Madame Tussauds Wax Museum is known for its eerily lifelike wax replicas of celebrities. The San Francisco branch of Madame Tussauds began honoring nearby Silicon Valley in 2012, with a wax replica of Steve Jobs. The museum added Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg in 2014.
And now they’re looking for a third “Bay Area Tech Innovator” to be immortalized in wax (and made available for selfies). And they are crowdsourcing the final selection through online voting.
After an open nomination period, Madame Tussauds narrowed the finalists to ten: Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla; Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook and author of Lean In; George Lucas, founder of Lucasfilm; Frank Oppenheimer, founder of the Exploratorium; Jane Metcalf, cofounder of Wired; Edwin Catmull, cofounder of Pixar; Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo; Larry Page, cofounder of Google; Steve Wozniak, cofounder of Apple; and Mark Benioff, founder of Salesforce.
It’s a tough pick, though, at first glance, the selection seemed obvious: Gotta give it to the Woz. I mean, how can you have Jobs up there without Woz, the engineer whose passion for building computers was the seed without which there would be no Apple?
On the other hand, isn’t it time to raise the visibility of a tech woman? There are three on this list to choose from: Sandberg, Metcalf, and Mayer: I’m going to knock out Sandberg because Facebook already has Zuckerberg on display and because Sandberg wasn’t a founder. And neither was Mayer; buh-bye, Marissa, though I know the wax artists at Madame Tussauds would have appreciated your style. That leaves Metcalf, co-founder of Wired. And while I’d love to see a journalist honored in wax, Metcalf is no tech celebrity. Far more recognizable would be re/code cofounder Kara Swisher, who has been dismembering the tech elite with her sharp tongue for decades, and is so iconic she recently played herself on HBO’s Silicon Valley (season 2 episode 3 if you’re checking). Swisher, Madame Tussauds indicated on its website, was nominated but didn’t make the top ten. Oh well. Maybe we can get a woman up there next year.
I’m crossing off Oppenheimer (his Exploratorium changed the world of museums, but he never became a tech pop star), Catmull (Pixar is already represented by Jobs), Lucas (movie celebrity more than a tech celebrity), and Benioff (yes, Salesforce changed enterprise software forever, but the people going to Madame Tussauds don’t care about enterprise software).
Larry Page? Indeed, he deserves to be there, but not without Sergey Brin, so if Madame Tussauds has room for only one more wax replica right now, Page will have to wait. Elon Musk? Oh yeah! He’s iconic (pose him standing next to a Tesla and the selfie-crowd will go crazy), revolutionary, and certainly a celebrity (I’ve seen Tesla fans mob him for autographs).
Still, I do come back to the Jobs without the Woz problem. So I’m flipping a coin before casting my vote—heads Woz, tails Musk. (Pause for coin flip) And my vote goes to….Woz.
You can cast your vote here until 19 May. The winner will be announced on 26 May.
Update 27 May: It appears I called it—the winner, announced earlier this week, was indeed the Woz. After a two to three hour sitting for measurements, and two or three months for the sculpting process, a wax Woz will be placed near the already-on-display statue of Steve Jobs.
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.