1. Rachel Maddow, TV Host, Political Commentator. Read more below.
Donald Trump has been really good to Rachel Maddow. In February, her show hit a ratings high in its nine-year history, with an average of 2.3 million viewers an episode—a phenomenon that Maddow partly attributes to a “surge in civic interest and engagement.” It may also be that MSNBC understands that millennials, in particular, don’t consider balance to be virtuous, especially in the era of Trump. Maddow’s pointed, dumbfounded critiques of the White House align with the way we speak on social media. Accuracy is important—pretending to be impartial less so. Having come of age as an AIDS activist in San Francisco, Maddow understands that on some issues, at least, there is only one side worth taking. On Trump’s ties to Russia, in particular, The Rachel Maddow Show has been indispensable, helping navigate readers through complex connections. But in other areas she sometimes risks putting ratings above credibility: A supposed scoop in March on Trump’s tax returns turned out to be a damp squib, very likely planted by the president himself. But Maddow’s instincts have steered her show to prime-time glory at precisely the moment when her kind of detail-obsessed precision reporting is more vital than ever. “When something important is happening, I want people to feel like they should come to me,” she told Rolling Stone in June. Mission accomplished.
2. Anderson Cooper, News Correspondent. Read more below.
Just trying to imagine the Anderson Cooper of old doing his now-famous eye roll during an interview with Kellyanne Conway is enough to realize that coming out was the best thing to happen to the veteran journalist and anchor. On TV he is more relaxed, more enjoyable, more, dare we say, himself. There’s always been a refreshing spontaneity and transparency to his best reporting, as with the Pulse shootings last year when he teared up while reading the names of the victims, or in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when his coverage steered CNN firmly away from the Tom Brokaw school of stentorian stoicism. His ratings soared then, and they soared again this year, with his show recording its highest quarterly performance on record, up 19% in viewers over last year. And while the election may have left the highest and hardest glass ceiling intact, Cooper still managed a professional breakthrough of his own during campaign season, becoming the first openly gay man in history to moderate a presidential debate (with ABC News’s Martha Raddatz). In June, Cooper found himself having to navigate a trickier situation when he was forced to distance himself from his friend and longtime co-host of CNN’s New Year’s Eve broadcast, Kathy Griffin, over a photo shoot in which the comedian held up a faux head of Trump, severed at the neck. Eye-rolling is one thing; heads rolling another. Even an emo-newsman must maintain a veneer of neutrality.
3. Ellen Degeneres, Comedian, Talk-Show Host. Read more below.
When DeGeneres spoke to Out last December for our annual OUT100, she recalled a then-recent interview with Hillary Clinton, who’d just wrapped a debate with Donald Trump. DeGeneres said that when she deemed that process akin to “debating with a teenager” on the air, her longtime agent said he’d never seen her so partisan. That small memory says big things about this steadfast comedian’s longevity and accessibility: In a world fueled by anger, DeGeneres has remained an unwavering source of light, with seemingly just one mark of name-calling on her record of positivity. This is why, with her fresh-as-ever talk show, her booming brand, and her growing social-media clout, she has enough trophies to fill many mantels and enough fans to fill many stadiums. She’s the everyday person whom everyday people aspire to be.
4. Jill Soloway, Writer, Showrunner. Read more below.
We may be living in an atmosphere of dread, but you know there’s something progressive in the air when a gender-nonbinary—and altogether nonconforming—talent is among the most influential showrunners on earth. Having cut their teeth on cable dramas like Six Feet Under, Soloway accessed personal family experience to craft the Emmy-winning Amazon series Transparent, a bona fide and richly rewarded game changer. This year, Soloway’s new show, I Love Dick (also on Amazon), continues to challenge gender norms—and television traditions.
5. Ryan Murphy, Showrunner. Read more below.
With the AmericanHorrorStory anthology and Glee, Murphy became one of the most popular showrunners in Hollywood. With the more recent ThePeoplev. OJ Simpson and Feud:Bette &Joan, he also became one of its most acclaimed. The man with the Midas touch spreads his wealth with the Half foundation, an initiative dedicated to filling 50% of all director slots on his shows with women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community.
6. Anthony Romero, Executive Director, ACLU. Read more below.
As director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Romero might just be the busiest person in the country right now—which means business as usual for a man who joined the organization in 2001, shortly before the September 11 attacks. It was during Romero’s tenure that the ACLU fought the Patriot Act, bringing to light the record of illegal torture of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo Bay. This year, facing another president with a cavalier disregard for civil rights, the ACLU leaped into action to torpedo a ban on immigrants from six Muslim-majority countries. But when it comes to our freedoms, Romero is an equal-opportunity defender. When students sought to bar conservative provocateurs Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking on campuses like Berkeley, the ACLU was quick to remind us that free speech is not an à la carte proposition: You either support it or you don’t. (See our profile of Romero on page 33.)
7. Tammy Baldwin, U.S. Senator. Read more below.
Like so many of us (and like so many politicians), Baldwin has found a renewed vigor in the name of resistance while living and working under a Trump presidency. This past year, after criticizing Ivanka Trump’s inactivity as a moderating voice in the White House, Baldwin penned a letter to the president regarding his planned Medicaid cuts and its harsh effects on veterans. The Wisconsin native also co-sponsored a bill calling for Veterans Affairs reform.
8. Rupaul Charles, Drag Queen, TV Mogul. Read more below.
Now that he—finally—has an Emmy under his waist-trainer, Charles, the erstwhile supermodel of the world, may just find himself eating his words. Perfecting his craft for decades and born of the fringe, Charles once said that drag will “never be mainstream.” And yet, with nine hit seasons and counting, RuPaul’s Drag Race has brought Charles’s chosen art form into living rooms in every corner of the globe, and drawn fans from nearly every walk of life.
9. Mary Kay Henry, Union Organizer. Read more below.
At the forefront of the fight to secure a $15 federal minimum wage, Henry has been buoyed in recent years by cities like Seattle embracing her cause. As president of the powerful 2 million–member Service Employees International Union since 2010, she had to fend off criticism last year for the SEIU’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders, but no one can doubt her commitment to raising the quality of life for the working class.
10. The Wachowskis, Filmmakers, Showrunners. Read more below.
Already hugely successful thanks to sci-fi films like The Matrix and Cloud Atlas, Lana and Lilly Wachowski extended their massive following with their Netflix series Sense8, a show with a diverse international cast rich with queer representation. While steering the show through two seasons (before it was sadly axed), both sisters are active members of their Chicago trans community, with Lana hosting film screenings for trans organizations and Lilly showcasing paintings of trans murder victims.
11. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple. Read more below.
He may not be a flag-waving advocate, but Cook’s visibility as the head of the all-powerful Apple corporation turns his smallest sound bite into a headline. After coming out in 2014, he became the world’s most powerful openly gay CEO, and he continued to carve his own path, well beyond the shadow of the late Steve Jobs. Following last year’s scuffle with the FBI (when he refused to unlock a terrorist’s iPhone), Cook hasn’t shied away from lending his voice to politics. Most recently, it was reported that he urged Donald Trump to keep the United States in the Paris climate agreement.
12. Frank Ocean, Singer-Songwriter. Read more below.
After Ocean came out, his music career took on a vital, intersectional role, bringing male pronouns into romantic mainstream R&B and emphasizing the complexity of human sexuality. His debut album, Channel Orange, saw the sultry crooner reflect on love lost—and earn six Grammy nominations. Ocean’s universally acclaimed sophomore effort, Blonde, continued his rise and helped secure him the weekly Beats 1 Radio show blonded RADIO.
13. Deray Mckesson, Activist. Read more below.
After an admirable yet unsuccessful bid to become the mayor of Baltimore, and an arrest for protesting in Baton Rouge, Mckesson seems to have re-emerged more energized than ever. Increasingly determined to spread his message to the masses, the Black Lives Matter advocate is using his new podcast, Pod Save the People, to preach to a desperate audience and shine a light of truth through the seemingly dark days ahead.
14. Kate Mckinnon, Actress, Comedian. Read more below.
In addition to a hilarious lineup of recent ensemble films, including Rough Night and Ghostbusters, McKinnon continues her lauded residency at Saturday Night Live with some daring portrayals of today’s political heavy hitters. Recently, she dined with one of her most popular alter egos, Hillary Clinton, who admitted to being a fan. Along with Kenan Thompson, McKinnon is one of the longest-running cast members on the iconic sketch show.
15. Laverne Cox, Actress, Activist. Read more below.
America’s reigning trans icon, Cox once said, “It is revolutionary for any trans person to choose to be seen and visible in a world that tells us we should not exist.” Cox’s visibility on Orange Is the New Black is now just a small part of her own revolution. Beyond interviews, public appearances, and powerful speaking engagements, she has, in the past year, starred as Frank-N-Furter in a Rocky Horror reboot, wrapped the upcoming queer film Freak Show, and, with CBS’s Doubt, became the first trans actor to play a lead trans character in a prime-time drama. Doubt may have been canceled, but Cox made history. Again.
16. Ellen Page, Actress, Producer. Read more below.
While tackling a full slate of upcoming film projects, the uncompromising Page continues to challenge the system with the second season of Gaycation, her popular Viceland docuseries co-hosted by Ian Daniel. Though committed to tracking the living conditions of LGBTQ individuals around the world, the show saw a highlight this year with “United We Stand,” a special episode examining how Trump’s presidency is affecting queer life here in America.
17. Tarell Alvin Mccraney, Playwright, Screenwriter. Read more below.
When Moonlight unexpectedly defied the odds and took home the Oscar for Best Picture this year, it proved a historic moment for black people and LGBT people alike. At its center was McCraney, the movie’s co-screenwriter, the author of the work from which it was adapted, and the person whose own life it loosely depicted. Currently, McCraney is busy shaping future brilliant minds, serving as Yale’s chair of playwriting.
18. Scott Rudin, Producer. Read more below.
Another year, another litany of crowd-pleasing and prestige films from mega-producer Rudin, who can now boast nearly four decades in Hollywood. Last year, the near-perennial Oscar nominee earned flak for Zoolander 2, but he also backed Denzel Washington’s screen take on August Wilson’s acclaimed Fences. This year, Rudin’s production credits include The Meyerowitz Stories, from director Noah Baumbach, and Lady Bird, directed by Baumbach’s girlfriend, Greta Gerwig. On the horizon: Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs and, inevitably, more nods from the Academy.
19. Jared Polis, U.S. Representative. Read more below.
Polis, the first openly gay parent in Congress, is also the co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, fighting for rights both at home and abroad. His political agenda spans the liberal spectrum, from providing opportunities for newly immigrated Americans to regulating proper nutrition in schools. Polis uses his personal wealth—garnered from an e-greeting card venture—to fund expansive educational initiatives through his eponymous foundation. And he reportedly has his eye on Colorado’s upcoming gubernatorial race.
20. Dustin Lance Black, Filmmaker, Activist. Read more below.
Black’s past year has been decorated with personal and professional triumphs. The writer, director, and activist finally married his Olympian boyfriend, Tom Daley, and he was also the brains behind the ABC miniseries When We Rise, a celebratory chronicle of queer resistance through history and a call to action in these trying political times.
21. Michael Kors Black, Fashion Designer. Read more below.
A longtime staple of timeless Western fashion, Kors has been called the king of American jet-set sportswear, with a multibillion-dollar company and an industry history that extends more than 30 years. Previously the creative director of Céline, Kors has built a brand that moves beyond retail and onto television, having been a witty judge for ProjectRunway for nearly a decade. In 2010, Kors received the CFDA’s most prestigious honor: the Lifetime Achievement Award. But 2016 was a challenging year for the fashion titan. As retail continues to suffer at the hands of e-commerce, Kors announced the shuttering of 100-plus stores nationwide over the next two years.
22. Larry Kramer, Writer, Activist. Read more below.
Famously declaring the AIDS crisis a “plague,” queer writer, activist, and living legend Kramer leads a legacy marked by his work as co-founder of both the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and ACT UP. Through multiple arrests, Kramer successfully put medical treatment in the hands of HIV+ Americans, despite the government continually ignoring its dying citizens. To this day, the 82-year-old New Yorker, author of such gay touchstones as Faggots and The Normal Heart, remains an avid advocate for LGBTQ equality.
23. Glenn Greenwald, Journalist. Read more below.
Amid an increasingly polarized media environment, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Greenwald continues to be a voice that many turn to for truth. Armed with his celebrated outlet The Intercept, Greenwald leads a team that mirrors his own dedication to holding people in power accountable.
24. Chris Kelly, Writer, Producer, Comedian. Read more below.
To say SNL’s past year was as explosively political as it was hilarious is an understatement, and much of that is thanks to co-head writer Kelly, the first gay ringleader in the show’s decades-long history. Kelly also released his debut feature film Other People last year, featuring a stunning performance from Molly Shannon as the dying mother of a young gay comedy writer. It was loosely based on his relationship with his own mom.
25. Shepard Smith, Editor and TV Host. Read more below.
While coming out as gay in a public speech this year, longtime TV news anchor Smith may have downplayed his orientation, simply saying, “I don’t think about it... I go to work... I cover the news... I go home to the man I’m in love with.” But not every coming-out story needs to carry a plan of activism, and Smith wields considerable power at the famously conservative Fox News, hosting Shepard Smith Reporting and serving as the managing editor of the channel’s breaking-news division.
26. Raf Simons, Fashion Designer. Read more below.
Known as fashion’s rebellious minimalist, Simons has spent his career working behind major brands, from Jil Sander to Christian Dior. Now he’s brought his Belgium youth–inspired edge to the classic American label Calvin Klein, serving as its creative director. The designer recently made his highly anticipated New York Fashion Week debut for fall ’17, unveiling an acclaimed collection that was inspired by NYC’s cultural impact, and featured pieces inspired by Robert Mapplethorpe.
27. Roxane Gay, Writer, Activist. Read more below.
Raising her prominence in queer and feminist literature, Gay released two books this year, the novel Difficult Women and the deeply revealing autobiography Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body. A regular contributor to The New York Times, the writer and Purdue University professor makes bold moves in the name of justice and social change. After Simon and Schuster’s brief acquisition of Milo Yiannopoulos’s book deal, Gay pulled her book from the publisher, claiming she was sending a message to anyone who supports bigotry.
28. Darren Walker, Ford Foundation President. Read more below.
Can the rich make the world a better place? That’s the underlying principle of the Ford Foundation, a fund created by Edsel Ford and Henry Ford in 1936 (the family later severed its ties) that now distributes around $500 million a year in grants for a variety of causes. It’s somehow fitting that its director, Walker Walker, was born to a single mother in a charity hospital in Lafayette, La., and later enrolled at the University of Texas against warnings that it was bad for black people, because he knew it was also the state’s best university. He has spent much of his life campaigning to make life better for those who need it most—from helping bring supermarkets to Harlem to donating $125 million in Ford Foundation grants to save Detroit (and the Detroit Institute of Arts) from bankruptcy. Last year Walked was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World byTime.
29. Janet Mock, Writer, TV Host. Read more below.
Since coming out as trans in the pages of Marie Claire, Mock has become a contributing editor for the magazine, not to mention a New York Times best-selling author and highly successful TV host. This year, following her hit 2014 memoir Redefining Realness, Mock released SurpassingCertainty, another book unveiling the nuances of her life. She’s also hard at work on a new podcast, proving there’s virtually no medium she’s unprepared to tackle.
30. Tom Ford, Fashion Designer, Filmmaker. Read more below.
Ford, whose name is synonymous with ultimate luxury, has solidified a legacy of sex appeal through his work at Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, and his booming eponymous label. The designer more recently moved into writing, directing, and producing two films: A Single Man (2009) and Nocturnal Animals (2016), which were both Oscar-nominated.
31. Robin Roberts, News Anchor. Read more below.
The acknowledgment of her longtime girlfriend during a Good Morning America segment may have seemed, to some, like a tacked-on sentiment, but Roberts has since exposed millions of Americans to an LGBTQ woman of color by simply doing her job. GMA places Roberts in the homes of more than 4 million people on any given day, and, this June, for her growing visibility and equality efforts, she was honored at a Human Rights Campaign dinner in New Orleans.
32. Joel Simkhai, CEO of Grindr. Read more below.
For nearly a decade, Grindr has been ubiquitous in the gay community, primarily for hookups but also for queer networking. Under the leadership of founder and CEO Simkhai, the app has evolved into a lifestyle brand, with a clothing line and now an online magazine. With 38% of Grindr’s stocks recently sold to a Chinese tech company for $152 million, we can’t help but wonder what’s next for the app—and for Simkhai.
33. Lee Daniels, Director, Producer. Read more below.
Expanding his influence at Fox, Daniels paired the third season of Empire, his highly addictive—and inclusive—prime-time soap, with Star, another musical drama that stars Queen Latifah and follows a girl group as they conquer the Atlanta music scene. With Empire still pulling in 6 million viewers per episode, Daniels is also partnering with Oprah Winfrey for an upcoming remake of the 1983 tearjerker Terms of Endearment.
34. Andy Cohen, Television Mogul. Read more below.
Branching out from his cushy nest at Bravo (padded by the Real Housewives franchise and Watch What Happens Live), Cohen added game-show host to his résumé this year when he was tapped by Fox for its Love Connection reboot. Cohen’s exuberance and inclusion of gay and lesbian couples gives the revamp relevance, and he still contributes regularly to his Sirius/XM satellite radio channel, Radio Andy.
35. Justin Tranter, Songwriter. Read more below.
Previously the front man of New York’s glam-rock band Semi Precious Weapons, Tranter has moved behind the scenes, co-writing some of pop radio’s biggest hits for such major acts as Justin Bieber, Britney Spears, Selena Gomez, and Gwen Stefani. When named Songwriter of the Year at the 65th Annual BMI Pop Awards, Tranter—an artist and activist—demanded the industry put LGBTQ songwriters in sessions, a plea that echoed his work as a GLAAD board member. (See our feature on Tranter, here).
36. David Cicilline, U.S. Representative. Read more below.
Watching Cicilline, the Democratic congressman for Rhode Island, handle himself with Fox News host Tucker Carlson in March was to see how a freshman politician (he was elected to Rhode Island’s 1st congressional district in 2011) has graduated with honors. While Carlson degenerated into shouting at his guest, Cicilline quietly and persuasively made the case that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should step down for perjury. In May the congressman, who is co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, reintroduced legislation for the Equality Act to enshrine nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people in employment, housing, public accommodations, jury service, education, federal programs, and credit.
37. Tyler Oakley, Social-Media Personality, Activist. Read more below.
Arguably YouTube’s biggest success story, Oakley has parlayed his viral popularity into a continually booming career, anchoring it in LGBT activism and an accessible brand of self-affirmation. The 28-year-old has been creating YouTube videos for a decade (accruing nearly 8 million subscribers in the process), but the past year has shown an evolution in his clout and visibility. In 2016, after competing on The Amazing Race with friend and fellow YouTuber Korey Kuhl, he launched The Tyler Oakley Show, his own program airing weekly on Ellen DeGeneres’s digital network. This year, he made Forbes’s list of 30 Under 30.
38. Bryan Fuller, Writer, Showrunner. Read more below.
He’s been in the TV business since the mid-’90s, but Fuller probably didn’t catch your attention until creating the darkly comic Pushing Daisies in 2007. With Lee Pace and Kristin Chenoweth (two of many actors in Fuller’s vast troupe of regulars), Daisies was merely a preview of how Fuller could tweak and twist TV. After earning multiple Emmy and Writers Guild Award nods, he followed it with NBC’s Hannibal (arguably the decade’s most artful network show) and, this year, with Starz’s AmericanGods, a radical, allegorical, and ardently queer fantasy—which was renewed for a second season less than a month after its premiere.
39. Lydia Polgreen, Editor, Journalist. Read more below.
Already a celebrated journalist, Polgreen saw her profile soar this past year when she was named editor in chief of the HuffPost. As a queer woman of color in the world of male-run media, Polgreen has had to try that much harder to prove her merit, but she’s also surrounded herself with an army of allies along the way. Her positivity and perseverance have positioned her as one of the most influential people in journalism, and she’s already hard at work with HuffPost, revitalizing it and rebranding it with a team determined to hold anyone and everyone accountable.
40. Gigi Gorgeous, Media Personality. Read more below.
It’s Gigi’s world; we’re all just taking selfies in it. After dominating YouTube for years as a beloved personality (she boasts more than 2½ million subscribers), the trans icon recently made the leap to the big screen. This year’s Sundance Film Festival saw the premiere of Oscar-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple’s This Is Everything, a documentary charting Gorgeous’s life and transition.
41. Chad Griffin, President of the Human Rights Campaign. Read more below.
With marriage equality becoming the law of the land, LGBT equality seemed a foregone conclusion, but that was before Tuesday, November 8, 2016. Under Griffin, the HRC—the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights advocacy organization—has become one of the most important bulwarks the community has against injustice and unlawful discrimination—whether by keeping Big Business accountable with HRC’s annual Corporate Equality Index, trying to keep Congress honest with its Congressional Scorecard, advocating for LGBT refugees, or galvanizing the internet against North Carolina’s HB2.
42. Hanne Gaby Odiele, Model. Read more below.
Belgian supermodel Odiele learned she was intersex mere weeks before beginning her career, but the revelation didn’t stop her from signing with a major New York agency, walking for designers like Marc Jacobs and landing editorials in Vogue. In 2006, a car accident left her with two broken legs, but she returned to the runway less than two years later, donning the latest for the likes of Givenchy, Prada, and Chanel. This year, she came out publicly as intersex, and her glowing career is now paired with advocacy for intersex human rights. (See our profile on Odiele on page 70.)
43. Greg Berlanti, Writer, Showrunner. Read more below.
This year, Berlanti successfully jumped into yet another comic universe, moving from the worlds of Arrow and TheFlash to debut Riverdale, a CW teen drama based on characters from Archie Comics. Continuing to churn out hit shows, the writer-producer made history in 2017, with 10 scripted series booked to air at once. Next, he’ll be in the director’s chair for the gay teen film Simonvs. TheHomoSapiensAgenda.
44. Caitlyn Jenner, Media Personality. Read more below.
It’s been two years since Jenner came out as trans. She may be controversial to some, but Jenner’s visibility remains steadfast and crucial, whether in her now-completed E! series, IAmCait, or in TheSecretsofMyLife, her personal memoir she released this spring.
45. Tim Gill, Software Entrepreneur. Read more below.
After founding Quark, Inc., in 1981 with little more than a $2,000 loan from his parents, Gill grew his corporation into a software behemoth. In 1994 he created the Gill Foundation to support organizations dedicated to serving the LGBTQ community, and in 2011 he became a major force behind the strategy that led New York state to legalize gay marriage, though his efforts at helping secure transgender rights in New Hampshire suffered a setback in March when the state’s House of Representatives voted to table an anti-discrimination bill in the face of fierce anti-trans activism.
46. Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD. Read more below.
Diversity in media may be a relatively new cause célèbre for the less woke, but GLAAD has been championing positive LGBT representation for more than 30 years. Ellis has been fighting the good fight for nearly as long, having begun her LGBT activism in the early ’90s before launching a successful executive career. Since taking the reins of the world’s leading LGBT media advocacy organization in 2014, she has worked to ensure the media are fair, accurate, and honest in portraying queer lives, while the organization’s annual awards celebrate the best the media have to offer.
47. Don Lemon, News Anchor. Read more below.
The veteran CNN anchor has made it a mission to stand up to bullies, including the big bully in the White House. The President might have poured scorn on Lemon and his network, but the Emmy-winning journalist can give as good as he gets. In July he told viewers that the biggest purveyor of fake news was POTUS himself. Touché! Over his 11 years at the network Lemon has earned plaudits for his ability to find empathy with his subjects, notably when he spoke about his experience of child abuse during a segment about pedophilia in the church. That willingness to be transparent about his own experiences has helped shape him into one of our most relatable and authentic newsmen.
48. Lisa Sherman, CEO of the Ad Council. Read more below.
Though not a household name, Sherman has been behind some of the most iconic media in recent history. She was a foundational member of Logo, the LGBT television network and incubator for RuPaul’sDragRace. Her mantra: “It’s about diversity of thought. Make sure you have the right people in the room and everyone has a seat at the table.” More recently, Sherman was named the CEO and president of the Ad Council, created 75 years ago by President Franklin Roosevelt, initially to help rally the country around the war effort. Think back to the public-service ads of your childhood; remember Smokey Bear? “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk”? These cornerstones of American culture were all created by the Ad Council—now we have a lesbian running it.
49. Hilton Als, Writer, Journalist. Read more below.
Already widely celebrated, Als saw his writing handsomely—and prestigiously—rewarded this year, as he took home the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. It was a cementing of merit for the White Girls author and New Yorker theater critic, who was exalted for placing staged works in the context of the real world amid themes of gender, sexuality, and race.
50. Mark Takano, U.S. Representative. Read more below.
Harvard grad and former public school teacher Takano became Congress’s first openly gay person of color in 2012 when he was elected to represent California’s 41st congressional district. He’s taken a witty approach to politics, telling The New York Times, “ ‘First openly gay person of color’ is a long moniker. I give people permission to use the word ‘Gaysian.’ ” But he’s also a whip-smart interrogator of Republican hypocrisies. Of those who resist expanding LGBT equality, Takano says simply, “I don’t hate them—I pity them as morally immature.”