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No contest: Miley was our 2013 pop-culture queen

Tuesday - 12/24/2013, 8:30pm  ET

FILE - This April 24, 2013 file photo shows actress Gwyneth Paltrow wearing a sheer dress at the world premiere of "Iron Man 3" in Los Angeles. The 40-year-old actress stars as Pepper Potts, Tony Stark's love interest and assistant-turned-business partner in the "Iron Man" trilogy. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision/AP)

AP National Writer

Call her this year's pop-culture prom queen.

A year ago, Miley Cyrus was no stranger to us, of course. But who could have guessed how her star would rise -- or rather, explode -- in 2013, making this former preteen idol one of the most watched people on the planet? And so it seems only right to make Miley our tour guide (Kim and Kanye, you came close!) as we take our annual, highly selective, chronological tour through the year's pop culture moments:


A new year brings an inauguration in Washington, D.C., but even the president admits the weekend's most important development is a bouncy new hairdo -- bangs! -- for MICHELLE OBAMA. Mini-scandal: BEYONCE sings the national anthem, only to admit later she lip-synced. At the Golden Globes, JODIE FOSTER makes an awkward, rambling but deeply compelling speech, hailed by many in the gay community as her long-awaited coming-out. LANCE ARMSTRONG confesses -- to OPRAH WINFREY. Meanwhile, KIM KARDASHIAN basks in the glow of her just-announced pregnancy (proud dad is KANYE WEST) and says she looks forward to privacy -- good luck! MILEY CYRUS, beginning her big year, is happily ensconced in her engagement to LIAM HEMSWORTH ...


Or is she? It's Oscar time, and MILEY, in a sexy backless white dress, makes news for who she ISN'T with at a post-Oscar party -- her fiance. The Oscars bring triumph to BEN AFFLECK and "Argo," his somewhat-true movie about a truly fake one. And they bring us a new sweetheart: JENNIFER LAWRENCE, who trips onto the Oscar podium and into our hearts. Elsewhere, BEYONCE admits her inauguration lip-syncing, then rocks the SUPER BOWL with a spectacular halftime show, sung live, of course ...


Things are heating up for MILEY -- she's the March Cosmo cover girl. Of her major image change from those HANNAH MONTANA days, she notes: "Some of the worst things that have happened in my career ... have actually been what's best for me." That would be music to JUSTIN BIEBER's ears. In a bad start to a bad year, the 19-year-old pop star is booed by fans when he shows up late to a concert, struggles with his breathing and faints backstage at a show, is caught on camera clashing with a paparazzo, has his pet monkey confiscated by German authorities when he fails to produce proper papers ... and it's only March!


Remember KIM KARDASHIAN's five-minute marriage to NBA star KRIS HUMPHRIES? No? Well, the couple's divorce comes through. GWYNETH PALTROW makes waves at the "Iron Man 3" premiere in a dress with see-through panels on both sides, leaving little of her lower body to the imagination and embodying a trend of bare skin on red carpets. It's clearly working: This month, she's named People magazine's Most Beautiful Woman. MILEY's ever-changing style morphs again: She seems to be ditching her engagement ring and is wearing longer hair with side bangs ...


But not for long! It's all bleached, spiky hair for Miley at the punk-themed Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she hobnobs with the fashion elite, cementing her status as someone we're watching this year. At the Cannes Film Festival, a real-life jewel robbery makes headlines, partly because it coincides with Sofia Coppola's new movie, "Bling Ring," about young bling thieves. BIEBER's monkey officially becomes German property.


Time for a KIMYE update, and it's a biggie: a daughter is born! The couple name her North West, inviting inevitable comparisons to other oddly named celebrity progeny (Apple Martin, anyone?) MILEY watch: "We Can't Stop" is No. 4 on Spotify's most-viral list. Oh yes, and Miley's dad, BILLY RAY CYRUS, is getting divorced from his wife of 19 years, Tish Finley Cyrus. But wait ...


Never mind -- the divorce is off. More important, we have a royal birth! As she emerges from the hospital holding Prince George, it's noted that KATE MIDDLETON, aka the Duchess of Cambridge, isn't concealing her "mommy tummy," a development cheered by fellow moms across the world. On the KIMYE front, President Obama doesn't help get himself on the Christmas card list when he notes that in his day, "Kids weren't monitoring every day what Kim Kardashian was wearing or where Kanye West was going on vacation, and thinking that was the mark of success." Ouch! MILEY gets a documentary on MTV, "We Can't Stop" is No. 2 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart, and she says in an interview: "People just evolve, and that's all that's happened to me."

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