14 people who are helping to shift narratives, open doors, and reshape the culture.
Photographs by Mario Sorrenti; Styling by Beat Bolliger and Edward Bowleg III
It has been said that we live in an attention economy, where power and influence are determined by what grabs us most fully, whether it’s a 30-second TikTok video, a stirring performance, a transporting piece of writing, or a call for justice. That’s why where we choose to invest our attention is so vitally important.
Harper’s Bazaar’s 2023 Icons portfolio spotlights a group of talents across a range of creative fields who command our attention—who captivate us, connect us, entertain us, move us, and inspire us with the urgency they bring to their work.
They not only speak to this moment, they are also helping to define it and give it meaning. They’ve each made their marks—and some of them might be making history. But most importantly, they all understand what can happen when our eyes, hearts, minds, and energies are all pointed in the same direction.
Read on for Harper’s Bazaar’s 14 Icons for 2023. The interviews, photo shoots, and video shoots for this story were conducted before the SAG-AFTRA strike.
“I put myself out there on social media and TV. I shoot my image out onto these screens. But I don’t really put myself out there in real life.”
DOJA CAT, RAPPER AND SINGER
“As I came into myself as a young Black woman, I realized there’s a whole type of person and human experience that is just not onscreen. That really pushed me toward what I do now, which is tell stories about people you don’t often see stories about.”
NIA DACOSTA, WRITER AND DIRECTOR
“I’ve been living in service of certain ideas—the status quo—trying to explain myself constantly and create a palatable narrative of what I am. And I don’t want to do that.”
GRETA LEE, ACTRESS
“I look back at when I first came out, and it was so scary and personal. Then when I told the world, it all became this symbol. I was just 12! But as I got older, I realized that I’ve become a part of my community in a way that not a lot of people can say they have.”
ZAYA WADE, MODEL AND ACTIVIST
“I don’t look like the other elected officials in the building. In fact, I was told that I should cut my hair and assimilate. But I know that we have to represent a new model of what legislators can look like.”
JUSTIN JONES, TENNESSEE STATE REPRESENTATIVE
“I serve in a people-powered, people-first way, because that’s the only way I know how to serve. I never thought of myself as separate from being an activist. I’m an activist dash legislator. I take care of my community as passionately as I did before I ever had a title.”
JUSTIN J. PEARSON, TENNESSEE STATE REPRESENTATIVE
“I love really hard, and I love without apology.”
KENDALL JENNER, MODEL AND ENTREPRENEUR
“I work really hard on rewriting the narrative of what it means to be feminine in my choreography. Femininity is strength and owning your sexuality.”
PARRIS GOEBEL, CHOREOGRAPHER AND CREATIVE DIRECTOR
“As a male principal dancer, I play fairy-tale princes. I’m desperate to see queer stories being told in the language of classical ballet.
If no one’s going to make that ballet for me to dance, then I will make it for others to dance.”
JAMES WHITESIDE, DANCER, DRAG PERFORMER, MUSICIAN, AND CHOREOGRAPHER
“I feel like the game that I’m playing now is a young person’s game. And I’m young, but I want to be able to do this all the time.”
PAUL MESCAL, ACTOR
“My work is propelled by the idea of silences and what it looks like to lean into discomfort and into the spaces that we are afraid to talk about. We only grow and evolve when we’re uncomfortable.”
LEILA MOTTLEY, WRITER
“Today, existing as an artist is my resistance. It’s my whole life. … When you are born against the current, you have a lot of muscles to swim against it.”
GOLSHIFTEH FARAHANI, ACTRESS
“I don’t regret anything in life. I’ve learned to take your L’s not as a loss but as a lesson. It’s not punishment, it’s preparation.”
TEYANA TAYLOR, SINGER AND ACTRESS
“I’ve always been confident. I am unapologetic. I stay firm on what I believe in, and, being a Black woman, I can do whatever I put my mind to.”
ANGEL REESE, BASKETBALL PLAYER