Every year an annual list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World is assembled by TIME Magazine.
First published in 1999 as the result of a debate among American academics, politicians, and journalists, the list has now become a very distinguished and prevalent annual event. Although appearing on the list is often seen as an honor, TIME makes it clear that entrants are recognised for changing the world, regardless of the consequences of their actions.
The annual list of 100 Most Influential People explores the intersection of accomplishment and renown. As in years past, this year’s list includes Presidents and Prime Ministers, CEOs and celebrities — but they are joined by others of less fame but great force, in the power of their inventions, the scale of their ambitions, the genius of their solutions to problems that no one before them could solve.
Those recognized fall in one of five categories:
Here’s our pick of the 12 most INSPIRING people featured on this year’s TIME 100 Most Influential People in the World 2017 list:
Dr. Glenda Gray
Waging war on HIV by Siobhan O’Connor
It can be easy to forget that until recently, HIV was a disease you didn’t talk about. Ironically, that’s what inspired Dr. Glenda Gray to study the virus in the first place. As a young medical student who fought to desegregate hospitals in South Africa, she was alarmed when she started seeing babies dying of a virus that her own government claimed wasn’t causing AIDS.
That’s when the pediatrician in training learned firsthand that with HIV, you’re fighting a battle on two fronts: you’re up against a vicious virus – and the stigma that allowed it to proliferate unchecked for so long. Gray decided to fight the virus and the silence around it through research. Thanks in part to her work on mother-to-child transmission, the number of babies born with HIV has dropped from 600 000 a year to 150 000.
Now, she’s set her sights on a way to inoculate infants before they’re ever put at risk. Her ongoing HIV-vaccine study is the largest of its kind ever conducted in South Africa, and with it, Gray is once again doing her part to make sure that the science of HIV – and the conversation around it – never stops evolving.
O’Connor is an executive editor at TIME
Rethinking retail by Emily Weiss
When I first approached Kirsten Green to invest in my company, it was with a question rather than a fully formed pitch: “Wouldn’t it be so cool if we could use the Internet to build a better beauty brand?”
Her reputation preceded her: Kirsten has backed Warby Parker, among other startups. But as a woman who worked for years as a retail analyst, she is also in a unique position to understand my vision for Glossier. She uses beauty products, she knows technology and she gets what women want – which is also good for business, given that we control the majority of household spending.
Silicon Valley needs more venture capitalists like Kirsten, who not only hires women (her firm, Forerunner Ventures, employs a mostly female team) but also seeks out women-led businesses to invest in from Reese Witherspoon’s Draper James to Tyler Haney’s Outdoor Voices It’s about well-rounded decision-making leading to better outcomes.
Weiss is the founder and CEO of Glossier
Pop music’s new prince by Taylor Swift
As a young, precocious redheaded boy growing up in Framlingham, Suffolk, Ed Sheeran decided he wanted to be a musician. He started writing songs and playing instruments like so many hopefuls do, but something very different happened that would set in motion one of the most impressive self-made careers in music.
Whether by choice or an unconscious evolution, when he decided on his musical ambitions, Ed become less of a boy and more of a tank. He is protected by an impenetrable an ever-present armor of enthusiasm that has helped him endure any setback, letdown or underestimation. His reaction to any idea that fails is to almost immediately come up with a new one. He’s like a fighter who pops back up on his feet before you even noticed he’d been knocked down.
A few years ago, in a rare moment of admitting feeling defeated, Ed said to me, “I’m never going to win a Grammy.” Yes, you are, I said. You’re going to sweep the whole thing one of these years It was a few weeks later when he met me in a dance-shoe store in London, where I was picking out rehearsal outfits, and said, “You have to hear this.” It was a song he’d just finished called “Thinking Out Loud”, which would go on to win Song of the Year at the Grammy awards in 2016.
Congratulations to my friend Ed, for the legacy you’ve already built and the brilliant hook you probably just came up with five minutes ago.
Swift is a 10-time Grammy-winning singer, songwriter, producer and musician.
The real deal by Helen Mirren
Can the name be real? It is such a perfect movie-star name, like something that could be on a ‘40’s marquee. How fitting, then, that Ryan Reynolds has the same loose-limbed charm as Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart. He’s the Everyman, but somehow with more of everything: wit, elegance, looks and general hunkiness.
Of course in the real world – for us, this was often at 6 a.m. in a makeup trailer – Ryan is also rumpled, kind, committed and generous, especially to women. He likes them in the most simple, direct, unadorned way: for their humanity (How very appropriate that he is the father of two girls.) He has a natural wit, which he often turns on himself, and he can balance his private and public life with great dexterity. He is open and generous, but never inappropriate. I suspect this is part of what makes him such an appealing performer.
When we were shooting the movie we did together, Woman in Gold, Ryan was about to start his now legendary journey toward becoming Deadpool. That movie’s incredible success was so deserved, and it was brought about by Ryan’s singular commitment, energy and imagination. I loved Deadpool. But I also miss spending time with the actor who played him – his warm, intelligent, inquisitive brown eyes, his readiness to laugh… sigh.
P.S. The name is real, like everything else about Ryan.
Mirren is an Oscar-winning actor.
Gucci’s creative force by Jared Leto
On a quiet night in January 2015, just outside of Milan, there was a creative explosion.
A bright light burned its way across the Italian sky, fusing together the past, the present and the future, and releasing upon the earth a new and exciting voice that would change fashion forever. On this magical evening, an unassuming young artist made a statement so strong that it set the sartorial world afire and ushered in a new renaissance for the infamous House of Gucci.
Yves, Karl, Gianni, Giorgio, Christion, Coco. It’s rare that a new name can be added to such an illustrious list. But Lallo, as he is known to his closest friends, has more that earned his place. I have witnessed firsthand the amount of thought, care and passion he puts into everything he creates. It’s inspiring to behold.
People don’t just like Gucci. They desire it. And I think it’s because they have some sense that Alessandro Michele pours his heart into every single thing he does, and shares with us that ever-so-elusive and powerful ingredient – love.
Leto is an Oscar-winning actor and a musician.
The carpool king by Elton John
For years, James Corden has been a beloved part of British pop culture. By the time he started his career in America, James had written and co-starred in his own hugely popular TV series. In fact, James’ first ever version of “Carpool Karaoke” took place in London in 2011 with my dear friend, the late George Michael.
When he began hosting The Late Late Show in 2015, most Americans still had no idea who he was. But is wasn’t long before he skyrocketed to fame in the U.S., too. It took just over a year for James’ show to be nominated for four Emmy Awards. He then went on to host the Tony Awards and the Grammy Awards. He has also Carpool Karaoke’d with Adele, Lady Gaga, myself and more.
James is one of the most hardworking and talented people you will ever meet. But that alone doesn’t explain his extraordinary success. Anyone – friends and fans alike – can tell you that James doesn’t take himself, or others, too seriously. And that’s why he’s able to make us laugh, cry and sing – sometimes all at once.
His authenticity has allowed him to shape pop culture in an incredible way. We can expect to see more of James in the coming years – and that’s a wonderful thing for television, comedy and humanity.
John is a singer and composer and the founder of the Elton Johan AIDS Foundation.
A fierce advocate for women around the world by Sheryl Sandberg
“Women speaking up for themselves and for those around them is the strongest force we have to change the world” – Melinda Gates
Leadership takes many forms. Here’s one: A group of women sit on the ground in a circle. Most of them make less than $2 a day. They talk about their families, their fledgling enterprises, their dreams of better lives for their children. In their midst is Melinda Gates, listening.
You might think, Everyone listens. In fact, women like this are rarely heard, and few listen like Melinda. She listens with her complete attention and total empathy. Then she figures out how to use what she’s learned to make the world a more equitable place. Her vision for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has helped lift the lives of millions of people.
Its work reflects her impatient optimism. Her ability to think big and move fast. Her love of numbers. (Bill’s not the only data geek in the family.) Her passionate commitment to empowering women and girls, seen in the foundation’s support for increasing access to contraceptives in developing countries. Her fundamental belief in human dignity. It’s all there, woven tightly into the DNA of one of the most ambitious and generous philanthropies in history. And with the launch of her new organization, Pivotal Ventures, Melinda has yet another avenue to effect meaningful change.
Her impact will be felt for generations to come.
Sandberg is the COO of Facebook, founder of LeanIn.org and author of Option B.
Serial innovator by Buzz Aldrin
“You have to be willing to be misunderstood if you’re going to innovate” – Jeff Bezos
I feel a special space kinship with Jeff Bezos – albeit one grounded not here on Earth, but far away on the moon. Jeff has told me that while I stood in that magnificent desolation in July 1969, he was all of 5 years old and yet firmly fixed on our Apollo 11 journey.
In my recent visit to his Blue Origin rocket company near Seattle, nearly 50 years after my moonwalk, I was heartened to see a space-geek extraordinaire become a passionate patron of helping to shape the future of America’s space program via his entrepreneurial spunk, imagination and, yes, willingness to put dollars where his dreams are.
We’ve seen him do this before. Bezos is a serial innovator: with Amazon, he changed the way the retail industry works: and now he’s applying that same spark of creativity to media with his ownership of the Washington Post and the founding of Amazon studios.
Still, for me it is his zeal for helping humanity return to the moon, settle Mars and reach destinations beyond that is the most thrilling. Just as Bezos watched my journey half a century ago, I am watching his today.
Aldrin, who created the Share Space Foundation for education, is the second man to walk on the moon.
Guardian of the Fed by Joseph Stiglitz
Janet Yellen, the first woman to hold what is often viewed as the most important and powerful economic position the world, has wielded that power deftly, with a sure but steady hand, during an enormously difficult time. With a less skilled leader, the Fed might have become fractious and divided.
Instead, with both labor and capital markets deeply troubled, she brought an expertise in these aspects of economics based on a deep theoretical grounding obtained at Yale (confession: James Tobin and I were among her advisers).
And more than perhaps any other central banker, she brought a sensitivity to the key issue of our day, inequality, grasping that Fed macro and regulatory policies can have profound effects on both the poor and the rich. As chair, she has more than lived up to our high expectations.
Her biggest challenge may be going forward, with Trump proposing large budget deficits in an economy that many members of the Fed already believe is close to full employment. In a highly politicized environment marked by extreme uncertainty, the nation needs the clam hand expertise and wisdom of a devoted public servant like Janet Yellen.
Stiglitz is a Nobel Prize-winning economist and a professor at Columbia University.
Snapchat’s unfiltered visionary by DJ Khaled
I met Evan Spiegel, the CEO of Snapchat, for the first time last year. I wanted to look into the eyes of someone with has that kind of vision – who’s willing to go all out to build a company and to make such incredible technology.
So much of social media is used to tear people down, which I don’t respect of believe in. But Snapchat is motivating and inspiring. It shows people that there are better ways to express yourself and to entertain other people Everyone who knows me knows I’m all about spreading love and inspiration. And with Snapchat, I’m not a secret anymore. I’m not just for the people around me. I can open up my life and connect with my fans worldwide, in real time.
I hope, now that Snapchat is a public company, it means more wins for everyone, including Evan. Because when Evan wins, we all win.
Khaled, a hip-hop artist and producer, is on of the most popular celebrities on Snapchat.
Gridiron great by Conan O’Brien
I’m here to save Tom Brady. If not for this TIME essay, Tom would be just another trivia question that stumps Boston sports fans Behold a world without this essay:
Fan in Dorchester sports bar: Which NFL quarterback has the most Super Bowl wins, touchdowns, appearances and passing yards, plus the most overall victories in NFL history, plus a Brazilian supermodel wife? Other fan in bar: C’mon, Chowderhead – nobody could friggin’ know that!
Tom Brady all but wrote his own tribute when he won his fifth Super Bowl ring and became the greatest quarterback of all time. Even the most virulent haters have no answer for that stroke-inducing overtime win over Atlanta. The mic was dropped. But Tom’s real achievement is that he willed himself to be. When Tom was drafted in the second-to-last round, he was slow and scrawny, and buried on the depth chart below Drew Bledsoe, Michael Bishop and the drummer for the Cars. With a monastic diet, intense training and a relentless, inspiring positivity, Tom built himself from the ground up.
Great people, like mountain ranges, can feel inevitable, but Tom Brady didn’t have to be this good. He simply refused to be less than the best ever, and no essay by anyone but me is necessary. Thank heavens I’m here.
O’Brien hosts Conan on TBS.
Reshaping beauty standards by Tyra Banks
Every inch of Ashley Graham’s face tells the story of beauty – inside and out. Every word she speaks shouts to all who lack faith in their reflections. Every Graham of her body embraces anyone who ever doubted themselves.
Ashley’s firsts will last in our minds forever, permanently imprinted in our skulls that all of our beauty matters. Yes, Ashley. You did that.
And I am beyond proud, in admiration and in awe of your power and influence over so many people’s self-worth.
It is time for everyone to bow down to the fashion industry’s – no, make that beauty’s – new queen.
Banks is an entrepreneur and the host of VH1’s America’s Next Top Model
*Graham is the first size-16 model to appear on the covers of Vogue and Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue.
*Credits: Essays featured was written by Siobhan O’Connor, Emily Weiss, Taylor Swift, Helen Mirren, Jared Leto, Elton John, Sheryl Sandberg, Buzz Aldrin, Joseph Stiglitz, DJ Khaled, Conan O’Brien and Tyra Banks for TIME Magazine.
*Photo Credit: Alessandro Michele by Pari Dukovic for the New Yorker