Best Herald Reporter 2021 | Michelle Marchante | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Photo courtesy of Michelle Marchante

More than just a newspaper, the Miami Herald is an institution that serves an important civic role, and its reporters excel at keeping the community informed in times of crisis. In her relatively short tenure as a Herald breaking news reporter, Marchante rose to the top during the pandemic as a journalist who stayed abreast of the latest COVID-19 news and updated Miamians minute-to-minute with the information they need to know. Vaccination-site locations, local mask regulations, resources for aid in evictions cases — her reporting has served as a vehicle of public service and clarity in a time of confusion and anxiety. The Herald's Curious305 initiative, which Marchante dedicatedly handles, is a clever way for curious Miami residents to have their burning and sometimes silly questions answered. Be it a safety concern like, "When will my kid be able to get a vaccine?" to the more trivial, "Why is Miami known as the 305?" no question is too big or too small to be answered, and Marchante's love for the community shines through in her responses, as it does in all her reporting.

Few outside South Florida fully understand how cataclysmic Miami weather can be. The storm surges, the fry-an-egg-on-your-head-level heat, the climbing sea levels —these phenomena attract meteorologists from across the country. But as a Miami native, Lissette Gonzalez has a more intimate connection with the region. Gonzalez grew up here, earned her undergrad degree at the University of Miami, and has worked for 14 years as the morning and afternoon meteorologist for CBS4 News. The Cuban-American mother of two starts her day early (as in 2:30 or 3 a.m.) so you can start yours off in the know thanks to her weathercasts, which air weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. and again at noon. Fair weather news or foul, Gonzalez delivers the goods with a contagious smile and a soothing voice that urges you to believe it'll all be all right —stage presence that can be traced back to her pageantry days (she's won Miss Miami, Miss Florida, and was second runner-up for Miss America in 1998) and her stint as María in the Off-Broadway musical 4 Guys Named José...and una Mujer Named María.

Even in these times of satellite radio and unlimited streaming, terrestrial AM and FM radio has managed to survive and, in the case of WVUM, thrive. The University of Miami's student-run station began as a pirate operation in 1967, but over the decades it has become a local institution (with a clear, strong signal, to boot). While most stations play more commercial than music, WVUM has long been commercial-free, save for the rare public-service announcement. What you get are heaping helpings of off-center musical selections from bands you won't hear anywhere else, plus genuine indie rock, hip-hop, and world music, with the occasional spoken-word poem and Hurricanes sporting event for good measure.

Now more than ever, Miamians need a reason to smile. Ideally, sports are meant to provide those smiles, even if they come from fans sharing a bit of self-deprecating agony until the home team turns it around. Brendan Tobin has a way of helping radio listeners bask in the highest of the highs and burst out laughing in the face of our lowest lows. Whether he's making whale sounds at 6 a.m. because the Miami Heat are rumored to be landing their next star, dressing up as "Marlins Macho Man" after the Fish pull out a win, or getting in the middle of a Jake Paul–Floyd Mayweather melée, Tobin is at the center of all that's right in Miami sports radio. Win, lose, or draw, Miami sports fans can look forward to tuning in the next morning to hear Tobin's take on it all. While we never know what he's going to do, we do know it'll make us smile.

Photo by Melody Timothee

You've probably heard her infectious voice while listening to The Afternoon Get Down on 99 Jamz on your way home from work. For more than 20 years, Supa Cindy has graced local airwaves with her lighthearted banter on music and pop culture, climbing the ranks from intern to co-host. She got her start on The Big Lip Bandit Morning Show alongside former 99 Jamz personality Big Lip Bandit and comedian Benji Brown. "We definitely changed radio in South Florida," she says of that experience. "Big Lip and I were the first duo, male and female, that had the same amount of talk time. I think that's what people related to. Our chemistry and arguing over the air like brother and sister." Now she's the quintessential voice of Miami, lending her voice to topics ranging from entertainment news to mental-health discussions, while continuing her impact on the local hip-hop scene with her "Miami Cypher" series and her latest Sunday-night segment, "Co-Sign Radio," where she debuts new music from emerging local artists with co-host Jill Strada. "My radio career started with DJ Khaled, Rick Ross, Flo Rida, and Pitbull," Cindy says. "All of them are my personal close friends. And to see their growth, I'm like, 'Why is it impossible to see another Khaled or Rick Ross?'" Sure enough, her cyphers have shone a spotlight on up-and-comers like Kiddo Marv, King Hoodie, Tafia, Mike Smiff, and Tierra Traniece. "I love the community. I love I can go to any neighborhood and get the love and respect I've earned," she says. "I love my people, and when I say I love my people, I'm talking about the 305."

Whether casually holding forth in ballcap and T-shirt or dishing celebrity gossip as his drag alter ego Funky Dineva, Quentin Latham has become a YouTube go-to for pop-culture enthusiasts. Latham's journey on the platform began back in 2009, "before the word Youtuber started," as he says. For the past decade, he's grown his brand via his witty and unabashed recaps of reality-TV franchises and commentary on pop culture and politics. "My ability to talk about anything from politics to socioeconomic issues to religion to hip-hop culture has definitely separated me from the rest," he tells New Times. "The reason why I win on YouTube is because I'm smart." The Florida State University alumnus has certainly cracked the code to getting the algorithm gods on his side —to the tune of more than 360,000 subscribers. But what keeps subscribers coming back is his candidness about his identity as a gay black man. "Being a queer black man from Miami, one of the biggest hurdles is hearing, 'You're a faggot,'" he says. "It's something I truly had to overcome, because it's something I've heard about myself since the second grade. At a certain point in this business, you realize: I'm more than that and my sexuality doesn't define me." These days he cohosts Fox Soul's YouTube show Tea-G-I-F on Wednesdays and Fridays, sharing hot takes on current events and entertainment news. The Carol City native says he's proud to represent the city that's influenced his persona on YouTube and TV. "Atlanta jumpstarted my career— I did ten years in Atlanta," he says. "But one thing that's always bothered me was I became Funky Dineva in Atlanta but what people don't realize is all this personality comes from Carol City, baby." In the words of Funky Dineva: We see you, Nessa girl!

In a city where excess abounds, lifestyle influencer Alexia Frith, who goes by KandidKinks on social media, has cultivated a platform that prioritizes authenticity over popularity. A natural-hair YouTuber who began making videos in 2015 to educate black women how to care for their 4C natural hair, Frith wanted to create tutorials for underrepresented women. "When I started making videos, I didn't see people who looked like me in terms of my texture and skin tone on a large scale," she says. Now she has 60,000 subscribers on YouTube and 25,000 followers on Instagram. Her social media is interspersed with pop-culture commentary and conversations that reflect her audience. In 2018, she expanded those conversations offline, founding South Florida Naturals, a series of meetups and workshops. "I feel like in Miami specifically we didn't have a lot of natural hair spaces or natural hair events," she explains. "It's like a sisterhood and I've made great friends and connections." Despite her status as a source of beauty hacks for women who feel left out of hair and makeup campaigns, she refuses to be undermined by those who seek to pigeonhole her. "I'm not just hair, and no one is just their physical appearance. I felt like if I'm here and I have opinions and thoughts as a black woman, I know my audience has those same feelings," she says. "I love to create that safe space for people that have similar experiences and similar life stories."

Photo via TikTok

Satire is often the sincerest form of endearment one can show for their hometown, and that's exactly the kind of love up-and-coming TikToker Stephanie Veloso shows for Miami. Her "What Your Miami Neighborhood Says About You" series, for example, takes aim at "twice-divorced real estate investors" from Coral Gables looking to "diversify [their] sugar baby portfolio," while her Miami condo series at once entertains and informs as she strides past the glossy façades of our town's high-rises to expose their hilarious (and sometimes grotesque) reputations. Veloso, whose background is Brazilian-American, grew up in Miami and wants to help us all appreciate the Magic City as more than just "the land of blow and beaches," as she once delicately put it. This she accomplishes by talking shit. "It's like when you make fun of your family — only you can talk shit about them," she elaborates. "It has to be one of us. I think I do it with love, and people can relate to it if they're from here." Veloso's schtick is still evolving and her following is still nascent — climb aboard now so you can tell your friends you knew her when.

Khaled Mohamed Khaled has earned many titles. Superstar DJ. Hip-hop mogul. Soul fast food purveyor. Weight Watchers ambassador. Asahd's father. But the loftiest crown he wears is Miami's lord of the memes. A marketing mastermind, Khaled was among the first rap artists to understand the importance of having an outsize social-media presence, one in which his visage is constantly going viral with a simple facial expression. There are at least a dozen DJ Khaled memes floating around the Internet, endlessly reimagined and reshared. An April 2021 entry is a good example. It's a video clip of Khaled sitting at outdoors in Jamaica, swirling a goblet filled with a chartreuse liquid. Suddenly, he stands up, his face a contortion of surprise and anger. The short reel has been reposted and reshared hundreds of times on TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter. You know the meme is certified because the @onlyindade bros reposted it as an interpretation of "that moment you realize your neighbor is trying to steal your mangoes from your tree!" Others saw it as "when you're out with your girl and see your wife with another man," "me remembering I forgot to cancel my free trial," and "me realizing midway through my meal that I can't smell or taste anything."

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®