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The 30 Most Influential Teens of 2015

17 minute read

To determine TIME’s annual list, we consider accolades across numerous fields, global impact through social media and overall ability to drive news. Here’s who made this year’s cut (ordered from youngest to oldest):

Moziah Bridges, 13

Most Influential Teens 2015 Moziah Bridges
ABC/Getty Images

The Memphis resident started his own bow tie business, Mo’s Bows, at age 9. Now—thanks in part to an appearance on the investment show Shark Tank—he’s running a $200,000-a-year apparel company touting licensing deals with Cole Haan and Neiman Marcus. Bridges’ latest accomplishment? Supplying bow ties to basketball players at the 2015 NBA draft. —Samantha Grossman

Maddie Ziegler, 13

Most Influential Teens 2015 Maddie Ziegler
Mike Pont—WireImage/Getty Images

The star of Lifetime’s Dance Moms earned global fame dancing in Sia’s music videos for “Chandelier,” “Elastic Heart” and, most recently, “Big Girls Cry,” which have amassed more than 1.4 billion views on YouTube. (She also performed alongside Sia and Kristen Wiig at the 2015 Grammy Awards.) Now the Pittsburgh native is branching out into fashion; she made her runway debut at the Fall 2015 Polo Ralph Lauren Children’s Show, and recently collaborated with designer Betsy Johnson on a line of dance wear for Capezio. She has also been featured in several national magazines, including Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan and Nylon. —Megan McCluskey

Rowan Blanchard, 14

Most Influential Teens 2015 Rowan Blanchard
Ian Gavan—Getty Images

The actress scored her breakout role in 2014 as Riley Matthews on Disney’s “Girl Meets World,” but this year, Blanchard also made a name for herself as an outspoken activist and feminist. She penned an essay about the importance of intersectional feminism that went viral (racking up more than 97,000 likes on Instagram) and earned high praise from feminist blogs and fans like Emma Watson. She also spoke at the UN Women’s annual summit in June, where she explained how gender inequality affects youth. In her speech, she revealed that her biggest dream is to attend the Columbia School of Journalism. —Samantha Grossman

Ashima Shiraishi, 14

Most Influential Teens 2015 A

Spain’s “Open Your Mind Direct” rock-climbing route is considered one of the most difficult courses in the world, thwarting all but the most skilled of adult, mostly male athletes. So when Shiraishi, at age 13, completed the challenge earlier this year—simultaneously becoming the youngest person and the first woman ever to do so—she was dubbed rock-climbing royalty, earning rave write-ups in Outside magazine, the New York Times and more. (Her reaction: a celebratory Instagram whose caption started with “OMG!!!”) The New York resident now says she hopes to compete in the 2020 Olympics in her parents’ native Japan—if climbing is added as a sport. —Sarah Begley

Ahmed Mohamed, 14

Most Influential Teens 2015 Ahmed Mohamed
Anadolu Agency—Getty Images

Not many people make national news by bringing a homemade clock to school. But the ninth grader’s arrest, after teachers and authorities mistook said clock for a bomb, kicked off a national debate over racial profiling—and a outpouring of support for Mohamed, who was personally invited to the White House by President Obama (who called his clock “cool”). In October, he accepted a full scholarship to a prestigious school in Qatar. —Daniel D’Addario

Jazz Jennings, 15

Most Influential Teens 2015 Jazz Jennings
Jazz JenningsD. Dipasupil—FilmMagic/Getty Images

Jennings, who has lived as a girl since age 5, has never been afraid to speak out, educating the likes of Barbara Walters and Oprah Winfrey (and their millions of viewers) about the transgender experience when she was still in middle school. But this year, Jennings emerged as a full-blown public figure, starring in an ad campaign for Clean & Clear (tagline: “See the real me”) and inviting cameras to film her everyday routine—shopping for bathing suits, going to soccer practice—for the TLC docu-series I Am Jazz, whose premiere lured more than 1.3 million viewers. “The main thing that really keeps me motivated in continuing to share my story,” Jennings told TIME in July, “is the fact that I know change is being created when I see people who tell me that I’ve really affected their lives. It’s just a beautiful thing.” —D.D.

Chloe Kim, 15

Most Influential Teens 2015 Chloe Kim
Michael Kovac—WireImage/Getty Images

The American snowboarder became the youngest person ever to win gold at the Winter X-Games after she took home first place in the Women’s SuperPipe event. Kim, who began competing at age 6, has been called “the future of snowboarding.” Too young to compete in Sochi, she’s got her sights set on the 2018 games in South Korea — which happens to be the country her parents emigrated from. —Samantha Grossman

Flynn McGarry, 16

The Food SaloMost Influential Teens 2015 Flynn McGarryn Presented By Questlove And Powered by Dell
Chelsea Lauren—Getty Images

The New York Times Magazine cover boy has been a culinary sensation ever since he started a supper club at age 11 out of his California home. Now, however, he’s a full-fledged restaurateur, serving meals three days a week at a pop-up location in Manhattan and charging $160 a head for 14-course dinners. McGarry’s success—reservations at his 12-seat venue are highly in-demand—has irked some older culinary professionals, who say he shouldn’t be called a “chef” without years of training. But McGarry doesn’t mind: “I’m the chef of Eureka,” he tells TIME of his restaurant. “I create all the dishes, I cook all the food.” —S.B.

Martin Odegaard, 16

Most Influential Teens 2015 Martin Odegaard
Angel Martinez—Real Madrid/Getty Images

In May, soccer fans got a glimpse of the future when Odegaard subbed in for reigning World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo in the second half of a La Liga match. The Norwegian prodigy became the youngest player to take the pitch for Real Madrid, the world’s wealthiest soccer club. Odegaard signed with Real Madrid in January, for a reported $4 million. Often dubbed the “New Messi,” he’s insisted the hype won’t get to his head. “If you get carried away now, you won’t get far in 10 years,” Odegaard said. “I’m supposed to be at my best then, not now. That I know.” —Sean Gregory

Amandla Stenberg, 17

Most Influential Teens 2015 Amandla Sternberg
Jon Kopaloff—FilmMagic/Getty Images

The actress is best known as Rue from The Hunger Games series—a role that earned her an NAACP Image Award nomination and a Teen Choice Award—but she doesn’t just take part in pop culture, she actively critiques it. For a school history project, she and another classmate made a video called “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows” that was widely covered by the media and examined how white “pop stars and icons adopted black culture as a way of being edgy” while staying silent on issues such as police brutality. Stenberg is unafraid to call out celebrities she thinks are appropriating culture: in July she criticized Kylie Jenner—also on this list—for showing off her cornrows on Instagram but failing to use her “position of power to help black Americans.” —Nolan Feeney

Shawn Mendes, 17

Most Influential Teens 2015 Shawn Mendes
George Pimentel—WireImage/Getty Images

The Vine star—with some 4.3 million followers—has spent the past year making an outsize mark on the music industry. In April, his debut album, Handwritten, topped the Billboard 200, making him the youngest artist to achieve this feat since Justin Bieber. Then he scored a slot as an opening act on Taylor Swift’s blockbuster tour. And now, his most recent single, “Stitches,” is cracking Top Tens in the U.S., Canada, Sweden and more. —D.D.

Jaden Smith, 17

Most Influential Teens 2015 Jaden Smith
Kevin Winter—Getty Images

Sure, Will Smith’s son gets the most attention for enigmatic pronouncements—telling the New York Times that “school is not authentic because it ends,” for example, or tweeting “Kanye For President” to his 5.7 million followers. But he’s also making waves in the music industry. After dropping digital EP This is the Album earlier this year, Smith signed on to host his own radio show on Apple’s Beats 1. —D.D.

Malia Obama, 17

Most Influential Teens 2015 Malia Obama
Theo Wargo—WireImage/Getty Images

The older First Daughter is now a full-fledged cultural icon, whose fashion choices and college visits (most recently, to Brown University) routinely make headlines. Earlier this year, for example, a leaked photo appeared to show Obama sporting a T-shirt with the logo for Brooklyn hip-hop collective Pro Era, driving record traffic to co-founder Joey Bada$$’s Wikipedia page. Obama was spotted on the set of HBO’s Girls over the summer, reportedly as part of an internship for creator Lena Dunham. —Samantha Grossman

Ariel Winter, 17

Most Influential Teens 2015 Ariel Winter
Imeh Akpanudosen—Getty Images

Winter may be best known as Alex Dunphy, the studious middle sibling on Modern Family, where she helps draw roughly 10 million viewers a week. But this year, she also made national headlines for undergoing breast reduction surgery—a decision she said was driven in part by sexism and Internet bullies. “I could post a photo where I feel good, and 500 people will comment about how fat I am and that I am disgusting,” she told Glamour. “I wasn’t feeling so happy.” ‪—Eliana Dockterman

William Turton, 17

Most Influential Teens 2015 William Turton
Courtesy of William Turton

While most high school students are struggling to write their college admission essays, Turton is breaking cyber-security news for The Daily Dot, a website that covers news about Internet culture. The Richmond, Va., teen started writing video game reviews at 14, and has said he’d rather spend his free time cultivating sources than going to school dances. And his diligence has paid off — he’s nabbed scoops about Uber and the first interview with the Lizard Squad hacking collective behind the PlayStation Network (PSN) and Xbox Live breach. This summer, he broke news of cyber attacks on the websites of Planned Parenthood and New York Magazine, which he stayed up all night to report out during an internship at The Daily Dot’s New York City office. —Olivia B. Waxman

Silentó, 17

Most Influential Teens 2015 Silento
Gabe Ginsberg—Getty Images

Six months ago, barely anyone had heard of Silentó (real name: Richard Lamar Hawk), an aspiring rapper from Stone Mountain, Georgia. That all changed on June 25, 2015, when the rising high school senior dropped the video for his first single, “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)”—an infectious clip centered around popular hip-hop dance moves. (He says he came up with the idea while entertaining classmates at lunch.) Within a week, the video had earned roughly 2.5 million views. By mid-October, it had logged more than 300 million, spawning countless parodies and celebrity imitations and eventually reaching Number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Next up for its multiplatinum singer? Attending college, where he plans to study business. —Samantha Grossman

Bindi Irwin, 17

Most Influential Teens 2015 Bindi Irwin
Mike Pont—WireImage/Getty Images

The daughter of Terri Irwin and the late Crocodile Hunter star Steve Irwin is no stranger to the spotlight; since her father’s death in 2006, she has worked as a conservationist, actress, TV presenter and singer, mostly within her native Australia. This year, however, she has emerged as a fan-favorite contestant on the U.S. version of Dancing With the Stars, earning her magazine covers (Us Weekly, Australia’s Telegraph Sunday Style), as well as ample coverage on entertainment blogs—most recently for an emotional dance tribute to her father, which earned the season’s first perfect 10. —M.M.

Olivia Hallisey, 17

Most Influential Teens 2015 Olivia Hallisey

The Connecticut high school student invented a new way to test for the Ebola virus that doesn’t require refrigeration or electricity—a huge boon for the rural areas that have been most affected by the epidemic. Although it will require real-world trials before getting deployed, it won top honors at September’s Google Science Fair, a testament to its life-saving potential. —O.B.W.

Malala Yousafzai, 18

Most Influential Teens 2015 Malala Yousafzai
Muhammed Muheisen—AP

Three years after being shot by the Taliban while going to school in her native Pakistan, Yousafzai is now a fierce advocate for girls’ education. In the months following her Nobel Peace Prize award, the He Named Me Malala subject spoke at the U.N. General Assembly, appealed for the release of the schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram, and launched the #BooksNotBullets campaign to encourage politicians to redirect some military spending toward global education. On July 12—her 18th birthday—she traveled to a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon to open a school. “Spending time with Malala Yousafzai made me stronger,” wrote Mezon Almellehan, a Syrian refugee, in this year’s Time 100. “She suffered, and yet she continues to fight for what she believes in—for the rights of children and for their education.” —Naina Bajekal

Kylie Jenner, 18

Most Influential Teens 2015 Kylie Jenner
Jon Kopaloff—FilmMagic/Getty Images

The former shy tween on E!’s Keeping Up With the Kardashians is now arguably the most-watched teenager in the world, commanding an audience of 60 million people across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and her best-selling app. “Everything I do, I always start these huge trends,” Jenner tells TIME of phenomena like the #KylieJennerLipChallenge, for which thousands of social-media users (unprompted by Jenner) tried to mimic her cosmetically enhanced lips with at-home suction tricks. But that’s not the kind of influence she’s aiming for. “I just want to inspire my fans to be whoever they want to be,” Jenner says, “because that’s what I’ve always done.” —D.D.

Tiffany Zhong, 18

Most Influential Teens 2015 Tiffany Zhong
Courtesy of Tiffany Zhong

As an analyst and associate at Binary Capital, a venture-capital firm that manages more than $130 million in investments, Zhong holds a job often reserved for much older workers, many of them with MBAs. But in this case, it appears her age is an asset: the San Francisco resident, who deferred acceptance to the University of California at Berkeley, is tasked with finding worthy designers, developers and entrepreneurs—many of them her age or younger—who have the potential to create the next Snapchat, as she explained in a recent Wall Street Journal profile.

Maisie Williams, 18

Most Influential Teens 2015 Maisie Williams
John Shearer—Getty Images

Playing a beloved character like Game of Thrones’ Arya comes with a lot of pressure—series author George R.R. Martin’s wife reportedly forbade him from killing off the character—but over five seasons, Williams has proven she’s more than up to the challenge. The actress, as it turns out, is just as likable as her plucky onscreen counterpart—her delightfully off-kilter reaction to the shocking deaths of certain characters was retweeted more than 3,500 times. Williams will likely only continue to become more popular—the HBO show set a series ratings record ratings record with 8.11 million viewers of its last finale—as she branches out. The actress is also appearing on another genre cult favorite, Doctor Who, this year. —E.D.

Lydia Ko, 18

Most Influential Teens Lydia Ko
Stuart Franklin—Getty Images

At the age of 17, this New Zealander became the youngest golfer to be ranked number one in the world, breaking Tiger Woods’ record. And with back-to-back birdies on the final holes at September’s Evian Championship, she grabbed another record as the youngest winner of a women’s major event—her first. She then went on to regain her number one ranking — she held the top spot for 19 weeks earlier in the year — in the world with a victory at the LPGA Taiwan Championship in October. Her goal for 2016 is to play in Rio when golf returns to the Olympics: “There’s no greater honor than playing for your country,” she said.” But Ko still makes time to be a teen, regularly posting videos of bejeweled golf balls markers and Dubsmash videos to her SnapChat and Instagram channels. —Ashley Ross

Katie Ledecky, 18

Most Influential Teens 2015 Katie Ledecky
The Washington Post/Getty Images

The next Michael Phelps has arrived. Ledecky holds the world record in three different freestyle events; at the world championships in Kazan, Russia in August, Ledecky became the first swimmer to win the 200-, 400-, 800-, and 1,500-meter freestyle events in a major competition. The Bethesda, Md., native plans to enroll at Stanford after the 2016 Olympics, where her races will be appointment viewing: Ledecky’s already an Olympic champ, having won the 800-m in London when she was only 15. —Sean Gregory

Zendaya, 19

Most Influential Teens 2015 Zendaya
David Livingston—Getty Images

The former Disney Channel star (full name: Zendaya Maree Stoermer Coleman) has emerged as a champion of body positivity, schooling E!’s Giuliana Rancic earlier this year for mocking Zendaya’s dreadlocks at the Oscars and sharing unretouched versions of a magazine photoshoot with her 14.1 million Instagram followers. Recently, Mattel debuted a custom Barbie modeled after Zendaya’s Oscars look, meant to honor “a moment of confidence that was so positively received.” —D.D.

Joshua Wong, 19

Most Influential Teens 2015 Joshua Wong
Justin Chin—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Wong shot to fame last year as one of the core leaders of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution, when demonstrators occupied the streets to demand the autonomy they believed they had been promised when the U.K. handed over the colony to Beijing in 1997. Although immediate political reform has not been achieved—and Wong is currently facing trespassing charges for storming a public square—the activist, now one of Hong Kong’s most recognizable political figures, isn’t planning to give up. “I want the world to know that the Umbrella Revolution isn’t over,” he told TIME in October. “We want to fight for democracy.” —N.B.

Kendall Jenner, 19

Most Influential Teens 2015 Kendall Jenner
Jim Spellman—WireImage

In addition to her impressive fashion resume—walking the runway for Chanel and Versace and gracing the covers of GQ, Cosmopolitan, Allure, and Vogue Paris—Jenner is also the subject of the most-liked photo in Instagram history. The image, depicting the reality star with her hair in heart shapes, has logged some 3.1 million taps approval, smashing a record (2.4 million) set by her own sister, Kim Kardashian. —D.D.

Bethany Mota, 19

Most Influential Teens Bethany Mota
Lisa Maree Williams—Getty Images

In January, the YouTube star was one of a select group of social media celebs who interviewed President Obama after the State of the Union address. The fashion and beauty blogger boasts a huge number of fans — nicknamed Motavators — on multiple social networks: 9.5 million subscribers on YouTube, 2.69 million followers on Twitter and 5.2 million followers on Instagram. She continues to work on a line of clothing and home decor for Aéropostale, release her own music and work on charitable endeavors with UNICEF. And in August, teens cast 25 million votes for FOX’s Teen Choice awards, where Mota won for Choice Web Star: Female. —A.R.

Kim Kataguiri, 19

Most Influential Teens 2015 Kim Kataguiri
Evaristo Sa—AFP/Getty Images

The young libertarian, who first gained a following from his satirical YouTube videos, is leading the charge against Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff and her Worker’s Party, which have been embroiled in a massive corruption scandal. After co-founding the Free Brazil Movement in 2014, Kataguiri, who cites Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher as inspirations, went on to lead a 200,000-strong demonstration in Sao Paulo earlier this year—the biggest protest Sao Paolo has seen in three decades. —Tara John

Lele Pons, 19

Most Influential Teens 2015 Lele Pons
Joe Scarnici—WireImage/Getty Images

As the most-watched person on Vine—the Miami teen has more than 7.2 billion loops and 9.7 million followers—Pons has mastered the art of the 6-second comedy sketch. She became the first Vine user to reach 1 billion loops and is credited as a creator of the phrase, “Do it for the Vine.” The 19 year old is also popular across multiple platforms, boasting 3.4 million Instagram followers, and 384 thousand Twitter followers. Moving beyond the online realm, she has launched her own jewelry line for UNO Magnetic, a Miami-based accessories company. —M.M.

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