It’s an exciting moment. Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” list is live and now we can all discover whose names we should probably be familiar with. The list is split into five sections — Titans, Pioneers, Artists, Leaders and Icons — and the very first entry, Titan of Titans, is Kanye West. West is joined by such luminaries as wife Kim Kardashian, actor Bradley Cooper, film director Lee Daniels, and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki. The list traverses the worlds of entertainment, business, arts, sport, science, activism and government, to rustle up the 100 most influential individuals across the globe.
The “Time 100” came into existence in 1999, when the magazine published a list of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. In 2004, a list of the world’s 100 biggest movers and shakers became an annual issue of the magazine. In 2014, the magazine explained: “The TIME 100 is a list of the world’s most influential men and women, not its most powerful, though those are not mutually exclusive terms… while power is certain, influence is subtle. Power is a tool, influence is a skill; one is a fist, the other a fingertip.” The list offers an interesting glimpse at the world through a kaleidoscopic combination of mini-profiles.
This year’s list appears in print in the April 27, 2015 issue of the magazine, and is replete with appreciations penned by famous figures. West’s profile is written by SpaceX entrepreneur Elon Musk, while Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten is praised by none other than Taylor Swift.
On the women front, 2014’s list contained a record number of female figures — 41, according to a proud introduction from the magazine — and this year’s does not seem to have trumped that figure. By my count there are 37 females on the 2015 list, from many corners of the globe. Supreme Court judge Ruth Bader Ginsberg is celebrated as a “source of collegiality and good judgment” by colleague Antonin Scalia, while Taylor Swift’s “megawatt talent” and “extraordinary spirit” is extolled by actress Mariska Hargitay, and Bjork gets a write up by Marina Abramovic.
Malala Yousafzai, school-age champion of women’s education and empowerment, of course makes the list, as does Germany’s iron lady Angela Merkell. But you might be less familiar with Rula Ghani (Afghanistan’s “hands on” first lady), or Obiageli Ezekwesili (former Minister of Education in Nigeria and champion of #BringBackOurGirls).
Part of the pleasure of the Time 100 is simply the zing of encountering a sort of amplification of influence, as the world’s leading lights gently praise other legendary figures. In an excellent match-up this year, Desmond Tutu profiles Pope Francis.
This year, the magazine’s introduction emphasizes the international nature of the list, with fifty-one individuals born outside of the US. Bryan Walsh, Time’s foreign editor, especially applauds the inclusion of novelist Haruki Murakami, who he’s been trying to get on the list since its inception. The 2015 Time 100, Walsh reports, indicates a strong crop of leaders from contemporary Asia, while Latin America’s leadership has fallen off the list. Nigeria features strongly, too, alongside individuals from other African nations, while women — Walsh writes — are in evidence: represented by those in power and those fighting for change on the ground.
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