The 12 Breakout Beauty Stars Who Defined 2016: Solange Knowles, Willow Smith, and More

2016 was the year of be-yourself-beauty. The models, actresses, and performers who consistently turned heads this year weren’t afraid to color outside the lines—at times literally—manipulating eye-catching trends to fit their own neck-up agendas, with results ranging from organic and elegant to futuristic. Solange Knowles, Yara Shahidi, and more offered up lessons in inventive styling, from abbreviated lengths to waist-grazing ’dos, while unexpected pops of pigment on manes and around eyes separated the new brand of muses from the proverbial pack. From campaigns to contracts, international to all-American, these 10 women revolutionized the 2016 beauty scene.

 

Photo: Courtesy of Solange Knowles / @saintrecords

Solange Knowles
Knowles has long impacted the beauty conversation with her fluctuating makeup palettes and ever-changing mane (brushed-out clouds of curls, minuscule braids, Afros adorned with baby’s breath, et al) but the release of her new album, A Seat At The Table, has elevated her look from statement-making to revolutionary—conceptual, glitter-heavy looks and culturally driven hair odes included.

 

Sasha Lane
Sasha Lane
Photo: Courtesy of Sasha Lane / @sashablane

Sasha Lane
Since stepping out on the Cannes red carpet to promote this year’s American Honey, Sasha Lane and her piled-high dreadlocks have offered an antidote to cookie-cutter beauty. The actress rocks a fresh face and look-at-me lip with equal ease, her textured lengths providing ample opportunity for sculptural statements.

 

Willow Smith
Willow Smith
Photo: Courtesy of Willow Smith / @willowsmith

Willow Smith
Smith-the-Youngest cemented her presence as an above-the-neck icon with the release of “Whip My Hair” at just 9 years old, and this year found the newly minted Chanel ambassador shaking out and piling up an assemblage of tiny dreadlocks and lengthy baby braids while test-driving an on-the-nose septum piercing.

 

Lily-Rose Depp
Lily-Rose Depp
Photo: Courtesy of Lily-Rose Depp / @lilyrose_depp

Lily-Rose Depp
2016 was the year of Lily-Rose: Depp’s insouciant, mussed-yet-glossy blonde chop (worn down or carelessly bound with charming accessories) heart-shaped visage, and cool-girl legacy have made her the face of Chanel’s new No.5 L’Eau perfumeand a runway walker in her own right.

 

Kaia Gerber
Kaia Gerber
Photo: Courtesy of Kaia Gerber / @kaiagerber

Kaia Gerber
A social-media sensation, #WangSquad member, and the newest face of Marc Jacobs Beauty, Kaia Gerber spent the year stepping out of mother Cindy Crawford’s far-reaching shadow. And with this much campaign prowess at just 15 years old, we imagine Gerber’s makings-of-a-muse will only shine brighter in the coming months.

 

Halsey
Halsey
Photo: Courtesy of Halsey / @iamhalsey

Halsey
From an abbreviated mane of all-natural curls to a futuristic buzz cut to Manic Panic purple, Halsey’s aggressively metamorphic hair consistently highlights her soft features.

 

Soko
Soko
Photo: Courtesy of Soko / @sokothecat

Soko
Who doesn’t like a girl who keeps them guessing? French musician and actress Soko’s off-kilter approach to beauty stole the show this year with appearances at Cannes, GucciChanel, and more, each centering on her chin-grazing chop and eye-level encircling of burnished shadow, an enduirng signature look primed for re-creation.

 

Yara Shahidi
Yara Shahidi
Photo: Courtesy of Yara Shahid / @yarashahidi

Yara Shahidi
Since signing to New York’s Women Management this spring, Black-ish actress turned model Yara Shahidi has alternated effortlessly between parted Afros, down-to-there plaits, silver-tinged ponytails, and sky-reaching topknots—all in a year’s work.

 

Bella Hadid
Bella Hadid
Photo: Courtesy of Bella Hadid / @bellahadid

Bella Hadid
The reign of the Insta-girls continued in 2016—the camp championed by Bella Hadid, the dark and sultry counterpart to sister Gigi’s beach-bound beauty. Between a beauty contract with Christian Dior, a freckled complexion augmented by aquamarine eyes, and a toned physique worthy of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show runway, Bella is the girl of the moment.

 

Taylor Hill
Taylor Hill
Photo: Courtesy of Taylor Hill / @taylor_hill

Taylor Hill
Taylor Hill’s all-American beauty had international appeal, making the transition from Victoria’s Secret Angel to supermodel and a face of French cosmetic house Lancôme a seamless one. A tousled brunette mane, blue eyes, full pout, and can’t-be-tamed power brow serve as supplements to Hill’s ever-present—and infectious—smile.

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