Gen Z Heroes

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Gen Z Heroes

Personalities that Generation Z (Gen Z) look up to range from celebrities, to influencers, to environmental activists. Greta Thunberg, Emma Chamberlain, Jaden Smith, Summer McKeen, and Bella Hadid are examples of the heroes of Gen Z.


  • Gen Z is widely defined as those born between 1995 and 2015.


  • Greta Thunberg was born on 3 January 2003, in Sweden.
  • Thunberg describes herself as a 16-year-old environmental activist, with Aspergers.
  • She is the original "school striker". Thunberg demanded that her government take action on climate change with weekly protests, whereby she skipped school to sit outside the Swedish parliament.
  • Climate Strike and Fridays for Future are 2 initiatives promoted by Thunberg that have gained overwhelming support among Gen Z.
  • Thunberg's Instagram account @gretathunberg has over 7.6 million followers. Her Twitter account @GretaThunberg has more than 2.81 million followers.
  • Her address to the UN Climate Change Summit has been described as emblematic of Gen Z. It has cemented her as one of the heroes of the generation.
  • The line "You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words" has been a call to arms for many in Gen Z.
  • The coordinated climate strike, supported by Thunberg, in May 2019 involved participants from 130 countries. The September 2019 strike involved more than 2,500 events in 150 countries.
  • The majority of the participants are Gen Zers. This illustrates the hero status Thunberg has attained among Gen Z.


  • Emma Chamberlain is an 18-year-old influencer located in Los Angeles, California.
  • Her YouTube channel has over 8.48 million subscribers. She has 2.62 million followers on her Twitter account @emmachamberlain. Her Instagram account @emmachamberlain has over 8.2 million followers.
  • It has been reported that she has a financial worth of over $2.5 million. She makes up to $6,000 per day from video sponsorship.
  • Chamberlain was described as a "ground breaker" by TODAY when they celebrated the International Day of the Girl.
  • She has been described as the YouTube platform's "it girl". Her Gen Z fans find her relatable.
  • She has been credited for moving the industry away from polished, filtered content to something less manicured, but real.
  • Chamberlain has developed her own fashion line, which is sold exclusively on the Dote app.
  • Her status among Gen Z was illustrated recently when a news article stated, "if you are a parent and haven't heard of Emma Chamberlain, there's a good chance your kids have".
  • Chamberlain was described as one of the most popular and looked up to Gen Z influencers by Business Insider.
  • She is described as the most important YouTuber today.


  • Jaden Smith was born on 8 July 1998 in Malibu, California. His parents are movie stars Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith.
  • Smith's Instagram account @c.syresmith has over 13.6 million followers. His Twitter account @jaden has over 8.11 million followers.
  • He had break out roles as an actor in The Karate Kid and The Pursuit of Happiness, which he appeared in with his father, Will Smith.
  • Since then, he has appeared in a number of Hollywood films and TV Shows. In 2013, he was named by MTV as the Summer's Biggest Teen Bad Ass Star.
  • He is also a musician, collaborating with Justin Bieber on two projects. In 2018, he released his first album Stye via Instagram.
  • Smith is a committed environmentalist, and has been described as "drafting the blueprint for Gen Z environmentalism". He is well-known for supporting a range of environmentally focused ventures.
  • He has also been outspoken on non-binary gender identity. This subject is particularly relevant to Gen Z, and his support has seen him become a hero for many in Gen Z.
  • A recent US survey found Jaden Smith was a role model for Gen Z.


  • Summer McKeen is a 20-year-old influencer, originally from Oregon, but now located in Laguna Beach, California.
  • McKeen objects to the title influencer preferring to be called a creator.
  • Her YouTube Channel has over 2.34 million subscribers. McKeen's Instagram account @summermckeen has over 2.1 million followers.
  • She starred in the 2018 Snapchat docuseries Endless Summer. The popularity of the series has resulted in it being renewed for a second season.
  • McKeen has created a product line of jewelry with LuvGems, which contains pieces engraved with words like worth.
  • Her brand sponsors are all popular among Gen Z and include Billabong, Victoria's Secret, Tresemme, and Sephora.
  • McKeen has been described as one of the most important current YouTubers.
  • Described as the anti-Kylie Jenner, McKeen has become someone Gen Z look up to because of her modesty-first and real approach to life.
  • Part of the success of the new app Dote, an app orientated toward Gen Z, has been attributed to McKeen, such is her influence among this generation group.


  • Bella Hadid is an American model born in Los Angeles, California, on 9 October 1996.
  • Hadid is considered one of the most stylish and talented models in fashion.
  • She has appeared on the covers of Seventeen, Elle, Teen Vogue, and Vogue Australia.
  • Many top fashion designers have used her to model their designs, including Diane von Fürstenberg, Marc Jacobs, Chanel, Balmain, and Tommy Hilfiger.
  • Recently she launched her own fashion line called Robert Riley's.
  • Hadid has over 26.2 million followers on her Instagram account @bellahadid. Her Twitter account @bellhadid has over 1.2 million followers.
  • She was recently identified as one of the Gen Zers currently changing the fashion industry and someone Gen Z looks up to.
  • Vogue has described Hadid as putting an experimental spin on retro fashion and defining the products that Gen Zers must-have.
  • Marketers have described Hadid as the poster child for Gen Z.


To identify Gen Z personalities that are looked up to by Gen Zers, we first defined Gen Z by searching a range of widely available definitions.

We then extensively searched a range of industry publications, media stories, and articles to determine personalities that were Gen Z and who were looked up to by fellow Gen Zers. Once we had identified several key personalities, we searched each of their social media accounts to determine their following and the ways that Gen Z looked up to them. The personalities we have identified are those that were mentioned in multiple articles, from multiple sources, as being personalities Gen Z looks up to. They all have large and established social media followings. Unfortunately, social media does not allow for the demographics of a person's followers to be identified, so although all the personalities had large social media followings, it was unclear if the majority of followers were Gen Z.

To overcome this issue, we searched the aforementioned sources to determine the demographics of their followers. A number of media stories, marketing publications, and other industry publications identified the demographics of their followers as predominantly Gen Z. They also discussed how they were seen as heroes by that generation.