The world’s most influential rising stars gathered in New York City Tuesday evening for the TIME100 Next Gala 2022.
Amid a star-studded event that featured TIME100 Next 2022 members like Keke Palmer, Machine Gun Kelly, Trinity Rodman and Law Roach—five honorees offered toasts that gave tribute to people and causes that were important to them.
Bridgerton actor Simone Ashley spoke about the importance of pursuing your dreams; environmental activist Nalleli Cobo honored women who are fighting for change; author George M. Johnson talked about the lasting impact of giving voice to queer stories; Emily in Paris actor Lily Collins paid tribute to staying true to yourself; Machine Gun Kelly gave an off-the-cuff speech on reading and art; and comedian Joel Kim Booster thanked the fierce women who inspired him.
“Everyone who is here today at TIME100 Next is here because they have made a significant impact in their fields,” said Collins. “And that impact wouldn’t be what it is if not for each of your willingness to bring your gifts to the world.”
The TIME100 Next list is a cohort of 100 emerging leaders who are shaping their industries and beyond.
Here’s what the recipients had to say:
Simone Ashley: ‘To staying loyal to our dreams’
Tonight has been an incredible experience for me. I have always been very ambitious, and much like every person in this room, I have always been a dreamer.
Since I was a little girl I knew what I wanted to do with my life—I wanted to use my voice to connect with people and to perform, to create art. I grew up watching movies all the time, a whole variety, I loved musicals, I loved singing, so I was very drawn to classic Disney movies and ones by Pixar. This continued when I was a teenager. And I remember watching a short film from the 1970s that had a quote by a motivational speaker called Dr. Wayne Dyer, and I came to learn this quote was inspired by Albert Einstein. And this quote inspired me to continue chasing my dreams, and it helped me understand when I meet my dreams, how to face the fear and excitement and the vulnerability that comes with them. The quote is:
Fear of the unknown.
They are afraid of new ideas.
They are loaded with prejudices,
not based upon anything in reality, but based upon…
If something is new, I reject it immediately because it’s frightening to me.
What they do instead is just stay with the familiar.
You know, to me, the most beautiful things in all of the universe are the most mysterious.
So I’d like to raise a toast, to not only chasing our dreams, running after them bravely, but to continuing to run with them, to staying loyal to our dreams, because we don’t have to be familiar. We can be ourselves, we can be the change no matter what we look like, where we come from, the color of our skin, what our journey might look like. We can celebrate the new or perhaps we can celebrate what was already there and never got the chance to be seen. And we can celebrate the next. Cheers.
Nalleli Cobo: ‘To the people who fuel us and the people who protect us’
Thank you, TIME, for this incredible honor.
And thank you, TIME, for asking us such a powerful question: “who inspires us?” Reflecting on this question has reinvigorated my fire to do what I do.
When I was 4 years old, my family and I moved into an apartment complex, 30 feet across from an active oil well. As I walked to school every day, I passed by signs that read: “dangerous chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer, birth defects and reproductive harm.” My childhood was defined by asthma attacks, cardiac issues and endless visits to the the hospital.
At 19, I was diagnosed with reproductive cancer. Just like that sign said. Sometimes I feel like my childhood was erased because of where I lived. And after my cancer diagnosis, I felt like my future was also taken away from me because I lost the ability to bear children.
My community’s battle to end urban oil drilling has been long and hard. Yet, it has also been filled with many powerful victories.
And none of these triumphs would have been possible without the strong women in my community and across the world who are actively fighting to create change. These women inspire me to continue this journey.
I would like to highlight and toast a few of those brave women tonight.
To Lydia Cacho, an investigative journalist who has selflessly put her life on the line while fighting against evil forces—including human traffickers—harming women and children in Mexico. Through her activism and her reporting, Lydia has saved the lives of countless women and children.
To my sisters in Iran, who even in the face of death chose to stand up and speak out because they know without freedom and liberty there is no life
And lastly, I want to toast the strongest woman I know, my mom, who’s here with me today.
Mom, thank you. Thank you for being my rock, my best friend and my biggest support. You have taught me to know my worth and value as a woman and have inspired me every single day. If I’m 1% of the woman you are, I know I’m more than enough. Thank you for always believing in me because without you I don’t think it would be possible to be at the TIME 100 Next Gala.
So here’s a toast to the people who inspire us, to the people who fuel us and the people who protect us. Thank you for all that you do.
George M. Johnson: ‘The work we do now is for the people we will never know one hundred years from now’
Every morning before I pick up my phone and see what the trending mess of the day is on Twitter, I take about 5 minutes to myself to sit at my altar and pray with my ancestors. And right before I go to bed, I have a few words with them, too. They are my inspiration to do the work that I do, and the people I can always count on when the noise that is this world gets too loud.
Ancestor Zora Neale Hurston once said, “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.” When I wrote my memoir All Boys Aren’t Blue, I knew I wasn’t just telling my story. I was telling the story of so many Black queer people who never had the ability to read or write. Never had the ability to share their voice or even live in truth as I get to do today. This last year, I’ve been fighting to keep those types of stories from ever being silenced again.
As I look around this room, I see so many people who refused to be silent about their pain. But even more, I see people who are being vocal in their joy. And that’s something to me that is very ancestral. Even in their hardships, the ancestors found joy. Found ways to survive, to thrive, and pass down those lessons for generations after them to be led by. We all probably have an ancestor whose name we call on in our hardest days. Ancestors that we wish were still here in the physical to celebrate our wins.
If my grandmother Louise Kennedy Evans Elder were still here, she would have found a way to be in this room, even if it meant if some of you honorees couldn’t be here. She had sayings like, “Scared money don’t make money, Matt,” “Once you take the trash out to the curb, you don’t go back outside and get it,” and, my favorite, “It’s a sad rabbit that only got one hole.” She was talking about multiple streams of income. I hear her voice often when I’m working. I lean on her words throughout my day to keep me encouraged and to keep me going.
It’s because of her and the ancestors that I know my work and the work that many of us do today isn’t just for today. The work we do now is for the people we will never know one hundred years from now who will read our writings, watch our interviews, see our work and be inspired. The people who will one day consider us the ancestors. So as Toni Morrison said, “If there is a book you want to read and it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
So let that be your inspiration when you leave this room tonight. Remember those words in all that you do. If there is a TV show that you want to watch and it isn’t there, create it. If there is an initiative you wish to see, and it doesn’t exist. Create it. Be reminded that so many before us laid the foundation of the roads we travel today. Be inspired by what they built, and continue to pave that road for the future generations who will one day walk down the path you laid.
So I’ll raise my glass to the ancestors. And I raise my glass to everyone who hears this as I end with a quote from ancestor Lucille Clifton: “Drink with me my friends, to a world that has tried to kill us and as of yet has not succeeded.” Thank you.
Lily Collins: ‘Staying true to who you are’
Sometimes, it can be hard to stay true to yourself—to be authentically and unapologetically the person you were meant to be. It’s a truth everyone in this room can attest to. And yet—it’s through authenticity that every honoree here tonight was able to make the change that they did, and become as influential and impactful as they are.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the nonlinear journey that is everyone’s coming of age story—the idea that who you are can evolve and shift depending on your priorities and your commitments. Depending on where you are in life, and what it is that you are working to achieve. But even as your story changes, and you change with it, it’s so important to reflect on the core of who you are—your morals, your values, the parts of you that have stayed constant through the years.
I was always raised with the sentiment that the quirky things that make you different are what make you beautiful. So being who we are unapologetically is both a kind of gift that we can give to ourselves, and also, ultimately, an essential ingredient to our work. Everyone who is here today at TIME100 Next is here because they have made a significant impact in their fields. And that impact wouldn’t be what it is if not for each of your willingness to bring your gifts to the world.
I was once asked if I considered myself a workaholic or a romantic. I remember being jarred by the question because I didn’t understand why I couldn’t be both. I was unapologetically in love with love, but also in love with what I do and with my career. And I think that’s something to be celebrated. We can love ourselves, we can love others, and we can also love what we do. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
It’s also what brings us here today. The fact that each of you has stayed true to who you are, despite the doubt or the challenges that you have faced. The fact each of you is uniquely yourselves, in all of your complexity and in all of your power.
So a toast—to staying true to who you are and making the impact you were meant to make. Unapologetically.
Machine Gun Kelly: ‘Suspend logic and invite magic’
I was asked to give my speech 30 minutes ago so I don’t have one, but I woke up today and I felt weird. I don’t know if any of you guys did. But then I found out that it’s a solar eclipse and a new moon and there’s three planets conjunct with Scorpio and scored with Pluto. Which just basically means it’s going to be a wild night after this.
I really appreciate everything that you [George M. Johnson] had said about ancestors. I also like the fact that you’re an author. And I feel like, if I’m speaking frankly, the art of reading is dying in our generation and it’s really sad. And I just want to point that out, because we’re here with TIME, which is a magazine, which you read. I’ve read many magazines. I grew up loving reading. I know that sounds funny coming from me, but I really—I still, even at meet and greets, fans connect with me by giving me a book, and that’s a thing that we have. So I encourage the 100 and all of the people that have an influence on people to encourage the next generation to connect that with reading.
I’ll share a New York memory. My first time in New York, I was 18 years old, I had a baby on the way, and I was working at Chipotle. And I came to the Apollo in Harlem, on 125th street, and I tried out for Amateur Night. And I became the first rapper to win first place at Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater. And my first music check was for $45, which I never cashed and I framed and I kept it, hoping that I could look back on it and appreciate it. Which, a day like today, being here in New York honored by this, I am appreciating it.
Everyone said these really great quotes. I think one that maybe I’ll just lay off, I love this one. It was, ‘Suspend logic and invite magic.’ That’s what I encourage from all of us. I think the world is in an odd place. I think if you’re an entertainer, hold off on doing s— that pays to do s— that matters. If you’re an author, write your f— heart out as if no one is reading, because those are the best words that you’re ever going to speak. If you’re the person who’s saving us all from drinking s— water and making the water work and saving the ocean, f— yes.
My daughter is a teenager now. I still feel like a teenager now. I see the will that she has going so far beyond the dreams that I thought that I could achieve. And I really love that. I just met somebody in the hallway who was—she had the most epic speech earlier, and she was so kind and so nice. And if those are the hands that the world is left in, I feel good.
Joel Kim Booster: ‘To all the women who made me gay.’
Growing up in a conservative home, there were a lot of theories about what made a person gay. Overbearing mother, a distant father, not enough time spent in the church. Of course all these reasons are completely ridiculous and wrong. A person doesn’t become gay because their mother hugged them too hard or their dad didn’t hug them enough, no. They become gay after spending their childhood idolizing iconic female celebrities.
I was asked tonight to give a toast to someone or something that was important to me. A toast about what shaped me into the man I am today. And I couldn’t pick just one. So tonight I’d like to raise my glass to all the women who made me gay.
To Lucy Lawless, Famke Janssen, Michelle Yeoh, and any other woman who has crushed a man’s skull with their thighs on screen, I toast to you. While all the boys in my class were obsessing over James Bond and the Terminator, I was busy focusing on the Bond girls and Linda Hamilton. I could not escape the allure of women doing all the same martial arts moves as the men, but in impossibly high heels. I didn’t understand at the time why I was so fascinated with these women, but it’s because they taught me about strength, the kind that comes from being underestimated and dismissed. And not that it matters, but they looked incredible doing it.
To Madeline Kahn, Maya Rudolph, and Margaret Cho, and countless others—thank you for teaching me how to be funny. I had a picture of Margaret Cho hanging in my bedroom when I was growing up, and I would tell everyone it’s because I had a crush on her, having no idea how funny it was that Margaret Cho was actually one of my earliest beards, a role I’m sure she was intimately familiar with. I wouldn’t understand until later how hard you had to fight for your place on stage, only until I was fighting a similar battle as a queer Asian stand up comedian. You taught me so much, more than I could ever hope to fit into one toast. Thank you.
I want to take some time to toast many of the women in my life who might not be celebrities to you, but who live in the story of my life as titans and icons. To all the girls I went to high school with who accepted me on my terms, protected me from bullies, and held my hand as I tearfully came out in the cafeteria during 3B lunch. Thank you Kelsey, thank you Sarah, thank you Kristen. Not names I made up, I swear those are actual people.
And finally, thank you mom. You did hug me too hard. And while it didn’t make me gay, it made me feel loved and not that it matters, but no woman will ever measure up. You taught me how to love. How to be loved. That you should always make small talk with the girl at the register because everyone should be treated with kindness. And when my dad died, you taught me about strength beyond measure. You’ll never see this, and that’s okay. It just wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t include you here.
So tonight please, let’s raise a glass, not only to all the women I talked about tonight, but all the women in this room who may not have had a hand in making me gay, but are no doubt at this very moment making little boys all over the country gay as hell.
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