As another vociferous year comes closer to its end, GQ celebrates the men and women who have enriched our lives over the past 12 months. These are 2021’s winners, including Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine heroes Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert and Dr Catherine Green, Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins, first-time novelist Quentin Tarantino and many, many more.
Heroes: Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert, Dr Catherine Green and the team behind the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine
In an academic lab in Oxford in early 2020, Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert and Dr Catherine Green set about to develop a life-saving vaccine to Covid-19. By November, they had pulled it off, announcing to the world that they had developed a formula that was 94 per cent effective at fighting against the virus (at least the then-dominant Alpha strain). For offering hope to every corner of the globe and saving countless lives in the process, they pick up the award for GQ’s Heroes Of The Year.
Standout Performance: Regé-Jean Page
You know you’re having a good year when, at 31, you’re fending off Bond questions from journalists at every turn. With the downright stonking Shonda Rhimes’ steamy period drama Bridgerton – it is Netflix’s most-watched series ever, with 63 million people viewing it in its first month alone – Regé-Jean Page skipped a few levels in the acting game to become one of the hottest young stars of his generation. For setting pulses racing across the nation, we commend him for his standout performance. “Of all the things you’ll read about yourself on the internet, it’s one of the more pleasant and more flattering,” Page says of the Bond rumours. “But I take it and leave it at that, personally.”
Solo Artist: Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran has done it all and, yet, he keeps ascending to new heights. This year, the bestselling artist behind history’s highest-grossing tour releases =, the surprise fourth record in his famous five-part plan. GQ celebrates the achievements of a young British legend, GQ’s Solo Artist Of The Year.
Legend: Sir Anthony Hopkins
Sir Anthony Hopkins didn’t need a second Oscar – picked up in February at the age of 83 – to solidify his status as one of the greatest screen presences of the past century, but it didn’t hurt. For a lifetime worth of classic performances and, more recently, a slew of highly entertaining video posts on Twitter, Anthony Hopkins is GQ’s Legend Of The Year 2021. “It’s hard to believe at 83,” he says. “Getting these awards is a state of constant surprise at my age, but what fun.”
Television Actor: Adrian Dunbar
Mother of God! Hot off the back of Line Of Duty’s record-breaking sixth series, which solidified its position as the most-watched drama on terrestrial TV this century, Adrian Dunbar scoops the GQ award for TV Actor Of The Year. “This is, for me, in my career, the defining moment,” he told GQ. “And it’s pretty good.”
Writer: Quentin Tarantino
There has been much discussion about what Quentin Tarantino will do when he finishes his tenth and final film (he has remained adamant that he will retire at that landmark), but if his debut novel, Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood (an adaptation of his film of the same name) is anything to go by, he’ll be just fine. “When I wrote the book I saw Brad Pitt doing everything,” he says. “I saw Leonardo DiCaprio doing everything.” The result is a critically acclaimed triumph, making him a no-brainer for GQ’s Writer Of The Year.
Peroni Nastro Azzurro Breakthrough Designer: Harris Reed
Harris Reed is the superstar British-American designer best known for dressing Harry Styles and pushing menswear in a radical new direction. GQ celebrates the flamboyant and free-spirited mind behind his gender-fluid, eponymous label with the Peroni Nastro Azzurro Breakthrough Designer Of The Year award. “I started designing menswear for myself and that’s when it clicked,” Reed says. “When traditional masculine forms – the suit, the trousers – are pushed and explored, it’s fabulous!”
Deezer Breakthrough Music Artist: Arlo Parks
With fluidity, complexity, kindness and self-acceptance at the heart of this Brit Award winner’s affecting, genre-melding indie pop, behold a resonant voice worthy of the buzz. Just don’t call our Deezer Breakthrough Music Artist Of The Year a voice of a generation. “I understand that I am a part of that generation and a lot of the things that I speak about can be related to by people who are around my age,” Parks says. “But I think pulling back and being aware of the fact that, like, OK, I’m just a person who has lived a very specific set of things is important. Hopefully I provide representation, but I’m not a figurehead…”
Designer: Brunello Cucinelli
Brunello Cucinelli has come out the other side of the pandemic in fine form (and with a net worth of no less than £1.7 billion). What’s more, the designer made not one of his 2,000 global team members redundant and his company boasted an almost 60 per cent increase in revenues in the first half of 2021. And GQ’s Designer Of The Year preaches kindness in his workplace. “In this company, if you offend someone you are fired on the spot,” he says.
Game Changer: Dame Vivienne Westwood
Having handed over the reigns of her fashion empire to her husband, 80-year-old Dame Vivienne Westwood has turned her attention to tackling climate change with a new manifesto. For her endeavours to save our ailing planet, Westwood takes home the Game Changer Of The Year award. “The only way we can survive is not to go back to normal, to not buy bombs but also to not buy electric cars,” Westwood says. “Keep your own car and, if possible, don’t use it. If you have to use it and it breaks down, then you buy an electric car, if you absolutely have to.”
Outstanding Contribution: Bobby Gillespie
This October, the Primal Scream frontman releases his long-awaited memoir, Tenement Kid, charting his life up to and including the recording and release of the album many credit with “starting the 1990s”, Screamadelica. From his rocking 1991 album that shaped the decade’s party scene to a hip, contemplative collab record and memoir 20 years on, we salute the recipient of our Outstanding Contribution Of The Year award, whose contributions to alternative music, politics and states of consciousness have already entered legend.
Inspiration: Gareth Southgate
Gareth Southgate faced a mammoth task when he signed on to become the England manager in 2016. To bring joy and hope back into a national side plagued by years of underachievement would take something special. But with a new class of bright young stars of the footballing world, Southgate managed to steer England to their first final since 1966. But, more than that, throughout the Euros he backed his squad in taking a stand by taking a knee and consoled them, as perhaps only he could, when they fell just short of glory. For giving strength not just to his team, nor even just his nation, but to everyone watching, Gareth Southgate is GQ’s Inspiration Of The Year.
Maddox Gallery Artist: Beeple
Chances are, the first time you heard the now ubiquitous acronym NFT this year it was followed closely by another unusual word: Beeple. The auction-smashing digital visionary – also known as 40-year-old South Carolina resident Mike Winkelmann – sold an NFT at Christie’s in March for $69 million, changing the way art is made and sold forever in the process. He is our Maddox Gallery Artist Of The Year.
Boss Breakthrough Actor: Kingsley Ben-Adir
For scene-stealing portrayals as not one, but two icons of American history – Malcolm X and Barack Obama – we gild the head-turning year of a British star on the rise. And things are far from slowing down for the young actor. “The situation I’m in now and the roles that are coming in and the scripts that I’m reading?” Ben-Adir says, “I feel like there’s at least ten years’ worth of fun to be had.”
Boss Leading Man: Paul Bettany
After a horrible meeting with a producer in 2013, Paul Bettany thought his career was over. Then Marvel called and he gladly answered. Fast-forward eight years, the 50-year-old is up for his first Emmy for playing the purple synthezoid Vision in the MCU’s first TV entry, WandaVision. But before that, he’ll take home GQ’s Boss Leading Man Of The Year award.
Band: Wolf Alice
Wolf Alice’s third album, Blue Weekend, was released in June to a bombardment of five-star reviews and lavish praise for the way it deftly intertwined its intimate lyrics with a widescreen indie-rock sound. It became the band’s first No1 album in the UK and earned them a third Mercury Prize nomination, all of which made crowning them as GQ’s Band Of The Year a somewhat easy task.
Icon: Sacha Baron Cohen
Who knew that what 2020 needed was another Borat movie? Sacha Baron Cohen’s film, which once again probed the dark heart of America’s Republican states, arrived like a storm in October, mere weeks before the presidential election that ousted Donald Trump (one of Cohen’s primary targets) from office. Oh, and he received his first Oscar nomination for starring in Aaron Sorkin’s Trial Of The Chicago 7 too. “Chicago 7 and Borat share a message,” he says. “The importance of truth and the danger of lies”. Cohen is GQ’s Icon Of The Year 2021.
Jaguar Outstanding Achievement: Team GB & ParalympicsGB
There is no overstating the difficulty athletes faced at the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo this summer. With a deadly virus rampaging globally, they cordoned off in the Olympic village, separate from one another and hundreds of miles away from their families, to compete in spectator-less stadiums. When all was said and done, it was not the exceptional medal haul that made an impact at home, but the athletes’ collective courage to compete.