Jun 20, 2022
Behind the scenes of our second annual list of Brooklyn’s 50 Most Fascinating People
A bit of background about our second annual list of the 50 Brooklynites we're captivated by now
We live in Brooklyn because Brooklyn is endlessly fascinating.
Don’t get us wrong — it can be disappointing, petty, frustrating. But those complexities are also part of its charm. There is so much to get lost in, and so many people to obsess over, that we find ourselves eternally engrossed.
For the second year in a row, Brooklyn Magazine is paying tribute to the most captivating people in the borough right now, across multiple disciplines. This year, though, our Brooklyn’s 50 Most Fascinating People list is appearing in print for the first time. (Look for it at coffee shops, boutiques and your other favorite local spots.)
Here are the main characters of our communities. They are also the compelling extras, the scene-stealers, the freaks and the geeks. You’ll find some folks in these pages whom you may already know. And there are others you didn’t know you needed to know. (And if you don’t know, well, now you know.)
What’s this all about, then? The media landscape is littered with advertiser- driven “Most Powerful People” and
“30 Under 30” lists. From day one, we wanted to do something different while also acknowledging our communities in a meaningful way. We chose “most fascinating” precisely because it’s slightly squishy (plus, Barbara Walters wasn’t using it anymore, so). To be fascinating, you don’t need to be likable or powerful. And you certainly don’t need to be young.
Our honorees didn’t know they were in consideration for this list. (And, hopefully, they won’t mind now that they’re on it.) Among the fascinating, for starters, you’ll find a transportation activist and entrepreneur who is solving problems around cycling in the city; a civil rights litigator and memoirist who tells the story of countless undocumented immigrants through her own hard journey; an insanely prolific punk-rock painter; the first transgendered woman of color to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue … Also, there is a wizard.
Technically, you’ll find 55 people on this list. That’s because a few of the entrants here are some kind of duo or couple — like the publishers of Black- Owned Brooklyn, or the restaurateurs behind Zona Rosa. We’re counting them as one to make room for others. The through line here is that these are the people who are doing work that makes us feel, think, laugh and care. They each connect us to the borough in essential ways, especially as Brooklyn finally, hopefully, seems to be returning to some kind of new endemic-pandemic normal.
To be sure, we could compile a list of 50 fascinating Brooklynites every day for more than 50,000 days in a row and still not run out of candidates. (I did the math myself, thank you very much.) If your objects of fascination didn’t make the cut this year, there’s always next.
A note about how we landed on this list: We put a call out for nominees in February and were inundated with more than 1,000 submissions via email — and even more on social media. We also scoured our own neighborhoods and networks. We know this is subjective. As such, there is no ranking here. We did, though, break our list up into three broad categories: Arts & Leisure, Community & Commerce, and Food & Drink.
We’re sure you’ll have your opinions, and we welcome them. Bring it on. Brooklyn’s 50 Most Fascinating People were selected by a jury including myself and the following individuals:
- Brooklyn Magazine contributors Vittoria Benzine, Joshua Encinias, Gabriel Friedman, Cole Habersham, Jessica Lipsky, Scott Lynch, Anna Rahmanan, Jessica Robinson, Nick Youssef … and a few others with day jobs at other publications who are technically not allowed to freelance.
- Lauren Riley and Merlyn Oliver, the tastemakers behind the burgeoning social-media empire Brooklyn Mavens.
- Journalist, editor, strategist, author and bon vivant Jason Diamond.
- Nicholas Heller, the filmmaker better known as New York Nico on Instagram, the city’s “unofficial talent scout.”
- Contributing editor and bullshit-caller Simon Dumenco.
Finally, a big thanks to the Group SJR team — which designed the hell out of this issue and built the incredible online interface for this package — specifically, Johnmichael Faustini, Joelle McKenna, Ryan Carlson, Catherine Choi, Sebastian Longhitano, Laura Beckerdite and Jessica Ulman.
And if you’re still reading, thank you too. I find that fascinating. I find that fascinating.
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