From the world's greatest gymnast to the world's youngest dictator, these were some of our favorite profiles of the year.
BuzzFeed News Features Director
Posted on December 26, 2016, at 4:23 p.m. ET
From the world's greatest gymnast to the one of the most powerful people alive to the woman who thought she'd become one of the most powerful people alive, these were the most fascinating figures of the year. Here's what it was like to spend time with them.
Any elite athlete is under pressure to excel. Simone Biles is under pressure to be inevitable.
Whether she’s comfortable with it or not, the Barefoot Contessa star has one of the most devoted fandoms among cookbook giants. An unprecedented look inside her picture-perfect empire.
Shot and killed just shy of his 18th birthday, Deonte Hoard was one of 489 homicide victims in Chicago last year. How this happened — and how it keeps happening — is both one person’s story and the story of how a community has been forced to adjust to murder as an everyday fact of life.
After almost a decade chasing fame, plastic surgeon Dr. Michael Salzhauer has struck gold Snapchatting boob jobs and butt lifts as Dr. Miami. But can this Orthodox Jewish father of five take his gimmick mainstream and still preserve his identity?
You may not know him by name just yet, but he’s one of the most powerful people alive. Google’s new CEO Sundar Pichai wants to bring the internet to the rest of the world, all while winning back your trust.
The 73-year-old has said for decades that Bill Clinton raped her. Today, she’s a thorn in the side of progressives, including Hillary Clinton, who say rape victims have the right to be believed — and a gift for Donald Trump.
In 2016, the mainstream looks and sounds like this boundary-pushing Canadian sister act. Now that the former outsiders have survived misogynist critics, a fickle industry, and each other, the stars are aligned for them to become two of the biggest names in pop.
At a time when Hollywood is finally developing the kinds of projects for actors of color that had traditionally been out of reach, Tessa Thompson’s ascent to the A-list isn’t just welcome — it’s necessary. How can she embody this pivotal cultural moment without being defined by it?
Fifty years ago, Rona Barrett forged a Hollywood gossip empire. Then she left it all behind, her innovations attributed to others, her legacy almost entirely overlooked. But as she nears 80, there’s very little Miss Rona regrets.
In 1971, Omaha Black Panther leaders Edward Poindexter and Mondo we Langa were sentenced to life in prison for a bombing that killed a local police officer. In the 45 years since, they’ve been fighting for a quieter type of liberation — their own.
A medical marijuana and criminal defense lawyer from Southern California has made himself into the country’s leading defender of hackers. Can he save his clients from the worst law in technology — and themselves?
Chabon’s new novel, Moonglow, is being received this week with the kind of hype you’d expect for one of America’s most successful living writers. He’s a big deal. So why doesn’t he act like one?
The 60-year-old son of a Holocaust survivor turned billionaire banking mogul is convinced that his remix of John Lennon’s “Imagine” can save the world. Ivan Wilzig, aka Sir Ivan, aka Peaceman, aka Mr. Mitzvah, has dedicated his life and a sizable chunk of his family’s vast fortune to convincing literally anyone else.
A 160-year-old tintype depicting Andrew Chandler and his slave Silas, both in Confederate uniform, has long been used as evidence that slaves willingly fought against the army that aimed to free them. Following the national backlash against Confederate iconography, Silas’s descendants seek to debunk this once and for all.
For decades, Delilah has brought her mix of power ballads and no-bullshit personal advice to national airwaves. How did a four-time-married self-proclaimed Queen of Sappy Love Songs conquer radio and become America’s go-to heartbreak guru?
In the early days of her husband’s administration, Hillary Clinton tried to start a national conversation about basic human decency, only to be mocked. In the midst of the most mean-spirited presidential campaign in memory, she talks with BuzzFeed News about the unchanged way she sees herself — and if she’ll ever be able to communicate it.
You may not know his name, but you’ve heard Bernard “Pretty” Purdie play drums. Over five decades, the prolific session musician has backed some of the 20th century’s biggest hits. Now, at 74, he’s ready to take center stage.
In two short years, he went from the adorable chubby goofball on Parks and Recreation to one of the biggest movie stars in the world, his likability transcending our bitter cultural divide. But with the sci-fi romance Passengers, Chris Pratt is testing just how beloved he really is.
On August 7, 1930, three black teenagers were lynched in Marion, Indiana. James Cameron was one of them. He lived.
Valentine Strasser was once the world’s youngest dictator, ruling Sierra Leone for four turbulent years. But his fall from power left him broken, exiled, and eventually back home as a mysterious and feared recluse. BuzzFeed News makes an uninvited house call.
As the final weeks of the presidential campaign devolve into accusations of conspiracy and fraud, the most talked-about Trump supporter might be a poll-hating Twitter pundit who has no official role with the campaign. Bill Mitchell is here to win the ground game in our hearts.
After going public with allegations against her instructor, ballerina Lissa Curtis was unwittingly —and uncomfortably — thrust into the role of a spokesperson for sexual assault survivors. What her struggles offstage reveal about coming forward in 2016.
Steve Kandell is the features director for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Steve Kandell at email@example.com.
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