By Ayesha Babar
The TIME 100 list was released recently and we were so pleased to see some of our favourites join the club of the most influential people in the world. These are people who have not only made a difference but have also been torch bearers in their fields and have served as an inspiration to so many.
Here’s our list, and also what those who introduced them had to say about these remarkable individuals.
Prince Harry: Princess Diana’s second son seems to have followed in her footsteps of supporting charities and making a difference to people’s lives, writes Elton John:
“I first met an extremely shy and sweet Prince Harry at a private lunch at Kensington Palace, given by his mother Princess Diana for Gianni Versace and me many years ago. What a joy it has been to see that young boy grow to inherit his mother’s warmth, sense of humor and courage to stand up and champion the causes he truly believes in.
Harry and I have bonded over a passionate desire to end the global AIDS epidemic, a disease for which his mother did so much important early work to fight stigma and build awareness.
He is equally passionate when it comes to reducing the stigma surrounding mental-health issues—blowing a much-needed breath of fresh air into the British stuffiness that has kept vital conversations lurking in the shadows.
The Invictus Games are his creation, and they give dignity and hope to injured armed services personnel and veterans by offering a spectacular and inspirational global competition in sport.
Prince Harry has that rare ability to walk into a room full of strangers and make everyone feel comfortable and at ease. As he has grown in maturity, I have watched him take on these causes with the remarkable skill to see and communicate how it truly feels for the people he is trying to help.”
Meghan Markle: The American Actress famous for her role as a lawyer on the TV show Suits was introduced by BFF Priyanka Chopra. Meghan is also getting married to Prince Harry next month.
“Somewhere among biryani, poutine and endless conversations, I realized just how deeply Meghan Markle cares for the world. With her, what you see is real, and what you get is a relatable young woman with her heart and mind in the right place. Her compassion, evident in the causes she supports, and her drive to break down stereotypes—obvious in her actions—will connect her to a generation in much need of kindness.
This ever-smiling, strong free spirit found her prince, fell in love and in turn made a cynical world believe in fairy tales again. But more than anything else, Meghan is an important influencer in a world that needs strong public figures to respect and look up to. People the world can be inspired by. Meghan, standing shoulder to shoulder with Harry, will be a princess for the people.
Love always, my friend. Live happily ever after.”
Kumail Nanjiani: Nanjiani, the Pakistani-American comedien, actor and screenwriter has been everywhere these last few months. From the hit film ‘The Big Sick’ that is based on his own life to memorable appearances on Saturday Night Live, Kumail has become a household name. Judd Apatow believes we need many more like him.
When a project is completed, it’s easy to forget what a long shot it was at the outset. The market wasn’t exactly crying out for a movie about a woman in a coma starring a Pakistani immigrant who questions his faith. But when Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon wrote The Big Sick, working for years without any guarantee of success, they wrote a script so strong, it was undeniable.
There are so many neglected stories in movies today. Kumail and Emily took theirs and made it heartfelt and funny, and at an enormous personal risk—because there’s nothing more humiliating than sharing the most important story in your life and having the movie be awful.
Kumail is one of our most hilarious, unique stand-up comedians. But what is most exciting about him is that he is the new comedic voice that we need. His incredibly funny Saturday Night Live monologue made it impossible not to see the ridiculousness of intolerance. He reminds people how fundamental a misunderstanding it is that a community of almost 2 billion people is to be feared. We’re lucky to have Kumail. We need a thousand more.
Roger Federer: There are few sportmen who have dominated their era like Roger Federer has dominated tennis. More than that, he’s used his fame and name to work for causes he believes in. Bill Gates agrees.
It’s no secret that Roger Federer is the greatest tennis player ever. As David Foster Wallace wrote, he is “one of those rare, preternatural athletes who appear to be exempt, at least in part, from certain physical laws.” He also seems exempt from the laws of aging. At 36, he’s still winning Grand Slams with a combination of grace and grit.
But not as many fans know about what Roger is doing off the court. Twice I’ve had the thrill of being his doubles partner to help raise money for his foundation, and we’ve become friends in the process. I’ve learned how sincerely Roger and his team are working to improve the life prospects for poor children—a mission that stems from his childhood visits to his mother’s home country of South Africa and seeing extreme poverty firsthand.
Roger knows that effective philanthropy, like great tennis, requires discipline and time. It will be a sad day for all of us fans when he hangs up his racket—but we can take comfort in knowing that he’s committed to making the world a more equitable place.
Virat Kohli: Talking of sportsmen, Virat Kohli has captured the fancy of cricket lovers the world over with his talent with the bat. And Sachin Tendulkar is happy to endorse just that.
The U-19 World Cup in 2008 was very important for India, as it would define the next bunch of youngsters who would go on to represent the nation. That was the first time I watched this young, passionate player lead India. Today Virat Kohli is a household name and a champion in cricket. Even back then, his hunger for runs and consistency was remarkable, something that has become the hallmark of his game.
Every sportsman knows what it’s like to have good spells and bad ones too. Virat took the criticism he faced during a disappointing West Indies series and returned home with a goal: to improve not only his technique, but also his fitness level. He’s never looked back.
My father always told me that if I focused on what I was doing, over time, detractors would become followers. Virat seems to have a similar outlook when it comes to his game.
I wish him all the best for his career ahead and am confident he will continue to bring pride and glory to India through cricket. Go Virat!
Sadiq Khan: As London’s first Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan showed that even in today’s world, hope will always trump fear. Former New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, thinks that the son of Pakistani immigrant parents, Khan could even be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom one day.
As immigration concerns were driving the push for Brexit, Londoners elected Sadiq Khan, the son of Pakistani immigrants, as their mayor in May 2016, making him the first Muslim to hold that position in a major European capital. I met with him a few weeks after his election and was impressed by his ambitious agenda. For instance: he has made tackling climate change a top priority, and he is showing how cities—on their own and by working together—can accelerate our progress.
He has also been a voice of reason on Brexit, recognizing that the U.K. will be stronger by maintaining a close relationship with Europe. And at a time of increasingly divisive political rhetoric, he has been an important voice for tolerance and unity. When President Trump retweeted videos from a British anti-Muslim group, Sadiq rightfully denounced it.
He’s a rising star who has a bright political future. Somewhere down the road, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him living at 10 Downing Street.
Justin Trudeau: Jacinda Ardern, the PM of New Zealand says that Trudeau has been a voice of hope and warmth in the often cold, rhetorical world of global politics and we couldn’t agree more.
There will be a few names globally that will become etched in our history books. They will be the names that mark the shift in our political landscape, when younger politicians took the reins and heralded a different type of politics. Justin Trudeau will be one of them. Youth alone is not remarkable, but winning over people with a message of hope and warmth, tolerance and inclusion, when other politicians the world over choose an easier route—that is remarkable.
Jimmy Kimmel: Kimmel might be one of out most loved funny men but as US Senator Dick Durbin says, he is a man whose voice makes a difference.
Jimmy Kimmel is a funny man, and he makes a living telling jokes about people like me. Washington never fails to give him plenty of material. But my favorite Jimmy moment was a serious monologue with only a few laughs.
Last year, Jimmy told America the story of his infant son Billy, who was born with a congenital heart condition, and the extraordinary care that saved his life. And then Jimmy looked into the camera and told all of us in Washington to get real about health insurance and make sure every baby Billy had a fighting chance. Night after night he sparred with the politicians who tried to take health insurance from millions of Americans. In the end we stopped them with one vote in the Senate and one great comedian on late-night TV. Thanks, Jimmy.
Oprah Winfrey: It doesn’t matter where you grew up – Oprah Winfrey has been a part of all our lives through her show. Actress Tiffany Haddish highlights the inspiration that she got watching Oprah and we are all nodding in agreement.
When I first met Oprah Winfrey, I was an extra on the set of a movie she was producing, Their Eyes Were Watching God. I was telling jokes and making the other extras laugh when Oprah walked by and said, “You’re really funny. What’s your name?” She told me to keep her updated on my career. So I wrote her all these letters, and she never wrote me back.
Then she surprised me on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in February. When she walked onstage, my soul was overjoyed. That was everything. It made me feel like I’m on the right track, and it inspired me to push even harder.
I’ve been watching Oprah since I was 7. In my eyes, she’s my auntie. I call her Auntie O. I remember coming home from school, putting on The Oprah Winfrey Show and feeling like I could achieve anything I put my mind to. Oprah had the roughest childhood and has gone through all these difficulties. But no matter what, she stays focused on her goals and achieves them. She made her dreams come true. And because I watched her, I did too.
Satya Nadella: For those of you who don’t know him, Nadella has been the CEO of Microsoft since 2014. Since then he has tried putting his head and heart to figuring out how technology can change lives. Walter Isaacson says that it is this empathy that sets him apart.
Growing up in India, Satya Nadella fell in love with cricket, a sport whose grace comes from melding stars into a cohesive and harmonic team. “One brilliant character who does not put team first can destroy the entire team,” he wrote in his recent book, Hit Refresh.
Since becoming CEO of Microsoft in 2014, Nadella has used those principles to restore the company’s spirit of innovation. Consider its new product strategy, which emphasizes cloud computing and allowing people to collaborate across platforms. Nadella also preaches the importance of empathy and making products that work reliably, traits that deepened in him when his first child was born with brain damage and his son’s life depended on linked machines running Microsoft systems.
The result is that in the four years since he inherited a sticky wicket, Microsoft’s market value has increased 130%. More important, the company is now making products that feel more user-friendly, empathetic and collaborative.
Deepika Padukone: The Bollywood Queen Bee needs no introduction. She has given us powerful performances and raised her voice to spread awareness about mental health. If that isn’t goals, I don’t know what is. Oh and Vin Diesel thinks Deepika is the best the Earth has to offer.
When Deepika Padukone came in to read for one of the Fast and the Furiousfilms, I knew instantly I was in the presence of someone very special. As soon as she entered the room, there was a synchronicity, a synergy, a chemistry—it promised great things to come. Her schedule didn’t work for that movie, but I never gave up. She was the first role we cast in xXx: Return of Xander Cage. She said, “I want to do this movie, but if I do, you have to come to India.” Thank God I made that deal.
Making that movie, Deepika took committed to a whole other level. That’s who she is as a performer. She wants the whole movie to shine, which is a rare thing. Anyone could talk about how beautiful she is, and anyone could tell you about her unmatched comedic timing. But she isn’t just a star. She’s an actor’s actor, dedicated to the craft.
So often in the entertainment industry we deal in stereotypes, and people get stuck in certain markets. Deepika is the best Earth has to offer. She’s not just here to represent India; she’s here to represent the world.
Which ones are your favourites? Tell us in the comments below.