People You Need to Know in 2020
From taking on social change to environmental activism, representation and sex education, meet the individuals worthy of a spot on your radar this year
Raise your hand if you’ve done the proverbial social media cleanse at the start of the year. Was it a full-blown social media detox or more a cleansing of your following list? The latter might not seem like much, but there’s something to be said (and something deeply satisfying) about pursuing this digital clean slate. Meticulously filtering through who you follow, being sure to keep just the accounts that are good for you, your mind and your heart is a legitimate form of self-care. And if we’re on the topic of building that list up again––this time, more intelligently––we have outstanding candidates here for your consideration.
A diverse list of modern-day thought leaders to keep you in the know and trailblazers to keep an eye out for, they might be new names, familiar faces or personalities you’ve read about briefly in headlines. The point is to keep tabs on them this time. And who knows? Following their respective advocacies, organizations or projects might just get you inspired enough to move along with them or bring about a much-needed perspective change.
Oregon native Najiah Knight knows that girls belong in Professional Bull Riding. And at 13-years-old, she’s walking her talk. Making headlines in early January for her stint on the miniature bull riders circuit, Knight is poised to become the first female bull rider to join the PBR. “Girls can do anything they want, and if people tell them they can’t, that makes me mad,” said Knight to The New York Post. “I’ve been told that before, and I tell them that I wasn’t doing it for them, I was doing it for me. And I don’t care what they think.”
Influencer, Climate Activist and Humanitarian
Once written off as Kim Kardashian’s ex-assistant-turned-influencer, 30-year-old Stephanie Ann Shepherd has blazed through the last couple of years, adding worthwhile advocacies to her résumé. She is the co-founder of Future Earth, a climate change awareness social channel that doubles as a guide to “living clean, active and informed.” Shepherd also works as the strategic advisor of the non-profit charity organization Khana, which provides young girls in Uganda with education about menstrual hygiene and equips them with reusable sanitary pads and panties (so they no longer have to miss school days just because of their period).
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Last week I participated in my first distribution of @khanapanties and @daysforgirlsuganda !💕 For some girls, this is their first time learning about menstrual hygiene, owning a pad and having a pair of underwear! A lot of young girls in Uganda miss school or drop out entirely because they have no means to deal with their monthly cycle! No girl should be left behind or miss out on opportunity because she gets her period! 🚺 The DfG kits consist of 8 reusable pad liners, 1 reusable winged shields, 2 Khana panties, 1 bar of soap, a wash bag and a menstrual hygiene education sheet/period tracker. #menstrualhealth #khanapanties
Inventor, Founder of the Ocean Cleanup
What was initially presented as a concept at TEDxDelft 2012 became a reality just a year after. At 18 years old, Dutch engineer Boyan Slat founded The Ocean Cleanup, a system that extracts plastics from the ocean and prevents and intercepts any more plastic pollution from entering it. Slat and his team are now aiming to address plastic pollution in 1,000 rivers all over the world by 2025.
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At Interceptor 002 in Malaysia. Seeing it in operation on what used to be one of the heaviest polluting rivers in the world is absolutely awesome. Insane to see all the stuff that is being taken out. Handbags, helmets, toys + countless of bottles and garbage bags… all of which now won’t be entering the ocean.
Founder and Executive Director of WiTech.org
“My dad didn’t raise me to live up to stereotypes.” 17-year-old Audrey Pe is not one to mince words and she is straightforward whenever she recounts the discouragement received, well-intentioned or not, upon expressing interest in things like coding and programming. “There is a gender gap in tech,” added Pe. “Women are paid less [and are] underrepresented.” This is what motivated the student to create WiTech.org with her schoolmates. With a mission to educate, inspire and empower the youth, WiTech hopes to break gender barriers and serve as a springboard for young women so they can make a positive change in society with the help of modern technology.
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#tbt 📷 credits to @sparkphilippines ✨ huge thank you to their team for inviting me to speak at the IDG celebration in 2019! Check out this video to learn more about how @witechorg went from interviewing inspiring women in tech like @falkyou (who I talk about in the video as one of my first role models in tech) to hosting the first women in tech conference for students and by students in the Philippines 🇵🇭 . #womenintech #dayofthegirl #womeninSTEM #sparkphilippines #internationaldayofthegirl #womenempowerment #genz #girlpower #youth
Model and Recording Artist
A staunch advocate of anti-bullying, multihyphenate Shaun Ross knows a thing or two about dealing with unjust criticism, out in the open, by both peers and complete strangers. As a person with albinism, he made history when he became the first man with this genetic disorder to become a fashion model. And while this proved the naysayers from his youth wrong, this also granted him a platform to educate people about albinism and enabled him to spearhead “In my Skin I Win,” a movement aimed at encouraging individuals to practice self-acceptance.
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Dr. Jennifer Gunter
Gynecologist and Author of ‘The Vagina Bible’
She’s the OB-GYN out to debunk sexual health myths––one tweet at a time. American-Canadian gynecologist Dr. Jen Gunter is an excellent new follow for those who appreciate useful healthcare tips, fun facts and a healthy dose of sex positivity. Streaming this video of one of her forums entitled, “Let’s Talk About The Vagina, Goop, and The Patriarchy,” will give you a proper gist of what to expect from this no-nonsense and outspoken health practitioner.
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Let’s review hymen biology, so everyone understands what it is and what it is not. The hymen is a membrane that partially covers the vaginally opening. Early on as a fetus the vagina is a solid core and the cells from the inside disappear — all except some at the opening. These cells are the hymen. The hymen exists to protect the infant vagina from irritants. Before puberty and the effects of estrogen the hymen is very sensitive to irritants. Even a grain of sand can cause a profuse irritant reaction. At birth and for the first few years the hymen is more rigid providing protection. Around the age of three is becomes more pliable and takes on other shapes, with notches and clefts. This is because it is no longer needed. Many mammals have hymens – dogs, cats, gerbils, camels and elephants are just a few. If a hymen evolved so a woman would bind with her first man (🤢) then why do many mammals have hymens. Exactly. The idea that first sex leads to a baby and so the mythical breaking of the hymen “proves” to a husband this child is his. That is just stupid. Each act of sex only has a 2-5% chance of conception. And infant mortality was high, so the chance wedding night sex would result in an heir was low. Anyway, if paternity was the thing humans would have elephant hymens as they only break with the first delivery! What the hymen is not — anything to do with virginity. About 50% of teens who have had sex have a hymen that has not been disrupted. First sex with a penis is not painful or bloody for 2/3 of women. The hymen does not have a good blood supply, so the 1/3 of women who do bleed just have spotting. The dramatic marital blood stained sheets are a sign of sexual trauma, not normal first coitus. Many religions demand that of women. If first sex is painful then it is likely a technique issue or an underlying medical condition. Think of the hymen as baby teeth. It serves a biological purpose for a developmental stage. That’s it. Virginity is a construct of patriarchal societies. Keep biology out of it.
Up next, get to know some of the most inspiration-inducing Internet folk across your favorite online platforms: click on to read ‘People to Follow to Keep You Motivated.’
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver