Best Of 2016

Best Local Poet

WINNER: Vincent Valdez

> Combining gritty yet lyrical hyper-realism with a searing social conscience, Vincent Valdez is rapidly becoming San Antonio's best-known artist nationally. Last year, the Southwest School of Art instructor served as the Texas State Artist for Painting and Drawing and won a $25,000 Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Grant for "creating work of exceptional quality." This year, a New York Times writer covering the Ted Cruz campaign visited Valdez's West Side studio and called his painting of beer-drinking, iPhone-using, white-robed Ku Klux Klan members "a selfie for 21st-century America," reflecting the racial divides of the 2016 presidential race. The City will be unveiled September 9 in Valdez's one-man show "The Beginning Is Near" at Houston's David Shelton Gallery. Closer to home, a new mural based on his large-scale, black-and-white painting of a sinking sailing ship, Till Then, now graces the lobby of the Palmetto Center for the

Arts at Northwest Vista College. Inspired by the Mills Brothers' melancholic World War II-era song, the mural involved the work of dozens of local high school student volunteers led by Valdez and artist Alex Rubio. The pair worked together on community murals, that, back in the day, earned Valdez a full scholarship to the Rhode Island School of Design. Valdez's most disturbing series, "The Strangest Fruit" (pictured) is named for the Billie Holiday song and features portraits of his friends suspended in air as if by a hangman's noose, a chilling reminder of the more than 600 Mexicans and Mexican-Americans lynched in the United States.

INNER: Spurs Jesus

> A fixture at Spurs games since 2010, Spurs Jesus has taken hoops fandom to the next level. Known for his trademark flowing hair, chanclas and red sash, Spurs Jesus has translated his love for the Silver and Black to bringing awareness to a host of area charities, including Child Advocates San Antonio, St. PJ's Children's Home and the San Antonio AIDS Foundation, among others. It's been a great season for Spurs Jesus, who got engaged in September, was recently honored with a namesake Sriracha-infused hot dog at Pugels and plans to launch his Four Quarters Foundation to support local causes later this month. Spurs Jesus secured his place as an Alamo City public figure over the summer, when he chased a would-be burglar from his former home in Southtown down to the San Antonio River, where the perp was eventually apprehended by SAPD. In other words, don't mess with Spurs Jesus.

2. Elora Valdez

3. Rey Lopez

WINNER: Greg Hinojosa

This descendent of the old carpas of San Antonio has done his ancestors proud, starring in, directing and packing the house in productions that have left his audiences shivering with anticipation. For nearly four years, Hinojosa served as artistic director of the Woodlawn Theatre, where he infused innovation with a wide range of classic spectacles and raised the bar for what his audiences could expect from live theater. From a Tarzan that swung over the audience, to a Mary Poppins that flew with the aid of her umbrella, to an impressive lineup of celebrity drag queens in his infamous Halloween productions of The Rocky Horror Show, there's no such thing as impossible on his stage. Hinojosa stepped down from his position at the Woodlawn back in December; however, with theatric bloodlines that run as thick as his, there's no doubt he'll be titillating audiences again soon.

2. Marisela Barrera

3. Michael Burger

WINNER: Tencha la Jefa

> With her comedic attitude and disheveled look (complete with blacked-out teeth and a wig full of rollers), Tencha la Jefa parodies drag's obsession with femininity and glamour. Through her regular gig as a Rey Lopez Entertainment (RLE) Showgirl, the Laredo transplant hosts shows headlined by queens culled from the ranks of RuPaul's Drag Race. Famously entering the world of drag on a dare, Tencha now has her sights set on the Drag Race crown. And, after two unsuccessful auditions, she's been working on a new glam look to help increase her chances when she auditions for season 10. "It's gonna be hard because people see pretty girls, glamour girls and younger girls on the show, and, in the beginning, I think the girls aren't going to get me," Tencha told our sister publication Out In SA. "Once the challenges start, I'm gonna be afraid, but I'm going to do my best and I think that I have the experience that I need to go to [the] top three."

2. Kristi Waters

3. Sasha Taylor

WINNER: Bea Simmons

1100 Broadway • (210) 605-8694

2. Raven Red (aka Angela Michelle)

1333 Buena Vista St., Suite 201• (210) 526-1941

3. Vanity Boudoir

(210) 602-1147

WINNER: DeAnne Cuellar

> The SA native and communications coordinator for Equality Texas is a longtime equality advocate — a label that's exceptionally broad, but still doesn't quite capture the breadth of causes Cuellar supports. Cuellar's a practical communicator, organizer and clear thinker in a time when there are too few of them. And, at a time when polarization is the principal hallmark of public discourse, Cuellar gets her point across without being unnecessarily abrasive or obtuse. She's out to win, to make San Antonio a better and more equitable place for the LGBT community, women, underprivileged kids — anyone whose voice might be marginalized or doesn't get a fair shake — and she's smart about how she goes about it. Cuellar is also at the forefront of bridging the digital divide in San Antonio, both by working toward an open and fair internet for everyone and by ensuring that the web — just like water, electricity and other necessary utilities — is accessible to people all over the city. As tech companies concentrate in San Antonio — and as Google Fiber lays out thousands of miles of fiber optic cable throughout the city — voices like Cuellar's will become even more important to make sure that folks in digital deserts aren't left even further behind.

WINNER: Ms. Dakota Puggy

@missdakotapuggy

> Who could have possibly guessed that the winner of Best Instagram

Account in our readers' poll would be replete with wrinkles, her visage as flat as a pancake, bug-eyes popping out from her perpetually frowning mug ... it's a pug! Ms. Dakota Puggy, to be exact. And, yes, she's got slutty Halloween pictures wearing nothing but a nurse's cap (don't you dare shame), behind bars (she can be a naughty girl), on a leash (she's a bit of a kinkster, too), tearing up furniture (ditto) and in a plaid dress befitting a sassy waitress at a Scottish-themed sports bar, as well as videos getting sniffed from both ends by terrier pals, but she's your elected winner, dammit, so treat her (and follow her @MISSDAKOTAPUGGY) with the respect she deserves. After all, she's still in the single-digits in doggy years and has a lot of livin' to do.

2. MBP Photobooth Co.

@mbpphotoboothco

3. Eat it, B

@eat_it_b

WINNER: Kawhi Leonard

> Now in his fifth season in San Antonio, Spurs swingman Kawhi Leonard has evolved into his role as the future of the franchise, and the future is now. While reminiscent of a 19-year-old Tony Parker growing up before our eyes, the rate of Leonard's ascendance has been astounding. Already a Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, Leonard added NBA All-Star to his list of accolades this campaign, when fans voted him into the league's mid-season classic. Leonard is averaging career highs in points and three-point field goal percentage and has formed a potent front-court combo with LaMarcus Aldridge that has overwhelmed opponents. Glowing profiles in national sports publications, including Sports Illustrated and Slam, have spread the Gospel of Kawhi to the masses, but those in San Anto already know. Kawhi Leonard is the best two-way player in the game, so get used to it.

2. Tim Duncan

3. Manu Ginobili

WINNER: James Avery Jewelry

Multiple locations

2. Americus Diamond • 12362 I-10 W.

(210) 561-1000

3. Penaloza and Sons

2001 NW Military Hwy. • (210) 340-3536

WINNER: Stefan Bowers

Feast & Rebelle

The readers have spoken — there's a new head chef in town. Stefan Bowers, who began his career in San Antonio under Jason Dady at The Lodge of Castle Hills and later went on to helm his own kitchen as executive chef at 20Nine Restaurant and Wine Bar before opening Feast in Southtown with Andrew Goodman, has had quite the year. The Navy vet (a helicopter rescue swimmer, no less) left Feast in the hands of Jared Smith and Cody Clarke ("one's artistic and one's the muscle," he says) to concentrate on opening Rebelle, the New American restaurant that sits inside the remodeled St. Anthony Hotel. Backed by chef de cuisine Zeke Cavazos and sous chef Gary Alsup, Bowers treats San Anto to charbroiled gulf oysters, velvety smooth green curries, potted Iowa white cheddar with rye, fried Camembert, grilled quail and a few Feast crossovers like the Merguez ground goat kebabs. And did we mention Bowers and co. catered to the likes of Michel Escoffier, great-grandson of famed French chef August Escoffier?

2. Jason Dady • Jason Dady Restaurant Group

3. Johnny Hernandez • Grupo La Gloria