For 10 years now, the iconic TIME magazine has compiled a near-definitive annual list of 100 people deemed the world’s most influential. The most influential people on the list are defined, by TIME, as those “who most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, and embodied what was important about the year.” Merriam-Webster defines “influential” as “having the power to cause changes.” Of course, according to this definition, we are all of us influential—no person can exist without causing change to someone or something. The degree to which one causes change is the focus of TIME’s “Most Influential” series.
Were the people chosen born with a built-in ability to affect others in major ways, with better powers of speech, more charisma and greater intelligence? Perhaps to some degree. Many talented people are in the limelight, however, and not all are deemed particularly influential. What’s more important here is the impact these people have made in their respective spheres, the degree to which they’ve used their status to affect change.
Pope Francis was TIME’s person of the year for 2013. However, the 100 Most Influential are grouped into five categories: Titans, Leaders, Artists, Pioneers and Icons. The top 10 people featured in the category of ‘artists’ are some of the most diverse choices and, arguably, some of the people most representative of the zeitgeist. There are a couple of actors, a chef, a comedian, a musician, a style-guru, a movie director, a singer and more. In what ways have these colourful character in these varying industries influenced the world today? Let us count the ways…
10. Bryan Cranston
Cranston, originally from California, is best known for his roles as the father in “Malcolm in the Middle” and more recently he changed the way we watch TV with his embodiment of Walter White on “Breaking Bad.”Actor Jon Hamm of Mad Men wrote Cranston’s TIME feature. Dressed in what Hamm describes as “tighty whities,” a rubber apron and desert boots, Cranston [as White] may have been intimidated when he first met Hamm, on set at AMC for their respective new shows. Jon Hamm was in character as Don Draper, besuited and slicked-back hair, and reports that Cranston was just as “humble” and “lovely” after becoming a cultural phenomenon than as on that day, before the start of Breaking Bad. Bryan Cranston is the first actor, since Bill Cosby in the 1960s, to win three consecutive Emmys for “Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.”
9. Jenna Lyons
The Creative Director for J. Crew influences the fashion senses of millions of people. At six-feet tall, Lyons has the perfect frame to showcase one of her biggest loves, clothing. Mom-of-one Lyons is an independent woman; in fact, she’s in the still unusual position of having to provide spousal support to her ex-husband, who claims he gave up his artistic career to stay home and support her career. After their divorce she started a relationship with a woman—and as though being a single-mom, newly-out-lesbian and powerhouse businesswoman wasn’t enough, this guru of style recently made a cameo on the HBO series, “Girls.” What does Lyons teach us? You can be anything (and anyone) you want.
8. Mindy Kaling
A comedian with a self-deprecating wit, Mindy Kaling is also an actress, writer and producer. She is well known for her role on “The Office,” and now has her own show on FOX, “The Mindy Project,” in which she plays a scatter-brained obstetrician. Kaling created and stars in the series, which she co-produced with Universal and 3 Arts Entertainment. First-generation American, this smart and funny woman was named Mindy after the character on the 70s TV show Mork and Mindy. How could she not be smart and funny having this karmic association with both comedy and Robin Williams! Her influence? Friend Ed Helms says: “…she was created by an evil scientist to lull us into a giddy stupor in order to control our minds.”
This half-Mexican, half-African-American performer has a look and sound that is all his own, though he has been compared to Prince because of his innovation and independent sense of self. At 14 he began working for a production company and at 19 signed a record deal with Black Ice, a label he says wanted to turn him into something he wasn’t. Instead of doing what most young people would have, (a) be too intimidated to say no and (b) stay for a little exposure, Miguel walked away: “We shot a video, and if you ever see it, you will laugh your ass off. I have a fitted hat on and a white T-shirt and baggy jeans. I was 19 years old and it was the first time anyone had ever given me money.” His second album Kaleidoscope Dream sold 71,000 copies in its first week.
6. Ed Ruscha
Who can smear chocolate on sheets of paper and have it sell for $1.5 million? Ed Ruscha (pronounced Roo-shay) can. Even if you don’t remember hearing this prolific American artist’s name, it’s likely you’ve seen his work, or a reproduction, somewhere. Included in the Pop Art movement with the likes of Andy Warhol, this living legend is an art titan. He has produced scores of artistic books, photography and, what he is best known for, paintings. His subject is text and object based, with some paintings featuring a word. He has photographed products such as a box of Sun Maid raisins or a can of Sherwin Williams paint, harking back to Norman Rockwell’s cans of Campbell’s soup. Many have created large pieces emulating this icon, whose work sells for millions and are displayed in the biggest museums worldwide. The star-studded 2013 Whitney Museum Gala honoured Ruscha.
5. Alex Atala
This tattooed, Brazilian culinary guru Atala, of Lebanese-Palestinian descent, is a fair-haired man with a red beard. His image suggests he may have the blood of a Viking raider and indeed, his nature is redolent with this suggestion: Adventurous, an explorer and very tenacious, Atala trained with top chefs in Belgium and Italy before returning home to his native Brazil. He uses local ingredients, some of which he travels into the Amazon to find, fusing them with anything from French or Japanese flavours to make his own distinctive taste brand. His restaurant D.O.M. was named fourth-best in the world, 2012, by S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants, published by Restaurant magazine. It was also named Acqua Panna’s Best South American Restaurant. Atala recently co-founded a food institute in Sao Paolo.
4. Jonathan Ive
How has this relaxed-looking, casual man influenced your life? Referred to by Steve Jobs as his spiritual partner, Ive is the only Apple employee to have a private office. He developed products many of our readers will have used, including iMac, the iPod, iPad, iPhone, McBook Pro, McBook Air, and more. Apple’s Senior Vice President of Design, Ive was born in England to a silversmith father who taught at a college, and who would take Ive to the empty college workshop as a Christmas gift each year to design and make whatever he fancied. Those gifts from Dad paid off in spades, or in Apples! It wasn’t just Jobs return to Apple in 1996 that saved the then floundering company; 1997 was when Ive was made Senior VP of Design.
3. Steven Spielberg
Aside from his obvious and widespread influence through his Hollywood blockbuster movies, this director/producer has one very big lesson to teach us. Now worth around $3.3 billion dollars, Steven Spielberg is dyslexic and, as a young man, had his application to USC’s School of Theater, Film and Television denied not once, but twice. It is no surprise he now has an honorary degree from the university. Spielberg made his first moving picture on his father’s 8 mm movie camera as a boy scout before the age of 13, earning himself a merit badge. His first feature-length film made a profit of $1, but his determination and vision have paid off and there are few who have not heard of this ground-breaker.
2. Christina Aguilera
Nicknamed the “Princess of Pop,” this icon has had an influence on many things, including a return to the Hollywood glam style of the 1920s-1940s as well as on reality TV vocal contests (The Voice). Aguilera is the only artist in history to have number one debuts in both Spanish and English. Since her time as a teen on the Mickey-Mouse Club, Ms. Aguilera has been an influence on girls and young women, with her former bubble-gum style and sassy attitude, not to mention a multi-award-winning voice. In the last few years she has moved towards older, more classic forms of music, leaving behind her former pop-glam persona to have more individual freedom in her music and performance choices.
1. Jennifer Lawrence
This 23-year-old actress originally from Kentucky is described as making acting look easy. She’s credited her interest in human nature with being her best acting lesson—she finds studying people and their reactions fascinating. Already nominated more than once, Lawrence won the Best Actress Oscar at the age of 21, making her the second youngest female ever to do so at the time. Her reviews are impeccable, and she’s attained tremendous popularity as much for her acting roles as for her sassy personality and no-nonsense approach to Hollywood’s politics. Is that enough to make her the most influential artist of 2013? The single most important factor in her legacy is, and likely will remain, this: before The Hunger Games, not one of the “top 200 worldwide box-office hits ever” had featured a female action hero in the main role. The film had the third-largest opening weekend ever, continuing to earn phenomenally. Lawrence made Katniss Everdeen the first action hero to rival any male, breaking the mold for women to come.
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