20 Under 20: Young Women Who Are Already Kicking Ass and Taking Names
We all dream about what we want to be when we grow up, but in today's society, there's no need to wait for adulthood — and, yes, the future is female. Take the following list, for example, which is chock-full of young women who run the gamut from TV stars to Olympic athletes to activists — and they haven't even hit the legal drinking age yet. In 2020, we're celebrating some of the most influential young women who are already gaining well-deserved recognition in their respective fields. And while each has already made an impact, we can't wait to see how they continue to level up.
If Jenna Ortega looks familiar, it's probably because she's already shown off her acting chops in a bunch of buzzy shows. The versatile 17-year-old actress played Young Jane on Jane the Virgin and Harley Diaz on the Disney Channel series Stuck in the Middle. Recently, she took on a more dramatic role as Ellie Alves in the Netflix series You.
With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on the horizon, Sunisa Lee should certainly be on any sports fan's radar. A member of the United States women's national gymnastics team and an incredible athlete in her own right, Sunisa placed second overall behind Simone Biles at the 2019 World Championships and brought home a silver medal in floor exercise and a bronze medal in the uneven bars. How's that for impressive?!
What's next: She's currently vying for one of four coveted spots on the US Olympic team roster.
As both an actress and the youngest executive producer ever for a major film, we're already impressed with this Texas native, and she's just getting started. Best known for playing Diane Johnson on the ABC comedy series Black-ish, she also starred in the 2019 movie Little (where she earned her first producer credit). Long story short: she's completely crushing it.
What's next: In addition to appearing weekly on Black-ish, Marsai's production company, Genius Productions, is working on a film adaptation of the novel Amari and the Night Brothers.
Rebekah has been an activist and public speaker for trans rights ever since she transitioned at the age of 8. She has testified at the New Jersey state legislature about the importance of letting trans individuals change the sex on their birth certificate and was selected to be part of Marvel's Hero Project on Disney+, which highlights kids who are changing the world.
What's next: Rebekah is joining the Gender Cool Project, a youth movement that seeks to reframe misinformed opinions about the LGBTQ+ community.
The youngest child of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow has carved out her own niche alongside her parents and brother Jaden. In addition to sharing wise-beyond-her-years advice on her family's Facebook Watch Series, Red Table Talk, the "Whip My Hair" singer came out as bisexual in 2019 and has been a major advocate for mental health and climate change. She released her third album, Willow, in July 2019.
What's next: After wrapping up a two-month-long tour with Jaden in 2019, Willow recently announced she started a band with musician Tyler Cole.
Caroline became the youngest surfer to ever qualify for the women's Championship Tour at just 17 years old. She also holds multiple championship titles and is the youngest woman to ever compete in a World Surf League event. How's that for girl power? She ended the 2018 World Surf League season in seventh place, earning the Rookie of the Year honor.
What's next: Caroline is one of the two women who qualified for USA's first-ever Olympic surfing team. Catch her riding the waves in Tokyo in 2020.
The singer-songwriter and captivating performer wowed judges and stole our hearts when she won the 11th season of America's Got Talent. After releasing her first full-length album at the age of 13 (wow!), she has toured with Imagine Dragons and on her own Just the Beginning tour. Just the beginning, indeed!
What's next: Get ready to see Grace in the Disney+ movie Stargirl, which will be released on March 13.
An influencer and strategist for Kamala Harris's presidential campaign, the Columbia University student is a fierce advocate for the reproductive justice movement. She was even dubbed "the new face of Planned Parenthood" by The Washington Post in 2017.
What's next: Deja is still encouraging young people to fight for what they believe in on social media and will be giving a TED Talk in April 2020.
A YouTube personality with more than 8.5 million subscribers to date, Emma's honest — and often quirky — videos prove that you don't have to be perfect to be successful. Since launching her channel in 2017, she has been candid about how social media affects body image and mental health. Emma has even turned her passion for coffee into a side hustle, launching mail-order company Chamberlain Coffee.
What's next: Emma recently debuted her newly formatted podcast, Anything Goes, which was previously known as Stupid Genius.
A power forward for Paris Saint-Germain and the Canada national team, Jordyn earned the Golden Boot — an award given to the best soccer player during an Olympic qualifying match — after scoring seven goals in the Concacaf Olympic Qualifying Tournament in February 2020. Whether you're an athlete or not, scoring seven goals in a single game is a big deal.
What's next: Thanks to Jordyn and her teammates, Canada's National Team has successfully secured a spot in the 2020 Olympic Games, so we'll be following her footballer skills in Tokyo!
Millie Bobby Brown
Easily recognized from her breakout role as Eleven on Stranger Things, Millie already has an Emmy nomination under her belt. Not too bad for a teenager, right? In addition to making waves on the big and small screens, Millie recently launched a makeup line, Florence by Mills. She also carves out time to give back as the youngest person to become a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
What's next: Catch her in The Thing About Jellyfish and Godzilla vs. Kong, which will be released in 2020.
Proud of her title as "Little Miss Flint," Mari is a well-known activist who has worked tirelessly to draw attention to the water crisis in Flint, MI, ever since penning a letter to Barack Obama at 8 years old. Alluding to herself as the "future president" in her Twitter bio, she also regularly raises funds to help Flint students in need. You bet she has what it takes to be our commander in chief one day!
What's next: Mari is still using her social media presence to bring attention to the water crisis. She also plans to run for president when she's eligible in 2044.
Skateboarder Sky Brown will likely be one of the most talked-about athletes at the Olympic Games this year. At 11 years old, she's set to become the youngest Summer Olympian to represent Great Britain and rank among the youngest Olympians to compete for any country in history — once she officially qualifies. Sky also works with the charity Skateistan, which builds schools in developing countries.
What's next: Sky has all but secured her Olympic debut in Tokyo this Summer.
After playing Meg Murray in the 2018 adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, Storm nabbed the role of Gia in the HBO series Euphoria. Fun fact: she also appeared in JAY-Z and Beyoncé's music video for "Family Feud." Additionally, Storm is the founder of Bamazing, a group that empowers youth by helping them embrace self-love. She also recently added runway model to her résumé, making her debut during Paris Fashion Week.
What's next: As we await the second season of Euphoria, Storm is set to star in the 2020 movie The Invisible Man and The Suicide Squad, which hits theaters in 2021.
Arguably the face of the climate change movement after going viral in 2019 for her impassioned speech at the UN Climate Change Conference, Swedish teen Greta Thunberg is a published author and internationally recognized activist. She organized the student-led movement Fridays For Future and works diligently to reduce the collective carbon footprint. She has been nominated for two Nobel Peace Prizes so far, with no signs of slowing down.
What's next: Greta continues to travel the world, striking every Friday to raise awareness for climate change. A documentary about her life is also in the works.
Josie Totah is known for her recurring role on the Disney Channel series Jessie and her starring role on the 2013 ABC comedy series Back in the Game. In 2018, she came out as transgender, and she regularly speaks on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community. She also received critical praise for her role as Justin in the 2016 film Other People.
What's next: Josie will play Lexi in the much-anticipated Saved by the Bell reboot that will run on NBC's new streaming service, Peacock.
Known for her breakout role as Buffy Driscoll on Disney Channel's Andi Mack, Sofia Wylie now stars as Gina Porter on the Disney+ series High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. A true triple threat, she's a talented dancer and passionate animal-rights activist. Her adorable dog Baby Violet even has her very own Instagram account (so slam that "follow" button)!
What's next: In 2019, Sofia launched her production company, AIFOS Productions, which will adapt the YA novel The Fall of Innocence for the big screen.
As the youngest person to ever have a nationally syndicated podcast, Sammy Jaye spends her days interviewing celebrities, like Kesha and Camila Cabello, on her iHeartRadio Show Let's Be Real. Working as Radio Disney's East Coast correspondent for three years, she's looking forward to getting down to the nitty gritty with celebrities and politicians.
What's next: Tune in to Sammy's weekly podcast to get a peek at who she's speaking with next!
As a two-time US national figure skating champion, Alyssa is the youngest woman to ever become a ladies' national champion at the age of 13. But Alyssa's milestones don't end there — she's also the first junior American woman to successfully complete a triple axel in a competition, as well as the first female figure skater to ever land a quadruple lutz.
What's next: Alyssa has a bit of a wait for the next Winter Olympics, but we have a feeling we'll be hearing her name a lot more when the 2022 Games draw closer.
A passionate climate activist, Jamie is the cofounder and director of Zero Hour, a Seattle-based organization that encourages young people to push for more attention on climate change. With bylines in publications like CNN and The Huffington Post, Jamie was recently part of a youth group that sued the state of Washington and Governor Jay Inslee over greenhouse-gas emissions.
What's next: According to her annual goals list, which was published in The Seattle Times, Jamie is planning to write a book.