26 Asian celebrities, activists, political leaders among TIME’s ‘100 most influential people of 2021’

TIME 100 list

TIME magazine has published its 100 most influential people of 2021 on Wednesday and the full list includes Naomi Osaka, Shohei Ohtani and Cathy Park Hong, among other Asian luminaries from around the globe.

The 18th annual list of influential people features activists, celebrities, political leaders and athletes, with the youngest among them being Olympic medalist Sunisa Lee.

“At TIME, we see the TIME100 as far more than a list,” Edward Felsenthal, CEO and editor in chief of TIME said in a statement. “It is a community of leaders whose energy and commitment we hope inspires others to spring into action as well.”

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“I find reason for optimism…in our 18th annual TIME100 list of the world’s most influential people,” Felsenthal said. “It features extraordinary leaders from around the world working to build a better future, from entertainers striving to make Hollywood more inclusive to activists fighting for sustainability and human rights…They are disrupters, fixers, doers, iconoclasts, problem solvers—people who in a year of crisis have leaped into the fray.”

Each year, TIME also asks guest contributors to say something about how the people listed have made a difference. Below are a few of the Asians that made it on the magazine’s list:

MiMi Aung by Andy Weir

Image via NASA/JPL (left), NASA (right)

“Making a helicopter fly in the planet’s low atmospheric pressure is no small feat, especially considering it has to pilot itself—communication latency between Earth and Mars makes direct control impossible. But MiMi and her team were able to make it happen, and it will pave the way for more rapid Mars exploration in the future.”

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Jensen Huang by Andrew Ng

Image via Maurizio Pesce (CC BY 2.0)

“The software that enables computers to do things that once required human perception and judgment depends largely on hardware made possible by Jensen Huang…In the process, he has helped enable a revolution that allows phones to answer questions out loud, farms to spray weeds but not crops, doctors to predict the properties of new drugs—with more wonders to come.”

Naomi Osaka by Russell Wilson

Image via Rob Prange (CC BY 2.0)

“Naomi Osaka’s humility and dedication to others has been spectacular to watch. It’s incredibly meaningful that she has been able to talk honestly about struggling with her mental health and share with us her vulnerability. She’s been able to say to the world: Hey, listen, I’m going through something. Here’s my truth.”

Shohei Ohtani by Alex Rodriguez

Image via Getty

“He’s the modern-day Bambino—and yet even Babe Ruth wasn’t stealing 20-plus bases, hitting 40-plus homers and throwing 100 m.p.h. in the same season. Only Shohei can. If you were to Frankenstein every unique talent into one player, you’d get Shohei Ohtani. He has the power of Bryce Harper, the pitching of Max Scherzer and the speed of Trea Turner.”

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Cathy Park Hong by Ali Wong

Image via TIME

“When I read Cathy Park Hong’s Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning, it felt like I was being shaken awake to something I had convinced myself wasn’t real. The subtle ways Asian Americans are dismissed; how Asian American women feel the need to apologize when taking up any sort of space. I was also floored by how she described the ripple effect of the Chinese Exclusion Act: how that fear of not wanting to stick out has been passed down through generations, and how this survival tactic limits us and can cause self-hate. And at the same time, Cathy shares stories that feel so personal, so fresh and so specific, nobody else could’ve written them.”

Nasrin Sotoudeh by Shirin Ebadi

Image via Région Normandie

“Nasrin Sotoudeh is an exemplary Iranian woman and lawyer who for years has been struggling to restore women’s rights…Nasrin has been imprisoned many times for her work…As she strives to promote human rights and human values, Nasrin Sotoudeh inspires others to follow in her footsteps.”

Manjusha P. Kulkarni, Russell Jeung and Cynthia Choi by Cathy Park Hong

Image via Oxygen

“San Francisco State University professor Russell Jeung, who had been an East Oakland, Calif., organizer for Cambodian and Latino youths since the ’90s, founded Stop AAPI Hate in March 2020 with veteran activists Cynthia Choi, co–executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action, and Manjusha P. Kulkarni, executive director of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council. They created a place where Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders could file firsthand accounts of racism they had experienced—the types of incidents that have long haunted our communities but gone unreported by government agencies and the media and unnoticed by others.”

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Muna and Mohammed El-Kurd by Sanya Mansoor

Image via Middle East Eye

“Mohammed and Muna El-Kurd—who were temporarily detained by Israeli authorities this summer—challenged existing narratives about Palestinian resistance through viral posts and interviews, humanizing the experiences of their neighbors and pushing back against suggestions that violence was being predominantly carried out by Palestinians.”

Adi Utarini by Melinda French Gates

Image via Australia – Indonesia Alumni

“Utarini is working with an international team of researchers from the World Mosquito Program to curb this threat by inoculating mosquitoes with Wolbachia, a bacteria that is harmless to humans but blocks mosquitoes from transmitting dengue with their bite. A groundbreaking study she helped lead was the first to prove this technique successfully drives down disease rates in community settings.”

Sunisa Lee by Nastia Liukin

Image via Getty

“As the first Hmong American Olympian, Suni has an impact that extends far beyond any border or sport—it signifies representation. This milestone has and will continue to inspire the Hmong community, but it also sends a simple yet powerful message to underrepresented people everywhere: Dream big because anything is possible.”

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Adar Poonawalla by Abishyant Kidangoor

Image via ABP NEWS

“His company, the Serum Institute of India, was already the world’s largest vaccine maker when he promised 1.1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines for the developing world by the end of 2021. That assurance was the backbone of the plan for global vaccine access mounted by a coalition of institutions, including the World Health Organization. Poonawalla told me in March he didn’t want to ‘have regrets when history judges my actions.’”

Esther Ze Naw Bamvo and Ei Thinzar Maung by MiMi Aye

“Through their work, both activists have broken new ground. Esther is a leader of the Kachin Peace Network and was one of the few people in the past who were courageous enough to speak up for the Rohingya; Ei Thinzar, also a longtime activist on ethnic minority rights, has been named as Myanmar’s youngest-ever deputy minister in the National Unity Government, an exiled group formed by members of parliament ousted in the coup.”

Youn Yuh Jung by Steven Yeun

Image via A24

“From navigating and breaking through societal expectations to playing fully realized (and deeply human) characters on the screen, she has forged a path that only she could have. I am a fan not just because of her acting prowess but because she has been a singularly unique presence in everything I’ve ever seen her do.”

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Chloé Zhao by Ang Lee

Image via ABC

“With a compassionate eye, she deftly weaves together narrative and documentary in a way that captures the spirit of the characters’ inner selves, allowing us to see into their lives and truly understand them. Even her heartbreakingly beautiful objective shots are a reflection of the mind—deeply sad, yet incredibly kind.”

Bowen Yang by Sandra Oh

Image via Saturday Night Live

“As an Asian American performer on such a high-profile show, he’s taken on a stewardship role. But there should be no pressure for him to do anything more than just be himself: quick-witted, hilarious and absurd, with an elegant heart. We’re only really starting to see his potential as a performer and as a writer—he has so much to offer.”

Steven Yeun by Tessa Thompson

Image via Getty

“Steven has always cared for the people in his community, and seeing his leadership gives me hope that we will come to a place where accomplishments like the ones he’s achieved will be frankly just less noteworthy. He’s a deeply fantastic human and a true leading man. It’s been very gratifying to see him become one of the Internet’s boyfriends.”

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Xi Jinping by Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj

Image via Janne Wittoeck (CC BY 2.0)

“I have met with President Xi Jinping around 30 times, and we have chatted one-on-one on some occasions, but for the sake of time and space, I would like to highlight three points when I talk about President Xi. First, President Xi loves his country and his people dearly…Second, President Xi has no arrogance…Third, I have no illusions about President Xi’s policy as a whole.”

Narendra Modi by Fareed Zakaria

Image via Jhon Don (CC BY 2.0)

“Despite mishandling COVID-19—the death toll has been estimated to be much higher than the official count—his approval rating has slipped to a still sky-high 71%. When he was elected, many believed that Modi would finally move India off its socialist past and into a capitalist future. He’s done some of that but more determinedly, he has pushed the country away from secularism and toward Hindu nationalism.”

Mahbouba Seraj by Roya Mahboob

Image via Sky News

“In 2003, she left a comfortable life in the U.S. to return to her native Afghanistan. There, she fought for the rights of women at a time when fewer than 10% of girls were enrolled in elementary school. The founder of the nonprofit Afghan Women’s Network, she has dedicated herself to championing children’s health, battling corruption and empowering victims of domestic violence.”

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Ebrahim Raisi by Karim Sadjadpour

Image via Al Jazeera English

“When Ebrahim Raisi, an unremarkable 60-year-old cleric, was anointed Iran’s President in an engineered June 2021 election, the decisive vote was cast not by Iran’s population but its 82-year-old Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has ruled since 1989 and sees in Raisi a loyal supplicant and potential successor.”

Viya by Miranda Kerr

Image via Hangzhou China

“Last year, through my certified organic skin-care line, KORA Organics, I was lucky enough to work with Ms. Viya, the widely beloved businesswoman and influencer who is helping to shape the future of e-commerce in China. Her live broadcasts—in which she recommends products, from noodles and cosmetics to electric cars, to her tens of millions of followers across platforms—generate more revenue than many actual companies.”

Kengo Kuma by Kenjiro Hosaka

Image via PLANE—SITE

“Kengo Kuma champions an ideal of “losing architecture”—intricate buildings that disappear into their environs—although it’s hard to miss the new National Stadium in Japan when walking through the heart of Tokyo. His stylistic fingerprints can be seen throughout the elaborate project, designed by Kengo Kuma and Associates in collaboration with two other firms for this year’s Olympic Games.

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Click here to read the full TIME “100 most influential people of 2021” list.

 

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