Classic, irreverent, incisive, evocative – here are the most remarkable transformations of 2014
Taylor Swift – 2014 was a banner year for the “1989” creator – Swift officially shook off both country music and her reputation as a lovelorn early-twentysomething, and embraced pop super-stardom, simultaneously cultivating a self-possessed, mature image: terrific interactions with fans, and cheerful peeks into her weekends with girlfriends, gourmet meals, jetsetting adventures, and her new cat, via Instagram. Womanhood is a wonderful look for Swift.
Lady Gaga – For the second year in a row Lady Gaga has bowled the public over. Once a self-styled Monster Mother and multidimensional performance artist, who rode white stallions and wore meat dresses to awards shows, Gaga has toned her image down considerably. Now she is donning slinky black dresses and appearing with legendary Tony Bennett to promote their collaborative album full of old jazz standards, “Cheek to Cheek.” Like her natural predecessor Madonna, Lady Gaga never stays in an incarnation long enough to truly become a brand. Instead, her changeability has become her signature style.
Elizabeth Warren – When she defeated incumbent Scott Brown in 2012, Warren became the first female senator from Massachusetts. However, her real work has been in the past year, successfully igniting the public’s outrage over fiscal irresponsibility of private enterprise and lack of government oversight, in a series of dramatic congressional hearings and taped speeches that went viral in days, to the tune of over 1 million views in 24 hours. Though champions of the left hoped she might make a run in 2016, Warren is more interested in the work she’s doing for the people of Massachusetts.
Amy Poehler – Never one to sit on her laurels, hosting the Golden Globes and winning an Emmy for her portrayal of the relentlessly cheerful Leslie Knope on Parks and Rec in this year’s first two months was not nearly satisfactory to Poehler. Not only was her web series “Smart Girls at the Party” acquired by Legendary Entertainment, where it will continue to generate female-centric entertainment in new formats and across a variety of viewing platforms. “Broad City”, Poehler’s passion project, enjoyed critical and popular success in its first season – and she managed to find the time to publish her first memoir and record it as an audiobook. From funny lady to Captain of the Entertainment Industry, Poehler is blazing trails wherever she goes.
This American Life – Possibly the rebrand of all rebrands, This American Life (TAL) editor Sarah Koenig pitched, produced and starred in TAL’s straight-to-podcast spinoff, Serial. The Dickensian true-crime drama, delivered at weekly intervals and exhaustively analyzed and spoofed by the media, was a runaway hit—the most downloaded podcast of all time. It’s officially detached from the TAL brand now, but has cast a sparkly new sheen over its parent show and made public radio relevant and interesting to listeners in new and exciting ways.
Stephen Colbert – At the end of 2014, Stephen Colbert left his Empire of Truthiness – complete with companion books, live events and Holiday Specials, to name a few – and the identity of combative and perfectly-groomed conservative ideologue, created for the Daily Show over a decade ago. In a few short months, he’ll have to reinvent himself into a charming, witty, diplomatic late night personality able to succeed David Letterman. Keep an eye on this transformation artist.
Matthew McConaghuey – arguably the most dramatic of the year’s reinventions, McConaghuey evolved from a hunky leading man, easily deployed in almost any romantic comedy, to a substantive character actor. The Dallas Buyer’s Club, True Detective and even his small juicy role in The Wolf of Wall Street, punctuated by an audacious and memorable Oscars acceptance speech, made a confection of an actor into a true enigma.
George Clooney – Clooney never goes out of style. In some ways, this makes a radical reinvention even more interesting. This year the playboy left off the short-term dalliances with younger women and married human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin, a match that aligns beautifully with his values of humanitarianism and justice.
Mary Barra – the first female CEO of a Big-8 Automaker, Barra took the helm of GM in January, just in time to weather a large wave of recalls that rocked the industry and necessitated her appearance before Congress. Though she came from humble origins (her father worked the assembly line at one of GM’s plants), she was named one Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in April. Under her guidance, GM has updated its brand to classic and contemporary, a reflection, undoubtedly, of Barra’s unflagging poise and confidence – and an updated management style that might just salvage GM’s brand.