Few events bring together artists, activists, athletes and government officials to mingle and share ideas. That set the TIME100 Next Gala 2022 apart as it unfolded in New York City on Tuesday night. Actor Megan Fox, ob-gyn and abortion rights advocate Caitlin Bernard, comedian Joel Kim Booster, soccer star Trinity Rodman, author Casey McQuiston, and environmentalist Leah Thomas were among the members of the 2022 TIME100 Next list who walked the red carpet as cameras flashed and the bass thumped.
The TIME100 Next list recognizes 100 rising stars from around the world and across industries. They gathered together for an evening of toasts—to these trailblazers and to the future. Nalleli Cobo was one of several environmental activists featured on the this year’s list.
“My community’s battle to end urban oil drilling has been long and hard,” Cobo said “Yet it has also been filled with many powerful victories.”
Here are some of the biggest moments of the night.
Simone Ashley on chasing our dreams—no matter what
Bridgerton star Simone Ashley offered a toast on the importance of staying loyal to your dreams—even in the face of fear and vulnerability.
“Since I was a little girl I knew what I wanted to do with my life,” she said at the gala. “I wanted to use my voice to connect with people and to perform, to create art.”
The Sex Education actor cited the motivational speaker Dr. Wayne Dyer, who was inspired by Albert Einstein. “To me,” she quoted, “the most beautiful things in all of the universe are the most mysterious.”
“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,” she continued in her own words. “Or perhaps we can celebrate what was already there and never got the chance to be seen.”
Leah Thomas honors environmentalists of color
Leah Thomas, an intersectional environmentalist from St. Louis who centers her work around her identity as a Black woman, emphasized the importance of recognizing people of color as pioneers in the broader climate change movement.
“So many people of color have been living sustainably for a long time and deserve all the praise, all the claps,” she said. “I can’t wait to just continue sharing those stories so young Black girls like me, from St. Louis, Missouri, can find themselves reflected in environmental educational movements and policy.”
And despite concerns about the state and future of the planet, Thomas highlighted the lengths she and her peers are going to go to to build a better world. “We want to create a world that’s more sustainable and also rooted in diversity and climate optimism,” Thomas said. “We have enough to build a world that’s full of joy.”
To honor her service, Thomas received a Booking.com trip to travel to a destination of her choice to help her further her work.
Devery Jacobs on Sacheen Littlefeather and Indigenous identity
Devery Jacobs, Indigenous, queer filmmaker and star of Reservation Dogs, spoke about the ongoing controversy over Sacheen Littlefeather’s racial identity. Littlefeather’s sisters, in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, alleged she is Mexican American and not a member of an Indigenous tribe.
“I don’t know enough about Sacheen’s situation. Identity and Indigenous identity is complicated,” Jacobs told TIME. “What I do know is that the impact Sacheen had on myself was very real… It meant the world and was a huge influence on me and carrying that voice of representation into the present day.”
Jacobs also said the best piece of advice she received in her career was to ignore those who said that Indigenous stories were not marketable and instead “tell stories for myself and my community.”
Machine Gun Kelly on artistic censorship
The rapper, singer, songwriter and actor had a lot to say about bringing meaning back to music and asked, “What’s the point of even making something if no one’s even appreciating [it]?” Kelly believes that as a society, everyone needs to start creating work “that counts.”
He also said that artistic expression, ranging from music to comedy, is too censored. “It’s on everybody to step up everything, 95% of the interviews I do, I could fall asleep while I’m doing them,” he told TIME.
The musician also commented on other social issues, and, when TIME gave Kelly the chance to share who he thinks deserves to be the 2022 Person of the Year, he said, “probably the person who is figuring out how we’re cleaning up all the plastic out of the ocean.”
Kelly rounded off the conversation with his views on voting in the upcoming midterm elections. “I have anarchy tattooed on my stomach. I’m not a political person,” he said.
Trinity Rodman: Everyone wants Britney Griner home
Trinity Rodman, the youngest player ever drafted into the National Women’s Soccer League, spoke to TIME about Brittney Griner, the 32-year-old WNBA star who was convicted and sentenced to nine years in prison for carrying cannabis oil in her luggage in Russia.
“It’s extremely unfortunate, it’s very sad for everyone involved,” Rodman told TIME. “Obviously everyone wants her home and I support it. It’s devastating.”
On Tuesday, a Russian court rejected Griner’s appeal of her charges and sentence. The U.S. government continues to consider her “wrongfully detained.”
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