The ELLE LIST 2019: 50 Game-Changers Of Now

Words By Becky Burgum
Photo credit: Leonn Ward

From ELLE

The 2019 ELLE List, in association with Magnum, which launches today, is a curated list of emerging talent from around the world including actors, artists, musicians, athletes, activists, photographers, beauty heroes and trailblazers of every kind.

This list marks ELLE’s commitment to using our platform to shout about a brave and brilliant NEW generation who are pushing the needle and changing the world to make it a better place.

From politician Alexandria Ocasio Cortez to fashion designer Bethany Williams every person on The ELLE List has enormous talent, dazzling style, and is disrupting the status quo in 2019.

So how did we choose a list that ranges from rapper Little Simz to teen-activist Greta Thunberg?

With help…

ELLE asked for expert opinions from a panel of prestigious judges – fashion designer Simone Rocha, actor Michaela Cole, Writer and Podcast Host of The High Low Pandora Sykes, model Leomie Anderson, CEO of Browns and Chief Fashion Officer at FarFetch Holli Rogers, DJ Clara Amfo, and our very own Editor-in-Chief Farrah Storr – to help select the final 50 honourees of the ELLE List.

So here they are… It is time to celebrate them, and shine a light on them. They are the future.



Photo credit: Leonn Ward

Once referred to by Kendrick Lamar as 'the illest thing right now', Little Simz – born Simbiatu Ajikawo – stole our hearts with her 2019 politically poignant third album Grey Area.

Her natural gift for lyricism earned her opening act slots with Anderson Paak and Lauryn Hill. Next, watch her in the new Drake-produced, Netflix-revived series of Top Boy, out this autumn.

Michaela Coel says:

'Every time she releases an album, the carpet is snatched from under my feet. The wig is snatched from my head, my eyelashes are ripped out. If you have not taken notice of this artist, I implore you to now!'




At 29, she became the youngest woman to serve in US Congress, proving millennials have a place in politics.

Clara Amfo says:

'She’s fearlessly challenging a political status quo that doesn’t want her to win, but man is she winning.'


Photo credit: Leonn Ward


Ncuti Gatwa, 26-year-old star of Netflix’s hit series Sex Education, went from having no TV experience to landing the stand-out role of unapologetically gay teen Eric. Highlights include; leading an oral sex workshop with a banana (the only way to learn) and turning up to the school dance in a towering African head wrap, with gold heels and eyeshadow to match.

'In the script, there was a huge section explaining and how layered and complex he is. At the bottom, in capitals and with lots of exclamation points it said, 'THIS CHARACTER MUST BE HYSTERICAL!!!', Ncuti says.

No pressure then.

Born in Rwanda, he moved to Scotland with his family during the genocide, and was later accepted into the prestigious Royal Conservatoire of Scotland drama school after his first audition (most students expect to re-apply year after year), where he specialised in theatre.

He now lives in a cabin in the garden of his best friend’s family home in Tottenham, North London because he prefers company to living solo:

'If it weren't for them, I would have never discovered Ghanaian food, my new favourite,' he says. Up next, Ncuti will start filming season 2 of Sex Education in Caerleon, Wales (due early 2020) and will be appearing alongside Kim Cattrall and Nick Frost in Horrible Histories: The Movie this July.

Party Trick:

An uncanny Hermione Granger impression

Acting inspiration:

Lupita Nyong’o


5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT NCUTI:

1. Growing up, fashion was his armour

'I definitely used my clothes as a barrier in high school, just like Eric. It became my armour, like, 'I look good so none of you can say anything.' I’m very proud to be Scottish, but there aren’t many black boys in Scotland and I definitely felt like an outsider.'

2. He twerked his way to the top

'When the audition for Sex Education came through, I never imagined I would get it. On my last audition, I ended up twerking in front of the producers, the directors, the casting director and from the look on their faces post-twerk, I knew I’d booked the job.'

3. Eric is a dream role

'Getting a character that veers away from the stereotypes of the ‘gay best friend’ or ‘black best friend’ - Eric is a multitude of things, as we all are, so the show is an authentic portrayal of what life is like.'

4. The album that changed him:

'I first heard Channel Orange around the time Frank Ocean wrote his open letter and came out [in his first love being a man] to the world. It was a beautiful outpouring of his soul and the whole album felt like a hand-written note to the me.'

5. His family is his motivation

'When you’ve got parents who are immigrants, they instil in you a real drive to succeed and show them [the move to a new country] was all worth it. My mum ended up raising me and my brother on her own and I am constantly inspired by her work ethic. She’s an inspiration and I want to carry on making great work for her.'




Photo credit: Gus Stewart



Singer and front woman to band Mesadorm, Blythe was arrested after chaining herself to a lorry in London at the recent Extinction Rebellion climate change protests. She’s also founded BirthStrike: a movement of women who have decided not to procreate due to the climate emergency.

Michaela Coel says:

'BirthStrike is a support network for women who have decided not to have children due to anxiety about climate change. If it wasn’t for her public sharing of it, I wouldn’t have known that I wasn’t alone. It’s strange that a personal choice like this has the ability to enrage strangers, so I commend her bravery.'





In 2016 – at just 18-years-old – Dave appeared on Drake’s mixtape More Life, alongside Skepta, Jorja Smith and Sampha. Since then, the Streatham rapper’s single 'Funky Friday' hit number one last year and his debut album Psychodrama has been praised for its fierce, raw exploration of identity, family and social injustice.

Clara Amfo:

'It’s been a long time coming for him. Amazing storyteller. 2019 is absolutely gonna be his year.'


Founder of AZEEMA, the magazine providing MiddleEastern, North African and South Asian women a safes pace to own their strength, culture and acts of resistance, Jameela (also ELLE’s Picture Assistant) is a Central Saint Martins graduate, and one of 25 women chosen by Converse for its Spark Progress campaign. She has also been recognised as a Rising Star in the PPA 30 Under 30 list.


Photo credit: Leonn Ward

As parliament calls for tax reforms penalising garment industry practices that 'damage the planet,' LCF graduate Bethany has had a big impact in her short three-year career for creating a greener system of fashion production.

She places social enterprise at the centre of her work, from the women inmates at HM Prison Downview in Sutton who make her jersey cloth to the women in Italy's San Patrignano rehabilitation centre who turn newspaper waste into fabric for her collections. And the fashion world has taken notice with the 29-year-old earning the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design in TK, a place on the 2019 list of LVMH Prize finalists, and an influencer fanbase that includes model Adwoa Aboah and poet James Massiah.

Bethany's fine art background (she studied Critical Fine Art Practice at The University of Brighton) had a clear influence on her AW19 collection which featured abstract shapes in bold primary colours layered over upcycled boxy shirt jackets with matching trousers.

Her latest collection celebrates contributions from Adelaide House – a Liverpool-based shelter supporting women leaving prison and escaping domestic violence – to highlight the importance of progressive social housing.

Spot illustrations of the residents’ faces on her sustainably-sourced denims, next to abstract paintings of Liverpool’s landscape.

Major menswear influence:

'Walter Van Beirendonck. He's also one of the sweetest men I've ever met.'

Book on her bedside:

Relational Aesthetics by Nicolas Bourriaud


5 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT BETHANY:

1. She learned her earliest lessons about sustainability on the Isle of Man

'Being part of such a small community had a massive impact and local produce was everywhere. My mum was a pattern cutter and my nan was always knitting (she would even knit our dishcloths) so it became natural to buy clothes from a charity shop, then alter and customise.'

2. Fashion wasn't a part of her original plan

'I have always loved clothes and textiles, but I never wanted to be part of the problem. After my fine art degree in Brighton, I nearly studied sustainable management at St Andrews (the only sustainability course in the UK at the time), but I decided on my menswear MA at London College of Fashion, when I realised I could be part of the solution. LCF has a huge focus on championing social responsibility.'

3. Her design process starts charity first

'It all begins with what charity I want to work with, then we develop the collection from there. I’ve wanted to work with the South London organisation Spires for a while now. Their Woman’s Space service offers support and drop-in classes to street-based sex workers and other vulnerable women.'

4. Collaboration is key

'The most interesting part of creativity is the unexpected, and when you put people from different industries or places together the outcome is always interesting. From the family-run business in Tottenham that I send my denim to (I unpick second-hand denim and get it remade), to the women in the San Patrignano rehabilitation centre in Italy weaving waste into fabric, and my mum making samples – it is one big partnership.'

5. She'd ultimately like to start her own charity

'I already work with LCF's Making For Change programme which provides paid textile work for women in prisons, but one day I aim to set up my own social manufacturing project in the UK. Part of being human is supporting each other and while we may have safety nets, a lot of people don’t and if I was in that position, I know I’d want someone to help me.'

The crown jewel of Pose; watch non-binary Indya next on LGBTQ sci-fi series Magic Hour.

Clara Amfo says: 'I fell in love with Indya on Pose and like them [Indya’s preferred pronoun] on social media. They are fabulous and sincerely conscious.'

The Birmingham-born filmmaker and journalist, who celebrates diversity in her work, caught our eye with her emotive films for Paul Smith and Henry Holland. She was honoured with the New Wave Creative Award at the 2018 British Fashion Awards.

Central Saint Martins’ MA graduates and Fashion East duo Charlotte Knowles and Alexandre Arsenault launched in 2017, intelligently exploring femininity and sexuality.

Simone Rocha says:

'A unique point of view – my favourite of the new Fashion East.'

Opening for Simone Rocha AW19 and walking 19 shows in total – including Dior, Prada and Versace – this South Korean beauty has casting directors at her fingertips.

Simone Rocha says: 'Her first show was opening my London SS19 collection. She has a youthful, but thoughtful expression.'

The 23-year-old US-born ballerina, who currently dances with the English National Ballet, refuses to wear traditional pink tights when performing and, amid criticism from the industry, is setting a new tradition for black dancers.

Lolly puts hilarity in the snort-inducing series Shrill.

Michaela Coel says:

'Hilarious on screen, and a real grafter. It’s great to see her cross so successfully from the stand-up stage to the screen.'

Clara Amfo says:

'She’s just funny as fuck, TBH.'


Photo credit: Leonn Ward

She’s toured with Jorja Smith, and has been endorsed by Drake – not bad for a north London artist who’s just 21. This soulful one-to-watch is classically trained, co-directs her music videos and isn’t afraid to get political – see 2016’s debut track 'TBC' on police brutality. With new music on the horizon, this year is hers for the taking.


Photo credit: Leonn Ward

Unlike most aspiring actors, Niamh Algar nailed the first audition she went for, winning the main role of Dinah, a fiery down and out couch surfer, in This Is England creator Shane Meadows’ new Channel 4 series The Virtues.

Growing up in the Mullingar countryside of Ireland as the youngest of five children in a big family, Niamh used her love of theatre to assert her individuality in a household of sports-obsessed triathletes.

'I loved the idea of making my parents laugh and entertaining them, because I wasn't very academic at school,' she says.

Even though she makes her living on the screen (in addition to the indie film, Without Name, she's also had standout roles in Channel 4's Pure and BBC’s MotherFatherSon alongside Richard Gere), Niamh’s sporty, outdoorsy roots still run deep. She grew up riding horses and has been a qualified sailing instructor since the age of 14. Look for her in Ridley Scott’s new sci-fi series Raised By Wolves later this year.

Childhood hero:

Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Watch her in:

Without Name, Pure, The Bisexual, MotherFatherSon, The Virtues, Raised By Wolves

5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT NIAMH

1. Drama school isn’t essential

'I’d always planned to pursue acting, but decided not to do the conventional four years at drama school. I took workshops at Bow Street acting academy in Dublin, which invites actors to workshop different scenes that writers are developing at the time. So many people I meet on sets now have taken non-traditional paths.'

2. Boxing is her therapy

'You switch your brain off to commit to boxing, in the same way you do with acting. You have to be completely present in the physicality of it and it’s a very cathartic experience. I mentioned that I was off to train in the studio with Shane one day and then when I read the script, Dinah’s opening to the show is sparring a guy out.'

3. The film that changed her: Monster with Charlize Theron

'I always knew her as this stunning Amazonian women. But in Monster, she played this really gritty, raw character. I was fascinated by that transformation and the idea of getting your head inside someone else’s psyche. She made the ‘monster’ character human.'

4. Her current project with Ridley Scott has taken her to Cape Town

'The sets are incredible. The drama is set 200 years in the future and I play an army medic who has been forced to leave earth and invade a virgin planet for survival. Earth has gone into a cycle of decay and two androids are tasking with raising human children. It poses the question what it means to be human and what constitutes as a family.'

5. She'd love to merge her love of sport and acting

'I’d love to do another feature film and have always had a huge desire to play a sportswoman or do a biopic. Fictional characters are created by the actor and you put your own layers on them, but if you already have that structure, it is much more intriguing. People are fascinating. You have to get inside that person’s head, find out why they do the things they do.'


From rock climbing centres to Nando’s, Martine famously presents her collections in unusual settings, inspired by the subcultures in London.

Simone Rocha says:

'A designer I really admire; her menswear has originality and personality.'


As the only black woman to open a Prada show since Naomi Campbell in 1997, Anok’s star power has been steadily rising, one show at a time. Securing campaigns from Givenchy to Nike, the Sudanese model proves all beauty deserves to be celebrated.

Cast in Kanye West’s first-ever Yeezy show, this Grown-ish style influencer epitomises the multi-hyphenate generation. Don’t miss him in zombie thriller The Dead Don’t Die, out 12 July.


First spotted creating the backdrop for Shrimps’ SS18 presentation, this 23-year- old Slade School of Fine Art graduate is part of a buzzy new school of British artists. Her large-scale, figurative works have captivated the art world for their dreamy explorations of mythology and gender.

Simone Rocha says:

'An artist whose paintings feel like they are in conversation with my work. They’re ethereal and beautiful.'


Photo credit: Leonn Ward

Sarah Gordy is a woman of many firsts – in the past six months, the 42-year-old actor became the first woman with Down’s syndrome to be awarded an MBE, receive an honorary degree from a UK university (Nottingham) and play a lead role at The National Theatre (Jellyfish out 5-16 July.)

Best known for her roles as Orlando Quine in the the film Strike: The Silkworm and Lady Pamela Holland in the BBC TV Series, Upstairs Downstairs, she's also the face of the Radical Beauty Project, a project that challenges misconceptions around Down’s Syndrome through beauty shoots with renowned photographers. Its creator Daniel Vais cites Sarah as his main influence.

'The beautiful thing about the Radical Beauty Project is that each person is represented as the individuals we are. People have a tendency to group us all together but everyone is different. Down’s Syndrome comes in all shapes and sizes,' she says.

As conversations around representation and disability enter the mainstream, Sarah is smashing societal misconceptions about what a person with Down's Syndrome can be (90% of British people choose to terminate pregnancies when they find out the child has Down’s syndrome.) And each role she takes on in turn inspires other screenwriters to create more complex characters.

'I’m trying to break down the barriers, change the attitudes and give people with Down’s Syndrome their human rights.'

Re-watch on:

The Silkworm, Call The Midwife, Upstairs Downstairs

Where to find her dancing:

culturedevice.org

5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SARAH:

1. The kitchen table was her first stage

'As a little girl, I put on masked performances with my sister to entertain the whole family. If I don’t have a character to share my head with then I get lonely. I have always liked to be Sarah Gordy and someone else, like having two computer programmes running at the same time.'

2. Dame Judi Dench is her idol

'She’s been my role model ever since I started out. I love James Bond films and she taught me how to pull a straight face. She’s about my size and we both drink a lot of champagne.'

3. Shakespeare is always on her bedside table

'I love reading and I’ve grown to love his work. The first Shakespeare play I saw was King Henry IV and it opened up an entirely new world. I clapped my hands so hard that I nearly broke my wrist and now have 52 DVDs of Shakespeare productions.'

4. She’s an individual, so treat her like one

'Down’s Syndrome comes in all shapes, sizes and talents. I am a woman and an actor first of all. I also have green eyes and Down’s syndrome.'

5. She has toured the world as an improv dancer

'Several years before Daniel Vais started on the Radical Beauty Project, he introduced me to improvisational dancing and Culture Device, his company of Down’s syndrome dancers. He had me dance to German electro Kraftwerk music and my instant interpretation drove my mum to tears. She says that I am usually a charming, polite English woman but when I was dancing, I was savage.'


If Beyoncé is a fan, then you’ve made it. This New York-based skater, filmmaker and politically engaged photographer made history by shooting Queen B for US Vogue, aged just 23.

Simone Rocha says:

'We collaborated last year on my film for Moncler SS19. His sensitivity, positivity and professionalism is so exciting. He has a special point of view and a wonderful talent.'




Photo credit: Courtesy of Jessie Buckley

Having been BAFTA Rising Star Award-nominated for her lead in Beast, and making the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 list, Jessie took our breath away in our film of the year Wild Rose.

Simone Rocha says:

'Wonderful actor; within her roles, sheis so authentic and poetic.'





What’s more certified than being trusted by Solange?

Michaela Coel says:

'Not sure if I should call Jawara a hair stylist or contemporary artist. I love how he honours the natural texture of afro hair and takes braids to an otherworldly dimension.'

Winning us over in Netflix’s 2019 pageant drama Dumplin', the Australian actor returns to our screens this year in I Am Woman, following the rise of singer-songwriter Helen Reddy, whose song became an anthem for the women’s movement in the 1970s.

Michaela Coel says:

'I love watching Danielle on screen, I first saw her in Easy, then was delighted to see her in Birdbox. Her performances are truthful, skilled and she dominates the scene. I’d be honoured to have her steal scenes from me.'



Photo credit: Leonn Ward

Model Hannah Shakespeare has the fashion industry at her feet.

For the AW19 runway season, the 22-year-old, loved by casting directors for her wide, expressive eyes and cool, shorn haircut, walked a colossal 25 womenswear shows for brands including Miu Miu, Tommy Hilfiger, Marni and Matty Bovan and has been featured on some of the fashion industry's most influential top newcomer lists.

Raised in Walthamstow, East London, she trained as a dancer, before committing to modelling. Her ballet background surfaces in her lithe frame, erect posture, and easy catwalk strut.

'I was scouted as a pre-teen, but was too shy to follow it through. I liked the idea of modelling but dance was my life,' she says.

With campaigns for Miu Miu and Marc Jacobs under her belt, expect to see a lot more of Hannah this season.

Her icons:

Naomi Campbell, Chrissy Teigen, Alek Wek, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Leomi Anderson

Best show yet:

Miu Miu resort 2019 in Shanghai


5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HANNAH:


1. Her first show was...

'Technically Craig Green Spring/Summer16, but I like to think it was when I was 10-years-old, with my mum, in Wood Green Shopping Centre, North London. The mall was staging a kids pageant, which I entered on the day and then had to walk a runway. It was in front of a huge crowd but I got such a buzz, I grew up watching America's Next Top Model so think I channelled my inner Tyra.'

2. Musical soundtracks keep her sane

'When it all gets to be a little too much, I listen to musicals to keep me calm – Rent and Little Shop of Horrors can get me through anything.'

3. Instagram can be a model blessing and curse

'I have such a love-hate relationship with Instagram. It’s easy to get stuck in a cycle of overthinking about my posts or comparing my life to what it was like this time last year. There is a lot of pressure for models to post shows they do, but if you’ve done 20 in one week it is exhausting and easy to forget. I try to take time off with an old book to truly escape.'

4. She could never Marie Kondo her Ed Hardy bomber

'When I was younger I begged for this jacket religiously, and finally got it one Christmas. It’s beige-cream and has got the iconic badges all over it with Ed Hardy emblazoned across the back. You wouldn't believe it, but I still wear it now. I could never get rid of it.'

5. Her modelling mantra is...

'You have to go into everything balls to the wall. If you’ve got 10 castings in one day you have to walk in, show them who you are and then walk out and forget about it. Even if you slipped in front of Donatella, you can’t stew over previous mistakes.'

She’s costumed videos for Skepta, had Solange and Kanye in awe of her hand-painted leather accessories, and designed a kit with Nike for Nigeria’s World Cup team. Now part of the Fashion East family, the Central Saint Martins dropout celebrates her Nigerian heritage in gender-fluid collections.


This bilingual teenager – she’s half-French but lives in Surrey – is making it her life’s mission to not be defined by her Down’s syndrome. Kathleen addressed the UN in Geneva in 2019, speaking out against discrimination.



Middle East correspondent for The Sunday Times, Louise has won numerous awards, including a 2017 British Press Award. Her debut book sold in January for a six-figure sum.

Pandora Sykes says:

'Still only 28, she’s going to be the next Christina Lamb/Marie Colvin. She doesn’t just relay facts: she tells stories about war and the people (especially women) affected by it.'


Photo credit: Courtesy of EFTYCHIA

The LVMH Prize-shortlisted designer trained in Athens as a graphic designer before doing an MA at Central Saint Martins. She’s bringing her tailored womenswear to London Fashion Week with her brand Eftychia.


Nicole Crentsil and Paula Akpan, two best friends from London, launched the UK’s first arts and culture festival celebrating Black British women and femmes. This year’s festival takes place on 12 October. The theme? Taking up space.


This singer, rapper and flautist released her album Cuz I Love You, which went straight to number one in the US charts. Her songs 'Coconut Oil' and 'Good As Hell' are unapologetic, self-love mantras that empower us all. She calls playing and twerking the ‘hoe and flute’.


Photo credit: Leonn Ward

Is he for real? Is this a prank? How old is he anyway? Timothy Gonzales revels in the confusion over his on-stage persona Jimothy Lacoste.

Born and raised in North London’s Chalk Farm (year undisclosed for maximum mystique), the rapper made his mark with home-made low-budget YouTube videos professing his love for public transport, dancing on London buses in ‘Future Bae’ and clinging precariously on the back of trains in the now banned ‘Subway System.'

His look, like his name, is equally memorable and filled with logo mentions: Burberry checks, Gucci loafers, and a load of preppy staples mixed with hop hop bling.

But Jimothy assures us his work is no jest.

Last year, despite only having five widely known tracks, he sold out shows across the UK, performed at festivals from Field Day to Reading, and this summer is due to appear at Glastonbury.

Now signed to Black Butter Records, (home of Rudimental, J Hus and Octavian) the DIY artist’s newest single 'Getting Talkative’ is the first of many to prove that in the words of his deadpan catchphrase, his ‘life is getting quite exciting'. His new music promises to take a deeper look at the man behind the Burberry socks and iconic dance moves.

'They just flow out of me, I should give them some names really,' he says.

File next to:

Yung Lean and Rejjie Snow

Festival watch:

Glastonbury, Longitude, Love Saves The Day

5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT JIMOTHY:

1. Having fun is his top priority

'Going into music wasn’t some big game plan. I began making some instrumentals in school, found it fun, and then added lyrics. My videos started as summer projects, but I discovered that having this piece of finished art makes me feel really good inside. I edit and produce all my own videos.'

2. Due to his severe dyslexia, words come easiest when he’s happy

'The fact that my career involves writing is crazy to me. I’ll only write a really good song if I haven’t written in ages or if I’m in a really happy mood, with my brain full of serotonin and dopamine. If I’m in that state and I’m writing, then I’m loving it and I’m having fun.'

3. He only takes fashion advice from his sister

'She’s really good at suggesting what I would look good in, obviously only after she knows what vibe I’m going for. The only icon that opened my mind to fashion and I straight up copied at 14 years-old was my friend Corey. He always dressed really smart and classic, and I later discovered that he was influenced by the 70s scene.'

4. Photography is his side hustle

'My private Instagram is my photography. No one knows I’ve been taking photos since the age of 14, I discovered my creative side doing graffiti, and now only shoot on film.'

5. The best advice he’s received was from himself...

'Don’t go into things just to see what you can get out of them. Do everything in life for love and for your own happiness and satisfaction. Everything is about having fun.'

Nobel Peace Prize-nominated, Swedish political activist Greta initiated a school strike for climate change at age 15, inspiring a global student movement. She’s since asked Pope Francis to demand faster action and has urged world governments to give Brexit a rest and prioritise this pressing crisis.

Michaela Coel says:

'If only I was this perceptive as a teen. She is a role model for all people and, for anyone with Asperger syndrome, ADHD or OCD, even more so. I adore her presence on social media.'

From his iconic tie-dye Hot Wok tops to nunchuck handbags, this British-Chinese- Vietnamese designer’s use of Asian motifs has catapulted his brand, ASAI, to cult status. Now in the Fashion East hall of fame, his first standalone show proved 2019 is his moment.


South London native Joy Crookes has garnered favour with critics for her aching, bluesy sound and knack for lyrical storytelling beyond her 20 years. She’s also known for her commanding visual presence in her music videos, where great fashion meets influences from her Bangladeshi heritage.

Clara Amfo says:

'Lyrically honest and funny, which makes her utterly charming. She has that 'Amy' thing.'


Photo credit: Leonn Ward


In 2019 Gina Martin changed a law.

After being assaulted at the 2017 British Summer Time music festival in Hyde Park, where a man took a photo up her skirt without consent, the 27-year-old was outraged to find that the police had no way to charge him.

After a Facebook post detailing her experience went viral, the activist launched an online petition which received 50,000 signatures in a matter of days. She then enlisted lawyer Ryan Whelan, who agreed to take her case pro bono, and after a 20 month campaign and legal fight upskirting is now illegal in the UK. And it's about time, considering this has been covered by legislation in Scotland since 2010.

'I think we are all becoming more like activists because we are so tired and exhausted,' she says.

A native of Liverpool, Martin's book Be The Change: A Toolkit For Activism is out this month. She describes it as a manual for progress that outlines 'all the things you can’t find on Google'.

An activist’s most powerful tool:

Social media

Best advice:

'Know your strengths, but also your limits – get the right people on board.'

5 THINGS TO KNOW TO KNOW ABOUT GINA:

1. Everyday sexism drove her to action

'It wasn’t necessarily just about upskirting, but more an accumulation over years of seeing violence towards women. From getting my arse grabbed at clubs and being shouted at from cars, to the stalker I had for two years at school.'

2. Remember - you can be the change too

'I think it’s really unhelpful when someone achieves something extraordinary to hold them up as a 'remarkable person' because then we distance ourselves, and say, 'Oh they can do that, but I can’t.' Anyone can be the change, and my book goes over everything from how to write a press release, to how to get celebrities on board and deal with stressful meetings.'

3. She’s very selective about her inner circle

'There’s no one in my life I couldn’t cry to for hours. I think we all have a propensity to put up with people in our lives that don’t make us feel good, but I’ve been really clear with myself about who is in my life and who isn’t, because your support system is what gets you through tough times.'

4. Painting is her escapism

'I’ve had rape threats on Facebook, Twitter and emails ever since the campaign begun, and it doesn’t get less painful. When I’m struggling, my boyfriend will pick up my paints and put them on my lap, and I’ll sit there for as long as I need. I studied fine art for seven years and there’s a lovely nostalgia in going back to it. There’s no right or wrong, nobody is judging and there’s something really soothing about that.'

5. Making music festivals safer is her top priority

'Half of women under 30 are sexually harassed or abused at festivals. Most say they have a zero-tolerance approach, but putting up a poster doesn't count. We need practical advice on how to tackle these things and the next stage of my campaign takes a broader look into sexual harassment at music festivals. I’ve been working with a big music label to get them to use their power, platform and money to make those places safer.'



Earning critical acclaim for her hilarious, sharp and touching debut novel Queenie, which chronicles the experiences of a young black journalist in London, Candice Carty-Williams is the breakthrough author of the year. Aside from her success in fiction, Carty-Williams is a journalist and book marketer, credited with launching the Guardian and 4th Estate BAME Short Story Prize.

Pandora Sykes says:

'Yes, yes, yes! I am a HUGE fan of Queenie!'

Aged 14, Mama Cax was an amputee given three weeks to live. In 2019, she made her New York Fashion Week debut at 28. Representing the underrepresented, this model is redefining the runway.

Leomie Anderson says:

'She chooses to stay true to herself through her art form and craft in a world that constantly tries to limit anyone that goes against the grain.'

Considered to be the ‘best player in the world’ by Phil Neville (ex-Man United and current England Women’s head coach), this England Lioness right-back will be one of the leading players in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.



This British-Indian designer and Royal College of Art graduate came through Fashion East, recognised for her modern take on her Indian heritage. Now with two solo shows to her name, she brings ultra-femininity and draping galore, counting fans from Lara Stone to Sheila Atim.

Opening Marni SS19, then fronting the subsequent campaign, this pre-Raphaelite-looking muse is a fixtureof the art scene and London’s coolest shows, including Simone Rocha and Rejina Pyo this year.

Simone Rocha says:

'A real inspiring, intelligent beauty who walked my recent AW19 show.'

The soulful, pop-shaking sound from Mark Ronson’s protégé has earned her ‘queer icon’ status at age 20. If atmospheric and synthy bangers such as 'Make My Bed, Talia' and love song '1950' are anything to go by, King Princess is on course for pop royalty status.

With a leading role in Steve McQueen’s acclaimed Widows, this south Londoner seamlessly leapt from the musical stage – with a Tony and Grammy for her theatre performances – to screen. Her portrayal of slave abolitionist Harriet Tubman in a new biopic is coming next.

Michaela Coel says:

'Not sure whether to call her singer, dancer or actor. She does so much, at such a high skill, thatI often look at her in actual terror. She’s in pursuit of her art with no mercy; her ability to commit to that while being kind is inspiring.'

Listed on 2018’s The Sunday Times Alternative Rich List, which recognises wealth in life experience – her powerful filmmaking and photojournalism from the frontlines of the refugee crisis – Aedy’s work has given a voice to migrants in Serbia, France, Greece, Iran and Syria.

If her skyrocket into fashion stardom wasn’t inspiring enough, the Nigerian-American chemistry student-turned-model is also an activist, filmmaker, dancer and has even interned at NASA.

Since winning the 2016 Genesis Future Director Award, Ola Ince has gained critical acclaim for her 2019 play The Convert, written by Black Panther’s Danai Gurira, starring Letitia Wright. She’s currently planning an experimental series of work at the Royal Court.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Nesrine Dally

As the first woman wearing a hijab to compete in a Muay Thai stadium in Thailand, Nesrine punches through stereotypes and kicks down boundaries. The Muslim fitness trainer proves faith can coexist with fitness, working with Nike to make sport fun and accessible.


This 24-year-old Labour staffer – who works for the MP for Eltham, Clive Efford – won the 2019 Young Women’s Trust Trailblazer Award. The Londoner worked her way up as part of Sadiq Khan’s mayoral campaign. From a working-class background, Tara is fighting for greater social mobility in Westminster. As well as her work at parliament, she is studying law at the University of London.

Author of Jailbirds: Lessons from a Women’s Prison (out now), Mim writes about the women who live inside a UK high- security prison. She’s also the co-founder of ReFUSE, which intercepts food before it goes to waste and turns it into healthy meals at pop-up events, ona ‘pay as you can’ basis.

Pandora Sykes says:

'Jailbirds is a blistering, incisive read, and I think it will blow apart what we know about prison reform.'

Stormzy-approved (he considers Damson one of the leading young, black British talents), this star of hit crime drama Snowfall brings Peckham to Hollywood. Catch his standout lead role in Farming, exploring race in 1970s England.

The ELLE LIST 2019 in association with Magnum.


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