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Each year welcomes a new class of It-girls. And though there is no exact definition for an It-girl, each one possesses the same je ne se quoi that took them from anonymous up-and-comer to A-lister-to-be. They could be a model who turned heads at that season’s Fashion Week. They could be an actress who stole the show in a summer blockbuster. They could be a singer who broke out to score a number one on the charts. Whatever their accomplishment is, each It-girl has the same X factor that makes audiences—and Hollywood—take note.
With how many up-and-comers who rose through the ranks this year, 2018 isn’t short of amazing It-girls to watch. Whether they’re models, writers, actors or singers, each It-girl brings something special to the table that makes them deserving of the title and recognition. Ahead, we’ve named the 12 most influential It-girls of 2018. These stars might not be household names yet, but they’re on their way, and we’re here to prove why.
Raking in more than $1 billion in less than a month, Black Panther was easily one of 2018’s—and the film industry’s—biggest blockbusters. As Shuri, the tech-smart, pop-culture-loving younger sister of T’Challa (a.k.a. Black Panther), Wright was the film’s most unexpected breakout. (It only takes a Google search to see the fan fervor over her iconic one-liners.) In September, the Guyana-born, London-raised actress was nominated for an Emmy for her work on Netflix’s Black Mirror. She also won a Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie Actress—Sci-Fi/Fantasy for her role in Black Panther in August. In November, she was one of The Hollywood Reporter’s four covers for the magazine’s Next Gen issue, solidifying her status as one of 2018’s It-girls.
Though Harlow has been working for years (starting with her discovery on America’s Next Top Model in 2014), 2018 was definitely her breakout year. In one year, Harlow has walked for designers and fashion houses including Tommy Hilfiger, Prabal Gurung, Christian Dior, Coach, Marc Jacobs and Elie Saab. But her biggest moment came in November when she became the first model with vitiligo to walk in the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. The model also covered such magazines as Harper’s Bazaar Singapore, Elle UK and Glamour Netherlands.
Following her historic win at the 2017 Emmys (for which she became the first Black woman to win a writing Emmy for her work on Master of None), Waithe’s mega year continued with her own show for Showtime, The Chi, a drama inspired by her upbringing in Chicago. The Chi went on to score Waithe favorable reviews and rising ratings. In March, she appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair. In May, she made a statement at the 2018 Met Gala by wearing a rainbow Pride flag as a cape. She also starred on shows such as This Is Us and Dear White People, and was featured in the film Ready Player One in 2018.
Condor was a little-known name before August when Netflix debuted her film To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. The movie, in which Condor plays a teenager whose secret love letters get accidentally sent to her crushes, was the breakout for the Vietnam-born actress, whose past roles include Jubilee in 2015’s X-Men: Apocalypse. Condor, who has more than 6 million Instagram followers (most of whom came from her To All the Boys fame), can next be seen in Syfy’s drama Deadly Class. She and her It-boy costar Noah Centineo are also set to return for the much-anticipated To All the Boys sequel.
Audiences first met Shipka as Sally Draper, Don Draper’s daughter in AMC’s Mad Men. But the actress didn’t take center stage until this October when she starred in Netflix’s darker and moodier Sabrina reboot, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. The series, a Riverdale spinoff based on the comics of the same name, was already renewed for a second season, set to be released in April 2019. Aside from Sabrina, Shipka is also well-known for her youthful and quirky style, which makes her a favorite of such designers as Alexander Wang and Prabal Gurung.
Kiyoko has been releasing music for years, but it wasn’t until 2018, when she released her debut studio album, Expectations, that the industry took notice. Not only was Kiyoko’s single “Curious” one of the contenders for 2018’s Song of the Summer, but her album was also met with favorable reviews, with many praising the singer, who is a proud lesbian, for representing the LGBTQ+ community in her music. Kiyoko also performed—not once—but twice with Taylor Swift in 2018. The first was on Swift’s Reputation Stadium Tour, attended by tens of thousands of fans, while the second was recently, at Jack Antonoff’s charity concert.
After becoming the first contestant to wear a hijab in 2016’s Miss Minnesota USA pageant, Aden pursued a model career. And though she had accomplishments like walking in Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 5 show in 2017, it wasn’t until 2018 that her fame reached a whole new level. In 2018, Aden appeared on the cover of British Vogue, Teen Vogue and Elle Uk. She also models for brands such as Philipp Plein, Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty and Max Mara.
2018 was the year of Dua Lipa. After releasing her self-titled debut album in the United States, the singer’s career went from pop stardom in the United Kingdom, where she was raised, to worldwide fame. Following the success of singles such as “New Rules” and “IDGAF,” Lipa continued her music success in 2018, with chart-topping songs like “One Kiss” with Calvin Harris and “Electricity” with Diplo. Many also predict the Albanian-British singer will be nominated for Best New Artist at the 2019 Grammys, with a shot at winning.
In 2015, Wu made history when she starred as Jessica Huang, a strict-but-loving Taiwanese mom, on ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat, the first primetime network TV show about an Asian-American family in 20 years. She made similar history again in 2018 as Rachel Chu, the lead of Crazy Rich Asians, the first studio film featuring a majority Asian-American cast in two decades. The role—and Wu’s performance—is what led to her becoming one of 2018’s It-girls. In December, she was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture—Musical or Comedy, becoming the first Asian actress to achieve the feat in more than 50 years.
Though she’s been in the spotlight for years, 2018 was Cabello’s breakout year. After leaving Fifth Harmony in 2016, Cabello worked tirelessly on her debut album as a solo artist. Following in the success of her single “Havana,” which reached number one in the tail end of 2017, Cabello continued her success with her debut album, Camila. The album, which was met with favorable reviews, also reached number one when it was released in 2018, allowing Cabello to join the exclusive club of singers who have had both their song and album in the number-one slot at the same time.
Once a YouTube star known for her parody songs and eccentric videos, Awkwafina (born Nora Lum) entered prestige Hollywood status in 2018 when she starred in Ocean’s 8, an all-female reboot of the Ocean’s franchise. Starring alongside Hollywood heavyweights like Rihanna, Sandra Bullock and Helena Bonham Carter, Awkwafina became a force to be reckoned with. Her It-girl status was only solidified in August when she starred as Peik Lin, the slap-your-knee-funny best friend in Crazy Rich Asians. In November, it was announced that Awkwafina would be starring in and producing her own TV show for Comedy Network. The eponymous show will be loosely inspired by her upbringing in Queens, New York.
Stenberg has been in the spotlight since she was a teenager, when she starred alongside Jennifer Lawrence as Rue in 2012’s The Hunger Games. 2018 saw her take center stage when she starred in three movies. In August, she played the lead in The Darkest Minds, a thriller based on the young-adult sci-fi of the same name; in September, in the war romance Where Hands Touch. Then, in October, Stenberg starred in The Hate U Give, a certified-fresh drama based on Angie Thomas’s 2017 book of the same name. Stenberg has been praised for her powerful performance in the film, which follows a teenage girl who witnesses her friend die at the hands of police brutality.