There’s no shortage of great talent in the fields of entertainment, marketing, media and tech, but each year, we endeavor to identify the people who insist on setting the bar even higher—for themselves and their respective industry. Our picks for this year’s list of Young Influentials define what it means to be an overachiever, whether it’s turning a one-woman stage show into an unexpected Amazon hit and multiple Emmy winner (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), making the case for change through poetry (Cleo Wade), bringing precision to the way brands target customers (Google’s Justin De Graaf) or striking game-changing sports partnerships for one of the world’s largest social platforms (T.J. Adeshola of Twitter). We begin our coverage with Jay Shetty, who flunked business school, became a monk and is now an immensely popular motivational speaker with celebrity devotees, millions of online followers and a mission to help others find their purpose. —Kristina Feliciano
Through savvy partnerships with media orgs, front offices and advertisers, Adeshola, 36, has cemented Twitter’s MVP status as the premier platform for live sports discussion. He’s inked a slew of programming deals with top broadcasters and leagues, including ESPN, Fox, MLB, NBA and the NFL, while growing Twitter’s sports sponsorship program by more than 100% with innovative new ad formats. He’s also spearheading the platform’s first-ever daily show, from the Olympics in Tokyo, featuring live look-ins and real-time highlights. “We’re extremely excited to partner with NBC to provide fans with a new and innovative way to experience the Olympics,” he says. But Adeshola says he’s most proud of his work to diversify the company; he chairs its first leadership development program to groom underrepresented minority employees for executive roles and advises Blackbirds, Twitter’s resource group for workers of color. —Patrick Kulp
Professional video game tournaments are officially big business. But don’t take our word for it: According to data from analytics firm Newzoo, esports will become a $1 billion industry in 2019. Video game developer Riot Games is among the pioneers shaping the industry. It created a tournament series in 2012, which connects 13 global leagues and 100 million fans. Aletaha’s role is to build out brand partnerships, which includes the first-ever esports sponsorships from brands like Mastercard, State Farm and Louis Vuitton. The 36-year-old is also advocating for establishing the average minute audience (AMA) metric as an industry-wide standard. —Lisa Lacy
In the last year, #Girlboss surpassed 17 million mentions on Instagram. “It’s incredible how putting one thing in the world can lead to so many things,” says Amoruso, 35. She’s referring to her bestselling book Girlboss, which started as a side project and yielded podcasts, a Netflix series, a recurring networking conference (Girlboss Rally) and even a retreat. Girlboss.com, a professional network launched earlier this year, enables women to connect based on who they are as a person rather than their job title. “We no longer live in a world where we are one person on LinkedIn Monday through Friday and then Instagram on the weekends,” she says. What’s next for Amoruso? Diving into experiential to bring the #Girlboss community together IRL. —Ko Im
Between reporting hard-hitting stories on immigration issues for MSNBC and NBC News, Atencio, 34, somehow found time to parlay her viral 2017 TEDx Talk, “What Makes You Special?” into a book deal—the memoir Perfectly You: Embracing the Power of Being Real, which has been translated into 10 languages—and a second career as an influential diversity advocate. Born in Venezuela, the bilingual journalist came to the United States in 2008. This year, she won the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Presidential Award and even got an Emmy nod. On the horizon: developing programming and speaking projects through her production company, GoLike. “Our purpose,” she says, “is to make people realize how our differences make us stronger and better, together.” —P.K.
In the overcrowded world of streaming platforms, Avila-Salmon, 38, has sought to differentiate Facebook Watch by marketing titles that merge traditional media with Facebook’s most valuable asset: its massive user base. She’s led creative strategy and marketing for programs like the Jada Pinkett Smith-helmed show Red Table Talk, the Emmy-winning Steph Curry reality series Stephen vs. the Game and other Facebook Watch originals that often include elements of audience participation. She’s also pushed for more diversity both at Facebook and throughout her 10 years in entertainment marketing: “I have constantly advocated to get these rooms to consider the whole audience,” she says, “and challenged the unspoken status quo that ‘general market’ means ‘white.’” —P.K.
Since joining Viacom last year after the media company acquired AwesomenessTV—where he had been head of brand partnerships—Block, 38, has expanded his branding prowess. He now leads all of Viacom’s branded programming efforts, spearheading Nickelodeon’s first brand partnership for an original series with Kraft Lunchables and establishing an SVOD brand partnership business that resulted in high-profile Netflix integrations on Awesomeness’ series Trinkets and its film To All the Boys I Loved Before. “When you’re talking about reaching youth today, and understanding where their attention is, getting this right and being in a leadership position here has profound impact,” says Block, who has already brought more than a dozen new partners into the Viacom portfolio, including Invisalign, Ulta Beauty and Under Armour. —Jason Lynch
Justin De Graaf
This has been a big year for De Graaf, who released four new pieces of research on Think With Google, Google’s marketing and research insights arm. De Graaf’s research focuses on both the changing consumer journey and how emotions in search help people make their purchasing decisions, as well as how to better market to them. “Empowered by mobile, today’s consumers can get exactly what they want, instantly and effortlessly,” he notes. “As a result, they are more curious, demanding and impatient than ever before. … A brand’s ability to leverage data to anticipate their needs will define its ability to grow.” Now De Graaf, 37, and his team are deep into research projects exploring the changing role of the CMO and how marketers feel about their jobs. “So much of my team’s work focuses on what [customers] need,” he says. “We want to bring those questions to marketers as well.” —Sara Jerde
As editorial director of streetwear blog turned production powerhouse Highsnobiety, DeLeon, 34, focuses on “collective culture to help elevate it in the realest way possible.” Which is another way of saying he’s really busy. DeLeon co-hosts the podcasts The Dropcast and Why It’s Cool, and edited the book The New Luxury: Defining the Aspirational in the Age of Hype—all while being a key player on Highsnobiety’s commerce partnerships. He’s also helping to head a new brand initiative on identity and representation, continuing to turn outsiders into empowered insiders. These initiatives build on an experience he had two years ago, on a visit to Dapper Dan’s Harlem home for a story. The fashion designer paused to call A$AP Ferg, who’d just flown back to New York, and asked him to join the interview. “Ferg practically came straight from the airport,” says DeLeon. “It reinforced a lot of the things I’ve always believed in—respecting the past to inform the future, acknowledging the pioneers from traditionally marginalized communities who make culture what it is and the importance of learning from great mentors.” —Ko Im
Even the alcohol industry isn’t immune to disruption: Hard-seltzer brand White Claw has grown 280% so far this year while also cementing itself as what The Wall Street Journal called the “pumpkin spice latte of summer.” Gajiwala, 39, of parent company Mike’s Hard Lemonade, says consumer reaction to the brand has been overwhelming. Emotion is a big part of the company’s ethos: Gajiwala says Mike’s has a special place in the hearts of drinking consumers because “sad people don’t drink Mike’s.” Now Gajiwala’s job is to keep White Claw relevant in the seasons to come—and to celebrate Mike’s 21st birthday in 2020. —L.L.
Audrey Gelman, Lauren Kassan
In just three years, The Wing’s redefined what a co-working space for women can look and feel like, attracting 10,000 members across the U.S. and, as of this year, London. In 2018, it hosted more than 1,200 events, with speakers like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and raised $75 million in Series C funding. This year, the company began offering childcare, dubbed The Little Wing, and created a hiring network for members. How did they do it? By trusting their “own convictions” over conventional advice—including working with female-owned businesses like Elaine Construction to build out The Wing’s Boston space and donating proceeds from its cafes to nonprofits such as Every Mother Counts. Next year, Gelman and Kassan, both 32, are bringing their expertise to nonmembers with the launch of The Wing’s first conference, Strictly Business. “Our goal is that the women who have been reaching out to us from cities, towns and countries where we don’t have physical Wing locations will be able to become part of our community,” they say. —Ann-Marie Alcántara
To glow globally, your flight path has to cover a whole lot of territory. Over the last year, Kelly opened an overseas office of The Points Guy—which helps airline rewards members understand how the various points systems work—in the U.K. and launched the Talking Points podcast and first annual TPG Awards. This expansion has translated into big numbers: To date, the site receives over 10 million unique monthly visitors (up from 2 million in 2017). Kelly also works closely with PeaceJam, the founding partner of TPG’s philanthropic arm, and Rainbow Railroad, for which his company launched a Prizeo campaign this year to help raise funds for LGBT+ individuals facing persecution in regions where it’s against the law to be gay. Next, Kelly, 36, wants to reach “an even wider audience” and broaden from rewards and loyalty coverage to lifestyle and money-saving tips. A Points Guy app will touch down in early 2020. —K.I.
Lil Nas X
Southern rapper Lil Nas X picked up the underlying trap beat for “Old Town Road” for $30 on the internet and parlayed it from a viral Tik Tok into the longest-running No. 1 single in Billboard’s Hot 100 chart history. (The hip-hop-meets-country track has amassed 2.3 billion U.S. streams.) The 20-year-old meme-savvy artist landed a Columbia Records deal via DM on Instagram, and used Reddit and Twitter to boost multiple remixes of the crossover hit (including an AMA-nominated collaboration with Billy Ray Cyrus)—which could land him multiple Grammy nominations this month. —T.L. Stanley
Stealing the show at the MTV Video Music Awards in August meant upstaging superstars like Taylor Swift and the Jonas Brothers. No sweat for Melissa “Lizzo” Jefferson, 31, a body-positivity, self-confidence and LGBTQ advocate whose genre-busting songs have burned up the Billboard charts this year. (She’s snagged 1 billion-plus streams.) The singer-rapper and classically trained flutist (and potential Grammy nominee), who appeared with her Big Grrrls backup dancers on the awards telecast, wrote on Instagram afterward: “The world smiled with us. The world sang with us. The world saw black women feeling ‘Good as Hell’ and cheered us on.” —T.L.S.
Giphy says it created the first ads users actually want to share—and which have share rates about double the average ad engagement on social media. Magnin, 34, developed Giphy’s search and trending ad products, which tap into existing consumer behavior on messaging platforms and allow marketers to target intent and moments for more than 1 billion searches made by 500 million daily users. Giphy also offers in-house creative services. Up next for Magnin: building out features to help marketers be more effective on the platform, along with developing new metrics for user behavior. —L.L.
For Morales, 29, no two days are the same. The constant evolution of the ad industry means she’s tasked with staying on top of the trends and technology that impact marketers most, which is why she’s spent the past year spearheading a two-part documentary series in partnership with Wired that she says “demystifies” artificial intelligence. The documentary premiered at Cannes Lions, and has since screened at other industry events. Morales also helped build and launch McCann Worldgroup’s first innovation offering, dubbed HumanTech, a practice that’s yielded work for the likes of Chevrolet and the U.S. Postal Service. —Minda Smiley
Last year, Moravia helped double talent at Stink Studios in Los Angeles—one of the many ways he’s helped grow the self-described “brand experience and digital innovation company.” Moravia, 36, leads all creative output at the Stink, crafting work for brands like Strava, Uniqlo and WeTransfer. Behind the scenes, he’s helped develop a workshop series called Pitch Practice that teaches employees how to present their ideas in a “concise and provocative way.” He’s also established a relationship with the ArtCenter College of Design so that students have a chance to see firsthand “the inner workings of a creative and design-led studio.” —M.S.
A lawyer turned marketer, this Aussie oversees the launch of all new tech and media solutions for ad-platform provider FreeWheel. “Our role is to provide the technology and services that support the television industry’s ability to work much more effectively as a true platform and prove its value for advertisers,” O’Brien says. To that end, she launched a new sales and monetization division, FreeWheel Media, and an anchor product suite, Drive, which improves marketers’ ability to target audiences on connected TV. O’Brien, 30, is also a mentor in Build NYC, which works with high school students in under-resourced communities. “It’s an incredible way to reapply some of our learnings for the benefit of the community and influence the next generation,” she says. —Nicole Ortiz
Five years ago, Paas, 34, left her job at Procter & Gamble to try her hand at agency life. Since then, she’s been leading the integration of multiple agency functions into one cohesive team to deliver on Carat’s “pivot to people-based marketing.” Paas says the effort has resulted in a 20% ROI on average for Carat’s clients. She co-founded Carat Communities two years ago, which gives employees the opportunity to join support groups for parents, LGBTQ+ and other causes. And as a new mom, she has been remarkably open about the challenges of juggling parenting and having a successful career. “I choose to overshare my experience with my team so that they understand the choices I make and the boundaries I set,” she says. “My hope is that this leads to an inclusive and open culture at Carat, but also creates a strategy and insights team that is more empathetic, inquisitive and interested in learning about human experiences that are not like their own.” —M.S.
Even an ongoing battle with the boss didn’t distract Rapinoe from crushing the competition last summer, bringing home her second World Cup title, along with the Golden Ball for best player and the Golden Boot for highest scorer. The co-captain of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team and Olympic gold medalist knew that winning “would give us a unique opportunity” to talk about vital issues—namely, pay equity for the decorated pro players, who sued U.S. Soccer for discrimination in March. Rapinoe, 34, an advocate for LGBTQ rights, has the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo in her sights and her first book, which she hopes will “inspire, challenge and motivate people all over the world.” —T.L.S.
Shadpour knows all about overcoming obstacles. “A challenging childhood,” “meaningful financial struggles” and his parents’ “terrible, terrible divorce” are among the difficulties he says have helped shape him into the business leader he is today. Those experiences made him comfortable taking risks—notably, deciding to build a company from the ground up with no previous experience. The result is Social Native, a digital platform liaison for which Shadpour, 36, raised $8 million in seed money. The company has since closed partnerships with major social platforms and big-name players like Adobe, Amobee and Salesforce and has achieved over 100% revenue growth year over year. —N.O.
Despite an endorsement from Oprah, Shahidi has said she would rather be “policy adjacent” than Potus one day, preferring a think tank to the White House. The star of Black-ish spinoff Grown-ish, who has her own “shero” Barbie doll and co-designed her Met Gala outfit with Miuccia Prada, kicked off her voting initiative “Eighteen x 18” at her 18th birthday party and spearheaded the national We Vote Next Summit. Now a 19-year-old Harvard student, Shahidi advocates for underserved youth via Yara’s Club. “It’s of the utmost importance to me,” she says, “to continue to use my voice and resources to invest in my global community.” —T.L.S.
Chances are, if you’re in the direct-to-consumer industry, you’ve heard of Sharma, 23. Known for building Hint water’s DTC business to $40 million in annual revenue, Sharma’s since applied his talents to the DTC offerings for VaynerMedia and Cha Cha Matcha. For the latter, Sharma had to figure out an entire game plan—despite only having a can to work with. Once the ecommerce website launched earlier this year, Cha Cha Matcha sold out in two days. Sharma’s success comes from taking a holistic view of what growth means and driving these companies to “pioneer their category,” as he puts it. And while he makes it look easy, attending events and speaking on podcasts, he says there’s no “trick” or “hack” to how he got here. “You have to put the hours in,” he says. “There’s no way around it.” —A.M.A.
In just a decade, Jay Shetty has gone from former monk to social media sensation. Shetty, 32, is a storyteller, life coach and friendly face all wrapped up in one. He dropped out of business school but has since found success making online videos on finding your purpose. This year, Shetty found a new platform on Ellentube where he helps people “press pause.” He also hosts a highly rated podcast with guests that have included Kobe Bryant and Eva Longoria, and has authored a forthcoming book. “I just happen to have fallen in love with wisdom,” Shetty says, “and I want to tell all my friends about it.” And he has tens of millions of social media fans across platforms tuning in to hear what he has to tell them. —K.I.
Sportswear brand Fila, a fashion staple of the ’90s, has been making a comeback under Lindsay Vick, who has led FILA North America’s marketing shift from being b-to-b and retail-partner focused to embracing a b-to-c brand-centric strategy. Vick, 34, launched the Italian brand’s first-ever global pop-up program, with activations in nine locations, and orchestrated a partnership with über-popular video game Fortnite to further connect with younger consumers, marking Fila’s first esports deal. The brand also recently launched a partnership with global K-pop sensation BTS, which Vick says “will be a game-changer for [Fila] in speaking to younger consumers.” —N.O.
This year, the celebrity poet followed her bestselling Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom for a Better Life with a new book of poetry and prose, Where to Begin: A Small Book About Your Power to Create Big Change in Our Crazy World and a sold-out North American book tour. She joined the diversity-minded Gucci Changemakers Council, which provides scholarships for needy undergrads and a program for aspiring fashion designers, as co-chair. And she collaborated with Express to raise over $50,000 as a board member of the Lower East Side Girls Club. And there’s more to come: “I have a really exciting collaboration coming out next year, a baby on the way and we will have some prints of my work available online for the holidays this year,” the 30-year-old says. “I’m also really excited to be a member of the National Advisory Council for the newly formed E Pluribus Unum, which seeks to bring people together across the American South around the issues of race, equity, economic opportunity and violence.” —K.I.
The auteur turned her hourlong one-woman play into Fleabag’s two binge-worthy seasons, winning an armload of Emmys in September, beating out front-runners like Veep and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and going on to sign an overall deal with Amazon worth a reported $20 million. Next up for the creator of Crashing and Killing Eve: a romantic thriller called Run for HBO and making history as only the second woman ever to have a writing credit on a James Bond movie, the upcoming No Time to Die. Most people would wilt under the pressure of all of this success, but Waller-Bridge, 34, is characteristically clear-eyed about it. “If something doesn’t go well, you’ll get over it, everyone will get over it,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “And if something goes brilliantly, we’ll all get over that, too.” —T.L.S.
The Jerusalem-based Yingst has led Fox News’ Middle East coverage since arriving at the network last year. His consistent, dogged reporting on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict from Gaza has earned him the trust of top officials from Hamas and Islamic Jihad who initially told him, “We hate Fox News,” recalls Yingst, 26. “Now Fox gets unprecedented access in Gaza.” Among Yingst’s scoops: In September, he discovered that Iran was building a secret military base in Syria, which could possibly have housed thousands of troops and precision-guided missiles (it was hit in an airstrike a week after his story). “We talk a lot about death, bombs and war,” he says. “But I’m most interested in the people. What does it feel like to be there right now? Why does this matter to humanity? These are questions I try to answer.” —J.L.
Zendaya has gone from Disney sitcom kid to HBO leading lady (the gritty high school drama Euphoria), also starring in blockbuster movies like The Greatest Showman and the Spider-Man franchise. The youngest Lancôme global ambassador at 23, she’s known for speaking her mind, attracting Tommy Hilfiger for a collaboration that debuted in Paris with an all-black cast of models. As the designer recently told Vogue, “She intends to use her celebrity to fight for change. She’s got the heart of an activist.” —T.L.S.