To determine TIME’s annual list, we consider accolades across numerous fields, global impact through social media and overall ability to drive news. In the past, we’ve recognized everyone from singer Lorde to golf champion Lydia Ko to political activist Joshua Wong.
Laurie Hernandez, 16
Growing up, Hernandez rarely saw Latina girls like her at the gym, tearing down the vault run or tackling the balance beam. “There weren’t a lot of Hispanic role models,” she recalls, “especially in gymnatics.” Still, she didn’t think much of it—until she became one. Three months after winning Olympic gold alongside her Final Five teammates (and an individual silver), Hernandez is emerging as a star in her own right, signing an endorsement deal with Crest andcrushing competitors on ABC’sDancing with the Stars. But the most meaningful reward, she says, comes during meet-and-greets with fans, particularly from Hispanic families. “They say, You made Latinas proud! and that hits me hard,” she says. “It helps me realize that I’ve done something bigger than just gymnastics.” —Alice Park