By Caris Mann, ’22
In a year of extraordinary times, some extraordinary people emerged to lead us. According to Time Magazine, here are the ten most influential people of 2020:
- Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka is a professional tennis player from Japan. She is ranked number one in the Women’s Tennis Association and is the first Asian player with the top ranking in singles. She is currently the reigning champion of the U.S. Open. However, Osaka is not only known for her tennis skills, she is also known for her activism. At the U.S. Open, Osaka played in seven matches and during each match, she wore a mask bearing the name of an African-American killed as a result of police violence. She also refused to play a match in Kenosha, Wisconsin, after a police officer shot Jacob Blake in the back several times. She flew to Minneapolis to protest George Floyd’s death and she has publicly stated that she is supporting the “Defund the Police” movement to redistribute money from police departments to community resources.
- Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi
These three women founded the Black Lives Matter movement in 2013, which protests against police brutality and racial brutality and discrimination. After the wrongful death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25, the organization protested in the streets to make sure their voices were heard and that this incident of police brutality would never happen again. They were joined by celebrities such as Ariana Grande and Tyler the Creator.
- Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel is the first woman chancellor of Germany, elected in 2005. Well known for her calm and rational personality, Merkel is able to speak her opinion and have others listen. For example, she used her educational background in the science field to convince other world leaders such as then-President George Bush that climate change was a pressing issue. When Merkel was first elected to her position, she was told that she would never last long because she was a woman and women are known for being highly emotional. She had to fight for respect from her male counterparts such as Vladimir Putin, who once brought a dog into a meeting with her because she is afraid of dogs. Merkel is expected to step down from her position later this year but she will leave behind an amazing legacy.
- Kamala Harris
Kamala Harris is the first woman Vice President of the United States and is the first person of Indian and Black descent in the position as well. Harris has held a number of government positions including the California State Senator, the Attorney General of California, and the District Attorney of San Francisco. She has also worked for the benefit of the LGBTQ community by banning Prop 8, a law passed in California that only legalized marriage between a man and a woman. In 2011, she opened an E-Crime unit in the California Department of Justice to stop internet crimes. In January of 2019, she began her candidacy for President, but dropped out of the race that December due to a shortage of funds. Last August, Democratic candidate Joe Biden picked Harris to be his running mate. On January 20, 2021, Harris was officially sworn in as the 49th Vice President of the United States.
- Michaela Coel
Michaela Coel is an English actress, writer, poet, and singer. In 2012, Coel wrote and starred in a play called “Chewing Gum Dreams,” where she played a 14-year-old girl named Tracey navigating through life. Then in 2014, her play became a British sitcom called “Chewing Gum,” featuring her as an actor and writer. For “Chewing Gum,” Coel received two British Academy Television Awards for Best Female Comedy Performance and for Breakthrough Talent. In 2020, she wrote, produced, codirected, and starred in a comedy-drama series called “I May Destroy You.” The show is inspired by Coel’s sexual assault experiences and has a predominately black cast. Coel wanted her show to ask questions that others wouldn’t dare ask about sexual assault and to show that sometimes, these questions had no answers. Her work was phenomenally praised and people cannot wait to see what happens in season 2.
- Tsai Ing-wen
Tsai Ing-wen is the seventh president of Taiwan, elected to her position in 2016. She is well known for her intelligence and academic pursuits. She studied law and international trade and eventually became a law professor at Soochow University of Law School. She earned her PhD in law from the University of London. Ing-wen began her political affair in 1993 as the trade negotiator of World Trade Organization affairs. She also became the minister of the Mainland Affairs Council in 2000 and that year she joined the Democratic Progressive Party. She first ran for President in 2012 but was defeated by Ma Ying-jeou. However, she ran again and won in 2016. She was then reelected in 2020 in a landslide and that year she became the chair of the Democratic Progressive Party. She was able to lead her country during the pandemic and she even donated one million masks to other countries.
- Bong Joon Ho
Bong Joon Ho is a Korean movie director well known for his latest film “Parasite,” about a poor family that infiltrates a wealthy family they work for. The movie was praised and well-received by critics, going on to receive four Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best International Feature. It was the first foreign language film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture and the first time Asian writers won the screenplay award. This was seen as a step in the right direction for people to accept foreign films. Bong Joon Ho is set to direct a limited series on HBO alongside Adam McKay also entitled “Parasite” to explore other aspects of the movie that were not covered. Mark Ruffalo is rumored to star in the series.
- Ayushmann Khurrana
Ayushmann Khurrana is an Indian actor who is well known for challenging social norms for men in films. In the movie “Dream Girl,” he played a cross-gender actor at a call center who spoke in a female voice and attracted attention from men. In 2020, Khurrana starred in the movie “Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan,” playing a gay man trying to convince his partner’s family to accept their relationship. The movie was well received but did not do as well commercially due to the pandemic. He was also in another film called “Gulabo Sitabo” which was released on Amazon Prime and received stellar reviews. His next film, “Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui” is set to release this year.
- Megan Thee Stallion
Megan Thee Stallion is an American rapper and activist. This year, she tied with Justin Bieber for the most nominations at the People’s Choice Awards and was the second highest vote-getter at the 2020 Music Awards. For the upcoming Grammys, Megan has four nominations including Best New Artist and Record of the Year for her song “Savage.” This year, she also gave a performance on “Saturday Night Live” where she gave a brief message about the importance of ending racial discrimination, black women in the arts, and Black Lives Matter. At the end of November, she released her debut album “Good News,” which is currently the number one Hip Hop album.
- Dr. Anthony Fauci
The number one most influential person of 2020 was Dr. Anthony Fauci. With experience from the AIDs/HIV epidemic and Ebola, Dr. Fauci led the world during the Coronavirus pandemic. He delivered information to the public, worked to write guidelines for everyone to follow in order to keep safe, and advocated for masks and social distancing. He also helped oversee the Food and Drug Administration’s creation and distribution of the vaccine. On December 4, Joe Biden officially declared that Fauci would serve as the Chief Medical Advisor to the President.