Viola Davis, Fatou Bensouda and Leslie Jones are among some of our favourite women who made it to this 2017 TIME 100 Most Influential People List. This year’s list took an interesting turn as some of TIME 100 alumni were allowed to share their editorial thoughts on this year’s names. Of course, we couldn’t agree more with their thoughts. Below are excerpts from the list.
“When I first met Ava DuVernay, I had no idea how great an impact she would have on my life, and on so many other lives as well. But by the time I found out that she wanted to do a program with me, the “Venus Vs.” episode of Nine for IX, I didn’t need much convincing. If you have a chance to work with Ava, you do it right away.
Ava’s point of view is fresh, it’s inspiring, it’s original, it makes people’s heads turn. But she also embraces other people’s perspectives. When we worked together, Ava was able to integrate herself into my life and see things through my eyes. It takes a very special person to do something like that. Ava makes it her mission to tell important stories, from Selma to her prison documentary 13th, and to empower important storytellers—by choosing only female directors to helm each episode of her OWN show, Queen Sugar, for example. She’s opening doors, and that’s courageous.” – By Venus Williams
“Alicia Keys’ debut, Songs in A Minor, infused the landscape of hip-hop with a classical sensibility and unfolded the complexity of being young, gifted, female and black for a new generation. Alicia became an avatar for millions of people, always remaining true to herself. Since then, Alicia has continued to evolve as an artist, an advocate and a person. And we have grown with her.
Last year, Alicia sparked a #NoMakeup movement. She expressed her desire to go makeup-free, released her single “In Common” with bare, gorgeous cover art and began making public appearances with the same beautiful commitment. Why? Because Alicia doesn’t hide her truth, her flaws, her dreams or her journey.
It is that authenticity and vulnerability that endear her to us. We are drawn to her honesty, we respect and adore her, and in doing so, we move closer to embracing our own true selves.
In the entertainment industry, there is intense pressure to conform in order to create an easily marketable product. But if you listen to Alicia’s music, learn about her Keep a Child Alive foundation or witness her life, you know that she is not a product of anyone but God, her family and her truth.” – By Kerry Washington
“When you spend your life embodying other lives, if you are successful, the one that belongs to you can silently slip behind. But Viola Davis’ hard-won, midlife rise to the very top of her profession has not led her to forget the rough trip she took getting there. And that is why she embodies for all women, but especially for women of color, the high-wire rewards of hard work and a dream, risk and faith.
Viola has carved a place for herself on the Mount Rushmore of the 21st century—new faces emerging from a neglected mountain. And when she tells the story of how she got from where she was to where she is, it is as if she is on a pilgrimage, following her own footsteps and honoring that journey. Her gifts as an artist are unassailable, undeniable, deep and rich and true. But her importance in the culture—her ability to identify it, her willingness to speak about it and take on responsibility for it—is what marks her for greatness.” – By Meryl Streep
“I always keep up with gymnastics because I love the Olympics. But what struck me when I first saw Simone in Rio was how perfect she was at everything. That girl was born to do what she does. And she is the best at it. Not the best black gymnast, not the best black-girl gymnast. The best gymnast. It really is inspiring. It’s like she’s sending a message to everyone who’s watching: No matter what you’re going through in life or what your circumstances are, you still can be No. 1. You’ve just got to work hard.
Of course, it’s important to have fun too. Simone is just 20 years old. She shouldn’t have to take life too seriously just yet. When I met Simone, I could tell that she knew that. She was always smiling, and she gives off this attitude of wanting to enjoy every moment to the fullest.
Simone is a very extraordinary person, and she’s going to be a very extraordinary grownup.” – By Leslie Jones
“Former Gambian Justice Minister Fatou Bensouda now presides over investigations and prosecutions at the International Criminal Court at one of the most fraught moments in its 19-year existence. Earlier this year, leaders of the African Union called for a collective withdrawal from the court, claiming that the arbiter of the world’s most morally repugnant crimes is racist, colonial and anti-African because it has almost exclusively investigated and prosecuted Africans. Russia has already left, and the Philippines has hinted that it might follow suit, signaling a dissolution of the only independent international body truly capable of investigating and prosecuting genocide and crimes against humanity wherever they happen.
Bensouda isn’t going to let that happen without a fight. When countries started announcing their intent to leave, she blasted them for giving African leaders a free hand “to commit genocide.” She has also directed the court to consider new cases from Ukraine, Iraq, Colombia and Afghanistan, which should put some of the criticism to rest.
Justice may be blind. But when it comes to the politics of where it can be applied, Bensouda knows she has to go in with her eyes wide open.” – By Aryn Baker
“She’s a pussycat. It wasn’t just the comedy that drew me close to Leslie Jones. Although her brand—edgy, insightful and honest—is the kind I lean to. It wasn’t just the bonhomie, the easy friendship and the shared sense of gratitude. It wasn’t just the beauty, though it radiates from her unchecked. It was, in fact, the kindness, the thoughtfulness and the way she owns all of who she is.
She stalks the audience from the stage and in front of the cameras. Like the comedy greats throughout history, she’s there to give, and what she is prepared to give is all of who she is. All the absurdity and pathos of being human. All the joy of having a heart that big. She’s going to be the person who says out loud what you were thinking, when you didn’t even realize you thought like that. Yes, it was Leslie Jones who drew me close to Leslie Jones. “– By Russell Crowe