Badass Influencers of 2013 You Need to Know

PHOTO: BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 03: Malala Yousafzai opens the new Library of Birmingham at Centenary Square on September 3, 2013 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

It happens every December – when Barbara Walters shares her list of the people she dubs the "most fascinating" of the year.

Some of the names are obvious choices, a few are questionable and, as always, she never shares her #1 most fascinating.

If you scan through the partial list, it might go something like this:

Jennifer Lawrence (Check!)...Robin Roberts of "Good Morning America" (Woot!)...Edward Snowden (Totally)...Prince George aka the new royal baby (Umm...Cute?)...the cast of reality TV-show "Duck Dynasty" (WTF?)...Kanye West + Kim Kardashian (We knew it was coming, but ugh. And they're named together. Gag?)...Miley Cyrus (*eye roll*)...

Needless to say there were some names missing from at least the preview, so (just in case) we made our own list!

Here are Fusion's picks for Most Fascinating People of 2013 (in no particular order):

Kid President

How could we not love 10-year-old Robby Novak (best known as Kid President)? He's absolutely brilliant, adorable, inspiring and funny. His videos bring a tear and a smile and leave you with the warm 'n fuzzies. Robby is a tiny ball of energy even while battling fragile bone condition, Osteogenesis Imperfecta. His political motto: “Don’t be in a party. Be the party.”

Earlier this year, Kid President got to meet the real president–Barack Obama. He's also hung out with Beyonce, Justin Timberlake and Paulo Coelho, among others. Pretty cool.

Angel Haze

From pansexuality to sexual abuse, 22-year-old Angel Haze is breaking new ground in the music industry. She spoke candidly with Fusion's Alicia Menendez earlier this year about why she chose to remake Eminem's hit song "Cleaning Out My Closet" and why it's important for her to speak out against sexual violence.

Malala Yousafzai

16-year-old, Nobel Prize nominee, Malala Yousafzai, inspired millions this year with her harrowing story and profound, inspiring words.

According to her organization, The Malala Fund:

"Around the world, girls are denied a formal education because of social, economic, legal and political factors. And in being denied an education, society loses one of its greatest and most powerful resources. The Malala Fund aims to change that."

Laverne Cox

Netflix original hit series, Orange Is The New Black, tells the stories about the lives of a diverse cast of characters in an upstate New York prison. The show became a hit almost overnight, making many of the actresses household names. Case in point: Breakout star Laverne Cox, who plays Sophia, a feisty transgender hairdresser who deals with the complexities of navigating through the world without equal rights. As a real-life transgender woman, Cox gave a heartfelt speech at the GLAAD Awards.

Pussy Riot

Brightly-colored ski mask-wearing, Russian feminist punk rock protest group, Pussy Riot, was in the news a lot late 2012 and throughout 2013. Taking on the policies of Russian President, Vladimir Putin, their lyrics and stunt videos challenge sexism and bring attention to the need for LGBTQ rights. Because of their radical stance and the current anti-LGBTQ climate in the country, three members (Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich, Maria Alyokhina) were arrested and put on trial. Their case created a lot of international buzz, shining a light on the serious lack of LGBTQ rights in the country–especially with the upcoming Winter Olympics of 2014.

A Tribe Called Red

To say they are the "next big thing" in music is putting it mildly. Hailing from Ottawa, Ontario, Aboriginal DJ group, A Tribe Called Red, is blowing up the electronic music scene, mixing hip-hop, reggae, dubstep, moombahton, infused with Indigenous roots. Their electric pow wows have found fans among Native and non-Native people alike in Canada, the United States, Mexico and beyond.

They've collaborated with the likes of Diplo, have been featured by MadDecent and have won acclaim as a group and as individual performers since coming together. They cleaned up at this year's Aboriginal People's Choice Awards and killed it during their set at this year's globalFEST 2013.

The group is made up of Ian Campeau aka DJ NDN (Ojibway from Nipissing First Nations), Bear Witness (Cayuga from Six Nations) and Dan General aka DJ Shub

See more of their videos here.

*Fun fact: Angel Haze, who is Native American and black, wrote to a track by A Tribe Called Red.

Carmen Carrera

RuPaul's Drag Race contestant, Christopher Roman, created some buzz this year when he came out as transgender. Known by Carmen Carrera, a petition (that earned more than 35,000 signatures) was created to encourage lingerie brand, Victoria's Secret, to make her their first transgender fashion model and allow her to walk in their annual end-of-the-year fashion show. While the attempt was unsuccessful, Carrera's future looks bright both as a straight-woman-drag queen and an advocate for trans* rights.

DREAMers

By bravely coming out as "undocumented," thousands of immigrants–youth in particular–from around the country, took a stand for immigration reform. Activists like Gaby Pacheco shared their story and pled their case in hopes of being allowed to pursue the American Dream.

In March, Pacheco gave the following testimony in front of a Senate Judiciary Committee:

"Out of everyone who is here testifying today, I am the only one that comes to you as one of the 11 million undocumented people in this country. My family reflects the diversity and beauty of America. We are part of a strong working class; a mixed-status family who are your neighbors, classmates, fellow parishioners, consumers, and part of the fabric of this nation."

Jorge Ramos has interviewed several immigration reform advocates on his show AMERICA since Fusion's launch this fall.

Matika Wilbur

Native American photographer, Matika Wilbur, (who is Swinomish and Tulalip) created Project 562 to "unveil the true essence of contemporary Native issues, the beauty of Native culture, the magnitude of tradition and expose her vitality." The name of the project comes from the 562 federally recognized tribal nations in the United States–all of which she aims to visit for the project. Unlike some–usually Non-Native's–views of Indian Country, Wilbur's photographs show how beautiful, diverse and resilient Native people are, thereby shifting perceptions of America's first peoples.

Black Girls Code/Black Girls Rock/Black Girls Run

Yeah, yeah, yeah...we know, we cheated. Though they're organizations, not individual people, all three groups are community-based and have similar missions.

Created to empower and inspire, organizations like Black Girls Code, Black Girls Run and Black Girls Rock are teaching women and girls how to break into careers where there is little representation, motivating them to lead healthy lives and letting them know that they are AWESOME!

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

This is obviously not a complete list, but it's a start. Who did we miss? Leave a comment below!

Update: An earlier version of this post said that Ontario was the capital of Canada. The capital is Ottawa, which is located in the province of Ontario.

NOT SURE HOW TO GET FUSION ON YOUR TV? CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT!
Alt

We live in an on-demand world, and streaming media is how we experience so much of the content we consume. Here we look at the many variations of streaming.

comments powered by Disqus

College

Congrats on Saving More for College! You're Still Screwed

It would be nice to imagine student loan debt in this country - which has ballooned beyond $1 trillion - slipping back to a more reasonable figure over the coming decade or so as the young children of the families saving now enroll in college, but that’s not likely.