THE NEXT ICONS: This year’s portfolio, photographed by John Edmonds, is devoted to a diverse group of 21 young people – age 30 or younger – led by cover stars Amanda Gorman, Florence Pugh, Bad Bunny, and Hailey Bieber, who appear on the cover of the U.S. newsstand edition.
These actors, artists, musicians, models, athletes, writers, and activists are not only charting a path forward, but also making space for others by bringing new ideas, perspectives, and experiences to the table with generosity, hopefulness, and a vision that’s both inspiring and inspired. To them, age represents much more than a number: It’s an opportunity, where the goal isn’t to become an ICON but to redefine what it means to be one.
This year’s ICONS portfolio also features: Jack Harlow, Qualeasha Wood, Oscar Yi Hou, Asha Grant, Tomi Adeyemi, Giveon, Saweetie, Emma Chamberlain, Evan Mock, Moses Sumney, Ella Emhoff, Mika Schnieder, Indya Moore, Xiye Bastida, Jadé Fadojutimi, Ziwe and Nathan Chen.
On the pressure for youth to save the world and why it’s not something Gen Z can do alone: “Young people are expected to rescue everyone, even when we’re struggling to rescue ourselves. When my mom was growing up, she was told by the elders around her, ‘Go change the world.’ And in my generation, we’re told to go save the world. It’s completely different stakes when you look at those two sentences. The world that I and so many other members of Gen Z are living in is one of emergency, is one of destruction.” If the members of Gorman’s generation are expected to rescue all humanity against extraordinary odds, “it’s not something we can do alone,” she says. “No sustainable and worthwhile future is ever built by one. It has to be built by many.”
On Gorman’s acute sense of the visual possibilities of being a public intellectual and understanding fashion as another language: “As much as possible, I try to include my physical person in conversation with the beliefs that I hold,” she says. “There is a real joy and power that comes with being intentional with our aesthetics. It goes beyond looking ‘pretty.’ It gets into looking our fullest selves.”
On the authors who influence her writing: Wherever she writes, she stacks copies of books by the authors she sees as her forebearers: James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Ntozake Shange. “I like to give myself a source of historical power,” she explains. “And then it’s all ‘cross fingers’ from there.”
On the reaction to her sheer Barbie pink gown at Valentino’s couture show in Rome: “I was comfortable with my small breasts,” she tells me while sipping a glass of rosé from a cozy hotel room in the English countryside. “And showing them like that—it aggravated [people] that I was comfortable.”
On the buzz around Don’t Worry Darling, the forthcoming psychological thriller in which Pugh stars alongside Harry Styles and the film’s director, Olivia Wilde: “When it’s reduced to your sex scenes, or to watch the most famous man in the world go down on someone, it’s not why we do it. It’s not why I’m in this industry,” Pugh says. “Obviously, the nature of hiring the most famous pop star in the world, you’re going to have conversations like that. That’s just not what I’m going to be discussing because [this movie is] bigger and better than that. And the people who made it are bigger and better than that.”
On navigating the lack of privacy and cruel comments, particularly while she began dating actor-director, Zach Braff in 2019: “Whenever I feel like that line has been crossed in my life, whether it’s paparazzi taking private moments, or moments that aren’t even real, or gossip channels that encourage members of the public to share private moments of famous people walking down the street, I think it’s incredibly wrong,” she says. “I don’t think that people, just because they have this job, that every aspect of their life should be watched and written about. We haven’t signed up for a reality TV show.”
Reflecting on having the confidence to wear what he wants: “Obviously, as you get older, you start seeing what the world shows you,” he says, “and if I lived my life that way, then I wouldn’t be able to dress in the way that I really want to.”
On seizing this moment in his career: “I’m taking advantage of this moment in my life when I can do whatever I want and wear what I want, so I get to live life more authentically,” Bad Bunny says. “I don’t do it to become more famous or to call attention or to disrespect anyone. People on the outside can think that I have a strategy or I wear this to call for attention, but in reality I just know who I am.”
On the importance of artists staying authentic: “Maybe at the very beginning of my career, I tried to pretend I was someone that I’m not, but I learned that that’s the way artists lose themselves,” he explains. “It’s because they forgot about themselves—them as a person—and invented a fictitious personality.”
On reinventing the art of the crossover: “[This is all] for more than just myself, but also for the fans and for all of the Latinos in the world,” he says. “I get emotional thinking about it…and I see it from the outside. If it wasn’t me but it was another artist, I would feel just as proud for them too,” he says with a laugh. “But obviously it’s more exciting that it is me.”
On her willingness to accept past fashion mistakes: “I look back on things that I’ve worn and I literally am so embarrassed. I’m like, what was I thinking?! That was such a miss.”
On taking style risks: “I’m never afraid to try anything. I think that just goes to show that there’s a moving evolution [in my style]. It just keeps growing. Which is kind of how I want to be in all areas of life.”
On figuring out how to deal with challenges of marriage, especially with the recent health issues she and Justin have faced: “You don’t figure things out and get married but rather get married and figure things out. “I just think life is changing all the time,” she says. “Day to day, week to week, year to year. I think a perfect example of that is over the last six months, both of us have gone through very serious health issues. You have to figure out how to deal with this s**t as it comes, you know? There’s a reason they say, ‘for better or for worse.’ Like, that’s for real!”
On putting forth the effort in her marriage to Justin Bieber and having kids: “He’s still the person that I wanna be rushing back to,” Bieber says. “I might fly somewhere and go do a job, but I can’t wait to come back and hang out. And I feel like that’s because of the effort that’s been put in on both sides. At the end of the day, like, he’s my best friend, but it still does take a lot of work to make it work. And then I know eventually, when kids come in the picture, that’s going to be a whole other season of navigating how to make that work.”
[Photo Credit: John Edmonds/Harper’s Bazaar Magazine]
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