Best Local Girl Made Good 2024 | Mhi'ya Iman Le'Paige and Morphine Love Dion | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
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RuPaul's Drag Race is an international stage for the enchanting art of drag. This season featured not one but two Miami girls! Mhi'ya Iman Le'Paige and Morphine Love Dion set the stage on fire with unforgettable lip-synchs. While Florida was the butt of many jokes in reference to a certain governor's anti-drag rhetoric and homophobic and transphobic policies, Le'Paige and Dion gave a reassuring face and voice to the state's queer community. Not only did the two queens bring their personalities and talents to the world, but they also spotlighted the amazing drag of South Florida. There's been a divide between being a "Ru Girl" and a "Local Girl," but Le'Paige and Dion prove that you can be both at once — and look incredible doing it.

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In many ways, Logan Sargeant is like your typical South Floridian: He roots for the Miami Dolphins, enjoys fishing, and loves Cafe Martorano. But unlike most locals, he happens to be one of the greatest racing drivers on the planet. Born in Fort Lauderdale, the 23-year-old moved to Europe as a teenager to pursue his racing dreams. He made a splash in the Formula 2 championship, where he secured three podium finishes in 2022, and made his Formula 1 debut with the British F1 team Williams Racing in March 2023 at the Bahrain Grand Prix, where he finished 12th. In December, Williams Racing announced that Sargeant will remain with the team for the 2024 Formula 1 season. He now lives in West London — more than 4,000 miles from his sunny hometown — where he rents a modest apartment and drives around in a tiny Vauxhall Astra.

This Barby is not like the other Barbie. This one is an accused insurrectionist. Barbara "Barby" Balmaseda, a 23-year-old from Miami Lakes, was arrested in December for allegedly storming the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, alongside members of the far-right Proud Boys. In the months following the insurrection, online sleuths zeroed in on the former Florida International University student and GOP strategist — whom they dubbed "#PinkGaiterPBG" — after she was photographed inside the U.S. Capitol sporting a baseball cap with an American flag and a black-and-pink gaiter. Notably, she was caught in photos alongside Proud Boys Gabriel Garcia and Ethan Nordean, who also face charges connected to the riot. Balmaseda interned for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio between 2018 and 2019, worked as an organizer on Gov. Ron DeSantis' 2018 campaign, and served as campaign manager for Ileana Garcia's controversial 2020 Florida Senate race. She also previously served as the director-at-large for Miami Young Republicans.

Once dubbed "Miami's NIL King," Ruiz was a darling of the early name-image-and-likeness (NIL) era for college athletes. The attorney and entrepreneur was one of the most prominent athletic supporters of his alma mater, the University of Miami, and sunk $14 million into NIL deals for more than 160 athletes across the country. However, his fall from grace was quick. After taking his company MSP Recovery (AKA LifeWallet) public with a $32 billion valuation in 2022, its stock suddenly collapsed. He subsequently ran into trouble after UM's women's basketball team learned that he invited two recruits, the famed Cavinder twins, to his home for dinner (the team was sanctioned by the NCAA). Now, Ruiz and LifeWallet are under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice over the company's algorithms and other issues — on top of the company reporting a net loss of a whopping $835 million last year. Whew!

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Miamians finally understood the pride of punk legitimacy when Iggy Pop became the gem resident in our rock-star crown more than 20 years ago. South Florida is fortunate to have a new musical legend living in our midst, at least part-time. And this 65-year-old is repping the city as hard as, and you better believe it, DJ Khaled. Noise innovator Thurston Moore, formerly of genre-shifting experimental band Sonic Youth, has returned to the city where he was born (in Doctor's Hospital) to winter. And he really likes it here! The chapter in his 2023 biography, Sonic Life, about his time as a kid living in his mom's hometown of Coral Gables will have you choked up with nostalgia for this tropical paradise. Moore has been lurking around town for more than a decade, attending Miami Heat games and the International Noise Conference run by his friend, noise-rock elder Rat Bastard (Frank Falestra). He's also been conspicuous on Instagram, heavily promoting shows led by Seafoam Walls or Las Nubes — both signed to his Daydream Library Series/Ecstatic Peace label. Having Moore around is "100%" a "Kool Thing" for a city with a rock scene that's too often overlooked.

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Jimmy Butler is the master of the makeover on the NBA's media day. Well aware that his headshots from the day will be plastered to his player profile in TV broadcasts, Butler shows up with cheeky hairdos and odd fashion choices designed to make fans do a double-take. After sporting fake bleached dreadlocks in 2022, Butler arrived in glorious emo style this year with flat-ironed hair draped over his statuesque features, lip and eyebrow piercings (authenticity unverified), and black nail polish. "Yeah, laugh it up," Butler said upon taking the stage at a press conference, seemingly trying to contain a prankster's grin. When asked about the new look, he professed, "This is my emotional state. I'm one with my emotions."

Remember in January 2024, when eight-foot-tall aliens around Bayside Marketplace triggered a colossal police response? Or was that narrative just a crock of unabashed bullshit? We're leaning toward the earthly explanation — that the cops were there to break up a crowd of unruly teenagers — though who's to say for certain. Maybe some extraterrestrial interlopers needed fresh kicks from Foot Locker or, for reasons beyond human comprehension, wanted to buy a $10 pink pencil from Claire's. In any event, conspiracy theories about the supposed otherworldly presence at Bayside gained traction, and the web was teeming with Miami mall alien memes, most of which, to be frank, were pretty damn lazy. One content creator actually put some effort into it, with a meme depicting his trademark alien-bro characters chillin' at typical mall stores and shopping for clothes. You win, comedian and MTV Wild 'N Out cast member Brent Pella. Your store names were inaccurate for Bayside, but your bit was better than the dime-a-dozen memes incorporating Giorgio Tsoukalos from Ancient Aliens.

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If there's one person in Miami who you can trust with restaurant recommendations, it's the guy who's dedicated his life to sharing the best eats in town — area native George Arango of Mr. Eats 305. While many food influencers share extravagant meals full of flashy, black truffle-covered pizzas, Arango is the kind of content creator who primarily showcases mom-and-pop, hole-in-the-wall spots only true locals would know about. You can find him stopping by upwards of five different iconic restaurants, bakeries, and food trucks in a single day (and that's just his average Monday). His apparent deep love for the Magic City, its diverse culture, and small businesses is what makes his content so notable.

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Kevin Escalera of Snack Eating Snacks is the TikToker to turn to when it comes to munching around the globe. He's mastered the art of sharing in-depth food reviews and documenting every little thing he has ever consumed — whether in Miami, at a Costco in Spain, or a vending machine in L.A. Although he started documenting his adventures less than three years ago, his TikToks have garnered hundreds of thousands of views. Locally, he brought his followers on a full day of scarfing down food at Miami's best Jamaican spots and has gone on the hunt for the best cookies in town. Plus, if you need travel inspo, he's your guy, offering tips on where to chow down around the world. As his name implies, he started as a snack reviewer, so his snack reviews will leave you drooling for a lowly bag of kettle chips from an old-school vending machine.

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Hialeah council member Jesus Tundidor has a masterful way of maintaining his composure when people hit below the belt. Last November, former council member Bryan Calvo publicly attacked Tundidor's family about a lawsuit against the city involving former Mayor Carlos Hernández and a 2019 police raid of their Hialeah strip club. A former salsa instructor, Tundidor showed he can take it on the chin while dancing toe-to-toe, and respectfully chided Calvo for speaking about his family — a no-no even in Miami political circles. That night, others agreed, and the Hialeah Council voted 6-to-1 to formally disapprove of Calvo's "personal and political" agenda. When angry residents from Brownsville poured into City Hall last May and took aim at proposed annexation by Hialeah, Tundidor diffused tensions by letting everyone know they would work with the community. The proposal was later dropped. And during a raucous meeting last year about renaming Palm Avenue to Trump Avenue, Tundidor patiently let dissenters voice their opinions. Tundidor's favorite quote wraps it up: "Tough times don't last; tough people do."

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®