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PHOTO BY: Weiss Eubanks/NBCUniversal/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
Shaquille O’Neal, March 6
The four-time NBA champ stands out in any crowd — he is 7-foot-1, after all. But among former athletes with crossover appeal, he’s head and shoulders above the competition: A funny, charming presence, he’s equally at home offering post-game commentary on Inside the NBA, guest-starring as himself on Curb Your Enthusiasm or performing at music festivals (like the recent Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas) as his alter ego, DJ Diesel.
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PHOTO BY: Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Baby2Baby
Jennifer Garner, April 17
After bursting onto the scene as CIA officer Sydney Bristow in the spy thriller Alias, Jennifer Garner has kept audiences on their toes, with a career that swings effortlessly between romantic comedies (13 Going on 30), weighty dramas (Dallas Buyers Club), action flicks (Peppermint) and even surprisingly charming Capital One credit card commercials. Last spring, she starred in the family comedy Yes Day as a mom who decides to say yes to all of her kids’ wildest requests for 24 hours.
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PHOTO BY: Christopher Polk/E! Entertainment/NBCUniversal/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
Dwayne Johnson (The Rock), May 2
Thanks to films like Moana and the Fast & Furious franchise, the former pro wrestler known as The Rock has carved out an acting career that’s almost as massive as his muscular frame: With a worldwide box office of $10.5 billion, Johnson is one of the highest-grossing actors of all time, and he topped the list of highest-paid actors in 2019 and 2020. Want to see how he got to where he is? The NBC sitcom Young Rock traces his life from his childhood in 1980s Hawaii to his days as a University of Miami football player to an imagined future where he’s running for president in 2032. If anyone can do it.…
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PHOTO BY: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images
Busta Rhymes, May 20
Known for his raspy growl and rapid-fire lyrics, the New York City rapper behind such hits as “Gimme Some More” has one of the most instantly recognizable voices in hip-hop — which made him a terrible choice to be a contestant on The Masked Singer: When he performed as the Dragon on Season 4 in 2020, two of the judges immediately guessed it was him. In October 2020, the 12-time Grammy nominee released Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God, an album featuring guest appearances by the likes of Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar.
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PHOTO BY: Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images
Laverne Cox, May 29
A trailblazer for the transgender community, the Orange is the New Black scene stealer has racked up an impressive slew of Hollywood firsts: She’s the first transgender person to appear on the cover of Time, to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy in an acting category, or to be transformed into a wax figure by Madame Tussauds. In 2020, she costarred in Promising Young Woman and executive produced the Netflix documentary Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen, which won the GLAAD Media Award for outstanding documentary.
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PHOTO BY: Amy Sussman/Getty Images
Sofia Vergara, July 10
For her role as the feisty and passionate Gloria Delgado-Pritchett on ABC’s Modern Family, the Colombian actress earned four Emmy nominations and broke records as the highest-paid TV actress from 2013 through 2020. Since last year, she has put her megawatt charisma to great use as a judge on America’s Got Talent, and she’s hard at work producing and starring in the animated film Koati, alongside her husband Joe Manganiello and a cast and crew of Latin voiceover artists, musicians and writers.
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PHOTO BY: P. Lehman/Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Ben Affleck, August 15
Few A-listers have been able to move as seamlessly from in front of the camera to behind it and back again, and Affleck has already racked up two Oscars, for best screenplay (Good Will Hunting) and best picture (Argo). And even though his rekindled romance with Jennifer Lopez has a tendency to grab all the attention, Affleck has quietly been doing some of his best acting work in ages. Last year, he gained critical acclaim for his performance as a high school basketball coach battling alcoholism in The Way Back, while 2021 has seen him playing a medieval count in The Last Duel and a surrogate father figure in The Tender Bar. Next year, he’s costarring alongside ex-girlfriend Ana de Armas in the erotic thriller Deep Water and, in a weirder turn, alongside fellow Batman Michael Keaton in DC’s alternate-universe-filled Flash film.
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PHOTO BY: Sthanlee B. Mirador/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Images
Eminem, October 17
The controversy-courting Detroit rapper has made a career out of surprising audiences, such as when he duetted with Sir Elton John at an awards show after he was accused of writing homophobic lyrics. But this year, the 15-time Grammy winner made his most shocking career move so far: In September, he opened up a drive-through pasta restaurant in the Motor City called Mom’s Spaghetti, which takes its name from a line in his Oscar-winning song “Lose Yourself” from the film 8 Mile. If you know the lyrics, you’ll see why this reference isn’t exactly, um, appetizing.
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PHOTO BY: Andrew Chin/Getty Images
Brad Paisley, October 28
With a trademark white cowboy hat that puts him in a direct line with country-western singers of old, the West Virginia–born hitmaker has sold more than 11 million records since his debut in 1999, and he was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry a mere two years later at the age of 28. This November, he launched a bourbon called American Highway, which comes with a unique backstory: It was aged in barrels stored in a semi-trailer that followed his 2019 tour around the country for 7,314 miles through 25 states.
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PHOTO BY: Tibrina Hobson
Cameron Diaz, August 30
Known for her mile-wide smile and screwball-heroine appeal, the star of There’s Something About Mary and Charlie’s Angels announced that she was retiring from acting after playing Miss Hannigan in the 2014 remake of Annie. But she’s been keeping very busy ever since, with a host of passion projects that has included releasing two best-selling books on health and wellness (including 2016’s The Longevity Book) and launching her own vegan, organic wine brand, Avaline, in 2020.
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PHOTO BY: Gregg DeGuire/WireImage
Idris Elba, September 6
For years, fans have been pushing hard to get the English actor and DJ cast as James Bond — and it’s not hard to see why he’d be a perfect fit: He oozes swaggering charisma, whether he’s playing a good guy (Nelson Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom), a bad guy (Stringer Bell in The Wire), or something in between (DCI John Luther in Luther). And, let’s face it, he’d cut a dashing figure in a well-tailored suit. This year, he instead got to focus on playing baddies, including Bloodsport in The Suicide Squad and outlaw Rufus Buck in The Harder They Fall.
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PHOTO BY: Randy Holmes/ABC via Getty Images
Gwyneth Paltrow, September 27
The Shakespeare in Love Oscar winner has largely stepped back from the Hollywood machine that made her (she’s the daughter of director Bruce Paltrow and actress Blythe Danner), save for her recurring appearances as Pepper Potts in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and as California gubernatorial candidate Georgina Hobart in Netflix’s The Politician, which was coproduced by her husband, Brad Falchuk. Since 2008, Paltrow has been the founder and CEO of wellness and lifestyle brand Goop, which launched as a simple newsletter and has since spawned brick-and-mortar shops, activewear, beauty products and a Netflix docuseries, The Goop Lab.
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PHOTO BY: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images
Alyssa Milano, December 19
Best known for her breakout role as Samantha Micelli on Who’s the Boss?, the Brooklyn-born actress and activist has gone on to appear regularly on TV for decades, as a lead on Charmed, Insatiable and Mistresses and as the host of Project Runway All Stars. In recent years, she became a vocal supporter of the #MeToo movement, which she helped bring attention to when she shared a story of her own sexual abuse 25 years earlier. Since 2019, she’s hosted the podcast Sorry Not Sorry, and she released an intimate and revealing book of the same name this October.
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PHOTO BY: Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb
Jude Law, December 29
The British stage and screen actor put his matinee-idol looks to good use in films such as Closer and The Talented Mr. Ripley, and in recent years he’s struck an exciting balance between the art house and the megaplex. He’s played everyone from young Albus Dumbledore in the Fantastic Beasts franchise and alien commander Yon-Rogg in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to an ambitious 1980s entrepreneur with secrets in last year’s critically beloved (but under the radar) The Nest. Next year, he’s taking on perhaps his most iconic role yet as Captain Hook in Disney+’s new Peter Pan adaptation.
Nicholas DeRenzo is a contributing writer who covers entertainment and travel. Previously he was executive editor of United Airlines’ Hemispheres magazine and his work has appeared in the New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, Sunset and New York magazine.
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