Personalities / Insights

The Sandee Saunders Project

Miami’s stylist to the stars launches a personal shopping service, spotlighting the most deserving local talent.

December 05, 2011

Sometimes being stylish is not about what you wear, but who you know. For a growing list of Miami fashionistas, Sandee Saunders is one very important contact. A makeup artist-cum-stylist who first visited the city in the early ’90s, she started wintering here and moved permanently in 2000 for the love of a man—at the time, a very little man. “I became a mom, and showing up on shoots with a young son just didn’t work with makeup jobs,” Saunders recalls.

So she expanded into fashion, working as a sales specialist at Valentino before joining the team that opened The Webster boutique in 2007. But the bond between a woman and her trusted makeup artist is almost as sacred as the one between mother and son, Saunders says. “I continued doing makeup for private clients who would not give it up—socialites in the charity circuit, Europeans with homes in Miami, celebrities when they’re in town.” These same women now also trust Saunders and her sensibility for wardrobe styling.

Ready to branch out on her own after a successful run at Miami’s chicest shops, Saunders launched The Sandee Saunders Project last year. Among other services, her company offers personal shopping and dressing, which can mean “someone wanting me to style a video, or my team and me going into someone’s home, editing and rebuilding their closet.” But the most exciting aspect of the business is its online showroom,, which Saunders uses to highlight six up-and-coming designers. “I wanted to focus on emerging talents, to introduce stylish women and men to the finer things they haven’t seen yet.”

Think of Saunders as a fashion matchmaker, joining style setters with something they’ll love. “It’s always all about the relationships,” she explains, from her days as a New York makeup artist glossing the lips of her childhood icon Diana Ross, to a retail maven helping Gianni Versace try on wigs at the much-loved Washington Avenue boutique Meet Me In Miami, to shopping for Kim Kardashian and Kris Jenner when they’re in town. As for her current passions, Saunders’s favorite fall looks are square body bags and ’70s styles that mix retro fashion with vintage jewelry. “A lot of the fads from the past are back, so people are pulling out their old pieces,” she reports.

Just don’t expect her to revive her old New York wardrobe. “When I first arrived, the way I dressed was totally ‘New York,’” admits Saunders, who added an office in Manhattan recently. “But Miami has such festive flavor—you can play a lot more with color, and people aren’t afraid to be sensual. Even if you thought you didn’t have that side to you, when you get to Miami, you find it.” Or, best-case scenario: Saunders finds it for you.

—eleni gage


Getting to Know Nick Loeb

Meet the entrepreneur, political hopeful and beau of Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara.

October 28, 2011

As the boyfriend of bewitching Modern Family star Sofia Vergara, 35-year-old Nick Loeb has faced the flashing light bulbs of hundreds of paparazzi, but it doesn’t bother him. “No one’s curious about me, they only care about her. I just happen to be next to her! You just deal with it.”

Unlike other famous boyfriends who spend their time racing cars or fronting rock bands, the entrepreneur has been busy considering hot dog toppings. His latest venture is introducing America to Onion Crunch, a fried onion topping for hot dogs, pizza and salads. He discovered it as a child in Copenhagen where his father was President Ronald Reagan’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of Denmark. “I love it on hot dogs! That’s how I grew up with it.”

Before Onion Crunch (and Vergara), Loeb was a producer for the acclaimed documentary series The Living Century that aired on PBS. On top of all that, he’s also mulling a run as a Republican candidate for the Florida Senate next year. It goes without saying, but he probably has more on his mind than the average celebrity boyfriend.

Nick Loeb’s Shortlist:

Favorite movie:The Godfather
Can be found rooting for:The New York Giants
Favorite City: Delray Beach “There are more restaurants in Downtown Delray right now than there are in Downtown D.C. It has exploded.”
Obsessions:Genealogy. “I’ve traced parts of my family back to the 1500s.”

Jason Jeffers
photograph by


Rose Byrne Blows Us Away

The actress lights up the W South Beach Hotel & Residences' two-year anniversary party.

October 04, 2011

Embroidered Idyllic White Guipure shirt ($1,200) and Halycon leather flip skirt ($775), Zimmermann

Thinking man’s babe and Damages star Rose Byrne popped in at the W South Beach Hotel & Residences’ two-year anniversary party recently to watch Theophilus London perform his genre-mashing blend of indie rock, hip-hop and pop. Byrne, also known for roles in Bridesmaids and X-Men: First Class, is a busy girl: The Australian actress is currently shooting The Place Beyond the Pines with heartthrobs Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper, and season five of Damages starts filming this month as well. While on South Beach, she shined in a mustard pleated leather skirt and white embroidered long-sleeved top, both by Aussie fashion brand Zimmermann.

—Christine Borges
photograph by justin namon/


The Molla Brothers

José and Joaquín Molla continue to revolutionize the advertising industry.

September 26, 2011


Bloodlines: They make for coveted Kobe beef, prized thoroughbreds like Secretariat and, as it turns out, in the case of brothers Joaquín and José Mollá, expertise in the glamorous field of creative advertising. “My family tree looks more like an advertising agency organizational chart,” remarks 44-year-old José, the elder of the two, whose grandfather opened Exitus, one of the first and biggest agencies in Argentina. Ad wizards among four generations in the Mollá clan also include father Rodolfo, who ran his own agency (Nesway SA) out of Buenos Aires. Ten years ago, Joaquín and José joined forces to found their multinational advertising agency venture, La Comunidad, which translates from Spanish to “The Community.” Joaquín says of the egalitarian moniker, “It came from the feeling that a company is a group of people that make each other better.”

The more collaborative vibe the Mollá brothers cultivated has paid off. This year they’re celebrating their 10th anniversary, having received more than 430 industry awards and represented such heavy-hitting clients as Apple, Volvo, MTV, Original Penguin and Corona Extra. Their progressive approach has also been helpful given the seismic recent influence of interactive and social media: Advertising has shifted distinctly from a monologue to a dialogue. “Interrupting someone’s life to talk about how great a product is... doesn’t work anymore,” says José of the traditional advertising model.

The brothers are also passionate art enthusiasts and run a showroom in Buenos Aires’ Palermo neighborhood called This Is Not a Gallery, featuring primarily video art and multimedia installations. “It is not commercial, but more like an intellectual experience,” Joaquín says of the endeavor. The gallery has appeared at Art Basel Miami Beach, which the Mollás have attended yearly since its inception.

They have offices in Buenos Aires and New York, yet La Comunidad’s headquarters remain right here in Miami. Joaquín, 42, is based in Argentina, and José works out of the firm’s Biscayne Boulevard location with copartner, CEO and president Antoinette Zel. Both brothers wholeheartedly enjoy the quality of life South Florida affords. “In five minutes, you can go from working hard to being in the middle of the bay, rowing in the sunset with dolphins,” José says. Joaquín and his brother are adept sailors, and although José endured a terrifying 2010 shark attack in the Exumas that left him with a bitten calf, he still spearfishes regularly. “I can’t stay away from the water,” he insists.

The brothers’ success arises from a respect for artistry, keen business savvy and keeping a sharp eye on the community—the context for their thriving advertising operation. José says of the company, “Our secret is very simple: When we’re together, we reach a place that we would have never reached on our own. And that’s a great feeling.”

By Elizabeth Tracy


Screen Scribe: Barry Jenkins

A local filmmaker who went from football to film festivals.

September 15, 2011

Barry Jenkins
Director, screenwriter
Age: 31
Provenance: Miami

Kickoff: As a former running back at Liberty City’s Northwestern High School, Jenkins is used to receiving accolades. Back then it was for football, while today it’s for his work as a filmmaker. “It was a bit shocking,” he says of the first time his feature Medicine for Melancholy screened, at the South by Southwest Film Festival in 2008. The film, which explores race and romance, was praised by The New York Times’ A.O. Scott and nominated for three Spirit Awards. “It was cool to put all that work into something and then have it actually reach its goal,” he says.

Soundtrack to success: Now a Sundance Short Film juror, Jenkins says, “There’s always been a sort of natural relationship between music and my filmmaking.” Thus, it was fitting he worked with the Borscht Film Festival this past April on a project teaming filmmakers with local music ians. Jenkins used the dreamy, synth-heavy track “Chlorophyl” (by South Florida chillwave artist Millionyoung) to inspire his own film’s vision.

End scene: Though he did pen Melancholy, what appeals to Jenkins most is the fast-paced role of director. “When you’re writing, it’s just you, and the only limitations are your imagination. [With directing], you have to think eight million steps ahead.”

Favorite film as a kid: Die Hard

Favorite film now: Carlos Reygadas’ Silent Light. It is the greatest movie in the history of the world.

Graphic novel hero you’d be: I’d change sexes and become Martha Washington (of Frank Miller’s Give Me Liberty).

Favorite place to eat in Miami: Mandolin Aegean Bistro



Futbol Phenom: Juan Pablo Angel

A few minutes with the strapping Columbian soccer player.

September 08, 2011

This Colombian soccer stud lines up next to David Beckham on the LA Galaxy and counts Juanes among his friends. Guapo is having a stellar year, so read my lips: Angel will soon be a household name.

Dream collaborators: Warren Buffett for investments, Lionel Messi for soccer practice

Words you most overuse: “Brilliant” and “fancy”

Underrated travel destination: Las Islas del Rosario, Colombia



Small Talk: Glee's Jayma Mays

The lovely actress shares a few of her innermost secrets.

August 25, 2011

The lead in the recent Smurfs movie had recurring roles on Heroes and Ugly Betty before landing the gig of a lifetime on Glee. As lovable as she is approachable, this rising star is funny, flirty and not that innocent.

Favorite TV family: The Cosbys

Time travel: I’d love to go back to the ’60s. I’m pretty sure I was made to live during the years of bright polyester and Laugh-In.

I always DVR: Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, Intervention and Whale Wars

My fantasy entourage includes: President Obama, Dolly Parton, Carol Burnett and She-Ra

No one knows: My first alcoholic drink was moonshine.

What you find irresistible in a mate: I love a man who has to go on his tiptoes to kiss me.

Favorite website:


True Blood’s Nelsan Ellis: "I Like Being Mortal”

The Alabama native talks candidly about his role, the show and its intense fanbase.

June 30, 2011

We know him as Lafayette, True Blood’s gumbo-slinging cook-cum-vampire blood dealer known for his flashy headwraps and trademark quips (“Hooker, please.”). But Nelsan Ellis is more than the sum of his character’s parts. The Alabama native moved to Chicago at 14, fell in love with acting and moved again to attend New York’s prestigious Juilliard School, where his play, Ugly, won Lincoln Center’s Martin E. Segal Award. A role in the HBO movie Warm Springs, alongside Cynthia Nixon and Kenneth Branagh, solidified his passion for acting and snowballed into a television and film career that brought True Blood calling.

What went through your head when you got the call to audition for True Blood?
NELSAN ELLIS: Just another call.

How did you perceive the character of Lafayette when you first read the script?
NE: I perceived [him] like a drag queen. But that’s not what they wanted.

What did they want?
NE: They wanted something more real. A drag queen isn’t a mix between man and woman. A drag queen aspires to be a female impersonator or a woman. Lafayette is not that. [True Blood's creator] Alan [Ball] wanted a man who was tough yet feminine and just so happens to wear lipstick and makeup and a head wrap when he wants to. I mean, he was asking a lot.

Who inspired that feminine aura that Lafayette possesses?
NE: My mother. I’ve seen my mother and I know my mother inside and out. I can mimic her. I can be her; because part of her spirit is in me. So in order to make Lafayette real, I literally channeled my mother to make his movements, his speech and his behavior natural and not like ‘Nelsan putting on gay,’ which would just offend the gay community. I channeled my mama.

You have a love interest this season. How do love scenes challenge you as a straight man portraying a gay relationship?
NE: It’s odd. You have to get used to another penis, another man, another hairy dude and all the things that come with another dude that all the chicks complain about. When we kiss and we’re cutting each other from our hair, or man-breath, or man-smell, because I’m a musty dude, I feel sorry for him a lot of the time. [But] if I’m squeamish or complaining you won’t know; that’s how it’s supposed to be. We are a gay couple and we try to make this love real, and I hope we succeeded.

  Ellis as Lafayette on True Blood

There aren’t many mortals left on the show. Ever wish your character had special powers?
NE: I like being mortal. When you get power, things get less fun because your control is so absolute. When you’re mortal, there are so many more tricks you can play and do to maneuver in this world because you don’t have the power. The survival playtime is, to me, more fun. I don’t want to be a vampire. If I’m a witch, then I would want to blow or possess the power of fire—so I could burn some mugs up.

What is like working with Ball?
NE: He’s genius. I mean, the man does nothing is by mistake, it’s all by design. Even when I talk to him about character choices and scenes and plotlines: ‘Maybe we should do this and maybe we should do that,’ and he goes ‘No, this is why this is the way it is.’ And he breaks it down and I go ‘Oh, well no wonder you’re Alan Ball, because you’re so frickin’ smart.’

The plotlines unfold at such an exponential rate. Do you have reservations about where the show is going?
NE: I have reservations on how big it’s getting—the bigness of it. I don’t want to spread too far out because I think the audience’s attention span is a little short and that they fall in love with snapshots. When it gets so large to where the actor in the world can’t keep up, then I’m like, Maybe it is getting too big. But other than that, no, you don’t really question too much what Alan does because obviously something is working.

Did you have any clue that the show would blow up like it did?
NE: No. The second season premiere was madness. That’s when everybody’s lives changed, where you have to move to a different place where no one has access to you. We were just like, Well, I guess I have to change gyms.

Vampire show fans are hardcore, like Trekkie hardcore.
NE: They’re very much like Trekkies. They’re loyal, they’ll dress up like you, they know your birthday and your mama’s name.

Is that flattering, scary or both?
NE: Scary. It’s flattering when a fan is flattering. When they’re coming up telling you your girlfriend’s last name and where she works and who your mama is and where you grew up and all this stuff, then you’re kind of like…. It’s life changing. Where you go changes. What you say changes. Who you let into your circle changes. You’re not even a celebrity, you’re just somebody who’s on a show that’s popular for the moment. All of the sudden you’re like, Jesus, I need to move into a house with bushes.

Working in the oversaturated vampire genre, do you worry about getting typecast?
NE: Not as a black man, no. I would get typed with the character I’m playing, not the genre. Because I’ve done all kinds of movies while I’ve been on the show, and none of them were related to sci-fi. But, I’ve also been offered gay roles out the wazoo.

Who in the business has given you good advice and helped you get where you are today?
NE: I would have to say Robert Downey Jr. first, then John Malkovich, then Jill Right. Also, Jamie Foxx, Cynthia Nixon and Kenneth Branagh. He was the first person I worked with; he taught me set etiquette.

—April Walloga
phototgraphs by art streiber/hbo; John P. Johnson/HBO


La Quinta Estación's Natalia Jimenez

How the Spanish songbird found her groove.

April 25, 2011

This fashion-forward femme fatale won hordes of international fans, platinum records and Grammys as the frontwoman for Mexico-based group La Quinta Estación. Though she brought a deep expressiveness to the group’s pop-chart hits, she always harbored a fiery rock goddess inside. “The first singers that I listened to when I was little were Janis Joplin and Patti Smith,” she recalls.

Jimenez finally had a chance to unleash that inner rocker while on hiatus from Estación last year, when she settled in Miami to work on a bilingual debut solo album. Creative sparks flew when she met legendary producer Emilio Estefan. “It was perfect from the start,” she says. The result is a record featuring plenty of catchy rock ballads, on which Jimenez plays guitar, keyboard and percussion.

Beyond her powerful pipes, she is known for her distinct style. “In the Latin market, you see so many girls who are too overtly sexy, and they all have their boobs out,” she says, preferring to strike a balance. “I would never go naked—I’d rather be elegant and sexy at the same time.”

—Arielle Castillo


Style Star: Nina Garcia

The Project Runway judge dishes on personal style and trends to avoid.

April 18, 2011

She’s the tough judge on Project Runway, whose smile can propel up-and-coming designers to the heights of exultation—or, with one withering glance, to the depths of despair. Nina Garcia’s pull-no-punches style has served her well throughout her career: After nearly a decade as the fashion director of Elle, Garcia jumped to Marie Claire in May 2008 (and it’s no accident that Project Runway, which had offered a fashion layout in Elle as one of its top prizes, soon followed). Her fourth book, Nina Garcia’s Look Book: What to Wear for Every Occasion, debuted last August, though it’s likely the birth of her second son, Alexander, was the highlight for Garcia in 2010. Here, the Colombian-born fashion journalist talks about what it takes to achieve great style, in Miami and beyond.

How would you describe “Miami style”?
NINA GARCIA: Miami Style is colorful, sexy, fun and vibrant!

You’ve had a few South Florida contestants on in past seasons of Project Runway. Are there any Miami designers you have your eye on as of late?
Yes! As a matter of fact, she is also a PR contestant. Her name is Alexandra Vidal and she makes the most beautiful and dreamy eveningwear. She sells everything at Bergdorf Goodman. She is very talented.

Describe your own personal “style strategy.”
NG: I invest in a few key pieces that have longevity and have fun with all the trendy accessories (jewels, shoes, etc.)

What’s your favorite item in your own wardrobe—something you’ll never part with?
NG: I will never part with my Chanel jackets they have been my go-to-piece for many years and they never go out of style.

Which trend do you wish would disappear?
NG: The 80s. They are over and done with already.

What is your greatest indulgence in life?
Many shoes.

—laurie brookins, TWITTER.COM/stylewriternyc

Around The Web
Aspen Peak Magazine Austin Way Magazine Boston Common Magazine Capitol File Magazine Gotham Magazine Hamptons Magazine Los Angeles Confidential Michigan Avenue Magazine Ocean Drive Magazine Philadelphia Style Magazine Vegas Magazine