TIME Magazine’s annual “100 Most Influential People in the World” issue dropped on Thursday, giving us a chance to recollect on human accomplishment and to see celebrities rave about one another in their remarkably personalized writing styles. The list includes names you were hoping would make the cut as well as a few equally notable, perhaps less familiar ones.
While the women on the list do not make up the majority, 40 of the 100 people listed are women, a number that does not quite meet last year’s record number of 41. The women on this year’s list span across differing industries, from gene-editing technology creators Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna to actress and transgender icon Laverne Cox. Of the women who made the list, though, Kim Kardashian is by far the most recognizable. And I find her placement fair, even if it is less deserving than, say, the #BringBackOurGirls campaign champion Obiageli Ezekwesili.
It did seem odd, though, to place Kim Kardashian so high up on the list and to snub Beyoncé of a spot at all. While this may just be my own selfish love for Beyoncé’s work, their influence is generally of the same material. However, Beyoncé’s brand is, as of recently, rooted in female empowerment and a pitiless push for feminism. Perhaps Beyoncé’s triumph over last year’s list kept her from seizing this title a second time, but the reason for dismissing her presence as an icon, as a leader and as a titan is beyond me.
The men on the list dominated the Titan and Pioneer categories, pulling together names such as Apple CEO Tim Cook, Saturday Night Live creator and producer Lorne Michaels and Chinese entrepreneur Jimmy Lai. The men had a solid grasp over the Artist category as well, honoring those such as Turner Prize-winning artist Chris Ofili, whose art reconnoiters the social issues of our time. Filmmaker Richard Linklater, whose work on the film “Boyhood” won him an Oscar as well as a handful of nominations, also lands in this category. Some household names that made the list include comedian Kevin Hart, actor Chris Pratt and actor Bradley Cooper.
But standing atop the cairn of world leaders, CEOs and astronauts is none other than Yeezy himself, Kanye West, who received the top spot on this year’s list and landed himself a place on the cover. I admit to feeling less animosity toward this move than many others. Any doubt regarding Kanye’s deserving of this award would be naturally rooted in the massive controversy that his name carries, and is something that the rapper has been capitalizing off of over the course of this past year. To discredit Kanye’s influence is to reject the notion that the music, fashion and entertainment industries hold significant power and impression.
While it is easier to defend the work of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi or astronaut Scott Kelly, one would need to be blinded by the idea that the bulk of media being fed to the masses is not coming from entertainment in order to place Kanye below these men. This is not TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Philanthropic People, or TIME Magazine’s 100 Top Activists — and TIME knows this. This case is just another example of the weight that Kanye West’s name holds, and I applaud TIME for using it so unforgivingly.