From a YouTube sensation making her TV debut to the late-night producer who’s bringing Carpool Karaoke to Apple, these are the Young Influentials making their mark in media and entertainment. For more up-and-coming talent in tech, brands and marketing, check out our full list.
Executive producer, The Late Late Show With James Corden
In addition to helping James Corden create must-see moments every night on The Late Late Show, executive producer Ben Winston, 35, oversees a pair of programs recently spun off from Corden’s most popular segments: Carpool Karaoke, which is wrapping its first season on Apple Music, and Drop the Mic, premiering Oct. 24 on TBS. (As if that’s not enough, Winston is also executive producing Bruno Mars’ first prime-time special, airing Nov. 29 on CBS.)
“We knew instantly the first time we did this, that this was too good just to be a segment on a late-night television show,” says Winston of Drop the Mic. “It’s actually better as a half-hour than as seven minutes squeezed into” the Late Late Show. Meanwhile, Winston is also busy turning down offers for other Late Late Show spinoffs: “We don’t want to make something unless it’s great.”—Jason Lynch
Meridith Valiando Rojas
CEO and co-founder, DigiTour Media
As the producer of live events starring some of the biggest names from platforms like Musical.ly and YouTube, DigiTour Media has given more than half a million screen-addicted Gen Z-ers the chance to connect with their favorite digital stars IRL.
“About half of our stars have a musical element to them, but a huge category for us are the ones who don’t,” says DigiTour co-founder and CEO Meridith Valiando Rojas, 30, a former A&R executive. “My job is to figure out how to create something on stage for them.”
So far this year, the company has led 150 events for digital talent like Loren Gray (6.7 million Instagram followers) and twins Brooklyn and Bailey McKnight (4.5 million YouTube subscribers), with past sponsors including Coca-Cola, Delta, Verizon and Google. Valiando Rojas hopes to double the number of live events in 2018.
Valiando Rojas founded DigiTour in 2010 with her husband, Chris Rojas, and since then, the company has raised over $12.5 million in funding from investors including Viacom, Ryan Seacrest, Condé Nast and others. This past June, it formed a record company with Disney Music Group that will focus on signing social-first talent.
“We love identifying talent early on and contributing to their growth,” says Valiando Rojas, who helped propel Musical.ly sensation Baby Ariel to stardom with a 2016 cross-country tour and was responsible for “Alex from Target’s” extended stint with fame—he even read fan fiction starring himself on stage. —Sami Main
Creator, star, executive producer, HBO’s Insecure
Don’t be surprised if you see Issa Rae running a television channel or her own movie studio one day. Those are just two of the things the 32-year-old Rae, cover star of our Young Influential’s issue, told Adweek she’d like to accomplish. And it’s easy to believe that will happen—Rae built her career herself, creating a successful YouTube show, Awkward Black Girl, that was viewed and beloved by millions.
“I want to figure out how and the best way to use my voice,” says Rae. “Me vocalizing what I wanted to see, it basically changed my life, and I’d say even the course of representation indirectly. And I just want to see what else I can do just by speaking up and speaking out.”
See more of our feature with Rae here.
vp, emerging products, Condé Nast
How do you bring a 100-year-old publishing company into the modern era? Just ask Arlie Sisson, vp of emerging products for Condé Nast.
From developing chatbots for Facebook Messenger to coordinating company-wide hackathons (judged by Condé Nast artistic director and Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour, of course), 31-year-old Sisson has helped lead the firm into new technologies and platforms.
“My team does dabble in things that aren’t immediately or outwardly sexy,” she says, “but the guts of what we do get expressed from multiple brands’ perspectives. Our legacy as a company is our best asset, because the distribution and experimentation can’t be beat.”
Most recently, Sisson’s team created a “beauty assistant” chatbot as a companion to Allure’s annual Best of Beauty issue, which featured 283 individual items this year.
“Instead of taking too much time finding a product that you’re interested in from the list, this bot helps readers locate, and purchase, exactly what they want in a very modern way,” Sisson says. —S.M.
Head of development, BuzzFeed Motion Pictures
As head of development for BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, Matthew Henick leads a team that focuses on producing massive viral hit series, not just one-off sensations. Take the BuzzFeed series Worth It, a video road-trip-slash-game-show hosted by members of Henick’s team, which has received over 300 million views totaling 2 billion minutes of watch time in just two short seasons.
The ultimate goal, says 34-year-old Henick, is to create shows and content partnerships that prove why the brands behind the “$72 billion spent on ad-supported television” should also be paying attention to digital video.
Henick notes that his team, and BuzzFeed as a whole, values the data they collect from viewers as it informs their future iterations. “We’d be fools to ignore the richest sets of data coming from our audience who consumes the internet across every platform,” he says. “Platforms are starting to invest more attention to long-form content, like Worth It, which is exciting from both a monetary and a tech/UX side.” —S.M.
Host of YouTube’s My Drunk Kitchen and Food Network’s I Hart Food
This year, YouTube phenom and My Drunk Kitchen star Hannah Hart made the jump from digital video to television proper. Her six-episode show on Food Network, titled I Hart Food, combined her love of travel and food as she visited different cities to dive deep into tasty treats they’re known for.
“I had the most phenomenal crew,” says 30-year-old Hart, who counts over 2.5 million subscribers on her YouTube channel. “It was the most positive and fun experience, and it gives me courage for whatever’s next.”
As a creator, Hart knows how important it is for people to take mental health breaks and understand their personal boundaries, especially when it comes to professional relationships with other brands. (She’s created content for advertisers like Barilla, Macy’s and Winc.)
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” she says. “Paying attention to what your body tells you can be tedious. You can leave a little wiggle room, just don’t tip the scale in either direction.” —S.M.
svp, digital monetization and planning, NBCUniversal