The Badass 50

After a full-stop year, life is slowly returning to normal. But the women on this list never put their passions on pause. They’ve championed vital causes and strived to realize their visions for the world amid the most challenging times. And we’re all better for it. Introducing, 50 women who are making the world a better place in 2021.

1. Amanda Gorman

The first National Youth Poet Laureate and breakout star of the 2021 presidential inauguration reflects on instant fame and the power of the pen.

What does "badass" mean to you? Being my fullest self without apology.

Did you ever think a poem would make you a public figure? I had no idea of the ways in which my life would change after my inaugural poem. While I didn't expect that prominence to fall to me so suddenly, I've long believed in the public calling and necessity of poets. To me, they've always been the rock stars of civilization. Performing at an inauguration despite being scared out of my mind is the most badass thing I've ever done.

What do you hope people take away from your work? Ironically enough, I hope people take away hope from my work. I consider empathy to be one of the most important things I can engender as a writer.

Your poetry collection, The Hill We Climb and Other Poems, comes out in December. Is there any advice you'd give to aspiring poets, in terms of the creative process? Great readers make great writers. Read as much as you can, both to discover how your voice echoes other authors' as well as to realize what makes you unmistakably unique from them. For so long, my voice was the thing I was most ashamed of, and now it is the thing I'm most proud of. It is a power no one can take away from me.

What are you still ambitious for? There is still so much I want to do with my pen. If I have the privilege to continue writing with purpose, there's not much more I could ask for.

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Gorman reciting “The Hill We Climb” at President Joe Biden’s inauguration. Alex Wong/Getty; Sergio Garcia; Courtesy Searchlight Pictures; Flare; Celeste Sloman

2. Margaret Cho

Cho, who started doing stand-up at 14, is a trailblazer not only for fellow Asian American comics (Robin Tran, Ali Wong, Awkwafina, and Irene Tu are some of her favorites) but also as an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. Her latest project, Hot White Heist, is a queer action-comedy for Audible. "I actually don't think about how far we have all come in terms of visibility in race and queerness, but then again it isn't that hard to remember how invisible we were," says Cho of her tenure in the entertainment world. "It is also weird to think that this might only be temporary, and that things might completely change. I really hope we don't go backward. I want to keep looking ahead."

3. Chloé Zhao

In April, the Chinese filmmaker became the second woman — and the first woman of color—to take home the Best Director trophy at the Academy Awards for her film Nomadland, which went on to win a total of six Oscars (including the night's top honor, Best Picture). Now one of the most sought-after directors in Hollywood, Zhao is getting ready to release her biggest directing project to date: the Marvel blockbuster Eternals, which is slated to hit theaters this fall.

4. Sara de Zarraga & Quinn Fitzgerald

"We've helped thousands of women live their lives with confidence and control," says de Zarraga, who co-founded a line of personal security jewelry called Flare in 2016 with Fitzgerald, a fellow sexual assault survivor. With the click of a button on their designs, someone in an unsafe or uncomfortable situation can discreetly alert designated contacts, connect with police, or send themselves an incoming call as an exit excuse. Despite their success, the duo dream of the day when their brand is rendered unnecessary. "We hate that we have to hide technology in jewelry," says Fitzgerald. "Ultimately, we're fighting to create a culture where everyone can just feel safe."

Anita Hill

"The problems are so deeply rooted, it really is like boiling the ocean."

— Anita Hill

5. Anita Hill

The lawyer and professor has been fighting workplace harassment for three decades, and she won't stop until she's won.

At a historic Senate hearing in 1991, Hill testified that her former supervisor, then–Supreme Court justice nominee Clarence Thomas, had sexually harassed her while she was his assistant at the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights and U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Taking the stand that day ultimately shaped the mission of her life's work. "I wish I'd known I was going to be in this for the long haul," says Hill. "Then I wouldn't have been discouraged when things didn't happen quickly or the way I wanted." In 2017, she was tapped to serve on the Global Leadership Board of Time's Up as chair of the Hollywood Commission for Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality. "It's the most daunting challenge I've faced of late, because the problems are so deeply rooted," says Hill. "It really is like boiling the ocean."

With the hope that lasting change is possible through education, she currently teaches courses on gender, race, social policy, and legal history at Brandeis University. "I want every student to leave my class with the tools to understand what it's like to be in the margins and to center those voices," says Hill, whose third book, Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence, will be published by Viking in September. "A few years ago I started looking at issues of gender violence — not just sexual harassment in terms of what happened to me, but stories I've heard from others who have identified with my situation, and there were so many similarities," she says. "This has been a public crisis long before the #MeToo movement, and people are still facing resistance to their ideas or identities in the workplace and can't come forward. As long as those conditions exist, I will be doing this work."

Creating real impact takes time, Hill has learned. "When I first graduated from law school, I thought the journey to change the world would be a sprint," she says. "After 20 years, I thought it was more of a marathon. Now I've realized it's a relay: Each generation does what they can, and some do more than those who came before them. But at some point, we're going to have to pass the baton. And I hope my generation leaves the world a better place than what we came into."

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Ben Rothstein/Warner Bros.; Courtesy Phoebe Robinson; Voto Latino; Dan Ahn; Courtesy Mary Pryor

6. Lisa Joy

Westworld's co-creator and executive producer will celebrate her feature directorial début with the Hugh Jackman–led film Reminiscence this month. But long before she was writing prestige sci-fi scripts, the Harvard Law grad spent her time writing briefs. She worked as a consultant by day and spent her nights screenwriting until she landed a staff writer job on ABC's Pushing Daisies in 2007. For Joy, the never-ending hustle was worth it. "When you're passionate about something, it doesn't feel like work," she says.

7. Phoebe Robinson

With a stand-up special set to air on HBO Max, a new Freeform series (Everything's Trash), and her third book (Please Don't Sit on My Bed in Your Outside Clothes) out September 28, the comedian is hitting her stride, and then some. But perhaps her most meaningful project to date is the upcoming launch of her own imprint, Tiny Reparations Books, which is dedicated to making publishing more diverse. "Like most industries, if you're not a cis, straight white guy, it can be a struggle to get your art out to the masses," says Robinson. "The point of the imprint is to help broaden the landscape so that more women, POCs, and folks from the LGBTQIA+ community can share their work the way they want to. I get to fall in love with new voices and then encourage readers to do the same. What a dream job."

8. Maria Teresa Kumar

The president and co-founder of Voto Latino, a voter-registration nonprofit aimed at enfranchising and empowering Latino youth, credits "a multicultural America who rose up" as the true winners of the 2020 election. "They decided the vision that was being painted in the last four years was not acceptable." After registering over 600,000 voters for the 2020 cycle, Kumar has turned her attention to the future, teaming up with Media Matters for America to launch the Latino Anti-Disinformation Lab as part of a $22 million campaign to research and combat disinformation.

9. Moonlynn Tsai & Yin Chang

The couple converted their supper club, Heart of Dinner, into a volunteer-based food-delivery service amid the surge in anti-Asian hate crimes and the food insecurity crisis during the pandemic. To date, they've brought over 70,000 free meals to the elderly in New York City's Chinatown neighborhood, including a handwritten note in the recipient's native language with each package. "We want to remind them that they belong here just as much as anyone else," says Chang. "There's a huge community that sees them, recognizes them, and loves to be there for them."

10. Mary Pryor

"Equity is a priority for us in all forms," says the Cannaclusive co-founder. As the number of states legalizing medical and recreational marijuana continues to increase, Pryor is determined to bring entrepreneurs from underrepresented minority groups into the fold. And through Cannaclusive, she's doing just that. The organization promotes the inclusion of people of color in the industry with a number of initiatives, such as building a database of minority-owned cannabis companies, an accountability list that tracks the progress of brands' social-equity pledges, and a free stock-photo collection of diverse cannabis consumers for marketing use.

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Courtesy Just Cannabis; Jesse Cowan; Andrea Gentl & Martin Hyers/Hyers Photography

11. Riqua Hailes Turner

In addition to highlighting the healing properties of the plant, the CEO of the events and lifestyle brand Just Cannabis aims to change the consumption stereotypes that are often associated with people of color. "The cannabis industry brands itself off of urban culture, but we're not in the room while it's being done," says Hailes Turner. "It's important for us to be there, though, in order for those individuals to understand our stories and what our challenges were to get here. And then once we're at the table, we can work to make change."

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Matt Cowan

12. The Linda Lindas

Following a viral performance in May, the young punk band earned both instant riot grrrl status and a record deal. Here, they share why they were born to rock.

What is your most badass quality?

Lucia: Can we answer for each other? Mila is comfortable with being herself and doesn't care what people think about her.

Mila: Bela has this cool fashion sense; she mixes, matches, and makes her own clothes and changes her hair all the time.

Bela: Eloise is very sweet and polite but has the fiercest scream.

Eloise: Lucia is always writing songs. She also reads all the time and has already finished about 100 books this year!

Lucia, the Linda Lindas

"There's a lot of hate in the world, and we were able to address it in a creative way."

— Lucia, the Linda Lindas

How does it feel to have your song "Racist, Sexist Boy" become an Internet sensation?

Mila: It's cool to know that so many people are hearing the message that we want to get out. But it's sad that so many people can relate.

Lucia: There's a lot of hate in the world, and we were able to address it in a creative way.

Bela: Without violence.

What is the most badass thing you've ever done?

Lucia: Broke both of my arms snowboarding.

Mila: Drummed in a show with one hand because I broke my thumb.

Eloise: Cartwheeled off the stage of the Hollywood Palladium.

Bela: Played a backyard show and got busted by the cops.

13. Sana Javeri Kadri

The 27-year-old started her fair-trade spice brand Diaspora Co. four years ago with "no cash, just a wild dream of wanting to build a more delicious and equitable spice trade, plus a terribly designed Squarespace website," she says. Since its inception, the company has reached the top 1 percent in revenue and traffic of global Shopify stores while staying true to its founder's altruistic nature. In addition, Kadri has provided comprehensive health insurance to 150 farm workers and encouraged others to support sustainable businesses and hold companies accountable for farm workers' rights, growing standards, and harvest dates.

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Hamamoto (left) with dancer Piotr Iwanicki. Kyle Maclennan

14. Marisa Hamamoto

After suffering a stroke during a 2006 dance class, Hamamoto was paralyzed from the neck down and worried her body was "broken." Though she later regained her mobility, the trauma of the incident, compounded with the toxic culture of body-shaming she experienced as a dancer, motivated her to start the nonprofit Infinite Flow Dance. By stacking its roster with dancers who embody a wide range of disabilities, the organization seeks to dismantle biases and showcase the beauty of diversity. "Dance, at its essence, is very inclusive," says Hamamoto. "It belongs to everyone."

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Courtesy La Verne Ford Wimberly

15. La Verne Ford Wimberly

When Metropolitan Baptist Church in Tulsa, Okla., closed its doors for the pandemic, the self-declared social media junkie dressed in her Sunday best for virtual services, posting selfies to Facebook each week. The world took notice, and Wimberly's color-coordinated ensembles became a viral sensation, featured everywhere from Today to The Washington Post. "As one ages, they need to stay involved in the activities of being," she says. "I'm not afraid to take a chance on something new, even at the age of 82. Just stay connected and you will feel better. Perhaps you'll even make others feel better too."

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Courtesy Toniya Elizabeth; Brett Erickson; Barbara Nitke/Showtime; Rosalind O’Connor/MSNBC; Celeste Sloman/Washington Post

16. Toniya Elizabeth

"Few women get things done navigating a society that doesn't let them speak or be seen," says the humanitarian architect. Currently based in India, she's building shelters with the nonprofit SEEDS and recently joined forces with the Swedish social enterprise Better Shelter for a new venture called Structure, creating innovative metal frameworks that can be quickly assembled and easily upgraded with local materials to help house people in an emergency. Elizabeth and her colleagues faced unprecedented challenges as COVID-19 ravaged India, working to provide critical supplies and establish vaccine locations. "The cascading effect of the disease has taken a toll on all sections of society, particularly the already inadequate healthcare system."

17. Toni Breidinger

After catching the racing bug while riding go-karts with her family as a kid, the 22-year-old California native has made history as the first Arabic woman to compete in NASCAR. "As soon as the helmet goes on, gender and everything else is irrelevant," she says. "It's just you and the race car; you're a driver just like everyone else." As a lover of makeup, it was a "dream come true" for Breidinger to have her car sponsored by the Arab-owned brand Huda Beauty. "It's exciting to see a beauty brand in NASCAR," she says. "I love doing something that's not stereotypical."

18. Ziwe Fumudoh

Known mononymously as "Ziwe," the comedian took her talents from Instagram Live to Showtime this year with the prèmiere of her self-titled variety series. Fumudoh considers "sustained eye contact" her most badass quality and frequently deploys the intense stare as part of her signature frank (and sometimes uncomfortable) interviewing technique, with which she baits guests into revealing their biases through provocative questions about race and social issues. Cultural commentator Fran Lebowitz and businessman-turned politician Andrew Yang are among the prominent figures Fumudoh has put in the hot seat. Her brand of humor in one word? "Iconic."

19. Rashida Jones

"Journalists write the first draft of history, and I have always been intrigued by that responsibility and the opportunity to create content that holistically represents the communities we all live in," says Jones, who took over as the president of MSNBC in February. As the first Black woman to run a national cable news network, her fearless approach has been heralded by her colleagues and appears to be resonating with African American viewers. For all that she has achieved, Jones's greatest wins are at home. "I am incredibly proud of the two humans I am raising and the amazing people they are turning into right before my eyes."

20. Sally Buzbee

Buzbee, the newly minted executive editor of The Washington Post, says being "stubbornly persistent" has served her well throughout her storied career, which has included overseeing the Associated Press and covering the Iraq War. As the first woman to lead the Post's newsroom, Buzbee admits that she thrives on a "good burst of adrenaline" and breaking big stories. "I think it is important that we make deep, solid, credible journalism attractive to as many people as we can. If we connect the dots between interests and current events, we can tell people stories that are directly relevant to their lives."

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Matthew Sayles; Courtesy Ron & Valerie Taylor; James Cousar; Tonie Campbell; Cynthia Edorth

21. Rachel Cargle

Cargle's virtual classroom is open to all. The author and academic has achieved quasi-guru status among her 1.8 million Instagram followers, many of whom flocked to her page for education, validation, and guidance on navigating the world in the wake of George Floyd's death and the reckoning that followed. Though the world has turned to Cargle, she considers her own education a work in progress. "I always say that my work is simply me learning and living out loud and in community," she says. "I hope that what I share can help people curate their own toolbox for showing up." Cargle's latest lesson is detailed in her book I Don't Want Your Love and Light, an examination of feminism through the lens of race, which will be published by The Dial Press in September.

22. Valerie Taylor

The 85-year-old shark expert, marine conservationist, and award-winning filmmaker began recording her underwater adventures with her husband back in the 1950s, and she isn't planning to hang up her flippers anytime soon. "If I could swim around in a bikini in the midst of all of the sharks, it was a surefire sale," Taylor jokes. Over the years, she's faced life-threatening moments, including the time she was tied to a harpooned whale surrounded by a hungry gam off the coast of South Africa. In a new documentary on shark diving alongside fellow Aussie Chris Hemsworth, Taylor, who's inspired by Jane from the Tarzan films, admits she's kind of done it all. Her new obsession? Big cats.

Scout Bassett, paralympian

"No matter what happens or what anyone says, never, ever give up on your dreams."

— Scout Bassett, paralympian

23. Angela Dawson

"Having a voice in an area where we've been silenced for hundreds of years is possible when you do it in your own way," says the fourth-generation farmer. Dawson encountered the same discrimination that has historically denied Black Americans a stake in the industry while applying for a microloan through a USDA program. "In my experience with that office, I really felt like I was in a different-era movie," she says. Discouraged but not defeated, Dawson went on to establish the Forty Acre Cooperative to help support other socially disadvantaged farmers with the resources they need to continue their own family farming traditions.

24. Scout Bassett

Bassett, a seven-time national champion sprinter and Paralympian, is a fighter. After losing her right leg in a chemical fire as an infant, she spent seven years in an orphanage in Nanjing, China, before being adopted by a Michigan couple in 1995. As a way to connect to her American peers, she began competitively racing in track and field, and after years of practicing 100-meter dashes and long jumps, she eventually qualified for the Paralympics in 2016. "My most badass quality is my resiliency and ability to push through anything that comes my way," says Bassett, who is planning to compete in Tokyo this summer. "No matter what happens or what anyone says, never, ever give up on your dreams."

25. Wangechi Mutu

For over two decades, the Kenyan American artist has celebrated women and challenged colonialism, racism, and sexism through her multidisciplinary oeuvre depicting hybridized (human, plant, alien, machine) female figures. Her current exhibition, "I Am Speaking, Are You Listening?" at the Legion of Honor museum in San Francisco, includes visually arresting goddess sculptures like MamaRay (pictured above) juxtaposed in a neoclassical setting. "My imaginative ability allows me to turn ideas into real-life objects that have the power to catapult myself and others backward and forward through time and space into places that I've been told we don't belong."

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Annette Lombardi; Courtesy Black Women’s Health Imperative; Courtesy Jamie Margolin; Courtesy Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya; Holly Andres

26. Chloe and Lillian Carrier

The twin sisters struggled to find support after they were both diagnosed with autism, so they founded the nonprofit OurTism to help others on the spectrum create individualized plans. "It's amazing to see someone the world has beaten down find their inner strength and show people what they have to offer," says Lillian, who stars in Everything's Gonna Be Okay on Freeform. Chloe, an aspiring writer and director, has "always been told what I'll never be capable of. But I focus on the things I am good at to open new doors instead of looking at the ones that will forever stay closed."

Linda Golder Blount, president and CEO of Black Women's Health Imperative

"Being a badass means speaking truth to power to right historical wrongs."

— Linda Golder Blount, president and CEO of Black Women's Health Imperative

27. Linda Goler Blount

"Being a badass means speaking truth to power to right historical wrongs," says the president and CEO of the Black Women's Health Imperative. As the onset of COVID-19 exposed the structural racism that creates poorer health outcomes for people of color, Goler Blount's mission to advance equity for Black women and girls became all the more urgent. During the pandemic, she facilitated the transition of BWHI's seminars to online platforms and launched a campaign to educate Black women and their communities on the benefits of COVID-19 vaccines.

28. Jamie Margolin

"When I set my mind to do something, it gets done," says the 19-year-old climate justice activist and co-founder of Zero Hour, a coalition of youths advocating for change and putting pressure on the government to address the ecological crisis. She's even spoken at a congressional hearing alongside Greta Thunberg. Margolin's book, Youth to Power: Your Voice and How to Use It, which was released last year, details how aspiring activists can take charge of their future. As someone who sued her home state of Washington for its shortcomings on climate action and led the 2018 Global Youth Climate Marches all before starting college, she's an expert on the subject.

29. Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya

"I've helped reclaim space and speak out for my people in ways I wouldn't have dared just a few years ago," says the recent artist in residence with the N.Y.C. Commission on Human Rights. Her public campaigns "I Still Believe in Our City" and "We Are More" are vibrant depictions of Asian Americans and have been displayed in Times Square and Lincoln Center. "The work has resonated deeply with Asian Americans because it asks questions and starts conversations that we often struggle with in our daily lives. That's the power of art: It gives us a vision of the future."

30. Esperanza Spalding

In April, the Grammy-winning jazz artist released new music and a short film to provide at-home stress relief as part of her Songwrights Apothecary Lab. The soothing works were composed with practitioners specializing in music therapy, neuroscience, Black American music, Sufism, and South Indian Carnatic music. New releases and in-person performances are on the horizon. "For my own sanity, joy, and sense of power, I need to be involved with these projects and creative devotions," she says. "I recognize how immensely fortunate I am to be able to pay all my bills by doing what I feel I came to earth to do."

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Jeff Neira/NBC; Courtesy Glennon Doyle; Courtesy Shalom Blac; Courtesy U.S. Air Force (2)

31. Tamron Hall

The Emmy-winning talk show host says she didn't decide to pursue journalism, so to speak: "I think it found me. Early on, I loved the writing, I love talking to people and hearing their stories; it's almost as if I was called to do this." That has led the dynamic Hall to explore nearly every corner of the broadcast world, from national news correspondent at NBC to Today co-anchor to true-crime investigation host on Deadline: Crime with Tamron Hall. Her self-titled daytime talk show premieres its third season next month, and Hall can soon add "author" to her list of titles with the October début of her first novel, As the Wicked Watch. Her most badass quality? "My intuition. I have great gut instincts!"

32. Glennon Doyle

"A badass woman knows that pleasing the world is impossible, so she lives life as her own untamed, unprecedented experiment," says the best-selling author, activist, and founder of the all-women-led nonprofit organization Together Rising. Coming off the smashing success of her 2020 memoir, Untamed, Doyle has launched a podcast called We Can Do Hard Things, which tackles topics like anxiety, infidelity, and sobriety in her famously unfiltered way. "My dream is that these real and messy conversations are a jumping-off point, so that we live a little lighter by talking about the heavy stuff we were meant to help each other carry."

Glennon Doyle

"A badass woman knows that pleasing the world is impossible, so she lives life as her own untamed, unprecedented experiment."

— Glennon Doyle

33. Shalom Blac

The YouTube creator looked to makeup to boost her confidence after suffering severe burns as a child in Nigeria. Now she provides helpful tutorials and positive energy to her 1.5 million subscribers. "To be able to grow such a huge community that not only embraced me for who I am but learned to embrace themselves for who they are as well, that's the whole message of my platform," she says. "I love the fact that people are openminded to accept someone who is different. I just want to see all of us grow together." After her mom, her biggest inspiration is Rihanna, and Blac aims to follow in her footsteps by creating a beauty and fashion empire.

34. CMSAF JoAnne Bass

Chief Bass is not only the first female chief master sergeant of the Air Force, but the highest-ranking noncommissioned officer in any U.S. military branch of service. The daughter of an Army official, her interest in a military career started early — and with 28 years of experience now under her belt, she's still amazed by how far she's come. "I was recently sitting in a room with the heads of the Army, Navy, Marines, and Space Force, and I was the only female there," she recalls. "I had a seat at the table with the most influential leaders focused on making our nation safe. I wish I could have recorded that moment. It was badass."

35. General Jacqueline Van Ovost

"Be courageous enough to have a dream and to make a difference for others," says General Van Ovost, the senior-ranking female officer in the military whose lifelong passion for flying led her to pursue an Air Force career 33 years ago. Women weren't allowed to fly fighter jets at the time, but she found a loophole by becoming a test pilot. Eventually she made her way to the top — but her success didn't come without its challenges. "There's a difference between being accepted and being included," she says. "Just because I was allowed to fly into combat did not mean my voice was being heard. I wasn't being mentored. So I just put my head down and said, 'I'm going to out-fly them.'"

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Courtesy CNN; Sean Simmers; Ruven Afanador/Zenni; Courtesy Jessica Yellin; Brian Ziff

36. Rosa Flores

"My goal is to take cameras to corners of this country and show America how policy is impacting the lives of real people," says the accountant–turned–CNN reporter, who was stationed at the U.S.-Mexico border for five weeks earlier this year. In an effort to humanize the immigration issue as well as "push for accountability from the Biden administration," she tried to report from the asylum seekers' POV — namely, the lack of opportunity and threat of gangs and violence in their origin countries. "The driving factor for these mothers and these children is to decide, 'Do I stay here and face certain death, or do I go on this dangerous journey and have a chance at life?'" Aside from her work at the border, one of Flores's toughest assignments was covering the 2019 mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Moving forward, Flores plans to work on longer-form stories, like the documentary she created with CNN, Beneath the Skin, which follows a Chicago mother's search for answers after her son is shot by police. "If I can make our audience feel, then I've done my job."

37. Gisele Fetterman

After emigrating from Brazil as a child, Fetterman lived in fear as an undocumented immigrant. "It was 15 years of being invisible and afraid of every knock at the door." Since becoming the second lady of Pennsylvania in 2019, she has channeled that fear into helping her community. She founded Free Store 15104, a donation-based shop serving low-income families, and co-founded 412 Food Rescue, which redirects retailers' unsalable produce to those in need. This fall she's looking to expand her do-good efforts with a mentorship program from the nonprofit she co-created, For Good PGH.

Iris Apfel, 99

"Being passionate about my projects and putting my heart and soul into them has kept me young."

— Iris Apfel, 99

38. Iris Apfel

There aren't many 99-year-olds snagging four-year fashion deals these days, but this style icon and former interior designer is not your average nonagenarian. To celebrate her milestone 100th birthday this month, Apfel is debuting her latest design collab, Iris x Zenni, a chic eyewear collection chock-full of the big, bold frames that have become her signature accessory. "My first big job in fashion came when I was 84, so as cliché as it is, age is just a number to me," she says. "Being passionate about my projects and putting my heart and soul into them has kept me young. That's why I'll never stop challenging myself and opening new doors in the years ahead."

39. Jessica Yellin

Since leaving her position as CNN's chief White House correspondent in 2013, the Peabody Award–winning journalist has found a fresh way to deliver headlines with the launch of "News Not Noise" on her Instagram feed. "Conventional news methods where people yell during panel discussions can trigger anxiety and turn off a huge audience — one that is overwhelmingly women," says Yellin. "When I stepped off the network-news conveyor belt, I wanted to provide clear information in a way that makes people feel calm and confident." By breaking down current events in a jargon-free and nonpartisan manner that is easy to digest, she became a vital source of information for her 480,000-plus followers during the 2020 presidential election. "Audiences are skeptical of all news institutions now. As journalists, we need to constantly think about how we can build their trust."

40. Nija Charles

The 23-year-old Grammy-nominated songwriter has produced hits with major artists like Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, and Cardi B. "It's fulfilling to help create their songs because I am working with them to make an impact on the world, and sharing their visions can inspire other young women," says Charles, who landed a deal with Capitol Records and hopes to sign new acts and eventually bring her talents to the screen as an actress, a producer, and a screenwriter for film and television. Her advice to young, aspiring songwriters? "Be consistent, perfect your craft, and be confident in your work."

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Courtesy Stacie-Rae Weir; Rachel Louise Brown; Courtesy Breed Borders/@opabreed; Steven Meiers Dominguez; Courtesy Lola Marie Polish

41. Stacie-Rae Weir

"Poor quality tattooing was causing harm to [breast cancer] survivors, and as a recipient of that myself, I was disappointed," says Weir, a tattoo artist. "I turned my pain into purpose." After her own tattoo experience post–preventative mastectomy went awry, she established a training program for artists working with survivors. She also designed a set of needles meant for use on scar tissue, co-created the first permanent areola pigments, and is writing an advanced training manual for medical tattoo education. "When you see a problem and you can create a solution based in love, you have no choice but to go for it."

Stacie-Rae Weir, Tattoo Artist and Breast Cancer Survivor

"When you see a problem and you can create a solution based in love, you have no choice but to go for it."

— Stacie-Rae Weir, Tattoo Artist and Breast Cancer Survivor

42. Caroline Criado Perez

After the announcement that Winston Churchill would replace Elizabeth Fry on the £5 banknote, leaving the legal tender with an all-male lineup with the exception of the queen, the Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men author campaigned for the Bank of England to feature a woman on the currency. "We almost ended up in court over their decision-making process before they finally caved," she says. Criado Perez's crusade landed Jane Austen on the British £10 note, though rampant harassment from opponents led to the development of Twitter's "report abuse" feature. Despite the backlash, Criado Perez has no regrets about her activism: "I would still do it again in a heartbeat."

43. Anifa Mvuemba

During the pandemic, the founder and designer of Hanifa, a womenswear label favored by Zendaya, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Sarah Jessica Parker, revolutionized the runway with her Instagram Live 3D digital show and boosted her brand's Insta to over 350,000 followers. Since then, the designer has been enjoying and delving into the new opportunities that have been presented to her, including pursuing more projects that blend tech and fashion. "There are so many innovative things that can be done," says Mvuemba. "Dipping my feet into the tech world has inspired me to want to create and explore more."

44. Justine Bateman

While writing her first book, Fame, the Family Ties actress and director Googled her name and found some surprising results. "The auto-complete said, 'Justine Bateman looks old,'" she recalls. "After I unwound how the search results affected me, I decided to take a look at all the irrational fears that exist in society as a whole causing women to think that their naturally aging faces are broken." That inspired Bateman's latest book, Face: One Square Foot of Skin, which explores aging through a series of interviews and short stories that she's adapting into a feature film. "I want all women to know that the idea that your face needs to be fixed is simply a lie meant to distract you from happiness and accomplishing all you're meant to do in life."

45. Lola Thomas

After being bullied at school for using a wheelchair, the 9-year-old, who was born with spina bifida, found herself battling anxiety, PTSD, and depression. She relied on her favorite activity — manicures with her mom — to lift her spirits, but when salons shut down due to COVID, she began making her own cruelty-free nail polish at home. "I want people to feel happy when they paint their nails," says the Lola Marie Polish founder. "Mental health is so important, and with the help of therapy, I was able to turn a negative into a positive. No one can stop me now, and I want to be an inspiration to other kids who look like me so they never feel alone."

Badass 50
Thos Robinson/Getty; Natasha Gornik; Courtesy Office of the Governor; Travis Shinn; Courtesy Florence Baitio

46. Robin Thede

The comedian-writer-actress's work in entertainment has achieved a number of historic firsts. She served as head writer for both The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore and the 2016 White House Correspondents' Association dinner, becoming the first Black woman to hold either position. Now Thede is determined to help other Black women ascend the industry's power ranks — and she's leading the way with her Emmy-nominated HBO series A Black Lady Sketch Show. "There is so much talent out there that the world fails to recognize," she says. "Instead of complaining that we didn't have a platform, I created it!"

47. Torrey Peters

In thinking about her own journey, and as part of a generation of transgender women inventing a new lifestyle to fit their new opportunities, Peters was inspired to write Detransition, Baby. Her buzzy début novel became a best-seller, earning Peters a nom for the U.K.'s prestigious Women's Prize for Fiction award as well as a TV adaptation deal (in addition to writing a pilot, she's set to executive-produce). Her badass role model? "Elena Ferrante," she says. "No one knows her real identity, so maybe she's not, in fact, a badass. But she became one of the most famous writers of our era while refusing anything but her own terms, refusing to sell her personal story or compromise in any way."

Robin Thede

"There is so much talent out there that the world fails to recognize. Instead of complaining that we didn't have a platform, I created it!"

— Robin Thede

48. Yumi Hogan

Heartbroken by the spate of violent crimes targeting Asian Americans during the pandemic, Hogan, the Korean American first lady of Maryland, penned a powerful op-ed for CNN in the aftermath of the Atlanta spa shootings. "My generation has experienced discrimination; the next generations should not have to face this injustice," says Hogan, who showed solidarity by touring local Asian-owned businesses with her husband, Governor Larry Hogan. An artist and an adjunct professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Hogan is also the founder of Yumi C.A.R.E.S., which supports youth at the University of Maryland Children's Hospital through art therapy.

Dany Garcia, Businesswoman and Athlete

"A lot of women do the work and have great results but forget to enjoy the acknowledgement."

— Dany Garcia, Businesswoman and Athlete

49. Dany Garcia

After spending decades behind the scenes partnering on film and entrepreneurial projects with her ex-husband, Dwayne Johnson, the businesswoman and athlete is stepping into the spotlight. "A lot of women do the work and have great results but forget to enjoy the acknowledgement," she says. "I always tell my team of female executives, 'If we're succeeding quietly, we're failing.'" The former bodybuilder recently launched her most personal project yet, a lifestyle brand called GSTQ (short for the mantra "God Save the Queen"). "As an athlete, you learn to be fearless to get to the next level," she says. "Now I'm committed to being the best in the room."

50. Florence Baitio

Bonded by their mission to celebrate the beauty of dark skin, the 24-year-old model and superstar actress Taraji P. Henson forged an Insta connection.

Taraji P. Henson: [In April] you posted a simple video of yourself [saying "hi" to your followers] in the most amazing sunlight, and your skin was just everything. I was like, "Who the hell is this?!" I posted it and hit the designers that I have personal relationships with. I just threw it out there! I was like, "She needs to be seen by the world!"

Florence Baitio: When I first saw that, I thought, "OK, I'm just going to log off. If I wake up and this is a dream, I'm crying, 'cause this can't be real." I felt, for once, someone heard my voice when you put me out on your platform.

TPH: I'm just a warrior to uplift dark skin because the world treats you worse the darker you are. That's just the core of who I am, and I'm never going to stop.

FB: I feel like I see you through the characters you play in movies, like a lot of your roles tell who you are in real life. I have a big crush on you!

TPH: Listen, I admire what you do. People think that just because you're pretty, you can take a cute picture, but it is about an inner fierceness and confidence. And you are so badass and fierce.

FB: I was born in a refugee camp [in Uganda], so moving here [to Australia], I struggled fitting in, I struggled with people bullying me. When I started expressing myself through modeling, it was like I found the one thing I can do. Though some people are still commenting [on the darkness of my skin].

TPH: Whether you're in America or abroad, we have struggles, and it just feels good for us to see each other and lift each other up. I'm tired of Hollywood telling us what our stories should be, or how we should look when we portray them. There are so many stories to tell, and I'm just happy I can curate, discover, and introduce the world to some new faces and talent.

FB: There are so many kids who want to dream, but they don't have the opportunities and the right tools. So for me to sit here and listen to what people are saying online, that's just foolish. And I ain't taking it.

TPH: When it's time to turn it on under those lights, that is real work — and you make it look easy. I love the essence of you. You know how they say "real recognize real"? I see you, I see you.

For more stories like this, pick up the August 2021 issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download July 16th.

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