Celebrities and sports stars named as UK’s most influential black people – but trailblazing businesswoman takes top spot


Sir Lenny Henry, Stormzy and Michaela Coel are among those to have been named on a list of the UK’s most influential black people – but a history-making female businesswoman has taken the top spot.

The Powerlist, which has been published annually since 2007, identifies the UK’s most powerful people of African, African Caribbean and African American heritage.

The 2023 list includes actors Sir Lenny, 64, and Idris Elba, 50, actress and screenwriter Coel, 35, 29-year-old rapper Stormzy, UK Cyber Security Council chief Simon Hepburn and footballer Marcus Rashford.

But The Powerlist 2023 has been topped by chair of the John Lewis Partnership Dame Sharon White.

EMBARGOED TO 0001 FRIDAY OCTOBER 28 File photo dated 13/10/22 of Sir Lenny Henry, who along with Stormzy and Michaela Coel are among those to have been named on a list of the UK's most influential black people.
Sir Lenny Henry was also recognised

Dame Sharon, 55, who is the first ever female chair of the department store chain, said: “It is an incredible honour to have been chosen to receive this year’s Powerlist Award – particularly given the outstanding contributions of the other nominees.

“My hope is that we can take the serendipity out of social mobility – everyone should have the chance to be who they want to be in life, with their background as a source of pride, not a disadvantage.”

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Also featuring in The Powerlist top 10 is podcast host and Dragons Den star Steven Bartlett.

Organisers of the list say it was launched “to showcase black role models to young people”.

Many of those on the newly announced compilation, such as former professional footballer and sports presenter Alex Scott and Get Out actor Daniel Kaluuya, have also featured in previous years.

September 12, 2021, Kington Upon Thames, United Kingdom: Kington Upon Thames, England, 12th September 2021. Television presenter, Alex Scott during the The FA Womens Super League match at Kingsmeadow, Kington Upon Thames. Picture credit should read: Paul Terry / Sportimage(Credit Image: © Paul Terry/CSM via ZUMA Wire) (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)
Sports star and TV presenter, Alex Scott. Pic: Associated Press
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Raheem Sterling

Among those featuring for the very first time are the Bank of England’s chief financial officer Afua Kyei and its senior advisor Tangy Morgan, as well as chair of the UK Cyber Security Council Dr Claudia Natanson.

Raheem Sterling, Edward Enninful, David Lammy, and Munroe Bergdorf are also on the list.

The Powerlist is selected by an independent panel of judges led by chair Dame Linda Dobbs, a judicial commissioner and former High Court judge.

‘Huge impact’

The judging panel also included businessman and winner of the first series of The Apprentice, Tim Campbell.

Michael Eboda, chief executive of Powerful Media who published The Powerlist 2023, said it was “the leading showcase, acknowledgement and reminder of the amazing individuals of African, African Caribbean and African American heritage we have in the UK”.

He added that Dame Sharon was an example of “true excellence”.

“She has been able to have a huge impact in one of the top retail companies in the UK, which is truly remarkable. I applaud the great work she is doing.”

More plaudits

Sir Lenny was also honoured at this year’s Ethnicity Awards.

He was named alongside Sir Mo Farah, 39, who won the Sports Trailblazer Award for using his platform to speak out against discrimination after he revealed earlier this year he was trafficked to the UK when he was eight.

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Mo Farah on being trafficked: ‘I would lock myself in a bathroom and cry’

Sir Lenny, 64, was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for championing racial equality and standing up for communities across his long career as an actor, broadcaster and comedian.

Olympic runner Dina Asher-Smith, 26, was awarded Sports Personality of the Year for opening up about her experiences of racism and Alison Hammond, 47, was given the host of the year prize.

Emeli Sande, 35, received the Music Artist of the Year Award for “fighting discrimination and equality”, while Azeem Rafiq, 31, was presented with the Media Impact Award for speaking out about the racial abuse and bullying he experienced at Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

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