage women that had gone completely modern. I sat down and started explaining everything.”

O’Keefe took movement into consideration when wrapping Lily Gladstone and other cast members in their clothing. One of her biggest contributions was bringing native artisans to the production to make costumes with authentic beading, ribbon and finger-weave details. “The joy is knowing that every time Lily walked out of her trailer, she had the confidence that she needed.”

In addition to opening a new pop-up shop in Tulsa that showcases artisans from all 39 nations of Oklahoma, O’Keefe recently worked on the upcoming Netflix series “American Primeval” as the indigenous cultural department head. “‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ opened up a career door for me,” she said. “People aren’t just guessing anymore. You can have [accurate] pieces made by native artisans that know how to do it. Native stories need to come in authentically. All 567 nations deserve that.” —TL

Thelma Schoonmaker

Editor, “Killers of the Flower Moon”
Photo by Tim Whitby

Fourteen years ago, renowned editor and longtime Martin Scorsese collaborator Thelma Schoonmaker was giving a lecture at a British University when a student asked how a “nice lady” like her could edit Scorsese’s violent gangster pictures. Her response, delivered with a smile: “Ah, but they aren’t violent until I’ve edited them.”

That is the magic that Schoonmaker brings to the cinema of Scorsese. As his editor for nearly six decades, beginning with 1980’s “Raging Bull” and continuing on through his latest, “Killers of the Flower Moon,” Schoonmaker is a vital force, responsible in no small part for the way that Scorsese’s epics settle into their immersive, hypnotizing rhythms. With their joint vision, no runtime feels too long — not even the 206 minutes of “Killers,” which could earn Schoonmaker her ninth Academy Award nomination and make her the most nominated film editor of all time. If she wins her fourth Oscar (following “Raging Bull,” “The Aviator” and “The Departed”), she will become the most-awarded editor in Oscar history.

Telling the harrowing story of the Osage Murders of the 1920s, as recounted in David Grann’s 2017 nonfiction book that “Killers” is based on, Scorsese’s latest film presented Schoonmaker with a new challenge. As she told “The Rough Cut” podcast recently, “[Marty] wanted to use a simpler style than some of his other movies, where [the viewers are] spending some time with the characters and really beginning to feel what they’re like.” The development of on-screen relationships — particularly between Ernest (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Mollie (Lily Gladstone) as they inch towards a marriage — was important, as was establishing that marriage as the film’s emotional core.

Still, their work method remained the same, save for the Zoom sessions they embraced per the production’s Covid protocols. As with most of their projects, Schoonmaker and Scorsese had about 12 cuts of the film before locking a final version. “Marty and I look at the dailies together, that’s what we always do,” she said. “He tells me what he thinks, I tell him what I think. He also gives excellent notes to the script supervisor, which I use. I make the first assembly, and then he and I cut everything together.” The next step? Screening to a small group of trusted people. “And we recut and screen again [and again]. We’re very lucky to have that time to develop the movie properly.”

Though she is one of the greatest editors cinema has ever known, Schoonmaker didn’t always dream of working in the movies. After graduating from Cornell University in 1961, where she studied political science and Russian, she wanted to become a diplomat. Now, she can’t imagine a different life. “Once you get addicted to film, you never want to give it up. It’s the best job in the world. And I’m working with one of the greatest directors who ever lived,” she told the podcast. And it just so happens that Scorsese introduced her to the late filmmaker Michael Powell, whom she married in 1984: “He also gave me the best husband anyone could want. What more could you want? I’ve had it all.”


Pamela Abdy

Co-Chair and CEO, Warner Bros. Motion Picture Group
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Discovery

In the history of Hollywood, only one movie solely directed by a woman has passed the $1 billion global box office threshold: Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie,” released under the leadership of Pamela Abdy, the Co-Chair and CEO of Warner Bros. Motion Picture Group, alongside Michael De Luca. “Mike and I always believe in filmmakers with real authorship,” Abdy told TheWrap. “Greta is a superstar. She was already in the process of making the film when we took over as co-chairs of the studio. And we shepherded it through the rest. It was one of the most uniquely collaborative, exhilarating and inspiring experiences of my career.”

That’s high praise for an executive responsible for “Birdman,” “Babel,” “Dune,” “Licorice Pizza,” “Shutter Island,” “Mean Girls” and “The Big Short” — standout films that came to fruition under Abdy’s executive tenure at MGM, Paramount, New Regency, Makeready and elsewhere.

“As a female producer and executive, I started out in the early ’90s. There were few women in executive and producing positions; it wasn’t the norm. I now have an 11-year-old and she’s seen the movie five times,” Abdy added joyously. “This is her ‘Star Wars.’ And there are so many wonderful female directors working today. No one can ever say that people don’t want to go see stories that are told by women or about women.”

It moved Abdy to tears to see “Barbie” with her family on its opening weekend and feel the energy, especially following the pandemic, when everyone questioned the future of the movie-going experience. “There’s nothing like that feeling in a movie theater. It’s just magical,” she said. “I like streaming too. I think they can coexist. But there is no film business without theatrical.” Stressing the importance of embracing new voices and original works with a range of budgets, she added, “There’s space for big tentpoles and for original stories with moderate budgets told authentically through the eyes of a filmmaker. I truly believe we are in a time of curation, not quantity. Betting on filmmakers is good business.”

Abdy is optimistic about further change. “I think where we need to make strides is, frankly, on the producing and executive side,” she said. “We can help create a pathway for women and people of color to have a seat at the table in this space. I was very fortunate to have some extraordinary mentors in the business, both male and female. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. So I try to find young executives that are coming up in the business and mentor them as much as possible.” —TL

Fran Drescher

President, SAG-AFTRA
Photo by Getty Images

Fran Drescher is on the right side of history. And when the SAG-AFTRA president led Hollywood’s largest union of more than 160,000 members into a game-changing strike in July, she proved she was made of fire, delivering a blistering speech that went viral and was fearlessly critical of a business model that left hardworking actors vulnerable to changes brought by streaming and AI.

Drescher guided the union through 118 long days before the strike finally came to an end in November, when the union’s negotiating committee scored meaningful wins. The star-creator of “The Nanny” is proud of the $1 billion-plus deal they struck with the AMPTP. “That has never happened before,” she told TheWrap with discernable joy. “It was very important to me that the journeymen, the working class not just be protected, but actually get a much better deal than they’ve ever had. That’s going to change their lives exponentially. They’re going to be able to say, with pride, ‘I make a living in this industry!’”

Drescher became one of the most noteworthy trailblazers of 2023 while remaining 100 percent herself: Throughout negotiations, she defiantly carried with her a heart-shaped stuffed plushie, gifted to her by a special child in her life. “[The toy] became an unlikely icon on behalf of bringing love and empathy into the negotiating room,” she said. “All I leaned into was being authentic. Because I’m Buddhist, I try to look at everything as an opportunity for growth and self-refinement.” The opportunity there was telling other women and girls to never apologize for being who they are. “I hope that I inspired them [because] I had a responsibility towards them, towards workers on a global scale, towards speaking honestly with integrity and empathy. And I had a responsibility to reframe what it means to be successful in business. So I looked at it through many different levels of responsibility, always through the lens of Buddhism.”

Is it any wonder that Meryl Streep recently suggested that Drescher should run for President? As a longtime advocate of marginalized communities and a top DC lobbyist who got the Gynecologic Cancer Education Awareness Act passed by unanimous consent in 2007, Drescher recognizes her aptitude to identify broken systems. Still, she isn’t sure that politics is where she can make the most of her skills. “Maybe what I need to do is be on the outside, offer other points of view and then let others dive into the lion’s den with a new perspective.” —TL

Donna Langley

Chairman and Chief Content Officer, NBCUniversal Studio Group
Courtesy of NBCUniversal

NBCUniversal Studio Group Chairman and Chief Content Officer Donna Langley has achieved plenty of firsts throughout her career. She is, for instance, the first British woman ever to run a major Hollywood studio, where she demonstrated her savvy leadership and business strategy, particularly during the pandemic.

But 2023 has been a year like no other. This year, Langley was promoted to her current role  of overseeing all of NBCUniversal’s entertainment divisions across film and TV. And of the four studio execs who negotiated directly with the writers and actors guilds during their months-long strikes, she was the only woman. (Disney’s Bob Iger, Discovery’s David Zaslav and Netflix’s Ted Sarandos were the others.)

Then there is the box office: Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” reached an explosive worldwide gross of nearly $1 billion. Add to that the $1.36 billion haul of “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” and the $700 million for “Fast X,” and the big picture is a smashingly triumphant one for Langley.

Speaking of her overall vision, she said, “My focus with this new structure remains centered on making NBCUniversal home to some best-in-class storytellers across all mediums,” Langley told TheWrap. “We want to optimize the benefits of having creative under one roof, allowing us more dynamic ways to collaborate, expand IP and develop content that is bold and relevant.”

It was largely thanks to Langley that Nolan left his longtime home, Warner Bros., and brought “Oppenheimer” to Universal. “He understands every facet of our business beyond the filmmaking process. You can feel the love he has for film and he does it all through the lens of his audience,” she said. “The breadth of audiences [‘Oppenheimer’] brought to theaters…the demographic was very broad. It was incredible to see.”

Langley has always placed a particular importance on diversity and inclusion in the entertainment business, fronting the inception of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group’s Global Talent Development & Inclusion department in 2017. “GTDI has cultivated more than 200 incredible talents who have taken part in Universal’s experiences,” she said. “Getting one foot through the door is one of the hardest things to do in our business. And building equity in how one does that is imperative.”

How does she maintain her studio’s singularity in today’s volatile landscape? By strengthening what she calls “the volume game,” ensuring that there is something for everyone. “Whether it’s originals, tentpoles, horror or event-ized releases, there is balance around our strategic slate. … That’s helped us maintain our competitive edge.” —TL

Francesca Orsi

Executive Vice-President of HBO Programming and HBO Drama Series and Films
Courtesy of HBO

2023 marks Francesca Orsi’s 20th anniversary with the HBO family, a milestone she’s been building towards ever since she joined the company as an Executive Assistant. Now she serves as the Executive Vice President of HBO Programming and the head of HBO Drama Series and Films, with a hand print on some of this century’s most popular and culture-defining series, including “Game of Thrones,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “The Last of Us,” “The White Lotus” and, of course, “Succession.” This year, the network once again bested its competitors with the most Emmy nominations. Of the 127 total nods that HBO and Max earned, 74 of them went to the brand’s trio of jewels in the crown: “The Last of Us,” “The White Lotus” and “Succession.” Jesse Armstrong’s juggernaut of a drama about a dysfunctional billionaire family went out on a high note, pulling in 2.9 million viewers for its series finale.  

“This year in particular was unique, solely because we brought one of our most iconic shows to a close with ‘Succession,’” Orsi told TheWrap. “We were incredibly proud of what Jesse delivered from episode to episode and how he concluded it in an emotionally astute way. And ‘The Last Of Us’ has been a labor of love. Those two shows in particular have [made] 2023 incredibly gratifying.”

The media and entertainment landscape has changed drastically during Orsi’s two decades at HBO, most notably with the rise of streaming. She singles out one factor that has always remained constant. “Across each one of our shows, we’re looking for the daring spirit within it, the daring DNA. What hasn’t changed is our process, that we’re always asking ourselves why a show really needs to exist,” she said. “Is this show going to entertain us? And really, is it going to speak to us? And if it really speaks to our executives from all walks of life, then it may speak to a wider collective as well.”

To Orsi, the shows at HBO are reflective of the diverse team she works with every day. “It starts at the hiring phase,” she said. “If the people that we bring in have a different point of view based on the world and culture they come from, that always will be reflected in our development.” Of her upcoming projects, Orsi is particularly excited about introducing “True Detective Season 4” in January 2024. “[Exec-proudcer] Issa López is a superstar,” she said “And Jodie Foster is incredibly selective about what she takes on. That she has graced us with her essence is going to be a gift to the world, as is [costar] Kali Reis. The two of them playing detectives is really a sight to behold.”

As for being a Changemaker, Orsi said, “I find that a lot of people in this business like to hear themselves talk. And what I’ve learned is when I listen, I always find the truth of something. It’s also listening to the audience and how they’re interpreting our shows. Not just searching my own heart, but searching the heart of everyone I work with and our audience.” —TL


Simone Biles

Photo by Getty Images

Simone Biles has been redefining gymnastics for more than a decade now. She has become so synonymous with greatness that it’s easy to lose track of just how spectacular she is. After a nearly two-year hiatus, she triumphantly returned to the mat in 2023, breaking records to become the most decorated gymnast ever, with 37 combined World and Olympic medals to her name, and to offer further proof that she just might be the greatest gymnast of all time.

Biles’s impact off the mat has been just as powerful, most notably for speaking out against Larry Nassar, the USA Gymnastics physician who sexually assaulted her and hundreds of other girls and young women, and for advocating for mental health. In 2020, she courageously prioritized her personal well-being over professional success when she stepped down from the Tokyo Olympic Games. In the wake of the trauma that was now public, Biles had gotten a case of the twisties, when a gymnast’s mind and body fall out of sync. She couldn’t risk hurting herself or jeopardizing the success of her teammates. “I didn’t want to risk the team a medal for my screw-ups because they’ve worked way too hard for that,” she said in a press conference.

Biles eventually returned to the competition on its final day and won a bronze medal. But what mattered most to her was the global awareness she brought to the conversation around mental health. “It’s something that people go through a lot that’s kind of pushed under the rug,” she said. “I feel like we’re not just entertainment, we’re humans as well. We have feelings. And at the end of the day, people don’t understand what we’re going through.”

It was in recognition of Biles’ courage that Joe Biden awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom last year, making her the youngest recipient ever. And then, in October of this year, she overcame self-doubt at the World Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, where her journey as an elite athlete began in 2013. She won four gold medals in total. “I had to prove to myself that I could still get out here, twist. I could prove all the haters wrong that I’m not a quitter,” she said. But that’s not what matters most to her anymore. “It’s just really important that I’m taking care of my mind as much as I do my body,” she said during an interview with Olympics.com. “I think what success means to me is a little bit different than before, because before everybody defined success for me, even if I had my own narrative that I wanted. So now it’s just like showing up, being in a good head place, having fun out there, and whatever happens, happens, you know?” —TL

Diana Nyad

Athlete, Writer, Subject of “Nyad”
Photo by Andrea Mead Cross

Ten years ago, marathon swimmer Diana Nyad accomplished a seemingly impossible feat. At age 64, she swam more than 100 miles from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. Her triumph is the centerpiece of the Netflix biopic “Nyad,” directed by Oscar-winning filmmakers Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin (Free Solo) and starring Annette Bening as the indomitable athlete. Re-experiencing the swim through the film made Nyad look back at her accomplishment through a more comprehensive lens.

“Even in that moment of triumph, ‘Oh, I did it’ was not going through my mind,” she told TheWrap. “It wasn’t ego. It was a deep grasping of what it took to get there.” She recalled all the times when she and her best friend and coach Bonnie Stoll (played by Jodie Foster in the movie) could have taken it easier during their training but did not. “Once you start making a small concession, pretty soon the concessions get bigger and more frequent. Resilience is what makes us successful in life.”

In their narrative debut, Vasarhelyi and Chin focus on Nyad’s signature toughness of mind and body, a fact that Nyad (whose 2016 memoir, “Find a Way,” was the basis for the screenplay) recognizes with gratitude. “I have told my Cuba swim story in multiple formats over the years. But the big screen and majesty of the ocean cinematography takes it to a crescendo I never imagined,” she said. “[Chai and Jimmy’s] award-winning documentaries explode with heart. They had a vision for this film and deftly worked to bring that vision to their art form.”

Nyad said that being portrayed by Bening is her highest honor in life, comparable to when President Obama invited her to the Oval Office in 2013 to congratulate her on her record-setting swim. “I found Annette to be grounded, highly intelligent, very empathetic and a whole lot of fun,” she said. “She listened and understood the essence of a person who was driven to chase this historic, dangerous dream. And she captured that essence to perfection.”

As a 74-year-old athlete, Nyad refuses to be boxed in. “I say to people of all ages and genders: You just do what you want in life. And don’t listen to those making up limitations. Bonnie and I heard from people all over the world saying that they needed to find that same resilience to help them face their personal challenges. Nothing could mean more to me than people leaving our movie motivated to live with more gusto.”

And she is forever looking ahead. Nyad is in the process of launching “Safe Harbor,” an online platform for survivors of sexual abuse to share stories and resources. (Nyad is a survivor of sexual abuse, which the film addresses through flashbacks.) She and Stoll have also founded a national walking initiative, EverWalk. “We want people to fall in love with our blue planet, the way we did out on the ocean,” she said. “Come walk with us!” —TL


Cassidy Hutchinson

Former White House Aide; Author, “Enough”
Photo by Stephen Voss

It takes a village to execute unspeakable criminal acts like the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. And sometimes, it takes just one brave woman to stand up against the power structures that enable such lawlessness.

Which is what former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson did when she testified at the January 6 House Select Congressional hearings in 2022. Hutchinson, who was an assistant to then President Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, provided testimony that marked a turning point in the heavily publicized proceedings. Among her bombshell revelations: Trump knew the mob was armed and wanted to let them enter the Capitol anyway.

“I testified truthfully because it is imperative that Americans understand the truth about the threats our nation faced on January 6th, 2021,” Hutchinson told TheWrap. “Since that day, my commitment to safeguarding our constitutional republic and its democratic institutions has only deepened — a responsibility shared by all Americans.”

To Hutchinson, breaking from the Trump team was a simple matter of understanding the magnitude of the danger the country was facing and saying, “Enough is enough.” That’s the idea at the heart of her memoir, “Enough,” which was published in September and became an instant New York Times bestseller. “My book encapsulates my personal journey,” she said, calling it a “narrative of moral struggle, difficult choices, leadership and accountability, and shedding light on the true cost of our freedom.”

Hutchinson is quick to credit others who played their part to protect democracy on January 6, including Ruby Freeman, Shaye Moss, Rusty Bowers and Brad Raffensberger. And she remains committed to serving the public responsibly, to putting the Constitution before partisan interests. Next year’s presidential election, she said, is “about the survival of our nation and the principles we hold dear. In this critical moment, where political violence is accepted and disinformation prevails, we must elect responsible and trustworthy individuals who are dedicated to upholding our institutions. The spirit of America is alive, but the strength of our institutions relies on those we elect to uphold them.” —TL

Dylan Mulvaney

Comedian, Activist; Creator, “365 Days of Girlhood”
Photo by Getty Images

Two years ago, Dylan Mulvaney decided to share her transition journey in a TikTok series called “365 Days of Girlhood.” The videos — delightful bursts of felicity and wit — made her famous (she has 10.6 million followers on the platform) and led to a slew of opportunities, including interviewing President Biden about trans rights at the White House in 2022. “I came out to my mom at age four as a girl, but lived my life for many years as gay. But even gay representation was so limited,” Mulvaney told TheWrap. “When I came into my own, stepping into my identity as a woman, I realized that visibility was still very limited. And I also was so intimidated by the idea of transition and how to get from point A to point B — there really is no roadmap or rulebook. So I kind of took it upon myself to show the world how I learned these things. Overall, I really wanted to find the funny and the joy because so much of transness in media is very dark and harsh. The realities of trans people’s lives are incredibly harsh.”

Mulvaney’s popularity led to a partnership with Bud Light in March of this year — but the increased visibility, particularly via a collaboration with the country’s most popular beer brand, made her a target for anti-trans bigotry and bullying. She received death threats and became a target for extreme right figures including Kid Rock, who posted a video of himself laying waste to cases of Bud Light with a submachine gun. According to Mulvaney, Anheuser-Busch never reached out to her.

It was a terrifying time, but Mulvaney, who got her start in musical theater, refused to retreat. “Honestly, if I could do anything else in this world, I would, but I think I’m supposed to be visible,” she said. “My whole life has been about making people laugh, making people smile. And if I were to go into something less visible, I wouldn’t be able to do that with such magnitude. Going through this hate and getting to show [my followers] that I can rise above it is actually more impactful than not experiencing the hate at all.”

And if anything, most of the world is now embracing Mulvaney even tighter. In August, she won the Streamy Breakout Creator Award for her TikTok series, and in October, the UK LGBTQ+ magazine Attitude named her Woman of the Year. When asked what it means to be a Changemaker, Mulvaney laughed. “Oh, gosh, I feel intimidated by that word!” she said. “It would be easier for me to, maybe 10 years from now, look back and say, ‘I see the change that’s being made.’ But I am just wildly grateful. Even if there’s just one person out there that I have changed the way they thought about transness or how they thought about femininity or womanhood, then this was all worth it.” —Missy Schwartz

Yocheved Lifshitz

Peace Activist
Photo by Getty Images

Vivian Silver

Peace Activist
Photo credit IG @luigicaputo_

Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, was kidnapped from her home in Kibbutz Nir Oz near Gaza on October 7. A longtime peace activist, Lisfhitz and her husband Oded used to volunteer to transport patients from Gaza to receive medical treatment in hospitals across Israel. She was held in tunnels underneath Gaza for several weeks, during which time she met Yahya Sinwar, the chief of Hamas who came to survey the hostages during her captivity.

“Sinwar was with us three, four days after we got there,” she told the Davar news outlet. “I asked him how he wasn’t ashamed of himself, to do such a thing to people who for years supported peace. He didn’t answer. He was quiet.” Lifshitz was released on October 23 alongside Nurit Cooper. She continues to advocate for the release of her husband, who remains in the hands of Hamas.

Vivian Silver, 74, was a lifelong activist for women’s rights and peace between Israelis and Arabs. Born in Canada, Silver moved to Israel in 1974 and was a founding member of Kibbutz Gezer. In 1990 she moved south with her husband and two sons to Kibbutz Be’eri, near the border with Gaza where she worked to organize programs to help Gazans, such as job training, and ensured that Gazan construction workers at the kibbutz were paid fairly. Silver co-founded several organizations devoted to promoting peace, including in 1999 the Arab-Jewish Center for Equality, Empowerment and Cooperation, and in 2014 after the Gaza war, Women Wage Peace, an interfaith grassroots organization.

On October 4, 2023, Silver helped organize a peace rally, which drew 1,500 Israeli and Palestinian women for a march from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. On October 7, 2023 she was murdered on Kibbutz Be’eri by Hamas terrorists.

“She really believed with all her heart that two peoples had a connection to the same piece of land, and the goal was to figure out how to live on it with peace and security,” her close friend Kenneth Bob, a fellow activist, told TheWrap. “Her feminism was truly trailblazing, but in lived life,” he added. “She really lived the ideals.” —Sharon Waxman