Gen Z role models that changed the game: activists and figureheads

A girl reads a book by Greta Thunberg

After looking at the Gen Z role models leading the Black Lives Matter movement, we’re expanding the series. Check out the next generation of figureheads. 

Greta Thunberg, climate change activist

93% of Gen Z students care about sustainability and the environment – and it’s fair to say that Greta Thunberg is a huge driving force behind that shared viewpoint. By highlighting the climate crisis as one that the young will inherit, she has galvanized an entire generation to become climate activists – all before she even turned 18. 

Thunberg has given up flying, eating animal products, and buying new clothes in the name of environmentalism. She is a prime example of something Gen Zs across the globe hold dear – living by your values and being authentic to the message you put out publicly. 

Hunter Schafer, actor 

When Hunter Schafer first emerged as a breakout show in HBO’s Euphoria, it was a momentous occasion for many reasons. She gave a standout performance, rocked some fantastic fashion and make-up looks – and most importantly, portrayed Jules, a Gen Z trans woman grappling with life in a suburban, not-always-accepting town. 

Jules and Schafer are not the same person – but Hunter, too, knows what it is to be a young, trans woman. Speaking on North Carolina Public Radio, she said: “I do like people to know that I’m not a cisgirl because that’s not something that I am or feel like I am. I’m proud to be a trans person.”

93% of UK Gen Zs think there is a generational divide between how different age groups view trans rights. By being open about her journey – via her role in Euphoria, but also beyond it –  Schafer has given young trans people across the world a figurehead. She also regularly campaigns for trans rights. 

Lil Nas X, rapper

Lil Nas X has all of the star quality and digital savviness needed to make waves with Gen Z. Since he first went viral with ‘Old Town Road’ in 2019, we’ve regularly seen young TikTok users hopping on dance trends that feature his music, and the 22-year-old is now reportedly worth $2m. 

It’s well-documented that merely existing as a black male in the US is an ongoing struggle. Lil Nas X knows this all too well – but as a black gay male existing in hip-hop culture, he faces some unique challenges. The young rapper has been vocal about his sexuality and has worked it into his music. He is the only artist ever to come out as gay while simultaneously being top of the Hot 100.

Gen Zs can relate to Lil Nas X – he, too, grew up a digital native with an authentic understanding of meme culture. It goes deeper, though. He represents the collision of two worlds – the often-hyper-masculine hip-hop scene, and LGBTQ+ culture. 

David Hogg, March for our Lives co-founder and gun control activist 

In 2018, a high-school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida killed 17 people and injured 17 more. The very next day, something unprecedented happened: the young survivors made the brave decision to publicise their grief and their trauma. Taking to Twitter, these students used their direct experience to advocate – urgently – for gun reform in the US. 

One such student was David Hogg. As his profile grew, Hogg poured his energy into organizing high-profile protests and marches – including the now-historic March For Our Lives student demonstration. 

Today, Hogg attends Harvard University and continues to campaign for gun control. He co-wrote a book about his experiences with his sister, Lauren. Hogg can, in part, be credited for turning a generation on to politics – when President Biden won the 2020 US Election, youth voter turnout was exceptionally high. 

This blog is part of our authenticity edit. Onto the next one: Gen Z and the tabloid circle of shame

Drive your biggest growth yet this Festive Season

Access insight-packed infographics, reports, blogs and more to fuel your holiday campaigns