To determine TIME’s annual list, we consider accolades across numerous fields, global impact through social media and overall ability to drive news. In the past, we’ve recognized everyone from singer Lorde to Olympic champion Simone Biles to political activist Joshua Wong.
Growing up in a largely homogeneous society, Han, who is half Nigerian, half Korean, was often made to feel ashamed of his appearance. “There are so many prejudices about darker skinned people in South Korea,” he tells TIME. “When I was in kindergarten, some of the mothers in the playground would tell my friends, ‘Don’t play with him. If you play with him, you will become darker too.’” But Han, who was discovered on Instagram, is now one of the country’s most sought-after fashion models; he’s a fixture in local magazines and walked in 20 shows during the recent Seoul Fashion Week. Although he has faced discrimination—he was denied several early castings because of his skin color—Han says he hopes his rising profile will help make South Korea’s beauty standards more inclusive. “My dream is now a reality,” he tells TIME, “and I want those like me to feel they can achieve the same.”