The cover story: The 100 Most Influential People of 2021

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The Cover Story
The 100 Most Influential People of 2021
By Edward Felsenthal
Editor in Chief and CEO of TIME

The year I started in journalism, 1992, was "the end of history" or so claimed a famous book by that title with a remarkably sunny view of human progress. Today—as I near my 30th year in this business, and as the many crises of 2020 hurtle toward 2022—it's clear that we are still very much living history. But I find reason for optimism, as I hope you will, in our  18th annual TIME100 list of the world's most influential people. It features extraordinary leaders from around the world working to build a better future, from entertainers striving to make Hollywood more inclusive to activists fighting for sustainability and human rights.

"Springing into action is not the easy choice," chef and humanitarian José Andrés, a two-time TIME100 honoree, writes in his tribute to  Prince Harry and Meghan , The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Their actions this year not only prompted deep re-appraisals of British society and the monarchy's place within it, but have also catalyzed essential conversations on topics from mental health to misinformation. Our cover portrait, taken by Pari Dukovic, marks the first time the world-famous couple has formally posed together for a magazine cover shoot. "It captures their powerful dynamic as equal partners," says Dilys Ng, who has photo-edited our TIME100 covers for the past four years.

This instinct to "run toward the struggle," as Andrés puts it, is characteristic of nearly everyone on this year's list, though of course results may vary depending on whom you ask. They are disrupters, fixers, doers, iconoclasts, problem solvers—people who in a year of crisis have leaped into the fray. And nowhere more so than in the realm of science, where advances in vaccines have put a deadly pandemic on defense, even as millions continue to aid and abet the virus by refusing them and as the global community struggles to distribute them as broadly and as desperately needed.

For the second year in a row, TIME journalists assembled this project working apart, across time zones and continents. It was overseen for the fifth year by Dan Macsai, editorial director of the TIME100, working with Ng, as well as Jennifer Duggan, Merrill Fabry, Lucy Feldman, Cate Matthews, Nadia Suleman and designer Katie Kalupson. Though COVID-19 prevented us from hosting our annual gala (back next year!), we are bringing the list to life once again through a TIME100 TV special (Monday, Sept. 20, at 10 p.m. E.T. on ABC).

At TIME, we see the TIME100 as far more than a list. It is a community of leaders whose energy and commitment we hope inspires others to spring into action as well.

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