In today’s fractured media landscape, journalists, artists, bloggers and even a comic are helping to drive the conversation

1. Gary Liu, Hong Kong

CEO, the South China Morning Post

Harvard-educated Gary Liu cut his teeth in Silicon Valley at tech giants including Google and Spotify before moving to Hong Kong in 2016 to take the helm at the South China Morning Post (SCMP). Since then, he has been on a mission to turn Hong Kong’s leading English-language newspaper into a global media brand, leading a total redesign of the broadsheet and website, as well as launching three new products: Inkstone, a daily digest of China-focused stories; Goldthread, a publication exploring culture in China; and Abacus, which is focused on China’s tech industry. Under Liu’s guidance, the SCMP has also become the first publication in Asia to join the Trust Project, a consortium of top news companies that commit to providing accurate, trustworthy news.


2. Tom Grundy, Hong Kong

Co-founder and editor-in-chief, Hong Kong Free Press

Over the past five years Tom Grundy has emerged as a major voice in Hong Kong media through his work at Hong Kong Free Press—a free, nonprofit, crowdfunded news website—and by becoming a regular pundit on Hong Kong politics for international news channels such as the BBC and Al Jazeera.

3. Xyza Cruz Bacani, Hong Kong

Photographer, author and journalist

Xyza Cruz Bacani was living in Hong Kong and working as a domestic helper when, in 2009, she began taking photos on her day off. She posted these to Facebook, where they caught the eye of professional photographers and, eventually, the editors of the New York Times. In 2014, she was profiled for the first time on the newspaper’s photography-focused works as a photographer Lens blog while still working as a cleaner and nanny. Now Bacani works as a photographer and journalist for the New York Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, Forbes, CNN and more.

4. Leaf Greener, China

Style reporter, fashion consultant

Fashion journalists, particularly those born in the social-media era, tend to be typecast as superficial lightweights, but not Greener, who has managed to balance the glamorous responsibilities of becoming a street-style star with some actual serious reporting. When the coronavirus spread in Europe during fashion week, she responded to instances of hostility towards Asians with simple and clear social-media posts calling out xenophobic behaviour and explaining the cultural history of face masks. Her latest project is a book, Runway Dreams (T&G Publishing), featuring her essays on fashion along with surreal collages by the artist Edwin Antonio that combine runway looks with characters from classical paintings.

5. Li Jiaqi, China

Online star known as the King of Lipstick

Could this be the world’s greatest lipstick salesman? The beauty industry has been fixated on the fast rise of Li Jiaqi, known in China as the King of Lipstick. With 40 million fans on Douyin, China’s domestic version of TikTok, and a megastar on Taobao’s live-streaming platform, Li’s income and net worth have been the subject of breathless speculation, given that he is reported to have driven sales of as many as 15,000 lipsticks in five minutes. He also holds a Guinness World Record for the most applications of lipsticks to models in 30 seconds, which is a slightly less impressive-sounding four.

See also: The New Asia: The Most Powerful, Influential & Stylish People To Know In 2020

6. Li Ziqi, China

Online host specialising in traditional Chinese cuisine

If there’s one profession that has unexpectedly thrived during lockdowns around the world, it’s wacky cooking show hosts. But Li Ziqi, a food and country life blogger who focuses on traditional Chinese cuisine, has drawn a dedicated following for her soulful, quiet, relaxing and elegant content that celebrates the rituals of rural life in the Sichuan countryside. “She performs the work of a farmer with the grace of a fairy,” wrote the South China Morning Post.

7. Luo Yonghao, China

E-commerce executive, founder of Smartisan

Luo Yonghao, a Chinese internet celebrity and founder of smartphone brand Smartisan, has signed a contract with Douyin to start a live-streamed e-commerce service on the popular short-form video platform. His debut on April 1 attracted more than 48 million views and resulted in sales of a variety of goods—ranging from smartphones to shaving cream—worth more than US$15 million.

8. Nicholas Saputra, Indonesia

Actor and Unicef ambassador

More than just a multitalented actor, Nicholas Saputra, also known as Nico, is inspiring a younger generation in his role as a Unicef Indonesia National Ambassador, campaigning for clean water and sanitation. Nico’s work to raise awareness of these issues has also influenced his film work; as a producer at Tanakhir Films, he has championed noteworthy movies like Semesta and Save Our Forest Giants that highlight ecological issues.


9. Happy Salma, Indonesia

Founder, Titimangsa Foundation, and chief creative officer, Tulola

Having conquered the silver screen, actor Happy Salma has turned to business, with a mission to promote local handicrafts, culture and history through her jewellery brand Tulola. Her production company Titimangsa Foundation creates and promotes Indonesian theatrical and literary works, including the forthcoming Inggit Garnasih, about one of the wives of the country’s first president, Sukarno.

10. Andy F Noya, Indonesia

Host of the Kick Andy talk show

Kick Andy creator Andy F Noya’s programme, on which he has delivered hard news and humanitarian stories for 14 years, has often been called the Indonesian version of The Oprah Winfrey Show. He also hosts the annual Kick Andy Heroes campaign to acknowledge grassroots movements. During the pandemic, he has raised about Rp5.2 billion through

11. Ronny Chiang, Malaysia

Comedian and senior correspondent on The Daily Show

As one of the most prominent Asian comedians on the global stage, Ronny Chieng, who was born in Johor Bahru and raised in the US and Singapore, brings a wickedly funny perspective to current events as a senior correspondent on The Daily Show on Comedy Central. A 2019 profile in T: The New York Times Style Magazine provocatively said that Chieng highlights the absurdities of American culture “with the prickliness of an immigrant and the timeliness of a news junkie”. His one-hour stand-up show on Netflix certainly lived up to that reputation with its delightfully provocative title: Asian Comedian Destroys America!

12. Hong Yi, Malaysia


The Malaysian artist Hong Yi, also known as Red, has captured global attention by transforming ordinary objects into extraordinary art works. She created a portrait of Jackie Chan, for instance, using 60,000 chopstick, used a basketball as a paintbrush to depict Yao Ming and has made “paintings” from tea bags, melted candles and even sunflower seeds. One of her most symbolic, ongoing works is a series of Chinese vases, some made of tiny pieces of cracked eggshells re-assembled into stunning designs, that examine the role of Asian women in the 21st century; it plays on the Chinese term “flower pot”, a derogatory way of referring to an attractive woman without any substance.


13. Azran Osman-Rani, Malaysia

Founder and CEO, Naluri

Azran Osman-Rani is a frequent speaker on driving competitiveness and innovation in modern corporate culture, and has drawn numerous fans in C-suites across Asia with his book 30 Days and 30 Years, which attempts to put a structure around the notoriously amorphous subjects of creativity and innovation. He treats business much like running a marathon—something he also does, and has been for nearly a decade.

14. Khailee Ng, Malaysia

Venture capitalist and serial entrepreneur

How many finance guys can also boast of becoming a fitness model? Khailee Ng, managing partner of the Silicon Valley venture fund 500 Startups and its Southeast Asia division 500 Durians, has been a vocal proponent for pursuing a healthier and less materially driven lifestyle since he decided to change his ways four years ago. Ng went vegan and gave up the trappings of luxury, including 80 per cent of his wardrobe and most of his furniture, in favour of a minimalist existence, a decision to which he attributes his business success.


15. Maria Ressa, Philippines

Maria Ressa Founder and CEO, Rappler

Maria Ressa is the founder and CEO of Philippine online news platform Rappler. A journalist of more than 30 years’ experience, she has been honoured around the world for her work combating fake news and fighting for the freedom of the press. In 2018, she was named among a group of journalists as Time magazine’s Person of the Year for her dedication to the pursuit of truth despite the ongoing war on facts.

Read also: OPINION: The Role Of Freedom Of Speech In Time Of COVID-19

16. Balli Kaur Jaswal, Singapore


Like Crazy Rich Asians author Kevin Kwan, Balli Kaur Jaswal’s novels have earned international acclaim and been adapted for cinema. But unlike Kwan’s, the characters in her books are often marginalised by society. Jaswal’s debut novel, Inheritance (2013), explores themes of mental health, identity and family dysfunction, and was adapted into the film Lizard on the Wall in 2017. Her third novel, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows (2017), looks at patriarchy in the British Indian community. Ridley and Tony Scott’s production company Scott Free Productions and the UK’s Film4 have jointly acquired film rights.

See also: Kevin Kwan On The Evolution Of Asian Society In Modern Times

17. Haresh Sharma, Singapore


Over the past 30 years Haresh Sharma has written more than 100 plays, which have been staged in more than 20 cities, making him Singapore’s most prolific playwright. He is now writer in residence at The Necessary Stage, a non-profit theatre founded by Alvin Tan. Sharma’s work has touched on hard-hitting topics such as mental illness, child abuse and, in his recent work The Year of No Return, climate change. The latter was co-written by Filipino playwright Rody Vera and commissioned for the Singapore International Festival of Arts 2020, which has been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

18. Sonny Liew, Singapore

Comic artist

From the history of modern Singapore to depression and antibiotics, the subjects of Sonny Liew’s comics are wide-ranging. He is author of the bestselling, Singapore Literature Prize-winning graphic novel The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye (2015), and received the honour of being the first Singaporean to win three Eisners, the Oscars of comics. Liew, who has also worked on titles for Marvel Comics and DC Comics, recently produced a series of comic strips educating the public about Covid-19, in collaboration with infectious diseases expert Hsu Li Yang.

19. Anting Liu, Taiwan

Anting Liu Founder, Teach for Taiwan

In Taiwan, the quality of schooling is often closely related to family background, which influences a child’s future opportunities for success. On graduating in international affairs from Princeton University, Anting Liu paid it forward by launching Teach for Taiwan in 2013 to recruit young graduates from Taiwanese universities to the island’s rural public schools. More than 120 young people have participated in the programme, serving more than 2,800 students. She has also been a TEDxTaipei speaker.

20. Maibelle Lin, Taiwan

Co-founder and chief product officer, Pinkoi

Maibelle Lin, a cofounder of design product shopping site Pinkoi, takes a forward-facing, global view of the industry. She graduated from Parsons School of Design in New York, working in interface design and user experience for a game company and Silicon Valley start-ups before creating Pinkoi, based in Taipei, where she is chief product officer. The e-commerce platform has a sharp focus on original design from around Asia, including home goods, eco-friendly dining sets and, in a nod to current events, some clever kits for at-home face mask making.

21. Sunny Lin, Taiwan

Co-founder and CEO, Social Enterprise Insights

In 2012, Sunny Lin started Social Enterprise Insights as the first Mandarin-language online platform for sharing information about social innovation and entrepreneurship in Taiwan. Lin, co-founder and CEO of the venture, aims to connect local project leaders with their peers from around the world in order to drive incubation programmes for socially-minded businesses. She has presented at the Asia Pacific Social Enterprise Summit as part of her efforts to raise visibility and opportunities for those companies.

22. Yod Chinsupakul, Thailand

Founder and CEO, Wongnai

Few sites have built up the level of trust commanded by Yod Chinsupakul’s Wongnai, the Yelp of Thailand. With operations in nine cities, the site, which has more than 10 million monthly users, features restaurant reviews and delivery options as well as an increasing array of information on hotels, tourist attractions, spas and beauty salons.

23. Monthon Kasantikul, Thailand

Solo travel blogger, I Roam Alone

Through her blog I Roam Alone, YouTube videos, social media posts and books, Monthon Kasantikul, known as Mint, has inspired countless young women to embrace the pleasures of choosing their own adventures. While solo travel presents its challenges in many parts of the world, especially for women, Kasantikul’s cleareyed advocacy for taking a smart, prepared approach is helping to break down barriers.

See also: 7 Inspiring Biographies And Memoirs From Notable Women Around The World


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