D.C.'s Rising Stars: 30 Under 30

28 comments

header Anyone who’s lived in Washington for a solid period of time knows this is a city of superheroes — successful professionals who rule at their day jobs and transform into supremely talented boundary pushers at night. And, while this city isn’t the easiest place to chase down a dream, D.C. is home to plenty of inspired, ambitious men and women who do just that — all day, every day.

With that in mind, we’re incredibly proud to present Refinery29 D.C.’s inaugural 30 Under 30 list, in which we pay tribute to the Washingtonians who make our city — maybe even our world — a better place (and by “better,” we also mean cooler, tastier, more beautiful, and more creative). From the number-one NBA draft pick with killer style and the wunderkind chef of the moment to the tireless activist and the art world’s next superstar, these driven, hard-working individuals embody the answer to the age-old question: What do you want to be when you grow up? And, don’t worry if you’re still figuring out your answer to that question — all the inspiration you need is straight ahead.

Scope out all of the rising stars below, and click on any of the images to get to know them a little bit better. Or, just click here to start the slideshow.
30 Under 30Jonathan NemanJohn WallSamantha DeZurLindsay Pitts and Clifford John UsherZakiya SmithErik Bruner-YangKate GreeneKate WarrenMartin SwiftSkyler JavierRachel PfefferKate JenkinsPaul ThornleyMaki OnukiChristopher BarnhillRyan Hunter MitchellEames ArmstrongJake NaughtonPhil AdéPhilip SorianoDaniel KimDylan ByersMichelle GermanModele 'Modi' OyewoleHolley SimmonsMax EnglingDeanna JeffersonAshley TurchinAllison Sosna
01_JonathanNemanThe Entrepreneur
Jonathan Neman, 28, is what you might call “unstoppable.” As CEO of one of D.C.'s buzziest companies — the eco-friendly, locally sourced, and utterly addictive resto chain Sweetgreen — he's pondering a hotel company, yoga/surf retreat, media empire, and apparel line. Launched as a one-shop operation by Neman and two friends, Nicolas Jammet and Nathaniel Ru, Sweetgreen has grown into a 15-location mainstay in the area, with plans to expand to New York City and Boston this fall. Plus, there’s the annual Sweetlife festival, which has been dubbed the “East Coast Coachella,” drawing the likes of Phoenix and The Strokes.


But in spite of the buzz, Neman exudes a West Coast brand of Zen — due in large part to his diligent yoga practice. "I want to create a company with an incredible culture that brings passion and purpose together, and ultimately changes the world,” he says. Food, music, style, and sport — this entrepreneur truly does it all.

Jonathan_Newman_0983_CROPPED
Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.
“Crowd-surfed during Phoenix at Sweetlife Festival among all of my best friends and family, including my grandmother, Mon Mon!”


What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned and who taught it?

“Two lessons that have always stuck with me: ‘Fortune favors the bold,’ from my uncle, Isaac Larian, because you have to dream big to really change the world. And, 'You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,’ from Tim Ferriss. It really made me think about the people I surround myself with, and how they influence who I am.”

What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?

“I was pretty rebellious and adventurous as a kid, always pushing the boundaries. I have three little brothers and a lot of very close cousins (of whom I am the oldest), so I always had to be in some sort of leadership role. I was always the troublemaker in the nerdy class. I guess I understood early on the value of not following the rules.”

When you were a kid, what did you think you'd be doing at this age?

“I was always really into music, so it was my dream to start a hip-hop record label. Although I never became a hip-hop mogul, I found my own roundabout way into the music industry.”

A perfect day in your town always includes these three things...
“Morning yoga, incredible meal shared with friends and family, and an impromptu-dance party.”

What's been your most humbling moment?

“The moment when The Strokes played the first notes of 'Is This It' at Sweetlife in 2011. I remember standing in the balcony with my two best friends and partners, Nic and Nate, looking out at the crowd of 15,000 and just being so thankful for this opportunity to do what we love for a living together.”

Styled by Morgan Hungerford West, Hair by Meghan Walsh, Makeup by Sarah Torrento
KateGreeneThe Muse
Stylist, writer, model, and Instagram champ Kate Greene, 27, loves an adventure — whether it’s finding under-the-radar restos in Istanbul or traveling across the Pacific Ocean on a container ship. So, you can bet she enlists the same adventurous spirit when it comes to her career. Greene recently made the leap from a full-time government gig to the fashion world, leaving behind sensible heels and a cubicle in order to push her creative limits everyday.

For now, the California native is focusing on writing for online sites, such as Brightest Young Things and Panda Head, styling events, and collaborating on shoots with new artists and designers. And when this striking blonde isn’t working on the aesthetic side, she’s reading fashion mags in Dupont Circle, soaking up inspiration from the likes of Russh and Oyster. That sounds like full-time fashion to us.

Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.
“My boyfriend and I just traveled to Istanbul for the first time! It was incredible to see the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia and hear the call of prayer in person. I was in complete awe of how beautiful the city was. We walked all over the city and woke up really early one morning to hunt for this incredible deli that, I swear, is Istanbul's best-kept secret...known for its cheese and honey and tea! It was delicious.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“Be honest and keep working hard. I think my father taught me that one.”

If you could switch lives with anyone else under 30, who would it be?
“Maybe Grimes...I saw her at the Savannah Stopover last year and fell completely in love. Her music/voice is just incredible (I listened to Visions for months on repeat), and I completely admire her personal convictions, in addition to her wildly cool, ‘moon-child-chic’ aesthetic. Also, I may be the most tone-deaf person you'll ever meet...so, it would be lovely to carry a tune for a fortnight, or however long I was granted that capability.”

What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?
“I was always the ‘new girl’ growing up! My family moved just about every two years. I loved the anonymity and excitement of living in new places and meeting new people. It has definitely allowed me to be more open and fluid as an adult.

Also, I grew up dancing classical ballet, training pre-professionally with the Washington School of Ballet. Dance was always a big part of my life and definitely influenced my draw toward fashion and aesthetics today.”

What's been your most humbling moment?
“Last year, I was invited to travel across the Pacific on one of those enormous container vessels — you see them from the coast, and they still look huge. It was wild to spend so many days at sea with nothing around you but water — it was incredibly humbling.

Also, I'm constantly reading or hearing about so many artists and people out there doing just amazing things — I mean, this list, for example. It's so humbling to know there are so many talented people out there just doing their thing...I love that!”

Styled by Morgan Hungerford West, Hair by Meghan Walsh, Makeup by Sarah Torrento
24_KateWarrenThe Photographer
Photographer Kate Warren, 24, has a superhuman amount of energy — and it shows. Between shooting fashion editorials for tons of Washington publications (including R29), capturing the city’s most stylish partygoers, photographing musicians and artists, and working on her own passion projects, Warren is absolutely everywhere — and we’re stoked to tag along via photos.

As part of her photography business, GoKateShoot, Warren’s clients have included Ford and the Corcoran College of Art + Design, and she’s gearing up to collaborate with the likes of Leica and GM. It makes sense that Warren fell into photography: It combines her love for the arts, her seemingly endless supply of energy, and her natural desire to meet new people — she’s 99 percent extroverted on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. We talked to Warren about her celebrity doppelganger, her most meaningful photography project, and what it takes to launch a creative business (hint: lots of hustle).

Kate_Warren_1352
Tell us a little about your career goals. Any creative endeavors on the horizon?
“As I shoot for larger publications, I look forward to assignments that send me to international locations. There’s nothing like the thrill of chasing a story in a new place! In addition, I’ll be shifting my focus from style documentary to fashion photography and am planning more than a half-dozen editorial shoots in the next few weeks to get the ball rolling. I put together a top creative team and asked them one question: ‘What would you do if you could do anything?’ We’re in the throes of planning now, and the results will be dramatic. I can’t wait!

I’m about to hit the road in the next two weeks, [where] I’ll be shooting fashion and reportage projects. My partner, painter Martin Swift, and I will fill the back of his ‘man van’ with every film and digital camera I have, dozens of canvases and paints, and a pop-up photo studio for a few weeks of creative adventure [and] curating programming for Martin’s upcoming solo exhibition. We’re also working on a series of fashion illustrations, so you can keep an eye out for those later in the summer.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“My business-minded parents taught me that something worth doing is worth doing well. Whether I’m on set, doing research, or invoicing, I approach each element of my photography with zeal and refuse to quit until it’s as close to perfect as it can be. The best photography lesson was taught to me by my mentor in Barcelona, who said, ‘You take the picture, not the camera.’ On days when other photographers are bemoaning their lights or that they don’t have the right camera, I go out and shoot. Creating new work is infinitely more important than having the most expensive gear; learning to really rock what you’ve got and developing your skills is the key.”

What's been your most humbling moment?
“While living in New York, I photographed two of my artist friends, Eva and Kerry, for a photo project. Nine months after the photos were taken, the girls died tragically in a house fire when they were 21. My most humbling moment was when I met the girls’ families for the first time and told them of the 2,000 studio portraits I took of the girls. What had begun as a personal photography project on a lazy, Sunday afternoon grew to serve a purpose much higher than I could ever have imagined — the ability of photographs to help heal. I was humbled by the grief and strength of their families and friends, who all swarmed to my website to ‘visit’ Eva and Kerry in the months after the fire. I received dozens of deeply personal emails, calls, and comments on my blog as more people saw the work and were moved to reach out. Ten months after the fire, an exhibition of the work opened in D.C., and I watched as strangers were moved to tears. The deeply personal moments created by these photographs and their ability to heal continue to humble me daily.”

What’s your mantra?
“Look over the mountain. Much of D.C. suffers from what polite company calls ‘navel-gazing,’ but this mantra reminds me to have more of a global vision for my career. It also reminds me not to sweat small stuff and always have a long game plan — you can’t get over the mountain without one!”

Styled by Morgan Hungerford West, Hair by Meghan Walsh, Makeup by Sarah Torrento
05_ZakiyaSmithThe Higher-Ed Hero
It hasn’t been that long since Zakiya Smith was a college student herself. And yet, at just 28 years old, Smith is helping to reinvent the way college students pay for their education. With a degree from Harvard Graduate School of Education, Smith got her start as a senior policy advisor for education at the White House under President Obama. Now, in her new role as strategy director at Lumina Foundation, she’s working to ensure that quality higher education is accessible to everyone, regardless of income.

This policy wonk/self-proclaimed Southern belle has always been driven: Smith’s childhood dream was to be an astronaut. But a lifelong love of reading inspired her to major in political science and secondary education at Vanderbilt University, where she earned her teaching certificate. We asked Smith all about her passion for education, and she shared some top-notch advice on how to get the career you want.

Give us the scoop on what you’re doing with your life and career now.
“Right now, I’m leading a strategy to develop new models of student financial support for higher education. The system we have to support students financially for college is broken, and we are interested in exploring ways to fix it. That’s an awesome task, intellectually, and I love what I do. I get to figure out what questions we should be asking, and I use my expertise from my time in the Obama administration to provide input on what policy questions are relevant. I have a great work-life balance now — I’ve got the time and energy to enjoy my personal life much more than I ever did in the past four years.”

Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.
“I threw my best friend a Breakfast at Tiffany’s-themed bridal shower. After seeing the pictures, I thought, ‘Man, this is awesome.’ I’m glad that I had the time, energy, and money to be able to do something like that for her.”

Tell us a little about your career goals. Any creative endeavors on the horizon?
“My career goal is to improve people’s lives through education — that’s it. There are so many possibilities for how this could happen, but most importantly for me is to continue to do this in a way that best suits my personal life. I left the White House when I felt like I needed a change of pace, and my role at Lumina is allowing me to have an impact on education in a way that also works for me personally. I hope to pursue that goal with similar balance in my work and personal life moving forward.”

What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?
“I was pretty nerdy as a child and am probably still pretty nerdy now. I liked to read a lot, and that is a quality that has stuck with me. Hopefully, that has helped me in my professional life."

What's been your most humbling moment?
“My most humbling moment has probably come through my work mentoring. In those times, you realize that all of the ‘importance’ of the world doesn’t matter to a child who just needs you to be there for them.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“My first boss told me not to do things I didn’t want to do in my career. Meaning, if I didn’t want to do research, I shouldn’t take a job doing research, because the research job would set me on a path for future research jobs. The idea is that each job should set you up to do something in the future that you enjoy, and if the job [you’re considering] isn’t going to put you on that path, you shouldn’t take it. That’s a lesson that everyone isn’t able to take advantage of, but I’ve been blessed to be able to follow this advice without being unemployed for major periods of my life!”

Styled by Morgan Hungerford West, Hair by Meghan Walsh, Makeup by Sarah Torrento
02_JohnWallThe Athlete
In 2010, at the ripe, old age of 19, John Wall’s lifelong dream came true: He was the number-one NBA draft pick for the Washington Wizards. After he was drafted, former mayor Adrian Fenty declared the day after the draft, June 25, to be “John Wall Day.” And while that may sound like a fantasy to some, to Wall, now 22, it’s the result of a lifetime of hard work.

Raised in North Carolina and surrounded by six — count ‘em, six — sisters, Wall spent his formative years working toward a singular goal: To be the best basketball player he could be. But along the way, he picked up an unexpected benefit — an awesome sense of style. Wall arrived at our shoot with a suitcase filled with some of the sickest sneakers we’ve ever seen, not to mention evidence of a healthy addiction to floral print. All we can say? He’s definitely got game.

John_Wall_2390
Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.

“I recently took lessons and played golf for the first time.”

Tell us a little about your career goals. Any creative endeavors on the horizon?
“Win a championship, and be an NBA All-Star; work on movies; be an NBA fashion icon.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“Never satisfied, so determined. It came from my dad.”

If you could switch lives with anyone else under 30, who would it be?
“Lil Wayne. [He’s my] favorite rapper, and he set goals at a young age and achieved them.”

Which celebrity would play you in the movie version of your life?
“Jamie Foxx. He’s a talented actor and avid sports fan.”

A perfect day in your town always includes these three things...
“Being around family. Playing with dogs. Relaxing (watching TV and playing video games).”

Styled by Morgan Hungerford West, Hair by Ryan Hunter Mitchell, Makeup by Sarah Torrento
03_Samantha_DeZurThe PR Pro
“Glamazon” comes to mind the moment you set eyes on Samantha DeZur, 26 — with shiny chestnut hair that’s worthy of a Pantene commercial and legs for days, the Wisconsin-born DeZur can certainly make an entrance. And while she’s currently happily serving as VP of communications and industry relations at the Education Finance Council, DeZur has a distinct fashion pedigree: She was cast on Style Network’s Running in Heels, a reality show that followed her and two other women while they interned at Marie Claire and lived together in New York City. But a brush with the fashion industry was enough, and she eventually moved to D.C. to earn her Master’s degree at Georgetown and launch a career in public relations. Today, she’s busy advocating for higher-education and finance issues, crisscrossing the country to talk about federal issues and authoring opinion pieces for major-news outlets. And — yes — she does, in fact, do it all in high heels.

Samantha_DeZur_1237
Tell us a little about your career goals. Any creative endeavors on the horizon?
“I love working in Washington, helping to shape public policy, and being involved in politics. I hope to broaden my career in public affairs and continue to deepen my role in policy debates. In addition, since I was a child, it’s been my dream to write a novel, become a published author, travel the world, and write about the human experience. That’s one of the reasons I love working in communications and public policy — I’m deeply interested in understanding how people think, what affects behavior, the rules and laws that govern society, and how the public operates as a civilized society. Whatever the specifics of my career are in the future, I will always work toward furthering my knowledge of those elements.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“The most important professional lesson I’ve learned is to stick up for yourself and be your own advocate. I first figured this out when I was on the show (Running in Heels) and working at Marie Claire and have been tested several times since. Being young can sometimes make it difficult to advance professionally. There will always be someone older with more experience that will try and make you feel inferior. But having confidence in my talent and drive has and will continue to help me persevere and have the career I know I’m capable of.”

What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?
“As a kid, I was happy, adventurous, and couldn’t wait for what life had to bring. I was also a perfectionist — I wanted to work hard, so I could be the best of the best later in life. In addition, I have a modest background, coming from a small town in Wisconsin and a working-class family. While they have given me all the love and emotional support I could ever ask for, I always knew my parents didn’t have the financial means or connections to help get me where I wanted to go. I knew I’d have to do that on my own, and I was (and still am) determined to do it. That combination of drive and exploration gave me the courage to be who I am today.”

Which celebrity would play you in the movie version of your life?
“If I could choose anyone, it would be Anne Hathaway. She’s such a strong, sophisticated, independent woman with classic style, but also seems so sweet, friendly, and real. Of any actress, she seems the most like me (at least I like to think so!).”

When you were a kid, what did you think you'd be doing at this age?
“Working at a fashion magazine in New York City. I’ve always loved fashion and beauty, and the way we can use clothes and style as ways to outwardly express inner beauty and who we are inside. But after having the opportunity to see how the industry works and what it’s all about, I didn’t want to work in it anymore. I feel incredibly fortunate for the opportunity I had to be a part of that world for a short time, and I met a few truly wonderful people, but the industry as a whole just isn’t for me. There was something cold and shallow about it that took the beauty out of fashion. That said, fashion will always be one of my loves and part of my personal life.”

What's been your most humbling moment?
“Reading Hemingway always makes me feel humble. His stories show me the beauty capable of being achieved in writing and everything that must be put into it. For me, he’s the benchmark of artful prose.”

A perfect day in your town always includes these three things...
“A great workout (yoga, Pilates, running, or a mix of the three!). Laughing with friends. Dinner and cocktails at a fabulous restaurant.”

What’s your mantra?
“Anything is possible.”

Styled by Morgan Hungerford West, Hair by Meghan Walsh, Makeup by Sarah Torrento
04_LinsayPitt&CliffUsherThe Musical Duo
For Lindsay Pitts and Clifford John Usher, the duo behind dream-pop outfit GEMS, 2013 is shaping up to be a banner year. After being consumed with songwriting and recording since forming the band in 2012, they played SXSW for the first time this year. And the pair, both 28, have been generating online buzz, too, getting some love from Pitchfork for the hazy, haunting "Pegasus." The music hits that same chilled-out, sweet spot as Beach House and The xx with its doomed-romance lyrics, gorgeous melodies, and lilting vocals.

Right now, Pitts and Usher are working on putting out an album and getting ready to tour in the fall — good thing, because we’ve been wearing out their SoundCloud page. Catch them at Black Cat on July 22, and keep reading for their take on the best Ethiopian spot you’ve never heard of, the life lessons they learned from a pro-baseball player, and what happened when their van broke down in the Arizona desert.

Lindsay_Pitts_Cliff_Usher_1_1234
Tell us a little about your career goals. Any creative endeavors on the horizon?
Usher: “I want to never stop challenging myself and to never stop growing artistically. The artists I look up to the most are those who created some of their best work much later in life. I have a lot of respect for people like Frank Lloyd Wright, who was in his seventies when Fallingwater was finished, or Woody Allen, who is making his best films right now, also in his seventies. I can’t endorse their personal lives or behavior, but I do want to stay that hungry.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
Pitts: “We lived in Las Vegas for a brief stint and ended up hanging out with Orel Hershiser, former pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. One night at a bar, he gave us some very pertinent advice: Strive to get better every single day, and always stay true to your core. It’s easy to get caught up in all the nonsense, and some days it’s hard to trust your own instincts. But if you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?”

What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?
Pitts: “I was a very shy, quiet kid. So, being a performer wasn’t necessarily the most obvious direction to go. I still get nervous before every show, but deep down I love the challenge.”

Which celebrities would play you in the movie version of your lives?
Pitts: “We should answer this question about each other: Matthew Grey Gubler would play Clifford. Cliff’s been stopped on the street several times by people who know that guy personally and had to do a double take.”
Usher: “Lindsay would be played by Carrie Fisher circa 1977, because she’s a badass.”

When you were kids, what did you think you'd be doing at this age?
Pitts: “I thought I would travel back in time and be Grace Slick or Joni Mitchell at Woodstock. I was completely obsessed with the ‘60s.”
Usher: “I honestly thought I would be a lawyer with a wife and kids and a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence.”

What's been your most humbling moment?
Usher: “In a previous band, we spent a couple years touring the country and playing the DIY circuit: warehouses, art spaces, house shows. We made no money and were perpetually broke, so we were forced to put ourselves at the mercy of the kindness of strangers. Every night after a show, someone in the audience would ask us if we had a place to stay and would bring us home, sometimes giving up their own bed. It was amazing and very humbling.

One day, we were on tour and our van broke down in the middle of the desert in Arizona. We had already used up all of our AAA tows and calls for the year. Some people we had just met, who lived in a nearby trailer park, rescued us. They welcomed us into their home and fed us for a week. These were people with a completely different background and outlook on life: They were hunters with the heads of 16 bucks mounted on their front porch and Fox News playing on every TV screen, but they were some of the nicest people we’d ever met. They took us in and treated us like family.”

A perfect day in your town always includes these three things...
Pitts: “Sunshine, free art museums (one of the biggest perks of D.C.!), and the vegetarian platter from Lalibela — our favorite hole-in-the-wall, Ethiopian restaurant.”

Styled by Morgan Hungerford West, Hair by Meghan Walsh and Kate Gregury, Makeup by Sarah Torrento
ErikYangThe Culinary Wunderkind
A man who can cook — and cook really well — is on the fast track to our hearts. Combine that with rad tattoos, sharp style, and plenty of creative drive, and Erik Bruner-Yang, 28, is the definition of the whole package. Born in Taipei, Taiwan, the head chef/owner of Toki Underground is someone whose talent and success is downright intimidating (he was in a band for years before starting a culinary career), but whose sense of humor makes you feel like instant friends. And, have we mentioned he’s a genius in the kitchen? Bruner-Yang’s H Street resto is one of the neighborhood’s biggest draws, with a line out the door almost every night. And although he's opening a new mixed-concept venue for retail and food this fall, the newly married restaurateur says he's currently focusing on being a good husband and discovering a “home” life. What a guy!

If you could switch lives with anyone else under 30, who would it be?
“Life is good. [But] maybe Bruno Mars, Frank Ocean, or A$AP Rocky. I think they are living pretty good right now.”

What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?
“I was definitely free-spirited. I never liked rules, and I still don't. Being an only child, I really have a good sense of self-assurance, bordering on stubbornness. But, at the same time, I have this insatiable drive to discover new things and to break boundaries.”

Which celebrity would play you in the movie version of your life?
“Could it be a cartoon? That makes casting easier. Morgan Freeman could do the voice, or maybe the Allstate-commercial guy, Dennis Haysbert. It would make me sound more intelligent."

When you were a kid, what did you think you'd be doing at this age?
“I always joked that I wanted to be the 11th man on an NBA bench. I am watching the Golden State Warriors play the Spurs right now, and I really think that is probably still a great idea. Courtside seats, no expectation to play, and if you actually do play, everyone knows you’re going to suck. Sounds like an amazing, no-pressure life situation. In all seriousness though, I would never have dreamed that I would be here, doing all of this, now.”

What's been your most humbling moment?
“When I did a course for the No Kid Hungry dinner for Share Our Strength, hosted by Bryan Voltaggio at VOLT, I felt way out of my league. I got to cook with Matt Orlando, former chef de cuisine at NOMA, Michael Voltaggio, Spike Gjerde, and Bryan. It was crazy of them to invite me, and I think I did the best that I could. It really forced me to reevaluate myself, and I can’t wait to get invited back.”

A perfect day in your town always includes these three things...
“Laotian food at Bangkok Golden in Seven Corners, coffee from Peregrine Espresso at Union Market, and a movie.”

Styled by Morgan Hungerford West, Hair by Meghan Walsh and Kate Gregury, Makeup by Sarah Torrento
07_MaxEnglingThe Hill Staffer
In news that shocks exactly no one, there aren’t many former models working on Capitol Hill — at least, not until Max Engling came along. The 26-year-old Chicago native had a successful modeling career, doing print ads for Kohl’s and Sears and commercials for Subway, before deciding to pursue a life in politics. These days, Engling still turns heads (he was number one on The Hill’s annual 50 Most Beautiful People list last year), but he’s pouring himself into his role as staff assistant for the Committee on House Administration. The highlights of this gig? Running a lecture series for congressional summer interns and a program that places students with intellectual disabilities into internships where they can flourish. Need further proof that Engling is much more than just a pretty face? His formative years were spent volunteering with missionaries and AIDS orphanages in South Africa and building schools in Mozambique. Even in the divisive world of politics, we can all agree that he’s one of the good guys.

Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.
“I recently returned from volunteering with a missionary in Pacoti, Brazil. While I was there, my friend and I ran with the opportunity to ride motorcycles, no-holds-barred, through the mountains outside of Fortaleza, Brazil. We ended up at the Pico Alto, overlooking the entire valley.

Before starting college, I had the opportunity to stay in South Africa for three months, working with a missionary family and several AIDS orphanages. During my stay, I was able to hunt baboons and warthogs on horseback; another time, I took the final trip to the very bottom of Western Deep at Savuka Mine, the deepest place on Earth that’s not in the ocean.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“There is a time to be meek and a time to be forceful; one or the other all the time will be ruinous. Multiple elders in my life have instilled this to me.”

What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?
“I had a great childhood; I grew up homeschooled in a Christian family with a strong example from my father and mother. Growing up with stable, conservative-Christian guidance in my life was the best thing that could have happened to me. I was a child with many interests, and being homeschooled afforded me many opportunities I would not have had otherwise. I think [it] was very good for my perspective on life. Another positive from my childhood was that we moved a lot as a family — this often felt like a negative, but growing up, it really forced me to get out of my comfort zone and engage with people where I might not have otherwise.”

Which celebrity would play you in the movie version of your life?
“Leonardo DiCaprio.”

When you were a kid, what did you think you'd be doing at this age?
“I was almost 100 percent sure I would end up as a firefighter. My uncle is a firefighter in Chicago, and I have always been intrigued with the first-responder line of work.”

What's been your most humbling moment?
“Seeing the level of poverty in the bush of Mozambique while I was building a school there in 2005, and realizing how many things I take for granted while some people barely clothe themselves. It changed how I value material possessions.”

What’s your mantra?
“Work hard; trust God.”

Styled by Morgan Hungerford West, Hair by Meghan Walsh, Makeup by Sarah Torrento
PhilAdeThe Rapper
Rappers can get a bad, well, rap for the baller lifestyle so synonymous with the genre. But Phil Adé, 23, is as grounded and down-to-earth as they come (even when he’s sporting a custom, ostrich-leather-and-tweed tee with gold zippers). Contemplative and driven, he describes himself as a "great kid growing up, always polite and respectful," thanks to parents who raised him in church and instilled him with morals and values, he says, he'll carry for life. In the face of rapidly growing stardom and success, Adé still ascribes to the life philosophy of "family over everything, God over all." With 22,000 Twitter fans, a cult following, and a new single featuring legendary rapper Bun B, it's clear his humility is paying off. But the nice-guy persona comes with a dose of player's charm, too — his dream day in D.C. involves "a bottle of Cîroc; some cool, good-looking girls; and DJ Money playing music in the background." Something tells us there's no shortage of cool, good-looking girls who'd jump at that chance.

Phil_Ade_1691
Tell us a little about your career goals. Any creative endeavors on the horizon?
“Presently, I'm preparing to release my sixth mixtape, entitled R.O.S.E. (Result of Society's Evil). I released the first single, '2 A.M,' about two weeks ago, and I've started working toward the release of a clothing line I'm involved in called Friends of Ours. We're hoping to have some pieces ready for a fall '13 release. I have also been working closely with a few artists in my Royal Family crew who are releasing music soon. Flex Kartel, Dee Boy, and Ice the Villain...all of them are featured on R.O.S.E. My main goal, as of now, is to help get 368 Music Group into the mainstream music scene. I was the first artist signed to it, and that's a promise I made to myself from the beginning.”

If you could switch lives with anyone else under 30, who would it be?
“Mark Zuckerberg. He's 29 and worth $13 billion dollars. He and his family are set forever. He can just enjoy life. Anything else he does at this point is because he loves doing it. That's where I want to be at in life soon.”

When you were a kid, what did you think you'd be doing at this age?
“I thought I would be an illustrator of some sort. I was addicted to drawing stuff when I was younger. In college, I studied graphic design before I dropped out.”

What's been your most humbling moment?
“I think it was seeing my video on MTV for the first time. That's the moment everything became real to me. Only a chosen few get to go as far as I've already gone and as far as I know I'm going to go.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“Something I pretty much learned on my own, just from personal experiences, is not to take favors from people who are going to hold them over your head in the future. Always show appreciation, though. Sometimes you have to zone out and do you for you. It's the only way to get ahead.”

Styled by Morgan Hungerford West, Hair by Ryan Hunter Mitchell, Makeup by Sarah Torrento
09_PhilipSorianoThe Menswear Maestro
For Philip Soriano, 27, looking good is more than a pastime. As the cofounder of D.C.-based, menswear retailer Hugh & Crye, exuding dapperness is a 24/7 job. Soriano and fellow founder Pranav Vora are on a mission to outfit men with dress shirts that actually fit — an admirable goal, you have to admit. The brand recently expanded to offer blazers, ties, and adorable pocket squares. All products are responsibly sourced, and they’re on track to take Hugh & Crye into all 50 states and 20 countries by the year's end.

Turns out, Soriano has always gravitated toward small, innovative companies doing big things. And while he’s keen on customer service and being a brand ambassador, you may catch him dressed down occasionally — this soccer fanatic got into yoga in a major way this year.

Give us the scoop on what you’re doing with your life and career now.
“We’re trying to build the next amazing men’s lifestyle brand. We started by developing a sizing system for men’s dress shirts that is based on the shape of the man’s torso. Rather than small, medium, large or neck-and-sleeve sizing, we take the height and width of the torso into account. In doing so, we have discovered a way for men’s dress shirts to fit better than any other shirtmaker.

At Hugh & Crye, I focus on the customer experience, both online and offline. That involves the strategy behind handling customer inquiries, reporting what customers are saying, and any type of proactive input, such as communicating the customer’s point of view in product decisions. Since we’re a start-up, there are constantly many other things that each one of us is pulled into that doesn’t directly relate to our roles. So, we all wear many hats.”

Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.
“Last year, on a sourcing trip in India, my business partner Pranav and I had some down time; all the factories were closed for India’s independence day. We took a spontaneous trip to Thailand, but the place we decided to visit ended up being Thailand’s equivalent of spring break. Feeling completely out of place, we asked the locals where hidden beaches or islands were. Everyone spoke of this remote island with one resort hotel and nothing else on it. There weren’t any organized tours or shuttle packages that would take us there. So, we ended up sneaking on the boat that was shuttling resort guests back and forth. The island was absolutely amazing — clear water, a lagoon with all types of sea life. There was one reggae bar and a pad-thai shack and nothing else, aside from the resort on the island. We spent the day on the beach, eating pad thai and talking to other adventurers who made it to the island. As the day drew on, we realized that we missed the last resort shuttle back to the mainland. As the sun was setting, we met a long-boat fisherman who ended up taking us back. At first, the wooden hull and lawnmower engine seemed precarious, but after about 10 minutes, I realized this was a trip of a lifetime. The sun setting on the Indian Ocean was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“The best professional lesson I’ve ever learned comes in two parts. The first part is to constantly test and learn. I’m surprised how many of what I thought were mediocre ideas actually ended up being successful. Or vice versa: Some great ideas ended up falling flat. The second part of that lesson is to rush to a 1.0, and introduce it. Both of these are in the DNA of Hugh & Crye, in large part due to Pranav. Every time we introduce a new product, we create what we think is a solid 1.0 and test it with our customers. The quicker you create the 1.0 and test it, the quicker you’ll come to your desired outcome.”

Which celebrity would play you in the movie version of your life?
“The only celebrity that I’ve ever been mistaken for is Rufio [Dante Basco] from Hook. But if I could choose, it would probably be Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I’m a big fan of his work; I’m a fan of his acting, producing, and now screenplays. And, I assume he often gets the question, ‘What’s your background?’ — a question that I always get.”

A perfect day in your town always includes these three things...
“An early-morning exercise (soccer or yoga), a hike on the Billy Goat Trail, capped off by a dinner at Little Serow.”

What’s your mantra?
“My mantra is: You don’t have to specialize, but you do have to work hard. Do everything that you love and own it. Then, at some time, the future will come together for you in some form.”

Styled by Morgan Hungerford West, Hair by Meghan Walsh and Kate Gregury, Makeup by Sarah Torrento
10_MakuOnukiThe Dancer
There are a few reasons we'd switch lives with dancer Maki Onuki, 28, even if it was just for a day. First, she wears over-the-top statement heels, and — of course — she can actually walk in them. Second, she dances the title roles in The Washington Ballet’s productions of Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland in front of adoring crowds. And, to top it off, she’s blessed with innate grace and flexibility, busting out a perfect arabesque like it’s no big thing.

And while this prima ballerina makes her craft look easy, Onuki is the definition of hard worker. She has nine seasons with The Washington Ballet under her belt and is the winner of the 2011 Metro DC Dance Award for Outstanding Individual Performance and the International Ballet Competition’s 2010 bronze medal. Even as a child in Japan, she knew she wanted to be a ballerina, and her main goal was to move to the United States to dance. No wonder she wouldn’t trade lives with anyone.

Maki_Onuki_1_0164
Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.
“Six hours of hiking in Hawaii, climbing three waterfalls, walking on the edge of a crater with 100-foot drops on either side, and sliding in the mud on my butt right before I went to a dress rehearsal and danced for three hours!”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“One of the best lessons I learned through my career is that whatever I do, I do it with everything I have, or I don't do it at all. My life experience taught me that — doing things halfway is just wasting time.”

If you could switch lives with anyone else under 30, who would it be?
“I would switch with a 21-year-old version of myself, because I'm happy to be me!”

What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?
“I was very reserved, but at the same time I had lots of energy when I was little. Somehow, as I grew up, it helped me to keep a healthy balance between fun and trouble.”

Which celebrity would play you in the movie version of your life?
“Jessica Alba. Her energy feels like it’s close to mine!”

A perfect day in your town always includes these three things...
“Perfect weather, no commitments, and chilling with my boyfriend.”

Styled by Morgan Hungerford West, Hair by Meghan Walsh and Kate Gregury, Makeup by Sarah Torrento
11_DanielKimThe Skate Star

It's hard not to feel a little jealous of the Daniel Kim's lifework. Not only has the 24-year-old made a name for himself in the pro-skateboarding world, but he's also making a living doing what he loves and, in turn, helping others do the same. Kim’s company, Street Smart Skate, connects people interested in skateboarding with the area’s most skilled and talented instructors, so they can learn technical skills from the pros instead of watching a million YouTube wipeouts.

For Kim, the notion of "living the dream” is a very real one. He regularly travels between his favorite cities (D.C., NYC, and Los Angeles) and is currently filming parts for three skateboarding projects (in addition to running his lesson company). Oh, and one more thing for anyone forming an instant crush on Kim. The easiest way to make his day? "No cops at Freedom Plaza." If you can swing that, you're golden.

Daniel_Kim_2_0791
Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.

“I went out to LA for a few months and lived with the team manager of DGK, Brad Rosado. I got to travel around California and skated with the best team in skateboarding! I met and skated with legendary skateboarders like Stevie Williams, Josh Kalis, and Rodrigo Tx. I was also lucky enough to go to Vegas with the DGK team to see Ghostface and Sheek Louch perform live at the Kingpin Suite at The Palms. It was all so surreal, but a blessing for sure.”

Tell us a little about your career goals. Any creative endeavors on the horizon?

“I intend to continue to expand Street Smart Skate, so that anyone has a chance to learn from the best skateboarders. I’m also planning a trip all around Europe!”


If you could switch lives with anyone else under 30, who would it be?

“Even if I could, I wouldn't, because I love the life I live.”

Which celebrity would play you in the movie version of your life?

“Bruce Lee, because he’s nice like that.”

When you were a kid, what did you think you'd be doing at this age?

“Probably digging up dinosaur bones; I was obsessed with dinosaurs. If I could own a Velociraptor, my first true childhood dream would come true.”

What's been your most humbling moment?

“Every time I’m on my skateboard, because it has put me through hell and the clouds.”

Styled by Morgan Hungerford West, Hair by Meghan Walsh and Kate Gregury, Makeup by Sarah Torrento
12_KateJenkinsThe Magazine Maven
What do you get when you combine a dreamy, solitary childhood with a love of writing, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a gutsy approach to taking risks? If you’re Kate Jenkins, 26, you end up with The Intentional, a new, quarterly print publication that uses reported articles, essays, fiction, and art to explore the 20-something experience. Jenkins launched the magazine in April to quench her desire for more far-reaching significance — something lacking at her temporary gigs waiting tables.

Now, hard at work on the second issue, Jenkins is finding her groove — although she admits to locating it in an unconventional way. (Hint: A dramatic, job-quitting scene is involved.) Throughout the process, she has relied on traits developed as a child — “my imagination, my natural inclination toward being a leader, my headstrong personality and critical nature, my love of calculating risks, and my love of adventure” — to keep her on the right track. Read on to discover more of this literary lady’s secrets to success.

Kate_Jenkins_0176
Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.
“I would say the story about how I got to D.C. is pretty awesome. I was working in a restaurant in North Carolina, and I had just come up with the magazine concept. I was feeling really stagnant and like my growth was just stunted, even though I was surrounded by really supportive, amazing friends in a great, mountain town. I had an explosive fight with the owner of the restaurant one day, and I quit. On my drive home, I was thinking about where else I might want to work, and it just dawned on me that I needed a new city, a more urban spot where my magazine could take off. That’s when I got serious about the idea, and within a matter of days, I had packed my car and started driving north. I wasn’t entirely sure of my final destination, but I figured D.C. seemed like a good bet, so I stopped here first. I told myself if I couldn’t find a job and an apartment in two weeks, I’d try another city. But it worked out, so I stayed. That wasn’t the first time I moved on a whim, and it probably won’t be the last. It’s really terrifying, but when your back is against a wall, sometimes the only way out is up and over. Who knows where I’d be if I hadn’t had that courage.”

Tell us a little about your career goals. Any creative endeavors on the horizon?
“My biggest ‘career goal’ is probably to find a way to make it as a freelancer and entrepreneur — to be completely liberated from the need for a full-time salary. It’s not that I have a problem with authority, or even that I don’t thrive in office environments; I just feel I can accomplish so much more when I’m working toward self-imposed goals that reflect my true talents and interests. I recognize that I might need 10-plus years to arrive at that point, but I’m happy to work in more traditional roles until that happens. Let’s be honest — I still have a lot to learn from employers.

I’d like to produce a really big, one-off project at some point in my life. Perhaps that is a book or a documentary, who knows, and really, it could be about anything at all. Whatever it is, it’s inside of me, and it’s bound to emerge at some point. Someday, I’d also like to do something with a piece of property, so that I know what it feels like to create a space that speaks to me. I’ve considered founding an urban coworking/coliving space for creative entrepreneurs and artists.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“I’ve learned from experience to make decisions based on my gut and to sort of blindly trust them. I’ve also come to understand that the only way to make a splash and stand out from the crowd is to contribute new ideas to a team. I used to be afraid to speak up with my opinions and fresh ideas when I felt like I was too low on the totem pole to be entitled to them. But, now I know that the only way to climb higher is by proving that you can think critically, and you’re bold enough to make that known.”

If you could switch lives with anyone else under 30, who would it be?
“God, this is so predictable that I hate to even say it, but I would sincerely like to trade places with Lena Dunham. She has a brilliant career at such a young age, and although she gets a lot of flak for her outrageousness and social commentary, she has abundant opportunity to push boundaries. That’s worth it to me. And people are listening to her, not just taking pictures of the handbag she was carrying while she ran errands last Saturday or talking about whom she might be sleeping with.”

Which celebrity would play you in the movie version of your life?
“Well, she’d have to be brainy and bold, with a little edge. Perhaps Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ellen Page, or Kate Winslet?”

A perfect day in your town always includes these three things...
“A picnic in Dumbarton Oaks or a bike ride in Rock Creek Park, for sure. A tour of the Hirshhorn. Dinner at Toki Underground, followed by a show at Rock & Roll Hotel.”

What’s your mantra?
“You can’t affect others’ behavior or the circumstances that happen to you; what you can control is your reaction to them. I have had pretty terrible professional luck in the years since I graduated from college, and I used to freeze up and just wallow in it. Now, I’ve learned that the best thing to do is to ask myself every time the shit hits the fan: ‘So, what are you gonna do about it?’”

Styled by Morgan Hungerford West, Hair by Ryan Hunter Mitchell, Makeup by Sarah Torrento
13_ModeleModiOyewoleThe Hip-Hop Guru

One way to know you’ve got a finger on the pulse? You weren’t just listening to Kendrick Lamar four years before the rest of the world, but you also brought him to D.C. for a special 9:30 Club concert before he was signed. That’s just one claim to fame for 26-year-old Modele “Modi” Oyewole. The producer, manager, and all-around music mogul is able to find and promote the next big thing before it's the next big thing — like that time his college-radio show became the first in the country to interview Kid Cudi.

Besides cofounding Trillectro, a music fest for the electronic-meets-hip-hop crowd, Oyewole works as a marketing specialist for Red Bull, throws weekly parties in the District, and always stays one step ahead. Asked how he found out about Wiz Khalifa before the masses (the superstar rapper regularly tweets at Oyewole), he smiles and says, "Music is just my life." We think that megawatt smile might have something to do with it.

Modele_Modi_Oyewole_0414
Tell us a little about your career goals. Any creative endeavors on the horizon?

“Trillectro has proven to me that entrepreneurship is something I truly love, and I would love to continue along this path. Eventually, I want to have my own shoe. I want to have an airline. I want to help write and produce movies and even play the role of music supervisor. I want to help my best friend become a world-famous DJ and produce hits with him. My business partner basically told me to dream big, and my teammates gave me the confidence that we can do pretty much everything as long as we work together. You have to make your goals lofty, but also have a plan of attack, so you can achieve them. I think that while we’re currently in the music-festival industry, it’ll open plenty of doors for us to get into other industries. I look at people like Richard Branson, Pharrell Williams, and Jerry Weintraub as inspirational, and I plan to follow in their footsteps as far as dabbling in various industries successfully.”


What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned and who taught it?

“Experience has taught me to always get stuff in writing, preferably in the form of a signed contract. Even this year with the festival, we lost potentially the biggest rap act of 2013, because we didn’t get a fully executed contract signed by an agency. It hurts my body even thinking about how we let that slip out of our hands, but you live and you learn. It’ll be a great story to tell my kids!”


If you could switch lives with anyone else under 30, who would it be?

“I’d probably want to be Lunice (of TNGHT), because he seems like the coolest guy ever. He travels the world and makes incredible music with a variety of musicians — that’s my dream. If I could create like he can, I’d probably feel so much better about my life.”



What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?

“I was the guy in school who loved to make people laugh, and who loved to bring people together. I’d like to think I’m the same guy, and that these qualities have helped me get to where I am today. They keep me creative, because everybody is different, and to figure out how to get a new person to open up and be themselves around new folks is a challenge I welcome.”




What’s your mantra?

“’You can do it, too.’ Pharrell Williams told me that.”

Styled by Morgan Hungerford West and Adrian Carter, Hair by Ryan Hunter Mitchell, Makeup by Sarah Torrento
14_HolleySimmonsThe Writer

When trying to capture Holley Simmons' personality in one word, “spritely” immediately comes to mind. Though the beloved Breakfast at Tiffany's character is not her namesake, Simmons, 28, has some uncanny similarities to Holly Golightly — petite, magnetic, free-spirited, and utterly adorable. For her full-time gig, she covers lifestyle news and dining for The Washington Post's Express, but truthfully, we’d happily hire her to shop for us (or maybe just...with us?). She's also infectiously energetic and candid — dancing on set to Kanye, discussing why boys are trouble, and making the whole crew laugh — so we were surprised to learn she was painfully shy as a kid. She's certainly come a long way since those days, making friends wherever she goes and embracing the mantra that life is about "the better story, not the better decision." What can we say? We dig.

Tell us a little about your career goals. Any creative endeavors on the horizon?

“I’d love to try my hand at more long-form journalism: profiles, thought pieces, personal essays. I’ve done some book reviews for Express that I really enjoyed, so I’d be open to more literary work. I also just finished teaching a series of terrarium classes, which was a blast. I’m looking into hosting other small workshops, possibly on how to sew and knit.”



What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned and who taught it?

“My boss at NPR taught me the importance of cultivating a friendly environment at the office: Say hello to the front-desk guards; walk over to HR with a question about your insurance, rather [than] just sending an email; and always, always, be nice to the people who handle your paychecks.”



If you could switch lives with anyone else under 30, who would it be?

“Obviously, one of Tina Fey’s daughters, because you’d get to hang out with her all day. Plus, I bet she tells the most amazing bedtime stories.”


Which celebrity would play you in the movie version of your life?

“I crowd-sourced an answer for this one, and my friends all agreed it’d have to be Rashida Jones. I’ll take it! I find her beautiful and funny, and I’m jealous of anyone who’s that close with Amy Poehler.”


When you were a kid, what did you think you'd be doing at this age?

“For reasons unbeknownst to me, I was obsessed with turning 26. I thought that was the magical age when everything in your life fell into place. As it turns out, that was the age at which I accepted my current position, with just three weeks left until I turned 27! I never knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I hoped it would involve sitting around a table discussing creative ideas with like-minded people. Our pitch meetings are the highlight of my week, and I’m constantly inspired by the imaginative ideas my colleagues dream up.”



What's been your most humbling moment?

“I’m humbled every single time I walk into The Washington Post newsroom. There’s a glass case right at the entrance filled with all the illustrative awards our reporters have won, including Pulitzer medallions and Mark Twain Prize busts. And, it hasn’t happened yet, but I think I will dissolve into a pool of water if I ever cross paths with Gene Weingarten. He’s my idol.”


A perfect day in your town always includes these three things...

“Sleeping in, taking a ride on the back of my boyfriend’s motorcycle, and reading a book in Meridian Hill Park.”


Styled by Morgan Hungerford West, Hair by Meghan Walsh and Kate Gregury, Makeup by Sarah Torrento
15_AshleyTurchinThe Shopkeeper
R29 devotees know how we love a good model-slash — that is a model/DJ, model/designer…you get the idea. And Ashley Turchin, 26, is our favorite girl crush of late. The T.H.E. Artist Agency model first caught our eye a few years ago as a vintage seller, and when she partnered with blogger Carla Cabrera of The President Wears Prada this spring to launch ANTHOM, an e-commerce site, we knew good things were in the pipeline. Stocked with covetable wares from some of the coolest, under-the-radar designers, it’s a happy place for anyone seeking distinctive, unique pieces.

These days, the doe-eyed Turchin juggles modeling gigs, buying trips, and wifely duties with the day-to-day realities of being a small-business owner. But, for now, she’s loving every minute of it. “Launching ANTHOM was pretty awesome,” she says. “It was a whirlwind of emotion — so much of the experience felt like a dream.” We say: Keep dreaming, girl!

Ashley_Turchin_1_0505
Tell us a little about your career goals. Any creative endeavors on the horizon?
“I wouldn’t say I’m driven by a ‘career,’ per se — I do what I know, and I’m lucky, because it happens to be what I love. We do have lots of exciting goals for ANTHOM, including collaborating on more exclusive capsule collections with various designers, expanding our product line, and potentially delving into our own design.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“’Never hold back, Ashley — you only live once.’ I can still hear my dad telling me this day in and day out. He was so right. I had a dream covered with immeasurable, scary doubts, but I knew I would never truly be happy in life if I didn’t go with my gut and try. I still sometimes feel like I’m walking on a tightrope — but at least it’s the one I put in place.”

If you could switch lives with anyone else under 30, who would it be?
“My brother, so he could come back to earth and fulfill his dreams.”

What's been your most humbling moment?
“My brother’s passing kind of glued my feet to the ground — it made me wake up to reality and taught me not to take life too seriously.”

A perfect day in your town always includes these three things...
“A day with my hubs eating breakfast near the water, sipping iced coffee while window-shopping on 14th Street, followed by vino and small plates at Bar Pilar.”

What’s your mantra?
“Laugh it off.”

Styled by Morgan Hungerford West, Hair by Meghan Walsh and Kate Gregury, Makeup by Sarah Torrento
16_MartinSwiftThe Painter
As a child, Martin Swift was the quintessential “boy” — the one who always stopped to look at bugs and birds and whose pockets were perpetually filled with rocks, sticks, and dirt. Besides being totally obsessed with nature, he also loved to draw. Fast-forward to today: Swift, 22, is still drawing, and he’s made a career out of exploring masculinity, gender, and the childhood psyche in his art. The Takoma Park native graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in 2012, and he’s already shown his work at solo shows in D.C. and Pittsburgh, and internationally in Berlin and London.

Whether he’s creating incredibly detailed pen-and-ink drawings of monsters or unsettling oil portraits of nude figures, Swift’s art approaches the world with an appreciation of the absurd. He might not have rocks in his pockets these days, but it’s clear that he still looks at life with that same childlike wonder.

Give us the scoop on what you’re doing with your life and career now.
“I create paintings that are a direct response to the idea of stereotypical masculinity. As a result of unhealthy societal pressure to exhibit traditional masculine traits, males in the United States not only objectify women, but their own gender, as well. My work presents idealized images of culturally, non-idyllic-male figures, providing a social investigation of masculine aggression.

After a very productive winter and several successful exhibitions, I am putting the finishing touches on work for my next solo exhibition, which will be held in a private art space next month. As part of the show, I am partnering with Kate Warren of GoKateShoot and Micah Greenberg, previously of NPR, to develop a one-month series of programming on gender in response to my work. We will feature individuals from multiple disciplines in discussions and panels that investigate the idea of masculinity as it relates to a larger community.”

Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.
“In January, several artist friends and I packed up on a whim and, in the dead of night, drove to the Florida Keys in a gutted, ‘97 Blue Bird half-size school bus. With the seats ripped out and couches bolted to the floor, it was a 30-hour, diesel-powered blitz to go painting on the beach. Along the way, we watched the Quadrantids meteor shower from the roof of the bus in the Everglades and, by 5 a.m., made it to the Magic City Casino for a few hours rest and a little blackjack. Upon arriving in the Keys, we lived out of the bus and off the ocean for two weeks. We fished for our meals, ate fresh fruit, and painted in the midday sun. We took a typical ‘wouldn’t it be crazy...’ conversation and embarked on an adventure full of youthful nostalgia.”

Tell us a little about your career goals. Any creative endeavors on the horizon?
“My goal as an artist is to maintain a close connection with the nonart community while developing relationships with influential galleries and curators. I am currently wrapping up applications for several juried shows and residencies in the coming year. I want to be able to create work that speaks for itself, but retains a deeper message for those who are interested in looking beyond the surface. I am entering a stage of evolution in my current body of work and am looking to work both larger and more intricately.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“I discovered early in my career that I am prone to being scattered, so the best lesson I learned was how to be productive in my procrastination. One of my first painting mentors taught me that if you are going to have your head in the clouds, it’s better to get the dishes done at the same time, and it always stuck with me.”

If you could switch lives with anyone else under 30, who would it be?
“Alex Honnold is a 27-year-old American rock climber known for his record-breaking, free-solo ascents of some of the largest rock faces in the world, including an 18-hour-50-minute scale of the Yosemite Triple Crown. It is not his overwhelming prowess and seemingly superhuman abilities that intrigue me — [it’s] his stubbornness and earnest determination to best any challenge and discover the world around him through something he loves. Passionate from a young age, Alex and I both [see] obstacles as learning experiences instead of barriers. I’d love to see firsthand how he perceives the world.”

When you were a kid, what did you think you'd be doing at this age?
“At my preschool-commencement ceremony, we were asked to write down our future careers. Most answers were typical: fireman, police officer, nurse, astronaut. I bucked the trend and said I wanted to be a ‘drawer.’ Over the years, my attention wandered slightly, but there was always that underlying need to create. Today, I am a painter and, yes, a ‘drawer.’ My drawings are intricate and whimsical, and, ironically, are influenced by the dark chasm of the childhood psyche.”

Styled by Morgan Hungerford West, Hair by Meghan Walsh, Makeup by Sarah Torrento
17_ChristopherBarnhillThe Activist
In a list of moments that change your life, learning you’ve been HIV-positive since birth when you're a teenager is right at the top. That’s exactly what happened to Christopher Barnhill, 26, as a 16-year-old in the District. And even though he was encouraged by some to keep his HIV status a secret, Barnhill knew he wanted to use his voice to help people around him — starting by telling his entire high school during morning announcements on World AIDS Day. Now, that takes some guts.

Since then, Barnhill’s passion in life has been sharing his story, encouraging young people to get tested, and helping other HIV-positive youth find hope. After working for five years at Metro TeenAIDS, he has started a new chapter as an activist and motivational speaker. And, he’s also a college student now, balancing classwork between speaking engagements on BET’s 106 & Park, WJLA, and on behalf of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Keep reading for Barnhill’s uplifting take on life — we promise you’ll be inspired.

Christopher_Barnhill_1764_CLEAN_FLOOR-copy
Give us the scoop on your life and career now.
“When I am not studying hard, I am active in the community, advocating for LGBT youth and HIV-positive individuals. This is my biggest passion ever in life. I now have the ability to be able to speak across the country, work with amazing organizations, appear on televised programming, and work with a few celebrities here and there. Any opportunity to inspire a group of people to live their best life — no matter the challenges — I am on it, because they are worth it!”

Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.
“If I had to choose one, I would say appearing on BET’s 106 & Park to talk about HIV was amazing. The program was aired to over a million people. To be honest, the cool thing was receiving hundreds of Facebook friend requests and messages from young people sharing their HIV story. This is why I do the work that I do. I love that I can use my life to inspire and restore life for individuals who might have felt like life wasn’t worth living because of their HIV status and/or sexual orientation.”

Tell us a little about your career goals. Any creative endeavors on the horizon?
“My current career goal is to write a memoir on my life with HIV and how I managed to overcome not just HIV, but also being a homeless youth and a victim of child abuse. My hope is that the book will provide some sense of closure and once again inspire people. I also want to finish college. I grew up in a family where postsecondary education wasn’t strongly encouraged. It is definitely hard being disciplined and turning in homework. What I do to motivate myself is to Google graduation photos, which sometimes reminds me of the end goal that I am trying to reach.”

What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?
“I was very talkative, inquisitive, and an independent thinker as a kid. I would get in trouble at school for talking back, and I always wanted to know the answer to anything that I thought was interesting. I was the class clown, the resident actor, and very sensitive. I’d like to think I haven’t changed much. I still continue to think freely and be talkative, but this time I get paid to talk and I love it. I am not as sensitive as I used to be — I guess the realities of my life have given me a stronger backbone.”

A perfect day in your town always includes these three things...
“Hanging with my three best friends, Clifton, Terence, and BJ. Spending quality time with my partner, Jesse. And taking a nice, long walk, listening to every Brandy song ever created. (I am a major fan of Brandy.)”

If you could switch lives with anyone else under 30, who would it be?
“I am not sure if I would want to switch lives with anyone. It took a while for me to enjoy being in my own skin. I am currently in love with the life that I live.”

Styled by Morgan Hungerford West, Hair by Meghan Walsh, Makeup by Sarah Torrento
18_DylanByersThe Journo
Politico’s Dylan Byers, 27, is the first to admit that his gig sounds “a little incestuous” to an outsider. As a reporter covering the media and its role within American politics, Byers routinely writes about his peers, from print journalists to news anchors, and their impact on the government — a fascinating, only-in-Washington kind of gig. And, the story of how he got there is pretty great, too: A chance connection through a college acquaintance got him an introduction to his beloved New Yorker. He asked for an internship, it offered him one, and the course of his life was set.

With dreams of launching his own publication and a girlfriend who joins him in foodie forays, Byers is enjoying a moment in the sun as a young journalist in the thick of it all. But, we don't think it’ll go to his head anytime soon. Not when he attributes most of his success to — you guessed it — his mom.

Dylan_Byers_0550
Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.
“I mean this sincerely: ‘Awesome’ is getting to pick up the phone every day and ask important people the questions my readers and I want to have answered. That is an immense privilege. But as for ‘completely awesome’? By the time this interview goes up, I’ll be in Provence with my girlfriend and my family, completely disconnected from the Internet. That sounds completely awesome to me.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“My mother once told me to always ask ‘Why?’ That’s an important guiding principle for any reporter: Who, what, where, and when are just the basics of the news business. The why — Why did something happen? Why should we care? — is what makes for really great journalism. I also had an editor who once told me to tuck my shirt in; he probably deserves an honorable mention.”

If you could switch lives with anyone else under 30, who would it be?
“There’s an English bulldog on the corner of my street who looks pretty stoked about life, so that’s an option. Otherwise, Chris Hughes, the owner of The New Republic — he’s got a ton of money, three houses in New York, a happy marriage, and his own magazine. Not bad for 29.”

What's been your most humbling moment?
“Like most reporters, I’ve made my share of mistakes and learned from them.”

A perfect day in your town always includes these three things...
“Two exclusives and a Sazerac.”

What’s your mantra?
“’On to the next good time.’ It’s a family motto.”

Styled by Morgan Hungerford West, Hair by Meghan Walsh, Makeup by Sarah Torrento
PaulThornleyThe Musician

In 2013, the era of good-old-fashioned rock 'n' roll can feel like the distant past, associated more with icons like Jimmy Page and Mick Jagger than anyone releasing records today. But with one look, U.S. Royalty guitarist Paul Thornley, 28, reminds us the genre is alive and well. The southern-Maryland native exudes an je ne sais quoi sort of cool, but if we had to pinpoint it, we'd start with the hair and the style — we were losing it over his vintage bell-bottoms and floral tuxedo jacket on set. He has an aura about him; the kind that only someone who’s comfortable on stage before thousands could possess.

Along with his bandmates, the skilled musician has spent the last two years writing, recording, and touring (gaining quite the devoted following along the way) and is gearing up to release a much-anticipated second album. The guitar pro also founded a production company and teaches music to local kids (he even hopes his passion for teaching will one day evolve into a school for the arts). To that we say, encore, please.


Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.

“I teach a group of kids who are in a band called Twenty20. We just shot a video of them performing a protest song at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial for Bono’s ONE campaign, and it was pretty moving. They covered ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ by U2 and gave quite a performance.”



What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?

“Adventurous, outgoing, loyal, maybe too much of a perfectionist. I think certain traits win out as you get older — maybe I’m not as social now, but I’m more dedicated to my craft.”


What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned ?

“Growing up, my brothers and I spent summers at our grandparents’ farm, and we used to have to paint miles of fences. The phrase ‘going the extra mile’ was easy to understand, but hard to practice. It was easier to ‘get caught watching the paint dry’ — that’s a Hoosiers reference. My family was really into Hoosiers.

Which celebrity would play you in the movie version of your life?

“Maybe a young Martin Sheen? He has such a great presence in those ‘70s films. In fact, one song on our new album was written while watching Apocalypse Now on loop.”


What's been your most humbling moment?

“When I told my 8-year-old guitar student that I was in a band, she thought I meant that I was in her friend’s band — he happens to be 11.”


A perfect day in your town always includes these three things...

“A motorcycle ride, restoring old furniture, and checking in with friends at Dr K’s Vintage and Blue’s Hard Goods.”


What’s your mantra?

“In the words of Son House: ‘Don’t you mind people grinnin’ in your face.’”

Styled by Morgan Hungerford West, Hair by Ryan Hunter Mitchell, Makeup by Sarah Torrento
RyanMitchellThe Hair Master
Few people can master the role of natural-born entertainer the way Ryan Hunter Mitchell can. The flame-haired salon owner and stylist, 28, has the quickest wit you’ve ever experienced and a knack for physical comedy and one-liners — he had our crew in tears while gracing our set. A Los Angeles native, Mitchell studied at Vidal Sassoon before making a move to the East Coast. Now, as owner of the Mount Pleasant salon Eastern Confederate (so named for its proximity to Western Union), Mitchell delivers some of the coolest, most creative hairstyles in town.

When he’s not snipping and shaping an unruly mane into a more-sophisticated — or at least intentionally unruly — ‘do, you can catch him on stage with his band, Shark Week, or plotting the thesis of his second epic novel. If you do see him, take a few minutes to strike up a conversation, because we can guarantee you’ll learn something — if you can keep up.

Ryan_Hunter_Mitchell_1923
Give us the scoop on what you’re doing with your life and career now.
“Eastern Confederate has been open for about a year-and-a-half and has established itself as fashionable-hair-salon-meets-1920s-speakeasy-gambling hall. Apart from running the salon, I try to bring in community artists and musicians for events. We host Lamonte Carlo Cinema; they screen repertory French and Japanese films in our basement. We've had vintage-clothing designers turn our space into a pop-up boutique. I've also built a Hobbit hole in the backyard of the shop. So, I spend most of my free time gardening the Hobbit hole and tending to the kittens that decided to live in it.

While not doing hair, I'm the singer/guitarist for Shark Week. We recently played the Sweetlife Festival with Kendrick Lamar, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Phoenix. We recorded our upcoming release in San Juan, Puerto Rico, this past January and toured to Austin and back for SXSW in March. There's an endless array of unglamorous, creatively void tasks that happen in a band. Most of our time is not spent writing and playing music, but rather emailing venues, compiling information for record sleeves, arguing over which font should be used on a poster…the list goes on.

Other than this, I plan on writing my second novel this coming fall. It's a noir-crime-fiction novel in the style of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Set in a fictional city very similar to Washington, D.C., with fictional characters heavily based on real people. Details to come.”

Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.
“Spa World, the Korean bathhouse outside of D.C. I went there for my first time a couple weeks back. It was the morning after we had a Shark Week video shoot in Virginia. We had a bonfire and had a bunch of people came out to camp and get painted with white face paint. There is no way to describe how gross we felt after being covered in dirt, face paint, Bud lime margaritas, and bonfire smoke. I got to lounge around in a bunch of hot tubs and saunas. True life.”

Tell us a little about your career goals. Any creative endeavors on the horizon?
“The plan for now is to open another salon in another city late next year. Not sure which city next. We've looked into Baltimore, New York, and Oakland, but we'll see. I'm in the works of opening a small, 50-seat theater in Mount Pleasant. Our goal is to collaborate with chefs, mixologists, breweries, and artists to pair film with drinks and hors d’oeuvres and add another dimension to the film experience. Shark Week plans on recording an album this summer.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“How to cut a one-length bob. It is the hardest haircut to master. There is literally no way to describe the concentration and creativity that goes into making it perfectly fit someone's bone structure. I owe this ability to Tina Haukjaer Andersen, the senior creative director at Vidal Sassoon, who I apprenticed under in Los Angeles.

Which celebrity would play you in the movie version of your life?
“Tilda Swinton would really capture my air of je ne sais quoi, and she looks great with red hair.”

When you were a kid, what did you think you'd be doing at this age?
“I thought I would grow up to be a lawyer. I was such an argumentative twerp that people would tell me I'd make a good lawyer, and that sounded cool at the time, I guess. Pretty glad it didn't turn out that way.”

A perfect day in your town always includes these three things...
“First, the National Zoo (weekdays only, this place is mobbed on weekends). I recommend the cheetah kittens. This is the only touristy thing I'll write, but you can't truly have a perfect day without cheetahs. Second, Thai X-ing. This is the best Thai food you will ever eat. Taw, the chef, opened this place in the basement of a row house years ago. Since then, he's taken over all three stories, and you need reservations a week out. But once you're there, they bring out course after course of whatever the chef feels like making, and it’s BYOB. Third, grab a cheap beer at The Raven. The best dive bar I've found in D.C.”

Styled by Morgan Hungerford West, Hair by Ryan Hunter Mitchell, Makeup by Sarah Torrento
SkylerJavierThe Designer
Skyler Javier, 25, might just be the human embodiment of swagger — in a totally unassuming, nonchalant way. The designer behind Native Danger, an urban-contemporary-menswear line launching this fall, has mastered the all-black uniform, and just the sight of him can make you crave monochromatic streetwear. But, when you get past the impeccable taste, you learn that Javier not only has a keen eye for design, but also works as a firefighter and paramedic. (He arrived at our shoot after a 24-hour firehouse shift and still brought his A-game.) Designing clothing and saving lives on the reg — feel inadequate yet?

But the half-Cuban College Park native is as humble as he is talented and willingly opens up about a past he describes as “reckless.” He credits his mother for helping him develop an insatiable standard for quality and thoroughness and says that, these days, he's back to being an introvert, translating ideas from a vivid imagination into unique fashion products. We love a good redemption story, and all we can say is "we knew him first."

Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.
“The last completely awesome thing I did, in general, was a trip to Cuba a couple of years ago. My mother is Cuban and was born and raised there, so I was able to get a travel visa on the basis of family. Growing up, I always really valued that element of heritage, and that trip was my first time ever experiencing my mother’s country as well as meeting a lot of those relatives. The country was beautiful, the experience was phenomenal, and my family was, hands down, too awesome for words.

Design related, the last super-exciting thing I did involved getting a response from electronic-duo Purity Ring. I reached out to them, expressing how much their audio influenced my visuals, and they were very receptive and genuinely into what I was doing. Corin [Roddick] preordered nearly all of the pieces from the forthcoming collection, and I actually produced a custom design for Megan [James]. Given how much I obsess about specific music and musicians — Purity Ring being in the top tier of my obsessions — the experience was surreal, having been a fan of theirs since the release of the 'Ungirthed' track.”

Tell us a little about your career goals. Any creative endeavors on the horizon?
“My ultimate career goal is simply to be able to support myself by doing what I'm passionate about, which is creating awesome products season after season — [products] that are appreciated as offering something new while hitting the mark of being purposeful and relevant. I'm currently wrapping up with designing Native Danger's second collection for spring/summer '14, which I'm very excited about. The collection is a cohesive mash of minimal-yet-forward-and-modern, athletic-inspired pieces and accessories, which play on light and voids. We'll be showcasing the collection at a new trade-show event in New York this summer called Liberty Fairs. I'm excited about the opportunity it'll afford us to expand and broaden our retail reach for 2014.”

If you could switch lives with anyone else under 30, who would it be?
“It would definitely be with one of the musicians who really inspire me and my work. There are a lot of them, so it’s a tough pick, but I think I'd go with LA-based producer of the WEDIDIT collective, Shlohmo. I think what he produces and his career to date as a musician are a parallel comparison to what I want to do with design. [He’s] sort of under the radar in terms of ‘mainstream’ attention, but still widely recognized, because he executes with a quality and spirit that are undeniably spot-on. Also, I think he's the only person who weirdly has the same level of respect as I do for Drake. Don't ask why — there's no logical explanation for it.”

A perfect day in your town always includes these three things...
“Bike rides, rooftops, and an awesome music show.”

What's your mantra?
"Just keep making moves, and see where it leads."

Styled by Morgan Hungerford West, Hair by Meghan Walsh and Kate Gregury, Makeup by Sarah Torrento
23_MichelleGermanThe Beauty Pro
Michelle German, 28, is all about living in neon. That’s shorthand for embracing your peculiarities and striving to be awesome every single day, and it’s also the philosophy behind neonV magazine, a new print biannual cofounded by German and four, style-obsessed friends. German heads up the health and beauty department, focusing on everything from crazy-bright, ombré lipstick to over-the-top nail art to natural home remedies.

German brings a background in wellness to her writing: By day, she works with patients as a physician assistant. No matter which project she’s working on, at any given moment, she believes in keeping your integrity, being true to yourself, and honoring your word. And in terms of style, this radiant, bubbly babe knows a think or two about mixing glam and grit. Trust us — don’t expect to see this career chameleon in anything bland.

Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.
“I seriously aim to be awesome every day, and I believe that it’s the little things that matter most. So, just last week, I bought coffee for a woman behind me in line. Although it was a small and unexpected gesture, I hope that it positively impacted her day…even if for a small moment.”

Tell us a little about your career goals. Any creative endeavors on the horizon?
“I am focused on expanding my dynamic magazine for the peculiar woman, neonV, to become a world-renowned magazine. The neonV collective has created a lane for peculiar women around the world, and I personally believe that there is something for everyone, [given] the individual styles, personalities, and uncanny voices behind neonV. We are the new one in print, bridging tradition and innovation within the creative community, and I want everyone to experience what it’s like to live in neon.”

Which celebrity would play you in the movie version of your life?
“I would say RuPaul, but only because he is an infamous queen. Although, to be frank, any gorgeous drag queen with the right amount of dramatics, makeup, reading (and I don’t mean books), and shade will suffice. Glam and gangsta — that’s me! I mean, how peculiar is that?”

What's been your most humbling moment?
“For me, being recognized from neonV is extremely humbling. We have built [the magazine] from the ground up with our blood, sweat, and tears, so it’s like my baby. I’m always caught off guard when people introduce themselves and express their appreciation of the magazine. I am extremely proud of it and grateful to people when the magazine’s greatness is recognized. It helps me to be aware of the message neonV delivers to the world, and, for that, I am more than humbled.”

A perfect day in your town always includes these three things...
“I’m all about having a good time, so my perfect day would begin with brunch with my girls with unlimited mimosas, because we all know unlimited mimosas make any brunch better. After brunch, I would enjoy shopping for one-of-kind, vintage goodies. Last, I would dance the night away to the tunes of DJ Spinser Tracy.”

Styled by Morgan Hungerford West, Hair by Ryan Hunter Mitchell, Makeup by Sarah Torrento
AllsionSosnaThe Chef

Following Allison Sosna, 28, on Twitter is something of an exercise in humility. A log of 6 a.m. workouts, motivational messages, and healthy-food choices stream through her feed all day long, and it’s almost unfathomable how much this chef/advocate/entrepreneur can manage. Her active, entrepreneurial spirit is what keeps Sosna moving forward in her roles as chef and owner of an eponymous private chef, catering, and consulting business as well as founder of MicroGreens, a nonprofit aimed at helping kids eat healthy while on food stamps. The notion of a fulfilling career that gives back to the community is something most of us dream of, but what Sosna is doing falls into the category of next-level amazing. Her after-school program works with sixth- and seventh-grade students, teaching them culinary skills like measuring and knife techniques — skills that will keep them healthy while on the food-stamp program’s allotment of $3.50 per meal for a family of four. Michelle Obama would be proud.



Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.

“I’m not an adrenaline person, per se, but for my bachelorette party in Vegas, we jumped off the Stratosphere Tower with a bungee cord and then had a cocktail immediately after. It was terrifying and amazing. Glad I did it, and glad I didn’t tell my mom and fiancée until after I jumped.”


Tell us a little about your career goals. Any creative endeavors on the horizon?

“I really want to continue [spreading] healthy-cooking habits among everyone, so I would love to do a cookbook for the iPhone and also a hardcopy cookbook. I would love to continue to get my recipes and advice to others out there as much as possible. One day, I would love to have a restaurant that gives a percentage to MicroGreens with every purchase. I’m a big advocate for social enterprise.



With my life right now, I am planning the rest of my wedding to my lovely fiancée, Kristen Dore, in early June. I am getting ready to move to New York City in July, since my wife got a job there. I’ll be working from two cities now, so no worries! In addition, getting one of our two corgis to stop barking all the time — that’s my life right now.”



What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?

“One of my mentors at DC Central Kitchen, Gregg Malsbary, was amazing at being patient and calm and communicating to everyone with grace. It’s so undervalued, that ability to keep calm when others are not. I’ve really tried to work on being calm in general and ensuring that I am communicating the best I can while respecting everyone involved.”



If you could switch lives with anyone else under 30, who would it be?

“I am obsessed with DJs and house music, so I would definitely choose the life of a musician.”


A perfect day in your town always includes these three things...

“Coffee at Flying Fish, walking the corgis in Meridian Hill Park, beers on a rooftop with friends.”



What’s your mantra?

“Escritto — everything happens for a reason. Relax.”

Styled by Morgan Hungerford West, Hair by Ryan Hunter Mitchell, Makeup by Sarah Torrento
26_RachelPfefferThe Bauble Queen
Jewelry designer Rachel Pfeffer, 26, wants to change the world one sequin at a time. That’s the Lady Gaga quote she lives by, but Pfeffer expands it to mean one shiny-bicycle pin, ice-cream-cone earring, and shooting-star ring at a time. True to her mantra, though, Pfeffer's pieces are known for their sparkle — her signature look involves a brilliant, drusy stone placed in a raw-metal setting.

Whether life imitates art or vice versa, the design darling is as quirky and whimsical as her jewelry. But what has impressed us most since we first laid eyes on Pfeffer’s work is her craftsmanship. She creates every single product and every painstaking detail by hand, from the angles of a lightening bolt to the spokes of a tiny, bicycle wheel. And, there is something pretty rad about a consummate girly-girl who can cut, hammer, weld, oxidize, and solder like a champ. With this kind of mojo behind her, she can definitely make the world a prettier place, one piece of jewelry at a time.

Tell us about what you're doing with your life and career right now.
“Right now, I split my time between two ventures. One is my jewelry company, which I run entirely by myself. I do everything from designing and making the jewelry to marketing it and fulfilling the orders. When I’m not soldering or photographing pieces to put online, I’m running Stitchtagram with my brother, Doug. It’s a site that lets you design throw pillows and bags using your Instagram photos. He handles the web side of things, while I’m in charge of the design, product development, and order fulfillment side of things. Everything is sewn right in Adams Morgan. Life-wise, I’m living with my husband in the Mount Pleasant area. He is very forgiving to the workshop aspect of our living room and doesn’t even care anymore when he steps on a tiny shard of silver. I spend my free time perusing dachshund-adoption sites.” 


What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?

“My dad, who’s a jeweler, always reminds me to never undervalue my work and to remember how much time and effort that goes into each piece.”



If you could switch lives with anyone else under 30, who would it be?

“I’d say Florence Welch. I think it would be amazing to be able to sing like that, have that hair, and wear her clothes.”


What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?

“I was always making things. Gluing wooden blocks and screws into little cities, delighting in homework dioramas, teaching myself the fine art of making neckties and purses out of duct tape. This constant-creating streak was what ultimately made me the designer and creator I am today. If my hands aren’t working on something, I’m just not happy.”


When you were a kid, what did you think you'd be doing at this age?

“I knew I was going to be something creative, but growing up in my family’s jewelry store, I always rejected the idea of being a jeweler. I either wanted to be an author (a particularly gripping picture book I penned was entitled Dolly and the Magic Ring) or a playground designer.”


What's been your most humbling moment?

“Whenever I see a piece of jewelry my dad made back when he was my age — there’s often unintentional similarities between our styles that I always am shocked to see. And the amount of skill he taught himself pushes me to be the best craftsman and designer I can be.”


A perfect day in your town always includes these three things...

“Perusing the latest trends at Violet Boutique, picking up a strawberry-rhubarb pop at Pleasant Pops, and finishing the day off with the perfectly crafted cocktail at The Passenger.”

Styled by Morgan Hungerford West, Hair by Meghan Walsh, Makeup by Sarah Torrento
27_JacobNaughtonThe Adventurer

Journalism may be changing, but there will always be stories to be told. That’s what drives Jake Naughton, 25, a photojournalist, multimedia producer, and “visual communicator” who travels the world in pursuit of a good story. Naughton’s work has already been published in heavy-hitting publications like Newsweek and The Washington Post, and he’s been recognized for his innovative work in producing and designing long-form-journalism projects for tablets. We’re especially intrigued by his photo essays and videos about the lives of women in Africa, which document everything from childbirth in Liberia to education for girls in Kenya.

On top of his freelance projects, Naughton works as an associate creative director for D.C. documentary and interactive-production company Sweatlodge Creative. Read on to learn more about his recent experience reporting from the front lines in Syria, why his nickname as a kid was “Little Stalin,” and how screwing up a job set him on the path he’s on today.

Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.
“I just got back from reporting with a good friend and colleague on the Turkey-Syria border. It was quite an adventure. I’ve never been to that part of the world before, and it was surprising and beautiful. We were reporting on the implications of the Syrian conflict bleeding across the border into Turkey, either in the form of outright violence, like the car bombing that struck Reyhanli, or in more clandestine ways, like Free Syrian Army officers building supply and funding networks to funnel aid, weapons, and supplies into Syria. It was a completely surreal experience to be photographing places that had been ground zero for something like a car bomb just a week before. It’s not usually the type of coverage I do, but I’m really glad I did.”

Tell us a little about your career goals. Any creative endeavors on the horizon?
“Nothing excites me more than visual storytelling. I love making and seeing and thinking about storytelling that transcends boundaries and genres, and demands that people open their eyes, take stock, and engage deeply with the crazy world in which we live. I also love collaborating with creative people to help break down boundaries and imagine new ways of doing and seeing things. As long as I’m doing some combination of those things, I’m doing pretty well for myself. I’m hoping to start collaborating with a photographer to design and produce an installation featuring some of his work from Southeast Asia. We’re still working out logistics, but that should be on the horizon.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“Be humble — from my parents. I think a lot of young people broadcast this aura of self-importance and impatience, but we all have a lot to learn. It doesn’t mean it’s not a great privilege to be young, or that we don’t have our own strengths, passion, and energy — but, wow, do we have a ways to go.”

What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?
“My nickname was Little Stalin (thanks, Mom and Dad). I used to walk around as a tiny 3-year-old issuing one-word directives and really getting on my parents’ nerves. Even as I got a bit older, I was really demanding and always wanted things exactly my own way. I’ve definitely carried some of that into my adult life. I have really specific tastes and very high expectations of myself and others. I’ve relaxed a little bit, though. I do think my intensity has helped keep me focused and disciplined about working and creating, even when it’s not the easiest thing to do.”

What's been your most humbling moment?
“One time, I was assisting a photographer on a shoot, and I totally f*cked up my job. He was ruthless in kicking my ass about it, and it was the last gig I did for him. Basically, he chewed me out for not hustling hard enough, and it was completely spot-on. Ever since then, I’ve worked really hard about getting things done. I’m definitely still working on it, but it’s something I think about often.”

What’s your mantra?
“Time only moves forward. I tell myself to remember that the things that seem like a big deal won’t be such a big deal in the future, but also to remember that every moment is fleeting and to relish each joy and sorrow, because they, too, fade.”

Styled by Morgan Hungerford West, Hair by Ryan Hunter Mitchell, Makeup by Sarah Torrento
28_DeannaJeffersonThe Fitness Pro
We’re not going to lie: Personal trainers are intimidating. What with the rock-hard tummies, impenetrable willpower, and fitness levels? They put the rest of us to shame. But Deanna Jefferson, 27, disarms us immediately with a bright smile and a batting of those impossibly long lashes. Seriously, she's so pretty and mild-mannered that you almost forget to notice how insane her muscles are. And that's exactly what you want from someone whose job is to sculpt your bod: A gal who feels like your upbeat best girlfriend, but can push you hard enough to get through a tough workout.

Nike has tapped Jefferson to be an official brand trainer and ambassador, and she splits her time between the gym she runs in Upper Marlboro and the Nike flagship in Georgetown, where she teaches free weekly classes. After witnessing her killer bod firsthand, we recommend getting your booty to any workout involving this superstar trainer. Because if we felt fitter just standing in her presence, we can't imagine the results of keeping up.

Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.

“[It's] a toss-up between two great Nike events. I led the warm-up on stage for 15,000 women at the inaugural Nike Women's Half Marathon in D.C. in April. It was awesome to stand in front of a sea of women preparing to accomplish an amazing goal that they had trained for all year long. In January, I instructed a Nike Training Club workout for over 300 women on center court of New York's renowned Barclays Center. It was awesome to do what I love on the very same floor that so many great athletes, artists, and entertainers perform.”


Tell us a little about your career goals. Any creative endeavors on the horizon?

“As I advance through my career, I have the goal of positioning myself as one of the most sought-after trainers in the country. By setting my brand in the public eye with celebrity clientele and large media appearances, I realize that I can be a positive influence and inspiration to people of all walks of life. There are so many great endeavors on the horizon. Let's just say you should look out for me on your screens soon!”


What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?

“The best professional lesson that I've learned was to never take things personally. It's not always about me. It was taught by my mentor, celebrity trainer Jeanette Jenkins.”

What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?

“I was such a leader as a child! I always wanted to be line leader, president of the social groups, and have the solo in the choir. I was also an awesome cheerleader. I loved being front and center. As an adult, I have channeled my leadership ability and natural spunk and energy to motivate and inspire people to live out their dreams and practice healthy lifestyles.”


Which celebrity would play you in the movie version of your life?

“Oh — Beyoncé, no doubt! Fierce, fabulous, smart, beautiful, and she's a boss!”


A perfect day in your town always includes these three things...

“A workout and at least 5,000 Nike Fuel points; spending quality time with loved ones; no traffic in D.C.”

Styled by Morgan Hungerford West, Hair by Meghan Walsh, Makeup by Sarah Torrento
29_EamesArmstrongThe Performance Artist
For as long as Eames Armstrong, 24, can remember, she has been an artist. After graduating with a BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where she studied painting, writing, and performance, Armstrong has made her home in D.C. And while she’s still working on her own art, like her lyrical series of drawings “Rooms I Have/Haven’t Known,” these days she’s throwing herself into her organization, Aether Art Projects, curating other artists, and organizing exhibitions.

Earlier this month, Armstrong served as chief curator for Rosslyn’s first-ever-performance-art festival, and she’s looking forward to heading up arts programs later this summer at influential galleries like Transformer and Hillyer Art Space. Need a dose of Armstrong’s aesthetic now? We’ve bookmarked her Tumblr with its strange-yet-compelling (and NSFW) mix of pastel hues, unicorns, images of Britney Spears shaving her head, anime, and old-school Courtney Love photos.

Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.
“I recently collaborated on a performance, 'Plot,' at Artisphere for the Second Forum of Performance: Aftermath with J.J. McCracken and Ian McDermott. It was surreal to see a vision I had for a work take form in sync with other artists I admire and then manifest in a huge, beautiful way. At the beginning of May, I brought three artists to New York for 'Control,' the first D.C. show at Grace Performance Space, a dedicated performance-art space in Bushwick. In that show, I wanted to actively interrogate my position and authority as a curator of performance, so I gave each artist the freedom to do whatever they wanted, but the constraint that it had to involve me. All the performances resulted in a kind of collaboration, an active kind of curating, an exploration of shifting-power structures.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“In a painting class in high school, my teacher walked over and saw this new little painting I had begun that day and said, ‘Oh, okay. I see that you're trying something new, and that’s great, but don't worry — you can just scrape that paint off and reuse the canvas.’ What she meant was, while it's great to try out a new way of approaching a situation, or an artwork, [the fact that] it’s new doesn't mean it’s great, and you have to learn to take criticism. I was a little shocked at the time, but, in retrospect, the painting was not good. The more straightforward and gestural painting I had started with had so much more life, because it was honest and natural.”

If you could switch lives with anyone else under 30, who would it be?
“I'm too pumped on my life to want to do anything else.”

What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?
“I have always been awkward and liked making art, and here I am.”

Which celebrity would play you in the movie version of your life?
“I think a young Courtney Love would be cool.”

Styled by Morgan Hungerford West, Hair by Meghan Walsh and Kate Gregury, Makeup by Sarah Torrento



Written by ; Photographed by