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BY LINDA LEE
PHOTOGRAPHY BY PRESSCOTT MCDONALD | February 1, 2012 | People
Jason and Katina Taylor
Shortly before New Year’s Day, Dolphins outside linebacker/defensive end Jason Taylor, 37, announced he was retiring from football after spending 13 years in Miami. But there’s an upside. While the city will lose one of the most beloved and celebrated Dophins of the last two decades, a player who was named both NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year and the NFL Man of the Year, it means Jason Taylor is here to stay. He and his wife, Katina, noted philanthropists in town, can continue their good works locally, spread their influence, and not worry that an NFL trade might take them to another city.
A key involvement for the couple is the Jason Taylor Foundation, which has contributed more than $2,500,000 toward programs for underprivileged children. “We run it in a very free and democratic way,” Jason says. “Between myself, my wife, and my director, we’re always throwing ideas out there.”
With her interest in physical fitness, Katina also began Camp Katina—Cartwheels to Character, a gymnastics, cheerleading, and character-building program for girls age seven to 12. She appeared in a 10-week workout video series aimed at girls in grades three to five. The couple’s other foundation activities include after-school literacy and back-to-school clothes shopping programs, mentoring, golf and pingpong fundraising tournaments, and a football camp.
Jason’s retirement might mean that Katina will ramp up her career in broadcasting again (she was a sports reporter for CBS4 in Miami). “She’s got the face and the attitude, the energy, and the personality for it,” Jason says. “She’s got a lot more personality than I do.” Katina responds, “He would like to take a back seat and relax—he’s a huge cheerleader and would like me to work. But I love being a wife.”
Katina, 36, grew up in rural Texas, and Jason was raised in suburban Pittsburgh. Football and Miami, in fact, brought them together. Her brother is the linebacker Zach Thomas, Jason’s former Dolphins teammate. “[Zach] was the coolest—I was the little sister,” she says. Katina was also an enthusiastic dancer. Jason, not so much. At their wedding in Pampa, Texas, in 2001, she says, “He just swayed back and forth.” His moves, however, improved greatly following his appearance on Dancing with the Stars in 2008. “He can do whatever he puts his mind to,” she says.
Sundays will often find them out on the boat with their three children, Isaiah, Mason, and Zoe. “We balance each other out. We’re best friends. We laugh, and giggle at the kids,” Katina says. “He came from a really rough beginning, and over the years he became an amazing man.” She may wait until the children are a little older to pursue her television career, but Jason may not stick with retirement for long. “I wouldn’t mind doing the movies,” he says.
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Michael and Nicole Simkins
Michael Simkins and Nicole Kaufman Simkins are that rarity in Miami—a second-generation power couple, each hailing from an influential local business family. Michael heads up Lion Associates, a Miami-based conglomerate with annual revenues in excess of $100 million, which includes Simkins Industries, a manufacturer of folding cartons; Westfield Financial real estate, with holdings in eight states and Canada; and Lion Financial. Nicole’s family owns Charles Kaufman Enterprises, an 80-year-old diamond concern located in the Dupont Building downtown, the local go-to society jeweler for decades. Nicole and her mother, Barbara, handle design duties for the company, helmed by her father, Donald, and cultivate their considerable celebrity clientele. When Nicole sold Jennifer Lopez her blue diamond, she played a role in launching the international interest in colored diamonds. Then there’s the couple’s connection to Miami art royalty: Michael’s sister Michelle is married to famed collector Jason Rubell.
While building on their parents’ success, they’re continuing the Simkins and Kaufman families’ charitable interests, notably the Leon J. Simkins Charitable Foundation, as well as diabetes research, Jackson Memorial Hospital,Women of Tomorrow, and the Love and Hope Ball (Nicole recently helped found the Young Society of Love and Hope). They're big-time players on the local social and arts scenes, too-Nicole and Michael were founding members of Soho Beach House and are members of the junior host committee for Art Basel Miami Beach.
Nicole says their philanthropic involvement means a chronically booked calendar. “I have either a [social or charity-related] lunch and dinner every day. As for Art Basel—I think we took one night off!” Luckily, her husband, whom she met in Tel Aviv during a semester abroad, enjoys the whirl. “Michael never gets tired,” she says. “He’s like the Energizer Bunny.” He agrees: “I’m down for anything.” In line with many other Miami socialites, the Simkinses, with their young son and daughter, Eli and Jaden, take their summer vacation in Aspen. Sundays they spend on their boat with the kids, or at Soho Beach House.
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Anastasia Koutsioukis and Ahmet Erkaya
There is the power of money, the power of giving, the power of fame. And then there is a quieter kind of power that involves setting up a place where intellectuals, artists, world travelers, the foreign-born, ex-New Yorkers, and Miami Beach residents tired of the South Beach party scene can find one another. Mandolin Aegean Bistro in the Design District has become just that place. Owners Anastasia Koutsioukis and Ahmet Erkaya met in New York, where Anastasia, who loved design, was working in marketing/brand education for LVMH cosmetics, and where Ahmet discovered that he was tired of finance, but wanted instead to be a chef. He began by managing a restaurant. But still there was the dream of doing something together.
They knew they wanted to share the food, style, and music of their mutual cultures: Greek and Turkish. They traveled. They wrote a menu. They considered California and the South of France. “All we needed was a setting—something similar to a Greek island setting,” she says. Seeing the Design District in 2009 was love at first sight.
They found a house built in 1939 on NE Second Avenue that they felt could be transformed into both a restaurant and a cultural statement. “Greeks and Turks have been rivals throughout history,” she says. “This is the only restaurant I know of that proudly announces itself as Greek and Turkish.”
Mandolin, painted a cheerful blue and white reminiscent of a Mediterranean cottage, opened in the winter of 2009. Ahmet and Anastasia gathered dining room décor on their frequent drives (“We love road trips,” he says), and especially at the markets in Mount Dora, Florida. They consider exploring historic sites and local Miami haunts their favorite way to spend a Sunday.
In just two years, they have built the restaurant into a success, drawing customers far and wide for relaxed, lingering lunches. Mandolin has proved such a hit that the pair has plans to open a new Floridian fish shack just blocks away. They’ve also recently purchased a house in the neighborhood, and consider their customers to be friends and often neighbors. Best of all, Anastasia says, they continue to be inspired by each other. “We don’t consider ourselves a power couple,” Ahmet says. “We’d be better in a story called Happy Couples.”
Edgardo and Ana Cristina Defortuna
She is pretty modest,” Edgardo Defortuna says of his wife, Ana Cristina. “She is the social one in the family, and she has an unbelievable personality. When we travel to foreign countries, buyers are totally drawn to her.” Those buyers are international investors in the Defortunas’ real estate developments, as well as buyers of Miami luxury condominiums. The Defortuna company, Fortune International Realty, comes by its Latin American client focus naturally: Edgardo grew up in Argentina, Ana Cristina in Peru.
In 2007, Fortune International Realty was credited with $563 million in sales, third behind The Related Group and Lennar in South Florida, yet neither one of the pair started out in real estate. She holds a degree from Boston University and was planning to work at a bank; he studied biomechanical engineering in Argentina. They each arrived in Miami at the behest of their families. Edgardo, 56, worked his way up from managing properties for foreign owners to starting a company—the foundation of his eventual real estate empire. Ana Cristina arrived to help with her father’s cotton business. They met 17 years ago on Key Biscayne, and married one year later.
These days, he handles the finance and business end of Fortune International Realty, and she works closely with architects on providing the features their clients want, making sure to have the latest in high-tech and concierge services. Their specialty, she says, is listening to prospective buyers. The Brazilians, everyone’s favorite new customers in Miami, are comprised of two types, Edgardo says. “One is more interested in the value and investment, the numbers. They prefer the business corridor [on Brickell] because the prices are lower and demand for rental is very large.” But for Brazilians buying for themselves, it has to be on the Beach, from Sunny Isles all the way up to Hollywood. It was Ana Cristina who came up with the idea of dual sunrise and sunset pools when buyers complained that the condo towers blocked the afternoon sun.
As a couple with so many interests in Latin America, and who spend their winter holiday in Punta del Este, Uruguay, they focus their philanthropy in that region, as well. The Defortunas are big backers of Manos del Sur, which helps children in 10 countries throughout Latin America, and they do a lot of direct giving as well, often through their church, St. Agnes in Key Biscayne. “We love anything that is child-oriented,” Ana Cristina says. They have three sons, aged eight, six, and four, who often accompany them on trips to Latin America. “They see the need,” their mother says. “They are exposed to poverty in the world.” As a result, she says, the children are amazingly generous. “For their birthdays, they say, ‘No gifts. Let’s do something for St. Jude’s Hospital.’” Their Latin roots are evident on Saturdays, too, says Edgardo: Those are reserved for father-son soccer games.
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