The Glow Up 50 2021: Celebrating Our Style Innovators

The mixed bag that was 2020 may not have brought much in the way of stylish moments—though face masks, tie-dyed sweatsuits and wireless bras certainly had one. But just before world locked down last March, we launched The Glow Up 50, our inaugural list of Black tastemakers, trendsetters and talents in five categories: Beauty, Fashion, Hair, Image and Influence, plus our lifetime achievement honor, The Dap Award, so named for its first-ever recipient, designer, author and renaissance man, Dapper Dan.

To refresh your memory: “The 50 honorees chosen for the first class of The Glow Up 50 regularly set trends, champion inclusion in their respective industries, and are unabashedly Black in their approach, whether it be diversifying the beauty aisle or the red carpet.”


Our second class of honorees is equally impressive; of course, what we couldn’t have anticipated is how the addition of a “racial reckoning” to this past year’s bingo card would further up the “unabashedly Black” ante. As the fashion, beauty and media industries were among many that learned (often the hard way) that representation and inclusion aren’t optional but imperative, this past year has seen an unprecedented amount of Black excellence rising to well-deserved leadership roles, breaking new ground and achieving new “firsts” (however overdue they may be). Most importantly, these forces of nature have been joining forces to hold their respective industries accountable beyond black boxes and platitudes and into the long-term.


Of course, this didn’t make our 2021 judging committee’s job any easier. Even after excluding several luminaries who were recently honored in the The Root 100, we had a large pool to choose from—and there were a few honorees who made such major moves since our last TGU 50 that we simply couldn’t leave them off of this year’s list. Alas, there can only be 50, but we are well aware our ultimate list is only a small sampling of the broad swath of Black creatives worthy of celebration this year.

How were our 50 chosen? These deserving talents were nominated, debated and diligently ranked by our six-person committee of style-watchers and industry experts led by myself, Managing Editor of The Glow Up, Maiysha Kai. Thanks are due to this year’s committee of The Root colleagues: Senior Editor and Very Smart Brotha Panama Jackson; Senior Political Editor (and resident hypebeast) Stephen Crockett; Staff Entertainment Writer Tonja Stidhum; News Editor Monique Judge; and freelance Entertainment Writer Shanelle Genai, who, along with Editorial Assistant Bella Morais, deserve special thanks for helping to research and report on this year’s honorees. Additionally, this year’s list has been brought to life by The Root’s Webby Award-winning video team, who will be helping us announce this year’s honorees day by day, one featurette at a time.

Watch our video above for your introduction to The Glow Up 50, and stay tuned to The Glow Up all this week as we reveal our 2021 honorees—starting later today with our luminaries in the realm of Beauty.

(Video production: Jessica Moulite; Animations: Heather Hass)

Maiysha Kai is managing editor of The Glow Up, host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast and Big Beauty Tuesdays, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. May I borrow some sugar?

Jessica Moulite is an award-winning Video Producer at The Root passionate about dismantling unjust societal power structures and all things Black culture. She's also probably watching “Living Single.”