Working as an artist or event organizer in Miami is, in many ways, like being an only child. A plethora of challenges can arise that could make or break you. In those moments, it'd be nice to have an experienced older sibling who could show you the ropes or guide you along the way.
That’s where Lyly Villanueva Salazar comes in.
The Venezuelan-born showstopper started putting on shows in Miami at the start of the decade, but her story began before that, when she went away to college across the country.
“It actually took me moving out of Miami — I went all the way to San Francisco, the opposite end of the country... and it took that to make me realize how Miami I am and how much I missed it,” she says.
Salazar originally decided to pursue a career in law, but that plan was quickly overshadowed by a passion for culture and music in the 305. While in law school, Salazar began looking for internships with Ultra Music Festival. In 2011, her efforts landed her a meeting with David Sinopoli, who at the time was music director for the Midtown Miami lounge Bardot. For the next two years, Salazar and Sinopoli, along with a small team, created successful events while envisioning something bigger. Those were the early stages of what eventually became the music festival III Points.
“I had just graduated from law school and took a two-month trip to Asia, and while I was gone, III Points was born. I came back and jumped right in,” Salazar recalls.
Her ambitious nature landed her a position on the III Points team. Later that year, she contributed to the group's first Art Basel show, featuring acts such as Kendrick Lamar and Dark Side. That production and others catalyzed the young organizer, who was eager to help create opportunities for local music artists who believed the city failed to uplift creatives. Salazar eventually became a partner at III Points and director of operations for six years before transitioning into what she calls a "new phase" in her life.
“There really wasn’t a cultural scene that people could sink their teeth into," she says. "I saw a lot of people leaving Miami to gain recognition and carrying disdain for the city because they never received love. That’s where it all stems from. That has always been the goal, to give Miami artists a platform.”
By the end of the decade, Salazar would be recognized for her work in the city, becoming culture marketing manager for Red Bull in South Florida. The platform helps her pay it forward by uplifting local musicians such as Denzel Curry and Twelve'Len. Both were taken under her wing while chasing their own creative aspirations.
Twelve’Len recalls their first encounter: “I remember a time during my Red Bull showcase, I told her I wanted clouds hanging from the ceiling, and she did it herself. She taught me to push the envelope while creating. She’s the greatest person to know and is a great friend to me as well. That’s my sister and probably going to be my kids' godmother.”
Twelve'Len is also impressed by Salazar's work ethic. “The thing I love the most is how she don’t take no for an answer and makes sure her vision and team's vision comes to life when organizing,” he says.
Norma Now, another event producer Salazar has aided, concurs. “From the moment I met Lyly, she was all hands on deck — a constant push and open door from the start," Now says. "I felt her organically being a part of the space. I didn’t have to be a part of her world, her crew, her scene, but she recognized my potential and along the way has nurtured me through my career.”
Salazar has helped millennials in Miami monetize their opportunities while also teaching them about business in order to best equip their minds and their movements. She has also helped promote creative groups such as RnBae, Space Tapes, and the folks at the 229 Warehouse, among many others.
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“People have taken a chance on me, and it’s only right that I do the same," Salazar says. "In Miami, you need somebody to vouch for you, and I’ve been lucky to have some great people vouch for me.”
Aside from all the support she's given, the people she works with have been instrumental in helping her curate the culture in Miami. Chief among them is Sinopoli. “Lyly is a go-getter," he says. "She’ll jump in without any fear. If she’s lost, she’ll take a moment to download all the data and get right back into the trenches. She’s one of the main reasons for III Points.” In a time when the city needed greater support systems, he adds, Salazar helped transform the scene through her relentless passion for Miami. “She’s not afraid to be herself or ask for advice when needed. Her assertive nature with a grounded vision has allowed her to create opportunities for herself and those around her.”
In the world of Miami events, Salazar is an older sister to those who share her love for this city. Her selflessness at each step of her journey has allowed her to nurture an extended family tree whose branches span genres, audiences, and locations. By planting creative seeds throughout Miami, she has allowed the cultural roots of the 305 to grow.
“Never forget why you’re doing this, and don’t let ego get in the way. If you ever need hope, look to the younger generation and they’ll remind you why this is so important," Salazar advises. "This journey has definitely not been a straight line, and Miami can chew you up, then spit you out. Sometimes you’re broke and sometimes you’re not, but you need to understand these experiences are a rite of passage. There is something beautiful going on in the scene right now, and I have zero intentions of leaving anytime soon. This is my city and these are my people, and I love it here.”