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People at last admits the obvious, names Idris Elba Sexiest Man Alive

Elba’s reign saves us from the national nightmare of Sexiest Man Alive Blake Shelton.

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Idris Elba
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Constance Grady is a senior correspondent on the Culture team for Vox, where since 2016 she has covered books, publishing, gender, celebrity analysis, and theater.

Gentle reader: Cast your mind back, if you will, to a November not all that long ago, when America was rocked by the unexpected ascension of an interloper to one of the highest offices in the land. It was a time of national panic and outrage, as a man that many believed to be blatantly unqualified, a man with a disquieting history of bigotry, took on a position of enormous prestige and responsibility.

I am speaking, of course, of November 2017, when Blake Shelton was named People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive.

I mean. Blake Shelton.

But this year, there has been a reckoning. This year, the people have spoken. This year, Shelton has been voted out of office, replaced by an infinitely better-qualified candidate. This year, in a resounding victory for democracy, the Sexiest Man Alive is Idris Elba.

Idris Elba was the clear winner of the (social media-driven) popular vote in last year’s Sexiest Man Alive contest, with multiple sources pointing to him as the obvious choice. Elba’s years paying his dues on prestige TV series like The Wire and Luther, not to mention his general suavity and charm, have made him a beloved favorite of the internet for years, and he has been the people’s James Bond since 2008.

But many believed that built-in structural handicaps — that in more than three decades, People has previously named only two men of color the sexiest man alive; that Elba doesn’t have any huge movies coming out — would prevent him from ever winning the title of Sexiest Man Alive. The honor traditionally goes to whoever everyone involved agrees will move magazines, which usually means someone who will appeal to the middle of America, and the conventional wisdom for years was that this person was not Elba.

So what changed? It certainly doesn’t hurt that Elba anchored a major movie this year as the romantic lead of The Mountain Between Us. The movie was more or less sold on the back of the idea that it sure sounds nice to be stranded on a mountain with no one but Idris Elba and a cute dog, and though it wasn’t quite a runaway success — scraping in a respectable $62 million worldwide on a $35 million budget — it did help make Elba a known brand.

People may also have decided that after the backlash attracted by last year’s Sexiest Man Alive choice, it was time to give the angry and vocal citizens of Twitter what they had demanded for years, and let any backlash come from other quarters entirely.

But this reporter can confirm from exhaustive conversation with citizens of Real America (what up, Aunt Meg!) that Real America saw Idris Elba in a made-for-TV movie several years ago, and, exact quote, “remembered him.” (Please say remembered while knowingly winking in order to capture the spirit of the quote.) So perhaps the idea that Elba isn’t the kind of person who could move magazines has been for years nothing more than a polling error.

In any case, on this contentious Election Day, People has chosen to bring us all together — internet people (me) and elderly dairy farmers (Aunt Meg) alike — in recognition of the one thing on which we can all agree: Idris Elba absolutely deserves to be declared Sexiest Man Alive.

Upon learning of his new role, Elba declared it “a nice surprise — an ego boost for sure.”

Statesman-like words, Mr. Sexiest.

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