It's hard to believe that just a year ago the world was unaware of a pint-size, pouf-haired firecracker named Snooki. What a sad life we all led, in those pre-"Jersey Shore" days, before we learned that beats need beating and tanning is less beauty regimen than a way of life.

At the center of it all has been Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi. She's the loud, kind-hearted and insanely quotable engine driving the reality series toward its status as the most-watched show in MTV's 27-year history. And in 2010, she was everywhere, from "The Tonight Show" to magazine spreads to "Saturday Night Live" and "South Park" spoofs. Even President Obama dropped her name on TV. But ubiquitous appearances across the entertainment spectrum don't tell the full story of how thoroughly Snooki has invaded the pop-culture landscape.

(They're more than just pretty faces, but you can still check out photos of our Men and Women of 2010!)

But invade it she has, and for that, we are truly thankful. That's why we've named Snooki MTV News' #4 Woman of the Year.

2010 Highlights: We'd say the year began on a high note for Snickers, but the ensuing months were no letdown. The show became January's #1 original cable series among 12- to 34-year-olds and the season-one finale ranked #1 for the day across all television competition in the demo. Before the month was over, MTV had renewed the show for a second season.

A day after the renewal news, Snooki landed a spot as the network's guest correspondent for the Grammy Awards, where she rubbed elbows with industry A-listers and showed that her social skills most definitely extend from the nightclub to the red carpet.

"Do you get a lot of, like, girls?" she asked Justin Bieber.

Snooki had arrived. Her next stop was Miami Beach. She and her castmates escaped the cold Jersey beaches for the sun-drenched nightlife of Miami, where they began filming the show's second season. As we discovered when new episodes began airing in July, fame had not changed Miss Polizzi: She was the same tell-it-like-it-is-but-like-no-one-else diva we first met. She loved pickles and dancing, tanning and occasionally fighting. And beneath that artificial tan, she was just an incredibly sweet girl who was snookin' for love.

She also caused something of a political dustup when she spoke out hilariously against Obama's heath care bill, saying, "[Senator John] McCain would never put a 10 percent tax on tanning, because he's pale and he would probably want to be tan. Obama doesn't have that problem, obviously."

In one of the year's more bizarre moments, McCain took to Twitter ... and came to Snooki's defense. "U r right, I would never tax your tanning bed!" he wrote. "Pres Obama's tax/spend policy is quite The Situation. But I do rec wearing sunscreen!"

Ah, political discourse in 2010! But Snooki isn't heading to Capitol Hill anytime soon. She's having too much success doing her "Shore" thing. The season-two debut notched MTV's best premiere numbers since 2002, building up to a finale watched by 6.1 million viewers.

Yet Snooki, it seems, is just getting started. She's already taped the third season of "Jersey Shore," which is set to premiere in January. She's penning her first novel, called "A Shore Thing," which Simon & Schuster is publishing that same month. And she'll be ringing in 2011 as part of MTV's "New Year's Bash," during which she'll actually be stuffed inside a ball that will be lowered in Times Square. As she told her nearly 1 million Twitter followers, "I haven't rocked the poof in months, it feels. So I've decided to bring in 2011 with the biggest poof ever. Who's with me?"

The world, Snooki, the world.

We'll be rolling out our Top Five Men and Women of 2010 all week, until we unveil MTV News' Man and Woman of the Year on Friday. As always, we want to know what you think, so share your picks in the comments below!