6. Brett Kavanaugh
> Occupation: Supreme Court justice
Following contentious Senate hearings and allegations of sexual assault, Brett Kavanaugh was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in October, nudging the nation’s highest judicial body further to the right. Detractors complained about the way Republicans were able to replace Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, viewed as the court’s centrist, with a conservative judge. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had orchestrated a successful campaign to block Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace the deceased Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative. McConnell based his decision on the argument that Supreme Court vacancies should not be filled in the middle of a presidential term when the Senate is controlled by a different party than the president’s. With Kavanaugh’s ascent, the nation’s top court now skews to the right and the Senate and White House still maintain power to appoint a new justice should a vacancy comes up.
7. Kendrick Lamar
> Occupation: Recording artist
In what could mark a significant cultural shift, Kendrick Lamar was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for music in April for his 2017 hit record “DAMN.” The Compton, California, rapper not only became the first hip-hop artist to win the coveted prize, but also the first performer outside of classical or jazz music to receive the award. The Pulitzer Prize board commended Lamar for producing a “virtuosic song collection … capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.” The album touches on broad humanistic issues through the lenses of American racial inequality and black American self-reflection. Jurors of the prize reportedly debated the merits of considering rap music and concluded that rap deserves recognition as a serious art form and an artistic medium for social criticism and dissent.
8. Andrés Manuel López Obrador
> Occupation: Politician
Mexico elected as president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a leftist who — depending on who you ask — will reduce the country’s crime and corruption and help the nation’s poor, or turn Mexico into a failed state like Venezuela by scaring off foreign investments. Under a three-party coalition, the 65-year-old former Mexico City mayor won a decisive victory with more than half of the popular vote. López Obrador was sworn in Dec. 1, replacing Enrique Peña Nieto, a deeply unpopular president who was perceived to be kowtowing to U.S. President Donald Trump.
9. Nora “Awkwafina” Lum
> Occupation: Recording artist/actress
Six years ago, Nora Lum was just a young New York City millennial jumping from one odd job to the next, hanging out with friends, and dabbling in rap music. In 2012, an amateur video of her song “My Vag” (a raunchy but playful response to American rapper Mickey Avalon’s “My Dick”) went viral. When her publicist employer caught wind of it, Lum was fired immediately. Skip forward to 2018: Lum – who goes by the stage name Awkwafina – has released two rap albums, including this year’s “In Fina We Trust,” and has appeared in two films this year: “Ocean’s 8” and “Crazy Rich Asians.” Now the Brooklyn resident is heading to Comedy Central to produce a half-hour scripted series based on her life as a young Asian woman born and raised in Queens..
10. Emmanuel Frédéric Macron
> Occupation: President
It has not been a good year for French President Emmanuel Macron, who has been labeled “the president of the rich.” The leader of the European Union’s second-largest economy is struggling to meet debt-reduction goals outlined by the EU. Meanwhile, 18 months into his administration, Macron is facing grassroots protests and rioting sparked by his plan to increase the consumer fuel tax starting Jan. 1, a decision he has since suspended. Macron’s recent warning about the “dangers” of nationalism was widely perceived to be a reference to presidents Donald Trump of the United States and Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation.