Top Ten Thinking Man’s Sex Symbols

The ten women of 2008 who stimulated our brains… and our minds.

Paul Sancya/AP Photo

Paul Sancya/AP Photo

#10 Jennifer Granholm

Jennifer Granholm is the governor of Michigan. Most Michiganders don’t care for her—in August her approval rating was 37 percent—but she could govern me any day. She’s not only the most beautiful governor in the country, a stunning blonde who was a teenage beauty pageant winner in California, but she’s also a member of Obama’s economic advisory team, and the woman who played Sarah Palin in Joe Biden’s debate practices. She’d be higher on this list if she were in a state that wasn’t drowning.

Stuart Brinin/Sipa

#9 Samantha Power

Samantha Power is an aphrodisiac. When the nonfiction writer and political brain called Hillary a monster, I went head over heels. That incident told me Sam’s a ride-or-die chick, willing to slay anyone for her man. You wouldn’t ever want to argue with her—eventually she’s gonna call you out. And sure, if she was your girlfriend, it’d be awkward knowing that when the conversation turns to global affairs, or Bush, or Obama, or Sergio Vieira de Mello, or pretty much anything within the widest realm of politics, she’s going to be way smarter and more knowledgeable than you. But if she’s the smartest chick in the room and she’s going home with you, what does that say about you?

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#8 Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri is the gorgeous author of three seriously literary books including, this year, a collection of short stories called Unaccustomed Earth. Those hypnotic eyes are devastating.

Robert E. Klein/AP Photo

#7 M.I.A.

M.I.A. is one of my favorite musicians right now. It would be so fun to travel the world with her, viewing life as one big art project.

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#6 Meredith Vieira

Meredith Vieira is the oldest member of this list but she’s still beautiful—in HD the silkiness of her skin comes floating right through the screen. She seems like she’d be an easy-to-get-along-with partner who’d never hold it over your head that she’s the breadwinner, and she’s the reason we would get invited to every awesome party in town and ride in four-door limos all the time. Plus, she’s stylish as hell. When she hosted The View I always tuned in for the first 60 seconds when the camera would swoop in and give us a peek at whatever sexy heels she was rocking that morning.


#5 Lisa Ling

Lisa Ling is sexy without even trying. Whether she’s striding up a mountain in front of National Geographic cameras searching for wild California cannabis or uncovering bride-burning in India, she’s that super-smart polymath who’s such a courageously crusading journalist that she doesn’t have to do anything to elicit admiration. Her Marijuana Nation special was riveting, even though it didn’t cover that much new ground other than to make me wonder what it would be like to watch it under the influence.

CBS/John Paul Filo/Landov

#4 Katie Couric

Katie Couric had me at “What newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped…?” (To which Governor Palin so memorably responded, “Katie, we share a narrow maritime border with Russia…”) Yes, this was the year that the less-perky-than-ever blonde exploded up the ranks of big-time TV anchor/journalists, moving from a distant #3 to a slightly-less-distant #3. The respect she got from her pleasant but firm grilling of the biggest pretender since Chrissie Hynde gained Couric a new level of respect from millions (which hasn’t translated into ratings, but let’s not get bogged down in minutiae). Instead, imagine late nights lounging on her million-dollar couch, talking about world affairs and the leaders she’s met, and laughing about how the real reason Obama won is Katie. Every so often you could glance at those great legs while wiping errant drips of tea from the sides of your mouth with her dollar bills.

Mark J. Terrill/AP Photo

#3 Sarah Silverman

Sarah Silverman would be an awesome girlfriend. I imagine she’d be a lot of fun—she’s a mellow, somewhat tomboyish girl who’s easy to look at and makes lots of funny jokes. As a Thinking Man, there’s no comic I’d be prouder to call mine. Her hilarious PC-demolishing jokes are told in this self-mocking, dumb-ass tone, as if she’s playing a character who doesn’t know any better than to say the racist things she says. In this way she eats her cake and has it too, saying offensive things while satirizing closed-mindedness, making her comedy totally meta. Of course, eventually she’ll cuckold you comically (remember “I’m Fucking Matt Damon?”), which would be fun for everyone but you. On the plus side, her project to get Jews in Florida to vote— “The Great Schlep”—was one of the reasons Florida went for Obama. You couldn’t be with a woman who’s had a bigger impact on a recent presidential race unless you’re with Katherine Harris, Sarah Palin, or Elizabeth Stamatina Fey.

Brad Barket/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

#2 Tina Fey

Tina Fey’s sexiness is somehow all wrapped up in her glasses. Without the glasses, she’s pretty, very pretty, but with them on she’s like the smokin’ grad student teaching the freshman intro course who made you sing, “I got it bad, I got it bad, I got it bad—I’m hot for teacher.” For the TM who loves smart, successful women, you gotta love that Tina’s so deeply self-visualized—not only is she a boss (exec producer of 30 Rock) but Liz Lemon, the character she’s dreamt up on the show, is also a boss (head writer of TGS with Tracy Jordan). Perhaps something in the zeitgeist is holding back the pet projects of the hottest, funniest TMSSs this year because both The Sarah Silverman Program and 30 Rock slogged through their worst seasons ever (ratings-wise). But like Sarah, who had her greatest success in a satellite project (faux boning Matt on the web), Tina’s toxic caricature of Sarah Palin sealed her place in the TMSS Hall of Fame and, of course, is a reason why Obama won.

#1 Ana Ivanovic and Zadie Smith (Honorable Mention)

If Zadie Smith had published a book in '08, she’d be #1 (not only is the chick beautiful and brilliant and literary and into hiphop, but she’s also got this really sexy deep voice, not Kathleen Turner deep, but a really nice, full, low tone that always kills me). But she didn’t, so she’s the obligatory honorable mention. So who’s ahead of Tina? How could anyone slip ahead of Tina? Well, little compares to the excitement of a hot woman who not only likes sports but is a really good athlete. And when tennis produces a woman so gorgeous that it’s unbelievably hard to take your eyes off her, she’s an insuperable TMSS. And unlike that pathetic cream puff Anna Kournikova, my #1’s not a frequently double-faulting, habitual first-round loser. No, my #1 won the French Open this year and reached the finals of the Australian Open weeks before winning in Paris. Ana Ivanovic of Serbia is currently the fifth-best woman in the world. She’s got a mean forehand, is studying finance online as she travels the world winning tournaments, and is blowing men away with a butterscotch-colored face that’s all smooth slopes and haunting eyes. Ivanovic is the most beautiful female professional athlete of all time. I just hope she doesn’t think that love really equals nothing.