Rewind the 2010s: The 20 Most Influential People of the Decade


Alexandra Lange , Columnist

Chrissy Teigen

As a supermodel, author, TV host and iconic social media presence, Chrissy Teigen is much more than just the wife of Grammy-winning singer John Legend. Her candid and completely unfiltered social media posts are comedy gold and unlike those of any other celebrities. Honest and open about even the most cringeworthy moments of her life, Teigen is relatable and real.


Arguably one of the most powerful women in modern history, Beyoncé represents strength, independence and feminism. Her music has empowered women everywhere and her fearless approach to life in general has inspired a genuine cult of personality. With an influence that transcends genre, her “Beyhive” worships her songs, speech and even silence. Few can match Beyoncé’s cult following, as she is truly a fantasy woman who gives her followers hope that they can have it all.

Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen DeGeneres’ lovable mix of humor and compassion has captured the hearts of millions. Most famous for hosting “The Ellen Show,” DeGeneres has used her platform to encourage kindness and bring awareness to profound social issues. Over her show’s 16-year run, she has donated over $50 million to various charities and people in need. Asking her viewers to “be kind to one another,” Ellen has inspired people to make the world a better place.

Malala Yousafzai

In 2014, 17-year-old Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner ever. An advocate for women’s education rights, Malala rose to fame after being shot in the face by a Taliban gunman on her way to school in 2012. Her tragic story incited even stronger support for her cause and led to a United Nations campaign for the education of children worldwide and Pakistan’s Right to Education Bill.

Virgil Abloh

Founder of Off-White and current artistic director of menswear for Louis Vuitton, Virgil Abloh is one of the most powerful and sought-after designers in the fashion industry. He made history as the first black man to debut a men’s wear line in Louis Vuitton’s 164-year history, and sparked an even greater buzz over his lack of formal fashion training and his suburban roots. He has single-handedly re-defined our understanding of fashion as an artform and sparked a new wave of  luxury-meets-streetwear fashion.

Simone Biles

Even though Simone Biles is the most decorated American gymnast of all time, her impact goes far beyond her athletics. Biles has flexed her muscles outside the gym, speaking about her difficult childhood in foster care and has worked with organizations that support children. Her legacy in revolutionizing gymnastics is seen both in her creation of intricate new moves as well as her push for change in the USA Gymnastics organization.

Donald Trump

Whether you love him or hate him, it is undeniable that Donald Trump rewrote the rules of politics when he was elected president in 2016. His unpredictability has thrilled some voters but worried others, as he has disrupted institutional norms. Despite the current impeachment inquiry and his unpresidential Twitter activity, Trump has taken a bold strategy to promote denuclearization of North Korea and has pushed for new trade agreements.

The Royal Family

From the matriarch Queen Elizabeth to the newest addition Archie, the British Royal Family has captivated Americans. Millions watched Prince William marry Kate Middelton in 2011 and Prince Harry wed Meghan Markle in 2018. Many anxiously follow them, awaiting their every move.

Greta Thunberg

Although Greta Thunberg is only 16 years old, she is already one of the most powerful climate change activists in the world. Inspiring millions to participate in climate strikes, the Swedish teenager raised awareness for climate science and galvanized support and activism in a manner few have been able to do successfully in the past. Resonating particularly with young people, Thunberg is responsible for the rise in girl eco-warriors in what has been affectionately coined “The Greta Effect.”

Nancy Pelosi

Praised by Hillary Clinton as the “driving force of the Democratic party,” Nancy Pelosi has made waves not only because she is the first female Speaker of the House but also for her involvement in important legislation. In her 16 years as Speaker, Pelosi led the Democratic party to pass the first major gun safety bill and voting rights legislation, and has pushed for affordable healthcare as well as accountability in the current administration.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis has been a man of firsts: the first Jesuit Pope, the first Pope to choose the name Francis and the first Pope from the Americas. Revolutionizing the papacy, Francis has strikingly departed from the conservative nature of the Catholic Church. He has criticized global leaders, opened the doors of the Church to those who have historically been excluded and championed environmental reform, indigenous rights and several other social justice issues.

Elon Musk

Whether he’s working on electric vehicles for Tesla, sending rockets into space for SpaceX or revolutionizing the way we make payments for PayPal, Elon Musk is refashioning the world. The entrepreneur has already reshaped life as we know it and has plans to bring science-fiction fantasies to life. With goals to build a supersonic rail system, improve A.I. and even colonize Mars, Musk’s influence will likely grow stronger in the coming years.

Taylor Swift

Recently winning the award for Artist of the Decade at the AMA’s, Taylor Swift has a power over the music industry matched by few others. On the business side, Swift has stood up for fair compensation for artists’ streaming their work on Apple Music and Spotify and has fought back against her former record label’s refusal to let her perform her old music. On stage, the country-turned-pop superstar has an electrifying presence that makes “Swifties” believe in magic and love.

Bill Gates

With a net worth of over $107 billion, Bill Gates is one of the world’s wealthiest people. While his impact in the past stemmed from his leadership of Microsoft, more recently, he has been influential through his charity work. Through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he has given away nearly $50 billion to various charities, focusing on public education, climate change, global health and poverty, inspiring others to do the same.

Lin-Manuel Miranda

Since its premiere in 2015, “Hamilton” has been one of Broadway’s most coveted tickets. Lin-Manuel Miranda conceived, wrote and starred in this theatrical masterpiece that has been praised for embracing history, race, rhythm and soul. Also writing the music for “Moana” and starring in “Mary Poppins Returns,” the New Yorker has won numerous awards for his musical genius. Off the stage, though, Miranda has shined just as bright, particularly with his fundraising in support of Puerto Rico.

Kanye West

Pop culture phenomenon Kanye West has been one of this decade’s most powerful trailblazers. As a musician, he has pushed the boundaries of hip-hop, creating new sounds with 808s and soulful samples as well as writing storytelling lyrics. As a fashion designer, West has created one of the hottest sneakers in the world and revitalized the Adidas brand with his Yeezy partnership. Politically, he is unafraid to speak his mind, forming a complicated and controversial friendship with President Donald Trump and being an integral component of pop culture’s relationship with politics.

Evan Spiegel

Each day, over 200 million people use Snapchat, the pioneering app created by Evan Spiegel. Spiegel revolutionized the tech industry when he designed Snapchat. A visual, personal and ephemeral platform, Snapchat gives users the freedom to express their true personalities and embrace the emotive content. Without Spiegel’s vision, the world would be an entirely different place.

The Obamas

As the first African American President of the United States, Barack Obama forever changed America’s political landscape. His legacy as a politician can be seen through the legalization of same-sex marriage, Obamacare and the improvement of America’s image. His wife, Michelle, has been just as powerful in inciting change, focusing on healthy living and education. The Obamas have promoted a message of hope and change and have provided a strong example for leaders to follow.

The Kardashian/Jenners

The youngest self-made billionaire, the world’s highest paid model and a criminal justice activist are not your typical reality TV characters. The Kardashians, never ones to blend in, have influenced fashion, body image, social media and even the vocabulary we use today.

Jeff Bezos

Although Amazon was founded 25 years ago, the company has expanded its capabilities in recent years. Led by the world’s richest person, Jeff Bezos, the online marketplace has disrupted the way people shop and has taken on traditional retailers. Bezos has pushed the limits, leading the charge in smart home products with Alexa and expanding into entertainment with Prime Video.