AskMen.com, the world’s largest lifestyle portal for men with more than 11 million visitors monthly, revealed its highly anticipated fourth annual reader-voted list of the Top 49 Most Influential Men of 2009. The survey ranked Don Draper, Mad Men’s fictional character, as the most iconic male personality of the year above Usain Bolt, President Obama, and Mark Zuckerberg. The list assembles a diverse collection of men from around the world and from a variety of industries including entertainment, politics, technology, and sports. All the honorees had a direct effect on the way men see the world, and notably in 2009, many reflect classic values that are most meaningful to the male identity today.
“In a turbulent 2009, men are seeking the stability of tradition in the masculine qualities that they imagine their fathers and grandfathers to have had,” says James Bassil, Editor-in-Chief of AskMen.com. “The character of Don Draper brings all these traits together, and in doing so speaks directly to the modern man. He’s a man whose time has come.”
Others on the list embody a host of classic qualities; Usain Bolt as the personification of competitive and athletic ability, President Barack Obama as the male portrait of classic statesmanship, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs as pillars of entrepreneurial spirit and determination. The top 49 most influential men in order are:
1. Don Draper
Don Draper may be a fictional character on AMC’s Mad Men, but he’s just as real as any other public personality you can think of. Celebrities are brands, with carefully constructed images, and most of us are just as likely to have a beer with Don Draper as with anybody else on this list. What matters is that Draper’s hard-ass 1960s persona represents something about male identity that is enduringly captivating but has nonetheless vanished. The man that Don Draper is—value-driven and thoroughly masculine—is the product of a bygone era; without him, there would be no contemporary figure to represent it. Yet, as removed as his persona may be, it is also contemporary and familiar. He’s a postwar archetype, both a brilliant career man and a temptation-swayed philanderer who sincerely wants to be a family man. Like most men, us and our fathers both, Draper is permanently conflicted over how to reconcile his morals and his desires.
Draper illustrates old-school values even though he often fails to meet them himself. His human flaws are what make him so relevant to men today. He is by turns a chain-smoking, drinking-in-the-office emblem of a bygone age, and an unusually real, earnest human being who illustrates the struggles modern men know all too well.
2. Usain Bolt
Three-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt held on to his title as the fastest man on the planet, and comes in on our ranking as the second most influential man of 2009. At the World Championships this past August, the Jamaican sprinter beat the records he had set at the 2008 Olympics in both the 100- and 200-meter events, making him the first man to simultaneously retain the 100- and 200-meter Olympic and World titles.
Usain Bolt’s phenomenal achievements on the track made him an obvious choice for the 2009 Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award, and the runner earned a number of prestigious honors from his native country as well. In September, Prime Minister of Jamaica Bruce Golding announced that the champion sprinter will receive the Order of Jamaica, making the soon-to-be titled Honorable Usain Bolt the youngest recipient ever of the Order.
The Jamaican government also appointed him ambassador-at-large, granting him full diplomatic status. Golding announced in parliament that Highway 2000, the Caribbean island’s high-speed expressway, will be renamed in “Lightning” Bolt’s honor. All eyes will remain on Usain Bolt in the months to come to see if the world’s fastest individual has it in him to establish new sprinting records in 2010.
3. Barack Obama
Satirical newspaper The Onion nailed it when they ran the headline “Black Man Given Nation’s Worst Job” following the 2008 elections. Barack Obama came into office with the U.S. in the darkest days of its 233-year history. We were in the midst of two wars, had become almost universally abhorred around the world, were mired in a seemingly bottomless economic “downturn,” and faced the sad fact that Miley Cyrus was the biggest star we had.
President Obama had his work cut out for him. However, throughout the last year, the calm, cool commander in chief has lived up to his hype and brought the country back from the brink. He quietly transitioned troops out of Iraq, steered the SS U.S. Economy out of iceberg-strewn financial waters and closed down the highly controversial prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.
While mending the most powerful nation on earth, Barack also continued to be a world-class father and husband, and managed to throw out a respectable first pitch at the All-Star Game in St. Louis. Not a bad year for a guy with more pressure on his shoulders than any man in recent history.
4. Mark Zuckerberg
In 2009, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder, CEO and president of Facebook, celebrated the fifth anniversary of the internet phenomenon he originally launched as a personal directory for students at Harvard. Since its inception in 2004, Facebook has grown to become the No. 1 social networking site on the planet. By mid-2009, Facebook boasted over 250 million active users, with members on every continent (including Antarctica). In 2008, Forbes magazine ranked Mark Zuckerberg as the 321st richest person in the U.S., making him, at the age of twenty-three, the youngest individual ever to appear on the Forbes 400.
A Nielsen.com blog reported that Facebook’s monthly growth rate was 228 percent in February 2009, and up to half its members visit the site on a daily basis. With stats like that, it’s little surprise that Time ranked Mark Zuckerberg among The World’s 101 Most Influential People. He’s No. 4 on AskMen.com’s list of the Top 49 Men of 2009.
5. Simon Cowell
There’s no escaping Simon Cowell in America or in Europe. Through 2009, he continued his lucrative judging ways on American Idol and the top-rated Britain’s Got Talent. He also served as the producer of America’s Got Talent, the highest-rated television show in the U.S. Because of him, David Hasselhoff maintained his eternal cool status, while Susan Boyle became 2009’s unexpected musical darling. Despite an impossible amount of success, Simon Cowell confessed this year that he sometimes suffers from inner conflict and depression. Does this mean he’ll change? Not likely. Would we like him to change? Of course not.
Simon Cowell’s penchant for stating the absurd also came through loud and clear in 2009. After remarking that he wanted to be preserved through cryogenics upon his death, he stated that Ringo Starr wouldn’t make the cut if The Beatles had auditioned on American Idol, prompting a major media backlash against him. He insisted that the whole thing was a joke, but the jokes may start to fall on him when the sharp-tongued Ellen DeGeneres joins him as a judge on the next season of Idol.
6. Michael Jackson
2009 was supposed to bring some much-needed polish to Michael Jackson’s career. In March, the King of Pop announced that he was preparing This Is It, an ambitious fifty-date concert series in London, England. On June 25, everything changed. A few weeks shy of his first comeback concert, the world was stunned to learn of Michael Jackson’s passing. Search engines overflowed, entertainment blogs were overloaded and news networks ran tributes around the clock. A memorial celebration was watched by an estimated one billion people worldwide and featured all-star performances from the likes of Jennifer Hudson, John Mayer, Mariah Carey, and Usher, as well as a moving impromptu speech from his surviving daughter, Paris Katherine Jackson.
Michael Jackson and his much-publicized personal struggles were suddenly gone, but his musical popularity went through the roof. Within six weeks of his death, close to four million of his albums were sold in U.S. stores alone, while millions more songs were bought online. As a curtain call to the concert series that never was, the rehearsal footage from This Is It was turned into a concert film and released worldwide in October, giving his fans a close look at just what he was working on in the days leading up to his untimely exit.
7. Steve Jobs
After months of speculation about the state of his health, Steve Jobs reemerged in June 2009 to assume his position as CEO of Apple. He had taken an extended leave of absence from his duties at the company to undergo a successful liver transplant in April, and his prognosis has been described as excellent.
The mythical innovator and entrepreneur, regarded as an iconic and eccentric figure in the business world, made his first public appearance in almost a year to introduce new products, including iTunes 9 and upgraded iPods, at the annual Apple music event in San Francisco on September 9. He received a standing ovation from the invitation-only crowd as he expressed his gratitude to the Apple community who supported him during his lengthy battle. Steve Jobs continues to be an innovator more than thirty years after founding Apple, as the volume of sales of iPods, iPhones, and Mac computers justifies Fortune magazine’s decision to name him the most powerful person in business.
8. Roger Federer
Swiss tennis legend Roger Federer set a number of records in 2009, further cementing his reputation as the greatest tennis player in the history of the sport. He reached his record seventh consecutive Wimbledon final in July, defeating Andy Roddick to rack up his sixth Wimbledon victory. Roger Federer also broke the record for most Grand Slam final appearances, which now stands at twenty, and set the record for most Grand Slam men’s titles with fifteen, surpassing Pete Sampras.
His victory at Wimbledon helped him regain the No. 1 spot in the Association of Tennis Professionals’ ranking of top-seeded players, knocking Rafael Nadal out of pole position after eleven months. Roger Federer captured his first French Open title in 2009, and became the first male player to appear in at least two Grand Slam finals a year for six years running. Some of the honors he’s received over the past months include the ESPY Best Male Tennis Player and Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Awards, and he was voted ATPWorldTour.com’s Fan’s Favorite for 2009. To top it all off, the Swiss Maestro has earned over $50 million in prize money during his career, making him the top-earning tennis player of all time.
9. Peyton Manning
Quarterbacks have always held a special place in the pop culture universe. If you’re good, you’re held in an almost mythical light. If you’re bad, your name is probably “Joey Harrington.” Peyton Manning is certainly one of the good ones, having amassed an unbelievable collection of statistics, records and (most importantly) a big, fat, diamond-encrusted Super Bowl ring.
Early in his career, Peyton was considered an unrivaled talent on the field, but a corny bore off of it. After a couple of hilarious commercials and a phenomenal appearance on Saturday Night Live, the public found out the three-time NFL MVP was also a pretty funny guy who wasn’t afraid to laugh at himself.
He’s had a pretty good 2009: He threw for over 4,000 yards, earned his third NFL Most Valuable Player Award (putting him in a tie with Brett Favre for the record), watched younger brother Eli Manning win his first Super Bowl in January and raised millions for his Peyback Foundation. The guy clearly has his fingers in a lot of pies, but we’re sure he’d be willing to take any of them out to slip on another Super Bowl ring.
10. Dana White
You may not like Dana White’s smack-talking persona, but there’s no denying his influence. Since being appointed the president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2001, this street-savvy marketing genius has transformed mixed martial arts from a seedy underground sport into a mainstream phenomenon. “We bought a brand that was tarnished,” White says. “We came in and marketed it the way it should have been marketed—as an incredible sport with amazing athletes.” MMA has since become the fastest-growing sport in America and one of the most entertaining spectacles in the world. In 2006 alone, it grossed more annual pay-per-view revenue than any other promotion ever, and it has only grown in popularity since, with dozens of multimillion-dollar sponsorship deals and coverage in established publications like Sports Illustrated. “It’s pretty cool,” he admits. “If you would have asked me ten years ago if this is where I would have been in ten years, I would have laughed in your face.” Given his cocky demeanor, he still might.
To see the rest of 2009’s Top 49 Most Influential Men, complete with profiles, visit AskMen.com.