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THE SYMBOLS AND SURPRISES OF 2010

Sandra Bullock

Woman of the Year

Like any proud mom, Sandra Bullock isn't about to let one moment of her son's first Christmas go undocumented. So there she was at a Dec. 11 holiday party in Santa Barbara, Calif., snapping photos as 11-month-old Louis sat in Santa's lap. Says a source: "It was so cute to watch how happy Sandra looked."

For Bullock, 46, the holiday season is yet another milestone in a life-changing year: the year she became a mother, grappled with the end of her marriage and claimed her spot as Hollywood's top female star. She began 2010 with the best reviews of her career-and her first Oscar nomination-for her hit movie The Blind Side. All the while, hidden away at the home she shared with her husband of five years, motorcycle entrepreneur Jesse James, 41, was a happy secret: newly adopted Louis. But within days of her emotional Oscar win, Bullock herself was blindsided by James' infidelity. The marriage was over, and the actress focused on raising her "little man" as a single mom. "My life is about feeding time, diaper-changing time and burping time," she told PEOPLE in May. "What more is there?"

Now mulling her next moves, Bullock-who, contrary to tabloid reports, has no plans to adopt again soon-has her pick of Hollywood's most sought-after scripts. Above all, of course, she is cherishing her time with Louis. And so a year that began with a bang is going out with a soft, contented whisper. "Bad things happen, but she celebrates the good ones," says a Bullock source. "And Louis is a wonderful celebration of good things."

FIRST COUPLE

The Obamas

The President had success with the March passage of his health-care-reform bill, but November voters gave him, he admitted, "a shellacking" on poor job growth. Meanwhile, the First Lady moved forward with her healthy-kids campaign promoting salad bars in school. Daughter Sasha, 9, went to Spain with Mom, while Malia, 12, spent her first summer away at camp. "She's still my baby," admitted the leader of the free world. "And I may shed a tear."

STAR REVELATIONS

Who's related to the real-life Dracula? What really caused Elvis' death? And who has a really good excuse for acting like a caveman? Check out five juicy celebrity discoveries from 2010.

ELVIS PRESLEY

His doctor divulged that the singer's death in 1977 was actually caused by severe constipation-not heart failure.

ROBERT PATTINSON

Ancestry.com reveals that the Twilight star's family tree can be traced back to Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for Dracula.

OPRAH WINFREY

An unauthorized Kitty Kelley bio reports the talk show host briefly dated ex-ET host John Tesh while living in Nashville in the 1970s.

EMMA WATSON

The Harry Potter star told British Vogue she had no idea she was worth about $32 million until her dad told her.

OZZY OSBOURNE

After studying the rocker's DNA, scientists discovered the man who once bit off the head of a bat has Neanderthal genes.

GLAM PARENTS

Brad & Angelina

Another year, another round of passport stamps for the globe-trotting supercouple. Home? It's wherever their brood of six is. "Angelina is about family," says her Tourist costar Johnny Depp. "That's her base, how she stays grounded."

REAL HOUSEWIVES IN REAL $ TROUBLE

ALEXIS BELLINO

Real Housewives of Orange County

After her husband's business suffered a financial setback, the stay-at-home mom's multi-million dollar mansion went into foreclosure.

TERESA GIUDICE

Real Housewives of New Jersey

She and her husband, Joe, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy last year, with nearly $11 million of debt. "My husband's real estate ventures failed despite his hard work," she said.

SONJA MORGAN

Real Housewives of New York City

She cited a failed movie venture for her Chapter 11 filing. Morgan's income is about $26,000 per month, which she expects "to improve."

REBOUNDER

Elizabeth Smart

A testament to her strength and resilience, Smart emerged from her kidnapper's trial with a career goal: to become a prosecutor. "The federal prosecutors took the time to help her," says her dad, Ed Smart. "Elizabeth was so impressed with them-and the need for those who don't have a voice to have one." Now 23, Smart told other victims, "We can speak out, and we will be heard."

FIGHTER

Michael Douglas

After undergoing grueling treatment for throat cancer, the 66-year-old star of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps finished the year on an upswing, celebrating with his family at Orlando's theme parks. "I feel stronger every day," he told PEOPLE.

ROYAL COUPLE

William & Kate

Finally! After eight years of courtship, Prince William placed his mother's diamond-and-sapphire ring on Kate Middleton's finger-and started the countdown to the wedding of the century.

ODE TO THE BETROTHED

We can all exhale; they've set the date.

An April wedding for Will and Kate.

We'll all be wowed by pomp and glitz-Olde England putting on the Ritz.

We wish them lots of sunny weather, On the day they pledge their love together; If English rain is pelting down, How will we see Kate's wedding gown?

They seem like such a normal pair; The tall brunette, the fair-haired heir.

Who met in school, became best friends; We hope their romance never ends.

Three decades since St. Paul's aisle Was graced with Windsor wedding style.

We had high hopes for Di and Chuck; We wish the young ones better luck.

But here's the most important thing: It isn't easy being king.

And next April's lovely bride Will one day reign at William's side.

So, grant them health and grant them strength And courage to take them through the length Of years together, good and vile; This beauty and the prince who bears his mother's smile.

CLASS ACT

Elin Nordegren

As her marriage unraveled amid revelations of how Tiger Woods had betrayed her, Elin Nordegren, 30, carried on with dignity. Speaking to PEOPLE ("I felt like setting some things straight"), she didn't utter a single vindictive word. Now, after reaching a settlement of some $100 million, she is still living with rented furniture, taking psychology classes, raising kids Sam, 3, and Charlie, 1 (dad has regular visits), and looking for charitable projects.

STARS REVEAL THEIR DREAM JOBS

Forget showbiz. From the beauty beat to broadcasting, these stars have other ambitions

SERENA WILLIAMS

The mani-pedi-obsessed tennis champ became a nail tech!

JERRY SEINFELD

For Father's Day, wife Jessica got him a gig calling a game for his beloved Mets.

KIM KARDASHIAN

If she weren't a reality star? "I'd be a makeup artist or work at Sephora."

TONY DANZA

He was the boss, teaching English to 10th graders for an A&E reality show.

SCREEN GEM

Natalie Portman

Her dad's reaction to her racy role in Black Swan: "I was so nervous-there's a lot of sexuality in the film-but he said, 'This is my favorite thing you've been in.' That meant the world to me."

Getting a shout-out in The Social Network: "[Screenwriter] Aaron Sorkin asked me and some of my friends to just tell him what Harvard was like at that time, but I didn't know Mark Zuckerberg."

On the possibility of ever appearing on Dancing with the Stars: [laughs] "No, I'm going to see how this whole acting thing works out."

RAP RENEGADE

Nicki Minaj

"I want women to feel empowered," says the Trinidad-born rapper, 28, who was music's go-to guest-star-collaborating with the likes of Kanye West and Mariah Carey-before venturing out on her own this year. The song "Your Love" off her debut album, Pink Friday, made Minaj the first solo female rapper to hit No. 1 on Billboard's Rap Chart since Missy Elliott did it in 2003. "If I had one word to describe this year, I'd say 'accomplished,' " says Minaj, whose style is as boisterous as her music. "I love wearing lots of color. If I look weird, I've achieved my goal."

BIG GUN

Sarah Palin

This year the former Alaska governor remade herself as a reality star on TLC's Sarah Palin's Alaska. Why? "I grew up watching Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom," Palin told PEOPLE. "We decided that's what America's missing right now: a family-oriented, get-outdoors-and-enjoy-God's-creation kind of show."

TATTOO REGRETS

• Kelly Osbourne (below) called her multiple tattoos "a mistake," vowing to undergo laser surgery.

• 50 Cent had some of his removed to help his movie career.

Ryan Reynolds said, "I wish I hadn't tattooed myself when I was younger."

Eva Longoria expressed a desire to do away with her tats commemorating Tony Parker.

NUMBER 6

LeBron James

Cleveland Cavalier loyalists felt betrayed when the NBA star announced in a TV special that he was heading to the Miami Heat for warmer climes and big bucks ($110 million for six years). But, says James, 25, "I miss my friends, family, former teammates and the great fans of Cleveland. I miss Swensons Drive In, and my house in Akron for sure!"

ULTIMATE SURVIVOR

Bret Michaels

After recovering from a brain hemorrhage in April, what's the main life-lesson you've learned?

Enjoy the moments you have left. Do what rocks your world. My thing now is spending time with Kristi [Gibson, his on-off girlfriend of 16 years] and our daughters [Raine, 10, and Jorja, 5]. I don't want my legacy to be a hemorrhage. I want it to be: I'm a fighter, I'm passionate, I'm hardworking, and I love music.

Have you had any false alarms where you thought you were having another hemorrhage?

Yes, I've had two severe headaches where I thought I was, but I wasn't. The doctors told me it's to be expected.

Is there anything you still can't do?

I'm only 85 percent back, so I can't kickbox. I have short-term memory loss, so I have to repeat things to myself over and over. And I haven't had a good night's sleep since. My goal next year is to rock harder and sleep more!

Have you been partying?

I haven't had a drop of alcohol since my appendectomy [in April]. I didn't fight through this to want to die. I do have bus parties to let fans come up to have a good time.

Will you propose to Kristi soon?

I respect marriage, but it's the leading cause of divorce [laughs]. I still get a little sweaty about the marriage thing. I don't want to ruin our relationship by getting engaged and suddenly feeling like, "This really isn't what I wanted; I just wanted to stay where we were."

Aside from filming your VH1 show, Bret Michaels: Life As I Know It, what's up for you in 2011?

I'm shooting a show, Bret Michaels: Love Guru-I give romantic advice. And there's my Bret Michaels Super Cruise to Cozumel in November.

You're also having surgery to fix a hole in your heart in January. How did you handle breaking that news to Raine and Jorja?

We had a teary-eyed conversation. But I said, "My chances are great, I'll feel way better, and you'll love me more."

HACKER

Julian Assange

After earning praise for releasing secret documents about killings in Kenya, WikiLeaks.org founder Julian Assange raised the stakes. This year the Australian computer whiz, 39, published classified documents about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and diplomatic cables that embarrassed and outraged world leaders. (A State Department rep said, "He is not a journalist; he's an anarchist.") Meanwhile, two women he met at a Stockholm seminar in August accused him of sex crimes, allegations that led to his December arrest in London. (Assange has denied any wrongdoing, saying relations were consensual.) Were the charges a plot to silence him, as he has suggested? Is he a free-speech hero or a reckless criminal? The one thing his friends say Assange is obsessed with-the truth-is, in his own case, just not clear.

RESCUE

Chilean Miners

Swallowed by the earth, 33 determined miners in northern Chile delivered a potent message about endurance and love when they pulled together to outfox darkness, boredom and fear. To stay fit, they cleaved to a disciplined work rotation; to stay sane, they read the Bible, penned poems and wrote love letters. On day 70 they emerged into the light of day-and the hearts of admirers the world over.

2010 HONOR ROLL

ORLANDO BLOOM

Given a degree by the University of Kent.

KIM CATTRALL

Named a fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.

MERYL STREEP

Decreed a doctor of arts by Harvard University.

OUT AND PROUD

Ricky Martin

For years people wondered, "Is he or isn't he?" And in March-after much soul-searching-the singer, 39, finally answered the question: "I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man." Martin told PEOPLE, "I've never felt better in my life."

ENTREPRENEUR

Kim Kardashian

You had to be a pro athlete to keep pace with the reality star in 2010. She introduced a new perfume, nabbed endorsement deals (everything from QuickTrim diet supplements to Skechers shoes) and-along with sisters Khloe and Kourtney-launched a clothing line, a jewelry collection and a bestselling book. Her fascinating love life had its ups and downs. After giving it a go with Dallas Cowboy Miles Austin and Halle Berry's ex Gabriel Aubry, she is now dating New Jersey Net Kris Humphries, who, with two sisters named Krystal and Kaela, can definitely keep up with the Kardashians. And where does Kim, 30, want to focus her energy in 2011? "I would love to take some more 'me' time," she says. "That will rejuvenate me and allow me to work harder-plus I want to really dive into designing my own clothing line."

SMARTIE

Mark Zuckerberg

Misunderstood genius-or scheming jerk? The Facebook founder's scathing portrayal in The Social Network sparked countless postmovie debates. The 26-year-old called the movie "fiction," but his philanthropy is not. He donated $100 million to Newark, N.J., public schools and has pledged to eventually give away half of his estimated $6.9 billion fortune.

STRANGE SOCIAL MEDIA NEWS

Queen Elizabeth

At 84, Her Majesty has a Facebook page (check out her pics!).

John McCain & Snooki

The Jersey Shore star hates Obama's tanning-booth tax, and the senator agreed with his Twitter pal that it's a "situation."

Harry Reid & Lady Gaga

The singer and the Senate Majority Leader's office tweeted their shared opinion that gays should be able to serve in the military.

TEEN STARS grow up!

Remember those angelic kids from the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon? Look at what they were up to in 2010

MIRANDA COSGROVE

The iCarly actress, 17, played a pop star accused of drunk driving on an episode of the CBS hit The Good Wife.

CHORD OVERSTREET

Once a guest star on iCarly, the actor, 21, rocked nothing but tight gold shorts on Glee.

MILEY CYRUS

Trying to put that cutesy Hannah Montana stuff behind her, Cyrus, 18, kept appearing onstage (and elsewhere) in super racy attire.

CORBIN BLEU

The High School Musical castmate, 21, had a star turn-complete with facial hair!-in Broadway's In the Heights.

BRENDA SONG

The 22-year-old Suite Life on Deck actress played Andrew Garfield's sexually ravenous girlfriend in The Social Network.

MAKEOVER

Heidi's New Body

Heidi Montag, 24, wasn't prepared for the uproar that ensued when she unveiled the results from having 10 plastic surgery procedures-all in one day. "The impact it had on my marriage [to Spencer Pratt] and my life-it's a lot. People don't really warn you about that," says Montag. One year later, she has settled into her Barbie-like look. "I will never do surgery again," she says.

BROW

Mini lift and Botox in the forehead and frown area

LIPS

Fat injections, also done to her cheeks and nasolabial folds

LEGS

Liposuction on inner and outer thighs

NOSE

Montag revised surgery on her first 2007 nose job

BREASTS

Augmentation revision taking her from a C to DDD

WAIST

Liposuction

CELEBS UN-COVERED

1. Kim Kardashian takes it all off for W magazine.

2. Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway go bare on ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY.

3. True Blood stars flash their flesh on Rolling Stone.

MEAT HEADS

BRUCE'S BEEF HAT

Spoofing Gaga, Bruce Willis wore a ground-beef hairpiece on Letterman.

KEVIN'S BACON BUST

A bust of the actor made of bacon fetched $4,000 in an eBay charity auction.

LADY GAGA'S DRESS

The famed frock has been preserved as jerky.

TALKED-ABOUT COUPLE

Jake & Taylor

She wears clothes that are cute. He's often in his birthday suit. She's a country girl with a guitar. He's an A-list movie star. They belong together, though they're nine years apart. Picking apples, eating ice cream, maple lattes, it's a girl's dream. And if something ever does go wrong? We can't wait to hear the song.

SEXIEST MAN: THE AFTERMATH

Ryan Reynolds

The star, 34, reflects on his new title:

• "I can't look Johnny Depp, George Clooney and Hugh Jackman in the eye without 20 minutes of nonstop winking," says Reynolds. "Frankly it's exhausting for everyone involved."

• "Being named Sexiest Man Alive doesn't actually translate into political power. I may be wrong about some of the things I've promised Canada."

• "Leaving the house without my false teeth, toupee and six-inch lifts is no longer an option."

I WAS THE ONE WHO

LAUNCHED THE "IT GETS BETTER PROJECT"

"We're not waiting for permission to talk to gay kids in crisis."

-Dan Savage, who kicked off the antibully viral videos

DIRECTED YOU ON GPS

"People have an intimate relationship with GPS. They say, 'You took me to my cousin's wedding.'"

-Karen Jacobsen, the "Australian Karen" voice on the Garmin device

SAID DON'T "TOUCH MY JUNK"

"It's kind of a childish thing to say, but I was trying to be friendly."

-John Tyner, whose encounter with a TSA agent made headlines

NEXT GENERATION

Will Smith's Kids

Just months after Jaden, 12, became a $300 million-plus box office draw as the Karate Kid ("My dreams are coming true," he told PEOPLE in June), Willow, 10, started a craze with her song "Whip My Hair." "It's very, very amazing, and it's very overwhelming," she has said.

A FRESH START

Christina Aguilera

Sure, 2010 will go down in history as the year she split with husband Jordan Bratman. But for the singer, it was also unforgettable for three other big milestones:

• Starring in Burlesque. "I went from being a girl to a woman," she says.

• Dating for the first time in nearly a decade. "I'm living life to its fullest," says the mom of Max, 2. "I'm having fun."

• Turning 30 on Dec. 18. "I'm really excited. It's a new chapter in my life."

FORGOTTEN, BUT NOT GONE

Some pop culture personalities make a big splash and then quickly sink out of sight, others linger and linger. We checked up on a few of TV's lovers and fighters who are barely hanging onto their fame

JON GOSSELIN

The father of eight has reportedly secured a real job in the technology field and remains with his girlfriend Ellen Ross.

DANIELLE STAUB

The ex Jersey Housewife released a music video, and her ex has reportedly sued the publisher of her memoir for defamation.

LEVI JOHNSTON

Planning to run for mayor of Wasilla, he was knocked by Sarah Palin in her new book and has begged off interviews.

VIENNA GIRARDI

Single again after splitting from a post-Pavelka beau, the bachelorette promises a project involving animals or kids.

ANGELINA PIVARNICK

After leaving Jersey Shore, she put out a rap song and was accused of assaulting a girl in Atlantic City.

BLISSFUL BACHELORETTE

Ali Fedotowsky & Roberto Martinez

"The best thing about 2010 was finding each other," says Ali, 26, of her relationship with Roberto, 27. But falling in love with millions of people watching definitely has unexpected consequences.

• Being followed. "Someone will tweet that they saw us somewhere and there's this one guy who shows up wherever we are," says Ali.

• Weight fluctuations. Thanks to all those Bachelorette dinner dates, Ali put on 15 lbs. during filming, then lost it, only to gain it back when the couple moved in together. "We ate out all the time," she says, adding that she has since dropped the pounds by nixing late-night ice cream runs.

• Pressure to wed. While ABC would love to televise their nuptials, Ali says they're not rushing to the altar. "The royal wedding is happening," she jokes. "We don't want to outshine them!"

MULTITASKER

James Franco's Wild Year

In 2010 the 32-year-old Renaissance man published his first book, generated Oscar heat with 127 Hours, had an art exhibit, dressed up in drag and reprised his gig as a soap star. His next trick: cohosting the 2011 Oscars

Drags it up for Candy mag!

The actor flaunted his feminine side in red lipstick and blue eye shadow on the fall-winter cover of the "transversal style" magazine.

Rejoins cast of General Hospital

Franco's serial killer character returned for a summer story arc on the ABC soap. He'll be back again in early 2011.

Cuts off arm onscreen

His 127 Hours performance was so intense it induced moviegoers to faint. Franco says he loved "bringing all those layers" to the role.

Goes highbrow

His short story collection came out this fall. Plus, he had an N.Y.C. art exhibit. Next milestone: "I was just invited to the Venice Biennale," he says.

Named Oscar host

"That was such a surprise," says Franco. So is he going to sing and dance on the show? "I'll do whatever they want."

BUSTED FOR POT

Medical marijuana is legal in 15 states plus D.C., but these stars were in the wrong place and with no prescription

WILLIE NELSON

After 4 oz. of weed was found aboard his tour bus in Texas, he was arrested in November.

GEORGE MICHAEL

He was charged with marijuana possession after driving into a shopfront in London.

PARIS HILTON

"Wrongly accused" of pot possession twice overseas, she was caught with cocaine in Vegas.

T.I.

The rapper and his wife, Tiny, were arrested in West Hollywood when cops smelled pot coming from their car.

CHACE CRAWFORD

The actor was found to be in possession of less than 2 oz. in his hometown of Plano, Texas.

COMEBACK KID

Conan O'Brien

The late-show host, 47, shares his favorite memories from 2010:

• "Three days after leaving The Tonight Show, my assistant and I used a booth at a Marie Callender's pie restaurant as a temporary office."

• "Every night during my national tour, I wore the same skintight pink paisley leather suit that Eddie Murphy made famous in his 1987 stand-up movie Raw. In Tulsa they had to take it off me using canola oil and salad tongs."

• "I was stuck in traffic on the 405 freeway and saw a giant orange blimp with my name on it float overhead. My overwhelming feeling was, I deserve more."