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During a revisit 35 years in the making, author Brian Antoni discovers how in one generation China has reinvented itself.

By Brian Antoni

Thirty-five years ago, I danced my way through China. I was 20, and it was my first trip to China. I visited my cousin, Lorraine, who was studying Mandarin in Beijing. I remember how I stood out amid a sea of Chinese men and women wearing utilitarian green, blue and gray Mao suits. Everything was drab and dark. There were no billboards or advertisements; no luxury goods for sale. Restaurants were scarce. Westerners were rare, so everywhere I went people stared. Crowds surrounded me in fascination. Babies screamed. I felt like a celebrity. Or, perhaps more accurately, a freak.

When Lorraine and I entered the state-owned Friendship store, we were met by store clerks desperate for a personal introduction to the West. They even begged us to teach them to dance “rock and roll.” They would play a bootlegged tape, and as my cousin and I danced, they robotically copied our moves.

Back then, Beijing had wide boulevards crammed with millions of bicycles. I borrowed one from a student and tried to join them. I was such a distraction that people rode into one another, toppling over, falling like dominoes.

“As I drive through Beijing, I can scarcely believe my eyes. The streets are jammed with cars instead of bicycles. Capitalism has become the new Communism. The ancient land of the dragon has become the ultra-modern land of the building crane.”

Now, as I drive through Beijing, I can scarcely believe my eyes. The streets are jammed with cars instead of bicycles. Capitalism has become the new Communism. The ancient land of the dragon has become the ultra-modern land of the building crane. As I tour Beijing, I’m dumbfounded by the amount of development. The ancient walled compounds I remember have been replaced by endless, optimistic, bizarre skyscrapers. The pace is frenzied. Gigantic shopping centers and restaurants are everywhere. People are dressed in the latest fashions. Lady Gaga blares on the cab radio. It’s like everything has gone from black and white to Technicolor, from slow motion to fast forward. I pass a McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Chanel, Armani, Ralph Lauren and Starbucks on my way to Tiananmen Square. If Mao weren’t embalmed in a glass mausoleum, I swear he would be turning in his grave at this onslaught of capitalism from the land of the paper tiger.

Tiananmen Square is the largest plaza in the world and can hold a million people. I stroll and watch hundreds of foreign tourists and groups of Chinese tourists wearing brightly colored baseball caps and matching bags. They form a kaleidoscope of color. I shut my eyes and try to picture the student massacre that took place here in 1989. I see the lone student protester standing in front of the tank. Then, I open my eyes and notice a monk wearing a saffron robe staring at me. Our eyes meet, just as his cell phone rings—playing “Jingle Bells.” I smile and realize I am in the new China.

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Chinese Changes: As China experiences an age of industrialism and commercialization, large-scale buildings and technology juxtapose against its traditional setting.

Across the square is the Forbidden City, the expansive imperial palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties, where 24 Chinese emperors ruled China for 500 years and commoners were refused entrance. I try to imagine what life must have been like for the countless servants, concubines, mandarins and especially the thousands of eunuchs. Our tour guide cheerily informs us that pepper water was used to numb the eunuchs before their “treasures” were sliced. The missing body part was then preserved to later be buried with its respective body.

My next stop is the Great Wall. There is a saying in China that you are not a man unless you have climbed the Great Wall. I’m shocked that right outside the entrance is a Subway restaurant. The Great Wall is one of the largest construction projects ever completed. I remember getting out of breath the last time I climbed the steep steps to the top of the wall. This time I rode a chairlift to the top, where I made my way up to a tower and bought a “I Climbed the Great Wall” T-shirt.

The last time I was in China I stayed in a primitive college dorm room with hard beds and cold showers. Now, I am in the lap of luxury—at the modern and high-tech, yet unfussy, East Beijing Hotel, with one of the best showers I have ever experienced. It is like a monsoon raining on me. The hotel’s amazing art makes you feel like you’re staying in a gallery. The hotel adjoins the Indigo shopping mall, and is near the 798 Art District, a 50-year-old decommissioned military factory complex that now houses a thriving working artist community.

In Beijing, I ate both the best and worst meals of my life. On Wangfujing Street, I pick my way up the street, sampling bizarre foods: deep-fried scorpions (not bad; crunchy and salty like peanuts with legs); locusts (like chicken wings filled with sour marshmallow); silkworm cocoons (kind of like slimy shrimp stuffed with putrid yogurt); and starfish (like eating brittle, rotten fish bones). For dessert, I tried donkey penis, which is gamey and gelatinous. I’m still waiting for the promised aphrodisiac effect.

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In contrast, I experience one of the best meals at the Jing Yaa Tang restaurant inside The Opposite House hotel. Its specialty is juicy, moist, tender, crispy Beijing duck, which was roasted under a roaring fire of fragrant fruit woods. Red cherry tomatoes marinated in a sweet reduction of huamei—a Chinese sour plum pickled with salt and sugar—proved to be the perfect companion to the stellar bird. This meal is one of the culinary wonders of the world. After Beijing, I fly to the delightful city of Chengdu in Southwest China to see the Giant Pandas. I stay in The Temple House, a recently opened hotel where old melts into new, traditional into modern. A beautifully restored centuries-old courtyard building leads along polished stepping stones, past a historic temple built during the Jin Dynasty, to a breathtaking modern building covered in a beautiful brick pattern relating to Sichuan’s tradition of weaving.

I head to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, a nonprofit research and breeding facility. Founded in 1987, the base started with six giant pandas rescued from the wild. By 2008, more than 100 pandas had been born there. As I watch the cuddly bears hobble around, nibble on bamboo and lull about, I remind myself that these are real creatures and not childhood fantasies. The highlight is the panda nursery, where I’m transfixed by a litter of cubs in a cot. They are so beautiful and small, like black-and-white teddy bears come to life. I fight the urge to grab one and take it home. On my last night in China, I go to a club and watch the well-shod crowd. They wear the latest styles, running the gamut from Goth to post punk, while the disc jockey mixes techno, reggae and soul, and lasers squiggle across the room. I remember 35 years ago when I was teaching the Chinese to dance, and now they are teaching me a move or two. No one looked at me. I was no longer a celebrity, just another Western tourist. I wonder what changes the next 35 years will bring.

Originally appeared in the Fall 2016 issue. 

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By Michaela Greer
Portrait by Gary James

 

The Happy Sac
Bradley Duffie, mixologist at 3030 Ocean and co-creator of The Happy Sac cocktail, has just about done the impossible: He’s successfully trapped a nostalgic feeling in the well of a cocktail glass. This feat begins more than a week before the drink is consumed, when a fruit-and-herb-infused oleo-saccharum base is allowed to mature. Add Ketel One Oranje flavored vodka for that zesty punch, and you’re sure to have a showstopper. Yet, according to Duffie, the real enthrallment comes from the “sno-cone-like ice and sweet surprise of juicy blackberries that reminds people of their childhood and increases the nostalgia factor.”

Ingredients:

2 ounces Ketel One Oranje flavored vodka
1 ¾ ounce orange and thyme oleo-saccharum
¾ ounces lime juice
Muddled blackberries
Burnt orange peel garnish

3030 Ocean at the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa, 3030 Holiday Drive, Fort Lauderdale

Originally appeared in the Fall 2016 Issue.

Fort Lauderdale adds more style to the region with the Sweden-based apparel brand.

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COOL FOR SUMMER: The Galleria's new H&M shows us you can rock your favorite dark tones, denim and black booties year round.

By Madison Watt

Retail chain H&M’s expansion into South Florida drew a huge crowd to the store’s highly anticipated opening at The Galleria at Fort Lauderdale. Armed with selfie sticks and colorful folding chairs, shoppers eagerly waited until the doors officially opened at noon.

The massive two-story, 28,000-square-foot store is smartly positioned next to Dillard’s on the east wing of the mall. Bright lights show off the famed glossy, apple-red H&M sign, serving as a colorful beacon to mall-goers of all ages. Patrick Shaner, H&M’s regional spokesperson, expresses his enthusiasm over the addition of the store (making it the 28th H&M store in Florida), explaining what it will add to the current Fort Lauderdale retail environment.

“With our expansion we always look for the best economic situation, the best locations and the best customer base,” he says. “Through our research we can tell that the customers in South Florida really want H&M, and they want more of us. We want to provide that for them, and give them as many options as possible.”

The store contains the familiar ladies’ and mens’ sections, however, Shaner says the store also houses exciting new additions. “You’ll see under the cash-wrap, we have eye shadows, lips and nails products,” he says. “We’re always coming out with new and different areas that we want to focus on. We’re always looking to see what customers want and then making new items to fit those needs.”

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SHINE ON: H&M’s beauty collection includes shimmery eye shadows ranging from berry to olive to champagne pink.
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HU(E)MOR ME: With a vast selection of gorgeous shades, H&M has all the nail polishes you’ll ever need.

And the most anticipated addition in the upcoming season? “H&M fans can also look forward to this year’s upcoming designer collaboration with Parisian fashion house Kenzo,” Shaner says.

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DARE TO BARE ARMS: H&M’s got you covered (or not) this summer with cute off-the-shoulder options in rich hues and fresh prints.

On-trend fashions don’t have to come at an enormous price. Shaner maintains that the key to the acclaimed multinational retail-clothing company’s success is fashion and quality at the best price for customers, as well as H&M’s sustainability project.

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DUDES AND BLUES: Soft cotton tees and cut-off denim mark the middle of summer for H&M.

“We started garment collecting in 2013,” he says. “People can bring in old, unwanted garments, and we take them and send them to a recycling service center where they can be reused, then you get a discount of 15 percent off your next purchase. It’s a really great incentive.”

As for Shaner, he believes the Swedish-based retail store has something for everyone, from newborns to new grandparents. “You can mix-and-match to your personal style, and that’s really what we love to offer our customers,” he says. “It’s at an affordable price too, you don’t have to spend all your money to have a great outfit that’s on-trend.”

Former teen queen actress Victoria Justice ventures into new and deliciously naughty territory.

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Topshop jumpsuit, available at Nordstrom at Aventura Mall, us.topshop.com; Balmain for H&M coat, available at Aventura Mall, hm.com; Tory Burch heels, available at Aventura Mall, toryburch.com; Carrie Hoffman necklace, carriehoffmanjewelry.com.

By Jennifer Arellano
Photography by John Russo
Styling by Annabelle Harron

There’s something about Victoria Justice’s voice. It is booming, but not brash. It is stentorian-clear,  but still capable of breaking into a girlish giggle. It can sound surprisingly deep when she’s musing on something serious (her childhood work ethic and her family’s unwavering support) and breathless when she’s rattling off her passions (singing, acting, writing). Most of all, there’s not a detectable drop of world-weariness nor fatigue over the phone on her day off from recording and rehearsal sessions for Fox’s much-anticipated reboot, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show Event.” Justice’s effervescence practically leaps off the receiver.

A refresher: That easy effervescence was in full display during Justice’s Nickelodeon spree as first a lead on “Zoey 101,” playing teenager Lola Martinez, and then star of “Victorious,” as Tori Vega, a student at a competitive performing arts high school. Showcasing the young actress’ acting, singing and physical comedic gifts, “Victorious” (which ran from 2010 to 2013 and was the top live action comedy in its time slot for ages 6 to 17) skyrocketed Justice to instant teen queen status.

Now 23, Justice wants to try something new. “I’ve grown up a lot since I started on Nickelodeon,” she says. “I’ve been making a conscious effort to seek out roles that are a little bit more mature and grown-up.” She cites strong, comedic women such as Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Kristen Wiig (another actress with a flair for both physical comedy and spine-straightening drama) as her influences.

Post “Victorious,” Justice starred in MTV’s noir-ish series, “Eye Candy,” as the rabble-rousing hacker-in-leather Lindy Sampson, who is consumed with chasing down a serial killer. She also portrayed Naomi in the indie rom-com “Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List” (available on Netflix and iTunes), where the title characters’ friendship is tested when they fall in love with the same guy. Up next, she’ll star in the high school comedy “The Outskirts” opposite Eden Sher and Peyton List.

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Rebecca Minkoff dress, available at Bloomingdale’s at Aventura Mall, rebeccaminkoff.com; Elizabeth and James coat, available at Bloomingdale’s at Aventura Mall, elizabethandjames.us.

It’s her upcoming role as Janet Weiss in this fall’s “The Rocky Horror Picture Show Event” that ought to dispel any doubts about Justice’s transformation from child star to compelling, dramatic actress-to-watch. Justice first saw the 1975 movie-come-midnight-musical—about a humdrum engaged couple that stumbles upon a gender-bending mad scientist’s castle—when she was in fifth grade, and she attended her first midnight viewing when she was 15. “It was totally unlike anything else I had ever seen,” Justice says. “It was edgy, it was weird, it was cool. It’s a movie for all of the misfits.” Her character, she explains, “has this interesting arc: She starts as this very naive and innocent young woman, and has this sexual awakening in Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s castle. A lot goes down.”

Her character’s fiance, Brad Majors, is played by Ryan McCartan; Laverne Cox portrays the famed Dr. Frank-N-Furter; and Tim Curry, the original Dr. Frank-N-Furter, returns as the criminologist narrator. “I’m excited for people to see a different side of me,” Justice says. “I don’t think people have seen the full spectrum of things I can do yet.”

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Rebecca Minkoff dress, available at Bloomingdale’s at Aventura Mall, rebeccaminkoff.com; Elizabeth and James coat, available at Bloomingdale’s at Aventura Mall, elizabethandjames.us.

Justice was hell-bent on nabbing the role. “I told my agent, ‘We have to find a way, we have to audition,’” she says. Justice worked with a pianist and vocal coach for the Broadway-style auditions. She left no Janet Weiss detail untouched, including sourcing the perfect “Janet” outfit—a pale-pink Forever 21 collared dress paired with her own white cardigan.

As she matures her oeuvre, Justice refuses to neglect her roots. “I’ll always be grateful to Nickelodeon because that’s where I got my big break,” she says. “It was an amazing opportunity to be able to do two things that I love: singing and acting. I learned so much from Nickelodeon—including having a good work
ethic. From 17 to 20 years old, I think I worked harder than most people have in 10 years of their life.”

Though she currently lives in Hollywood, California, Justice holds South Florida’s own Hollywood (where she and her family resided until she was 11) close to her heart. “I love South Florida,” Justice exclaims. “As much as I love L.A., it doesn’t compare to the beaches back home, that turquoise-blue water—it’s just so beautiful. I have a soft spot for Hollywood Beach, where so many weekends of my younger life were spent strolling on the Broadwalk, eating ice cream and renting those banana bikes.” She cites Young Circle, Mama Mia and Padrino’s as her beloved childhood haunts, particularly the latter. “I loved the tostones with the garlic sauce and getting flan for dessert—such good memories. I miss that place!”

Where does Justice see her career going? “I think there is a bit of a stigma when you come from Nickelodeon or Disney,” she says. “People will have preconceived notions of you. But so far, so good. I’m really proud of the projects I’ve been a part of since my Nickelodeon run, and I’m slowly but surely showing different sides of myself.”

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ASOS dress and coat, asos.com; Carrie Hoffman earrings, carriehoffmanjewelry.com.
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Tamara Mellon blouse, available at Nordstrom at Aventura Mall, tamaramellon.com; C/Meo Collective pants, available at Nordstrom at Aventura Mall, cmeocollective.com.
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Topshop top, available at Nordstrom at Aventura Mall, us.topshop.com; Rebecca Minkoff pants, available at Bloomingdale’s at Aventura Mall, rebeccaminkoff.com; Carrie Hoffman necklace and earrings, carriehoffmanjewelry.com.
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Rebecca Minkoff dress, available at Bloomingdale’s at Aventura Mall, rebeccaminkoff.com; vintage shoes. Topshop top, available at Nordstrom at Aventura Mall, us.topshop.com; Rebecca Minkoff pants, available at Bloomingdale’s at Aventura Mall, rebeccaminkoff.com; Carrie Hoffman necklace and earrings, carriehoffmanjewelry.com.

Photographer: John Russo
Stylist: Annabelle Harron
Hair: Paul Norton
Makeup: Lusine Galadjian/ivyeleven.com using Jouer Cosmetics
Photo assistant: Jason Bush

As seen in our Spring 2016 issue.

Lacoste Fragrances debuts the EAU DE LACOSTE L.12.12 Pour Elle collection.

This spring marks the launch of Lacoste Fragrances’ EAU DE LACOSTE L.12.12 Pour Elle. Four years after the launch of EAU DE LACOSTE L.12.12 – the male fragrance line inspired by the iconic Lacoste L.12.12 polo shirt – this new female collection will celebrate an equally recognisable garment: the Lacoste pleated skirt.

Inspired by the spirit of the Lacoste pleated skirt, the collection is comprised of three fragrances. Each has been carefully crafted to embody its own unique personality, yet the collection embodies the fresh femininity and moods of the Lacoste woman.

THE INNOVATOR
Tennis champion René Lacoste was an inventor and designer. In addition to the famous L.12.12 polo shirt, he also created technical and revolutionary tennis rackets, balls and golf clubs, as well as the first-ever tennis-ball throwing machine.

The Lacoste brand was born in 1933 when René Lacoste revolutionized mens’ fashion replacing the classical woven fabric, long-sleeved and starched shirts on the courts, by what has now become the classic Lacoste L.12.12 polo shirt.

Since the very first polo was created in 1933, Lacoste relies on its authentic sportive roots to spring elegance and optimism on the world thanks to a unique and original lifestyle for women, men and children.

Sparkling fragrance from the EAU DE LACOSTE L.12.12 Pour Elle collection.
Sparkling fragrance from the EAU DE LACOSTE L.12.12 Pour Elle collection.

FEMALE TENNIS PLAYERS & THE PLEATED SKIRT 

In the same era that Rene Lacoste played tennis, a new wave of female tennis players started to break conventions and reinvent the women’s game. They were true free sprits who matched their sporting excellence with an elegant chic-ness and sense of style not seen before.

Just as he cast off long-sleeved tennis tops when he created the L.12.12 polo shirt, the female tennis players of the 1920s also changed the outfits in favor of style and performance. Previously resigned to playing in long skirts and corsets that were unpractical and restricted movement, the 1920s saw the shorter, pleated tennis skirt make its debut on court. This was a garment that would equally allow female players full freedom of motion on court for the first time, as well as bringing a certain French gracefulness to the game. This watershed moment also set the wheels in motion for the innovation of women’s tennis wear that continues today.

Elegant fragrance from the EAU DE LACOSTE L.12.12 Pour Elle collection.
Elegant fragrance from the EAU DE LACOSTE L.12.12 Pour Elle collection.

EAU DE LACOSTE L.12.12 POUR ELLE: A COMPLETE FRAGRANCE COLLECTION
The spirit of the LACOSTE pleated skirt is now captured in the new EAU DE LACOSTE L.12.12 Pour Elle fragrance collection, a Lacoste of fresh, uplifting scents: Natural, Elegant and Sparkling. In the same way a shorter skirt frees you on the tennis court, Lacoste’s new fragrance collection allows wearers to embrace each moment – matching your scent to the direction you’re moving in.

Natural: Notes of creamy coconut milk come together with woody Orris in this uplifting yet refined Natural scent.

Elegant: Classic yet unexpected, warm florals at the heart are matched with sophisticated Vetiver at the base.

Sparkling: Playful heart of French macaroon contrasted against a woody and earthy Patchouli base.

Each of the three fragrances is united with a white floral heart of jasmine expertly blended with different ingredients to accentuate the different moods within the collection. The ultimate aim is to offer women a fragrance closet that allows them to match their scent to their lifestyle – whether it’s Sparkling for a night out, Elegant for a day at the tennis or Natural for a family gathering. EAU DE LACOSTE L.12.12 Pour Elle allows Lacoste women to express themselves in the same way that the female tennis players of the 1920’s did in embracing the pleated tennis skirt more than 90 years ago.

Natural fragrance from the EAU DE LACOSTE L.12.12 Pour Elle collection.
Natural fragrance from the EAU DE LACOSTE L.12.12 Pour Elle collection.

Carlos Betancourt’s glittery story guides a South Florida art revival.

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COLOR ME RAD: Known for a certain bravado, Betancourt has used glitter in his works, oftentimes as a symbolic gesture.

By Reed V. Horth
Portraits by Ryan Stone

South Florida artist Carlos Betancourt proudly uses his art to bare himself to the world, both literally and figuratively. Almost salaciously, his titillating works provide unfettered access to his deepest memories, most scandalous desires and most flamboyant excesses to reveal a man infatuated with life itself.

Betancourt’s story is quintessentially American. His parents were Cuban exiles living in Puerto Rico who moved to Miami in the early 1980s to improve work prospects for themselves and their son. It was a time of diametric shift in the city, which was experiencing growing pains after nearly 125,000 Cuban immigrants fled to the United States. This sudden onset caused racial tensions in an already fragile ecosystem. No longer the prom queen she once was, South Florida looked haggard and used. The beach was seedy, cheap and perfect for a young bohemian.

An effortless conversationalist, Betancourt’s passions and vigor spring forth, evincing a life filled with travel and nature, family and friends, and genuine veneration for how he came to be. Speaking with a Caribbean lilt, Betancourt giddily reminisces about when conceptual installation artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude surrounded 11 islands in Biscayne Bay with 6.5 million square feet of pink fabric. The year was 1983, and 17-year-old Betancourt did not know who the artists were. He merely raised his hand when asked if he wanted be one of many junior volunteers stretching meters of floating polypropylene around the bay. Upon realizing the importance of being part of art history, Betancourt became a self-proclaimed “groupie,” and he evolved an artistic trajectory that drove him forward.

As the world swirled around him, Betancourt, who graduated from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, found peace by surrounding himself with fellow creatives: artists, poets, drag queens, comedians, musicians and the other colorful personalities frequently orbiting Miami Beach. His dingy 1,000-squarefoot Lincoln Road studio was dubbed “Imperfect Utopia,” a metaphor for what South Florida was at the time. It became the nucleus of a cultural renaissance that decades later would culminate in December’s Art Basel Miami Beach. What New York’s CBGB was to punk music and Barcelona’s Els Quatre Gats was for Surrealism, Betancourt’s Imperfect Utopia perhaps became a burgeoning art scene in a city that yearned for a cultural catharsis. Imperfect Utopia, he states, “was a great platform because it was completely open to invention.”

Betancourt’s effusive energy and open-door studio attracted a broad spectrum of like-minded individuals whose unique stories and experiences colored his perceptions, informed his art and fertilized his creativity. Famed MiMo architect Morris Lapidus visited the studio often and regaled Betancourt with stories of Miami’s Golden Age, when he was designing the Fontainebleau and Eden Roc hotels and turning Lincoln Road into the pedestrian mall Betancourt called home.

“I remember no one knowing who Morris was, so I always use him as a metaphor of that period,” Betancourt says. “He had done things that the world had forgotten. Then time passed, and he had the recognition. What he offered aesthetically to this day is so influential.”

In the 1980s, the Art Deco preservation movement, including the integration of Lapidus into the pantheon of great architects, precipitated nostalgia about what South Florida once was. Further, it fostered a growing optimism about a coming creative renaissance. The beach scene was starting to become younger, edgier and more party-friendly. Fashion mogul Gianni Versace, as well as photographers Bruce Weber and Bunny Yeager, painter Julian Schnabel and musician Celia Cruz all paid visits to Betancourt to soak in his vitality. In turn, this environment formed a distinctive textural landscape that now spans the way Betancourt creates art, utilizes media and indulges in the passions around him.

Betancourt’s work became an organized cacophony of scattered influences. Incorporating disparate yet recognizable elements—such as sun-bleached wood, a broken plastic torso, a rotary phone and an oversized fish bowl—he smothers the pile of kitsch with wax-like ooze, often co-opting sculptor Yves Klein’s signature blue or pop icon Robert Indiana’s primary red as a unifying factor. Much like Miami Beach during the 1980s, Betancourt’s art has grit to it, but he adds glitter.

“It’s a contradiction,” he states proudly. “That’s the entire idea of it.”

Often using friends, local personalities and his own body as a canvas, Betancourt creates glyph-laden photographic armies of animated caricatures and surrealist narrative tales of lost souls seeking common ground. Old becomes new as found objects morph into otherworldly contraptions splattered and reassembled. Broken porcelain plates and nail-ridden wood slats are repurposed and given new life within a viscous morass of bold color.

Recently released, the colorful and lushly illustrated Skira Rizzoli coffee table book, “Carlos Betancourt: Imperfect Utopia,” presents the artist’s work in unapologetic luster. From his Caribbean roots to his tastes for all things beautiful, Betancourt’s inexhaustible creativity makes this tome an intimate diary that, left unlocked, is laid open for all to read. We are scandalously allowed a voyeur’s look inside his head. Pages turn between photographic collages, utilizing layered leftovers from his parents’ sojourn from Cuba to Puerto Rico, combined with contemplative and muscled forms caked with mud, cigarettes and primitive runes. Other forms burst with kaleidoscopic energy and monochromatic glow as intense as Betancourt himself.

“Everything is up for grabs,” he says, in reference to the new book. “We are our memories. That’s what we do, that’s what we accumulate and try to organize our life.”

Remembering the value of getting his hands proverbially dirty, Betancourt and his partner and manager, Alberto Latorre, recently purchased a lot in the growing art hub Little Haiti to build a small studio space. “It’s a very simple lot, but it offers me more opportunities to express myself,” Betancourt says.

Betancourt continues to weave visual stories with poles magnetically juxtaposed. Caribbean and American, nature versus the city, gay and straight, muted and bold, pristine and dilapidated, and experimental and deliberate, coalesce. Images spring forth in an explosion that takes time to dissect and process. This is what makes Betancourt unique and has allowed him to transcend the Miami arts scene dominated by large-scale international exhibitions and blue-chip names of the past.

Where he was once at the forefront of South Florida’s art scene, Betancourt’s works now are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale, Pérez Art Museum Miami, the Museum of Latin American Art, Museo de Arte de Ponce, the National Portrait Gallery and other international venues. A fitting culmination to a vision germinated in a small, dirty studio on Lincoln Road.

Originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue.

The celebration of indie music and the love of Fort Lauderdale give way to the For the Love festival.

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Cassie Marin serenades the For the Love crowd on March 12 in Fort Lauderdale's FATVillage.

By Destinee A. Hughes and Malischa Ogé
Photography by C&I Studios

Fort Lauderdale opened up its heart to nearly 1,000 people on March 12 to celebrate the second year of the For The Love Music Festival. Those anticipating a Saturday filled with sounds of more than 30 diverse bands certainly received it at the For The Love Music Festival at C&I Studios. For the festival founders, the day was centered around one aspect:

“It’s just about the love,” says Joshua Miller, executive director at C&I Studios. When longtime friends Miller and Sara Shake, founder of Exposed PR, dreamed up this daring venture, it was all about their love for music and Fort Lauderdale, the city they call home. After the success of the 2014 Summer Soundtrack, a four-week, pop-up music series featuring Fort Lauderdale artists, the dynamic duo agreed that they want to do more–and they did.

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The For The Love Music Festival, which debuted in 2015, is an all-day event featuring nationwide musical acts, local vendors, food trucks, and industry demos and talks. This year’s headliners featured Further Seems Forever and MeWithoutYou, plus returning disc jockey Tonx, all drawing a diverse crowd of 1,000 festivalgoers filled with ripped jeans and full beards.

The musicians played on five different stages throughout FATVillage, which was dotted with food trucks such as Box of Chacos, Paradise Cups and Churrasco Grill. If the sign of success for a music festival is cheering audiences and happy faces, then this year’s edition was one. “The artists deserve so much love and respect for playing,” Shake says. “These are bands that work so hard on their music.”

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Musician Love, Abbey performs inside C&I Studios at For the Love.

C&I Studios and Exposed PR were also supported by sponsors School of Rock, Underground Fort Lauderdale, W Fort Lauderdale hotel, FATVillage, Influence Culture and Doubletime Digital, as well as this publication.

DJ Tonx, who kept the crowd swaying all day long, confessed that he overlooked the congruence between the festival and the city. “I just realized how the acronym ‘FTL’ is the same for ‘For the Love’ and ‘Fort Lauderdale,’” he says. “[It] signifies the essence of this event and this community.”

The For The Love Music Festival was a day full of infectious energy and abundant talent, thanks to the musical notes by the independent artists and founders who have a love for the city.

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The Goddamn Hustle take one of the outdoor stages at the For the Love Festival.

Designer Amir Khamneipur spices up the Palm Beaches with The Bristol.

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Inspired by the peaceful surroundings, designer Amir Khamneipur utilized natural light and neutral colors to bring out the textures at The Bristol.

By Nila Do Simon
Portrait by Anastassios Mentis

Amir Khamneipur of Amir Khamneipur Design has been lauded as tastemaker,  a designer acknowledged for his tailored spaces at The Plaza Hotel and Trump Park Avenue in New York City. On the brink of completing his latest project—the 25-story West Palm Beach condo development, The Bristol—we sit with Khamneipur to discuss the highly anticipated waterfront property.

What was so attractive about The Bristol that motivated you to take part?

High-end luxury living has always been my strong suit. When I found out the project was in Palm Beach, I was convinced it was perfect for me. I have spent a lot of time in the area and have realized that the Palm Beach client is extremely refined and worldly. They are collectors and connoisseurs; they know how to identify quality and are not looking for big, bold statements, but rather elegant and timeless nuances.

What was the inspiration for the design?

Above all, timelessness, purity of line and quality. Since The Bristol will be a second or third home for many of its residents, it’s important to make all environments peaceful and ethereal. Whether they’re from the West, Midwest or East Coast, they all want to arrive and relax. I used light, neutral colors with an emphasis on texture. Honed, bush-hammered, sand-blasted and polished tone-on-tone stones juxtapose against leather, suede, porcelain, bronze and exotic bleached woods.

How has your past experience with furniture design been influential in incorporating pieces into The Bristol?

I started my career as design director for Lorin Marsh, one of the most high-end and elegant furnishings showrooms in the country. There, I was able to refine my palate and learn about the manufacturing of the most beautiful accessories, lighting and furniture available. The most exciting part of this project has been the ability to incorporate my passion for detailing into every aspect of the building. I have designed and manufactured 100 percent of the furnishings for the sales center and will do so as well for the actual building. Australian rosewoods, bleached and cerused oaks, and bronze and nickel metals along with fabric-like silk, linens and cashmeres adorn all furnishings throughout The Bristol.

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New York City-based interior designer Amir Khamneipur brings his keen eye for art and style to The Bristol.

 

What unique, custom nuances are you excited to present to residents?

There are so many details and spaces to be excited about. With this development team, it wasn’t hard to convince them about the importance of detail. Both women’s and men’s wet spas are clad with white-marble floors and walls. They all have top-of-the-line fixtures and fittings, steam rooms, saunas, indoor and outdoor massage and treatment rooms, as well as thermal stone baths. I designed the gym to be elegant and inviting. Between the bleached white oak floors, marble walls, and Lucite and polished nickel beverage bars, one can truly feel at home. The gym has a private yoga room and an extensive terrace with seating. I also made sure to specify the sexiest equipment on the market.

How would you describe the type of resident who would be attracted to this property?

There is no other product like it on the market in the Palm Beach area. The location is unbelievable, the amenities are truly unparalleled, and the quality is second to none. A common thread between current purchasers seems to be their involvement and interest in art. All buyers have expressed their excitement over the floor plans and layouts. They all are big art collectors who can’t wait to exhibit their pieces throughout their spaces. I made sure to allow large, open walls that complemented the dining and sitting areas. I even took into account areas that would be ideal for large sculptures within each unit. At this point, clients have decorated multiple homes and are tired of the traditional look, and they are all excited to create something fresh and new.

Originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue.

Sarah Miller Benichou is putting Pompano Beach on the cultural map—one exhibition at a time.

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As director of the Bailey Contemporary Arts, Sarah Miller Benichou is helping revitalize the Pompano Beach arts and cultural scene. Here, she stands in front of Donna Hayes’ 2015 "Lay Your Heart on the Line.”

By Linda Brockman
Photography by Ryan Stone

Pompano Beach is in the midst of a tsunami of cultural arts activity—a 10-year plan to make the city a destination for the arts—and Sarah Miller Benichou is happy to ride the wave.

“It is so exciting to be part of a project from the ground up, ” says Benichou, who became the director of Bailey Contemporary Arts (BaCA) in Pompano Beach’s Northwest District in September. “Finding BaCA has been the most rewarding challenge of my career so far. It’s a diamond in the rough, and this is an amazing time to be part of it.” A graduate of Boston University, Benichou grew up in New York City in an Orthodox Jewish family. She returned to her hometown to work as a staff photographer at Madison Square Garden before moving to work at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, where she witnessed a juxtaposition of modern art with the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls. “In the hallways, I would pass a centuries-old, Byzantine-era mosaic going by on a dolly,” Benichou recalls.

In 2010, she got engaged and moved to Paris to be close to her fiance, Parisian songwriter and platinum-selling recording artist Mani Hoffman. While there, Benichou became involved with the Musée d’Orsay as a founding board member of the museum’s American Friends group, recruiting her fellow expats to lend support. In 2014, she and Hoffman moved to Delray Beach to be closer to her father. Now married and raising two young children, the 36-year-old is happy to be starting a new chapter in her arts career.

“The Pompano area is on the precipice of being reactivated,” says Benichou, who pictures a “Pompano Plaza” with a strong arts and entertainment district that mimics Delray Beach’s Pineapple Grove Arts District or CityPlace in West Palm Beach.

In 2011, the city of Pompano Beach and its Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) began a project to promote downtown Pompano Beach as its Creative Arts District. The project included turning the dilapidated two-story Bailey Hotel into a 10,968- square-foot arts building, now known as BaCA.

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“Untitled” by Peter Symon, 2015.

In 2012, the CRA bought the hotel building, erected circa 1932, for $370,000. It invested more than $1 million into its renovation and an additional $12 million for the infrastructure, streetscape and the adjacent European-style public plaza, which is scheduled to be completed this spring.

The city unveiled BaCA to the public in 2014; it’s now complete with an exhibition gallery and programming space downstairs and an artists’ studio and office space on the top floor. Benichou also envisions a coffee shop and retail space on the first floor in the near future.

As part of the city’s vision, the CRA also developed the neighboring Ali Cultural Arts building on MLK Boulevard, which opened in November as a museum, educational and performing arts space. Drew Tucker, the Ali’s director, knew Benichou from the arts scene in Palm Beach County and recruited her to BaCA.

“Sarah’s knowledge and her understanding of different cultures is a big part of how we’ll accomplish our goals in Pompano Beach,” says Tucker, a musician and educator working with Benichou to bridge Pompano’s communities on both sides of the railroad tracks. “She doesn’t just want to bring in ‘pretty art.’ There is a mission to bring the community together while pushing forward to what’s next.”

Benichou and Tucker plan to run a summer camp program that will expose kids to different facets of visual and performing arts. During the school year, high school students are mentored by BaCA’s staff and artists-in-residence on creating, curating and appreciating art.

BaCA’s primary audience is locals, Benichou says. “Having only a glossy space to appeal to outsiders really does a disservice to the city and its residents. If you build good programming as the foundation, they will come.”

Originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue.

Rebecca Bradley and Gage Couch are changing Fort Lauderdale’s topography—literally—right before our very eyes.

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Gage Couch and Rebecca Bradley founded their landscape architecture firm, Cadence, with the strong belief in enhancing public art and incorporating natural vegetation into their designs.

By Charlie Crespo
Portraits by Ryan Stone

It would have been easy for Rebecca Bradley and Gage Couch to leave Fort Lauderdale. Both had been employed at EDSA, one of the largest landscape architecture firms in the world, and had experience working on projects across the globe—in Glasgow, Barcelona, Dubai and Beijing. They had seen co-workers leave to work in bigger cities such as New York or San Francisco, and it likely wouldn’t have been a challenge for either to follow suit. But there was something about Fort Lauderdale that just felt right.

“We saw potential here and wanted to be in a creative neighborhood,” Couch, 33, explains. “The proximity of the city to the water and the fact that it had a river running through it was very appealing.”

After working for a large firm for several years, the pair had also become a bit disillusioned with the idea of working on grandiose projects, which often never became anything other than abstract designs. “It got frustrating for projects not to happen,” Couch says. “When they did happen, it was somewhere we couldn’t enjoy, even if we wanted to.”

With the desire to stay in an up-and-coming city, as well as to do important work in a place that sorely needed it, Bradley and Couch founded their own landscape architecture firm, Cadence, in 2010. Working together was a natural fit from the beginning. They had been on the same team at EDSA for more than two years and had formed a synergistic chemistry.

“We share a design aesthetic, but we have different personalities,” Bradley, 37, says. “Our partnership complements each other, and it doesn’t hurt that we have fun working together.”

As an art form, landscape architecture has a distinct feature that sets itself apart from other disciplines. Whereas a painter, sculptor or architect creates works that are meant to be unchanged, the only thing permanent about the work of a landscape architect is its impermanence.

“We aren’t designing just for tomorrow,” Couch explains. “We are designing for years to come.”

The reason for that impermanence, as you might have guessed, is because landscape architects are working with materials that are almost always alive. “Our designs are living and evolving,” Bradley says. “Day one is its most naked state. It gets better with time. It takes a special personality to want to nurture things for a long time.”

While landscape architecture is undeniably unique because of its impermanence, a large part of the appeal for Couch and Bradley is that their work is, quite often, public art, and that they have the ability to use native vegetation to enhance a space.

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An “outdoor living room” at First Presbyterian Church’s Hoch Youth Center. Photo by Kelly Coulson.

“We are in a profession that has the ability to change people’s lives,” Bradley states. “We want people to notice things they don’t normally notice. Any time humans are in a space where they can reflect, that’s always a good thing.”

Since its founding, Cadence has worked on several projects in the Greater Fort Lauderdale area and in locations outside of the state and abroad. However, there’s one project in particular that stands out. In 2011, the duo won a national contest to design a Jefferson Parish canal in Louisiana.

“We won the $30,000 cash prize,” Couch says with a smile. “At the beginning of our business, that was huge.”

The project held special meaning for Bradley. “It was in my home state. It was one of those moments that was just like…” she says, struggling to find the right words. “My mother’s childhood home was two blocks away, so it was hugely rewarding for me.”

Today, the five-person team at Cadence actively searches for projects all over the country, but it is their passion for and commitment to Fort Lauderdale that has put them on the map. They have designed or collaborated with the Dan Marino Foundation Campus, the Mockingbird Trail and NSU Art Museum, and are currently at work on renovating the courtyard of the historic First Presbyterian Church of Fort Lauderdale, off of Las Olas Boulevard.

As the master planner for the church’s 7-acre campus, Cadence was tasked to incorporate 63,000 square feet of outdoor living space that would provide church members of all ages a place to gather, explore and reflect. The build-out and design was developed to meet the requirements as a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat. More than 80 percent of the planting palette is vegetation native to Florida, complementing the existing oak hammock. This effort turns the church inside out, creating an inspiring space for connection and community. The rest of the master plan is underway, with construction beginning later this year.

Bradley and Couch aren’t only committing their professional lives to Fort Lauderdale; they are both active in the community outside of work. Cadence is involved in the FATVillage Art Walk each month, hosting exhibits and workshops on several occasions.

“We can take some pride and ownership in how Fort Lauderdale has evolved,” Couch says. “We try to support the community and are constantly thinking about how we can make the neighborhood better.”

Even though Bradley, Couch and the rest of the Cadence team have already completed a stunning amount of work in just six years, it’s evident that their best work is still ahead.

“We are eager to increase the amount of designers as we get more projects,” Bradley says. “There are several projects that have been floating around in the background, including the FATVillage streetscape, that we hope to see come to fruition in the coming years.”

No doubt the rest of Fort Lauderdale hopes to see their projects come to life, too.

Originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue.

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