Best Of 2017

OUR PICK: Beyoncé D. Mykels,

If you’ve ever attended a drag show at Pegasus, there’s a fair chance you’ve witnessed the powerhouse that is Beyoncé D. Mykels, a fierce queen who does double duty as DJ. Taking cues from her Texan namesake, Mykels claims to have studied “hair-agraphy and dance at Beyoncé University” and takes a fearless and tireless approach to her drag performances. On a recent visit to see her in action, Mykels lifted the crowd from the doldrums of a misty night with a high-energy routine featuring a rapid succession of high-kicks followed by a death-drop — a potentially dangerous feat involving a backwards drop into a collapsed pose on the ground. (Treat yourself to BuzzFeed’s online crash course “17 Death Drops That Perfectly Sum Up Your Entire Existence.”) While we will always bow down to the long-reigning camp queen Tencha la Jefa, it’s high time we celebrate Mykels, a hard-working, multitalented performer who can lip-synch for days, dance up a storm and even get the jaded bitches laughing.

OUR PICK: Amy Stone,

For Trinity sociology and anthropology associate professor Amy Stone, her research on our favorite LGBTQ+ Fiesta tradition, Cornyation, was a labor of love. Stone writes about LGBTQ+ visibility in civic life, from festivals like Mardi Gras to issues at the ballot box. For her new book, Cornyation: San Antonio’s Outrageous Fiesta Tradition, she painstakingly searched city archives and The Playhouse’s storage closet, tracked down Cornyation participants for interviews and participated as a stage hand and duchess. From 1951’s “Court of the Cracked Salad Bowl” to 1987’s “Court of Broadway Musicals That Never Were” and 1999’s “Court of Everyday Soap Operas,” Stone traces the “duchesses in costumes, witty satire, dancing queens, entertainment, audience hijinks, hot glue burns, and biting humor” of the inimitable San Antonio event that raises funds for theater-arts scholarships and HIV/AIDS organizations, comments on the status quo, and helped make Fiesta the inclusive party it is today. 

OUR PICK: Fidel Ruiz-Healy,

The last thing filmmaker Fidel Ruiz-Healy, 26, wants to do is make a movie just for the sake of it. Even with the $25K-grant he received last year from the San Antonio Film Commission to produce his upcoming satirical comedy Rio Grande City, Ruiz-Healy wants to create something with staying power. “I don’t want to make a bargain-bin-DVD-crime movie,” he said. “I want it to be good.” Instead, Ruiz-Healy, who earned his degree in 2014 from NYU and founded The American Standard Film Co., is splitting his time between San Antonio and New York, working hard to lock down more funding. Recently, he made a road trip from El Paso to Brownsville to do ground-level research in the area and make sure the script was genuine and accurate. He hopes to start production on Rio Grande City in late summer or early fall. Besides his upcoming feature, Ruiz-Healy finished making the festival circuit rounds with his first feature, The Homefront, and short film, A Band of Thieves. He was also the cinematographer on What a Beautiful World This Will Be, a short that screened at the Slamdance Film Festival in January.

Our Pick: Kawhi Leonard

This award will look comically small in his giant mitts, but there’s no question that Kawhi Leonard is 2017’s Best Spur. Timmy retired, Manu and Tony got a year older, and Pop (who naturally also received award consideration) had to replace almost half his roster on the fly. The reason the second-place Spurs haven’t missed a step in what should’ve been a down year? Kawhi got even better. Once known as a defensive specialist, Leonard has put together one of the more efficient offensive seasons in NBA history while coming into his own as a leader on the floor. He’s scoring more points per game than Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and still taking on the opponent’s most talented wing player almost every night. Kawhi is more than ever the face of the Spurs franchise, and however far they go in these playoffs rests squarely on his shoulders – which, like his hands, are also quite big.

OUR PICK: Ana Fernandez,

Since the term “artist” encompasses a wide array of disciplines, trying to decide who’s “best” feels futile and unfair (like comparing a glassblower to a performance artist). But what about who creates art that best captures San Antonio? A solid answer to that question is Ana Fernandez — a Corpus Christi native who moved here during high school, earned degrees from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of California at Los Angeles, and officially adopted San Antonio as her hometown in 2009. A local favorite and double threat, Fernandez has won over diehard fans with both the creatively concocted raspas she sells out of her Chamoy City Limits food truck and her moody, slightly mysterious paintings depicting old-school San Antonio homes, storefronts, street scenes and parking lots. With a sold-out 2016 exhibition and a CAMMIE Award already under her belt, Fernandez wowed us (and others) with her recent Contemporary Art Month exhibition “Magic Time Machine” and has plenty more on the horizon, including a September exhibition at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center.

OUR PICK: Jason Dady, @chefjasondady,

Things are only looking up for chef Jason Dady, owner of six restaurants with more on the way. Even as the face of the Jason Dady Restaurant Group, and “menu writer” for Tre Enoteca, Tre Trattoria, Two Bros. BBQ Market, DUK Truck, Shuck Shack and The Bin, Dady spends a lot of time on the road, spreading the gospel of San Antonio’s culinary growth. He’s participating in the Austin Food + Wine Festival, and Austin’s Hot Luck (a three-day food and music festival) – oh, and he’s participating in this year’s Iron Chef Gauntlet reboot on the Food Network. Dady grooms young talent, encourages competition and serves as one of San Antonio’s biggest advocates around, and that makes him this year’s best chef. 

Our Pick: Graciela Sanchez, Esperanza Peace & Justice Center, 922 San Pedro,

Graciela Sanchez embodies the definition of what it means to be a social justice warrior. A firm believer in addressing social issues through art and community, the executive director of the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center has spent her entire life fighting for the equal treatment of the LGBTQ community, people of color, women and working class people — and she’s not slowing down anytime soon. Through community programming, art initiatives like MujerArtes, and, most recently, the buying of city real estate as a form of protest and community protection, the Esperanza Center, under Sanchez’s direction, has become not only a voice for the community but also a place where people find their own voice to speak up and out against social injustice.

Our Pick: Gregg Popovich

This past year we’ve seen a different side of Gregg Popovich. While we’re used to him Popping off on stupid questions from sideline reporters or masterfully evading any line of inquiry that even hints at his personal life, the Trump Era seems to have weighed heavily on our beloved Spurs coach. While he’s always been one of the more brainy, complex figures in professional sports, Popovich emerged last year as an unrelenting Trump critic. He occasionally answered questions in a way that seemed at once honest, contemplative and worried, even vulnerable. In the days following Trump’s election, he let loose the kind of emotional, anxious word vomit familiar to anyone spooked by the rise of a president who built his political career demonizing entire groups of people. “I’m sick to my stomach thinking about it,” Popovich told reporters before ending with standard Pop-ian flair: “My final conclusion is – my big fear is – we are Rome.” The following month, when his favorite sideline reporter and sparring partner Craig Sager died after a long battle with leukemia, Popovich looked shaken as he delivered a short remembrance that was so heartfelt it was almost hard to watch. In February he waxed race politics in honor of Black History Month, telling reporters that this “post-racial” stuff is nonsense, calling the country’s treatment of African Americans “our national sin,” and saying white people are born with “a monstrous advantage educationally, economically, culturally and within society.” While he’s always been the sagest Spur, this was the year Popovich has emerged as a critical cultural voice in these weird times. Even Congressman Joaquin Castro recently quipped he’d love to see Pop run for public office someday (once he’s done with basketball, of course). Fingers crossed.

OUR PICK: Laurie Ann Guerrero

Former poet laureate of San Antonio and current poet laureate of Texas, Laurie Ann Guerrero easily has the fancy accolades to earn the distinction of San Anto’s best poet. But our designation here is more about personal and poetic potency than posts or positions. Guerrero, a graduate of McCollum High School on San Antonio’s Southside, is a fiercely proud mother of three, an educator, and an advocate for community literacy and arts education. Her poetry, while steeped in a thorough understanding of structure that she achieved while earning her MFA in Poetry from Drew University, sings and stings with an organic electricity. She has served as Literary Arts Director at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, where she continues to work closely with the Macondo Writers’ Workshop that was founded by Sandra Cisneros. While SA poet laureate, Guerrero spearheaded a successful effort to establish the San Antonio Poetry Archive at the library of Palo Alto College. Busy as she is, you can still catch her reading about town on occasion, and we’d highly recommend it. While Guerrero, who is not even 40 years old yet, only has two books of poetry out so far, A Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying and A Crown for Gumecindo, each of these award-winning collections argues persuasively for Guerrero’s genius.

OUR PICK: Henry the Puffy Taco,

There are few minor league baseball mascots as cherished as Henry the Puffy Taco. This enthusiastic human-sized taco is known to steal the show at every San Antonio Missions home game — whether he’s taunting the visiting team, being barraged by a gaggle of children, or having a dance-off with mascot frenemy Ballapeño. We recommend you stick around after the sixth inning to watch a lucky kid chase Henry around the bases and ultimately tackle the giant taco (to Ballapeño’s delight) on the home plate — a real-life renaction of your favorite dream. Named after the local taco joint Henry’s Puffy Tacos, the 28-year-old taco is anything but stale. With a fluffy tortilla and colorful toppings, it’s no surprise Henry calls his costume “a body armor of love.”