Although 2020 has been a challenging year, it’s important to remember there are still things worth celebrating. Many of our favorite public figures have gone above and beyond during this trying time, whether that involved taking a moment to save lives, starting a movement or lifting spirits.
All of these acts deserve some appreciation. They’ve set examples by standing up for what they believe in, which has helped them become the most respected voices in society. For 2020, we’re spotlighting influential people ranging from Dr. Anthony Fauci to K-pop icons BTS to tennis champ Naomi Osaka.
BTS Conquers the Music World
With their mesmerizing dance moves and songs, BTS has stolen the hearts of millions, ultimately becoming one of the biggest bands in the world. The K-pop group has broken into the U.S. mainstream and made history with their feel-good music. Six of their Billboard Hot 100 hits were released in 2020, including their first chart-topper, “Dynamite.” According to Billboard, these K-pop kings have been on the Artist 100 chart for more than 216 weeks.
So, why are fans so obsessed with them? Unlike other K-pop groups, BTS focuses on authenticity and writes songs about sensitive topics like mental health. Sticking to their values and tackling relatable problems has helped them gain an army of loyal fans and achieve major milestones.
Aside from making catchy tunes, BTS also uses their platform to support social and political causes, such as donating $1 million to the Black Lives Matter movement. The K-pop group told Variety Magazine, “We feel that prejudice should not be tolerated; it really has no place.” Talented and socially conscious? These young artists are an inspiration to us all.
Michaela Coel Turns Pain Into a Powerful Masterpiece
Actor, writer and creator? Michaela Coel excels in all three roles. The star’s devotion to religion helped fan the creative flame inside her, leading to the Netflix hit Chewing Gum and the groundbreaking HBO series I May Destroy You.
A mix of comedy and tragedy, I May Destroy You is Coel’s most personal work, as it’s based on her own experience of sexual assault. The tragedy damaged her life in many ways, but it didn’t stop her passion for creating art that pushes boundaries. She transformed her trauma into the year’s most powerful show about rape culture in society, mental health and internalized racism — delicate subjects that are rarely seen on TV.
Coel teaches us why it’s important to look at our own vulnerabilities deeply. She also reminds us that we can bring value into the world by speaking our truths.
Anthony Fauci Becomes America’s Doctor
As COVID-19 hit the U.S., infectious disease specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci stepped up to lead the country’s response. He has been the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984 and has worked with six presidents to tackle global health issues. He’s not afraid to tell the ugly truth, making him the doctor that millions of Americans trust to help beat the pandemic — no matter what.
Dr. Fauci hasn’t crumbled under the pressure of powerful politicians, often clashing with President Donald Trump but always prioritizing public health above all else. While Trump claims that the virus is “totally under control,” Dr. Fauci fact-checks the president and tells the public the truth, whether it’s about the country’s lack of testing or the struggle to handle the pandemic.
Despite his challenges, Dr. Fauci continues to focus on saving lives and repeating the facts. He told TIME Magazine, “My job always is, and I’ve always done it and will continue to do it, is to give advice on the basis of evidence and science.”
Naomi Osaka Serves Justice On and Off the Court
Known for her killer serves and groundstrokes, Naomi Osaka is a tennis champion of Japanese and Haitian descent. She’s no stranger to shattering records — she became the first Asian player to hold the top ranking in professional tennis. Throughout 2020, the superstar has made massive waves in the media thanks to her commitment to racial justice.
Following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, Osaka boycotted the Western & Southern Open final to bring focus to violence against Black people — an ongoing problem worldwide. Her lone protest inspired tennis organizations and other athletes to break their silence and take a stand on political issues.
At the 2020 U.S. Open, all eyes were on Osaka as she continued to tackle racism and police brutality on the court. She made a powerful statement with seven masks that honored Black victims of police violence, including Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile and Tamir Rice.
There’s no doubt that Osaka is one of the most influential athletes in the history of tennis. However, her actions this year show that her accomplishments go far beyond sports.
Rihanna Revolutionizes Fashion and Beauty
Rihanna has always been known for her bad-gal music career. Recently, she has been setting fashion and beauty on fire as she prioritizes diversity and inclusion for her makeup (Fenty Beauty) and lingerie (Savage X Fenty) empires.
While many models for fashion brands are thin, Fenty X Savage features models of all sizes and backgrounds, setting the standard forinclusion and representation. In 2020, Rihanna’s empowering fashion show included men, women and non-binary models, from American singer Lizzo to drag queen Shea Couleé. It was a body-positivity extravaganza. “When I imagine something, I imagine everyone that I know and love being a part of it,” she explained. “I want to make stuff that I can see on the people that I know, and they come in all different shapes, sizes, races, religions.”
In addition to fashion, Rihanna transformed the beauty industry when Fenty Beauty released 50 shades of foundation for all skin tones, forcing other makeup companies to improve their limited lines. In 2020, the businesswoman launched a gender-inclusive skincare line, taking on the stigma about men’s grooming. On an Instagram post promoting her new collection, Rihanna wrote, “That’s right baby…@fentyskin is for my fellas too! No matter who you are, you deserve to have great skin!”
The bottom line is this: Inclusion and representation are important. Rihanna reminds us that everyone deserves to be comfortable in their own skin.