At OZY, our mission has always been to introduce our readers to the new and the next, those individuals and ideas that you need to know now, not six months from now. That mission transcends genre, from food, music, science and the arts, to politics, sports and everything in between. Today, we look back at some of the OZY rising stars who hit it big, and then we share a few of our most recent profiles to introduce you to the rising stars of tomorrow.
Nick Fouriezos, Senior Reporter
best in class
1. Samin Nosrat
In 2013, when we met Nosrat, the Iranian American chef was not yet a restaurant mega-celebrity. But her first book, as author Michael Pollan noted then, “fills a gap in the literature. Lots of cookbooks tell you what to do, but very few explain why.” Today Nosrat is the famous New York Times Magazine food columnist and scene-bursting host of the Netflix docuseries Salt Fat Acid Heat, bringing her simple wisdom to a dedicated following of millions worldwide. “Once you understand the four basic principles,” Nosrat told us, “you’re no longer a slave to step-by-step recipes.” And now she is letting the rest of the world in on her powerful secret.
In March of 2017, the 6-foot-8 sweet-shooting forward was just a college freshman whose Duke team couldn’t get out of his way to achieve the kind of success the Blue Devils were capable of. Now Tatum is fresh off three Eastern Conference finals in the last four years as a member of the Boston Celtics — who drafted him third three years ago — averaging 23.4 points per game last season while earning his first All NBA honors. Did we mention that he’s just 22?
Her nickname is “Barby,” but that belies the fact that this hard-hitting single mom is one of two or three “pillars” that lifted female boxing to its intense popularity in Mexico — a nation already famous globally for touting the second-most boxing world champions. When we profiled her in December 2018, she was just two years into what would be an almost four-year reign as the world bantamweight champion. And although the 40-year-old lost that title in October to a much younger Yulihan Luna, her contribution to the sport is undeniable.
What if the reason the planet is such a mess boils down to a series of misunderstandings? That’s the argument made by Kate Raworth, who thinks false assumptions made by the men who devised economic theory two centuries ago contributed to much of the problems society faces today — and she is being given the chance to correct those mistakes with her “doughnut economics” theory, which suggests we need to break our obsession with growth and create economies that meet our needs without depleting the planet’s resources. It’s an approach that’s being embraced by Amsterdam as the Netherlands resets its economic model following the pandemic … and it has lessons for the rest of the world.
We hailed the UC Berkeley biochemist with “an explorer’s spirit” when we profiled her way back in 2014, noting that Nobel Prize-winning biologist Craig Mello had even declared that her discovery was a “tremendous breakthrough” that was in many ways “better” than his technique. Doudna’s game-changing CRISPR gene-editing tool, which promises to not just revive the entire field of gene therapy, but also to treat diseases ranging from cancer and AIDS to Huntington’s disease and Down syndrome, is now getting that kind of recognition. Doudna, along with Emmanuelle Charpentier, was awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry in October.
Last year, the OZY series “Who Cares?” represented one of the most ambitious county-by-county examinations of voter turnout ever by a news outlet — requiring us to canvass the country to get under the skin of who’s voting, who isn’t and why. During our travels, we encountered Amber McReynolds, fresh off her gig as Denver elections chief and just launching Vote at Home — the organization that took Colorado’s pioneering model for safe and effective mail-in voting and became a go-to consultant in 2020 for numerous secretaries of state across the nation after the COVID-19 pandemic made the mail vote more crucial (and controversial) than ever before. After a year rife with arguments over alleged voter fraud, McReynolds will continue to play a pivotal role in preserving the faith in America’s elections.
The Indian comic had just 24 videos on his YouTube channel, but he built up more than a million subscribers — this has nearly doubled since we spoke with him — while being among the most vocal critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party. Kamra, who is in his early 30s, has honed his act using biting humor to take aim at the prime minister, the Modi-packed Supreme Court and conservative journalists who have hastened the BJP’s rise, drawing parallels between his role in India and Jon Stewart’s American brand of politically astute comedy.
A leader in the Portland anti-Trump resistance movement, the young Black activist grappled in 2017 with the dual challenges of needing to be strong for his audience and practicing self-care while facing hostile, potentially life-threatening attacks on the front lines of protest. In the three years since, Whitten has only leveled up his work, becoming a crucial nonprofit leader during the pandemic while raising millions of dollars for at-risk Americans of color through his Black Resilience Fund, a miniature model for what reparations could look like nationwide.
Before Kanye praised her, before President Trump tweeted her and before her recently published New York Times bestselling Blackout, a call for Black Americans to leave the Democratic Party en masse — we previewed the social media star’s antagonistic (albeit clearly influential) tactics as she morphed from liberal anti-bullying advocate to perhaps the most brutally effective user of the bully pulpit in Black conservatism.
Everyone knows the name, or rather, the initials: AOC. But it was only two years ago when the Bronx progressive pulled off a stunning upset of a 10-term incumbent. We followed her months before the Democratic primary, through barely-above-freezing canvassing efforts in Queens, when the former waitress had just quit her job and was living off her partner’s income in order to fund what seemed like a quixotic campaign. Her belief in herself, and in the progressive cause, has shaped her into a pinnacle influencer in politics — and a popular pick to stage a serious White House bid someday, perhaps as early as 2024.
In 2013, the South African was dismissed as acting president of his party’s Youth League and had two choices: return home to the rural, impoverished Mpumalanga province or continue fighting against malfeasance in the administration of President Jacob Zuma. Lamola stuck it out, and last year became the nation’s minister of justice, known for his hard-charging battles against corruption and making global news for trying to extradite the self-styled prophet (and accused fraudster) Shepherd Bushiri. One day, the 36-year-old Lamola may just be president.
The London-born Black model and designer began her career at just 14 years old, but she has never been naive. “Leomie, these people are not your friends,” her mother told her, signaling the challenges Anderson would face in an industry full of notoriously whitewashed runways. But that hasn’t slowed her ascent since we profiled her two years ago, walking for everyone from Marc Jacobs to Emporio Armani while emerging as a strong voice for diversity with her large Instagram and Twitter followings. And in 2019, the model with Jamaican heritage “got her wings” after being named a Victoria’s Secret Angel.
Help us Reset America: 2020 has shown that the issues we need to solve as a nation are bigger than ever — from racial injustice to economic opportunity; from loneliness to technology; crossing mental and physical health. As we move beyond the election, OZY will continue to lead the conversation, bringing a wide variety of voices to the table to find the path forward. We want to kick this off at SXSW in 2021 — and could use your help to make sure that happens. Please click here to visit the SXSW website, create an account and vote for our panel. And in the meantime, join us on social media to continue the conversation.
Speaking of Narendra Modi, this 31-year-old failed cricketer and political scion gave the Indian prime minister the biggest political scare of his second term by nearly defeating the BJP in elections in India’s third-largest state of Bihar. So while Yadav isn’t on top yet, he is poised to become a political force to reckon with if India sours on Modi’s nationalist party.
The 5-foot-11 former high school basketballer and C-suite executive is one of Trump’s staunchest defenders and is now in a heated U.S. Senate runoff in Georgia that could decide whether Republicans keep control of the upper house of Congress. The January contest with Democrat Raphael Warnock is drawing the nation’s eyes to a woman who once compared herself — favorably! — to Attila the Hun.
If the arc of history bends toward justice, then justice will likely see Walla prevail in her longstanding battle as the face of the opposition against Cameroon dictator Paul Biya — waiting patiently as she has endured beatings, arrests and even kidnappings to supplant the 87-year-old strongman of four decades.
At just 34, the Black Democratic minority leader in the Ohio Statehouse is paving a career in the mold of the now-famous Stacey Abrams in Georgia. But despite her visibility as a rising party leader, Sykes didn’t shy away from being a bold truth-teller ahead of the November election, sounding the alarm that the state’s leaders had failed to adequately fund outreach to Black voters. Her pronouncements turned out to be prophetic when Trump won Ohio by 8 points, due in part to depressed Black turnout in major cities like Cleveland and Columbus. Sykes’ vision, combined with her prescient comments, positions her to play an even more active role in Democratic politics going forward.
He is already Africa’s guilty pleasure, and the Ghanaian DJ and music producer will soon be the world’s after setting the beats for Beyoncé’s Grammy-nominated 2019 album, The Lion King: The Gift. His latest? Participating in an all-Black, POC, female lineup for “Aluna & Friends: Rodeo Rave,” a virtual electronic festival broadcast internationally over Twitch in November.