Is it me or has Time magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People only gotten better over the years? In fact, this year’s list, which highlights individuals from various fields including everything from politics, activism, and the arts, appears to be more diverse than ever. I was excited to see it includes a good amount of women of color from Cardi B to my personal favorite — Emma Gonzalez — and more. This year, as well as 2017, has been an incredible display of female power and resilience and this has especially been the case for many WOC.
Each individual included in this list proved to be influential in some shape or form and each includes a well-written write-up from a colleague in a similar field who is familiar — in many cases admires — their work. Here’s look at some of the amazing and badass WOC who made it to this year’s list!
I wasn’t the least bit surprised to see the Dominican-Trinidadian rapper on this list. Cardi has not only broken records — her debut album went gold minutes after being released — but her hustle and hard grind really resonates with fans. Despite the fame, she’s managed to stay true to who she is and refuses to “white-wash” or “tone-down” her image.
“When I first came up, people said, ‘She’s too edgy.’ But I can do Shakespeare in the Park! You can’t judge me based on where I come from or the colloquialisms that I speak with, because that’s who I am. And when you are cool with who you are, no one can use it against you,” actress Taraji P. Henson wrote. “I identify with Cardi B, because she knows that too. The first time I went on her Instagram page, she was so raw, coming at you, like whoa! She used words like “shmoney” and “shmoves,” and she talked openly about being a former stripper. And she was proud of it — like, So what, I was on the pole, look what I parlayed that into? When she showed her soul like that, I hit the Follow button. I felt like she had the voice of the people, you know what I mean?”
The comedian and actress has been making headlines since her breakout role in Girls Trip and has proven she’s just as smart and clever as she is funny. Last year, she released her memoir, The Last Black Unicorn, where she shares her experience being in an abusive marriage and growing in the corrupted foster care system.
“She’s just so authentic and unfiltered. You never know what’s going to come out of her mouth. And you can tell she’s having fun — she’s seen a time when things couldn’t get any worse, and she’s giving it all she has,” comedian Kevin Hart wrote.
I was thrilled to see Time include The Parkland, Florida students —especially Emma Gonzalez. The young activist has become a known and powerful gun control advocate ever since the Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting in Parkland, Florida and has fought to have her voice be heard.
“The Parkland, Fla., students don’t have the kind of lobbyists or big budgets for attack ads that their opponents do. Most of them can’t even vote yet. But they have the power so often inherent in youth: to see the world anew; to reject the old constraints outdated conventions and cowardice too often dressed up as wisdom,” former President Barack Obama wrote.
Nice Nailantei Leng’ete
The Kenyan women’s rights activist ran away from home when she was 8-year-old to escape female genital cutting that is seen as a rite-of-passage in the village she grew up in. She has since worked in efforts to outlaw the ritual.
“As a Maasai child in Kenya, Nice Nailantei Leng’ete accomplished something remarkable: she escaped the cut, her culture’s ritualized female genital mutilation,” wrote women’s right activist and anti-female mutilation campaigner, Jaha Dukureh. “But saving herself was not enough. As an adult, she has gone on to negotiate with village elders, who traditionally have not worked with women, and convince them that alternative coming-of-age ceremonies will be healthier for girls and better for communities. Her work as a project officer with Amref Health Africa has saved an estimated 15,000 girls around Kenya from the cut, as well as from child marriage … Nice is an extraordinary example of young African girls standing up for themselves.”
The South Korean American snowboarder became the youngest woman to win an Olympics snowboarding medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
“It’s hard for me to imagine the amount of pressure Chloe must have internalized. As fans, we saddled her with four year’s worth of built-up expectations. Asian-American fans further piled on their hopes that she would shatter Asian stereotypes on her way to the podium. And to top it all off, she was competing in her parents’ birth country, one that is notoriously judgmental of its diaspora,” wrote David Chang, founder of the Momofuku restaurant group. “And you know what? She crushed it. Blew us all out of the water.”
The black American writer, producer, and director broke serious boundaries with her HBO series Insecure. But her self-funded 2011 web series, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl is what put her on the map.
“You heard about her or saw her being funny on a talk show, watched something she created and then were infected with this desire to devour everything she makes as quickly as she can put it out. I watched the entire first season of Insecure in two days,” actress Mindy Kaling wrote. “I loved her world, her friends, her clothes, her handsome love interests and her anxieties. Maybe especially her anxieties, because those are what make her so lovable.”
The American novelist won a national book award last year for her book Sing, Unburied, Sing, which touches on the dark realities of Mississippi, from racial issues to poverty.
“Jesmyn Ward’s writing is brutal and moving, tragic and beautiful. While she writes about the modern American South, where she grew up, the realities of black men are very much the same as where I grew up in Philly. The feeling of there being no way out, of people turning to drugs to feel less like themselves, the endless pervasiveness of death, dysfunction and detention,” writes American producer and writer, Lee Daniels.
Her work on breakout shows including Master of None and The Chi have put her on the map but it’s her incredible influence that’s really been the true game changer. The queer-identifying actress became the first black woman to land an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. Vanity Fair called her someone who’s “disrupting the hell out of Hollywood.”
“Thanks to Waithe, diverse communities can turn on the TV and see vivid, funny, deeply real portrayals of people like themselves. And that’s empowering — whether you’re a student or a Senator,” wrote Senator of California, Kamala Harris.
She was one of the highest paid actresses in India and made her Hollywood break in the 2017 action film xXx: Return of Xander Cage.
“Making that movie, Deepika took committed to a whole other level. That’s who she is as a performer. She wants the whole movie to shine, which is a rare thing. Anyone could talk about how beautiful she is, and anyone could tell you about her unmatched comedic timing. But she isn’t just a star. She’s an actor’s actor, dedicated to the craft, wrote actor Vin Diesel who start in the xXx and the Fast and the Furious franchises.
The bi-racial actress who is engaged to marry Prince Harry this May is more than just beautiful talent. She’s also a leader and a humanitarian.
“Somewhere among Bryani, poutine and endless conversations, I realized just how deeply Meghan Markle cares for the world,” wrote actress Priyanka Chopra.“With her, what you see is real, and what you get is a relatable young woman with her heart and mind in the right place. Her compassion, evident in the cause she supports, and her drive to break down stereotypes — obvious in her actions — will connect her to a generation in much need of kindness.”
Carmen Yulín Cruz
After Hurricane Maria destroyed most of Puerto Rico, the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz — who is currently looking to run for governor — became the island’s anchor, helping as many as possible and letting her voice be heard during a devastating time.
“From the chaos, delays and indecision, a shout for help was heard. The mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, became the voice of the disenfranchised citizens. She was passionate, courageous and articulate,” wrote Oscar-winning actor, Benicio Del Toro. “And little by little, her words got the crisis the attention it desperately needs, just as if it were happening in Florida or Texas.”
The Egyptian -American co-anchor of NBC’s morning show Today was included in the list along with her co-star Savannah Guthrie.
“Savannah and Hoda got into television news because they are newswomen at their core. They can handle an interview, handle a crisis, handle breaking news and handle pop culture. We all know that morning shows can be fun, but you get the sense that when news breaks, neither one of these women will,” wrote author, journalist and former First Lady of California, Maria Shriver.
“I first met Sheikh Hasina in the 1990s, when she was fiercely campaigning to end military rule in Bangladesh,” wrote South Asia director for Human Rights Watch, Meenakshi Ganguly. “Our last meeting was in 2008, when she was campaigning against another military regime. The following year she became Prime Minister after a landslide election victory … Bearing the legacy of her father, who led Bangladesh’s liberation war, Hasina has never been afraid of a fight.”
Of course, I was hyped to see my girl J.Lo on this list!
“As a kid growing up in the Bronx, I used to watch Jennifer Lopez from the wings. Several of us girls would hide in the folds of the curtains at the Boys & Girls Club to watch her perform,” wrote Emmy-nominated actress, Kerry Washington. “We were in awe of our neighborhood role model and phenom. When Jennifer left the Bronx to pursue her dreams, I would rush to finish my homework on Sunday to watch her on In Living Color. She made me believe that you could come from where we came from and achieve whatever you imagine is possible … Jennifer Lopez is an iconic performer. She’s the first Latina actor to earn over $1million for a film and the first woman to have a No.1 album and a No.1 movie in the same week.”
“I actually can’t remember the first time I met Rihanna; I was probably numb from the shock of it. She is one year older than me, but I feel like she’s been around forever,” wrote Grammy-winning singer and songwriter Adele. “The progression of her superstardom feels steady, well deserved and extremely natural … Even more she has designed and conquered an entire lane of her own. The innovative and groundbreaking world of Rihanna that no one else will ever be safe in and get away with copying. She makes her own rules and bends ours.”
“When I first met Tarana Burke, I found a kindred spirit, somebody else who’s been screaming into the hurricane. Somebody else who’s been advocating for survivor rape and sexual assault, and specifically young black women, whose voices have been silenced at best and completely erased from the national dialogue at worst,” wrote actress Gabrielle Union.
“Cristina Jiménez dreams. She dreams big. She dreams because she wants there to be a future for the roughly 700,000 young people who, by no choice of their own, were brought to the U.S. as children by their undocumented immigrant parents,” wrote singer and actress Selena Gomez. “She dreams because she wants the fear and anxiety of the unknown to end. She dreams because she is one of the Dreamers who could be affected by the reversal of DACA.”
“Janet Mock is one of the most visible and important voices in activism — not just for the trans community, but for women, people of color, LGBTQ people and marginalized communities everywhere,” wrote designer Christian Siriano. “From her brilliant books (Redefining Realness and Surpassing Certainty) to her invigorating speeches, she does not placate bigotry or misogyny by approaching it politely, as if there are two sides to equality. She fights for people who have not been fortunate enough to be accepted for who they are. It is a never-ending battle, and she does not waver in the face of it.”
“Congresswoman Maxine Waters of the 43rd District of California, a.k.a Auntie Maxine, has made my generation proud to be nieces and nephews,” wrote actress and star of ABC’s black-ish and Freeform’s grown-ish, Yara Shahidi. “She is adored and admired by people who care about social justice and is oh so eloquent in letting the world, particularly the white men of congress who dare test her acumen, know that she is not here for any nonsense.”
“Oprah had the roughest childhood and has gone through all these difficulties. But no matter what, she stays focused on her goals and achieves them,” comedian Tiffany Haddish wrote. “She made her dreams come true. And because I watched her, I did too.”
“In recent years, hard-line Islamic groups have made it increasingly difficult to tend to that garden. But Ms. Nuriyah, the widow of former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, is undeterred,” wrote Egyptian-American journalist, Mona Eltahawy. “The self-identified Muslim feminist has degrees in both Shari’a law and women’s studies; she understands how politicized religion is particularly cruel to women and minorities … Muslim women are too often spoken for and about in endless arguments by men over our headscarves, or the lack thereof. Ms. Nuriyah is a reminder that our narrative is much more complex and, frankly, more interesting.”