Distinction: Laurel (left, with Rebeccah, right) is the first cancer survivor (diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma at 23) to compete professionally as a triathlete. She was named 2008 Rookie of the Year by USA Triathlon.
What do you hope to accomplish over the next ten years? To qualify for the 2012 Olympic trials.
Describe yourself in one word. Unconventional.
Do you have a mantra? "Fight." In a race last year, I wrote it on a piece of tape and put it on my handlebars. It reminded me what I was doing out there.
Any regrets? No. The only way to get through life is to keep looking forward.
How would you like to be remembered? As a survivor and an inspiration.
Designer: Cushnie Et Ochs.
2. Rebeccah Wassner, 34
Distinction: Her success as a triathlete pushed her twin sister to start racing. With 17 victories to date, her next goal is to win a world championship and qualify for the 2012 Olympics.
What do you hope to accomplish over the next ten years? To improve the lives of young adults with cancer. My sister and I are starting a scholarship fund with some of our prize money.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I'd like to be able to sit still long enough to watch a movie. It sounds silly, but I always have to be doing something.
Do you have a mantra? "One foot in front of the other."
Designer: Erin Wasson for RVCA.
Next: Up in the Air's Anna Kendrick
Distinction: Her performance as George Clooney's naive colleague in Up in the Air (a role written with her in mind) was nominated for an Oscar. See her next in the comedies Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and I'm with Cancer.
What do you hope to accomplish over the next ten years? I know it's stupid, but I want to shoot a gun in a movie really bad. And I want to try caving.
Describe yourself in one word. Awkward.
If you weren't an actress, what would you be? A pastry chef.
Do you have a mantra? If I did, it would be "I'm from Maine." It reminds me to stay grounded.
You feel happiest when... I'm on a film set that feels intimate, supportive, and respectful. Up in the Air was like that. It was the best experience I've had.
Any regrets? Not growing tall enough to be a ballerina.
What has been your most surreal, "pinch-me-I'm-dreaming" moment so far? Bitching about high-heeled shoes with Helen Mirren at an awards gala.
People would be surprised to learn that... As a kid, I aspired to be a world-class rock climber.
How would you like to be remembered? As honest. Honesty impresses me.
Fill in the blank: I wish I could... Whistle "Twisted Nerve."
Designer: Jason Wu
Next: Jewelry designer Monique Péan
Distinction: The former Wall Street broker turned jewelry designer works with indigenous artists on three continents and uses only found materials, recycled metals, and responsibly mined gems; a portion of the profits goes to philanthropic organizations. Her company's collaboration with the nonprofit group Charity: Water will provide clean drinking water for more than 3,000 people for 20 years.
What drives you to succeed? In October 2005, my 16-year-old sister, Vanessa, died in a car accident. She had started to file the papers to create a 501(c)(3) that would provide scholarships for underprivileged students in Haiti. I founded the Vanessa Péan Foundation to do exactly that.
Describe yourself in one word. Determined.
Do you have a mantra? "Learn from it." No matter how difficult a situation is, there is something you can take away.
If your house were on fire, what one thing would you save? A bright blue fossilized woolly mammoth tusk I got in a small town called Shishmaref near the Arctic Circle.
What has been your most surreal, "pinch-me-I'm-dreaming" moment so far? Winning runner-up for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award.
Why is it so important that your business give back? One out of six people in the world doesn't have access to clean drinking water. If every company cared about its footprint, the efforts would really add up.
Designer: Apiece Apart
Next: Social psychologist Jennifer Richeson, PhD
Distinction: A social psychologist and associate professor at Northwestern University (and a 2006 MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" winner), Richeson researches the underpinnings of prejudice, discrimination, and intergroup relations.
Describe your work. Our culture tells us what certain groups are supposed to do, what their status is, what stereotypes they're associated with. I study how people think about and counter these stereotypes.
Describe yourself in one word. Curious. And intense.
What's your biggest fault? Research is by nature slow, so I'm working on having more patience with myself, with my life, with politicians, and in general.
Do you have a mantra? I have a little sticky note on my computer monitor with a quote from Aristotle: "Excellence...is not an act but a habit."
How do you indulge yourself? I am as frugal as the day is long—although I did take a celebratory trip to Hawaii post-MacArthur.
What has been your most spectacular failure? There was a time of serious questioning when I started grad school and was the only black student in my program. I've gotten negative peer reviews on studies I've published. But if you're not able to handle failure, then this is not the right career for you.
People would be surprised to learn that... I watch America's Next Top Model.
Designer: L'Wren Scott
Next: Art director Shamim Momin
Distinction: Momin, a former curator at New York's Whitney Museum, believes art should be interactive. Her new nonprofit, Los Angeles Nomadic Division, helps emerging artists organize innovative, site-specific projects, like a recent event where musicians collaborated to score a film on the spot.
What drives you to succeed? It sounds cheesy, but if you compete against yourself you get better all the time.
Describe yourself in one word. A friend once told me I was the most fearless person he'd ever met. I want that to be a compliment I've earned.
Any bad habits? I always say "Crazytown" whenever something weird or inexplicable happens.
You feel happiest when... I've done something I believe in, or helped someone else's great idea happen.
Any regrets? I try to do everything so I never use that word. Often it's things I haven't done that I regret.
If your house were on fire, what one thing would you save? This raggedy stuffed animal my dad gave me that goes everywhere I go. It's been recovered from hotels, lost and found again and again. It's witnessed everything.
People would be surprised to learn that... I'm obsessed with teenager movies and dance movies. I wish I could break out in song and synchronized dance.
Designer: Zero + Maria Cornejo
Next: Musician Esperanza Spalding
Distinction: The Austin-based multilingual bass player has recorded two albums, Junjo and Esperanza, and has a new one out this August. President Obama picked her to play at his Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.
How'd you get into music? I became interested when I was 4, after seeing classical cellist Yo-Yo Ma on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Within a year, I started playing violin with the Chamber Music Society of Oregon.
How did you choose the bass? I was introduced to it in high school, and it was love at first touch. After a teacher opened my eyes to improvisation and the blues, I was hooked.
Which musicians do you aspire to be like? I admire musicians who stretch their limits, like Stevie Wonder, Wayne Shorter, André 3000, Minnie Riperton, and Joni Mitchell. But I want to create my own path.
What one person do you admire most? One of my heroes is Henry David Thoreau. He identified the things that upset him about society and found a way to live by his values.
How do you indulge yourself? Sleeping. Just being lazy. Watching Woody Allen movies for eight hours and drinking beer and doing absolutely nothing.
If your house were on fire, what one thing would you save? My acoustic bass, which is a couple hundred years old. It's beautiful.
Designer: Susan Woo
Next: Autumn Adkins, the first female president of Girard College
Distinction: In 2009 Adkins became the first female and the first person of color to serve as president of Girard College, a historic Philadelphia boarding school for low-income students.
What do you hope to accomplish over the next ten years? I want Girard College to show the world it's possible to give inner-city children a private school education that prepares them to be leaders.
What drives you to succeed? My mom's favorite saying was, "If you're going to be a ditchdigger, you better be the best ditchdigger you can be." That pushes me.
Any bad habits? I wish I didn't love eating as much as I do. I don't believe it's dessert unless it's chocolate.
Do you have a mantra? "With privilege comes responsibility." Privilege is not just financial. It's about class, race, gender, education, and access. It's not necessarily something you've earned; it's bestowed upon you.
Fill in the blank: I wish I could... Draw and paint. I don't even doodle well.
People would be surprised to learn that... I cry every week when I watch The Biggest Loser. I also like Hell's Kitchen—Gordon Ramsay is a riot.
How would you like to be remembered? As someone who cared for children and did what I said I was going to do.
Designer: Ports 1961 By Tia Cibani
Next: Novelist Hannah Tinti
Distinction: Her debut novel, The Good Thief, swept up the awards (it won the John Sargent Sr. First Novel prize and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year) for its gothic, quirky style; her acclaimed short story collection, Animal Crackers, has sold in 16 countries. She also cofounded and edits the literary magazine One Story and volunteers with the nonprofit groups Girls Write Now and Behind the Book, mentoring the next generation of writers.
What drives you to succeed? E.M. Forster said the most important thing in life is to "only connect." It is what I am always striving for in my writing: to create moments of spiritual recognition with other people.
Describe yourself in one word. Perceptive.
You feel happiest when... I'm surrounded by people who know all my faults and love me anyway.
Any regrets? I wish I'd kissed that guy I met at the airport.
What has been your most spectacular failure? I fail every day. I question why I am a writer every time I sit down to face a blank page. I get over it by pretending that no one will ever see the words I'm typing.
What's next for you? I'm working on two book ideas. One is a bit of a sequel to The Good Thief. The other is a traditional love story inspired by Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre—that sort of classic storytelling.
How would you like to be remembered? I'd like someone to say, "She was my favorite author."
Next: Chef Naomi Pomeroy
Distinction: The innovative chef of Beast (and former vegetarian) is playing a significant role in Portland, Oregon's, culinary renaissance. Her sophisticated, strictly sustainable menu helped her become a Food & Wine Best New Chef in 2009.
What drives you to succeed? Doing what I believe in. If my job ever made me unhappy, I wouldn't do it.
What's your biggest fault? I could be easier on myself. If I slip up in any way, I carry it around longer than I need to.
What one person do you admire most? Aung San Suu Kyi, the elected democratic leader of Burma. She's been under house arrest for most of the past 20 years, and has—I'm going to cry talking about it—peacefully stood for justice. She represents hope to the rest of her nation.
How do you indulge yourself? Shoes. And dining out.
What has been your most spectacular failure? I stood in front of 22 investors and told them that we had to close down three restaurant projects and the million dollars they were collectively owed was never going to be repaid. It was a very public failure, as well as a private one—it coincided with the end of my marriage and becoming a single parent. I got through it by deciding that I wouldn't be able to look at myself in the mirror if I didn't bootstrap it.
People would be surprised to learn that... I'm tender. I don't come across that way.
How would you like to be remembered? As someone who helped make the idea of knowing where our food comes from an everyday phenomenon.
The O power list More from our 10th anniversary special