Gather around, class — it’s that time of year again! As the bell rings on 2018, we’re looking back at the breakout stars who commanded our screens and dominated the airwaves. It was the year we swooned over the faces of the rom-com resurgence, got bewitched by Sabrina, found catharsis in “Lucid Dreams,” and bopped along to “Boo’d Up.” In celebration of those memories and more, take a look at the “freshman class” of 2018, comprised of the scene-stealers and chart-toppers who made this year so fun.
Breakout role: As Peter Kavinsky, the scheming jock with a sensitive soul, in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before; as Jamey, another sweet jock with a crush, in Sierra Burgess Is a Loser
How he ruled 2018: The Florida native became the face of the rom-com resurgence this year with his back-to-back Netflix flicks. Wooing fans with his Mark Ruffalo-ness, he was promptly crowned the Internet’s Boyfriend, and racked up a whopping one million followers in just one day following To All the Boys‘s premiere (he’s now at a casual 16 million).
What’s next: Yet another rom-com, The Stand-In, with Riverdale‘s Camila Mendes; a “key role” in next year’s Charlie’s Angels reboot; more thirst traps for those millions of eager IG followers
Breakout song: The fast-talking dance-pop revenge tale “Curious”
How she ruled 2018: That’s “20GAYTEEN,” actually, according to Hayley. This year saw the release of her queer anthem-packed debut album, Expectations, which paved the way for a Coachella debut, a nationwide tour with Panic! At the Disco, and a guest performance at Taylor Swift’s Reputation Tour. The icing on the cake was her first trip to the VMAs, where she performed “Curious” and earned a Moonperson for Push Artist of the Year. “This validates any queer woman of color that you can follow your dreams,” she said after her big win. Amen, Lesbian Jesus!
What’s next: A European tour in early 2019
Breakout role: As the whip-smart tech genius Shuri, T’Challa’s sister and Wakanda’s princess, in Black Panther
How she ruled 2018: In Hollywood’s first black superhero movie, Letitia was the scene stealer — no easy feat when you’re sharing the screen with a beefed-up, shirtless Michael B. Jordan. The Guyanese-British actress reprised her role in Avengers: Infinity War, and then scored an Emmy nomination for her appearance on Netflix’s Black Mirror. And then there are all those projects she has in the pipeline…
What’s next: The indie sci-fi romance Hold Back the Stars with John Boyega; the John Legend-produced U.S. remake of French comedy Le Brio; a rumored role in Rihanna and Donald Glover’s mysterious Guava Island; Avengers 4 and that inevitable Black Panther sequel
Breakout song: The silky smooth, triple-platinum “Boo’d Up”
How she ruled 2018: More than a year after its appearance on her 2017 EP Ready, “Boo’d Up” became a late-bloomer hit, turning Ella into a household name. The London-born singer set hearts aflutter again with the release of her self-titled debut album in October, which spawned the groovy follow-up single “Trip” and earned her a coveted performance slot on SNL.
What’s next: Her first headlining tour, which kicks off in her native U.K. in January and treks across Europe before arriving stateside in February; some much-earned Grammy buzz
Breakout role: As the titular half-witch, half-mortal in Netflix’s spellbinding The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
How she ruled 2018: In her first major role since her turn as sassy Sally Draper on Mad Men, Kiernan helps reinvent Sabrina for Gen Z via one hell of a wickedly fun occult romp. Since its premiere in October, CAOS has become a binge watcher’s dream — or, maybe more accurately, a delicious nightmare.
What’s next: A Sabrina holiday special coming to Netflix on December 14; nine new episodes hitting the streaming service on April 5; more fashion-forward Instagram inspiration
Breakout role: As the fast-talking, card-flipping pickpocket Constance in Ocean’s 8; as the hilarious, swaggering BFF Goh Peik Lin in Crazy Rich Asians
How she ruled 2018: The Queens rapper — who became an underground sensation a few years ago with her viral YouTube hit “My Vag” — landed roles in two of the summer’s biggest flicks. Most notable was Crazy Rich Asians, a landmark rom-com that became Hollywood’s first major movie in 25 years with an all-Asian cast. Amid its dazzling ensemble, Awkwafina stole every scene.
What’s next: A half-hour scripted series she developed for Comedy Central that’s inspired by her own upbringing in Queens (maybe it’ll fill the Broad City-sized hole in your heart?); three movies bowing in 2019, including the fantasy/sci-fi film Paradise Hills with Emma Roberts; the already-in-the-works Crazy Rich Asians sequel
Breakout song: “Lucid Dreams,” the emo-descended heartbreak anthem of the year
How he ruled 2018: After dropping just one EP on SoundCloud last year, the Chicago rapper scored a reported $3 million deal with Interscope at the top of 2018, and made good on the hype with “Lucid Dreams.” The platinum hit has been hanging out in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 for months, peaking at No. 3 and earning Juice WRLD a performance slot at the VMAs in August. He gave fans more lush loner tunes with his debut album Goodbye & Good Riddance, teamed up with Future for a collaborative project, and then took his heartbreak on the road for the aptly titled The WRLD Domination Tour.
What’s next: The North American leg of his trek wraps up next week, and then he heads overseas for a handful of dates in Australia and New Zealand
Breakout role: The bisexual, alcoholic warrior Valkyrie in Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok
How she ruled 2018: The L.A. native’s scene-stealing Thor role won over the masses at the end of last year, but it was 2018 that cemented her status as a here-to-stay star. She played astrophysicist Josie in the female-led sci-fi flick Annihilation, rainbow-haired activist Detroit in cult fave Sorry to Bother You, and the calculated Charlotte Hale on HBO’s Westworld. Tessa also reprised her role as hearing-impaired singer Bianca in Creed II, and took her talents to the music world by co-starring in Janelle Monáe’s vagina-celebrating “Pynk” video. Got all that?
What’s next: A mysterious role in the untitled Men in Black spin-off; voicing Lady in Disney’s Lady and the Tramp
How she ruled 2018: The Brooklyn-born teen’s sparkling left-of-center pop made her the first signee to Mark Ronson’s Zelig Recordings, and after “1950” propelled her into stardom, she made her official introduction on the five-song EP Make My Bed, packed with polished, unabashedly gay earworms.
What’s next: A collaboration with Ronson on his upcoming album; a headlining North American tour beginning in January 2019
Breakout role: As 1950s housewife-turned-standup-comic Midge in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
How she ruled 2018: Yes, Mrs. Maisel premiered last year, but 2018 was when the series dominated awards season and established itself an instant classic. That’s thanks in large part to Brosnahan, who earned a Golden Globe and an Emmy for her hilarious, razor-sharp portrayal of Midge.
What’s next: Season 2 of Mrs. Maisel, which landed on Amazon Prime this week; the Cold War drama Ironbark, alongside Benedict Cumberbatch
Breakout song: Cardi B’s “I Like It,” which featured both Bad Bunny and J Balvin’s hot Latin flare
How he ruled 2018: The Puerto Rican rapper led the Latin trap explosion this year, scoring his first No. 1 with Cardi B’s song of the summer smash. That widened his reach to the English-speaking masses, as did his marquee features with some of rap and reggaeton’s biggest names: Ozuna, Daddy Yankee, Nicki Minaj, and Drake, who sang in Spanish on Bad Bunny’s single “Mia.” His stellar 2018 also included his first-ever U.S. tour and two wins at the Latin American Music Awards, including Artist of the Year.
What’s next: His hotly anticipated debut album, rumored to be titled La Nueva Religión
Breakout role: As Lara Jean Covey, an introverted romance novel enthusiast and love letter writer, in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
How she ruled 2018: Like her dreamy co-star Noah Centineo, Lana skyrocketed to stardom with her all-too-relatable role in Netflix’s hit rom-com. The Vietnamese-American actress subsequently gained a cult following on Instagram and became one of the faces of the new wave of Asian media representation (looking at you, Crazy Rich Asians!). Like Lara Jean, you can’t help but root for Lana.
What’s next: Starring as a badass assassin in the Syfy series Deadly Class; the cyberpunk action flick Alita: Battle Angel; hopefully the eagerly awaited To All The Boys sequel
Breakout role: As Emma Stone’s regal love interest in The Favourite; as a lovestruck courtier in Mary Queen of Scots
How he ruled 2018: The Brit actor appeared to have his star-making turn with Ang Lee’s ambitious Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk in 2016, but that didn’t quite shake out. This year is a different story, thanks to his pivotal roles in three — count ’em, three! — awards contenders: the aforementioned The Favourite and Mary Queen of Scots, plus the gay-conversion therapy drama Boy Erased. He also earned the Chopard Trophy for emerging talent at the Cannes Film Festival, became the face of Prada, and, yes, is dating one of the world’s biggest pop stars, Taylor Swift.
What’s next: A role in the upcoming Harriet Tubman biopic, alongside Cynthia Erivo and Janelle Monáe
Breakout song: The bewitching, beyond-her-years “Ocean Eyes”
How she ruled 2018: A pop rebel through and through, Billie has been bubbling up for a couple years now, thanks to haunting tunes like “Ocean Eyes” and “Bellyache.” 2018 was her biggest year yet — she racked up more than a billion Spotify streams and booked sold-out shows on her own and with Florence + the Machine. On the new music front, she released a handful of buzz tracks, including “You Should See Me in a Crown” and the Khalid collaboration “Lovely,” which appeared in an episode of 13 Reasons Why.
What’s next: Her long-awaited full-length album
Breakout song: The haunting, heart-on-sleeve “Let Me Down,” featuring Stormzy
How she ruled 2018: With her debut single, 2016’s “Blue Lights,” the former Starbucks barista proved herself an R&B revelation, and the moves haven’t stopped since. After Drake recruited her for two tracks on his mixtape More Life, Kendrick Lamar tapped her for his Black Panther stomper “I Am” earlier this year. The English singer followed it up with her intimate, soulful debut album, Lost & Found, which she took on a sold-out tour that wraps later this month. Throw in a Coachella debut and a few song placements on HBO’s Insecure, and you’ve got one hell of a breakout year.
What’s next: A couple festivals in the books for 2019; hopefully more new music!
Queer Eye‘s Fab Five: Most School Spirit
Ages: 31 (Jonathan Van Ness), 35 (Tan France), 38 (Karamo Brown), 37 (Bobby Berk), 34 (Antoni Porowski)
Breakout roles: As their most charming selves on Queer Eye, Netflix’s reboot of the feel-good makeover show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy
How they ruled 2018: The new and improved Fab Five became ubiquitous this year after tickling the whole goddamn nation with their tips on everything from emotional intimacy to moisturizer to guacamole. The show hit viewers right in the feels and sparked a million memes inspired by Tan’s fixation on French tucks, Antoni’s obsession with avocados, and pretty much every single thing Jonathan said and did and wore.
What’s next: Season 3 will move the party from Atlanta to Kansas City, Missouri — can you believe?!
Breakout song: Sing it with me now: “Havana, ooh na-na”
How she ruled 2018: How didn’t she?! Since releasing her debut album, Camila, in January, the former Fifth Harmony singer has been practically everywhere. Camila debuted atop the charts as “Havana” simultaneously became the No. 1 song in the country. She followed up those victories by opening on tour for Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift, somehow finding time for her own headlining trek, and becoming the most decorated winner at the VMAs, where she won Artist of the Year and Video of the Year. And Camilizers would never, ever, ever be the same…
What’s next: Album No. 2, which she recently teased as “the most special thing I’ve ever worked on”