TIME Magazine Releases 2021 List of 100 Most Influential People

In Summary

One hundred influential people were selected for TIME Magazine’s 2021 list highlighting icons and pioneers. 

TIME Magazine has comprised its annual list of this year’s most influential people, and numerous Black figures were included for their contributions to society.  

Featuring categories of icons, pioneers, titans, artists, leaders, and innovators, it includes a wide variety of Black leaders from Naomi Osaka and Nikole Hannah-Jones to Vice President Kamala Harris and Ben Crump.  

THE ICONS  

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan, were recognized for using their platform for good, according to US Weekly. The couple’s royal wedding featured contributions to numerous charities, including Children’s HIV Association (CHIVA), Crisis, Myna Mahila Foundation, Scotty’s Little Soldiers, StreetGames, Surfers Against Sewage and The Wilderness Foundation UK. 

Since stepping back from their royal duties, they launched a nonprofit organization called Archewell that planned to drive “systematic cultural change across all communities.”  


Tennis star Naomi Osaka has been a key figure in speaking out about mental health. Earlier this year, she revealed her ongoing battles with anxiety and depression and withdrew from the French Open after being fined for refusing to speak to the media.  

RELATED: Naomi Osaka Withdraws from French Open Due to Anxiety, Fined $15K 


Sherrilyn Ifill is the President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. She has been an advocate for reforming policing in America.  


THE PIONEERS 

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump has been an advocate for racial justice. Most recently, he represented the family of George Floyd, helping them make history by gaining a million-dollar settlement from the city of Minneapolis. He has also helped the families of other victims of police violence and racial injustice, including Breonna Taylor and Daunte Wright. 

RELATED: Ben Crump Files Lawsuit Against Johnson & Johnson on Behalf of Black Women  


Felwine Sarr is a Senegalese scholar, cultural writer, economist and musician. He is well known for his report The Restitution of African Cultural Heritage: Toward a New Relational Ethics.  


Aurora James is a designer and founder of Brother Vellies, which creates handcrafted sustainable fashion with artists from Nairobi to New York. She created the dress with the words “Tax the Rich” that Representative Alexandra Ocasio Cortez wore to the 2021 Met Gala.  


Phyllis Omido, also known as the “East African Erin Brockovich”, is an environmental activist from Kenya who received the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015.  

THE TITANS 

Olympian Simone Biles is one of the most decorated female athletes of all time. Her work in the field of gymnastics has made her a household name, but so has her voice. Biles has spoken about the importance of mental health at the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games, where she sat out of several competitions. She has also been vocal as a survivor of sexual abuse and on Wednesday, she testified before Congress about the FBI’s mishandling of the Larry Nassar probe.  

RELATED: Simone Biles: FBI Failed Us in Larry Nassar Investigation 


Shonda Rhimes has been admired for her work to implement diversity and rights for women. She has been considered a pioneer in the television industry for casting people of color in lead roles, in shows like Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder.  


Producers Timbaland and Swizz Beatz joined forces to create Verzuz TV, which gave fans something to look forward to during the COVID-19 pandemic with battles between DJs and musical artists. Since its launch in March 2020, it has grown to become a staple in modern music. 


Nikole Hannah-Jones is the award-winning journalist and creator of The New York Times’ 1619 Project. She was also at the center of controversy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill when leaders at the school denied her tenure. After public fallout, the school changed their mind, but Hannah-Jones took a position at HBCU Howard University to lead a study in journalism. She has also been a pioneer in improving literacy in Black youth.  

RELATED: Nikole Hannah-Jones Launching Literacy Program With 1619 Freedom School  


U.S. Track & Field Olympian Allyson Felix has been a pioneer in the space for mothers’ rights in sports. After getting pregnant with her daughter, Felix spoke out about the way she was treated by Nike. She has since worked with the female-owned brand Athleta to create funding for Olympic athletes who need financial assistance paying for childcare during the Tokyo Olympics.  

RELATED: Allyson Felix Helping Mothers Competing in Tokyo Olympics Cover Childcare Costs  


Angélique Kidjo is a singer and activist highlighted for her diverse influence and creativity in music.  

Kenneth C. Frazier, the former head of American Express and Kenneth I Chenault, the leader of Merck, are leading the force in getting corporate companies to publicly oppose restrictive voting rights legislation.  

THE ARTISTS 

Lil Nas X, who recently won Video of the Year at the 2021 MTV VMAs, was also featured on the list. He has been highlighted for his work representing the LGBTQ+ community.  


Jessica B. Harris is an American journalist, author, and culinary historian. Her bestseller High on the Hog was turned into a Netflix Series in 2021. It focuses on the history of Black food and its contributions to America.  


Actress Tracee Ellis Ross has been a leader for Black women and a champion for diversity. Her brand Pattern emphasizes the importance in understanding and loving the beauty of Black hair.  


Mark Bradford is an American artist best known for his collaged artwork. His work is described as “installations that respond to the impromptu networks—underground economies, migrant communities, or popular appropriation of abandoned public space—that emerge within a city.”  


NK Jemisin is a science fiction and fantasy writer. Her novels have won numerous literary awards, including Hugo and Nebula awards.  


Actor Daniel Kaluuya was among the other artists featured on the influential list. He won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of the leader of the Black Panther Party in Judas and the Black Messiah.  


Omar Sy, a French actor, is known for his role in Lupin, which gained popularity worldwide.  

THE LEADERS 

Ngozi Okonjo Iweala is an economist and environmental sustainability activist. She was chosen as the seventh Director-General for the World Trade Organization.  


Vice President Kamala Harris was the first female, first Black and first Indian American to become the Vice President of the United States.  

RELATED: The Rise of Vice President Kamala Harris 


Stacey Abrams has been a pioneer for voting rights for years. Despite losing the Georgia gubernatorial race in 2018, she has led large voting rights campaigns to help flip Georgia blue.  

THE INNOVATORS 

Adrienne Banfield Norris, Willow Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith were highlighted for their work on Red Table Talk, which features the three discussing important and sometimes taboo issues important to the Black community and women.  


John Nkengasong is a virologist and the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. His previous work includes time spent at the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  


Sara Menker is the founder and CEO of Gro Intelligence, which is a software company focused on the global food and agriculture markets. She left her Wall Street job to help start the company striving to prevent a global health crisis.  

The full list can be found here. 

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