Teens today might have a mixed reputation, but there’s no denying their influence. They command millions of fans on Twitter and Vine, start companies with funds they raised on Kickstarter, steal scenes on TV’s most popular shows, lead protests with global ramifications, and even—as of Friday—win Nobel Peace Prizes. But which ones rise above the rest? We analyzed social-media followings, cultural accolades, business acumen and more to determine this year’s list (ordered from youngest to oldest).
Mo’ne Davis, 13
It’s not every day that a black female athlete appears on the cover of Sports Illustrated—let alone one who’s 13. So Mo’ne Davis made quite a splash in August when she landed that spot (cover line: “Remember Her Name”) after pitching a shutout game in the Little League World Series. Her team, Philadelphia’s Taney Dragons, was eventually knocked out of the tournament, but not before Davis got accolades from Michelle Obama, Kevin Durant and Ellen DeGeneres, among others. Many hope she will be a role model for girls in sports, especially those that are typically male-dominated. —Sarah Begley
Sasha Obama, 13, and Malia Obama, 16
A lot of dads get squeamish about their daughter’s first prom, but only Malia Obama’s date status could be called “classified information,” as the President joked on Live! with Kelly and Michael last spring. Nonetheless, she has emerged as a figure of national interest: her appearance at Chicago’s Lollapalooza Music Festival caused almost as much of a stir as the musicians themselves, and her name has spiked in popularity after her father’s election. (It’s predicted to peak again in 2018.) Sasha, meanwhile, has become an icon in her own right: after being photographed in a unicorn sweatshirt, the style sold out at ASOS in a matter of days. —S.B.
Kiernan Shipka, 14
Mad Men fans first met Sally Draper, eldest daughter of Don and Betty Draper, when she was just five years old. Since then, she’s transformed into a central, scene-stealing character that may well launch Shipka into superstardom. As Mad Men‘s final season looms, the actress has broadened her resume—landing a starring role in the Lifetime movie Flowers in the Attic—and consistently wowed on red carpets and magazine covers. —Samantha Grossman
Jazz Jennings, 14
In a landmark year for transgender visibility in the media, Jennings stands out for how much she’s already accomplished. She’s been interviewed by Barbara Walters, met Bill Clinton and become the youngest person ever featured on the Out 100 and The Advocate‘s 40 Under 40 lists. She even co-wrote a children’s book, I Am Jazz, loosely based on her life (she started living as a girl at age 5), that aims to help other kids understand what transgender means. “I have a girl brain but a boy body,” Jazz says in the book. “This is called transgender. I was born this way!” —Nolan Feeney
Flynn McGarry, 15
At an age when many of his peers are still picking around the green stuff on their plates, McGarry has emerged as a chef du jour in the culinary industry. After helping to build a high-tech kitchen in his bedroom (modeled on Grant Achatz’s three-Michelin-starred restaurant Alinea), he started his own supper club, Eureka. It serves tasting menus—at $160 per person—at his mother’s home in Studio City, Calif. Since then, he has appeared on the cover of the New York Times Magazine, cooked on the Today show, and apprenticed at 11 Madison Park. His ultimate goal? To have, as he puts it, “the best restaurant in the world.” —S.B.
Erik Finman, 15
The rural Idaho native is the founder of Botangle.com, which offers tutoring over video chat services for teens who, like him, wanted more than the limited education opportunities within physical reach. To fund the site, Finman two years ago invested a $1,000 gift in Bitcoin, then an unlikely digital currency; soon it spiked in value, and he had $100,000. It’s no wonder, then, that Finman says he struck a deal with his parents: if he makes $1 million before he turns 18, he won’t have to attend college. —Jack Linshi
Nash Grier, 16
The self-described “King of Vine”—the social media platform that loops 6-second videos—has more than 9.6 million followers and over 1.1 billion loops of his comedic videos, more than any other user. His meteoric rise to fame hasn’t been without scandal: Grier was slammed for using a homophobic slur on one of his since-deleted Vines. But he’s nonetheless parlayed his massive audience into endorsement deals, netting thousands to plug products such as Aquafina FlavorSplash. —J.L.
Rico Rodriguez, 16
As scene-stealing Manny on ABC’s smash-hit Modern Family, Rodriguez isn’t just one of the most visible child actors on TV (the show’s sixth season premiere averaged more than 11 million viewers)—he’s also one of the richest. According to reports, he’ll earn a whopping $115,000 per episode if the show continues through season eight. —S.G.
Ciara Judge, 16, Émer Hickey, 17, and Sophie Healy-Thow, 17
The trio from County Cork, Ireland took home the grand prize at the Google Science Fair after wowing the judges with their discovery: Diazotroph, a bacteria that sucks nitrogen from the atmosphere into soil, speeding up the germination of cereal crops like barley and oats and—more importantly—increasing their yield. This advance could play a crucial role in solving the global food crisis, and Judge, Hickey and Healy-Thow are already planning to commercialize it. —S.B.
Shawn Mendes, 16
After amassing millions of Vine followers by performing six-second micro-covers of hit songs, Mendes caught the attention of Island Records and scored a record deal. His first single, “Life of the Party,” was an instant smash, making Mendes the youngest-ever artist to debuted in the top 25 on the Billboard Hot 100. And the follow-up EP, titled—what else?—The Shawn Mendes EP, reached the No. 1 spot on iTunes earlier this year, a mere 37 minutes after its midnight release. —N.F.
Jaden Smith, 16
Smith rose to fame as the son of Will Smith, occasionally popping up in movies. But his real legacy may well be his Twitter musings, which are equal parts absurdist (“Anything You See In Any Magazine Ever Is Fake.”) and insightful (“Once You Witness A Cycle Enough Times You Step Out Of It.”), earning him more than 5 million followers and labels like, “Confucius for the Internet age.” One of Smith’s recent posts sums him up pretty well: “Hate Me Love Me Doesn’t Matter I’m Still Occupying Time Inside Of Your Psyche.” —S.G.
Becky G, 17
Mega-producer Dr. Luke (who’s worked with Britney Spears, Kesha and Katy Perry) signed Becky G to his label in 2011 after watching her YouTube covers. The investment paid off: Rebecca Marie Gomez, who began performing at age 9 to help out her cash-strapped parents, saw her irresistible ode to young love, “Shower,” chart in more than a dozen countries and become a top 20 hit in the U.S. this summer. When she’s not writing her own music, she represents Covergirl as one of its youngest-ever Latina spokeswomen and helps craft tunes for other pop acts, like Cher Lloyd and fellow teen Cody Simpson. It’s fitting that one of her first music videos was a Jennifer Lopez cover (retitled “Becky From the Block“); she’s well-positioned to follow in her footsteps. —N.F.
Salma Kakar, 17
Kakar is the lead rider on the co-ed Afghan National Cycling Team, which has drawn global praise for promoting female empowerment in a country where it has been rare to see women driving, let alone competing in a sport. Her dream is to wave the flag of Afghanistan at the Olympics one day, and to show the world how far Afghan women have come. —J.L.
The New Zealander, born Ella Yelich-O’Connor, started 2014 off strong by nabbing two Grammy Awards for her inescapable smash-hit “Royals.” Since then, the singer-songwriter has become a force in music and pop culture: her debut album, Pure Heroine, went platinum; she won an MTV Video Music Award; and she signed on to curate the Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 soundtrack, out Nov. 21. She has also established herself as a role model who promotes healthy body image. In March, she shared two photos of herself, one Photoshopped and one unedited, to remind her more than 1.3 million Twitter followers (at the time) that “flaws are ok.” —S.G.
Lydia Ko, 17
After going pro last year, Ko now ranks third among women golfers worldwide, sparking interest in the sport “not just in her native South Korea and adopted homeland of New Zealand but also among juniors across the globe,” as golf legend Annika Sorenstam wrote in this year’s Time 100. Thanks to her many tournament wins and endorsement deal with Callaway, she’s also the youngest millionaire in LGPA history. “That’s big money,” she said in April. “But when I’m out there I’m thinking about making birdies and hitting good shots and making putts rather than, ‘OK, this putt is going to give me an extra thousand.'” —S.G.
Chloë Grace Moretz, 17
The Atlanta native has already built an impressive resume with roles in films like (500) Days of Summer, Kick-Ass, Hugo and Carrie, and this year was no exception. She was the lead in this summer’s If I Stay, based on the best-selling novel of the same name, which netted $47.6 million at the box office (despite a considerably low budget) and also starred opposite Denzel Washington in hit thriller The Equalizer. Next up: roles in Dark Places, the film adaptation of Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn’s gripping crime novel, and the sci-fi thriller The Fifth Wave. —S.G.
Kylie Jenner, 17, and Kendall Jenner, 18
Together, the Keeping Up With the Kardashians co-stars hosted red-carpet events, released clothing and nail polish lines and even published a dystopian young-adult novel this past summer (though yes, they had some help). But they’ve had solo success too—Kendall with modeling (she’s walked the runway for designers like Marc Jacobs) and Kylie with pseudo-entrepreneurship (she’s launching a line of hair extensions and hopes to get into acting). Next up: a multimillion-dollar mobile game? —N.F.
Malala Yousafzai, 17
Two years and one day after Taliban gunmen shot her in the head while she was riding to school, the Pakistani youth activist became the youngest-ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. The accolade caps an impressive—albeit early—career for Yousafzai, who has used her organization, the Malala Fund, as a platform to promote girls’ education, help Syrian refugee children and demand the return of the Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, among other things. In April, she received an honorary doctorate in civil law from the University of King’s College in Canada. “Malala is a testament that women everywhere will not be intimidated into silence,” Gabrielle Giffords wrote of Yousafzai in this year’s Time 100. “We will speak, no matter how hard it is to do so.” —S.G.
Rachel Fox, 18
Known to Desperate Housewives fans as Kayla Scavo, the teen actress somehow found enough time between TV and movie shoots to train herself in the art of day trading: she says her investments earn her a 64 percent annual return. Now she’s trying to pay it forward. In addition to running the blog Fox on Stocks, which offers financial literacy tips for teens, Fox has created the MyGenLoves index, which tracks 20 companies that are currently hot in the youth market (such as Chipotle and Urban Outfitters). —S.B.
Bethany Mota, 18
The fashion and beauty blogger has spent five years building her YouTube channel, Macbarbie07, into a bona-fide business—with 7.4 million subscribers, 565 million-plus views, and between $500,000 and $750,000 in annual ad revenue. Now she’s expanding her brand. This year, Mota appeared on Project Runway as a guest judge and Dancing with the Stars as a celebrity competitor, all while overseeing the clothing line she launched with Aéropostale. She also released her first single, “Need You Right Now.” —S.G.
Joshua Wong, 18
Wong, who recently covered Time‘s international edition, has become the face of the Hong Kong protests, a civil disobedience movement demanding that China stages unfettered elections for Hong Kong’s top political position. To some, he’s a symbol of hope—a youth rallying his peers to fight for a cause they believe in. In mainland China, however, many argue Wong is an extremist and an emblem against China’s storied national order. —J.L.
Austin Mahone, 18
Mahone’s social media following is modest compared to that of Justin Bieber—the pop star to whom he’s most often compared—but it’s still powerful: Mahone’s 7 million Twitter followers helped him became the first artist to hit No. 1 on Billboard‘s new Trending 140, a live-updated chart that tracks what songs have people buzzing online. It helps, of course, that he’s got a pretty sizable resume: in addition to touring with Taylor Swift and signing with Chase Records/Cash Money, Mahone released his first U.S. EP, The Secret, in May; it debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200. —N.F.
Correction appended: Oct. 14, 2014, 5:18 p.m. E.T. An earlier version of this article misstated Mahone’s record label.
Tavi Gevinson, 18
Gevinson may bristle at being called the “voice of a generation,” but the label does fit: Rookie, her online magazine for teenage girls, gets roughly 3.5 million hits a month—thanks in part to her mix of personal essays (see: her poignant editor’s letter about graduating high school and mourning “forever”) and insightful pop culture coverage (see: her chat about feminism with Lorde, the Seth Rogan contribution to Rookie‘s “Ask a Grown Man” video advice column). Next up: the recent high school grad, currently starring in the Broadway play This Is Our Youth, plans to head to college after a gap year. —N.F.
Megan Grassell, 19
After taking her 13-year-old sister shopping for bras, Grassell was perturbed by how sexualized most of the available choices were for young girls; everything seemed to have padding and underwires. So she started her own company, Yellowberry, to offer an alternative: comfortable, colorful training bras with names like Junebug and Sugar Cookie. She initially raised $42,000 through Kickstarter—well above the $25,000 goal she set for herself—and now runs a full-fledged online retailer. —S.B.
Troye Sivan, 19
The South African-Australian may have initially broken through as an actor—he snagged a role in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine after a Hollywood producer found him on YouTube—but he’s found major success this year as a musician. Thanks in large part to the support from his 2.8 million YouTube subscribers, Sivan’s latest EP, TRXYE, which he recorded in secret, topped iTunes sales charts in more than 50 countries following its August release. —N.F.
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