Meet PEOPLE's Women Changing the World in 2022

Every year, PEOPLE highlights women making a major difference. Get to know this year's honorees and their groundbreaking work

01 of 10


Lizzo Rollout
Lizzo. Robin Harper

Nearly three years ago, Lizzo worked her way to the front of the pop culture scene—singing, dancing, rapping and playing the flute on her first No.1 song, "Truth Hurts"—and quickly became unstoppable. She rapped about body image. She sang about Black beauty. She told fans to put themselves first. On The Ellen DeGeneres Show, her breakthrough moment in 2019, she performed "Juice" as a self-made, self-loving, self-actualized Black woman who said clearly: I'm here now, and I'm not leaving. And, by being herself, she helped the world begin to change.

"I've worked hard," says Lizzo, 33, who is currently putting the finishing touches on a new album and is launching a reality competition show, Watch Out for the Big Grrrls, this month. "I had to blaze a trail. There was no Lizzo before Lizzo."

Read more from PEOPLE's interview with Lizzo here.

02 of 10

Rita Moreno

Rita Moreno
Ramona Rosales

Seven decades into her storied career, Rita Moreno, 90, is still breaking barriers and paving the way for inclusivity both on- and offscreen.

After becoming the first actress of Latin heritage to win an Oscar, she quit Hollywood for seven years to protest being offered roles she found demeaning and one-dimensional. Those principles also guided her to become a social activist: She witnessed Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, D.C., and marched again in the city in 2017 to demand more recovery aid for her native Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

"I've done my best work in the public eye," says Moreno. "It means a lot to remind people where I come from. I will always be a Puertorriqueña."

03 of 10

Keke Palmer

Keke Palmer - Save Our Daughters
Keke Palmer with Save Our Daughters. Courtesy

Actress Keke Palmer, 28, has made it her mission to ensure young girls receive the encouragement they need to pursue their dreams. In 2014 she began serving as a mentor for Saving Our Daughters, a nonprofit helping adolescents overcome bullying, mental health issues and low self-esteem. Since then, she's launched her own arm of the charity, Saving Our Cinderellas, focusing on instilling confidence and leadership skills in young women of color by exposing them to acting and the arts.

"I always make them a part of everything I do so they're reminded I am them and they are me," Palmer says. "That way they can see that their dreams can be a reality."

04 of 10

Aurora James

Aurora James
Phylicia J.L. Munn

In May 2020, in the wake of George Floyd's murder, Brooklyn-based fashion designer Aurora James, 37, took to Instagram with a public challenge for brands she felt were making hollow statements of solidarity: Dedicate 15 percent of your shelf space—roughly the percentage of the population that is Black in the U.S.—to Black-owned businesses.

In less than two years, James's Fifteen Percent Pledge has received the support of 28 businesses and counting—including Sephora, J.Crew, West Elm and Macy's—resulting in more than 400 Black-owned brands added to the inventory of retailers across the country.

For James, the founder of sustainable accessories line Brother Vellies, the end goal is simple: "I want to succeed in such a way that makes the pledge irrelevant."

05 of 10

Emily Penn

emily penn
Emily Penn. emily penn

As the founder of eXXpedition, Emily Penn sets sail with all-female crews of scientists, journalists and activists to investigate the causes of and solutions to ocean pollution.

"We make the unseen seen," says Penn, 35. "Both the microplastics and the overlooked women in sailing and science."

During the pandemic Penn pivoted to virtual expeditions to expand the global community and also launched SHiFT, an online platform to help people find their own ways, in their own homes, to reduce plastic dependence and combat pollution. "We don't need everyone to do everything," she explains. "But we need everyone to do something."

06 of 10

Goldie Hawn

Goldie Hawn
Coliena Rentmeester

Through her eponymous foundation, actress Goldie Hawn launched MindUP in 2003. Rooted in neuroscience, social-emotional learning (SEL) and positive psychology, the program teaches children to develop the skills they need to manage anxiety and regulate their emotions.

"It's about being mindful of all of our senses, and being focused and aware of eating, touching, listening," she explains. The program—now offered to more than 7 million schoolchildren in more than 25 countries—also lends support and training to parents and caregivers through its online community.

We have a lot of work to do to unwind the fear," says Hawn of the pandemic's effect on young people. "You don't have to move the world. You just have to be and do the best you can for them."

07 of 10

Amy Schneider

Casey Durkin/Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

Amy Schneider made history this year as Jeopardy!'s most-winning woman and the first transgender contestant to qualify for the Tournament of Champions. For the Oakland-based former engineering manager, 42, the streak was nerve-wracking, but the mission—to simply be her authentic self—remained constant.

Almost immediately after her first episode aired, messages from the LGBTQ community began pouring in. Her 40-game streak ended on Jan. 26, with nearly $1.4 million in prize money, the fourth-highest in competition history. But the experience was every bit as valuable.

"Somebody said their grandfather was using the right pronouns for a trans person for the first time ever," Schneider says. "That made me realize I was making people's lives better."

Read more from PEOPLE's interview with Amy here.

08 of 10

Oksana Masters

Oksana Masters
Tom Pennington/Getty

Born with numerous birth defects caused by radiation from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, Oksana Masters, 32, was abandoned by her parents shortly after birth and spent the first seven years of her life fighting for survival in Ukrainian orphanages.

Her adopted mother, an American professor, introduced her to rowing at 13, shortly before her second leg amputation. "The moment I got into that boat, everything changed," she says. "I was able to throw all of my anger, all of my fear, into it." Since that day, she's transformed herself into a multisport athlete, a 10-time summer and winter Paralympian medalist, a model and an advocate for others with disabilities.

Says Masters: "Breaking the mold of what society considers to be beautiful, strong and sexy feels incredible."

09 of 10

Billie Eilish & Maggie Baird

Billie Eilish
Billie Eilish and Maggie Baird. Matty Vogel

When the pandemic brought Billie Eilish's tour to a halt, the singer and her mom, actress Maggie Baird, found themselves isolating at home in L.A., looking for an environmentally conscious way to assist local restaurant owners and individuals experiencing food insecurity.

In March 2020, Baird, 62, launched the nonprofit Support + Feed in March 2020, with the goal of providing nourishing plant-based meals to people in need. "Plant-based food can feed more people," she explains. "And we're helping the local economy and the planet."

Two years since its inception, Support + Feed has expanded beyond L.A. to New York, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, and it's getting the word out to a younger audience via Eilish's eco-friendly global tour. Says the 20-year-old singer: "Having Support + Feed on tour has made me feel like there's a change in the air."

10 of 10

Monica Johnson

Monica Johnson
Monica Johnson. Kyna Uwaeme

For the past 28 years Monica Johnson's nonprofit, HEROES (Helping Everyone Receive Ongoing Effective Support), has offered medical care, counseling and professional-skills training to HIV-positive women and men, as well as sex education to 2,500 children in her rural Louisiana community.

Johnson, 57, who is HIV-positive herself, also recently secured five acres of land as the future site of a campus for classes, after-school programs, a community garden and low-income housing. The need is great—51 percent of all new HIV cases are in the South, and more than half of those newly diagnosed in the region are Black men and women.

"The people that others don't want to be bothered with," says Johnson, "we reach them and we help them."

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