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25 Under 25: Meet the Young Musicians, Actors, Activists Changing the World

Putting the spotlight on the next generation of creators and voices shaping the cultural landscape

25 Under 25: Meet the Young Musicians, Actors, Activists Changing the World

Koury Angelo, Brian Guido

Energy. Enthusiasm. Creativity. Optimism. Those are some of the words that come to mind when we imagine youth. For our inaugural 25 Under 25 list, we wanted to find the young creators and voices who are shaping the cultural conversation and spotlight their achievements. Whether the breakout star of Netflix’s buzziest show; the preternaturally gifted young musicians anointed by Beyoncé; dedicated advocates and activists; or political prodigies, these young people inspire us in the ways that they are engaged in the world and, yes, woke: profoundly aware of their own influence and of our shared, complicated present reality.

As 17-year-old climate activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez tells Rolling Stone: “The change that we need is not going to come from a politician, from an orangutan in office, it’s going to come from something that’s always been the driver of change – people power, power of young people.”

Shannon Purser

Koury Angelo for Rolling Stone

Shannon Purser, Actor

“I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety several years ago,” says Purser, “so it’s something I’ve been battling most of my life. I think society has come far within the last few years, but there’s still so much more work that needs to be done when it comes to getting rid of the stigma against people who are suffering from mental health issues.”

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Denzel Curry

Brian Guido for Rolling Stone

Denzel Curry, Rapper

“I wanted to be better than Kendrick [Lamar], I wanted to be better than Robb Banks, and I wanted to be better than Purrp,” he says. “I seen all those guys were on the forefront and I always felt like I was in the shadows. That’s what made me go hard.”

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Cupcakke

Ryan Lowry for Rolling Stone

Cupcakke, Rapper

“When an artist puts out music, the fans are providing. That’s how I look at it,” she explains. “That could be the last 99 cents in their pocket to pay for your single. If they are able to give you that and tweet you to say ‘I’m homeless’ or ‘I need money for school,’ you should be able to give it back.'”

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Bryndon Cook Influential artist under 25

Amy Lombard for Rolling Stone

Bryndon Cook, R&B Artist

“I had to push through a threshold to claim whatever kind of greatness that I know I was given,” he says. “And now I have to reciprocate into the world. My whole goal when I perform is that I’m keeping my inner child alive. I want people to hear and see that.”

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Debby Ryan

Brian Guido for Rolling Stone

Debby Ryan, Actor

“It’s a really cool time in the industry to be a woman,” she remarks of the roles she’s been able to tackle. “It’s really cool to [read a script] and not just be someone’s girlfriend or daughter.”

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Rich Chigga

Amy Lombard for Rolling Stone

Rich Chigga, Rapper

“I actually honestly don’t look into politics that much,” he says. “I feel like I’m not at a place to say anything about that, because I feel like I don’t really know what to say. I just want people to love each other and accept each other and stop putting people down and stuff like that.”

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Let's Eat Grandma

Francesca Allen for Rolling Stone

Let’s Eat Grandma, Music Duo

“There’s an assumption that teenage girls only like shopping,” Jenny Hollingsworth says. “It’s not true. There’s loads of our friends who are really creative.”

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Gavin Grimm HB2 North Carolina

Sacha Lecca for Rolling Stone

Gavin Grimm, Activist

“I think people need to get more involved and more politically aware,” he says. “Understand issues on a level that’s not superficial. Form opinions based on research and not headlines – you know, get your hands in it a little bot more and do what you can to advocate or exercise your political rights.”

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Shameik Moore

Koury Angelo for Rolling Stone

Shameik Moore, Actor

“I’m done asking permission when I can just do it myself,” he explains. “At a certain time, artists like Aaliyah and Usher, their mystique was on a different level. But social media changed that – now, everybody can be a star. You can come from all different types of areas and situations.”

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Jaboukie Young-White

Amy Lombard for Rolling Stone

Jaboukie Young-White, Comedian

“Developing a following [on social media] and maintaining that is so much free labor – just for the love of it. It’s the longest, most intense internship, basically.”

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Yarah Shahidi

Brian Guido for Rolling Stone

Yara Shahidi, Actor

“I like to think I know a lot, but I don’t. I’m motivated to learn more,” she says. “At the crux of [my major], at the crux of acting and at the crux of everything I do is a desire to understand humans – [and to become] active in a way that touches anybody or even activates anybody.”

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Greg Kahn for Rolling Stone

Sonita Alizadeh, Activist Rapper

“My biggest fear is to see a world where girls continue to be treated as property, unable to imagine or create a bright future for themselves, and to see world leaders not take action to end gender-based violence around the world, [violence] that happens everywhere in the world.”

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Hannah Marks

Amy Lombard for Rolling Stone

Hannah Marks, Actor, Writer and Director

“I like to tell stories about women and about the female voice,” she says. “We’ve had the male gaze for so long, and now women like Jill Soloway are talking about the female gaze, and that could not be more in line with exactly the type of projects that I want to do.”

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Jewell Jones

Sam Trotter for Rolling Stone

Jewell Jones, Politician

“We use our youth to our advantage, we soak up all the knowledge and wisdom our more seasoned colleagues and mentors can share with us,” he says. “We have direct access to the younger crowd who feels their voices aren’t being heard and we want to get their messages across.”

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Lauren Alaina

Griffin Lotz for Rolling Stone

Lauren Alaina, Singer-Songwriter

“I have things to say and I get to say them now,” she says. “I don’t mind if people say I was on American Idol, because I was and that is a part of my past and I’m super proud of it, but I don’t want that to be all there is to me.”

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Tory Lanez Influential Artist under 25

Amy Lombard for Rolling Stone

Tory Lanez, Rapper

“I make a genre of music called Swavey, where you fuse one or more types of music together and are still able to do it as yourself without having to sacrifice your creativity.”

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In This Article: 25Under25

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