Sarah Ambrose, 34
Co-founder and music educator, NOLArts Learning Center
Book currently reading: NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman
Drink of choice: Wine, preferably red
Hidden talent: Turning her feet backward almost 180 degrees
At NOLArts Learning center, co-founder Sarah Ambrose helps autistic children and those with different abilities enjoy music for its own sake.
When new families come to visit NOLArts, Ambrose is very clear: She's not a music therapist. Rather, she's an educator, whose music-centric pedagogy helps kids unwind from regimented afternoons of therapy and appointments.
"(Our music class is) that hour during the week where those kids are just smiling and having a good time," she says.
In addition to cutting loose in the classroom, Ambrose's music students learn to participate in the community. Thanks to projects she helped spearhead, students get rowdy with Preservation Hall musicians and march in the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus parade.
Projects like hers fight damaging stereotypes about what people with autism (or other challenges) can do — one drumbeat at a time.
"We have this beautiful culture here ... and with some adjustments, or maybe with no adjustments, depending on the individual, they can be a part of it," she says. "It's kind of electrifying." — KAT STROMQUIST
Tarriona "Tank" Ball, 28
Singer, songwriter, spoken word artist
Favorite new album: Malibu by .Anderson Paak & the Free Nationals
Drink of choice: Rum punch
Hidden talent: "I can walk like a chicken pretty well. ... And I'm learning ukulele."
Calling from the road in New Jersey while the band is on tour with Big Freedia, Tarriona "Tank" Ball — vocalist and songwriter with the genre-spanning R&B outfit Tank & the Bangas — has spent several weeks on tour channeling the energy from the bounce artist into the band's dynamic live performance.
"It's one of the most exhilarating experiences," she says. "Everywhere we go there's someone who wants to hear 'Rollercoasters' or 'Boxes and Squares' ... It makes me excited to make more music the fans are going to love."
The New Orleans native grew up singing in church, and she went on to be part of an award-winning Slam New Orleans poetry team — two forces informing her unique voice propelling the band to international acclaim.
"It's exciting to know you can literally go to so many places away from home where people know your music," she says. "You always expect no one's going to be there ... but it surprises me when they're there — and they have a request."
Ball also leads workshops in schools to help empower developing voices.
"I just feel like nobody came to my school to do that for me," she says. "I took pride in being a wallflower — key word 'flower.' I was waiting for someone to bring that out of me. ... When I talk to these girls, they have so much going on, they're so special, they just need one person to do that. ... Kids aren't afraid to not be cool, but older ones, there's a little bit more work to break down the cool wall and know the 'real' cool." —ALEX WOODWARD
Janna Hart Black, 27
Owner/designer, Bonfolk Collective
Favorite new album: I like old stuff, like the Rolling Stones.
Favorite restaurant: Herbsaint
What is your hidden talent? Sewing
A stint in Los Angeles exposed Janna Hart Black to the city's large homeless population. "I would want to cry driving through Skid Row to get to the garment district," says Black, a New Orleans native who attended The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. "I came up with the idea to do a sock line that gives back and is inspired by things everyone loves in [New Orleans]: alligators, crawfish, the New Orleans Saints."
Bonfolk Collective launched in January, and now the socks can be purchased in 36 Louisi- ana stores. Black says she hopes to take her concept to cities across the nation. For every pair of socks purchased, Bonfolk donates a pair to the homeless, since socks are among items that are donated least often. She has given 10,000 pairs of socks to homeless New Orleanians.
"The response is beautiful," she says. "When I go to shelters, people come up and hug me and say, 'Thank you. This makes my day.'" — MISSY WILKINSON
Damon Burns, 34
Executive director, Finance Authority of New Orleans
Book currently reading: The End of Alchemy: Banking, The Global Economy and the Future of Money by Mervyn King
Favorite local bands: Free Agents Brass Band, The Bridge Trio
Favorite restaurant: The Munch Factory
Damon Burns grew up in New Orleans East and played sports at St. Augustine High School, but when it came time for undergraduate work, he moved on to Atlanta and Houston. He felt the pull of New Orleans, though, and moved back one year before Hurricane Katrina. "I didn't have big plans at the time," he says. "The city wasn't doing that well at the time, and a lot of young people were getting concerned." He spent 10 years working in investment and corporate banking, but as the new executive director of the Finance Authority of New Orleans (FANO), Burns' job now is to help people get low-interest loans to buy homes in Orleans Parish.
"Our mission is important to me — seeing low- to moderate-income families get on their feet and get into a stable home life situation."
Burns says his life away from finance is filled with reading, family and friends. — KEVIN ALLMAN
J. Lowry Curley, 32
Founder and CEO, AxoSim Technologies
Favorite local band: Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
Drink of choice: A good IPA
Hidden talent: Art (pottery, painting)
The technology Lowry Curley worked on as a grad student and helped launch as an entrepreneur holds the potential to revolutionize the bio-tech industry while also healing patients and saving untold lives.
While earning his doctorate in biomedical engineering from Tulane University, Curley worked under professor Michael J. Moore, with whom he co-founded AxoSim Technologies. Curley describes as Moore's "brainchild" a technology "that is basically a miniaturized version of the human nervous system." Curley first began applying for federal grants to fund the venture in 2014 and started business-development operations at the end of 2015 to put the patent Tulane holds for this licensed technology into the marketplace.
"The sky is the limit for the application of this technology," Curley says. "We've seen proof of that in our growth over the last year. This has potential applications in neurological disorders — multiple sclerosis, ALS — that affect so many people." — FRANK ETHERIDGE
Seema Dave, 32
Division business manager, Health Guardians of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans
Book currently reading: Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
Favorite new album: Day Breaks by Norah Jones
Favorite local band: Brass-A-Holics
Health Guardians — a program of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans — helps guide people in at-risk communities through an intimidating health system. Patient advocates serve as liaisons through the system, so by the end of the program, patients "are asking all these questions, they understand their conditions, and they really feel comfortable having that open communication and dialogue with their physician," business manager Seema Dave says.
"The focus of Health Guardians is to empower them, to educate them, to connect them with a primary care provider, and to really teach them how to advocate for themselves," Dave says. "It's really taking the time to understand the full context of their situation, understand their barriers and really help them every step of the way."
Patients may be homeless and many don't have basic needs met, and often rely on emergency rooms for primary care or to refill prescriptions. As division business manager, Dave oversees a dozen programs to help "empower people who don't have a voice."
"I really enjoy the challenge — the budgeting part, the finance part, marketing, writing," Dave says. "Anything that's versatile and challenging, that's what motivates me. When I see a challenge I just want to go for it." — ALEX WOODWARD
Maj. David R. Dixon, 36
Helicopter Pilot, U.S. Marine Corps; author
Book currently reading: Hippos Go Berserk! by Sandra Boynton (his daughter's favorite)
Currently listening to: The Valor Podcast
Hidden talent: Country western, ballroom and hip-hop dancing
In addition to distinguished service in Iraq, Japan and at home, helicopter pilot Maj. David R. Dixon is an award-winning poet and children's book author.
"Marines don't necessarily emote very well ... if you can imagine that," he notes dryly, making an observation familiar to many with a service member in the family. In response, he created
Goodnight Marines, a children's book that tells the story of a military family through a small boy's nighttime imaginings. The book, illustrated by Army veteran and Disney animator Phil Jones, has sold more than 5,000 copies.
"It's sometimes hard to talk about what we do overseas. ... This is a way that, in some small part, Phil and I can help Marines connect with their families," Dixon says.
His first book, the poetry collection Call in the Air, won a 2014 award from the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation. For his "day job," you'll find him in Algiers and Belle Chasse coordinating aviation operations and training programs for thousands of Marines. He recently orchestrated helicopter trips from Honduras to Haiti as part of the Hurricane Matthew relief effort. — KAT STROMQUIST
Lauren Domino, 30
www.facebook.com/lauren.domino.14; @curatedcarefree (Instagram); @dominoinmotion
Book currently reading: Arcadia by Lauren Groff
Favorite new album: A Seat at the Table by Solange
What is your hidden talent? "I'm a bit psychic."
Lauren Domino had a dream job as the director of the Columbia University Film Festival in New York. But she left it to return to her native New Orleans to make films.
"I am winging it," Domino says. "That is the reality of working in film and being an artist. If you want your career to move forward, you have to devote the time to it." She had worked for the New Orleans Film Festival and on films before she went to New York City, but moving home has allowed Domino to focus on her own producing and writing.
She and director Angela Tucker wanted to make a teen comedy about black girls, and in December 2015, they completed a $52,000 Kickstarter campaign to create Paper Chase, about a girl who turns to creative fundraising ideas to attend college. Filming is scheduled to begin in 2017.
Domino also is working on a teen dance movie called All Styles, to be filmed in Baton Rouge in December. She recently completed production of American Rhapsody, a series of 12 short films about black filmmaking that is supported by the Museum of Modern Art and the Library of Congress. Domino also is working on the documentary Blood Thicker about the children of rappers B.G. and Juvenile.
While she's happy to be busy juggling multiple projects, she says she can't wait to catch up with several TV series with some binge watching if she gets a break in her schedule. — WILL COVIELLO
Bennett Drago, 32 A.J. Niland, 32
Partners and founders of Huka Entertainment
Favorite new album: 22, A Million by Bon Iver (Niland)
Favorite local band: Maggie Koerner (Niland)
Hidden talent: "I fly airplanes." (Niland)
Twelve years ago, high school friends Bennett Drago (top) and A.J. Niland launched a small festival production company, Huka Entertainment, in their hometown of Mobile, Alabama. In 2010, the duo moved the business to New Orleans, creating more than 30 full-time jobs and hiring countless other workers during the festival season.
When the two were in high school, they filled their free time by traveling around to see concerts. They spent everything they made at their summer jobs working for the BayBears, Mobile's minor league baseball team, going to as many festivals as they could.
"We decided we were going to break into the business," Niland says. "We were living in Mobile and there was nothing going on there at the time, so we started promoting ourselves and grew from there."
One of their largest festivals is BUKU Music + Art Project held in New Orleans every March. Huka Entertainment has extended beyond the Gulf South and creates music and arts festival experiences all over the country and in British Colombia. Drago and Niland travel the country to find prime locations for pop-up music festivals.
"I'm most consumed with creating new festivals and enhancing current experiences," Niland says. "But really, our whole festival business ... New Orleans has inspired it. I don't think we'd be as big or as good if we had not moved to New Orleans." — ANDREA BLUMENSTEIN
April Dupre, 31
Wellness coach, founder of Footprints to Fitness
Favorite album: Stripped by Christina Aguilera
Drink of choice: Cucumber martini
hidden talent? Drawing
Former health teacher, New Orleans Saintsation and psychology student April Dupre was looking for a career that combined her passions, but she had no desire to own a gym. So in February 2014, she launched Footprints to Fitness, a wellness company that partners with hotels, bars and parks to create events that are part workout class and part cocktail hour.
"The Healthy Happy Hour is a happy hour with a healthy twist," Dupre says. "We have a low-impact fusion class — yoga, Pilates or barre. We want it to be fun and lighthearted. Afterwards, we have food and cocktails at happy hour prices."
The events take place every six to eight weeks, and each one has sold out, Dupre says. In the future, she plans to transition her company into a nonprofit and host more free community events.
"My goal is to give back and change the perception of what it means to be healthy in New Orleans," she says. — MISSY WILKINSON
Blair Hodgson duQuesnay, 34
Chief investment officer, ThirtyNorth Investments
Book currently reading: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
Favorite new album: The Story of Sonny Boy Slim by Gary Clark Jr.
Hidden talent: Getting to the front row of rock concerts
Blair Hodgson duQuesnay proves it's possible to strike gold while smashing the glass ceiling.
Chief investment officer at ThirtyNorth Investments, duQuesnay this year implemented the firm's Women Impact Strategy, an initiative established after research showed publicly traded companies owned by women, or with a higher percentage of females on its board of directors and in executive leadership, had stock that outperformed others by 3.5 percent between 2005 and June 2016.
"That's a big deal," duQuesnay says. "Those numbers were really compelling to us and we started our investment strategy in April." That strategy includes finding women-led businesses as "social-impact" investments for their clients, earning them a financial re- turn — and the opportunity to sup- port positive change for women in the marketplace.
While urging caution against relying on short-term numbers in the investment world, duQuesnay cites benchmark indexes that show ThirtyNorth's Women Impact Strategy has grown by 9 percent between April and September. "What's really exciting about this strategy," she says, "is that it's an excellent way to make a difference through social-impact investments, and it's creating a big focus nationally among investment-management professionals." — FRANK ETHERIDGE
Calvin C. "Trey" Fayard III, 37
Founder, CEO, GLO Airlines
Favorite restaurant: Le Petit Grocery
Drink of choice: Bourbon on the rocks
Hidden talent: Playing piano and saxophone
Frustrated by the time he was spending in a car trying to reach other southern cities, attorney Trey Fayard came up with a novel solution: He started an airline.
"It was a problem that I recognized needed a solution," Fayard says. GLO Airlines was born and, as it celebrates its first anniversary this November, Fayard summarizes the year jokingly by saying, "It's been like juggling 28 balls. I have a lot of brain damage."
At present, GLO offers nonstop passenger service to Little Rock, Arkansas, Shreveport, Memphis, Tennessee, Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Florida, and Huntsville, Alabama, but Fayard already is planning more destinations from New Orleans. He wants to continue to offer "a first-class product at a reasonable price" and says he's pleased that GLO allows people to see clients and family more often — and enables those same people to "spend the night in their own bed." — Laura Ricks
Krystin Frazier, 30
Lawyer, Kelly Hart & Hallman
Book currently reading: The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo
Favorite new album: Lemonade by Beyonce
Hidden talent: "I am a classically trained clarinetist and saxophonist."
After graduating as the valedictorian of her class at Grambling State University, Krystin Frazier attended Southern University Law Center, where she developed an interest in energy and environmental law.
"In the area where I am from in north Louisiana, at the time I was graduating from law school, some of the events going on were the Haynesville Shale and talk about fracking and drilling, which sparked an interest in energy and environmental law," she says.
An associate at Kelly Hart & Hallman law firm, Frazier represents clients in oil and gas litigation and regulatory matters. She serves on the Women's Energy Network's board of directors and has worked to raise funds for scholarships for women interested in careers in the energy industry.
Frazier is active with the Grambling alumni association and recently chaired fundraising for its Earl Lester Cole Honors College. Besides volunteering with local organizations, Frazier has added weightlifting to her regimen at her gym and enjoys local cultural events. — WILL COVIELLO
Lelia Gowland, 31
Founder, Gowland LLC
Favorite local band: Rory Danger & the Danger Dangers
Drink of choice: 12 Mile Limit's mezcal-based "Rhymes with Amelia," which is named for her
Hidden talent: Could once walk on stilts
For Lelia Gowland, "lean in" is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to women's professional success. She started Gowland LLC in 2015 as a way to help educate women who struggled with common professional situations such as salary negotiations. But she quickly realized there was a need for a larger-scale project.
"Companies are saying 'We're losing great female talent.' Women are saying, 'It's not that I didn't want to work. It's that I couldn't figure out how to take my other responsibilities and align them with my employment responsibilities,'" she says.
When her consulting company comes to a business, nonprofit or professional association, Gowland identifies existing strengths and helps build rapport with and between female employees. She's also releasing new online courses for individuals, in which women can learn more about strategies for negotiating raises, promotions and maternity leave.
"A lot of the skills [women] have innately ... to be good listeners and empathetic and ask good questions, those are the qualities of successful negotiators," she says. — KAT STROMQUIST
Tieler James, 16
Owner and head fashion designer, Tieler James
Favorite new album: Mount Ninji and Da Nice Time Kid by Die Antwoord and City Club by The Growlers
Favorite local band: Ha Jupiter and Dizzy Louisa
Hidden talent: Runway walking and taking care of cacti
When Tieler James came out as gay at age 9, he got bullied — "badly," he says. He dealt with that adversity in two ways: by making treks to the Louisiana House of Representatives urging state lawmakers to pass anti-bullying legislation and by channeling his emotions into art.
"To get away from all the bad things happening to me, I got into design and I kept up with it," says the 16-year-old junior at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts.
That's an understatement. To date, James has won Lifetime's Project Runway: Threads, shown his collections at regional and international fashion weeks and been featured in Vogue UK, Glamour UK, Seventeen and other publications. His next goal is getting accepted to Parsons School of Design for college.
"I want to have a fashion house that is worldwide known," James says. "I want to start an empire." — MISSY WILKINSON
Todd C. James, 36
Principal, Mathes Brierre Architects
Book currently reading: Outliers By Malcolm Gladwell
Favorite new album: Coloring Book by Chance the Rapper
Favorite restaurant: Cavan
You expect architects to have an impact on their city, and it's definitely true of Todd James. He's worked on our parks, schools, housing, government buildings and courthouses.
In addition to his work in architecture, regulatory advisement, project management and quality control, he's also civic-minded, working with the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad, Greater New Orleans Inc., the Young Leadership Council, and the Boy Scouts of New Orleans, among others.
It all comes together for James: land use, design, project management, development and community engagement. "It's not always about individual projects, it's about the greater community," he says. "A good project brings about good community."
James says his work in the community helps his career: "It helps me to learn how to work with a larger demographic of people, especially with a broader range of personalities, a broader range of experiences. It's taught me how to manage." — CATE ROOT
Sonya Jarvis, 38
President and CEO, ASI Federal Credit Union
Favorite new album: Gore by Deftones
Favorite local band: Down
Favorite restaurant: Baru Bistro & Tapas
Sonya Jarvis pairs her talent for finance with a mission to help others.
"The great thing about credit unions is that they're member-owned," says Jarvis, president and CEO of ASI Federal Credit Union. "So instead of focusing on driving up profits, our profits are reinvested to benefit members."
Jarvis' knack for numbers led to her earning a degree in finance from Southeastern University and a Master of Business Administration from Louisiana State University.
Camped out in a hotel in Baton Rouge after Hurricane Katrina, she learned "every area of operation" for credit unions while working for national regulators seeking to restore these finance cooperatives statewide.
"ASI is about serving members from different economic backgrounds," Jarvis explains, noting initiatives such as Wheels to Work loans to provide transportation for those returning to the workforce. "This aspect of social responsibility is huge for us and drives us to impact and serve the underserved." — FRANK ETHERIDGE
Katie Johnson, 31 Ashley Sehorn, 35
Co-owners, Royal Design House
Book currently reading: The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff (Sehorn)
Favorite local restaurant: Ninja (when she calls for takeout, they greet her by name) (Johnson)
Hidden talent: Sehorn makes a mean apple cider donut cake
If you had to go one place in the country to make a career in costume design, you could do worse than New Orleans. Now in the thick of their second Carnival season, Royal Design House co-owners Ashley Sehorn (bottom) and Katie Johnson are busy designing, sourcing, sewing, transporting and preserving garments for Mardi Gras royalty and court members in krewes such as Hermes.
"We do all of our beading in-house," Johnson says. "Everything's hand done, we rarely ever use glue ... it's definitely a different kind of Mardi Gras costume than a lot of the stuff you'll see."
For new costumes, the designers craft ornate mantles and Medici collars from materials largely sourced from New York, where they've logged as much as 10 miles a day traipsing around the Garment District. During the off-season, they repair and preserve historic Carnival costumes and accessories, which often have intricate beadwork and rare metallic fabrics.
"Those costumes are irreplaceable," Sehorn says. "It's really cool to keep the clubs using them." — KAT STROMQUIST
Laine Kaplan-Levenson, 29
Host/producer, WWNO-FM's TriPod,Producer, Bring Your Own
Favorite new album: No Burden by Lucy Dacus
Favorite local band: Helen Gillet
Hidden talent: Can sing in Yiddish
How Germans brought gymnastics to Louisiana. Bear fighting in Algiers. A poet-turned-first-ever woman to publish a major newspaper. WWNO-FM's TriPod: New Orleans at 300 uncovers a sort of secret history of New Orleans and southeast Louisiana, with host and producer Laine Kaplan-Levenson offering untold stories and fresh perspectives pulled from the region's deep bench of history.
Combining a love for audio as well as history and culture studies, Kaplan-Levenson says "this job was kind of the coming together of all those interests" following a year as the station's coastal producer.
"New Orleans talks about itself a lot and talks about itself in a celebratory way," she says. "We set out to not only tell stories that have never been told, but equally important, tell stories that had been told but let another group of people tell them."
Kaplan-Levenson also produces the live storytelling series and podcast Bring Your Own (BYO), which has incorporated more issues-based themes — from mass incarceration to renters' woes to health issues, in conjunction with the city's Health Department — into its schedule of personal, vulnerable and charming true stories. Listeners can subscribe on iTunes or at www.bringyourownstories.com and www.wwno.org. — ALEX WOODWARD
David Khey, 36
Assistant professor, head of the Department of Criminal Justice, University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Favorite local band: Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue
Drink of choice: "Rye. Rocks."
Hidden talent: "Couponing. My wife can attest."
David Khey heads the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, which he is working to make a key partner to criminal justice agencies statewide to "get everyone on the same page," with agencies working alongside everyone involved in the criminal justice process.
"There's not too many people doing what we do: effectively work with partners, know the science better, and do their jobs alongside us to understand what we can move forward," says Khey, who lives in New Orleans. "Finding partners that can work together and finding teams that can work together is where the chasm has been."
Khey has worked with the 22nd Judicial District Court in St. Tammany and Washington parishes on a behavior health re-entry court program, which is being modeled statewide. Khey also helped implement a vocational training re-entry program at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. He'll release a book, Crime and Mental Health (Springer), with his wife Jamie Hector next year. — ALEX WOODWARD
Dr. Vininder "Vinnie" Khunkhun, MD FAAP, 37
Medical director, New Orleans Therapeutic Day Program
Favorite music: David Gray, Eddie Vedder and Jack Johnson
Drink of choice: Gin and tonic
What's your hidden talent?: Pingpong
As Medical director of a joint program between Tulane University and the Recovery School District, Dr. Vininder Khunkhun helps youth flagged as "troubled" by providing a strength-based approach to therapy that helps children with emotional and behavioral problems.
Khunkhun, a psychiatris, also trains resident physicians and medical students from Tulane University School of Medicine.
At New Orleans Therapeutic Day Program, Khunkhun makes sure that kids who often get written off are assisted with schooling, time at home and medical care. "The idea is that even one attachment figure can make a really big difference in kids' lives," Khunkhun says.
He brings his longtime love for sports to encourage kids' development, including video games. "We do this by trying to teach skills that they can work together and have fun, like developing kids should have fun," Khunkhun says.
In the future, he's committed to continuing to break down the stigma associated with kids who are suffering from P.T.S.D., depression, anxiety and other conditions that can be treated once identified and transforming the New Orleans Therapeutic Day Program into a private nonprofit. — ANDREA BLUMENSTEIN
Shercole King, 33
Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) administrator, VIA LINK
Project director, Teen Tech Day
Book currently reading: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Favorite local band: Slangston Hughes & Fo on the Flo
Favorite restaurant: Koreole Cafe & Grocery
Shercole King attended Loyola University and did graduate work at the University of New Orleans before going on to pursue technical studies at Dillard University. She first became interested in computer coding in college — "I was playing around MySpace and wanted to make my page pretty," she says. "Then I started making websites. I didn't look at it as a career opportunity at the time." Soon she was running a site called Good Nola (focusing on positive developments post-Hurricane Katrina) and another called Minority Weirdos. Today she works with homeless programs at VIA LINK, providing data quality and human services software for metro New Orleans groups working with homeless people. She also co-founded Teens for Tech, a program to bring technology to youth. Her one-day seminar, Teen Tech Day, is now in its sixth year.
Though King was born in the 8th Ward, she grew up and still lives in New Orleans East. "Housing-wise, it's going good out there," she says. "It's slowly moving when it comes to businesses, but we're getting a lot of small local businesses."
What does she do for fun? "Happy hours!" — KEVIN ALLMAN
Edward Lada Jr., 37
Vice president of contracts, Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Louisiana
Favorite new album: A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead
Favorite local band: Groovy 7, Down
Hidden talent: The art of soup making
Edward Lada's job is to put people to work. In the three years since he came aboard as the youngest person ever in his position at Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Louisiana, he has helped create more than 220 jobs — 75 percent of them filled by people with disabilities — while almost doubling his department's revenue.
It's an achie- vement he credits to his staff. Only when pressed about his leadership does he say, "I believe in giving people autonomy and the tools they need to do the job. I'm not a big micromanager, but I am big on communication and learning. We practice what we preach."
Lada, who wants to be a "Goodwill Lifer," is studying for his Master of Public Administration degree in hopes of "doing something on a larger canvas." Many people know Goodwill as a place to donate used items, but the organization also trains people who face employment barriers, such as the disabled and ex-offenders, to find what he calls "self-fulfillment in work." — LAURA RICKS
Blaine Lindsey, 38
Executive director, chairman and southeast division head, Aledade Louisiana ACO
Founder, Capra Health; former CEO of GetHealthy Inc.
Book currently reading: Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals by Patricia Lockwood
Favorite local band: Rotary Downs
What do you do in your off time?: Perfect my Rain or Shine Uptown Heirloom Moonshine recipe ("It's my dream hobby.")
Attorney Blaine Lindsey used a small provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka Obamacare) to build a business that gives seniors better health care and saves money for Medicare. The ACA provided for Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) to place overall patient care in the hands of primary care physicians, eliminating duplication of tests and multiple doctor visits. He was motivated by watching his grandfather spend his days in a succession of doctors' waiting rooms to receive treatment for diabetes.
"Nobody was ever working with him as a whole person," Lindsey says. "He was just floating. That's what so many of our seniors are doing is floating. It's very dangerous."
To change that landscape for seniors, he founded the health care start-ups Capra Health, a consulting firm, and GetHealthy Inc., a health and wellness platform, and joined the national ACO Aledade, where he is executive director, chairman and head of the southeast division. Under his direction, Aledade's business grew 500 percent in Louisiana in nine months — and Lindsey facilitated the company's choice of New Orleans for its regional headquarters. — Kandace Power Graves
Dr. Sonia Malhotra, MD, MS, FAAP, 36
Medical director, Palliative Medicine Program, Ochsner Medical Center
Book currently reading: Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Cheryl Sandburg
Favorite new album/CD: Views by Drake
Hidden Talent: "Dance!" (She was co-captain of a bhangra dance team in college.)
Dr. Sonia Malhotra initiated the first pediatric palliative medicine consultative inpatient service in Louisiana at Ochsner Medical Center, where she serves as medical director of the program. In a field that is critically underrepresented and often misunderstood, Malhotra is cultivating a network of caregivers working to improve quality of life for patients with chronic, life-limiting illnesses through improvements in pain management, communication and support systems.
Malhotra serves as a consulting physician for the Adolescents and Young Adults with Cancer Survivorship Program (AYA) and trains resident physicians and medical students at Ochsner. She was published in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry and has authored several book chapters on pain management related to her research.
She is an admitted lover of Bravo TV and hip-hop music and attributes having a psychiatrist husband (Dr. Khunkhun, also a 40 under 40 award winner) in her corner as key to achieving an essential work/life balance. She loves to spend time with her husband and two children, and they travel the globe to stay connected to family and friends in the U.S. and abroad.
"You have to realize that not every moment, or the next, is promised to us," she says. "My job makes me think about what is important. ... Life is precious and fragile. When I'm at work, being there for my patients and their families is my first priority. At home, my family comes first." — Andrea Blumenstein
Cecile Monteyne, 32
Book currently reading: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Favorite new album: Ruminations by Conor Oberst
What is your hidden talent? Doing various parts of The Nutcracker ballet. "I took dance for 13 years. It was the beginning of my love of performing."
Cecile Monteyne won an Entertainer of the Year Big Easy Award for a year in which she starred as Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, played leading roles in Twelfth Night and Shiner and appeared in the one-woman comedy La Concierge Solitaire. Recently, she co-wrote, produced and starred in One Night Stand Off, a comedy film about an improbable couple who go home together after a hurricane party and wind up miserable and stuck together when the storm strikes.
While she submits the movie to film festivals, she's busy working on a variety of projects, including another film and producing her monthly improv project, You Don't Know the Half of It, at Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre. She also created the concept for By Any Scenes Necessary, in which actors improvise famous plays without using the original scripts. And she is a co-host, as Stella, of the Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival's Stanley and Stella Shouting Contest. — WILL COVIELLO
Wesley J. Palmisano, 36
President/CEO, Palmisano Group
Book currently reading: The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni
Favorite local band: Rebirth Brass Band
Favorite restaurant: GW Fins
Since Wesley Palmisano took over the family construction business in 2013, it's grown from three employees to 75 and experienced a 200 percent growth one year after another. But he is building more than physical structures; he's also living up to his company's mission statement of "building to have an enduring impact on our community."
That happens in many ways. For instance, Palmisano promotes company morale through fun events and has an on-site fitness facility where employees can work out on company time — an example of his belief in building great places to work and interact.
But that belief extends beyond his company's walls and into the community, with projects such as his partnership with PlayBuild NOLA, a nonprofit that teaches kids about architecture, design and construction. Calling PlayBuild "the perfect partnership," Palmisano donated an outdoor classroom in Central City, which he hopes will help children there "find ways to create a better life." — Laura Ricks
Conun Pappas Jr., 27
Book currently reading: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Favorite local band: Khris Royal & Dark Matter
Hidden talent: Playing key drums
If you wanted to earn a place in New Orleans' impressive legacy of jazz musicians, you'd need to start early: pianist Conun Pappas did.
"I'm a product of a solid jazz education," Pappas says. A St. Augustine High School graduate, he polished his talent studying jazz at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), Tipitina's Internship Program and the Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong Jazz Camp.
Pappas graduated with honors from the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City and has learned from and performed with Donald Harrison Jr. and Alvin Batiste. Besides playing piano, he writes music. In addition, he teaches young people about jazz, working with organizations such as Carnegie Hall, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and Jazz at Lincoln Center to make jazz music less intimidating to young people.
Pappas splits his time between New Orleans, New York and touring. He performs with fellow NOCCA graduates Joe Dyson and Max Moran as The Bridge Trio, as well as under his own name. — CATE ROOT
Kevin Pedeaux, 33
Owner, Coast Roast Coffee
Book currently reading: "A special sneak preview of a yet-to-be released book by my former colleague Kurt Fromherz"
Favorite new album: Stranger To Stranger, Paul Simon
Hidden talent: Photography
A native of St. Bernard Parish, Kevin Pedeaux worked at Randazzo's bakery during high school and college, where he discovered "boxing doughnuts at 4 o'clock in the morning really sucks." But he liked Randazzo's and the bakery/coffee culture, and found his calling when visiting his family's summer house in Long Beach, Mississippi, where he met business partner Shawn Montella. The two began roasting and wholesaling coffee to shops all over the metro New Orleans area, eventually opening a coffee house in Ponchatoula. In 2015, Pedeaux opened Coast Roast Coffee in the St. Roch Market, where he also hosts a YouTube talk show, Coffee With Kevin.
Pedeaux's family — dating back to his great-grandparents — grew up "around Piety and Clouet (streets)" in Bywater, he says. Now he, his wife Ashley (a St. Bernard Parish schoolteacher) and their baby have moved from a house in Holy Cross to one in Bywater. "My great-grandparents grew up around Piety and Clouet (streets)," he says. "It's like genetic memory for us." — KEVIN ALLMAN
Victoria Adams Phipps, 29
Executive producer, New Orleans Entrepreneur Week
Book currently reading: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Favorite local band: Tank & the Bangas
Hidden talent: "I have a knack for random facts."
During the five years of Victoria Adams Phipps' leadership, enrollment in the annual New Orleans Entrepreneur Week grew from about 1,200 in 2011 to more than 13,000 in 2016.
"It's been really incredible to watch the event scale over time," Phipps says. "It started out of post-Katrina recovery efforts and, as it started to catalyze the city's business activity, we realized there's a certain magic in bringing all these entrepreneurs together. We didn't want to have that typical stuffy business conference but an asset for the entire community with public programming and the feel of a festival that you couldn't experience anywhere but New Orleans."
Phipps points out that New Orleans operates at 64 percent above the national average for start-up activity and ranks second in cities for information technology jobs for women.
"I have passion for the work I'm doing," she says, "because I'm passionate about the power of entrepreneurship to trans- form communities." — FRANK ETHERIDGE
Katy Hobgood Ray, 39
Assistant director of marketing and communications, Tulane University
Founder/director, Confetti Park Players
Favorite local band: "My favorite local songwriter who doesn't get enough fame is Greg Schatz."
What do you do in your off time? "Work out at Friday Night Fights" on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard
Hidden talent? I was Trixie la Femme with the Big Easy Rollergirls from 2006-2010
Kathryn Hobgood Ray uses music to teach children about Louisiana culture and history. On weekdays she's assistant director of marketing and communications at Tulane University. On her off hours, she is director of Confetti Park Kids, a group of 25 4- to 11-year-olds who perform at local festivals and whose first recording, 2015's We're Going to Confetti Park! won a Parents Choice Award. She also hosts and produces the weekly kid-friendly radio show and podcast Confetti Park, featuring Louisiana music, artists and stories on WHIV-FM.
"Art and music have been constants in my life," Ray says. "It's brought me the greatest joy, and also it can be very comforting when times are hard as an outlet of expression. ... I think I'm sharing that tool with [the children]."
The group began when Ray, a musician, began holding informal singing circles at Confetti Park in Algiers when her son was young. The circle expanded and the group has performed at the Algiers Folk Art Festival, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, French Quarter Festival and others.
"It's an opportunity for the children to come together in a group ... and do this creative brainstorming," Ray says. "They have a whole different skill set that they're developing besides practicing music." — Kandace Power Graves
Alice Riener, 37
Chief legal and policy officer, wNO/AIDS Task Force dba CrescentCare
Book currently reading: Kindred by Octavia Butler
Favorite local band: Kelcy Mae Band
Favorite restaurant: MoPho
Alice Riener was in law school in Washington, D.C. when she came to New Orleans to help with the recovery after Hurricane Katrina. She had a strong interest in human rights law — so she knew right away what she wanted to do after graduation: "I wanted to live in New Orleans and be part of the post-Katrina revival," she says.
Today she's an executive with CrescentCare (formerly known as the NO/AIDS Task Force), a nonprofit that provides primary medical care to 5,000 patients — including psychiatric and dental care — at three local clinics.
Why does New Orleans continue to have one of the nation's highest rates of new HIV infections? "It's the lack of sexual education and lack of primary medical care," Riener says. "And the demographic of 13- to 24-year-olds here is one of the highest groups for (being newly infected)."
In her spare time, Riener is restoring a Craftsman-style house she bought off Freret Street and doing some gardening around her property. Asked what her secret talent would be, she said, "I don't know — I can hang some Sheetrock, maybe!" — KEVIN ALLMAN
Dr. Scott Schultz, 38
Physiatrist, Children's Hospital
Favorite local band: Galactic
Favorite restaurant: Parkway Bakery & Tavern
Hidden talent: "I can always get my friends to laugh."
While an undergraduate studying biology and theater at Tulane University, Scott Schultz knew he wanted to live in New Orleans. After completing medical school at George Washington University, he discovered his interest in the recovery phase of medical care while doing a residency at UCLA/VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System.
He pursued a fellowship at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and returned to New Orleans to set up Louisiana's first interdisciplinary pediatric pain program at Children's Hospital, now one of only two in the state. Schultz handles rehabilitation and medical management for patients recovering from brain and spinal cord injuries, neuromuscular disorders, congenital spinal disorders and musculoskeletal conditions. Working with others, Schultz takes a holistic approach to managing pain and helping patients return to their normal lives.
"[We try to] effectively manage their pain from a medical standpoint, a psychological standpoint and a physical therapy standpoint so they can get back into the community functioning like a teenager should," Schultz says. "They should be playing sports, having fun and going to movies."
Schultz also sees patients in Baton Rouge and Lafayette, and when he's not working, he likes to go to shows at local music clubs, attend festivals and explore New Orleans City Park. — WILL COVIELLO
Billy Slaughter, 36
Favorite new album: The Getaway by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Favorite restaurant: Port of Call
Hidden talent: "I can shred some Guitar Hero and I accept all challengers."
Billy Slaughter is a proud born-and-raised New Orleanian with a slew of acting credits including recent releases The Big Short, Daddy's Home, The Magnificent 7 and Jack Reacher 2. These roles have Slaughter, who graduated first in his class from the University of New Orleans' drama program, working opposite Hollywood stars like Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke and Tom Cruise. He also scored a reference — and an invitation to Los Angeles — from actor Dustin Hoffman. Slaughter considers himself proof that the film industry has given locals many amazing opportunities.
"It is very rare to be able to make movies in your hometown," he says. "When filming here, it is doubly nostalgic. I create new memories from filming, but also realize that this is down the street from my first kiss. It really brings past, present and future all into sight."
Two of his films, Cold Moon and Arceneaux, aired in the recent New Orleans Film Festival. In his free time, he's all about hanging with his girls: his wife Nicole (whom he met doing plays at Mount Carmel) and daughter Charli.
Slaughter currently is helping produce a literary biopic. The subject matter is hush-hush, but Slaughter says it is something closely related to New Orleans. "I want to help get Hollywood South back on its feet," he says.
In the future, look for this entertainer to round out his growing resume with credits as writer, star and producer for a project of his own. — ANDREA BLUMENSTEIN
Leigh Thorpe, 35
Vice president of resource development and marketing, United Way of Southeast Louisiana
Favorite restaurant: Cavan
What do you do in your off time?: Walk around Lakeshore Drive
Hidden talent: Movie trivia
At United Way, Leigh Thorpe spends her working hours helping people. It's also how she spends her time when she isn't working.
Thorpe has served a number of local nonprofits, from Save Our Cemeteries and Dress for Success to Children's Hospital, Hogs For The Cause and others.
"I happen to be good at logistics and operations, so doing an auction for a nonprofit is easy for me," Thorpe says. "And if I spend a few days on something that brings in $20,000, I can't say no. I love helping nonprofits."
Thorpe's latest project is Friends of City Park, where she is proud not only of how "much more beautiful and usable" the park is since Hurricane Katrina, but also for her opportunity to introduce it to a new generation.
"The fact that I get to be an advocate and get more people involved is really exciting," Thorpe said. "Some people have kids. I have the park!" — LAURA RICKS
Mallory Whitfield, 33
Content analyst, FSC Interactive; creator, MissMalaprop.com
Favorite local band: Robin Barnes
Favorite restaurant: Bennachin
Hidden talent: Ballroom dancing
Mallory Whitfield is a Renaissance woman who does everything from craft shows to drag performing. She's a digital marketing specialist, entrepreneur, blogger, speaker, performer, author and artist who helps small businesses grow their brands.
A founding member of the New Orleans Craft Mafia, she began blogging in 2006, teaching herself the digital marketing skills that would land her a full-time job at FSC Interactive in 2014.
In addition to her work there, she mentors teenagers and a tribe of "bad-ass creatives." She created and maintains this community via weekly newsletters, Instagram posts, a Facebook group, in-person workshops and Tech School, a blogging conference she launched in 2011.
"Life is really short," the Loyola graduate says. "Art is how we cope with things and connect with ourselves and other people. Figure out ways to make things and do things that are important to you, because that's how we create a life that is worth living." — MISSY WILKINSON
Paris Woods, 32
Executive director, College Beyond
www.collegebeyond.org; @CollegeNOLA; @collegebeyond (Instagram)
Favorite local band: "Tonya Boyd-Cannon and Mykia Jovan are two of my favorite voices"
Favorite restaurant: Square Root
Hidden talent: "I love to sing!"
Paris Woods knows that first-generation college students need extra help, and with her nonprofit College Beyond, she's trying to connect students with resources they need.
Originally from St. Louis, Woods is the first member of her family to graduate college and graduate school — from Harvard, no less. But that achievement was just the beginning of a career built in education. She has worked in outreach and recruitment, academic advising and in admissions and financial aid offices.
She brings the sum of this knowledge and experience to College Beyond, the nonprofit she co-founded in 2015 to help low-income, first-generation college students succeed in college.
"I'm a first-generation college graduate myself," she says. "College was a really important experience for me because it exposed me to all that is possible. .... But it also showed me the vast inequity that we have when it comes to education. That sort of foundation made me interested in leveling the playing field."
Woods cites a statistic that, nationwide, only 9 percent of students that come from the lowest quartile of income graduate college, compared with nearly 80 percent in the top quarter for income. Narrowing that gap, she says, is her calling. — CATE ROOT
Cole Wiley, 27
Co-founder/CTO/president at Scandy
Favorite local band: Alexis and the Samurai
Drink of choice: Three fingers of whiskey in a glass. Add ice if it's above 70F.
What do you do in your off time: "I love building robots."
When 3-D printing becomes household technology, Cole Wiley will have played a part.
His startup, Scandy, makes 3-D scanning and printing from a smartphone possible. That one step — mobile access — is significant, but it's not enough.
"We've been focusing on building out the underlying technology," Wiley says, working on "middleware," the software that connects hardware on your electronic device with the software of an app. What kind of apps can the middleware allow developers to create? Maybe an app for virtually trying on clothes, or designing custom garments.
Wiley calls himself a "sculptor and digital menace," and it's hard to figure out which half of that appellation is more surprising for a chief technology officer.
But the relationship between these two identities, artist and software developer, is what makes Wiley a visionary.
Wiley also founded Makers of NO in 2013, which hosts a makerspace (a technology version of DIY projects) at ArtEgg and weekly tinkering meetings. — CATE ROOT