30 Under 30: The Envy Index


Don’t be jealous of the people on this list,
they’re just better than you.

Photos by Nicolas Maloof

Every year we put out a list of the young, creative people in Brooklyn who are accomplishing the kinds of things that would be impressive at any age but are all-the-more noteworthy considering the fact that these people are, you know, not very old at all. We hesitate to call them wunderkinds (particularly because we once were reminded that it seems like “everyone is a damned wunderkind these days”), but also because it’d be pretty pointless to put a label on people who defy categorization, and who are not only making their marks on the culture at large now, but also will, we venture to guess, be doing so for a long time to come. Oh, and, yeah: A few of these people are 30 exactly. But, to borrow Aaliyah’s really-disturbing-when-you-think-about-it song, age ain’t nothing but a number.


Reuben Reuel
29 | Bed-Stuy
Fashion Designer
Reuben Reuel, the founder and creative director of Demestiks New York, conceived of his womenswear label in 2012. The idea was to use traditional Ankara cotton, or “African print,” to make elegant clothing for women of all sizes. “The motto for my business is ‘Live to create, create to live,’” explains Reuel. “I live by this quote. Creating things, especially clothing, has been my passion since I was a kid.” His keen sense of style and his bold collections—bright dresses, flowing skirts, and playful tops—have earned Reuel not only a worldwide client base, but also have caught the eye of the Queen—Beyoncé, that is.

Do you feel Brooklyn is still a viable place for a young person to build a career?
RR: Brooklyn is breeding so much creativity and more young artists live here now more than ever. Brooklyn is Bae!

Have you ever felt like leaving your career path?
RR: No, fashion, designing, and creating are in my bones. My motto is “Live to creative, creative to live” so I really don’t see myself doing anything else.

Drew Tobia
29 | Bushwick
“I always liked harsh and abrasive characters and subject matter, but I think some of the things I was writing before were a little too sarcastic or ironic,” Tobia told us last summer about See You Next Tuesday, his cover-your-mouth funny film that also evokes real compassion for characters frequently instigating the kind of loud, wet, extremely public screaming fights that your average New Yorker knows to speedwalk away from. Shot at various points along the G line, and offering up a very Brooklyn cross-section of race, socioeconomic status, and sanity, it’s a volatile, vibrant, very well-acted film from a writer-director unafraid of getting caught up in the drama of city life.

Who would be your pick for a 30 Under 30?
DT: ME! I deserve this more than anyone I know, and I refuse to give my loser
friends a hand up. (Except for my producer Rachel Wolther, who has been producing critically acclaimed no-budget indies and shorts at a nonstop pace all while working her day job producing podcasts for public radio. She’s a beast and I love her.)

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
DT: Probably a little fatter, definitely a little balder (unless I become
unexpectedly rich and can afford good cosmetic surgery), but hopefully in
between gaining all that weight and losing all that hair, I’ll have made at
least three good movies and one bad one.

Jessica Lehrman
26 | Greenpoint
As a child, Jessica Lehrman traveled across America in a caravan and was homeschooled by her hippie parents. Now 26, she still tours the country, except instead of visiting nudist camps and rainbow gatherings, she photographs touring hip-hop artists. In an intimate, humanizing style, she shoots the likes of the Beast Coast collective, Joey Bada$$, World’s Fair, Zombies, and The Underachievers, as well as indie shows around Brooklyn. In addition to her music photography, Lehrman shoots lookbooks for brands like Adidas; spreads for media outlets like Rolling Stone, Spin, the New York Times, Vanity Fair, and the Guardian; and documents Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter protests around New York City. Her adventures are chronicled on her blog, PhotoThugLife.

Have you ever felt like leaving your career path?
JL: All the time… It would be much healthier and easy on my emotions to live on a farm in Colorado and grow weed. I’d probably make more money than I do now too.

What’s felt like you’re biggest professional accomplishment?
JL: Getting the opportunity to write about my family and spend a summer documenting their travels for the New York Times.

Nicolas Holiber
30 | Greenpoint
Holiber made a big statement this past spring when his enormous sculpture “Head of Goliath” was unveiled in Tribeca Park. The mixed-media piece is a stunning rendition of the vanquished giant’s head, and represents the tackling of seemingly undefeatable opponents, including the most intimidating foe of all: building a career as a young creative in New York City. If there’s anything more appropriate for a young artist to take on (or, rather, take down), we can’t think of what it is.

What’s some advice you’d give to people trying to get a foothold in your industry?
NH: Don’t make art for other people. Make your work as often as you can. Surround yourself with people who are positive and supportive.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
NH: In my studio!


Bijan Stephen
24 | Carroll Gardens
Magazine Editor
Bijan Stephen has done a lot in very little time. The 24-year-old New Republic associate editor has been writing all over the place: for The Believer, The Paris Review, n+1, Vice, The Awl, Time, Vanity Fair, and The New Inquiry. In an essay published last November by n+1, he writes about being 18 in his Texas hometown, crouching behind a car while a white man fired gunshots. Stephen and his friends had been heading to a lake. “I remember thinking I could have died and getting high on the thought.” Thinking about Michael Brown’s murder, he reflects: “I must believe words have power because this is the only thing I can do, this is the only thing I have, and I need it to be enough.”

Who would be your choice for a 30 Under 30?
BS: Doreen St. Felix! She’s an immensely talented writer, editor, and thinker.

Who are your role models in your industry?
BS: This is tough to answer, because there are so many smart people around. Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jelani Cobb are really inspiring; they’re both phenomenal writers and forceful intellectuals. Also, they’re great at Twitter. 

Have you ever felt like leaving your career path?
BS: Nah man, I just started. 

Jordyn Lexton
29 | Prospect Heights
Founder/Executive Director,
Drive Change
Just last month, former Riker’s Island teacher, Jordyn Lexton, won the Vendy Cup (to go along with a previous Rookie of the Year award), for the maple syrup-centric food truck, Snowday. But accolades and honorifics are just gravy, as the main goals of Lexton’s hybrid profit/non-profit enterprise—which serves delicious, inspired items like fried and smoked pork ribs, maple grilled cheese and beer braised beef neck sliders, with a side of social justice—have already been met, namely, to employ, empower and educate young people recently released from the prison system.

Who are some role models for you in your industry?
JL: Jessamyn Rodriguez, Hot Bread Kitchen; Glenn Martin, JustLeadership USA. Honestly, there are SO SO many people who have been role models and mentors. These two represent leaders in the food social enterprise and criminal justice reform space that I think about and look up to every day.

What’s some advice you’d offer to someone just starting out in your field?
JL: Invest in relationships—nothing can be done to its full potential without external support.

Akilah Hughes
26 | Clinton Hill
Comedian and Writer
When Akilah Hughes releases a video online, her 105,000-plus YouTube subscribers listen. And Hughes has used her massive online following to talk about everything from hair tutorials to “dad bods” to intersectional feminism—this last in a viral video complete with pizza and burger metaphors. “When you are made of kinky curls and melanin, there are a ton of cons to speaking up about social issues,” says Hughes. “To be a black woman with a comedic voice and to be able to illustrate why some aspects of society are shitty in high-res video is empowering for me, but it also hopefully gives other young people the courage to stand up and speak their minds without fear of anonymous cowards on the Internet.”

Who would be your pick for a 30 Under 30?
AH: Pretty sure Tavi Gevinson and Malala Yousafzai are doing life better than everyone regardless of age, so they should be the beginning and end of any list ever.

Do you feel Brooklyn is still a viable place for a young person to build a career?
AH: Absolutely! The truth is I’ve never lived anywhere where artists want to work with you regardless of what you have to offer them in return the way they do in Brooklyn. There’s this inescapable hustle that keeps you meeting new people and potential collaborators who are happy to lend time and knowledge and equipment if you have an idea to pursue.

Imogene Strauss
25 | Williamsburg
Co- founder of Cool Managers
We first met Strauss a couple of years ago when we featured Solange Knowles on the cover of this magazine. What instantly impressed us then was the degree to which Strauss not only had her shit together, but also, like, everyone’s. At the time, she was managing Knowles’s day-to-day schedule, but it makes perfect sense to us that she now has her own management company, Cool Managers, wherein she works with artists like Dev Hynes (Blood Orange) and Majical Cloudz. Perhaps because Strauss grew up with creative parents (her father is renowned DJ and producer Justin Strauss), it was always important to her to pursue her own passion. She says, “I think it’s just in me. I didn’t really realize it was possible for me to make a living doing [what I loved], but I also never saw another option. I had to make it work.”

What’s some advice you’d offer to someone just starting out in your field?
IS: Being nice can get you a lot farther than you think! People like nice people. Also, work with artists you genuinely love and care about both musically but also as people and it will always feel worth it.

What’s felt like your biggest professional accomplishment?
IS: Generally, seeing my artists achieve their goals, no matter how big or small always feels like an accomplishment. To be more specific, seeing Dev [Hynes, Blood Orange] perform on Kimmel was a big deal for me—not only because it was TV, but I think we did something really special with it and I’m extremely proud of us for that! It wasn’t your normal TV appearance and it was amazing.


Calder Kusmierski Singer
25 | Bushwick
Visual Artist, Composer, Audio Visual Technician
Born and raised in Tribeca, Calder Singer comes from a family of artists: His mom illustrates children’s books; his dad is a painter and projectionist at MoMA; and his sister most recently showed paintings at the New Museum Triennial. Singer is following suit as a visual artist, electronic music composer, and AV technician at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In middle school, living three blocks from the Twin Towers, Singer was deeply affected by the events of 9/11. The tragedy would become the predominant theme of his fantastical visual art and music composition as a TIMARA major at Oberlin Conservatory (he graduated in 2011). In bold mixed media, Singer illustrates a 9/11-inspired post-apocalyptic vision of New York City; and in galleries around the five boroughs, he dances to his electronic tracks costumed as his freakish glitter-lipped alter ego, My Little Daemon.

What’s some advice you’d have for people looking to get a foothold in your industry?
CS: Stay true to what interests you. Be patient and open-minded to the world, to others, and to what others make. Follow your intuition, work your ass off, project confidence and friendliness at much as humanly possible. Articulate your dreams thoroughly. Stay focused on your vision and craft. It is more important to make work that is both strong and meaningful to you than to chase fame.

What’s felt like your biggest professional accomplishment?
CS: Having continued working on my art and music through adversity, stress, sickness, and work.

Ping Zhu
27 | Bed-Stuy
By the age of fifteen, Ping Zhu knew she wanted to be an illustrator—and she wrote that goal down in her LiveJournal. Now, the Los Angeles native has a degree from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and clients around the globe, like the New York Times, The Independent, the New Yorker, and Hèlium. Illustration is “a universal language and can sometimes reach people in a more profound way than other mediums, as far as commercial work goes,” explains Zhu. “Because I do a lot of editorial work, my illustrations are seen alongside articles that cover a wide spectrum of topics—either to draw viewers to read more or just to stop and think.” And, with just the right amount of brushstrokes, Zhu delicately brings human (and anthropomorphic) emotions like joy and wonder, loneliness and curiosity to the page.

Who are your role models in your industry?
PZ: Anyone who can maintain a balanced life with work and recreation.

What’s felt like your biggest professional accomplishment?
PZ: Getting enough work to support myself (and live alone, the joy!).

Madison Maxey
22 | Fort Greene
Creative Technologist and
Co-Founder of The Crated
With fashion design as her first love and coding as her second, Maxey co-founded The Crated, a Brooklyn-based second-generation wearable technology company that works with clients who want to incorporate technology into clothing. Recently, she created a programmable LED dress for Zac Posen and Google—which our city’s First Lady, Chirlane McCray, was quoted as saying she loved. Although it’s still kind of hard for the layperson to imagine all the possibilities of wearable technology, those thoughts are spinning around Maxey’s mind constantly, making her one of the most exciting people to keep an eye on in the world of Brooklyn fashion and tech.

What’s some advice you’d have for people looking to get a foothold in your industry?
MM: Make things. Investigate the unknown. Fabricate and learn basic physical computing and coding skills. If you make interesting things, the work will come.

Do you feel Brooklyn is still a viable place for a young person to build a career?
MM: 100 percent yes. I’m a transplant from San Diego and Brooklyn has provided so much infrastructure and culture for creative growth.

Lola Pellegrino
29 | Park Slope
Writer/Gyn Nurse Practitioner
We have a lot of hyphenates on this list, but they’re usually of the writer-editor or writer-director variety. But Lola Pellegrino is the rare person who is excellent in the relatively disparate fields of writing and medicine, and we’re luckier for it. (As readers, anyway; Pellegrino has never been our nurse practitioner. But we’re pretty sure she’d be great at that too.) She explains her approach to this particular job balance: “I am here to spread the gospel of the Really Steady Side Gig: I’ve never wanted to be a writer without being a clinician and vice-versa. Not only do I really love practicing, it covers my bills and leaves me open to only writing the stuff I’m really obsessed with.” Recently though, Pellegrino has taken time to devote herself solely to writing (“I’m writing full-time for a spell and it is wild!”), but allows that “letting experiences pool together really helps: Instead of thinking of myself as a ‘writer’ or a ‘nurse’ at any time, I try to inhabit as close to all of myself as I can, as often as I can. Everything feeds the beast.”

Who are some role models in your field?
LP: Writing: Jenny Zhang, Patricia Lockwood, Margo Jefferson, Claudia Rankine. Maggie Nelson. If I woke up in a distant future to discover I had been rebooted as a cyborg Maggie Nelson, I would not be the least mad. Medicine: Stephanie Tillman, Marsha Linehan, Oliver Sacks (RIP).

What’s some advice you’d offer to someone just starting out in your industry?
LP: The most successful writers I know work rise and grind even when they don’t feel like it; they also work out their pitch-and-file professional muscles just as much as their talent. Even the people who look like they know what they’re doing struggle with Impostor Syndrome, so maybe treat feeling like you’re a fake as a signal you’re on the right track. If you’re looking for opportunities or want guidance, do as much legwork as you can on your own and then reach out to people with any remaining questions. If people do help you, thank them for it and let them know how taking their advice went. They will appreciate that they didn’t throw their mentorship into the void!

Have you ever felt like leaving your career path?
LP: Nope. A wise man named John Fogerty once sang, “Better run through the jungle/whoa, don’t look back to see.”

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
LP: Struggling to write cool answers for Brooklyn Mag‘s 40 Under 40 list. Or living as Cyborg Maggie Nelson.



Julio Torres
27 | Bushwick
El Salvador-born, Bushwick-based comedian and self-professed “Space Prince” Julio Torres’s downtempo stand-up ranges from “Bushwick haikus” to impressions of Jodi Foster “farting alone in her apartment.” He’s been named Comedy Central “Comic to Watch” and Montreal’s “New Face of Comedy.” With the help of fellow comedians like Chris Gethard and Jo Firestone (also featured here), Torres recently raised $5,000 in 13 hours via a GoFundMe campaign, titled “Legalize Julio,” to pay for his immigration expenses after his student visa for Eugene Lang expired. Smoke machines and a shiny silver button-down made his plea video very persuasive. His new artist’s visa, pending approval, would only allow him to work in comedy-related jobs while in the States, rendering his bill-paying archiving skills useless, unless he finds work as a joke-telling archivist. If you hear of anything, let him know.

Who would be your choice for a 30 under 30?
JT: There’s an exciting new scene filled with performers who are both autonomous and collaborative; comedians with distinct backgrounds and voices who support and encourage each other’s experiments. But above all I would pick that swan… that swan that lives in the lake at Prospect Park. You know the one. I can’t seem to stop thinking about him.

Do you feel Brooklyn is still a viable place for a young person to build a career?
JT: I think it’s still possible. I moved here from El Salvador for that and I think I’m doing it.

Rahawa Haile
30 | Bed-Stuy
Sparkling writer of short stories and smart essays, Twitter cloud and short-fiction magnate, urgent advocate of self-care, persistent voice on the Horn of Africa, Florida-native and Eritrean-American Rahawa Haile is also a big Star Trek fan, outdoorswoman, and just about the nicest person you could meet. She’s been published in The Guardian, Cosmopolitan, The Village Voice, LitHub, Midnight Breakfast, The Awl, The Hairpin, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and Hazlitt. She’s taking a not-so-brief break from Brooklyn this spring to hike the Appalachian Trail and write something that will blow A Walk in the Woods out of, well, the woods. She told the Oyster Review (via fellow 30-Under-30 member Kevin Nguyen) this past July: “My plan is to marry an extraordinary opening sentence someday.”

Have you ever felt like leaving your career path?
RH: Goodness, yes. I wouldn’t trust anyone who says otherwise. 

What’s felt like your biggest professional accomplishment?
RH: At the start of 2015, I decided to post one short story a day to Twitter by a woman or writer of color. The point was to bang readers, editors, and lit agents over the head with the reality that many minorities are producing incredible work with minimal recognition. The response has been tremendous. 

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
RH: Am I still a black women? Has the housing market collapsed yet? I can say I hope I’m not freelancing full-time! I’d also like at least one published short story collection under my belt and a loving sentence to spoon at night.


Ali Breslin
29 | Williamsburg
Fashion Stylist and Occasional Model
Breslin’s way of fashioning modish Americana—she’s all about relaxed and effortless classics but never pretension (she can even made a bucket hat look cool… a bucket hat!)—has found her styling for a first-rate list of contemporary designers, stores, salons, jewelers and publications, from Cold Picnic, In God We Trust, and Gamma Folk to Creem, Cake and BULLETT magazines. Whether working within the wide realm of editorial or the confines of a product shoot, her keen eye and industry knowledge has made make her one of the most promising behind-the-scenes architects of The Brooklyn Lifestyle.

What’s some advice you’d have for people looking to get a foothold in your industry?
Don’t stop moving. The hustle is real, but the final product is so rewarding. Do it if it makes you happy; if not, fuck it!

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Hopefully on a beach in Jamaica.

Jayson Smith
23 | Bed-Stuy

Poet Jayson Smith grew up in the Bronx and still feels “that twinge” when he thinks about his home borough. But for him Brooklyn is a productive, community-oriented space—Smith isn’t leaving anytime soon. Though he went to NYU for choreography and performance studies, he’s making his name in poetry. But the body still “bleeds into my work a lot,” he says. A Pushcart Prize Nominee and Callaloo fellow, Smith’s poems have appeared in The Rumpus, MUZZLE, Kinfolks, and the anthology Again I Wait for This to Pull Apart. In his poem “a question of rain,” he writes: “to remember the happy ending in every book. to forget they were all white. to name / desire as everyone who hasn’t killed you yet.”

What’s some advice you’d have for people looking to get a foothold in your industry? 
JS: Read. Broadly. If you are a writer in 2015 only reading work that caters to your lens (whether white, straight, cis), it will absolutely tell on you. Also, be kind. Can’t stress that one enough—someone is more likely to remember an experience they’ve had with you than a line from anything you’ve written.

Do you feel Brooklyn is still a viable place for a young person to build a career?
JS: Haha, if we all don’t get priced out in the next few years, absolutely. The energy in Brooklyn is unmatchable and we’re definitely a big catalyst, I think.

Lori Adelman
29 | Crown Heights
Writer and Advocate
Lori Adelman’s activist credentials are sterling. Currently a Feministing executive director and an associate director at Planned Parenthood Global, she’s also put in time at the United Nations Foundation, the International Women’s Health Coalition, and Human Rights Watch. Adelman makes advocacy look good—or, rather, even better. (Her Instagram is really on point.) She’s written for the New York Times Magazine, Rookie Magazine, The Grio, and The Nation. “People of color, queer people, trans people, refugees, immigrants: our stories are the news,” she told the Poyter Institute last April. “We don’t owe mainstream media anything for telling our stories. They owe it to themselves to get the world right.”

What’s some advice you’d offer to someone just starting out in your field?
LA: Do believe in yourself and trust your instincts. Don’t be too proud to reach out to people whose work you like or look up to and give them shine. It’s really easy to burn out when you do this work, and progress can sometimes be slow. You have to remind yourself that even if you can’t see it, you are making progress. 

Do you feel Brooklyn is still a viable place for young people to build a career?
LA: Yes. The rent is too damn high of course, which is frustrating and prohibitive for too many. But there are still so many thoughtful creative people in Brooklyn, especially young people of color. It’s a great place to find community in that way.

Durga Chew-Bose
29 | Crown Heights
Writer Durga Chew-Bose is everywhere: in the Guardian, Buzzfeed, The Hairpin, Rolling Stone, GQ, The New Inquiry, n+1, Interview, Paper, Hazlitt, all over This Recording, on Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton’s magical podcast Another Round. No one writes about movies better, or TV, or what white people talk about when they talk about tanning, or the precise quality of Casey Affleck’s voice (“the leftover voice after a long sob,” “like someone with a clothespin on his nose,” “the friend who, regardless, always says, ‘wanna bet?’”). She has a snippet from Zora Neale Hurston stuck up next to her bedroom mirror: “I love myself when I am laughing. And then again when I am looking mean and impressive.” Chew-Bose is wonderful at all three.

Do you feel Brooklyn is still a viable place for young people to build a career?
DCB: Sure. But it’s not the only place. It helps to be walking distance from writer friends who challenge me, who don’t necessarily encourage my every instinct when I’m working on a particular piece but who over dinner or a stroll somewhere will thoughtfully consider whatever obstacle I’ve reached. Some of the best edits I’ve received have occurred during arguments with close friends because I am forced to commit with extra grit my purpose. “Viable place,” “young people,” “career”: I’m not sure I even know how to define the limits of those things anymore. 

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
DCB: Less anxious. Less self-serious. Still sincerely in touch with all the women I’ve met in New York whom I care about deeply. In between writing books and living somewhere with a view, with someone who I love and can hear puttering around our home as we both do our own thing. In 10 years I hope to be better at everything without even noticing that that’s true.


Kai Avent-deLeon
27 | Bed-Stuy
Owner/Buyer for concept store Sincerely, Tommy
Growing up in Bed-Stuy, Kai Avent-deLeon knew from an early age that she wanted to have a store of her own. At 17, Avent-deLeon picked up her first internship at a small boutique in Fort Greene—and three years later, she was doing all of their men’s buying. After getting more industry experience as an operations manager at Chanel and, later, managing Aritzia’s first Soho store, Avent-deLeon opened up her own shop in Bed-Stuy—Sincerely, Tommy—to highlight emerging womenswear and lifestyle brands. Now, almost a year later, she’s helping the newest talents in fashion and art live their dreams while also living her own.

Who are your role models in your industry?
KAD: I honestly can’t say that I have many role models in this industry. There are people whom I admire. I also don’t feel like I belong to a specific industry—it makes me feel like I am in a box. I grab inspiration from all forms of art or creatives. I am more inspired by a specific form of creative expression and how I can tie them together. Artists like Nina Simone, Luis Barragan, Rei Kawakubo, Osho and a few more have always had some influence in my life.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

KAD: That’s tough. I try not to put a timetable on things. I allow whats supposed to happen… happen. There are other goals I have, like opening a 2nd store either in Mexico City or Paris. I want to continue to develop initiatives that serve underprivileged youth in urban communities.

Aaron Edwards
23 | The hotly disputed
border area so
eloquently deemed “Quooklyn.”
As the Mobile Editor at BuzzFeed News, Edwards plays a huge part in how the site’s audience (which numbers in the, you know, gazillions, we think) consumes the work on offer, and it’s clear that he’s driven to find creative solutions to the myriad problems that arise when trying to deliver news to such a wide readership, all while still maintaining a high-level of integrity and vision. Perhaps Edwards has a particular sensitivity to how to treat stories in a viral content-driven world because he started his career as a reporter, first with a fellowship at the New York Times, and also as an editor at Breaking News, before somewhat unexpectedly ending up where he is now. As he tells us: “A foundation in reporting and writing can take you to many corners of journalism that you didn’t expect to end up in.” In other words, at the young age of 23, Edwards has already successfully changed his career path. We look forward to seeing whatever comes next.

What’s some advice you’d give to someone just starting out in your industry?
AE: Don’t be a jerk, especially on social media—we’re all trying to figure this thing out.Never assume you have nothing to learn from someone, but also never assume people will have your best interests at heart. Work first, network later. A foundation in reporting and writing can take you to many corners of journalism that you didn’t expect to end up in. Don’t do things you hate, but don’t consider yourself above work that must be done. Negotiate your salary, benefits and perks with confidence, and have the experience to back it up. Advocate for yourself, but seek out advocates who believe in you because they won’t always come to you.Who would be your pick for a 30 Under 30?
AE: Blue Ivy. Or North West. Just kidding. Not really. But most certainly Amber Gordon, who has built an amazing community over at Femsplain. (Get to know them.)

Kevin Nguyen
28 | Crown Heights
Editorial Director of Oyster

Writer and editor Kevin Nguyen’s Twitter bot is better than most actual people are at the social media network. And yet Nguyen’s real Twitter account is even better: funny, smart, and passionate about a genre of posts he calls night tweets. (You’ll just have to follow him to find out what that means.) Currently the editorial director at Oyster, the subscription ebook service, Nguyen has written for Grantland, The New Republic, The Paris Review, The Atlantic, The Millions, NiemanLab, Vice, and ran for a time a really killer TinyLetter (You can still read the archives.) His stayed-up-all-night-to-read review of Go Set a Watchman—in the format of a Q&A he conducts with himself—was one of the best responses we read to Harper Lee’s surprise novel.

Who would be your choice for a 30 Under 30?
KN: Two people you picked last year: Jazmine Hughes and Hallie Bateman. I have never met anyone besides these two that do so much great work that feels honest with who they are. Probably not a coincidence: they’re the best people on Twitter.

What’s some advice you’d give to someone starting out in your industry?
KN: 1) Read a lot. Try and read broadly. 2) Review books for what they are, not what you want them to be. 3) Remember that New York is not the world. 4) Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t take an unpaid internship.


Mars Dixon and Jade Payne
29 and 28 | Bed-Stuy
Musician/Dog Walker/Guitar Teacher
and Musician & Sound Engineer
Raised on a wave of late-90s pop-punk music that reflected an overwhelmingly white, male, suburban experience that was a far cry from their own lives, the members of Aye Nako seek to put out music that better tells their own stories. The band’s acclaimed 2015 EP The Blackest Eye, recorded after the addition of new guitarist Jade Payne, has them hitting a new peak, bold but badly bruised. Singer and primary songwriter Mars Dixon delivers tough, honest lyrics about early sexual trauma, non-binary gender identity, and the continued peril of being black in America. There’s no telling who those words could reach at the moment they might need them most.

Do you think Brooklyn is still a viable place for a young person to build a career?
MD: Seems that way, but I actually want to say “no” so the apolitical, apathetic suburban white entrepreneur gentrifiers stop flowing in as rapidly.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
JP: Either exactly what I’m doing now or battling the zombie apocalypse with Mars Dixon.

Lucas Adams
28 | Bed-Stuy
Freelance Cartoonist/Writer,
Co-Editor New York
Review Comics

Cartoonist Lucas Adams’s lines are wobbly but never uncertain. Slices of pizza glop with cheese; a rat’s tail curls, spotty with hairs, into a frame; a nail inches out, a little too long, over a bare toe. Since 2010 he’s published The Bins, a comic that celebrates fictional trash, at the Rumpus. (A recent one illustrated discount bumper stickers: “I’m a murderer and I VOTE.”) He also writes trivia and draws for Mental Floss and Atlas Obscura, and did a long stint at Modern Farmer illustrating his great-grandfather’s farm journals. Most thrilling, he is helping to launch a new imprint with the New York Review of Books;
the New York Review Comics.What’s some advice you’d have for people looking to get a foothold in your industry?
LA: It’s important when you’re getting started to be hungry, but you have find the right ways to articulate it. An early piece of New York advice I got was just say “yes” to as many things as you can. It wasn’t meant in a low key “I’m down for whatever” way, but as a way to emphasize that you’re ready to work. It puts you into situations you wouldn’t find yourself in if you hesitated: working events as a volunteer, informational interviews, weird industry get togethers. It will help you meet like-minded people, and it will help you figure out what your path forward can look like.Where do you see yourself in ten years?
LA: Hopefully not living in an apartment that is slanted (although I do love my landlord). Ideally all the bills are paid with my writing and my drawing, along with co-editing a robust NYRC, getting ready to celebrate 10 years of publishing quality comics that you can download into your eyeballs. 

Sara Bigelow
30 | Williamsburg
MBA student at NYU Stern, Butcher, Former General Manager of The Meat Hook

Who said meat is a man’s world? Brooklyn’s premiere butcher shop, the Meat Hook, rightly trusted its heritage breed pigs, free-range chickens, and grass-fed lambs to a cleaver-wielding female, Sara Bigelow. (Actually, more than one: Former Meat Hook butcher Cara Nicoletti is also an accomplished writer who just published a book, Voracious.) But breaking down whole animals into chops and steaks in seconds flat was just the tip of the iceberg for Bigelow, who’s since branched off into other ventures. Bigelow makes award-winning hams, and is currently getting her MBA at NYU. And what did you do on your summer vacation?

Do you feel Brooklyn is still a viable place for young people to build a career?
SB: I’ve lived in various parts of Brooklyn for eight years now (almost a real New Yorker!), and I’ve always felt like it has been a great place to live and work. The amount of entrepreneurs who are killing it in Brooklyn is really impressive, and the trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down. I think it’s pretty great to be able to live and work in a borough that has so much going on, in every industry.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
SB: Running everything. That’s what you do with an MBA, right?

Ivy Mix
29 | Carroll Gardens

With a name like Ivy Mix, it’s no wonder the 29-year-old is Brooklyn’s reigning cocktail queen. (Actually, considering Mix recently nabbed the Spirited Award for Best American Bartender of the Year, we’d say her supremacy extends way beyond the borough.) Former protégé-turned-partner of the Clover Club’s esteemed Julie Reiner, Mix is the founder of the charity bartending competition, Speed Rack, and co-owner of Cobble Hill’s pan-Latin insta-hit, Leyenda, which focuses on South of the Border spirits like tequila, mezcal, rum, cachaca, and pisco.What’s some advice you’d offer to someone just starting out in your field?
IM: Just keep going and keep working. This is an industry that you have to make work for you.Have you ever felt like leaving your career path?
IM: Of course! Who hasn’t? I know I’ll do other things in my life though. I’ll never leave this one. I do think I have the best job in the world.

Britni West
28 | Bed-Stuy

West’s debut feature Tired Moonlight, which just finished up a weeklong run at MoMA, is a docu-fiction hybrid in the recent microbudget tradition, a loosely structured, observational narrative featuring a nonprofessional cast enacting elliptically elegiac rural rituals in West’s hometown of Kalispell, Montana. With whispers of 70s Malick in its use of free-floating voiceover and magic-hour photography (and occasional rude humor), the film marks West’s as a voice to watch—when she’s not doing valuable work as a production designer or assistant on any number of other independent films.


Sean Telo
27 | Williamsburg
Executive Chef at Extra Fancy

Extra Fancy’s Sean Telo may not have any particularly exciting titles to add to his resume other than “chef,” but the fact that, at 27 years old, he’s consistently cooked some of the very best meals we’ve had in Brooklyn, counts for a lot in our book. Need further proof that Telo is a culinary force to be reckoned with? None other than Daniel Boulud elected to spend his 59th birthday at the Williamsburg restaurant, bringing along the odd friend or two—you know, scrappy up-and-comers like Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Wylie Dufresne, and Alfred Portale.

What’s some advice you’d offer to someone just starting out in your field?
ST: Don’t go to culinary school. Don’t watch Food TV. Learn how to cook really well with fire, fat and salt. Don’t expect anything to be handed to you, including money. If you get into the restaurant industry to make money you’ve failed before you began. Oh, and never use the fucking term “molecular gastronomy.

Do you feel Brooklyn is still a viable place for young people to build a career?
ST: Absolutely. The industry is currently in a drought of talented, professional cooks. If you’re a cook willing to work long, hard hours, the jobs are there if you look for them.

Jo Firestone
28 | Fort Greene
Comedian and producer Jo Firestone has a dozen-plus zany shows currently running in New York City—like Punderdome 3000, Friends of Single People, and The Unexpectashow—and they’re like nothing the NYC comedy world has ever seen: They feature human pyramids, face painting, singing, yelling, and even competitions to survive terrible, five-hour-long comedy shows. “My intention is that the audience members feel in on the joke,” says Firestone. “I want them to feel like they’re included, and that just by being there, they’re experiencing something that unites them with the other audience members.” Firestone’s comedic chops have already gotten her compared to a “modern day Ziegfeld,” and she’s just getting started.

What was a turning point for you, when you realized you could make a career out of something you loved to do?

JF: I still have uncertainty about this career. Because once you get one gig, it can last a couple months, but then before you know it, the job is done and the cash you kept in a drawer has somehow all gone to the Thai restaurant down the street and now all you have is the memory of noodles. Suffice it to say, I still keep my catering uniform.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
JF: Probably still in Brooklyn. Definitely a guest-star on multiple Law and Order SVU episodes. Definitely super fit and super sexy. I’m probably married to a robot and neither of us think it’s weird.

Jeanette Wall
23 | Crown Heights
A&R (ATO Records), Artist Manager (Salty Artist
Management), Label Manager (Miscreant Record),
Editor (The Miscreant)
Existing, somehow simultaneously, as an artist manager, a zine editor and publisher, an A&R woman for a big independent record label and the head of a small DIY one, and a songwriter herself, Jeanette Wall is working all ends of the modern music industry. Whether smoothing the rise of ascendent local rock star Mitski, putting out the debut records by promising Brooklyn bands like PWR BTTM, or picking a cover subject for the latest issue of The Miscreant, Wall seems ever in motion. It’s a wonder her own performing duo, Band Practice, can even live up to its name.

What was a turning point for you, when you realized you could make a career out of something you loved to do?
JW: When I was 15, I was taking mail orders for CDs on MySpace for my friend’s band. I took a small cut for burning, packaging and mailing out the CDs. Once I helped get him signed to Universal Republic, I realized that people get paid to promote records outside of their childhood bedroom. I thought that was pretty cool.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
JW: I’ve working with a lot of developing artists, and have approached everything in my career with a “learning by doing” mentality. I’m really excited to grow with these artists I’ve started working with now. But I could also become a hugely famous rock star by then, and on a world tour with Band Practice. That’s probably what will happen.

This feature originally included Winston Scarlett; to find out why he’s no longer listed, please visit here.


    • Not many, but we’re out there. Check out Aerobo, we design and manufacture our own drones! There are people doing similar things to Bot & Dolly in robotics for the art scene. Alot of STEM people find interest in production and audio engineering here too. I share your disappointment in this list; I wouldn’t employ most of these people.

  1. as a sometime but never full-time new torker, whatever pangs of regret i have for not making ‘the move’ are always put to rest with stuff like this. it’s like living in a very bland, safe war zone. all the panic and anxiety. justifying your existence every day. jesus wept.

  2. Not a single scientist on the list! Believe it or not, there are some of us under 30 who live in Brooklyn and I can assure you that what we do is more creative than whatever these trustafarians are involved in.


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