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People of the
Year: Tina Fey, Matthew Mitcham, Steve Hildebrand

People of the
Year: Tina Fey, Matthew Mitcham, Steve Hildebrand


This week, is going to highlight our remaining "People of the Year", who range from activists to entertainers, politicians to students. Today, we take a look at comedian Tina Fey, Olympic diver Matthew Mitcham, and Obama strategist Steve Hildebrand.

This week, is going to highlight our remaining "People of the Year", who range from activists to entertainers, politicians to students. Today, we take a look at comedian Tina Fey, Olympic diver Matthew Mitcham, and Obama strategist Steve Hildebrand.

Tina Fey made us laugh as co-anchor of Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live, but made for plenty of watercooler fodder with her eerily spot-on skewering of Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Steve Hildebrand was one of the masterminds behind President-elect Barack Obama's campaign, garnering millions of email contacts, $650 million in donations, and eventually 356 electoral votes to clench the presidency.

With a perfect dive and an adorably giddy celebration, 20-year-old Australian Matthew Mitcham clenched Olympic gold in Beijing, breaking a streak in Chinese dominance in the sport.

Tina Fey

If you asked Tina Fey if her depiction of Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live helped sway the November's presidential race, she'd give you an unequivocal "No." In fact, if you tried to credit her with just about anything she'd be quick to disagree. Even after a year that included an Emmy for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series for her work on 30 Rock, the release of her female buddy comedy Baby Mama, and a spot-on impersonation of McCain's running mate on SNL, Fey still seems hesitant to call herself an actress.

"Lorne [Michaels, SNL's creator] called and said, 'Think about if you want to do this'," says the 38-year-old of his request that she become Palin. Fey initially declined the role with the rationale that she doesn't do impressions. But people around her kept urging -- "I felt like there was this angry mob at the door insisting I suit up" --and she acquiesced. By the time she had done three of the sketches, she started having fun.

"I don't think I would have had the confidence to attempt this five or six years ago," she says. "I think some of it is 30 Rock and some of it is just getting older -- you kind of don't care anymore." Self-deprecation aside, Fey is one of the funniest actresses in film and television and her portrayal of Palin was profound political commentary. When male comedians like Bill Maher and news pundits such as Jack Cafferty were calling Palin a "moron" and chastising McCain for choosing an inept candidate, they were called sexist. But when Fey -- hair twisted into an up-do, glasses on -- said, "I can see Russia from my house," she was able to mock Palin's simplicity and escaped unscathed.

As a woman, and safely in the realm of comedy, Fey could have Palin say, "I tolerate gays. I tolerate them with all my heart." It was a line written by Seth Meyers, SNL's head writer, but it was Fey's delivery of Palin's homespun patronization of gay people that had the whole world laughing at her obvious intolerance.

Watching the vice presidential debate in October, Fey says she was struck by Democrat Joe Biden's initial comments about gay rights. "I thought, 'Wow, I've never heard anyone say this with such commitment in a format like this.' And then he immediately qualified it." It's a frustration gay people can identify with. But it took Fey's cutesy, wink-laden delivery of, "Look, I think marriage is a union of two unwilling teenagers," to bring humor into the disappointment while simultaneously calling into question the Alaskan Republican's authority on the subject. (Palin's pregnant 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is engaged to her high-school boyfriend.)

"The whole thing makes my head hurt," says Fey of gay marriage. "Why are we deciding this? It has always confused me that people evoke marriage being a sacred institution. It's a license you get from the state. It's inherently a civil union."

Given her humility, it's no surprise that Fey didn't think her Palin performances would resonate with gay people specifically. "I don't think I really asked any gay people about it," she says. "But the guys in wardrobe at SNL, they loved it."

Matthew Mitcham

We at The Advocate had the highest of hopes for Australian Olympic diver Matthew Mitcham when we chose to feature him on the magazine's cover in August. But our expectations seemed for naught when the attractive 20-year-old hit the pool's metaphorical bottom with his 16th place finish in the three-meter springboard competition. A week later, when he took to the 10-meter platform, we were barely paying attention. China had pocketed all the diving gold medals up to that point and its divers were expected to sweep this event. NBC was so convinced of China's prowess that, even after Mitcham completed several stellar dives, the network's coverage skipped his fifth-round plunge altogether.

But the Australian wasn't deterred -- and he ended up surprising the world, killing the competition, and winning the competition. It's still impossible, five months later, to not get chills watching his last dive (a back 2 1/2 sommersault with 2 1/2 twists), to not tear up watching him realize he's won the gold, and to not spam your friends after watching footage of the medalist introducing his boyfriend during a press conference after his win (see the video above). We're far from sports experts here at the magazine, but these days, we're proud to say, "We knew Matthew Mitcham when..."

Steve Hildebrand

Steve Hildebrand, out deputy campaign manager for Barack Obama, made an impassioned appeal to LGBT delegates at the Democratic National Convention in August. "What we need is for all of you to be our voices in our communities and to work tirelessly to give every single day, as much time as you can give," he told the crowd of some 300. "Don't play games, don't let anyone play games. We know what it's been like in the last eight years, and we knew what it was like in eight great years of the Clinton administration, where we advanced the agenda for our community in a big way. That's when I came out, that's when I felt comfortable, that's when I felt proud."

Hildebrand, who signed on to the Obama campaign in October 2006, helped devise the strategy of using the candidate's star power to generate an unprecedented e-mail list of millions of supporters that became a fund-raising juggernaut. The millions who went to see an Obama speech got a free ticket simply by providing the campaign with their name, e-mail address, and phone number. Viola! Nearly $650 million dollars later, we have a new president.

Hildebrand is now looking forward to the inauguration. "That moment when Barack Obama will raise his right hand and swear on the Bible on the Capitol steps will lift people up all over the country and all over the world--people who need to be lifted up, people who need help, people who need to know if they work hard, they can do anything," he says. "It may have a greater effect on more people in this country and this world than any piece of legislation ever is going to."

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