By JulIa Ford-Carther
Photography by Billy Rood | May 1, 2015 | People
If all of Miami is a stage—and an international one at that—these women are the lead players. From real estate to politics and entertainment, they are the visionaries, community supporters, and thought leaders who’ve built Miami’s past, and are shaping its future.
Jacket ($485) and dress ($675), Theory. Neiman Marcus, Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305-865-6161. Clear crystal enameled in black Icone bracelet, Lalique ($650). Bal Harbour Shops, 305-537-5150. Earrings, Figueroa’s own
After 17 years shaping Miami’s skyline, now as senior vice president of development at The Related Group, and previously in the public sector with Miami-Dade County, Sonia Figueroa isn’t just influencing the city—she’s creating it.
Describe your work in the public sector: I started in the planning department. It was extremely exciting because Dade County did not have a comprehensive development master plan to guide how municipalities grew. Then I went to work for the City of Miami for Jorge Pérez, and got involved with the housing issues to redevelop inner-city areas.
What has the transition to The Related Group meant to you? It’s been an incredible ride. I live on Key Biscayne, and when I walk on the beach, I’m able to see the tip of South Beach, those beautiful high-rises, and know that I had a part in that.
How are you shaping the future of Miami? We’re building the Biscayne Line, a bayfront pedestrian path that will link properties in Edgewater. On South Miami Avenue, we are big proponents of making that a Lincoln Road type of street during certain times to [allow] public transportation and cut traffic.
What are the advantages or disadvantages to being a woman in your field? You have to command respect by portraying confidence [in order] for [men] to look past your physical attributes. At the same time, women have a way of nurturing people along [to get] the best performance possible. Who is your role model: The most influential person in my life was my father. He was always a friend. That support and belief in me was incredibly sustaining. Best advice he gave you: Lead by example. I hope I’ve instilled that in my sons. 315 S. Biscayne Blvd., Miami, 305-460-9900
The coanchor for Univision’s highly rated Primer Impacto news program, Pamela Silva Conde has won six Emmy Awards, was one of People en Español’s “50 Most Beautiful People,” and has cohosted The View. She’s also a strong believer in using her platform to help shape her community.
Did being Miami-based give you a career advantage? I always wanted to do Spanish media because I wanted to serve my community. Miami’s a pivotal point. You have to be where the action is.
What role do you see Miami having in the world today? Miami has had an evolution in terms of news impact. We just built the largest newsroom in the country with a joint venture we did with Fusion, and were able to bring Univision News and ABC network [together]. It may be five or 10 years, [but] Miami’s definitely going to be a more competitive city than it ever was.
How do you pay it forward? With the [Pamela Silva Conde Scholarship], we have given six scholarships at Florida International University. I’m involved with the students because I want to maximize the impact that these scholarships have. That’s the purpose of doing philanthropic work, to build new generations of people with the same mentality.
How else do you give back to the community? I’m part of the committee of St. Jude Miami and I’m on the national advisory board for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. There’s also Amigos for Kids, which focuses on neglected and abused children. Throughout the year, we give counseling and seminars for families. We want to empower parents.
How do you manage it all? The second you start thinking, I could do this, it actually becomes manageable. Your attitude influences everything.
Last August, Dany Garcia won her IFBB Women’s Physique Pro Card and the Women’s Physique Overall competition in the 2014 North American Championship. Dress, Ralph Lauren Black Label ($995). Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305-861-2059. Brandy pumps, Christian Louboutin ($945). Miami Design District, 161 NE 40th St., 305-576-6820. Rings, Garcia’s own
The Plantation-based founder and president of The Garcia Companies, Dany Garcia also talent-manages talent including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (her ex-husband), is a cofounder and producing partner with Johnson of $7 Bucks Productions, is the first-ever Women’s Physique Division athlete signed to the Weider roster, and is dedicated to her family and giving back.
To what type of projects are you drawn? First, it has to resonate with me in a way that I can see it as an extension of myself. I’m confident if something moves me, it’s going to resonate with audiences. I want them to be moved, entertained, and to be a different person at the end of it. Whether it’s Ballers, [TNT’s] Wake Up Call, or G.I. Joe: Retaliation, it should make an impact.
What made HBO’s Ballers, out in June, so exciting? It’s a love story to the NFL and to Miami. It’s the truth about what happens when [athletes] leave the field and they’re struggling and trying to be better. For Dwayne and I, we know where these stories came from.
You’re as dedicated to giving back to South Florida as you are to your family, fitness, and business. My first taste of business came from a student work program [at the University of Miami] in the school of business. The women around me were incredible mentors. Being involved as a trustee and the past alumni [association] president was natural. An investment in philanthropy [in South Florida] has such great ramifications. I established The Beacon Experience for 63 at-risk students. We have been tutoring them and giving them social support [since second grade]. When they go to college, our foundation pays for their tuition.
What’s your secret to balancing it all? Take care of yourself first. I love bodybuilding. My training is an expression of myself. With a healthy body, I can make greater decisions.
Dress, Brunello Cucinelli ($3,895). Saks Fifth Avenue, Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305-865-1100. 18k white-gold diamond Diva necklace ($7,200) and 18k white-gold and diamond Bzero1 ring ($8,500), Bulgari. Miami Design District, 140 NE 39th St., 305-576-6506. Shoes, Parets’ own
Young and ambitious, Dani Parets started her own styling company at age 18, and now, at 22, has worked with familiar faces on New York Fashion Week’s runways and was named one of StyleCaster’s “25 Most Stylish People in Miami."
One thing you wish the rest of the world knew about Miami: There is a community here [of] hard workers [who] want to make more of themselves.
How did you get started? Interning at Wilhelmina when I was 15. I ran the model boot camp. The girls would come in and they didn’t know what to wear, or they were awkward. Some were shy, and I tried to break them out of their shells. I would take them shopping and make them feel comfortable. Eventually, I started doing that solely.
Biggest influence in your life: My mom is my biggest role model. She’s been through a lot, and she’s a single mom. [She] is a jewelry designer; I started working with her when I was 13, going to trunk shows. That’s where I learned to be sociable, talking to people, selling them things, making them feel comfortable and beautiful.
Best style advice she gave you: Not to be like the others. Go against the grain.
How do you want to impact Miami’s fashion industry? There is a market here that is growing. Miami—where you live—should be a part of who you are. This is a beach town, not Beverly Hills. I want people to embrace who they are and feel comfortable wearing what they want.
Sexiest quality in a woman: Simple elegance. A woman who’s beautiful, intelligent, and confident but doesn’t need to talk about it and is humble.
How do you deal with image pressures in your industry? It’s difficult. I’ve learned to have thick skin. It’s about being comfortable in who you are. Your personality shines more than anything.
Advice to your younger self: This too shall pass. One day, none of this is going to matter.
In 1992, at 26, Debbie Wasserman Schultz became Florida’s youngest female legislator ever elected. She would also become the fi rst Jewish congresswoman elected from Florida. Jacket, Joie ($298). Saks Fifth Avenue, Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305-865-1100. Top, Blush Private Label ($52). Blush Boutique, 1935 West Ave., Miami Beach, 305-531-3050. Conch shell earrings ($35), coral necklace ($40), and peach coral bracelet ($40), Floridian Ocean Jewelry. Lincoln Road Outdoor Antique & Collectible Market, 818 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, 786-623-8773. Sandals, Giuseppe Zanotti Design ($775). Bal Harbour Shops, 305-868-0133. Pants, Wasserman Schultz’s own
As the US representative for Florida’s 23rd Congressional District, serving Weston to Miami Beach, and now in her 22nd year in public office, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a Miami resident with a direct line to the nation’s capital.
What’s a typical week for you? I have three incredibly important jobs: being a mom to my three children first, representing my constituents in congress, and then serving as the chair of the Democratic National Committee.
The secret to maintaining the balance: A partner who can keep you grounded and be there day-to-day when you can’t. Also, to not be afraid to ask for help.
Who influenced you in life? My parents instilled in me that a little girl in America can grow up and be anything she wants—even the president of the United States. It inspired a lot of confidence in me. I want to pull another woman up the ladder as I climb.
At 41, you were diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. What was your reaction? There was no other option for me except survival. After going through a year of seven surgeries privately, I introduced the EARLY Act, which is the Education and Awareness Requires Learning Young Act.
How would you like to influence Miami’s many changes to come? Helping to ensure that we have the transportation funding that is essential for us to move around effectively if we’re going to continue to grow and be an economic international hub. Also, we have to get a handle on the impact of global warming. We’re at ground zero when it comes to climate change and sea-level rise, so we can’t pretend that’s not an issue.
Spear has won an AIA Silver Medal and the Rome Prize in Architecture, and the landscape architecture arm of her firm, ArquitectonicaGEO, has worked on prominent projects such as the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science and the Pérez Art Museum Miami. Clothing and jewelry, Spear’s own
In 1977, Laurinda Spear, along with her husband, Bernardo Fort-Brescia, cofounded Arquitectonica, eventually helping establish the firm as one of the world’s most recognized names in architecture. Today, the company has 10 global offices and a portfolio of significant international works, including Brickell City Centre here in Miami.
What did you envision when you started Arquitectonica? I thought we would be able to do great designs and travel the world. I wasn’t focusing on success.
What was a major turning point in your career? The realization that, to stay relevant to myself, I had to become a landscape architect as well. It changed how I look at architecture, planning, buildings. It’s a more thoughtful way of approaching architecture.
What has it been like to contribute so much to Miami’s makeup? Our firm has a lot of great, really competent people in it. My contribution has been to make [Arquitectonica] a vehicle for other great designers and thinkers and people who’ll move to Miami to be part of changing the urban environment.
How has your firm evolved? Architects peripherally have to be involved in the politics of how things work if they expect to get things done. If you want to make changes in your environment, you have to have a voice. When we first started out, we definitely did not have that voice.
How would you like to have an impact on the future of Miami? By having a viable, lively architecture, landscape, and interiors firm that attracts people to work and live here who also will be changing it. 2900 Oak Ave., Miami, 305-372-1812
Little Haiti native Eveline Pierre’s varied interests have created a dynamic background for her. From her title as founder and executive director of the Haitian Heritage Museum to her empowerment coaching and tech-sphere-based networking groups, one theme is clear: Pierre is making a strong impact on Miami.
Why did you want to start the museum? Growing up, I was fortunate enough to go to Haiti every summer. It taught me at a very young age that what I would see in the media wasn’t necessarily what was happening in Haiti. I felt I could tell a better story.
How did you become an empowerment coach? [Through the museum,] we teach kids to have self-esteem and self-respect, and feel honored that they are Haitian-American. A lot of times when we went to the schools, they were denying the fact that they were Haitian, so we [tailored] our programming to meet that need.
Why focus on young women and Miami’s Caribbean-American workforce? That segment of the population is not quite where we need to be. [Women’s Technology Alliance] is trying to empower women with the tools to be able to come to the table. These women are looking for empowerment via money, marketing, and mentorship. I’m also starting Miami Caribbean Code. The Beacon Council says there are 900,000 Caribbean-Americans in the workforce in South Florida. The main issue I hear when I go to tech conferences is the workforce is not here. Why not work with this workforce that’s here so they can be economically viable and be a part of the larger picture that is happening in South Florida? 141 NE Second Ave., #105C, Miami, 305-371-5988
Jumpsuit, Roland Mouret ($2,645). Neiman Marcus, Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305-865-6161. Shell ring bracelet ($35) and Wave seashell ring ($60), Floridian Ocean Jewelry. Lincoln Road Outdoor Antique & Collectible Market, 818 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, 786-623-8773. Sandals, Lieberman’s own
A staple in Miami’s business, arts, philanthropic, and social scenes, Diane Lieberman has become a local household name for her success as the owner of SBI Realty, a 100-agent-strong luxury real estate brokerage, and for her continuous contributions to the cultural development of Miami.
What’s your work-life philosophy? You don’t have to [work] 24/7 to be great; you have to be smart at it. I have a family, children, grandchildren, organizations that I’m involved in, a husband, parents. I still like to get to the gym every day, play polo and ride horses, play tennis every week.
You’ve said your trick to balancing it all is being present. This is one of the major secrets in life: compartmentalizing. When I’m at work, I do what I need to, and I love what I do. But if I’m with my grandchildren, I’m not answering my phone. If I’m out to dinner with my husband, my phone is in my bag.
Philanthropy is a huge part of your family’s lives. When I first met my husband, he encouraged me to get involved with the [Jewish] Federation. He used to say, “The more I give, the more I get.” When we came down here, we got involved with the JCC, and we pledged to build a theater there. We would bus in schools of children who had never gone to the theater [as part of the Alan & Diane Lieberman Children’s Cultural Arts Series]. Now we’re very involved with the Bass Museum, and we’re going to build a new wing on the Bass. [Art] makes the city thrive.
You must be at an event every night. [Alan] is on the board of the New World Symphony, which we go to two or three times a month. I’m on the Bass and the Greater Miami Jewish Federation boards. We’re active at the [Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts]. We probably go once a week.
How do you want to help shape Miami’s future? If you participate, just like anything else in life, you get so much out of it. Miami is giving me a lot more than I give Miami. 1680 Meridian Ave., Ste. 102, Miami Beach, 305-788-5030
Jacket, Giorgio Armani ($2,845). Neiman Marcus, Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305-865-6161. Dress, Blush Private Label ($42). Blush Boutique, 1935 West Ave., Miami Beach, 305-531-3050. Yellow-gold and onyx Bulgari Bulgari bracelet, Bulgari ($1,350). Miami Design District, 140 NE 39th St., 305-576-6506. Juliette sandals, Alexandre Birman ($690). Saks Fifth Avenue, Bal Harbour Shops, 305-865-1100. Necklace and earrings, Succar Ferré’s own
Claudia Succar Ferré comes from a long line of public servants—starting with her grandfather, former Mayor of Miami Maurice A. Ferré. Now, as director of public affairs at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center, the 34-year-old is responsible for programming, funding, and supporting the center’s partnership with Miami-Dade Parks & Open Spaces and the Miami-Dade Public School System.
Tell us about the programs at the center. Thirty percent of our programs are geared to inner-city, underprivileged, [and] foster care youth that have never seen the water. We’re educating these groups and bringing them on free field trips. We also do a Patterns of Nature art project with an artist, where we create different marine animals [using collected] garbage.
Does environmental awareness spill over into your personal life? It’s who I am. It’s why my sister and brother and I have all decided to be here in Miami. It’s now our turn to say what we need to see in the future in Miami. And if we want it for future generations, we have to teach children.
You’re also championing child literacy as the youngest member and vice president of the board of Friends of the Miami-Dade Public Library. Libraries are restructuring; I wanted to participate in that conversation. I grew up going to the Coral Gables library. [It] was really important in my life.
What does it mean to be influential at a young age? When I came [back] to Miami, I saw the lack of leadership at my age. Since being on these boards, I realized that everything I say, they are connecting with. These boards need young insight; they need fresh voices. 6767 Crandon Blvd., Key Biscayne, 305-361-6767
Styling by Kristina Kitchen for Artists at Wilhelmina. Hair by Alexander Sampson at abtp. Makeup by Paola Orlando at abtp. Shot on location at the Thompson Miami Beach