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2017 Influencers to Watch — From Models and Actors to Journalists and Musicians

Who’s the next big thing? From models to actors to journalists and musicians, we’ve got the scoop on who you should be keeping your eye on this year. The best part? There is more diversity than ever.

The model: Diana Veras

Diana Veras was an independent Instagram model when she was snapped up by JAG Models in New York and Milk in London. Currently starring in Carly Rae Jepson’s video for “Boy Problems,” the Dominican-born beauty uses her platform — including an Insta account with more than 150,000 followers — to promote body positivity, racial diversity and intersectional feminism.

The singer: Billie Eilish

This pop chanteuse has garnered comparisons to Lana Del Rey and Lorde — and she’s only 14 years old. You’ll put her track “Ocean Eyes” on repeat during your next makeout sesh.

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The fashion designer: Moto Guo

Malaysian-based menswear designer Moto Guo is making waves for his cheeky, provocative clothing, and at 24 years old, he was already shortlisted for the coveted LVMH Prize — the first Malaysian to ever be considered for the honor.

The ambient-jazz fusion whiz: Jamie Isaac

This London-based singer and producer is just 23 years old, but his sound is far beyond his years. Fusing jazz piano lines with ambient beats, his songs are completely cinematic and brooding.

The actress: Amandla Stenberg

After breaking our hearts as Rue in The Hunger Games, Amandla Stenberg is now all grown up and ready to break the patriarchy. In addition to having some huge work lined up for 2017, including three movies in the can and the sci-fi thriller Darkest Minds with Mandy Moore coming up, Stenberg is a pansexual racial activist. Her video “Don’t Cash Crop on My Cornrows” examines the importance of black women’s hair and gained her notice from Teen Vogue, Solange Knowles and Oprah.

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The actor: Riz Ahmed

British-born Riz Ahmed got his start as a rapper and parlayed that career into acting. So far, he has appeared in films like Nightcrawler, Jason Bourne, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and earned Golden Globe and SAG nominations for his starring role in the HBO miniseries The Night Of. He’s currently taking a turn on Girls as Paul-Louis, Hannah’s baby daddy.

The performance artist turned indie rapper: Mykki Blanco

In a genre notorious for keeping black men in the closet, Blanco — a 6-foot-2-inch gay man who often performs in a bra and blonde wig — is an unlikely and radical departure from industry norms. But after all but giving up on music a couple of years ago, he experienced an artistic explosion and released his first full-length album last fall. Blanco, who has used varying pronouns throughout his career, identifies as non-binary and is the first out HIV-positive hip-hop artist since Eazy-E in 1995.

The singer/songwriter/actress/model/what can’t she do: Andy Allo

A little Macy Gray-ish, a little Norah Jones-ish and a lot gorgeous, Andy Allo is poised to take over pretty much any part of the industry she wants. The Cameroon-born beauty has an album executive produced by Prince (plus two more records) and countless modeling credits under her belt and is gearing up for a breakout role in Pitch Perfect 3.

The techie: Adda Bjork Birnir

Iceland-born writer and web producer Adda Bjork Birnir cofounded Skillcrush, designed to teach and demystify the tech industry for women, and has produced content for MTV, Flavorpill and Paper Tiger TV.

The journalist: Zaina Erhaim

Syrian journalist Zaina Erhaim earned the 2015 Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism, has trained more than 100 citizen reporters and is a project coordinator for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. Forced to flee her home country, she now covers the Middle East from her new home base in Turkey.

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The photographer: Yuyang Liu

Documenting human rights issues in China is no easy task, but Yuyang Liu is making it happen. After studying at NYU with veterans including Susan Meiselas and Fred Ritchin, Liu has focused on projects like photographing a New York Times piece on the removal of IUDs the Chinese government once demanded women have placed and the Chinese fishing industry in West Africa.

The director: Julia Ducournau

Blending horror with humor and emotion has been Julia Ducournau’s filmmaking trajectory since school, culminating in her first full-length entry, Raw. The French director has received accolades for the cannibal film, including showings during Critics’ Week at Cannes and the Toronto Film Festival (where two people allegedly passed out during one of the more graphic scenes).

We can’t wait to see what comes next for all of these talents!

Before you go, check out our slideshow below.

Next generation of Hollywood slideshow
Image: WENN; Michaela Early/

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