‘Millennial’ is the convenient catch-all term for young people, but the majority of people use the term incorrectly. As the largest generation, the term millennial technically applies to anyone born between 1981 and 1996 – so not everyone who is young is a millennial. In fact, the emerging generation has its own category.
Meet Generation Z, born in 1997 or later. They’re marked as being the most iconoclastic, inclusive, politically motivated, fashion-forward, and open-minded generation ever. As an emerging group of “Gen Zers” arrives, Savoir Flair is here to break down the most inspiring “It” girls who are leading the charge when it comes to political activism, creative talent, and stylish know-how.
Pop artist Billie Eilish is arguably one of the most popular Gen Zers. By the age of 19, her album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? has been streamed billions of times and she has won multiple Grammys – five at the 2020 Grammy Awards alone). She has also performed at the Oscars and written the new James Bond theme song, No Time to Die. Her quirky goth-meets-rave sensibilities have transformed her into a style icon. She’s even got fashion collaborations with H&M and MCM under her belt. Clearly, this is Billie’s world and we’re just living in it.
Although she played the titular character in Disney’s Girl Meets World for several years, actress Rowan Blanchard was dealt a blow when she found out the show had been canceled. However, the future is bright for Blanchard, who starred in Madeleine L’Engle’s famed young-adult novel A Wrinkle in Time in 2018. She just landed a role in the TV adaptation of Bong Joon-Ho’s Snowpiercer.
Blanchard’s adorable face belies her sharp mind and powerful convictions. In 2015, she became a hero to young girls everywhere when she penned an essay on Tumblr about intersectional feminism. She repeated the message onstage to a crowd of 20,000 people at youth empowerment summit, WE Day. Needless to say, we’re huge fans of her outspoken concern for social justice.
The planet is in crisis. Every day there are fires, floods, and other life-threatening catastrophes that are happening as a direct result of climate change, and one of the most prominent figures fighting for this cause is a 17-year-old Swedish girl named Greta Thunberg. Politicians fear her, young people follow her by the hundreds of thousands. With a direct speaking style that minces no words and spares no emotions, Thunberg is behind the biggest global movement to protest political inaction on vital climate-change issues, prompting ongoing student strikes that millions of young people have participated in.
She has addressed the United Nations on multiple occasions, and went viral when she confronted world leaders in a speech, saying, “This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet, you all come to us young people for hope? How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
Los Angeles native Amandla Stenberg is recognized for her appearance in The Hunger Games, but she is most well-known for her political and social activism. While the 18-year-old has lead roles in films like the World War II drama Where Hands Touch and drama The Hate U Give – for which she won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture – Stenberg has also been called “one of the most incendiary voices of her generation”. In fact, she once publicly called out Kendall Jenner for cultural appropriation.
Selah Marley is blessed with the most amazing genetics. As the offspring of Rohan Marley (son of Bob Marley) and Lauryn Hill, good looks and creative talent run through her bloodstream. The fashion world loves her – she has walked in the Yeezy Season 4 show and campaigned for Calvin Klein. While Marley initially launched her career at only 17, she is now a multidisciplinary artist with a recent installation called A Primordial Place that garnered critical praise. Next stop: music. Marley has made a foray into the music world, performing live at fashionable restaurants and releasing the occasional song on SoundCloud.
Zendaya Coleman, who fabulously goes by the single moniker “Zendaya”, is one of the most exciting talents to emerge from Generation Z. Not only has she starred in major blockbuster films like the Spiderman franchise, but she’s also the lead in HBO’s dramatic series Euphoria. Zendaya is also an outspoken advocate for women’s rights, and famously pushed back against racist comments by Giuliana Rancic, which led to the announcer being dismissed from her job at E!’s Fashion Police.
Zendaya also happens to be one of our favorite style icons. Her 2015 Oscars look was so good that she inspired a new Barbie doll, and we’ll never forget when she showed up to the Met Gala dressed like Cinderella in a light-up dress. She consistently shows out on the red carpet, and even has an incredible collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger that gets better every season.
Yara Shahidi is only 20 years old, but she has already landed a leading role on Grown-ish, a spin-off of the popular sitcom Black-ish. She has been a recipient of the Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network (WEEN) award and the NAACP Image Award and, no big deal or anything, but Michelle Obama personally wrote her Harvard University recommendation letter. She is also a model signed to New York’s Women Management modeling agency and is a passionate social activist. Shahidi is half-Iranian and half-black, which makes media diversity a big issue for her. She is an outspoken advocate for people of color, as well as a STEM activist.
The New York Times dubbed Emma Chamberlain “the funniest person on YouTube”, and for good reason. Having filmed herself in hilarious and confessional vlogs for years, Chamberlain soon grew to have one of the most-watched channels on YouTube. The editing style she pioneered has been so often imitated as to become the new standard.
Beyond her funny-girl persona, Chamberlain has also emerged as a style icon, and is often spotted front row at Paris Fashion Week or working in campaigns for brands like Louis Vuitton. At only 19, Chamberlain’s star is rising faster by the day.
If you’re under the age of 20 or have young kids, you’ve no doubt heard of Jojo Siwa. The singer/dancer/vlogger is a triple-threat with a cult following both online and IRL, and counts celebrity offspring like North West among her biggest fans. The young star’s career was first launched on the reality show Dance Moms, but she came into her own on YouTube.
Here, she shares pop songs (which tend to deal with teen problems like bullying), music videos, tour diaries, and day-in-the-life snippets with legions of fans. When Siwa isn’t singing, dancing, and documenting her daily activities, she’s running a retail empire with a branded line of merchandise that young people can’t get enough of. With a rainbow-bright personality – and style to match – Siwa’s enthusiasm and positivity are a big part of why she’s so famous.
Millie Bobby Brown
Instant cult hit Stranger Things lent the world a singular obsession with the show’s main character Eleven, played by Millie Bobby Brown. Since her debut appearance, we can’t get enough of this inspiring young star, who is both preternaturally self-assured and unapologetically brainy. Since her debut on Stranger Things, she has been hard at work on the show, the fourth season of which is about to drop, but that hasn’t stopped her from launching a beauty brand called Florence by Mills.