Who runs the world? Top 10 Most Influential Black Women of 2017
1. Yara Shahidi
Though the youngest person on this list, Yara Shahidi exercises a wisdom well beyond her years. Starring as Zoey Johnson is the ABC hit, “Black-ish”, Shahidi has a powerful platform which she uses to discuss hard-hitting social issues. In 2017 it was announced that she would get her own “Black-ish” spinoff, appropriately titled, “Grown-ish”. The show follows her character Zoey to college where she learns to navigate the pitfalls of university life. Thus far, “Grown-ish” has been a smash hit, having already been renewed for a second season, it ranks as Freeform’s highest-rated comedy debut in over five years. The starlet’s momentum shows no signs of slowing down as she’s recently joined Aerie’s Real Role Model campaign, encouraging girls everywhere to love their bodies as is.
Oprah Winfrey has been a household name for over three decades. With the end of her talk show in 2011, audiences were worried that Oprah would disappear from their screens for good. This has been far from the truth, however. With the creation of the OWN network and with it, popular shows such as “Queen Sugar”, Oprah has reinvigorated television and allowed for the employment of many actors of color. Her latest project, a film adaptation of Madeleine L'Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time” is one of the most highly anticipated movies of 2018.
Early in her career, Beyonce was all about music - crafting a public persona who rarely discussed personal or social issues. Her growth as an artist has allowed for a formidable platform. And now, like her or not, there’s no denying Beyonce’s influence. In 2017, her remix of “Mi Gente” helped raise nearly $1,000,000 for relief efforts in Puerto Rico. No matter the cause, feminism, racism or humanitarian, Beyonce is one of the only (current) artists who can use their music as a tool to make a change.
4. Issa Rae
Issa Rae took her career to new heights after the success of her Youtube series, “Awkward Black Girl” brought her to HBO. Her smash hit, “Insecure”, is a refreshing take on the millennial Black girl experience. The series covers everything from workplace drama to the nuances of sexual fluidity. “Insecure” has been so popular amongst viewers that HBO has greenlit two of Rae’s new shows, allowing her to tell the stories that really resonate with people of color.
5. Lupita Nyong’o
In October of 2017, actor Lupita Nyong’o penned an uncomfortable New York Times piece about her sexual assault experience with disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein. In sharing her story, Nyong’o contributed to an important conversation about consent, abuse of power and holding offenders accountable for their actions. Since then, her story and so many others have become the #metoo movement which in turn, sparked the Time’s Up legal defense fund. Had it not been for her and other women coming forward, there might have never been a change in the industry.
6. Shonda Rhimes
Shonda Rhimes has captivated audiences since the premiere of her medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy” in 2005. She has since created four other series and produced upwards of ten, becoming a rare breed for network television. Fans tune in every Thursday, or as ABC calls it, T.G.I.T for the Shonda Rhimes trifecta: “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder”. Her productions, known for dramatic plot twists and complicated characters have attracted controversy at times but also, a loyal fanbase. Last year, it was announced the TV producer would leave ABC for a multi-year deal with Netflix which pretty much guarantees tons of binge-watching in 2018.
7. Bozoma Saint-John
As the former head of Global Consumer Marketing for iTunes and Apple Music and the current Chief Brand Officer at Uber, Bozoma has made a name for herself in business tech. As a minority and a woman in a male-dominated field, this could not have been an easy feat. Having a Black woman in a position of power at major corporations is just the representation young girls need.
8. Cardi B
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard the Summer 2017 bop “Bodak Yellow”. No one-hit wonder, the beginning of 2018 saw rapper Cardi B make Billboard history as the second woman to simultaneously have four songs on the top 10 of Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Chart. The rise of Cardi B has been interesting to watch, mostly because of her authenticity. She speaks openly about being a former stripper (which is nothing to be ashamed of - former or not) and delivers incredible one-liners. Cardi B’s success and relatability teach girls that if you are not happy with your circumstances, you have the power to change them.
Rihanna didn’t release a new album last year but she did drop Fenty Beauty which honestly shook (yes, shook) the makeup industry. Rihanna’s line widely received praise for releasing 40 shades of foundation right out the gate. Fenty started much-needed conversations about inclusivity and how much of it is lacking in major makeup brands. Rih will also be exercising her acting chops, starring in “Ocean’s 8”. The continuation of the ever popular “Ocean’s 11” series has garnered lots of media attention due to its all* female cast.
10. Tracee Ellis Ross
Tracee Ellis Ross first captured audiences’ hearts as Joan Carol Clayton in Mara Brock Akil’s “Girlfriends”, often referred to as the Black “Sex and the City” (*side eye*). Everyone knew someone like Joan which made her portrayal that more relatable and interesting to watch. Tracee now stars in ABC’s “Black-ish” as Doctor Rainbow Johnson. The lovely thing about Rainbow? She’s a Black woman in a STEM field who is also happily married with children - someone we don’t see often enough on our television screens. Three cheers for representation.