13 Celebrities Who Are Making Pop Culture More Innovative, Inclusive and Interesting

Adweek looks at the year's high-profile creative icons

Actress, producer and screenwriter Lena Waithe created Showtime’s The Chi.
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High-wattage celebrities are plentiful, but only a small number make the cut each year in Adweek’s Creative 100, where we honor the actors, musicians and iconic personalities who bring multiple talents and bold perspectives to everything they do. Below, you’ll find this year’s selections, many of whom have used their considerable pop-culture platforms to create and celebrate a bigger, more inclusive world.

Solange
Artist, Musician

While many might know Solange for her contributions to the music industry—her 2016 album, A Seat at the Table, received widespread praise from critics and fans alike—this artist does much more than drop killer albums. Over the course of her career, Solange has perfected the art of connecting music with other, boundary-pushing artistic pursuits. Earlier this year, she was honored at the 70th annual Parsons Benefit for her contributions to the world of fashion, design and art.

Emblematic of her ability to merge artistic worlds can be found in this year’s Metatronia. In the performance art installation, which she directed, a series of dancers performs different movements in front of a massive cube sculpture. Solange partnered with Uniqlo, agency Droga5 London and the Hammer Museum on the piece, meant to explore the process of creation while also highlighting Uniqlo’s line of sportswear.

Solange says about the work: “Continuing my practices and interest in exploring the relationship of movement and architecture as a meditation, Metatronia centers around building frequency and creating change through visual storytelling.”

Solange also brought her directing talents to the music video for SZA’s hit song “The Weekend,” and it was recently announced that Solange’s Saint Heron collective will be collaborating with Ikea on an as-yet-undefined project about “architectural and design objects with multifunctional use.”
Katie Richards

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The Entire Cast of The Good Place
Actors

Creator and showrunner Michael Schur expected that audiences would initially watch his wildly inventive NBC sitcom about the afterlife because of stars Ted Danson and Kristen Bell.

“But we all knew this is an ensemble,” he says. “It was always going to be about four people [D’Arcy Carden, William Jackson Harper, Manny Jacinto and Jameela Jamil] who are locked in a weird, private hell , the demon who was torturing them [Danson] and the weird repository for all the knowledge in the universe that is there for the ride [Carden].”

To fill out a cast that deftly sells every farcical twist and matches comedic wits with Danson and Bell, Schur credits casting director Allison Jones and her associate Ben Harris for “finding these people who no one’s ever seen before, who magically fit the roles perfectly. Jameela was a host from England, and had never acted before. Manny is a Filipino kid from Vancouver, Will was a New York theater actor, and D’Arcy was an L.A. improvisational actor.”

For Season 2, as The Good Place switched gears with the big revelation that its characters were actually in “the bad place,” Schur and his writing team amplified the cast’s comedic strengths (“we know what the weapons are now,” he explains), leading to more moments like a scene early in Season 2 where the cast distracts Jacinto’s dopey Jason with a lit sparkler, to his utter delight. “It’s a very simple scene,” Schur says, “but they’re so alive with each other, that even those tiny, throwaway moments become really special.”
Jason Lynch

Lena Waithe
Actress, Producer, Screenwriter

This is Lena Waithe’s moment. This year alone, Waithe appeared in Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One and stole the spotlight on the red carpet at the annual Met Gala wearing  a colorful, pride-inspired cape. She’s earned accolades and notice for her breakout role in the Netflix series Master of None, where she plays Denise, a character coming to terms with her sexuality. Then there’s Showtime’s The Chi, which Waithe created and serves as executive producer.

This story first appeared in the June 11, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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