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Incredible Women

Incredible Girls 2019

All rise for PORTER’s second annual celebration of the world’s most Incredible Girls. From budding space travelers and musicians to athletes and future presidents, these young women are leading the charge for Generation Z. By FEDORA ABU

Halima Aden, 21

INDUSTRY-DEFINING MODEL AND UNICEF AMBASSADOR

The Somali-American model, who was born in a Kenyan refugee camp and lived there until she was seven, became the first hijabi model to be signed to a major agency, joining IMG in 2016. She has since been featured on countless global magazine covers, walked in shows in New York and Milan, starred in Rihanna’s groundbreaking Fenty Beauty campaign, and last year was appointed a UNICEF ambassador.

Abigail Harrison, 21

ASPIRING ASTRONAUT AND STEM EDUCATION ADVOCATE

In 2015, Astronaut Abby, as she’s known, founded The Mars Generation, a non-profit that works to teach young people about space exploration and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education. Four years on, the organization has sent dozens of low-income students to the US Space Camp on fully funded scholarships and provided mentorship to thousands more. Now studying astrobiology and Russian at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, Harrison hopes to join NASA after completing a PhD and become the first person on Mars.

Naomi Osaka, 21

WORLD #1 TENNIS PLAYER

While her first grand-slam victory at the 2018 US Open was overshadowed by a row between the umpire and her opponent Serena Williams, all eyes were on Osaka at this year’s Australian Open, when she secured her second straight grand-slam title – taking her from 72nd in the rankings to world number one in just under a year. The Japanese player – who is also half Haitian – has become a champion of difference for the country’s often marginalized multiracial citizens, while her reported $8.5m deal with Adidas is the brand’s most lucrative contract ever with a sportswoman.

Teddy Quinlivan, 24

TRANSGENDER MODEL AND LGBTQ+ ADVOCATE

The Boston-born model, who was discovered in 2015 by Louis Vuitton’s creative director Nicolas Ghesquière and has walked for the industry’s biggest brands, came out as transgender in an interview with CNN Style in 2017. Since then, Quinlivan has become an LGBTQ+ advocate, receiving last year’s Visibility Award from US advocacy group The Human Rights Campaign; shared her experiences of sexual assault on Instagram; and often addresses the need for greater accountability in the fashion industry.

Model Halima Aden
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Actress Saoirse Ronan

Saoirse Ronan, 24

AWARD-WINNING ACTRESS

Eleven years since her first Academy Award nomination for Atonement, and with two additional Oscar nods and a Golden Globe under her belt, the Irish-American actress has been described by The New York Times as “one of the most formidable actors in movies today”. This year sees her reunite with Lady Bird director Greta Gerwig to play Jo in Little Women. As she conquers Hollywood, Ronan isn’t one to shy away from social issues back home: during Ireland’s historic – and highly divisive – abortion referendum last year, the actress appeared in a campaign video urging the Irish people to support women’s reproductive rights by repealing the Eighth Amendment.

Chidera Eggerue, 24

#SAGGYBOOBSMATTER CAMPAIGNER AND WRITER

Better known as The Slumflower, the British-Nigerian, London-based writer and blogger pioneered the #SaggyBoobsMatter movement, encouraging women to embrace their less-than-perfect breasts after struggling with her own body-image issues, and was swiftly flooded with messages of support and gratitude. Today, the social-media star is an influential voice on mental health and body confidence, and has since been profiled by The New York Times, produced a TV documentary for the BBC, and appeared in advertisements for Adidas and ASOS. Last year, her self-help guide, What a Time to Be Alone, became an instant bestseller.

Noor Tagouri, 25

MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER AND JOURNALIST

The Libyan-American journalist – who started a social-media campaign in 2012 using the hashtag #LetNoorShine (Noor is Arabic for “light”) to publicize her dream of becoming the first hijabi news anchor on US mainstream television – is also a documentary maker, motivational speaker and last year presented a podcast series on sex trafficking that achieved over two million downloads. In 2016 she became the first woman to appear in Playboy wearing a hijab. For Tagouri, it was a chance to counter the misrepresentation of Muslim woman in the media: “A fully clothed, Muslim-American Libyan woman took an iconic magazine and used it to spread a positive message,” she wrote.

Liv Little, 25

GAL-DEM FOUNDER

Frustrated by the lack of diversity in British media, Little launched Gal-dem, a media platform and creative collective of women and non-binary people of color, while still a student. Three and a half years later, Gal-dem has more than 100,000 monthly readers, has racked up countless awards and collaborated with brands such as Nike and Glossier. Little has since signed to Storm Management, is a contributing editor to Elle UK, and last year was hired by the BBC as an executive producer.

Marsai Martin, 14

ACTRESS AND HOLLYWOOD’S YOUNGEST EXECUTIVE PRODUCER

Cast as Diane in hit comedy Black-ish aged nine, the American actress is now being lauded as Hollywood’s youngest executive producer, thanks to her movie Little, the Big-inspired body-swap comedy that Martin pitched herself and in which she also stars. As soon as the trailer launched, the film was praised for being a celebration of #BlackGirlMagic, with a cast and crew made up of mostly black women, including Girls Trip screenwriter Tracy Oliver and Insecure’s Issa Rae.

Amanda Gorman, 21

FIRST EVER US YOUTH POET LAUREATE

In her position as the first US Youth Poet Laureate, the LA native has opened the US Library of Congress’ literary season, introduced Hillary Clinton at the Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards, and spoken at the UN Social Good Summit. In December last year, the Harvard student read her poem Making Mountains As We Run at the inauguration of the university’s 29th president, two months after a powerful performance at PORTER’s Incredible Women Gala. Gorman uses her voice to explore her identity and tackle issues such as race, feminism and oppression. “It’s not enough for me to write,” she says. “I have to do right as well.” While in high school, Gorman became a UN youth delegate and founded One Pen One Page, a non-profit promoting literacy through creative writing. She’s even expressed hopes of running for president… in 2036.

Hou Yifan, 24

YOUNGEST FEMALE CHESS CHAMPION IN HISTORY

Born in Xinghua, China, Yifan began her chess career while still in kindergarten. By 13, she’d become the youngest female chess world champion ever, earning the elusive grandmaster title the following year; at 16, she’d won three further world championships. Ranked the number one female chess player in the world, Yifan also serves as a cultural ambassador for China and holds a degree in international relations from Beijing’s Peking University. Last year, she was named one of TIME’s Next Generation Leaders and began a master’s in education at Oxford on a prestigious Rhodes scholarship – past recipients include Bill Clinton and Naomi Wolf.

Lauren Simmons, 24

TRAILBLAZING FINANCIER

Simmons smashed through Wall Street’s glass ceiling when she became the only full-time female trader at the New York Stock Exchange, and (at 23) the youngest. Despite plans to pursue medicine, Simmons opted to channel her love of maths and applied for a role at Rosenblatt Securities, prepping for the rigorous Series 19 exam in less than a month and surprising everyone, herself included, when she passed. The Georgia native, who is now working in private equity, has since signed a deal with AGC Studios to turn her story into a movie.

Florence Given, 20

FEMINIST CRUSADER ILLUSTRATOR

Combining her creative flair with a passion for social activism, the London-based illustrator has built a loyal fanbase for her bold, ’70s-style prints featuring mostly topless women and emblazoned with feminist slogans. Her work has caught the attention of singer Rita Ora, who commissioned Given to design the merchandise for her tour, and Swedish brand Weekday, with whom she collaborated on a collection of T-shirts that sold out in under an hour. Last year she launched a petition against Netflix’s Insatiable that attracted more than 200,000 signatures. Since criticizing the controversial TV show for its ‘fatphobic’ narrative, she has become a vital voice in the body-positivity movement.

Poet Amanda Gorman
Musician H.E.R.

H.E.R., 21

GRAMMY-WINNING MUSICIAN

California-born Gabriella Wilson – whose stage name H.E.R. is an acronym for Having Everything Revealed – appeared on The Today Show aged 10 and signed a record deal at 14. This year, she was nominated for five Grammys – winning two – and performed with Jess Glynne at the Brits. While working on new music, she hopes to launch Bring The Noise, a foundation she’s created to re-introduce music into schools that have lost their arts programs through lack of funding.

Jamie Margolin, 17

CLIMATE-CHANGE ACTIVIST

The American high-school student founded youth-led climate-action organization Zero Hour in 2017, after learning of President Trump’s plans to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Agreement. Since then Margolin has become key in the fight for environmental justice: in July last year she led the Youth Climate March, which saw hundreds descend on Washington, D.C. Three months later she and 12 others filed a civil action suit against her home state of Washington for failing to act urgently against climate change.

Zara Larsson, 21

POP SENSATION AND SAFE-SEX CAMPAIGNER

The Swedish singer-songwriter won Talang (Sweden’s equivalent of America’s Got Talent) aged 10 and signed a record deal four years later. But it wasn’t until 2015 that she achieved global success with Lush Life, an infectious tune that clocked up over 700 million streams and marked her first US platinum record; her album So Good has since become one of Spotify’s most streamed. Now harnessing her fame for good, Larsson last year fronted a safe-sex campaign for World Aids Day and is vocal about calling out the industry’s sexual abusers.

Model Adut Akech

Adut Akech, 19

MODEL OF THE MOMENT

In the past year, the Sudanese-Australian model was hand-picked by Karl Lagerfeld to close the Chanel couture show, secured campaigns for Valentino, Versace and Fendi, graced numerous magazine covers, and was crowned Model of the Year by the fashion industry. But for Akech, catwalks and covers are a stepping stone to social change: having spent her early years in a Kenyan refugee camp, she is working with the UN Refugee Agency to spotlight the plight of today’s refugees; and is helping shatter the stigma around mental health, speaking out on social media about her struggles with depression.

Amika George, 19

PERIOD-POVERTY CAMPAIGNER

Last fall, Bill Gates presented the British activist and Oxford student with a Global Goals award for her #FreePeriods campaign, which aims to eradicate period poverty in the UK. Galvanized by an article about girls skipping school because they couldn’t afford sanitary protection, George launched a petition in March 2017 that urged the UK government to provide free menstrual products to girls from low-income families, and in December that year she was joined by 2,000 people at a protest outside Downing Street. In March this year, the government finally agreed to pledge free menstrual products to all secondary schools.

Storm Reid, 15

ACTRESS AND CAMPAIGNER

Best known for her breakout role in Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time, last year’s fantasy blockbuster that saw her share the screen with Reese Witherspoon and Oprah Winfrey, the American actress now has a starring role in upcoming teen TV drama Euphoria, is appearing in the sci-fi thriller Relive alongside David Oyelowo, and reunites with DuVernay for Netflix’s When They See Us. Reid is using her new platform to support Unilever’s #Unstereotype initiative, which hopes to eliminate typecasting of women and minorities in advertising, and has joined the STOMP Out Bullying campaign.

Barbie Ferreira, 22

MODEL, ACTRESS AND BODY-POSITIVITY CHAMPION

The Brazilian-American model’s big break came when she was invited to an open call for American Apparel on Tumblr. Despite her hesitation (she admits her first thoughts were “I’m not skinny enough”), it marked the start of a career that includes a viral lingerie ad for Aerie and a campaign for Moschino x H&M. She’s since added her voice to the All Womxn Project, calling on the industry to use models of all sizes, and last year presented and produced Vice’s How to Behave, a millennial etiquette show that sees Ferreira navigate topics such as image and sex. Also forging an acting career, she stars with Storm Reid in HBO’s Euphoria.

Tomi Adeyemi, 25

BESTSELLING YOUNG-ADULT NOVELIST

The Nigerian-American author was just 23 when she secured a multi-million-dollar book deal for her debut novel, Children of Blood and Bone. The YA fantasy, which centers on a teenage girl and draws on the author’s West African heritage, topped The New York Times’ bestseller list last summer, while the hotly anticipated follow-up, Children of Virtue and Vengeance, is due in June. Rick Famuyiwa, of coming-of-age movie Dope, has signed on to direct Fox 2000’s adaptation of the trilogy.

Dina Asher-Smith, 23

FASTEST FEMALE ATHLETE IN BRITISH HISTORY

She was the name on everybody’s lips at the 2018 European Athletics Championships in Berlin, where she became the first British woman to run 200m in under 22 seconds, smashing the European Championship record in the process and taking home three gold medals. It was a breakthrough moment that had been many years in the making; an emblem of self-discipline, Asher-Smith trains six days a week and for three years juggled an elite athletics career with studying for a history degree at King’s College London. Next stop: Tokyo 2020.

Grace Campbell, 24

FILMMAKER, COMEDIAN AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE PINK PROTEST

The fearless provocateur hit headlines in the UK last year when she phoned in to her father Alastair Campbell’s (Tony Blair’s former spin doctor) radio show to call him out on his sexist language. The young Brit is best known for The Pink Protest, which she co-founded to address feminist issues, and which launched a campaign to end FGM by introducing a bill in Parliament. She has also produced documentaries on sexual assault, transgender rights and refugees, and was one of four female comics on Riot Girls, a feminist satire for the UK’s Channel 4.

Sherrie Silver, 24

AWARD-WINNING CHOREOGRAPHER AND CHILDISH GAMBINO COLLABORATOR

Last May, Donald Glover (under rap alias Childish Gambino) released a video for This Is America that racked up 100m views in nine days. Behind the scenes was the then 23-year-old choreographer Silver, who had been discovered on YouTube by Glover’s management and flown out to LA, eventually going on to win the MTV VMA award for best choreography. Silver, who was born in Rwanda and raised in the UK, has also set up a shelter for homeless children in Rwanda, runs vocational training centers to provide children with access to education and medical programs, and is a United Nations IFAD advocate.

Blair Imani, 25

AUTHOR AND SOCIAL JUSTICE ACTIVIST

For this African-American Muslim activist, intersectionality isn’t so much a buzzword as a fact of life. Imani founded the feminist educational platform Equality for HER in 2014, but came to public attention when she was arrested in Baton Rouge during the Black Lives Matter protests in 2016. Since coming out as queer on Fox News in 2017, she has also been involved with several LGBTQ+ organizations, last year giving a powerful speech at the GLAAD Media Awards with Orlando nightclub shooting survivor Brandon Wolf. Imani has spoken at Harvard, Yale and NYU, and in 2018 published Modern HERstory, which shares the stories of 70 inspiring women and non-binary people.

Athlete Dina Asher-Smith

Read the full feature in PORTER’s Summer 2019 issue

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The people featured in this story are not associated with NET-A-PORTER and do not endorse it or the products shown.