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Meet 7 Incredible People Who Helped Define 2019

The Magnificent 7

From an 9-year-old civil rights advocate to a groundbreaking artist, these Austinites had a starring role in making the community around us a better place in 2019.

Denise Prince


Even if you’re not familiar with Denise Prince’s work, chances are you have been touched by it. If you were in North Austin in April, you may have seen her standing on Burnet Road beneath a billboard featuring the words “Captivating Not Captive” and two gloriously unlikely models in repose. Prince was dressed as a wizard, reciting a manifesto on beauty. The proclamation, like the images on the billboard, were of her own creation.

Read more on Denise Prince here.

Gabe Erales

Chef, Comedor

Gabe Erales never meant to become a chef. And yet today, he’s at the helm of Esquire’s Best New Restaurants of 2019 and is a rising star at the intersection of two global food trends. His résumé reads like a roll call of local and international culinary giants—from Noma in Copenhagen to Fonda San Miguel and Dai Due in Austin. Mixing influences from both authentic Mexican cuisine and the farm-to-table movement at Comedor, Erales upholds the ancient tenets of Mexican tradition by preaching the modern revival of masa.

Read more on Gabe Erales here.

Kai Shappley

Civil Rights Activist

“I’m Princess Little Red Riding Hood,” says 9-year-old Kai Shappley, animated by a new cherry-hued cape, quick to clarify the reference with a sweet, high-pitched flurry of conjunctions. “There’s this book called “Land of Stories” that has all the fairy tales, but the Little Red Riding Hood story is different, and there’s a lot of magic, and she’s so beautiful, and she becomes queen of her people, and …” While deeper affinities go unmentioned, it’s likely not lost on Kai that the book’s author, “Glee” actor Chris Colfer, is a fellow LGBTQ activist or that in his interpretation of the classic fairy tale, Red becomes the chosen leader of an acronymous movement, The C.R.A.W.L. (Citizen Riots Against Wolf Liberty) Revolution. Kai, who is transgender, has become the face of local trans youth and a pint-size, blue-eyed beacon of hope for the ACLU.

Read more on Kai Shappley here.

Laura Mayes

Co-founder, Mom 2.0

There’s a genuine, Texas-born, Austin-raised warmth about Laura Mayes. This welcoming energy also infuses her many online platforms. And it’s what she wants all women to feel when they walk through the doors of a Mom 2.0 Summit, which has revolutionized the way women converse about motherhood online.

Read more on Laura Mayes here.

Nathan Ryan

CEO Blue Sky Partners, Co-founder GoodPolitics, Public Servant

Nathan Ryan gets right to it: “Ultimately, people just want to avoid loneliness, feel safe and build community,” he says, sitting in the courtyard of an East Austin cocktail bar. Meeting to discuss his goal to create deeper dialogues in all areas of Austin, we are interrupted at least twice by contacts from one of his many social circles.

Read more on Nathan Ryan here.

Nina Means

Director, ACC Fashion Incubator

Nina Means doesn’t need to break the mold. She makes her own. In her mind, if the world’s prescribed pattern doesn’t fit— whether in fashion or business—it’s time for a new design. Leaving a career in public health, Means carved her own path into fashion at brands like Rebecca Taylor and H by Halston before launching her own line. Now, as director of Austin Community College’s Fashion Incubator, she is working to weave the future of fashion with the future of Austin. Both, she says, depend on sustainability and technology.

Read more on Nina Means here.

Veronica & Miguel Garza

Co-founders, Siete Foods

Just five years after introducing their almond flour tortillas to Austin, the family behind Siete Foods have changed the game for grain-free products across the country. This year, they raised $90 million to expand the brand, innovating new products and adding members to the growing team. Today, Siete products are available in more than 13,000 stores, including Target and Whole Foods, but it sounds as though the Garzas are just getting started.

Read more on Veronica and Miguel Garza here.