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Modern Idols

The New Role Models 2018

Here they are: the people who are showing us how to be better men in 2018. Throw your suit on the fire, down a vegan smoothie, have a little cry, and settle in for The Book of Man's New Role Model list.

To find out the street criteria for our choices read how we chose our role models.

But if you can’t be bothered, we’ll paraphrase: these are people (not all men), who are pointing the way to a better life for men today. They are successful in their own careers but work as activists and campaigners too. They are engaged with the world, responsible and relatable. They are not a bunch of flawless dudes in suits with no sense of humour.

So here we go, in no particular order:

1. Professor Green

Musician, patron of CALM, speaker, and documentary maker highlighting issues such as male suicide, working-class struggles and homelessness.  The Book of Man’s columnist is a smart, fearless, emotional and thoroughly admirable.

Professor Green video
2. Charlie Dark

DJ and poet, and founder of Run Dem Crew, an empowering running club in London which builds a community of support and exercise for those who need it.

Charlie Dark role model
3. Will Poulter

Brilliant actor from The Revenant and Detroit, and also a powerful voice on Twitter, who puts his weight behind social, mental health and political issues – most recently fronting May Measurement Month, highlighting the dangers of high blood pressure.

Will Poulter
4. Jason Fox

Former Special Forces Sergeant, adventurer, documentary-maker, and co-founder of Rock2Recovery, supporting servicemen with mental health issues. Also The Book of Man’s new columnist, offering inspiration and motivation. Foxy is tough, but man, he cares.

Jason Fox column
5. Prince William & Prince Harry

Royals fronting important campaigns for organisations such as mental health campaign Heads Together, suicide awareness charity CALM, and Forces veterans support charity Walking with the Wounded. With their human, flawed, but honest attempt to do some good, the pair of them have finally given the Royal Family a good name.

Prince William Prince Harry
6. Anthony Joshua

Champion boxer, campaigner for mental health issues and supporter of community organisations including anti-knife charity Steel Warriors. The ultimate sportsman with a responsible social outlook – what an inspiration.

Anthony Joshua
7. Tom Daley

Olympic athlete, self-help guru, and LGBT+ campaigner. Recently called on all commonwealth nations to decriminalise homosexuality. Fronts the BBC Lifeline Brain Tumour Charity. A damn good guy in every respect.

Tom Daley
8. Jamal Edwards MBE

The young businessman and film-maker behind media broadcasting company SB.TV, is also a mental health documentary maker and motivator for aspiring entrepreneurs. A true example of where dedication, graft and a good heart can take you.

Jamal Edwards role model
9. Patsy McKie

An unsung hero doing vital work in Manchester as the founding member of the Mothers Against Violence group, which aims to tackle violent crime amongst young people in the region and fulfil their potential.

10. Alex Turner

Frontman of one of the biggest bands on the planet, yet continually defies expectations to explore the outer limits of music and his own identity. Arctic Monkeys also support War Child and Oxfam. And we even like his new beard.

Arctic Monkeys
11. Simon Gunning

Inspirational CEO of the charity CALM, which aims to raise awareness of suicide being the number one killer of men under 45 in the UK. Recently made one of the most memorable charity campaigns of our time with Project 84 and the statues on top of ITV tower.

Read our interview with Simon.

12. Jay Shetty

Former monk turned motivational speaker and king of social media wisdom – promotes a service-led, helpful existence rather than a money-oriented one, which is as radical as it is shareable.

13. Alex Holmes

The man behind the Anti-Bullying Campaign and Deputy CEO of The Diana Award, he has revolutionised  the approach to the issue in schools with his Anti-Bullying Ambassadors. A former victim of bullying himself, Alex is doing important work in supporting children to speak out and support each other.

Read our interview with Alex .

14. Steve Brown

Former captain of the GB Paralympian team, athlete mentor, community leader and TV presenter of Countryfile amongst others. An indefatigable inspiration.

Read our interview with Steve.

Steve Brown role model
15. Tristram Stuart

Food waste activist, who has been living off food waster for the last ten years. He is an author and TED talk speaker, and an important voice in the wasteful West.

16. Benedict Cumberbatch

One of the few male actors to speak out about Hollywood’s toxic culture Benedict has been awarded a CBE for his work for charities such as Save The Children, where he raised awareness of Syrian refugees. Never one to shy away from standing up for what he believes in.

17. Billy Monger

Racing driver who lost his legs but simply started driving again, and winning, in Formula 3. Billy The Whizz, as he’s known, continues his exhilarating career in a specially adapted car – but his triumph is all in the mind.

18. Orla Doherty

Environmentalist and producer behind Blue Planet II which hit the nation over the head with it’s exposure of the scandalous plastic problem in the oceans. The unsung hero behind Sir David Attenborough.

19. Steve McQueen

The incredible film-maker behind ‘Shame’ and ‘12 Years a Slave’ and a patron of Anti-Slavery International, which raises awareness and fight modern-day slavery. A remarkable man.

Steve McQueen
20. Noel Clarke

Actor, producer, director, dad, community supporter – recently set up Unstoppable Film & TV to produce British-made productions. Noel is somehow both an iconoclast and a national treasure.

21. Alex and JP Petrides

Allplants duo who deliver vegan food across the UK and aim to inspire more plant-based living. Veganism is very much here to stay and these brothers are passionate advocates.

“Taking on a plant-rich diet is like driving a Tesla. It’s better for the planet, full of unexpected experiences and makes you one of the good guys.” Read our interview with Alex & JP.

22. Will Adoasi

The brains behind Vitae London, a watch brand that provides school uniforms and equipment to children in Africa. Will shows a new approach to entrepreneurship where it’s not all about making squlillions for your own pocket.

23. Sephton Henry

A former gang member in London but now leading consultant for Gangsline, a non-profit group supporting young people and communities in tackling gang culture. An important voice in the battle to save more young lives in the capital.

24. Adwoa Aboah & Holly Gore

Founders of Gurls Talk, an online community for young women to discuss issues like mental health, sex and the effects of social media. Inspirational for men as well as women in their open and honest discussion of often taboo areas.

25. Jake Graf

Writer, filmmaker and patron of Mermaids, which offers support for gender diverse children and their families. Jake is transgender and makes short films to bring trans experiences to wider audiences.

Jake Graf by Paul Grace
26. Loyle Carner

Rapper raising awareness about dyslexia and ADHD and their effects on young people’s lives. His confessional story-telling in his songs also puts forward a more sensitive vision of being a man.

Loyle Carner role model
27. Fatima Zaman

Witnessed the 7/7 bombings in London and became a counter extremist running campaigns with Kofi Annan to prevent young people joining extremist groups. A fearless kind of inspiration.

Fatima Zaman
28. Rio Ferdinand

Former footballer, and mental health advocate who became a Bafta-winning documentary maker of ‘Being Mum and Dad’, about life after the death of his wife. An important and highly visible example of men opening up.

29. Danny Sculthorpe

Former Rugby League player and one of the people behind the campaign Offload, which encourages rugby league players and fans to open up about their mental health issues.

Danny Sculthorpe role models
30. Steph Houghton

Inspirational England football captain and campaigner who encourages young people into sport, and supports charities including Time To Change and Future Dreams.

31. Fearne Cotton

TV and radio presenter and active campaigner around issues like mental health as an ambassador for Mind. An example of how to handle influence with warmth and responsibility.

32. Mo Gilligan

Fast rising comedian and ‘Coupla Cans’ Instagram sensation, Mo is a raw talent who is also an advocate for talking about mental health.

Mo Gilligan role model
33. Zoe Ball

Presenter and campaigner on the issue of male suicide, through the documentary ‘Life After Suicide’ and the ‘Hardest Ride Home’ challenge for Sports Relief. Now an important figure in raising awareness of a national scandal.

Zoe Ball
34. David Lammy

MP for Tottenham and active fighter of scandals including Windrush, Grenfall, and knife crime in the capital. Fast becoming one of the most important, and certainly most loved, politicians in the country.

35. Tez Ilyas

Comedian breaking down stereotypes around Muslim men, and questioning attitudes and assumptions. His act shows how important a social tool comedy can be.

Tez Ilyas role model
36. Amrou Al-Kadhi

Writer, performer, film-maker, writer and activist who’s forthcoming book, Unicorn, is a memoir about intersectionality. The sheer workrate of Amrou is outstanding – an exciting talent.

Amrou Al Kadhi
37. Grayson Perry

Ground-breaking artist and author of The Descent of Man, which has become a bible for progressive men everywhere. Grayson’s documentaries on class and masculinity have shown him to be one of the most important thinkers, as well as artists, of today.

38. Robert Webb

Comedian, and writer of ‘How Not To Be A Boy’, an important book on the thoughtless and often dangerous gender conditioning boys go through. The Peep Show star is a crucial figure in the questioning of old school masculinity.

Robert Webb role model
39. Dane Baptiste

Comedian and writer, who attacks racial issues head-on, and became the first black nominee for the Edinburgh Comedy awards. A fast rising figurehead for questioning cultural norms – is also very, very funny.

Dane Baptiste role model
40. Max Tobias

Co-founder with his childhood friend Rebeccas, of the Dusty Knuckle bakery, which helps troubled youngsters through offering work inside their Hackney bakery. Where cool, community and crust all come together perfectly.

Dusty Knuckle role models
41. Stormzy

Rapper, label-owner and all round inspirational figure who uses his status to encourage his followers to open up about mental health struggles and to vote.

Stormzy role model
42. Emma Watson

Actor and inspiring activist for campaigns including HeForShe which aims to encourage men to support women’s equality.


Emma Watson
43. Lee Richardson

Former footballer behind ‘Safety Net’, an online platform backed by the PFA aiming to help young footballers and 9 to 16 years olds with mental health and wellbeing issues. A grassroots hero.

Lee Richardson
44. Simon Amstell

An expert dissector of contemporary masculinity, who raises awareness of mental health issues through his performances and books such as ‘Help’.

Simon Amstell role model
45. Simon Thomas

Sky Sports presenter who left his job after the death of his wife from blood cancer to become a full-time dad to his son. Fast becoming a leading light in talking about the emotional lives of men.

46. Helen Calcraft

Co-founder of progressive media agency Lucky Generals and Trustee of Cancer Research UK. Important in showing a more ethical approach to the advertising industry.

47. Rob and Paul Forkan

After the loss of their parents in the 2004 tsunami, the brothers founded fashion brand Gandys to fund their charitable foundation ‘Orphans for Orphans’. The decadence of high fashion has never seemed so absurd.

48. Keith Weed

Responsible for the Marketing, Communications and Sustainable Business functions of Unilever, with a remit to grow the business while reducing its environmental footprint and increasing positive social impact.

49. Harry Kane

England captain who also works as a volunteer at the Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice. Yes, a footballer with a conscience…

Read about why this is the most likeable England squad in years.

Harry Kane role model

50. You
Yeah, you. It is up to you to set an example for a new generation. You. Us. Together.

We’re all fuck-ups right? Men usually are, in some way. You go through life, take some risks, but steer a course through life as best you can, and do many things you can be proud of. Inevitably you also mess-up. You make mistakes, do horrible shit, be a drunken mess, a bad partner…sometimes you just get it wrong. And this can be hard to cope with – regret and shame can lead you to a dark place, and anxiety and depression can keep you there. You can end up feeling shit about yourselves, unable to catch your own eye in the mirror.

Nobody’s perfect.

Not even the role models on this list. They all carry mistakes, and will continue making them. Yet that won’t stop them being people who others can look to, and it won’t stop you either.

Now is a good time for all men to think of themselves as role models and live as such. If you have a past, draw a line under it, and refresh yourself. Take a step back and think about what kind of man you want to be. Is it someone who takes responsibility for their own life, questions the world around them, and wants to be an active inspiration to others? Course it is. You’ve done all the messy young lad nonsense you to. Time to crack on.

You are a role model. We all are.


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