50 of the most successful people in the world in the past year

50 successful people last year 2x1Andrew Lipovsky/NBC; Alex Wong/Getty; Hollis Johnson/Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

There's no one way to define success - it comes in many shapes and forms.

Looking at various measures of success, we rounded up some of the most accomplished, influential people of the past year. We determined this list based on candidates' achievements in their field or industry and influence throughout 2018 and into the first four months of 2019. We also took net worth and name recognition into consideration.

From tech and sports to entertainment and fashion, the list spans a variety of industries. There's the world's youngest self-made billionaire, the Salinger of the millennial generation, the record-breaking superstar, the athlete with the most Super Bowl wins, the leaders shaping Silicon Valley, and the creatives who have opened up the door for diversity in Hollywood.

See below for some of the most successful people in the past year, ranked by birth year from youngest to oldest.

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Chloe Kim

Chloe Kim

Year born: 2000

Snowboarder Chloe Kim became a breakout star at the 2018 Winter Olympics, taking home a gold medal at age 17, which made her the youngest halfpipe medalist in Olympics history. In February, she added yet another world championship to her name after winning the women's snowboard halfpipe final at the freestyle ski and snowboard world championships in Park City, Utah. She's now an X Games, US Open, and world champion.

Kylie Jenner

Kylie Jenner

Year born: 1997

In March, Kylie Jenner became the youngest self-made billionaire ever at the ripe age of 21, according to Forbes. Her net worth comes largely from her eponymous, self-owned cosmetic line, Kylie Cosmetics, which she launched in 2015. Three years later, the company is worth $900 million.

Jenner was named the most influential celebrity on Lyst's 2018 Year in Fashion Report and has immense social media clout — she's one of the top 10 most followed celebrities on Instagram.

Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande

Year born: 1993

Starting her career on Broadway and in Nickelodeon series Victorious, Ariana Grande is now one of pop music's biggest names. Her fourth and highly anticipated album "Sweetener" earned recognition after its August release. Just two months later, Grande surprised fans by releasing the smash hit "thank u, next" — a single whose music video later broke records on YouTube with 55.4 million views in 24 hours — and later announcing another new album under the same name.

Grande is currently on tour performing songs from both albums and she headlined Coachella in April, making her the youngest performer in the festival's history. Billboard named her 2018's Woman of the Year.

Cardi B

Cardi B

Year born: 1992

Cardi B catapulted to super-fame and built her net worth to a reported $8 million in just a few years, reported INSIDER's Vinciane Ngomsi. The Bronx native went from moonlighting as an adult entertainer to being a Billboard-topping rapper. In October 2018, a year after her debut single "Bodak Yellow" topped the charts, she made her 20th appearance on Billboard's all-genre singles chart, according to Forbes. In 2019, she won a Grammy for best rap album of the year.

She's been headlining music festivals, collaborating with other chart-topping artists, promoting her debut album, and working on a design collaboration with FashionNova.

Sally Rooney

Sally Rooney

Year born: 1991

Irish author Sally Rooney's second novel, "Normal People," was published in 2018 in Ireland and in 2019 in the US to critical acclaim. It has been longlisted for several prizes, including the Women's Prize for Fiction and Man Booker Price. "Normal People" has quickly become a book club staple, and carrying a Sally Rooney book has been said to be a new Instagram status symbol.

Rooney has been called the "first great millennial novelist," and "Salinger for the Snapchat generation," reported Dennis Tang for TeenVogue.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Year born: 1989

At the age of 29, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress — the self-declared Democratic socialist won 78% of the vote in the general election on a low-budget campaign.

Born in the Bronx to a working-class family, Ocasio-Cortez worked as a Manhattan bartender after graduating from Boston University and helped organize Bernie Sanders' 2016 campaign. She was sworn in as a congresswoman on January 3 and is pushing an ambitious set of policy priorities, including the Green New Deal.

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift

Year born: 1989

With a Forbes estimated net worth of $320 million as of July, Taylor Swift is one of the world's highest-paid celebrities. A huge player in the music industry for more than a decade, Swift has 10 Grammy Awards under her belt. In 2018, her Reputation Stadium Tour became the highest-grossing tour in US history, grossing over $266 million.

In April, Swift dropped a new single and music video with Panic! at the Disco's Brendon Urie.

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga

Year born: 1986

After first achieving fame with her first studio album when she was just 22, Lady Gaga is still making headlines. In the past few years, she released her fifth studio album "Joanne" along with her biopic "Five Foot Two." She has also acted in several seasons of the TV drama "American Horror Story," though her biggest acting gig brought her recognition at this year's award shows.

For her lead role as Ally in Bradley Cooper's remake of "A Star Is Born," Gaga earned a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, a Grammy and an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Her success started talks of achieving EGOT status someday.

Ryan Coogler

Ryan Coogler

Year born: 1986

Ryan Coogler directed and co-wrote Marvel film "Black Panther," which ended up being a box-office hit. It was the first movie of its budget ($200 million) to feature a majority cast of African descent, according to Anne Thompson of IndieWire. Rolling Stone hailed the movie as revolutionary, ushering in a new era for black superheroes, but its scope didn't stop there — ultimately, the movie looked at what it meant to be black in America, Africa, and the world, wrote Jamil Smith of TIME.

Emily Weiss

Emily Weiss

Year born: 1985

Emily Weiss is upending and disrupting the beauty industry. The former Vogue fashion assistant set up beauty blog Into the Gloss in 2010. Four years later, she launched cult beauty brand Glossier, of which Weiss is currently the CEO. In early 2019, the brand hit unicorn status with new funding that put its value at $1.2 billion, reported Katie Roof and Yuliya Chernova of The Wall Street Journal.

Logan Green

Logan Green

Year born: 1984

Logan Green is the co-founder and CEO of Lyft, which he started with Lyft's president, John Zimmer, reported Business Insider's Katie Warren. The ride-sharing service was the first of many anticipated tech IPOs in 2019; it's also the biggest IPO so far in 2019. At the time of the IPO, Lyft's valuation was $23.4 billion.

John Zimmer

John Zimmer

Year born: 1984

John Zimmer is the other half behind the success of Lyft. Zimmer got the idea for a ridesharing service when organizing carpools during college and connected with Green via Facebook, who also had car-sharing ideas. They officially launched Lyft in 2012. Today, Zimmer is president of the company, helping to guide it into its IPO.

Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg

Year born: 1984

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, has been "regarded as one of the most brilliant minds of his generation," wrote Business Insider's Paige Leskin. He created a social network — which he dropped out of Harvard to fully develop — with more monthly active users than any single country in the world has people, Leskin reported. He's continued to defend the site amid recent controversies.

He's also donated millions into education efforts and billions into initiatives for curing the world's diseases.

Leana Wen

Leana Wen

Year born: 1983

An immigrant from China, Dr. Leanna Wen graduated from college at age 18, and it was only the beginning of her success. In 2018, the former health commissioner for Baltimore became president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund — the first physician in nearly 50 years to do so.

Wen is currently working to expand non-abortion services to Planned Parenthood — like treatment for opioid addiction, diabetes management, and mental health counseling.

Donald Glover

Donald Glover

Year born: 1983

Acting under his given name and performing under the pseudonym Childish Gambino, Daniel Glover enjoyed a successful year both on-screen and onstage. He played a young Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars' franchise movie "Solo" while his single "This Is America" quickly rose to the top of Billboard's Hot 100. The song brought home four Grammys and its accompanying music video was praised for its commentary on gun violence.

Glover debuted a new Amazon Prime movie with Rihanna following his performance at Coachella this year. Glover will also lend his voice for the upcoming live-action adaptation of the "The Lion King" in the lead role of Simba.

Kate Middleton

Kate Middleton

Year born: 1982

Kate Middleton's influence has only grown since marrying Prince William. The Duchess of Cambridge is the most powerful royal fashion influencer and the most liked UK "icon," according to a Brand Finance survey from October. It found that when she wears something, it "increases the desirability" among 38% of US shoppers, reported Katie Nicholl of Vanity Fair.

Beyoncé Knowles-Carter

Beyoncé Knowles-Carter

Year born: 1981

Following the success of her 2016 album Lemonade, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter headlined Coachella last April, making her the first black female artist in the festival's history. The legendary performance was documented in the film "Homecoming." Written, directed, and produced by Knowles-Carter, the documentary aired on Netflix this April, marking the show's one-year anniversary.

Knowles-Carter also spent the majority of last year on tour with husband and fellow performer Jay-Z. The tour grossed more than $253 million and included new music released by the couple under the artist name "THE CARTERS" in June of 2018.

Meghan Markle

Meghan Markle

Year born: 1981

Meghan Markle became a fashion icon from the moment she announced her royal engagement. Known as the "Meghan Markle effect," everything she wears is idolized to the point where she's driving more than $1 billion to the UK fashion industry, Business Insider's Tanza Loudenback reported.

She's also continued to yield influence as a spokeswoman for women's rights, equality, and diversity, as seen in the women's suffrage speech she gave in New Zealand last October.

Serena Williams

Serena Williams

Year born: 1981

Serena Williams is regarded as the most dominant women's tennis player ever, Business Insider's Alan Dawson wrote. She is a 23-time Grand Slam champion and has earned over $88 million in career prize money. She won her last Grand Slam at the Australian Open in 2017 — while she was pregnant.

After a 14-month maternity leave, Williams returned to the court in 2018, when she reached the finals of both Wimbledon and the US Open. According to ESPN writer Alyssa Roenigk, the year may have been Williams' most impactful one yet — not because of her game, but because she finally opened up to the public, specifically about her struggles as a mom.

Williams also has a clothing line with HSN and runs the Serena Williams Fund, which builds schools in Kenya and Jamaica to provide education to underprivileged youth.

Virgil Abloh

Virgil Abloh

Year born: 1980

Since launching Off White in 2013, Virgil Abloh has become a major name in fashion. In the past year, the brand — which has been worn by celebrities from Serena Williams to Rihanna — was named Hottest Fashion Brand by Lyst Index. Abloh also designed Kendall Jenner's outfit for last year's Met Gala, and this year's event will display his infamous "Little Black Dress."

Jacinda Ardern

Jacinda Ardern

Year born: 1980

As Business Insider's Kelly McLaughlin reported previously, Jacinda Ardern is New Zealand's youngest prime minister to date. Ardern took office in 2017 and has since received praise for her efforts in reducing racism and sexism in the country.

In the past month, Ardern made headlines for her response to the Christchurch mosque shootings — New Zealand's deadliest shooting in history. Under Ardern's leadership, New Zealand government banned many types of automatic rifles just 28 days after the attack.

Jennifer Hyman

Jennifer Hyman

Year born: 1980

Founder and CEO of Rent the Runway, Harvard-grad Jennifer Hyman launched her company in 2015. Achieving unicorn status — a company valued at $1 billion or more — in March, Rent the Runway revolutionized how people can afford luxury brands; Hyman's customers pay a fraction of the total cost to rent a dress, purse, or other clothing items. New York Times reporter Sapna Maheshwari also reported the company plans to open a second warehouse in Dallas in addition to an 8,000 square-foot storefront in San Francisco.

Tom Brady

Tom Brady

Year born: 1977

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady won his sixth Super Bowl title in 2019, making him the first player in history to do so. According to SBNation, Brady also holds several other Super Bowl records: He's played more Super Bowls (9) than any other player, holds the most passing touchdowns (18), and the most pass completions.

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods

Year born: 1975

Tiger Woods claimed his 15th major championship at the 2019 Masters following an 11-year spell without any major championship victories, during which he overcame scandals in his private life and four back surgeries.

Woods' comeback began in August 2018, when he rose back up the World Golf Ranking from the 1,199th spot to the 26th spot — just eight months after undergoing spinal fusion, Business Insider's Alan Dawson reported.

Tarana Burke

Tarana Burke

Year born: 1973

Tarana Burke founded the #MeToo movement back in 2016, which supports survivors of sexual violence and aims to help end sexual violence. In 2017, the hashtag went viral, causing a flood of calls to sexual assault hotlines and women across a variety of industries to speak out on sexual abuse.

Her memoir, "Where the Light Enters," is expected to come out early this year.

Kevin Kwan

Kevin Kwan

Year born: 1973

Kevin Kwan's novel, "Crazy Rich Asians," and its two sequels, sold 1.5 million copies in 2018 , according to the Associated Press.

The first book was turned into a film in 2018, which made more than $140 million in its first month in the US alone. It was the first major film production in 25 years to tell a story about Asian Americans and feature an Asian-led cast. It's also the first ever all-Asian romantic comedy made by a major studio, reported Carrie Wittmer. According to Karen K. Ho of TIME, the movie is going to change Hollywood.

Alessandro Michele

Alessandro Michele

Year born: 1972

Creative director of fashion label Gucci, Alessandro Michele is largely credited with the revival of the historic brand. Business Insider's Jessica Tyler previously reported the brand has become popular particularly amongst millennials and teens. "Logo-mania" has also fueled the brand's wild success — Gucci saw sales rise over 46% in the first half of 2018.

Despite recent controversies, Gucci has thrived since Michele assumed the position in 2015. This year, Michele is co-chairing the Met Gala along with Serena Williams, Lady Gaga, and Harry Styles.

Sandra Oh

Sandra Oh

Year born: 1971

Actress Sandra Oh made history three times at the 2019 Golden Globes, reported Vox's Constance Grady. Oh was the Golden Globes' first host of Asian descent, the first woman of Asian descent to win multiple Globes, and the first woman of Asian descent in nearly 40 years to win a Globe for best actress in a TV drama.

Shonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes

Year born: 1970

Forbes called Shonda Rhimes "television's $135 million showrunner." In 2017, Rhimes signed a $100 million, four-year pact with Netflix — one of the first showrunners to have an exclusive deal with Netflix. Last year, she continued to make strides with the streaming service by unveiling a variety of eight new projects for it.

These projects are likely to continue Rhimes' track record for breaking TV barriers.

Eric Yuan

Eric Yuan

Age: 48

Eric Yuan, CEO of video-conferencing company Zoom, recently joined the tech billionaire club among the likes of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jeff Bezos. Zoom went public in April 2019 with a valuation of nearly $16 billion — a move that made Yuan, who has a 20.5% stake in the company's stock, worth more than $3 billion, Business Insider's Paige Leskin reported.

Yuan founded Zoom in 2011 — just six years later, it was worth $1 billion.

Dara Khosrowshahi

Dara Khosrowshahi

Year born: 1969

Previously the CEO of Expedia, Dara Khosrowshahi took over as CEO of Uber in 2017 following founder Travis Kalanick's departure amidst company scandals. Recent reporting from Business Insider's Graham Rapier shows that Uber's filing for an IPO this month could become one of the biggest offerings in years. With 196,000 shares — one of the biggest stakes in the company — Khosrowshahi is one of Uber's execs poised to become rich from the IPO.

Satya Nadella

Satya Nadella

Year born: 1967

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has been credited with reinventing the company.

In his five years so far, Nadella has helped Microsoft double down on cloud computing, with businesses like the Office 365 subscription productivity suite and Microsoft Azure cloud platform, both of which have helped Microsoft transition beyond the Windows PC and into the modern era. Most recently, he's staked Microsoft's claim in the worlds of artificial intelligence, edge computing, and augmented reality.

Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos

Year born: 1964

With a rough net worth of $150 billion, Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world — and, as Bloomberg put it, the richest man in modern history. In 1994, Bezos founded Amazon.com in a garage. In September 2018, it briefly became the second US company to achieve a valuation of more than $1 trillion.

In 2018, Amazon decided New York City would play home to its second headquarters, but it canceled these plans in February. Bezos himself made news this year when he and wife MacKenzie announced they were getting divorced.

Melinda Gates

Melinda Gates

Year born: 1964

A longtime philanthropist, Melinda Gates has co-chaired the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for almost two decades. Gates released her book "The Moment of Life" on April 23. Business Insider's US Editor-in-Chief Alison Shontell interviewed Gates, who detailed her three careers along with the foundation's contributions to help solve for global problems.

Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama

Year born: 1964

Since leaving the White House in 2017, former First Lady Michelle Obama released her memoir "Becoming" in December of 2018. The book quickly rose to the top of Amazon's charts, and currently has sold nearly 10 million copies. According to the Washington Post, the book is on track to become the best-selling memoir of all time.

Obama is currently promoting her book on tour, which includes several celebrity moderators and will conclude in Nashville this month. Vox previously reported the size of audiences was "unprecedented" compared to usual book tours. While most cap at a few thousand, Obama spoke to a crowd of 20,000 people at the Barclays Center in December.

Alfonso Cuarón

Alfonso Cuarón

Year born: 1961

Previously known for directing films including "Gravity" and "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," Alfonso Cuarón, won best director for his latest project "Roma" at this year's Academy Awards. Business Insider's Jason Guerrasio reported how "Roma" made history: Amongst other accolades, the film was the first Mexican movie to win the award for best foreign film. Additionally, "Roma" earned Netflix its first best picture nomination and sparked discussions on how the streaming service continues to disrupt the film industry.

Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen DeGeneres

Year born: 1958

A longtime household name for her eponymous talk show, Ellen DeGeneres enjoyed her most successful year yet after earning $87.6 million in 2018. According to Forbes, DeGeneres ranked No. 15 on a list of last year's highest-paid entertainers. She returned to stand-up comedy after a 15-year absence and was the first female comedian to strike a $20 million deal with Netflix.

DeGeneres started 2018 with the announcement of the Ellen Degeneres Wildlife Fund, a 60th birthday gift from her wife, actress Portia de Rossi. She also appeared in Maroon 5's music video for "Girls Like You" along with other famous women and launched a new clothing line with Walmart. Degeneres is also an executive producer for the popular sitcom "Splitting Up Together," which debuted last March.

Bill Gates

Bill Gates

Year born: 1954

Bill Gates hit an estimated net worth of more than $100 billion in March, becoming only the second person in the world with a 12-figure net worth. Gates cofounded Microsoft in 1975, and it became the first software company to generate $1 billion in sales. In 2018, it surpassed Apple as the most valuable public company until Apple took reign again in February.

He and wife Melissa also launched the Giving Pledge in 2010, in which they promise to donate the majority of their billions to charity. So far, more than 150 billionaires have signed.

Bob Iger

Bob Iger

Year born: 1951

Completing a $71 billion deal with Rupert Murdoch, Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger secured 21st Century Fox among the conglomerate's latest purchases. In the past several years, Iger has overseen acquisitions including the Star Wars franchise through Lucasfilms, Marvel, and Pixar. Disney also recently announced plans to launch its own streaming service called Disney Plus. Featured on Business Insider's list of 100 people transforming the world of business, Iger earned $65 million last year.

Richard Branson

Richard Branson

Year born: 1950

Sir Richard Branson has come a long way since dropping out of high school at age 15 — as the billionaire chair and founder of the Virgin Group, Branson has overseen around 500 companies. In November, Branson invested in express rail service Brightline. As part of the partnership, he renamed it Virgin Trains USA. So far, the move has earned Virgin Group more than $386 million, reported Rob Davies for The Guardian.

In February, the company successfully launched a rocket with Beth Moses — the chief astronaut instructor for Virgin Galactic — and two pilots onboard. Along with efforts from fellow billionaires Jeff Bezos at BlueOrigin and Elon Musk at SpaceX, the launch was another step towards accessible space tourism.

Along with upcoming hotels, Branson recently announced plans for his adults-only cruise line, set to launch in 2020.

Bernard Arnault

Bernard Arnault

Year born: 1949

Chairman and CEO of the world's largest luxury goods company, Bernard Arnault surpassed Warren Buffett as the third-richest person this year. Previous reporting from Business Insider's Katie Warren showed his company earned nearly $53 billion in revenue last year.

Following the Notre-Dame fire, Arnault — along with other billionaires — pledged millions to help restore the historic cathedral. Arnault donated €200 million, or $226 million.

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren

Year born: 1949

In February, Senator Elizabeth Warren announced her candidacy for the upcoming 2020 election. Joining the ranks of many other Democratic candidates, Warren continues to make headlines as she builds her campaign. Featured on Business Insider's list of people transforming how we think about capitalism, Warren recently proposed her plans to forgive student-loan debt.

George R.R. Martin

George R.R. Martin

Year born: 1948

George R.R. Martin went from chess tournament player and journalism professor to best-selling author. In 1996, the first installment of the "Game of Thrones" series was published; 10 years later, the books sold 70 million copies and Martin had a net worth of $15 million.

Since then, "Game of Thrones" has expanded into a franchise with a smash hit TV series, launched in 2011 on HBO. Fans are eagerly awaiting the series finale this April.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

Year born: 1946

President Donald Trump took office in 2017 and has continued to make waves with his presidency ever since. So far he's helped create 4 million new jobs, implemented a new tax reform, and secured $6 billion in new funding to cure the opiod epidemic. Trump "has kept faith with his core supporters," according to Yuwa Hedrick-Wong of Forbes. His policies and actions have also left the nation — and the world — talking.

President isn't the only career on Trump's resume — he's also a real estate mogul, author, and former producer and host of NBC's The Apprentice.

Robert Mueller

Robert Mueller

Year born: 1944

After years of serving as FBI director, Robert Mueller was appointed to serve as special counsel for the investigation of the Trump campaign's coordination with Russian intelligence. Mueller's investigation included the crucial testimonies of Donald Trump's longtime lawyer Michael Cohen and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort's associate Rick Gates.

The long-awaited, 400-page report was finally delivered to Attorney General William Barrand in March.

Mitch McConnell

Mitch McConnell

Year born: 1942

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has seated two Supreme Court justices and 83 lower-court judges since President Trump took office, reported Charles Homans of The New York Times. His tactical skills and effectiveness in shaping Congress the way he envisions it is creating a legacy that will last for decades after he leaves office.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Year born: 1936

Pope Francis has been credited with modernizing and changing the direction of the Catholic Church, from his views on climate change to divorce. In February, he called church leaders to Rome for a meeting in which he addressed clergy sex abuse, which has been called "a historic move" for the Catholic Church.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Year born: 1933

Bypassing health concerns and finishing her 25th year as a Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg continues to serve as an advocate for women's rights. The documentary "RBG" — which chronicles her career — debuted in May of 2018.

Comedian Kate McKinnon continues to play Ginsburg in a recurring role on Saturday Night Live; Ginsburg continues to appear elsewhere in pop culture, including a special edition Samuel Adams beer and "Notorious RBG" merchandise.

Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch

Year born: 1931

Rupert Murdoch continues to serve as the co-chairman of Fox Corporation and the executive chairman of the News Corp media empire, which owns The Wall Street Journal. Just this year, Murdoch finalized his deal with the Walt Disney Company: Disney purchased Fox for $71 billion, substantially growing Murdoch's family's fortune.

Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett

Year born: 1930

Investor Warren Buffett is the third-richest person in the US. He began building his wealth by investing in the stock market at age 11. In 1962, he bought stock in Berkshire Hathaway — today he's CEO of the company. His optimism and measured approach has been influential to others during times when the market is bad, CNBC's Zameena Mejia reported.

His measure of success helped shape Bill Gates' 2018, CNBC reported. Buffett is also regarded as one of the most generous philanthropists in the world, having donated more than $46 billion since 2000.

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