30 Under 30: The Envy Index

12/03/2014 8:10 AM |

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“It seems like we’re all supposed to be goddamn wunderkinds these days.” So said one of the people profiled in this feature, and, reader, we’ll admit, it gave us pause. By spotlighting all these amazing young people doing amazing things, are we just further feeding into a youth-obsessed culture which cares little for experience and more about whatever—or whomever—happens to be the next hot thing? No! Well, not completely anyway. Rather, the people we’ve chosen to showcase here have achieved (and we’re sure will continue to achieve) great things, but they’ve earned their stripes—they’ve just done so at remarkably impressive ages. In other words, don’t envy them because they’re young. Envy them because they work harder and better at their chosen profession than most of us will ever do at anything. Envy that.



Photo by Macey Foronda

1) Saeed Jones
29, Writer, Buzzfeed
When we interviewed Saeed Jones for our sister publication Brooklyn Magazine about his stunning poetry collection Prelude to Bruise, Jones said that “I think of poetry as the haute couture of writing.” But don’t think that it means at his day-job, Jones deals in prose that’s off the rack. As the LGBT editor of Buzzfeed, Jones is a powerhouse, using his platform to advance the conversation about the intersection of race, gender, and politics. He also has a stellar Twitter account (sample: “Autocorrect is a shade queen like none other”), where he regularly promotes LGBT coverage that’s sadly lacking from most mainstream outlets. He’s currently at work on a memoir that’ll be sure to be on the top of our must-read list.


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2) Hallie Bateman
25, Illustrator and Cartoonist
Illustrator and cartoonist Hallie Bateman is a regular on The Awl and The Hairpin—you may have seen her most recent collaboration, “NYC DSM: The Mental Maladies Caused By Living In New York,” which pictures such common afflictions as “Rat King Personification” and “Umbrella Creation Disorder.” Her drawings also appear regularly on The Oyster Review and pop up occasionally on sites like Hyperallergic, Grist, Pandodaily, and The Bygone Bureau. “I had a huge creative output as a kid — I made movies, drew comics and wrote stories as a form of play,” Bateman says. “It didn’t occur to me that art could actually be my occupation until I was toward the end of my English degree. Something clicked and I jumped into illustration with enough gusto to make up for whatever needed to be made up for. Now I pretty much do exactly what I did as a kid, except more, and better.”


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3) Mitski Miyawaki
23, Musician
One of the strongest “new” voices in Brooklyn rock belongs to an artist who’s already been recording a while. This year’s Bury Me at Makeout Creek is the third Mitski record, actually. The music she made while studying at SUNY Purchase carried telltale signs of music school life: orchestra members with the downtime to lend a hand, rooms with space for stray pianos. It was her shrewd and necessary post-grad goal to make music that’d resonate in Bushwick’s makeshift DIY spaces that brought a sudden breakthrough. Her roughed-up revision towards electric guitar feedback pushes her old songs’ semi-passive sadness to a newly active, if subtly expressed, anger. Her songs make the indignities of time spent in a wildly expensive and often harsh city seem quite trying. Her lyrics’ sharp, dark wit suggests she’ll figure it out.When asked if the tough going is worth the inspiration it’s clearly brought, she says she’s not quite sure. “I feel like I’m too ‘in it’ to see the pros and cons objectively.” So while she deliberates over ultimate judgement, what does Mitski suspect she’ll remember most about her Brooklyn-spent 20s? “Working. Not sleeping. Drinking coffee. Class disparity.”


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4) Shamir Bailey
20, Musician
OK, we admit, counting the recently minted ex-teenager/current disco diva Shamir as a native Brooklynite is a bit of a cheat. After all, his residency in town is painfully temporary, centered around the recording of his debut album for huge-deal British label XL (home to nobodies like Jack White, Vampire Weekend, Radiohead, and Adele). Once it’s done, he’ll leave us, returning once again to the throbbing neon lights of his other home, Las Vegas. But Brooklyn does have some lasting claim to Bailey’s heart. Kick-ass local label Godmode put out his first singles and the borough’s been host to an inordinate number of the young lad’s few live shows so far. What’s not in question is why we’d go out of our way trying to claim him. His bubbling, genderless blend of dance music, hip-hop, and R & B is like a fresh, cool breeze of pop delight. It’s a “Future Star Slept Here!” sort of deal.


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5) Sam West
28, Comedy Writer and Director
If you’ve ever found yourself watching a not-quite-infomercial in the wee hours of the morning on Adult Swim, than you’re probably familiar with the work of comedy writer and director Sam West, who worked on bits like the hilarious “For-Profit Online University” and the toilet technology start-up “Smart Pipe.” West, the former head writer for digital content at The Onion, also helped create the reality show spoof “Sex House” and the TED talk-aping “The Onion Talks.” (Like TED Talks, only “instead of a good idea, it will be a ludicrous one,” West explained to the New Yorker.) Currently, he’s on the writing staff of the new Cartoon Network show starring Jack McBrayer and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog; he also appears semi-regularly at UCB and at the monthly Hearth Gods series at Jimmy’s No. 43 in the East Village.


Photo by David Neff

6) Steven Litt
30, Founder, Crudlabs & Professor, NYU
Steven Litt kind of reminds you of a mad scientist, or maybe a super hero, or maybe some mash-up of both. By day, he’s a professor at NYU teaching design and digital electronic courses. By night, we picture him in his Greenpoint apartment, longhair all disheveled, soldering wires and fidgeting with tiny little LED lights to create his next next new-and-improved Crudbox, (AKA, Litt’s award-winning Arduino sequencers, which are basically robotic rhythm machines that control other electronic devices’ sound) which he then may or may not sell by the company he created in 2009, Crudlabs. Occasionally, Litt plays live shows with Crudboxes, creates public installations like at NYC Bent Festival and MMIX Festival, and has collaborated with artists like MV Carbon and Loud Objects. Right now, however, the only thing available in his Etsy shop is a contact mic, which is meant to amplify the sequencers, but if you hit him up, maybe he’ll be be willing to whip a Crudbox up for ya, which are actually easier to use than you might think. No promises he’ll reply to your email though.


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7) Zachary Wigon
28, Writer-Director
When The Heart Machine was released to theaters this October, 28-year-old writer-director Zachary Wigon was praised by critics for the way his first feature film captured the methods and meanings of connection among young people in their natural habitat: not just the film’s Williamsburg, Bushwick, and East Village locations, but online. Mixing moody cinematography with deftly dramatized scenes of awkward Skype sex and surreptitious date-googling, Wigon stages a long-distance relationship that movingly captures how a particular generation is living through eternal anxieties.Wigon, an NYU grad who lives on the Lower East Side, is currently at work on another screenplay. “I’m hesitant to say too much about it,” he tells us, “but it’s about the intersection of blogging, identity, fashion and photography.” A lifelong New Yorker, Wigon says that “I feel rather attuned to lives being lived in this place,” but hopes to explore new milieus in his upcoming projects, “to keep challenging myself by exploring new spheres of activity and socializing.” To whit: The protagonist of his current work-in-progress lives in Queens.


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8) Maia Murphy
28, Art Curator, Recess
As the program director at Recess, a nonprofit combination exhibit space and studio in Soho, Maia Murphy has worked with founder Allison Weisberg to turn the space into a unique art incubator, one more focused on process than the end result. Murphy and Weisberg also offer a program that allows artists two months in their space plus a stipend for materials to create their work. The space remains open to the public as the artists assemble their creations, giving a rare glimpse at the guts of assembling a show. “My favorite projects to support are the ones that feel like they couldn’t happen anywhere else,” Murphy said.


Photo by Clayton Cubitt

9) Ales Kot
28, Writer
Born in the Czech Republic, Ales Kot came to writing as a career “the morning after I dropped four blotters of acid, met a ghost, saw and explored some other spectacular occurrences and realized I probably had a life worth writing about, worth writing from.” That was in 2008, and following a move to America (Los Angeles, first, for love, and then New York in 2013, also for love), Kot has built an incredibly impressive career as a writer for films, TV, and comics (he’s currently working on a television adaptation of his sci-fi work Zero and also helms Marvel’s excellent new comic series Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier). And as can perhaps be expected for someone who came to writing after a particularly enlightening acid trip, Kot doesn’t see himself just as a writer. He tells us: “Eventually I just wanted to have a life worth living. Writing every day became a need first and only later something I chose as my (currently) primary art. I am constantly evolving and my interest is in transcending limits, not in putting myself in boxes, so classifying myself as a ‘writer’ would be…unnecessary at best. I write. I do many more things.

To read a longer Q&A with Kot, visit bkmag.com


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10) Niv Acosta
26, Dancer and Choreographer
At 26, Niv Acosta is set to become a major figure in the contemporary dance scene, if he hasn’t taken over it already. His work as a dancer and choreographer is heavily influenced by vogue, pop, and classical music alike. Watching him perform is not a passive activity Niv engages his audience with his distinctly political work that grapples with race, identity, and gender. In the past several years, Niv has performed at MoMA PS1, New York Live Arts, Upstart Festival (Brooklyn Arts Exchange), and the Center for Performance Research, and most recently was included amongst 51 artists to participate in The New Museum’s 2015 Triennial. In many ways, Niv’s work speaks to what the future of art in America will look like: Niv is black, Dominican, and a first generation American born in New York City. He brings a multidisciplinary approach to his artform and expands its scope by offering perspectives that might not otherwise be found in contemporary dance—what Niv has dubbed “impossible bodies,” a challenge to the status quo. Niv breathes new life into a medium that all too often seems reserved for aging New Yorker staff writers and their tennis partners.


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11) Nat Roe
28, Executive Director, Flux Factory & Cofounder of the Silent Barn
“I felt like the world didn’t want to hire me, so I had to make my own world on my terms,” says Nat Roe, co-founder of Silent Barn, DJ at WFMU, and, the role that finally earns him a living wage, executive director at Flux Factory. Roe says for the last six years he’s been “eating shit in NYC” by prioritizing working on what he loves—building a community with music, especially more marginalized, strange music—rather than seeking financial security. The work he put in at Silent Barn is what gave him the skills and expertise to become direct at Flux, and while Silent Barn didn’t really pay, the beautiful thing about it is that it’s a resource-sharing community, where friends collectively support each other as a key survival strategy.   “Cooperative communities like Flux and the Barn are an endangered model. L Magazine readers know everything DIY is getting knocked out left and right. New York City needs better support structures to lower the barrier to entry for new coop spaces, and I’d love to somehow influence city policy on that front.”


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12) Caity Weaver
25, Writer, Gawker
As a senior writer for Gawker, Weaver’s signature irreverent tone turns pretty much everything she writes into a humor piece. Her topics range from short news bites that, in the hands of a straightforward journalist, would  be boring (a recent study on dolphin memory, a fast-food chain’s revamped logo), to Beyoncé (she knows a lot about Beyoncé) to epic features like the time she put T.G.I. Friday’s “endless appetizer” promotion to a 14-hour test, or when she spent a week aboard a Paula Deen-hosted cruise ship. Basically, she could’ve single-handedly penned this year’s volume of The Best American Nonrequired Reading.


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13) Ashley Ford
27, Writer, Buzzfeed
Maybe you know Ford from Twitter, where she is a reliably smart, funny, and active presence who uses social media to engage with the world in a meaningful way. Or maybe you know Ford from her powerful writing at BuzzFeed, where she writes thought-provoking essays and profiles (please read “My Boyfriend and I Came Out to Each Other” as soon as you get a chance). But no matter from where you know her, once you’ve read Ford’s writing, it’s impossible to forget it; her voice is clear and piercing and speaks of experiences that are all too frequently hidden in the shadows. Ford’s journey to her career as a writer in New York involved time as a receptionist in Indiana who also wrote freelance. But while Ford reassures us she “really loved my receptionist job and the company [she] worked for,” when a “great opportunity to have an adventure” came, she took it. Ford says, “It scared the shit out of me, but I went for it.” And we feel lucky that she did; Ford recently finished writing a memoir (“when you’re in your mid- to late-twenties telling people that you’re writing a memoir, they’re bound to give you a little smirk”) and because Ford is such a natural story-teller and we look forward to reading whatever story she has to tell us next.

To read a longer Q&A with Ford, visit bkmag.com


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14) Astro
18, Musician, Actor
Before solidifying his place as Astro, rising hip-hop star Brian Bradley went by the alias The Astronomical Kid, which is an awfully succinct way of saying “young person who first turned heads as a rare rapper on The X Factor in 2011, then dabbled in acting by scoring roles in two feature films and Fox’s Steven Spielberg-produced new series Red Band Society.” With last year’s acclaimed mixtape, the gritty and whip-smart Starvin’ Like Marvin for a Cool J, he further distanced himself from his X Factor upstart, coming into his own as a lyricist with which to be reckoned. He’s following it up this month with boom-bap throwback Computer Era, via his own Grade A Tribe label. Astronomical kid? We’d say so.


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15) Jazmine Hughes
23, Writer-Editor, The Hairpin
At just 23 years old, Hughes is the contributing editor at The Hairpin (the only full-time position on the beloved site other than editor-in-chief), has offered her opinion on the topic of clickbait for the New York Times, and been published in The New Yorker. While it might be tempting to read this list of accomplishments as being the resume of an almost unrelatable prodigy (Hughes says she’s “heard her fair share of Doogie Howser jokes,” though admittedly “more from myself than anyone else”), the plain truth is that Hughes has gotten to where she is through talent and intelligence, yes, but also determination, hard work, and a few false starts in New York, which had Hughes “running out of money, moving home, getting a job, commuting for a bit, thinking I’d save money, didn’t, and moving back.” Through it all, though, Hughes has never let her age or inexperience work against her, and she says, “I find myself using my age as motivator but also as a shield to keep myself from doing things that I am too afraid to do. It’s easy to postpone goals when you’ve convinced yourself you have an extra two years to do them. But that’s such limiting, poisonous thinking, and I have to try really hard to get myself out of it. There’s no excuse not to do anything right now.”

To read a longer Q&A with Hughes, visit bkmag.com


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16) Danielle Tcholakian
28, Reporter, DNAInfo
New York-native and longtime Brooklyn-resident Tcholakian is a reporter for DNAinfo, a site which has, of late, become known for its excellent local reporting and extensive coverage of the kind of things New Yorkers really care about—namely, New York. While there are several great reporters on staff (Rachel H. Smith and Serena Dai also come quickly to mind), Tcholakian stands out to us not only because of her reporting on the regular ins-and-outs of her beat (who knew Community Board 2 meetings could be so interesting?), but also because of her uncanny ability to find the kind of newsy local human interest stories (the relocation of Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, for example) that make for great reading. Tcholakian came to reporting after working in another field (production for fashion commercials and music videos), but says that even though journalism wasn’t what she initially intended to do, “the first day I did it was the happiest I had ever been in my life, and (almost) every day since then has been [just as good].” And even though she seems to have accomplished an awful lot at a young age, Tcholakian says, “I don’t know anyone who doesn’t feel old enough to do anything; it seems like we’re all supposed to be goddamn wunderkinds these days. You’re never too young to kick ass, and there are tons of reporters who are obnoxiously young(er than me) and absolutely killing it.”

To read a longer Q&A with Tcholakian, visit bkmag.com


Photo by Annabel Clark

17) Kathleen Hale
28, Writer
2014 was a hell of a year for Kathleen Hale. In January, the YA writer published her first novel, No One Else Can Have You, a quirky murder mystery about a small town homecoming queen and her best friend’s quest to uncover the killer. It’s the rare meticulously-plotted detective novel that manages to be zippily comedic and voice-y, with an oddball protagonist you either loved or hated; the Globe and Mail recently called it “weird, wonderful, and creepy…like Twin Peaks if it made logical sense.”Then, in October, Hale found herself embroiled in the kind of Internet controversy Hot Takes are made for after she published an essay in The Guardian in which she admitted to more or less stalking a pseudonymous negative reviewer from the site Goodreads. Condemnation was swift (and reductive—few critics noted Hale’s own grappling with her motivations in the essay).

The piece is “pretty stridently anti-Kathleen-Hale,” she says, via email. “I’m surprised the #HaleNo crowd doesn’t like it.”

Hale says that she “started writing creepy stories as soon as I could sort of spell, but I guess I decided I would be a writer once I had tried a smattering of other jobs and it became painfully evident that I was literally incapable of doing anything else.” As for what’s next? “More books”—starting with Nothing Bad Is Going to Happen, a sequel to No One Else Can Have You, forthcoming from Harper Teen next year.


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18) Salil Mehta
28, Chef and Owner of Pasar Malam
Not only is this super young chef already a happily married father of three (say what!) he’s earned both a Michelin star and a Bib Gourmand designation for Laut—his Southeast Asian, beyond-pad-thai eatery in Union Square—and opened the well-received Pasar Malam on Grand Street in Williamsburg just last summer, to focus on authentic Malaysian “night market” specialties such as crispy Roti Tisu, the sour fish-based noodle soup; Asam Laksa; and the gloriously junky Rambly Burger, an egg-wrapped patty topped with cheese, cabbage, mayo and Maggi sauce. Pretty impressive stuff for a former fashion student, who somehow managed to move beyond the confines of his resume—including a design degree from Parsons and a PR internship at Armani—to become an accomplished hospitality entrepreneur, in one of the most competitive restaurant cities in the world. So what does he consider to be the secret to his success? “It’s my three kids, they are motivation and inspiration and passion — I want to provide a great lifestyle for my family and, of course, provide great food for my customers.


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19) Elise Kornack
27, Chef/Owner of Take Root
Chefs and restaurant owners can work all their lives (often to no avail) for Michelin stars, largely considered to be the culinary world’s highest honor. So it’s essentially unprecedented that a young, female, Brooklyn-based chef managed to woo the discerning guide book right out of the gate—scoring a star in October for her very first solo venture, Take Root, a 12-seat tasting room in Carroll Gardens. And that’s only Elise Kornack’s most recent honor; the former Aquavit sous and Chopped Champion has been hailed for her inventive, refined, and vegetable-forward cooking in a number of respected blogs and publications, from Eater to Grub Street to the New York Times (she also nabbed a highly coveted spot on this magazine’s 50 Food Influencers list). All of the well-deserved hubbub recently led to Kornack (and her wife, Anna Hieronimus, who runs the front of house) to hire their first actual employee, with plans to open an extra night each week. But with a year left on their lease, the duo has thankfully denied any drastic expansion plans—at least for now.


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20) Emma Cline
25, Writer
Cline made headlines this past fall when she sold her debut novel, The Girls, at the Frankfurt Book Fair to Random House for the wildly impressive sum of… well, we don’t know exactly, but it was definitely seven-figures, and rumor has it that it went for $2 million. Lest you think this is just another example of a publishing house throwing money at an untested new writer (yeah, that doesn’t happen anymore), Random House is making a real investment in Cline; the publishing giant has signed her to a three book-deal. ANd if you need any evidence of why, check out the Columbia MFA grad’s story “Marion,” published in The Paris Review in 2013—it’s a beautiful example of the lucidity with which Cline writes about that tenuous time in a young woman’s life when it feels like every decision she makes could lead her toward a secure future or utter destruction. And while we don’t know all that much about the relatively reclusive Cline (what young author isn’t on Twitter these days? This one), we feel pretty confident in saying that her future looks bright.


Photo by Evan Louison

21) Matt Winn
30, Poet
For the past two years, poet, writer and musician Matt Winn has been selling and trading used books out of his Bushwick storefront, sometimes for cash and other times for beer. Winn has joined what’s quickly becoming a throng of small business owners in Brooklyn who have strategically paired their less than lucrative passions (flower arranging, independent film, board games) with booze. Molasses Books hosts readings, workshops, and bring your own vinyl nights, where the bartender will spin at least one track off records brought in by guests. It’s also just a chill spot to flip through books and get some writing done. But now Winn is taking things a step further and starting his own small-run press with plans to put out a collection of short stories of his own (Clowncar & Exquisite Starvation, slated to be released mid-December), an art book, and a longform essay. Though the initial lineup is diverse, Winn’s press will shift toward poetry once things are settled. In the meantime, Winn says, he’s splitting his time playing guitar for Nude Beach. Here’s to hoping Winn stays busy.


Photo via Trevor Martin

22) Trevor Martin
Director and Filmmaker
Trevor Martin released the feature-length documentary Ballplayer: Pelotero in 2012, a scathing look at Major League Baseball’s questionable recruiting system in the Dominican Republic. The film began as a college project with Martin’s co-directors Ross Finkel and Jonathan Paley, and grew into a documentary that gained international distribution and rave reviews. Since then, Martin and his partners at Guagua Productions have released three more documentaries, Schooled: The Price of College Sports, 12 O’Clock Boys, and The Miguel Sano Story. As the Guagua site explains, “We love documentaries for the same reasons now we did then: They are unpredictable, and allow us to embed in some of the strangest worlds we could imagine with some truly incredible people.”


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23) Leah Goren
26, Illustrator and Surface Pattern Designer
Think about the happiest summer day of your life. A breezy cotton dress, eating ice cream, picking flowers, running through a fire hydrant, maybe walking your cat on a leash. This is essentially illustrator Leah Goren’s style: bright, happy, and fun. Goren hand-paints her patterns, scans them, and then digitally prints them on everything from scarves to dresses to totes, and sells them in her Etsy store, which she decided to create while still in school. On the Etsy featured-seller blog, Goren writes, “Opening an Etsy shop almost immediately sparked a dialogue between me and the Internet. Suddenly there were people out there who were interested in me and what I do. Etsy is the reason my work has circulated through so many blogs and publications [Nylon, Frankie, Design Sponge] and has been seen by so many people… I’m pretty sure most of the freelance work I’ve had so far [Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters] is also because someone saw my work on Etsy. It feels great to be working professionally right out of school.”


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24) Christine Tran
26, Founder, WITCHES of Bushwick
When you think of careers dedicated to helping other people, people like doctors, teachers, and fire fighters probably come to mind. Christine Tran, founder of creative agency and event-production company WITCHES of Bushwick, has also dedicated her life to helping other people, but she gets to do it in dark night clubs with a drink in her hand, which sounds like a pretty perfect deal, if you ask us. Tran says, “WITCHES is a different type of creative agency in the way that we are inserting ourselves into the equation by creating sustainable platforms that allow artists to work within. When I believe in an artist’s work, the first question I ask is ‘How can I support you?’” Tran and WITCHES have been behind a number of events in Brooklyn, including fashion designer Chromat’s release parties and the first all-women techno festival, Discwoman. Although WITCHES doesn’t have anything to do with actually being a witch (but if you are, Tran welcomes you none the less!), the reference is meant to conjure the idea and aesthetic of a coven—groups of strong, empowered women working together and forming communities outside of the mainstream.


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25) Adam Geringer-Dunn & Vinny Milburn
28, Owner of Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co./29, Chef/Owner and Fishmonger
What do you get when you cross a talent booker with an entertainment lawyer? A glittering, white-tiled, New England-inspired fish market and restaurant, of course, located along Greenpoint’s former Polish stronghold, Nassau Street. Not that longtime friends Adam Geringer-Dunn and Vinny Milburn don’t come by their seafood obsession naturally. A pescetarian for over 11 years, Geringer-Dunn attended college in Maine, and regularly vacations in Cape Cod, and Milburn is part of a fifth generation of fishmongers out of Boston, learning the ins and outs of the industry through working at his family’s highly respected business, John Nagle Co. That means, he’s responsible for procuring the high quality, traceable, and sustainable seafood sold at Greenpoint Fish & Lobster, which is available retail, or ordered transformed by Geringer-Dunn into a number of seafaring dishes, such as Sockeye Salmon Crudo, Spicy Green Curry Mussels, or a creamy Clam Chowder, made with fresh Connecticut hard shells.


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26) Tatiana Berg
28, Painter
Painter Tatiana Berg kick-started her career as an artist last year when she put on her first solo show at Hansel and Gretel Picture Garden, garnering her a new level of attention and admiration for her beautiful, colorful paintings that blend figuration and abstraction. Since then, she’s mostly been in her Brooklyn studio. The 18-year-old her “would probably say I should work harder, but her life was a lot less complicated.” In addition to her big solo show, she’s done studio visits with contemporary painting heroes like Dana Schutz, Mary Heilmann, Nicole Eisenmann and Chris Martin, but, although she considers these all great achievements, Berg is still striving for more: “I had a teacher in grad school with a good metaphor for this. He pointed out, lots of people get a gallery show, or two. But what you want is to build up enough momentum to launch yourself into orbit forever, like a satellite.”


Photo via Instagram

27) Helen Levi
27, Ceramicist
In 2012, ceramicist Helen Levi was working four part-time jobs and making pottery on the side when she bumped into Steven Alan at one of his stores. Before long, Alan was carrying her work, and Levi was only working one job, firing mugs, plates, bowls, and planters at her Sunset Park studio.Levi’s approach to ceramics embraces the minor, characterizing variations inherent to manual arts. She’s less interested in uniformity than in letting the feel of the pottery in her hands guide its creation. Each piece is handmade using porcelain or clay, and while Levi’s production line consists primarily of functional, at-home items, she’s said that in every kiln she fires, she wants to have a piece that’s an “experiment.”

She works within a handful of aesthetics, most informed by nature: the desert pitcher is sandy red clay marbled with smooth porcelain; the camp mug is brown clay dipped halfway in white glaze; and the artist’s mug has a Pollockian brown-and-black paint splatter pattern.


Photo via Instagram

28) Pete Davidson
21, Comedian, Saturday Night Live
A few weeks ago, Davidson couldn’t legally drink at Saturday Night Live’s after-show parties, which is perhaps the only drawback of being the third youngest cast member in the show’s history. For a newbie—he’s been on the job for less than three months—he’s already been granted significant screen time, most notably as Weekend Update’s “resident young person,” in which he funnels his dopey-teen-meets-self-deprecating-wisecrack delivery into memorable monologues on topics like STDs and the, uh, “entrepreneurial spirit” of millennials (watch the YouTube clip).


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29) Lindsay Zoladz
28, Writer, New York Magazine
As a contributing writer and then associate editor for decimal-point enthusiasts and authoritative tastemakers Pitchfork, Lindsay Zoladz was tasked with making sense of such hotly contested debuts as Lana Del Rey’s Born to Die and Grimes’ Visions. In other words, her opinion of an album has played a part in propelling artists into the national conscience or encouraging the music-listening public to cry foul. In less talented hands, this power would be dangerous, but she approaches her work with such careful consideration of the work and the context, it’s always used for good. Want proof? Read her particularly charming column on Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City. In her new post as the pop-music critic at New York Magazine, she’s got a larger, more demographically varied audience, and she’s responding accordingly: her take on Taylor Swift’s 1989 was among the most insightful and entertaining out there.


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30) Unlocking the Truth
Median age 13, Musicians
There’s a reason that when this trio locked down a recording contract (reportedly worth $1.8 million) with major label Sony this summer, the onslaught of press attention that followed, from Rolling Stone to a stint on The Colbert Report: No one just suddenly gets $1.8 million contracts anymore, much less metal bands made up of three eighth-graders. There’s also a reason they’re the youngest band to ever play the main stage at Coachella, landed on this year’s Afropunk and Fun Fun Fun festival bills, opened for Guns N’ Roses, and are the subjects of a feature-length documentary: They put on a really good show.

3 Comment

  • To readers under 30 who may be looking at this list with envy or jealousy: it will all look very different to you when you are over 60. People peak at various ages, some in their 20s, others in their 30s or 40s or sometimes even later. There are no “16 over 60” lists, but life isn’t a race. . .

    That’s just one alter kocker’s opinion, anyway.

  • Not to be entirely rude, but this reads much more like “the only successful writers/musicians/artists/chefs under 30 in NYC”

    I’d definitely challenge you to diversify. So many young people are putting herculean effort into the sciences, business, and humanitarian efforts worldwide. We are a very talented and powerful group, but this article seems to only cover the artistic niche, and seems very east-coast oriented. Big country 😉

    • Hey Nick,

      We’re a Brooklyn-based culture magazine, so that’s why this list is New Yorkers (all Brooklyn-based) involved in cultural endeavors!