The recession may have dampened spirits this year, but when it came to the big personality stories, the numbers were anything but down.
Not only did PEOPLE.com generate more million-reader stories than ever before, but records were also set when it came to the number of reader comments in reaction to these stories.
From weddings and babies, to divorces and deaths, here, in order of popularity, were the Biggest PEOPLE.com News Stories of 2011.
1. Reese Witherspoon’s Wedding Photos
Some two million-plus readers lapped up the story devoted to the Oscar winner’s country-elegant March 26 wedding to Jim Toth. Held at Witherspoon‘s ranch estate in Ojai, Calif., the nuptials saw the bride in a custom-designed Monique Lhuillier blush-hued gown with a Chantilly lace corset bodice and full tulle A-line skirt. Gushed one guest: “She took your breath away.”
2. and 3. Kim Kardashian: The Wedding and The Divorce
Sure, there were Royal Weddings – Britain’s Prince William and Kate Middleton‘s in April and Monaco’s Prince Albert and Charlene Wittstock’s in July – but the wedding of Kim and Kris Humphries blasted the reality TV duo into ratings heaven and into divorce court 72 days later. As the romance blossomed and wilted, PEOPLE.com readers couldn’t stop clicking – from the engagement, to the ring, to the reasons it went wrong.
4. Pink’s Daughter Willow Sage’s First Photo
Pink and Carey Hart’s week-old daughter Willow Sage posed for her first family photo shoot on June 9, sleeping though the entire session and prompting her mom to wonder if “she is borderline narcoleptic, like her daddy.” On a cheerier note, the Grammy winner said, “You hear people say it all the time how life changes so drastically. But you can’t possibly grasp how beautiful that is until you have your child.”
5. Sinead O’Connor Sports Dark Look in Ireland
In August, readers were asked, “Do You Recognize Sinead O’Connor?” Given the overwhelming response, most people had to double check. At the Bray Seaside Festival, the Irish singer, 44, unveiled an entire new look: neck-to-toe black with a cross around her neck, along with glasses and a short, choppy hairstyle – quite a departure from the signature shaved head she sported at the height of her popularity in the ’90s.
6. Cosby Show Actress Clarice Taylor Dies
Such movers and shakers as Steve Jobs, Elizabeth Taylor, Betty Ford and Amy Winehouse all sadly died this year – as did Muammar Qaddafi and Osama Bin Laden – yet it was the May 30 passing of Clarice Taylor, who played Dr. Cliff Huxtable’s mother, Anna Huxtable, that generated the most clicks among PEOPLE.com readers. A performer on stage, radio, TV and film for more than five decades, the actress, 93, was a member of New York’s prestigious Negro Ensemble Company and helped pave the way for African-American actors in the early 1960s.
7. Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel Split
Though they were subsequently seen together again, Timberlake and Biel announcing the end of their relationship earlier this year got everyone’s attention. “There are no hard feelings,” a source told PEOPLE, adding that Biel was keeping her house in Los Angeles and she and the singer-actor, who started dating in 2007, would remain friends. That they clearly did, partying together at the October premiere of his movie In Time in L.A., among other sightings.
8. Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony Split
They shared seven years together, and are raising two children, but with a statement on July 15, Lopez and Anthony “decided to end our marriage,” they told PEOPLE in a joint statement. “This was a very difficult decision. We have come to an amicable conclusion on all matters. It is a painful time for all involved, and we appreciate the respect of our privacy at this time.”
9. Jaycee Dugard Recalls the Pain of Giving Birth in Captivity
Three years into her captivity, Jaycee Dugard went into labor with her first child – a frightening experience compounded by the fact “I didn’t know I was in labor,” Dugard, 31, said in July. “I was still locked [in] at the time. Just scared.” Dugard lost 18 years of her life when she was kidnapped in 1991 at age 11 by Phillip and Nancy Garrido, who are currently serving life sentences for the kidnapping. Dugard also has filed suit against the U.S. government, saying federal authorities should have been more closely monitoring her abductor.
10. Sarah Palin’s Son Track Gets Married!
May brought the announcement of the marriage of Sarah Palin’s eldest son, Track, 22, and his high school sweetheart, Britta Hanson, 21, who tied the knot in a small ceremony in Hatcher Pass, Alaska – and then, in August, welcomed their first child, a girl named Kyla Grace. The Palin family never officially confirmed Britta’s pregnancy, though pictures of her baby shower surfaced on Facebook.