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Is it us or was 2012 quite formidable? With its bailouts, elections, upturns and downturns, fallen superstars and financial strain, the past year was one for the books—though we know that all this change and revolution, as the saying goes, can sometimes be a good thing. 

Standing their ground at the center of it all were some seriously strong-willed women deserving commemoration in this modest space. They are among the truly brave, challenging suppressive governments at the risk of their own lives: we’re looking at you, Aung San Suu Kyi, Pussy Riot, and Malala Yousufzai. These peaceful warriors are an inspiration for this issue of V, dedicated to Girl Power. How better to bolster the good in the world than to invest in the female forces that make it go round? 

In the realm of pop culture, there is no greater champion than Scarlett Johansson. Aside from being an actress with range, she is also an activist, often using her celebrity to affect positive change (which is more than we can say for most). This month she embodies Janet Leigh in Hitchcock, based on the making of the Psycho (with Anthony Hopkins playing the eccentric auteur). Upon hearing this news, the legendary Jean-Paul Goude excitedly conceptualized and photographed our thrilling cover—recreating the film’s infamous shower scene—with his unique blend of glamour and humor. Johansson, a risk-tasker who has long grabbed Hollywood by the horns and wrestled it right to the ground, was happily up to task. This November the Tony Award-winning actress will prove her mettle once again— returning to Broadway to star as Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. 

Our less fluff and more fodder approach to this issue continues with a bevy of interviews featuring women who have excelled in charting their own course. From new talents (Lou Doillon, Ellie Goulding) to vixen vets (Twiggy, Penelope Tree, Tori Amos), they candidly reveal the trials and tribulations of getting to where they are today. 

The gorgeous subjects of Nick Knight’s portfolio have strength in spades. Finding the binary view of sexuality as inaccurate as it is banal, the progressive photographer was excited to capture this group of U.K.-based beauties pushing gender boundaries in the season’s newest menswear offerings. The Ukrainian Internet sensation Valeria Lukyanova—dripping in fine jewelry in a shoot by photographer Sebastian Faena with styling by Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele—projects her sexuality with bikini tops and doll-like expressions, but really just wants to promote her music and astral planning. (Hey, why not?) Meanwhile, the French chanteuse Vanessa Paradis, star of this month’s Café de Flore, is boldly stepping into a spate of exciting new projects in the wake of announcing her split from actor Johnny Depp. And of course, this being a fashion mag and all, we would be remiss if we failed to include the exquisite haute couture collections of the Fall-Winter season. 

We close out the issue, and the year, with promising acts of tomorrow in the newest Resort collections. You’ll recognize the young faces of this talented crew of musicians—Azealia Banks, Grimes, Sky Ferreira, Liza Thorn, and Trixie Whitley among them—from our very own pages and if don’t you’ll wish you had. These are the women who will rock you to your core in 2013.

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