TIME's 100 most influential people: the artists and athletes

Justin Andress - AXS Contributor
By: AXS Contributor Apr 24, 2014
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It's that time of year again, when the good people at TIME magazine take some time out of their busy schedule to remind us all who is out there trying to effect change in the world. The TIME 100 most influential people list highlights everyone from CEOs to tech innovators to activists. The annual list is a celebration of humanity's accomplishments in the last year.

Revelations and innovations aren't only to be found in the realm of business or politics so let's take some time to shine a light on the artists and athletes who spent 2013 trying to make Earth a slightly more habitable place.

The TIME list itself is divided into five fairly self-explanatory sections: Titans, Pioneers, Artists, Leaders and Icons. With the exception of the "Leaders" section, Hollywood's finest and Pro Sports' best were well represented.

Behold and be amazed, as we explore TIME 100's standout artists and athletes.

Before we begin, you should know: We weren't able to squeeze everyone on here, so you might find one or two omissions, most notably in the fields of live theater and literature. Because who reads anymore? We've also omitted a few TV news personalities, but we doubt you'll actually miss them.

Additional reporting by Mark Schiff and Kyle Bisio.

  • 20.Beyonce
    You don't get the nickname "Queen Bey" without earning it, and Beyonce Knowles has more than merited her moniker. Whether you love her becau
    Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

    You don't get the nickname "Queen Bey" without earning it, and Beyonce Knowles has more than merited her moniker. Whether you love her because of her foot-stomping music or because she's one part of music's most powerful couple or even because she's the mother of the most famous baby on the planet, Beyonce has definitely taken the music world by storm.

    In the last year, she dropped a completely unpublicized new album(which subsequently crushed sales records) to rave reviews from fans and critics alike and sold out a World Tour like she wasn't even trying.

    Beyond her contributions to music, Beyonce is an ambassador for young women the world over. She once famously declared, "I'm not bossy, I'm the boss," a motto that has been adopted by a new generation of young girls looking for a new kind of empowerment. And Ms. Knowles is more than happy to lead the way.

  • 19.Pharrell Williams
    Pharrell Williams has carved out one of the most unique careers in pop music. As one half of The Neptunes, and more recently on his own, his
    Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella

    Pharrell Williams has carved out one of the most unique careers in pop music. As one half of The Neptunes, and more recently on his own, his minimalist beats made him one of the most in-demand producers in hip-hop. Although he’s long been a reliable hook-man on other people’s songs, his solo career is only starting to take off. And with N.E.R.D., he fronted a band that’s dropped at least one classic, 2002’s undefinable “In Search Of…,” and host of other beguiling singles.

    These achievements are all the more impressive when you consider Pharrell has been a major presence in pop music for over 15 years and he’s just now peaking. The dude just turned 41 years old and yet, he has been the single most inescapable presence on the radio for going on 12 months now. What’s his musical fountain of youth? SpongeBob Squarepants, apparently.

  • 18.Serena Williams
    One half of the most unbeatable team in tennis, Serena Williams is currently the number one ranked Women's Singles player in the world. She'
    Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    One half of the most unbeatable team in tennis, Serena Williams is currently the number one ranked Women's Singles player in the world. She's also the oldest athlete in Women's Tennis Association history to hold that title.

    She's currently the owner of more major titles (32) than any active tennis player in the world, male or female. Serena has won four Olympic gold medals, she's one 13 Grand Slam singles titles and 17 with her sister. In fact, she and her sister are unbeaten in Grand Slam finals when they're on the court together.

    And in case you were worried that Serena was slowing down, you haven't been paying attention. She's currently the defending French Open, US Open, WTA Tour Championship and Olympic Women's singles champ.

  • 17.Jason Collins
    Professional athletes are the epitome of machismo; men want to be them and women want to be with them. Until recently, there had never been
    Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    Professional athletes are the epitome of machismo; men want to be them and women want to be with them. Until recently, there had never been an openly gay athlete in any of America’s biggest sports leagues. Jason Collins of the Brooklyn Nets changed all of this.

    As the acceptance of gay rights continues to grow by the minute in this country, it was only a matter of time until a professional sports franchise embraced a player for their athletic ability all the while ignoring their sexual orientation. This ended up paying off for the Nets, as Collins’ number 98 jersey became the top selling NBA uniform on the first day being on sale.

    Jason Collins is a pioneer, a beacon of hope to thousands (if not millions) of people afraid to be who they really are. Ever since Collins joined the Nets, he has not brought any unwanted attention to the team nor has he created any distractions in the locker room; Tim Tebow is way worse than that and his beliefs condemn Collins’ way of life. All he has done is be who he is and give his all on the court; how could you not respect that?

  • 16.Richard Sherman
    Richard Sherman has had a pretty eventful year so far. Despite interception stats that would establish him as the best cornerback in the NFL
    Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Richard Sherman has had a pretty eventful year so far. Despite interception stats that would establish him as the best cornerback in the NFL last year, Sherman wasn’t well-known to most casual football fans before the most infamous post-game interview in recent history made him a household name, which in turn made him one of the most misunderstood athletes in America. Then he went out and won a Super Bowl.

    So yeah, pretty auspicious start to 2014. However, Sherman made this list not just for what he’s accomplished but what’s yet to come. With a compelling personality and rare talent in one of the most difficult positions in football, Sherman is the complete package. He’ll be one of the faces of football for a long time to come, and with his skill, smarts, and candor, that promises to be a good thing.

  • 15.Alfonso Cuaron
    You could easily make the case that Alfonso Cuaron is one of the most innovative directors in film today. He might have started his career c
    Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

    You could easily make the case that Alfonso Cuaron is one of the most innovative directors in film today. He might have started his career courting controversy in films like "Y Tu Mamá También" but Cuaron has gone on to distinguish himself as the most technically brilliant director in modern film.

    He was the man who (finally) gave the Harry Potter universe a pulse in "Prisoner of Azkaban". He was the man who directed viewers through the desolation of a world without children in "Children of Men". And, he was the man who showed us that special effects don't need to be big to be powerful in "Gravity".

    Clearly, for Alfonso Cuaron, not even the sky is the limit.

  • 14.Megan Ellison
    The odds are good you don't really recognize the name Megan Ellison. The daughter of ORACLE co-founder and current CEO Larry Ellison, Megan
    Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

    The odds are good you don't really recognize the name Megan Ellison. The daughter of ORACLE co-founder and current CEO Larry Ellison, Megan Ellison got her start producing films with a sizeable donation from her billionaire father. Talent took her the rest of the way.

    Producers don't tend to get the kind of recognition that directors and actors receive, so it's possible that you might have missed her contribution to modern film. What you didn't miss—and I can almost guarantee this unless you currently live in a cave—are the movies she's produced.

    Let's just run down the list of a few films that Ellison has helped make possible: "The Master", "Zero Dark Thirty", "Her" and "American Hustle". Ellison believes in giving creative freedom back to the auteur, she believes in people who can create something new, and the film world is all the richer for it.

  • 13.Jenji Kohan
    In Hollywood, whenever a show or film features female characters that earn critical praise, they're usually more of the Mariska Hargitay, "I
    Valerie Macon/Getty Images

    In Hollywood, whenever a show or film features female characters that earn critical praise, they're usually more of the Mariska Hargitay, "I'm a woman acting like a man because it's how I show I'm tough enough" kind of roles.

    With Jenji Kohan's brilliant "Orange is the New Black," however, audiences were treated to not one, but a whole handful of female characters that are deep and colorful, but still distinctly women. From her conflicted, terrified lead to the born-again, ex-drug addict, Kohan, whose previous work includes the Showtime smash "Weeds," effortlessly crafted a wonderful array of characters that are that most rare of Tinseltown concoctions: Human.

  • 12.Lydia Ko
    If you're not a fan of women's golf, you might not know Lydia Ko, but she makes Tiger Woods look like a total slouch. The New Zealand-based
    Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    If you're not a fan of women's golf, you might not know Lydia Ko, but she makes Tiger Woods look like a total slouch. The New Zealand-based golfer is currently in the process of destroying pretty much every previous record established in the LPGA.

    Getting her start at the tender age of 5 after her mother took her to a pro shop (sound like a familiar origin story?), Ko has gone on to establish dominance in the professional realm. As an amateur, she qualified for 25 consecutive pro tournaments. She's also the only amateur to ever win a profession event (a feat she repeated twice) and in just 23 tournaments as a pro, she's already ranked fifth in the world.

    Sure, Tiger might have come first, but Lydia Ko is shaping up to be the best.

  • 11.Benedict Cumberbatch
    How do you make a century-old detective with a penchant for the violin relevant to modern audiences? You cast a man who seems to have no tro
    Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images

    How do you make a century-old detective with a penchant for the violin relevant to modern audiences? You cast a man who seems to have no trouble walking on (and reinvigorating) hallowed, artistic ground.

    Whether he's solving stumpers as Sherlock Holmes, threatening the galaxy as Khan, or embodying the might and wisdom of a toothy reptile as Smaug, Cumberbatch has built his career on making old things new again.

    Maybe it's the rakish smile, maybe it's the classic good looks, who know? One thing's for sure; Benedict Cumberbatch is a name that you'll be hearing for a while to come.

  • 10.Seth Meyers
    Even when "Saturday Night Live" isn't at its best, weekly viewers can always rely on "Weekend Update" to deliver the funny. For the last fiv
    Photo by Mireya Acierto/Getty Images

    Even when "Saturday Night Live" isn't at its best, weekly viewers can always rely on "Weekend Update" to deliver the funny. For the last five years, there's one man you can thank for that: Seth Meyers.

    SNL's former head writer has been keeping us chuckling for years as the anchor on the sketch comedy show's fake news report and now Meyers is prepared to take his talents to late night as he takes over for Jimmy Fallon on … "Late Night".

    Even in a niche as competitive as the after-hours talk show game, we're confident that Seth Meyers has the drive and the talent to keep the laughter flowing for years to come.

  • 9.Kerry Washington
    Perhaps best known as slick-talking Olivia Pope in "Scandal", Kerry Washington has been earning her dues with zeal for 20 years. In spite of
    Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

    Perhaps best known as slick-talking Olivia Pope in "Scandal", Kerry Washington has been earning her dues with zeal for 20 years. In spite of her celebrity and her lead role, Washington has spent her career delivering standout performances among ensemble casts.

    You may remember her stealing scenes in "Ray", "The Last King of Scotland" and "Django Unchained" when she used her seemingly bottomless talent to draw attention from actors as commanding as Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio and Forrest Whitaker.

    She might be spending her nights getting intimate with (fake) President, but there's more to Washington than a brassy PR pro.

  • 8.Amy Adams
    Ever since her breakout turn in 2005's "Junebug", Amy Adams has delighted in surprising and exhilarating audiences with performances that ar
    Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

    Ever since her breakout turn in 2005's "Junebug", Amy Adams has delighted in surprising and exhilarating audiences with performances that are as beloved as they are incredible to watch.

    She can do the big, event-type stuff with ease, a skill she's demonstrated in films as varied as "Man of Steel" and "The Muppets". But that doesn't mean she's not more than equipped to handle the arthouse. Adams has dazzled, demonstrating her impressive range in films like "American Hustle", "The Master" and "Doubt".

    Already the owner of five Oscar nominations, the odds the are good that over the course of her career, Amy Adams will give even Meryl a run for her money.

  • 7.Steve McQueen
    Congratulations, Steve McQueen! You're officially famous enough for us to stop confusing you with the iconic actor. And extra points should
    Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images

    Congratulations, Steve McQueen! You're officially famous enough for us to stop confusing you with the iconic actor. And extra points should be awarded because you stuck with such a tough handle through obscurity.

    Of course, those people in the know in Hollywood have had Steve McQueen on their radars for years, since he and Michael Fassbender made audiences squirm across the globe in the brutal "Hunger". Ever since then, McQueen has nurtured an uncompromising vision that has provided new insight into the world's darkest corners.

    While the director doesn't have another film on his docket just yet, you can bet that when he does, the world will stop and pay attention.

  • 6.Keegan-Michael Key (L) and Jordan Peele
    Ever since “Chappelle’s Show” went off the air, Americans have been hurting for a sketch comedy show with the same laugh-per-minute ratio. T
    Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for ESPY

    Ever since “Chappelle’s Show” went off the air, Americans have been hurting for a sketch comedy show with the same laugh-per-minute ratio. This year alone, Comedy Central has produced a plethora of hilarious sketch comedy programs; most notably “Kroll Show,” “Inside Amy Schumer” and the very popular “Key & Peele.”

    Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele portray the realities of being biracial in America through comedy, most times at their own expense. Both of the stars are half white, half black, and their incredible comedic range is displayed in every skit of every episode. Most of the sketches on “Key & Peele” are about race relations in America, but time and again the controversy is trumped by a hilarity and goofiness that’s anything but subtle.

    “Key & Peele” is one of the funniest shows on the air today; you owe it to yourself to see Jordan Peele’s spot-on impersonation of Barack Obama. No matter your race, age or culture, you’ll enjoy “Key & Peele” and wish each episode were 30 minutes longer and aired more often.

  • 5.Robin Wright
    Robin Wright is an actor who is cut from a rare cloth. She's so immensely talented, she blends so effortlessly into her characters that it's
    Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

    Robin Wright is an actor who is cut from a rare cloth. She's so immensely talented, she blends so effortlessly into her characters that it's possible to forget the person on screen actually has a real-life counterpart.

    She first caught America's attention in "The Princess Bride" as the fragile(ish) young maiden waiting to be rescued by the dashing Dread Pirate Roberts. Perhaps her most enduring role, however, is as Tom Hanks' troubled true love, Jenny, in "Forrest Gump". Most recently, she has displayed her alarming range by channeling Lady Macbeth in Netflix's hit "House of Cards" (in which she is super awesome).

  • 4.Matthew McConaughey
    No one thought Matthew McConaughey would end up back on top, least of all this writer. But he proved us all wrong.It was easy to write McCon
    Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

    No one thought Matthew McConaughey would end up back on top, least of all this writer. But he proved us all wrong.

    It was easy to write McConaughey off in the early nineties when he was doing throwaway comedies like "How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days" and "Failure to Launch". A few years of laying low along with a couple of parts that helped redefine his image, beginning in 2008 with a supporting turn in "Tropic Thunder" and culminating in this year's Oscar win for "Dallas Buyers Club".

    Hollywood might be the only place on the planet where no career is too far gone to salvage, and Matthew McConaughey is the inspiring proof of that fact.

  • 3.Miley Cyrus
    Regardless of what you think about her, you can't deny that Miley Cyrus is everywhere these days. Even though a recent illness has forced he
    Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

    Regardless of what you think about her, you can't deny that Miley Cyrus is everywhere these days. Even though a recent illness has forced her to postpone her most recent tour, the former Disney kid is still poised to take over the music world in style.

    Though she's seen her fair share of drama over the last few years, the reigning queen of pop has done the near impossible and successfully transitioned from child star with a famous dad to a bona fide megastar. And, what's more, she's done it all on her own terms.

  • 2.Robert Redford
    Almost five decades into his career, Robert Redford has somehow managed to maintain his status as one of Hollywood's most relevant icons. Th
    Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images for SBIFF

    Almost five decades into his career, Robert Redford has somehow managed to maintain his status as one of Hollywood's most relevant icons. The pillars of his career might have premiered in the sixties and seventies—when he was starring in films like "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", "The Sting" and "All the President's Men"—but Redford has still managed to make waves in Hollywood in the intervening years.

    Redford was instrumental in the creation of the world's best known film festival, Sundance, and, in spite of titanic celebrity status, has still worked to mentor to the next generation of Hollywood talent.

    On top of all that, he is doing what some critics are calling his best work ever. With a powerhouse performance in last year's "All Is Lost" and a supporting turn in this year's blockbuster, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier", Redford is one Icon who is showing no signs of slowing down.

  • 1.Carrie Underwood
    You might know Underwood from her stint as the season four winner of "American Idol". Or, you might know her from her near decade atop the c
    Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for ACM

    You might know Underwood from her stint as the season four winner of "American Idol". Or, you might know her from her near decade atop the country music charts. Either way, the odds are good this is one singer and songwriter that you recognize. And for good reason.

    In her seemingly short time in the limelight, Underwood has all but re-invented country music. In the first decade of the new millenium, Carrie Underwood was the only solo country artist to score a No. 1 song on the Billboard charts and she was the first and only country artist to debut an album at No. 1 on those same charts. She's even got a Guinness record for being the female country artist with the most No. 1 hits on Billboard country charts.

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