The world's most influential person last year was actually a group of people. Time had six different covers for six different people, and their profiles ranged from Broadway playwright to tech industry superstar. They were men and women of five different races from multiple continents. And this year, the magazine decided to follow the same format — five of the 100 most influential people in the world made a cover. There are another 95 people featured alongside them in the magazine, but this year John Legend, Viola Davis, Jeff Bezos, Melinda Gates, and Riz Ahmed each were featured on a Time Most Influential People of 2017 cover.
Given the nervous buzz around Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Bashar al-Assad, and other world leaders, this comes as a bit of a surprise. Nancy Gibbs, the managing editor of Time, explained their choice, though, noting:
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.
Having one person grace the top of the list — and hence the cover — used to be the way it was done. Before last year, it was the norm. In 2015, Kanye West was on the cover and the year before, it was Beyoncé. In recent years, the featured personalities have been more from the world of entertainment and culture, but given who has been chosen as Time's Person of the Year in recent years — Trump, Angela Merkel, Barack Obama, and other such political figures — that makes sense.
The list has only been published since 1999, and yet already some celebrities and politicians have been named upwards of 10 times. Former President Barack Obama was named every year since 2007 and once before in 2005, for a total of 11 times. Perhaps unexpectedly to some, but hopefully not most readers, is the runner-up, Hillary Clinton. She was featured on the list 10 times before this year. Oprah Winfrey and German Chancellor Angela Merkel come in next at nine and eight mentions, respectively.
Gibbs acknowledged that this year some of the more controversial politicians on the list are opponents, like Trump and Kim Jong-un:
In divisive times, it's tempting to nestle in a comfort zone, surrounded by people who look like us, think like us, pray like us, vote like us. Yet many of the men and women on this year's list are calling us out, using the technologies that connect us to expand how we see the world.
Alongside the editor's list is the reader's poll. Usually they don't correspond perfectly, but the poll can serve as a barometer for who the general public expect to see on the list. This year Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte came in first with 5 percent of the vote. This was announced a few days before the full list was released, and the publication noted his controversial and violent war on drugs in drawing notoriety. Next in the poll results were Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Pope Francis, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg, all of whom won 3 percent of the vote.
But ultimately, the final top 100 list — as well as the person chosen to grace the cover — is the decision of the magazine's editors. There's no doubt that their choices are a reflection of this year. Congrats, Legend, Davis, Bezos, Gates, and Ahmed, you're representing 2017.