During the day, Anastasia Pavlinskaya is a producer at WPLG Local 10, but she really shines at night, when she's delivering laughs as a moonlighting comedian. Although Miami's stand-up comedy scene is small compared to that of New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago, Pavlinskaya stands out as one of its biggest champions. Take the pandemic, for instance: When everything was shut down, including her home venue, Villain Theater — where she's director of stand-up — Pavlinskaya managed to keep the momentum going by hosting a weekly virtual open-mike night. But don't sleep on her comedy chops, either: She's funny AF. Mining her Russian-American background for laughs (she insists her parents aren't spies), Pavlinskaya touches on the child-of-immigrants experience — something a lot of Miamians can relate to.

Best Local Boy Gone Bad
Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty

It's been barely a year since the Miami Heat drafted Tyler Herro. The scouting reports showed Herro looking as clean-cut as his Wisconsin roots. But right from the get-go, the six-foot-five shooting guard has embodied Miami in human form like no other. From the outlandish clothing to the questionable hairstyles to the dating of Instagram celebutante Katya Elise Henry, the 20-year-old Herro is carrying all the glitz, glamour, and gossip that makes Miami alternately beloved and hated. But like the Magic City itself, Herro has thus far been able to back up his frivolities. Not only is he showing up at his day job, but he's been killing it with a sweet-as-pastelito jump shot. Will he continue to excel while burning the candle at both ends — especially next year, when he hits legal drinking age? You'll have to tune in to his social media accounts to find out.

Best Local Boy Made Good
Photo courtesy of the author

Imagine being a nerdy kid growing up watching all the Star Wars movies and playing intergalactic games with your friends. Imagine showing up to the movie theaters early just to see the midnight premiere of Phantom Menace. Imagine collecting all sorts of comics, books, and figurines of well-known movie characters and spaceships. Now imagine being that same nerdy kid and growing up to write a book that's officially part of the Star Wars universe and tells the origin story of arguably the most handsome pilot in the galaxy. Unless your name is Alex Segura, all that is just a fantasy. Miami native Segura had a childhood dream fulfilled when Poe Dameron: Free Fall was published by Disney LucasFilm Press in August. The 384-page novel tells the story of a young Dameron as he navigates the skies of growing up and ultimately becoming the hunk — er, rebel fighter — we meet in 2015's The Force Awakens. Writing his first Star Wars book is not the only feat Segura has to celebrate, however: The current New York resident published the fifth and final installment of his popular Pete Fernandez mystery series, Miami Midnight, in late 2019, and his next noir crime story, Secret Identity, which follows a female protagonist as she moves from Miami to New York and gets involved in the comic book world, is expected to be released soon.

Best Local Girl Gone Bad
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On a scale of Spicer to Scaramucci, Helen Aguirre Ferré is right up there with Kayleigh McEnany, only 30 years older and more experienced in the art of stonewallery. Earlier this year, as the coronavirus began ravaging Florida, Ferré — who at the time served as the main spokesperson for Governor Ron DeSantis — mounted attacks on local journalists simply trying to get a handle on how the virus was affecting everything from hospital-bed capacity to the state's purposely broken unemployment system. When DeSantis denied Miami Herald reporter Mary Ellen Klas entry into a press conference at the State Capitol after she'd pressed for social-distancing measures, Ferré stood idly by and later defended the decision. Then, in April, Ferré physically removed the state surgeon general from a media briefing after he, in a moment of transparency, suggested that Floridians might have to practice social distancing for an entire year. And in May, she berated the Orlando Sentinel for an "alarmist" headline forecasting thousands of coronavirus deaths in Florida, which ended up occurring even earlier than predicted. Finally, in July, Ferré left her job with the governor and took over as the executive director of the Republican Party of Florida. Unfortunately for Miamians, that means we're not quite done hearing from this hometown heckler.

Best Local Girl Made Good
Photo by Trenton Barboza

Thanks to an appearance in Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion's internet-breaking "WAP" video and the release of her mixtape, Wolf Pussy, Sukihana (real name Destiny Henderson) hit it big in 2020. Though the mother of three is a native of Wilmington, Delaware, who has also lived in Atlanta, Sukihana — AKA Suki, AKA Suki With the Good Coochie — has a sound that's all about the 305, and her explicit mien likewise fits right in. "I've always been really confident and always been loud. I'm just a product of my environment, but now I feel like my environment is a product of me because I see a lot of women look up to me. I've helped a lot of people learn to love themselves and have confidence," she told New Times earlier this year. A hood girl at heart, she's far more than a nouveau-riche celebrity with an Instagram following nearing 1.5 million; she's a driven mother who craves balance and fruition at her core. "When the cameras come on, that's when Suki comes out," she says. "But I have a very small circle, and I'm a very spiritual person. I try to keep my chakras aligned, try to stay away from negative energy, and I'm big on manifestation. That's why everything I wrote down, I have."

Although Maya Ragsdale is relatively new to town, the Harvard-trained attorney has already become one of the loudest voices in the fight to reform Miami's criminal-court system. A former Miami-Dade public defender, Ragsdale is driven by a passion for the people she used to represent: poor, mostly Black defendants who have historically been railroaded by the U.S. penal system. Although no longer a participant in that system, Ragsdale has continued her advocacy as a so-called movement lawyer involved in organizing efforts with local groups. Working with the Dream Defenders, she helped start the Free the Block campaign, which seeks to end pretrial detention and the use of cash bail. And when the coronavirus reared its ugly head in March, Ragsdale was one of the first activists to sound the alarm about the inmates in Miami-Dade's jails, who — as she predicted — began contracting COVID-19 at alarming levels. Starting in April, she helped represent them in a lawsuit against Miami-Dade's corrections department, interviewing dozens of incarcerated people and their families to document unhygienic, inhumane, and even life-threatening conditions inside the Metro West Detention Center. "The people inside are vulnerable," she said during an April Zoom call, "and it's on us to protect them, because Corrections won't."

Feeding South Florida
Courtesy of Feeding South Florida

Feeding South Florida continues to step up big time. Last year alone, the organization — covering Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe counties, it's the largest food bank in South Florida — distributed 51.5 million meals to more than 700,000 individuals, including 240,000 children and 110,000 older adults. And this was all before COVID-19 and its ugly self settled in. Since that time, the nonprofit has seen a 600 percent increase in demand, with approximately one in five individuals experiencing food insecurity as a result of the pandemic. Amid this influx, Feeding South Florida continues to deliver, distributing tens of millions of meals since mid-March. Where everyday scenarios and,now, a pandemic have left people hungry, Feeding South Florida is the true fuel that keeps them going.

People are suckers for a good dose of nostalgia and memories of simpler times. The '90s and early '00s were much, much simpler times. In 2019, when politician Alexander "Alex" Penelas announced he was running for mayor of Miami-Dade County in 2020, ears everywhere perked up with excitement. Was it not just yesterday that it was 1996, and a young, very charismatic Penelas was elected as county mayor? His second and final term as mayor, from 2000 to 2004, felt like mere weeks ago. Alas, it's been 15 years since the Hialeah native was in the spotlight, and we didn't realize just how much we'd missed him. Even though Penelas had served two terms as county mayor, he was eligible to run again because in 2007 the county changed to a "strong mayor" form of government, so he was essentially running for a new gig. Unfortunately, in true 2020 fashion, all good things must come to an end. Although the community will always love Penelas and cherish the eight wonderful years we had together, residents of Miami-Dade County weren't ready to jump back into the old relationship. After the August 18, 2020, primary election, Penelas conceded. Here's hoping this short-lived comeback isn't the last time we hear from the once-golden boy of Miami politics.

Best Power Couple
Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty

"Power couple" might be an understatement. Don and Mera Rubell are widely known in the arts for their formidable modern and contemporary collection, which includes works by such big names as Keith Haring, Ai Wei Wei, Jeff Koons, Yayoi Kusama and many, many more. The couple has been collecting art since the early days of their relationship, often focusing on rising artists by traveling to galleries worldwide and searching for new acquisitions to add to their ever-growing legacy. Having cultivated such a large collection over the span of fifty years, in 2019 the Rubells moved from their Wynwood viewing space into the new, 53,000-square-foot Rubell Museum, located in Allapattah. (See "Best Private Collection" elsewhere in this section.)

Bars are closed, pool parties canceled. Clubs may not fully reopen until 2021. Thanks to COVID-19, if you're not a dating-apps kind of dude and want to meet single women, you're going to have to make like your forefathers and head for the beach. The sands of South Beach have been both disappointingly (to Dr. Fauci) and pleasantly (to single guys on the prowl) packed. Anyone daring to brave the crowds is probably enough of a risk-taker to meet someone new in this dangerous time. But be cautious out there, Romeo: While having three dimensions might make you stand out in this brave new world of Zoom, if you don't want to scare women off, you should definitely abide by the six-feet rule. In bygone eras, getting too close to a sunbathing stranger could get you labeled as a mere creep; now you'll be considered a bona fide menace.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®