Chicago's Hottest 30 Under 30

UPDATE: It's Summer Friday, and, you know what, our hottest 30 are still bringing it, so we're refreshing your memory on why they made the list. This story originally ran on March 29, 2012.
We love to show off Chicago, and why wouldn't we? Dishing the inside info on best-kept secrets and must-try activities is pure joy. What really revs us up though, is sharing info about successful Chicagoans making big impressions in our city's professional and social scenes. You might remember last year, when we introduced you to 30 bright young things making Chicago rad, but now we're back with 2012's list, and it's a total #win. Click through to meet the young, driven crew who made the cut this year. From athletes and artists to entrepreneurs and designers, we've got Chicago's coolest, cutest, and savviest totally covered. What do you think of this talented team?
1 of 30
Anna Hovet, Designer

Known as the “Queen of Comfort”, Anna Hovet is a young designer who combines style, versatility, and, yes, comfort in her Chicago-made line. Her looks have been featured in Lucky and you may recognize Hovet from her days as a Chicago Fashion Incubator designer and a contestant on Kenmore Live Studio’s 'So You Wanna Be A Designer'. Her spring '12 collection is now in stores and online at

2 of 30
Alain De Courtenay, Musician

Alain De Courtenay has been a staple of the Chicago Music scene for the past ten years and recently released his solo album, The Pregnant Letter. His acoustic/folk/soul inspired tracks catch plenty of attention, having been recently selected to contribute to Hold On Another Day’s Operation Gratitude compilation CD called “Songs for Soldiers”. He’s also one part of a songwriting duo Little Light with girlfriend Gia Margaret. They’ve recently released the Winter EP and are currently working on another EP to debut this spring. Aww!

Photo: Courtesy of Alain De Courtenay
3 of 30
Jessyca Dudley, Researcher at Children’s Memorial Hospital

Jessyca Dudley is as well traveled as she is dedicated. At 27, she has founded The Building Fund, which has funded the completion of classrooms and libraries, provided annual scholarships for students, engaged international volunteers, and secured donation of computers, books, and over 250 pounds of school supplies in Ghana. She has also spent time in South Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer and returned to Chicago in 2010 to work as a researcher at Children’s Memorial Center for Gender, Sexuality, and HIV Prevention while also serving on the Junior Board of AIDS foundation of Chicago. Wow!

Photo: Courtesy of Jessyca Dudley
4 of 30
Samer Almadani, Commercial Photographer and Digital Tech

If you ever get jealous of individuals who are both creatively talented and technologically savvy, prepare to meet your match. Samer focuses on conceptual narrative work for his clients, who range from advertising agencies to editorial publications to startup companies. And just for good measure, he's a professional drummer too, playing and touring for the last 15 years. We like you Samer. A lot.

Photo: Courtesy of Samer Almadani
5 of 30
Alexis Cozzini, Owner of SARCA

After ten years in fashion and retail, Lakeview resident Alexis Cozzini was ready to bring stylish, unique pieces to fashion-forward Chicago women. In 2009 she launched SARCA, an upscale women’s clothing boutique in the Gold Cost featuring designers like Viktor and Rolf, Jarome Rousseau, and Tania Spinelli. As one of the Windy City’s sharpest style experts, she spends her days searching for new designers and styling some of the town's most savvy women.

Photo: Heather Talbert
6 of 30
Zach Petruna, Retail Manager/ Product Designer

Zach is the stylish gent overseeing operations at local menswear mecca Haberdash, where he lets Chicago guys know how to do dapper right. With his degree in industrial design, he's also a freelance product designer tackling anything from furniture to electronics. Basically, if your life or wardrobe is shy on design genius, Zach's your man.

Photo: Lenny Gilmore
7 of 30
Dana Levy, Jewelry Designer at Dana Rebecca

Most of us were thinking about cars and boys at 16, but Dana Levy was busy launching her first jewelry company ITSADANA. Now, just eleven years later, the third generation designer who grew up behind the scenes on Jeweler’s Row has advanced to owning Dana Rebecca designs, one of the most coveted collections around. Loved and worn of some of Hollywood’s hottest celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Zoe Saldana, Olivia Wilde, and Carey Mulligan, Dana opened her first showroom in Chicago this past October. Dana Rebecca has exploded in popularity, most recently adorning the ears of the gorgeous Sophia Vergara in her new Cover Girl ads.

Photo: Courtesy of Dana Levy
8 of 30
Archie Powell, Musician

As the frontman in Archie Powell and the Exports, Archie is used to taking the lead. The addictive quality of his band's fun, good times-fueled indie rock got our attention, and Archie's performance prowess is undeniable. With frequent shows at home and on tour, Archie and band aren't afraid of hard work. Anyone repping the local music scene this well is alright by us.

Photo: Courtesy of Archie Powell
9 of 30
Jalil Anibaba, Athlete

It was about a year ago today that Jalil Anibaba was scoring his first professional goal as team member of the Chicago Fire. Jalil was born in Lagos, Nigeria but grew up in Davis, California after his family immigrated. He spent three years playing in California before transferring to North Carolina and eventually being drafted to the Chicago Fire in 2011. Catch Jalil on the field with their match against Houston on April 15!

Photo: Courtesy of Jalil Anibaba
10 of 30
Jessie Kalin, Producer for ABC’s Windy City LIVE

Jessie Kalin can be found handling any segment at any time for ABC’s Windy City Live. She’s had her hand in plenty of celebrity, cooking, and musical performances but she’s most often found pulling together fashion, beauty, and lifestyle segments that feature great Chicago talent.

Photo: Courtesy of Jessie Kalin
11 of 30
Miles Benjamin, Professional Maker

Confused about Miles' title? You shouldn't be. In a time where creatives are all about learning (and doing) just about everything, Miles is a designer, developer, entrepreneur, and musician. At present, he's a digital contractor, working with musicians and entertainment agencies to help them put their best digital face forward. Because apparently he's not busy enough, Miles also runs indie record label Kilo Records. Next on his to-conquer list? Designing a skateboarding brand. Keep your eyes peeled in summer '13.

Photo: Michelle Morales
12 of 30
Laura Lombardi, Jewelry Designer

You wouldn’t be wrong to think the name Laura Lombardi sounds very familiar. This rising jewelry design star has been getting loads of national press for her stunning jewelry, all made in Chicago. Laura has been featured in Lucky, Nylon, and People Stylewatch, and she recently completed her fall '12 collection, showing at NYC and L.A. Market Week. She also designed an exclusive piece for online retailer Of A Kind. Currently, you can find Laura working on her spring '13 collection and selling her gorgeous wares at Dose Market.

Photo: Courtesy of Laura Lombardi
13 of 30
Ricardo Sebastian, Entrepreneur & Philanthropist

Ricardo Sebastian originally launched Luxury Management as a school project and has since developed it into a go-to event production and marketing company for local businesses, designers and entrepreneurs. His socially responsible business is comprised entirely of young professionals staying ahead of the curve as they promote their new Luxury Management Fundraiser series benefiting Chicago groups such as Locks of Love, The American Cancer Society, and more. He also gives back to the school that helped launch his business as the Sam Walton Fellow at Robert Morris' Students in Free Enterprise group.

Photo: Bret Grafton
14 of 30
Miriam Cecilia Carlson, Fashion Designer

There are few designers in Chicago that can say they studied under Jean Paul Gautiler’s milliner and Madame Gres’ seamstress while designing their first collection in Paris, and probably only who did all of this before 24. Miram Cecilia Carlson launched her line Miriamcecilia during her time in the Chicago Fashion Incubator. This talented young designer recently opened her first showroom and studio on on Diversey where she hosts a Diversey Designer Shopping Series every third Wednesday of the month. She has recently finished her fall '12 collection and plans to debut it soon.

Photo: Miriam Cecilia Carlson
15 of 30
Ronnie Higgins, Bartender

If you’ve spent any time in Wicker Park, there's a good chance you've met Ronnie Higgins. As a longtime member of the Bar Deville team and head bartender at Bangers & Lace, Ronnie serves up amazing beers and craft cocktails with panache and a smile. Looking for something a little more unique than your usual Aviation? Join him every Wednesday at Bangers & Lace for cocktail and beer parings. And remember this heads-up: April 1st B&L will roll out their spring cocktail menu!

Photo: Courtesy of Ronnie Higgins
16 of 30
Stevie Koerner, Jewelry Designer & Owner of Whiskey Ginger

Designer Stevie Koerner knows just how deeply people love their home states. Her wildly popular ‘I Heart’ jewelry line features geographic silhouettes with a tiny heart punched out has absolutely put her on the map. Back home in Chicago, she co-owns the adorable Whisky Ginger vintage shop in Pilsen with her equally swoon-worthy fiance, Dan. Can one girl really have it all? Stop by Whiskey Ginger during Pilsen’s 2nd Fridays to find out.

Photo: Courtesy of Stevie Koerner
17 of 30
Mike Perry and Austin Keultjes of Supreme Cuts, Producers

Producer Mike Perry and Austin Henry of Supreme Cuts don’t sit still for long. With a record coming out in June Called Whispers in the Dark via Dovecote Records and a rap mix-tape debuting in July with a 15-year-old rapper named Haleek Maul, it’s a wonder that they have time to do anything, much less focus on rap productions with Main Attrakionz, cities aviv, and others. You can look forward to tons of remixes and originals from these rising stars later this year.

Photo: Courtesy of Supreme Cuts
18 of 30
Antoinette Arnold, PR Agency Owner

Antoinette is the owner of boutique PR agency Authentic Noise. She specializes in emerging fashion and beauty brands and recently added art to the agency's focus. As if running her own business wasn't enough, Antoinette and her sisters are currently forming the non-profit Delvorine's Promise, an organization benefitting children in Belize who need academic support in the form of school supplies and uniforms. We love Antoinette's entrepreneurial and philanthropic spirit, she inspires us.

Photo: Courtesy of Antoinette Arnold
19 of 30
JT Helms, Designer & Creative Director

As an Associate Creative Director at interactive agency DesignKitchen, JT Helms has worked with everyone from XBOX to Motorola. Outside of the West Loop office, JT is one third of Futurehaus, a design and technology studio with lots of love for Geek Culture. They’ve been working overtime on Visn App, a gorgeous image feed reader that makes you the curator of your own iPhone/iPad art gallery. In his free time, he also edits awesome mash-up videos for artists like Arcade Fire and Radiohead, one of which made it to Pitchfork's list of Top 50 Music Videos of The Decade.

Photo: Maggie Lane Marlin
20 of 30
Azeeza Desai Khan, Designer/Creative Director

Azeeza is the Creative Director of Atelier AZZA, a local clothing line that dazzles Chicago shoppers and beyond with stunning South Asian-inspired designs. She is currently working on her spring '13 collection, while simultaneously managing AZZA's charitable projects. Every time an AZZA piece is purchased, one is donated to a South Asian woman in need. This creative, driven Chicagoan belongs on our hot list, and everyone else's, too.

Photo: Maria Ponce
21 of 30
Lenny Gilmore, Photographer

If you haven't seen Lenny's photos yet, just open your eyes. He's a full-time photog at the Chicago RedEye, covering the local dining scene, taking portraits of locals and celebs alike, and providing journalistic coverage for the publication. Most recently, he snapped tons of street style at SXSW, giving Chicago a window into what was going on down in Austin. Lenny's also got a solo exhibition in the works, date TBD, but rest assured we'll be there to admire this young artist's crazy-good skills.

Photo: Courtesy of Lenny Gilmore
22 of 30
Emily Fiffer, Editor/Co-Founder of Dose Market

Emily has had her finger on the pulse of all things new, exciting, and must-try in Chicago for years. As the editor of Daily Candy Chicago, she's a trusted resource for inside info on food & wine, fun events, and local businesses. Emily's impressing us these days with her addictive monthly food and fashion market Dose, which she produces together with three additional Dosettes. Anyone who's ever tried a new restaurant and loved it, or found a hidden gem store they can't stop visiting, probably has Emily to thank.

Photo: Nathan Michael
23 of 30
Robbie Gould, Athlete

Okay, maybe the term "athlete" doesn't quite cut it. As placekicker for the Chicago Bears, Robbie Gould is the most accurate kicker in Bears history and second most accurate in NFL history. If his stats and easy-on-the-eyes-ness (yes, we're saying it) aren't enough to impress you, Robbie also runs a non-profit organization, The Golden Touch. The organization makes charitable donations in the areas education, medical research, and social services across all age, gender, and racial lines. Basically, they do good, and so does he.

Photo: Courtesy of Robbie Gould
24 of 30
Erin Brennan, Brand Manager

As Brand Manager at eDrop-Off, Erin knows a thing or two about hot vs. not. We admire Erin's minimalist-chic style, and how she's never caught looking anything less than polished. These days, Erin's a busy girl. She appears in Vh1's new reality series House of Consignment, and she's also part of the style blogging force Style Block. If you're looking for a little (or more than a little) style inspriration, Erin's your girl.

Photo: Courtesy of Erin Brennan
25 of 30
Clayton Blaha, Publicist & Label Manager/Owner

Behind one very successful Skrillex is an equally successful man named Clayton Blaha. Since Joining Kathryn Frazier at Biz 3 in 2010, Clayton has worked to promote national music clients and rising hospitality stars like Paul Kahan’s Publican Quality Meats. In addition to his work with Biz 3, Clayton is also the co-owner and Label manager of OWSLA, Skrillex’s record label, where he is currently working on their 12th release in seven months. You can catch him anywhere from Austin to Miami promoting the likes of Asher Roth and Chicago’s Supreme Cuts.

Photo: Courtesy of Clayton Blaha
26 of 30
Katie Jackson-Meara, Wedding & Event Planner/Stylist

Katie's passion for planning the perfect event, complete with every darling detail her clients can dream up, prompted her to create So Dressed Up, a Chicago-based event planning business. Her focus is on executing stylish, detail-perfect events and weddings that result in happy clients, and happy guests. What began as a side business has blossomed into a full-time job, and Katie's thrilled. She's been featured in CS Brides, Style Me Pretty, and The Knot Chicago, and this meticulously dedicated businesswoman can now add Refinery29 to that list.

Photo: Courtesy of Katie Jackson-Meara
27 of 30
Linsey Burrit and Crystal Grover, Artists, Owners of INDO Window Display

This creative tag team sets the pace when it comes to local window display design. Using only materials that have been found and reclaimed that would otherwise be trash, they're showing Chicago the true meaning of "waste not." Garnering praise and prizes for their breathtaking works of window-bound art, these two have grasped our attention and we can't wait to see what's next. On their own, they're tackling anything from interior design projects to fashion, making them two locals to add to your BFF list, ASAP.

Photo: Stephanie Bassos
28 of 30
Viktor Stalberg, Athlete

No Chicago hotlist is complete without a Blackhawk. Our pick? Viktor Stalberg. He's the Swedish-born left wing who has been a part of your favorite hockey team since June of 2010. We know it's totally predictable to have a sports crush in Chicago, but eff it. This 6'3" star on skates can stay in Chi forever, as long as we're concerned. Thanks Blackhawks, we owe you one.

Photo: Courtesy of The Chicago Blackhawks
29 of 30
Maggie Morgan, Marketing Director

Maggie spends her days as the Marketing Director of Shure Products, Inc., an educational toy designer and manufacturer (so cool). On her own, she's a fashion stylist working with local and national publications (she has BFA in Fashion Design, too), and loving every minute of it. Maggie is the kind of friend we want both personally and professionally. In addition to supporting the local arts as a member of the Joffrey Ballet Auxiliary Board, she's also a serious Barbie collector, loving the merger of toys and fashion that this childhood fave provides.

Photo: Scott Nava
30 of 30
Samantha Saifer Berngard, Senior Marketing Director of PR

Samantha's role at marketing and events firm SKOOG Productions is to represent national fashion brands and help them make a perfect impression. Prior to her move to SKOOG, Sam was the Marketing Director of Modern Luxury owned publications CS Magazine, CS Brides, CS Interiors, Front Desk, and Men's Book for seven years, overseeing all marketing, events, and PR efforts. In sum, she's a hardworking, knowledgeable asset to her company, and has garnered and enviable amount of experience in her 29 years. Our list wouldn't be complete without her.

Photo: Leigh Loftus

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