Joyful Heart in the News

TV's Most Influential Women 2012

September 24th, 2012
Jill Slattery

Women on television have come a long way since Lucille Ball dominated the small screen with her zany antics and expert comic timing. Today's most influential TV actresses are as unique as they are talented, and they're all influencing the pop culture conversation in different ways.

To create our list of the 10 most influential TV actresses working today, we looked at all aspects of a star's potential influence — from ratings to salaries to Twitter followers to awards. A fun fact about our list: you're apparently more influential if you're funny. Seven of the top 10 women on our list are on comedies, while only three appear on serious dramas.

5. Mariska Hargitay

Mariska Hargitay has become a TV icon playing a decidedly unglamorous character: no-nonsense NYPD detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Entering its 14th season, SVU has been a bright spot on NBC's sometimes dismal ratings landscape, attracting an incredibly loyal fanbase. The show has netted Hargitay eight Emmy nominations (she won in 2006), and has had a deeply personal impact on the star. She founded her own non-profit, the Joyful Heart Foundation, to help combat childhood sexual abuse. For Hargitay, the charity is part of what makes working on Law & Order so meaningful. She writes on the Joyful Heart website:

"When I started playing Detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit a decade ago, my eyes were opened to the silenced epidemics of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse in this country. It wasn't just in the scripts for the show, but in the many emails I received from viewers disclosing their stories of abuse, many for the first time.

I felt a great responsibility to these brave men and women and wanted them to know that they had been heard and that they could have hope."

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