The 18 Pittsburgh Personalities You Should Know in 2016

Have you ever wondered who to meet at a party? Have you gone out and remembered seeing that person somewhere before? This is the list that tells you who they are.

I took the 2015 Jekko photo archive and applied facial recognition to find the most photographed Pittsburgh personalities. Data pool: 10,000 photos, 6,200 faces, 800 named, 600 events, 1 Foo.  What makes this approach unique is its integrity. You can’t bribe your way on. You actually have to get out of the house.

Leigh Solomon Pugliano

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Leigh Solomon Pugliano is our most photographed Pittsburgher of the year. This is before we add in her adorable kids and fantastic husband who often tag along. She was seen at over 27 events this year from Unblurred, to Style Week, to I Made It Market. Outside of her enchanting smile, Leigh is a small business consulting power house. This year she also made a mark curating solid exhibits at Fieldwork Contemporary Art Gallery.

Alberto Benzaquen

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Pittsburgh believes in Alberto. They even declared April 12th 2015, I Believe in Pittsburgh Day, named after one of his projects. He has a knack of showing up to the most diverse range of events in Pittsburgh. From gallery crawls to start up events, his networking genius is only eclipsed by his entrepreneurial spirit. Regardless of where you meet up, his excitement is contagious. For many, he’s the unofficial ambassador for Latino Pittsburgh.

Natalie Bencivenga

Natalie-Mia-Bencivenga-John-Columbo-1Natalie Bencivenga is on the right. She’s pictured with her sister Mia Bencivenga imitating the John Colombo’s famous pose. It’s cheating she’s on this list because she’s the Post-Gazette’s Seen columnist, but Natalie has her strengths beyond that. Her background in social work allows her to unravel complicated social situations simply, much like Alexander cut through the Gordian Knot. You’re doing something right if she’s at your event.

Wadria Taylor

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It shouldn’t be surprising that the founder of Pittsburgh Style Week knows how to dress. She can be seen around town at the fashionable events and supporting her vast network of friends. Events are in her DNA. But don’t challenge her, she knows how to throw down on the dance floor.

Randy Gilson

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Randy, better known as the Imagineer of Randyland, meets around a thousand people a week at his house. If his voice is always volume 10, and his heart is set to 11. When he can shake the responsibility of running a free museum, he crashes art crawls. This year, he put on a small exhibit at Space Gallery. It broke records and was extended twice – something that almost never happens in Pittsburgh.

Leah Lizarondo

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Multiple threat Leah Lizarondo is out to change the world. She just might already have. From storytelling as Brazen Kitchen to her food conservation projects at 412 Food Rescue she still finds time in her busy schedule for family and friends. If you’re ever wondering where to eat in Pittsburgh, check her Twitter, her knowledge of great food is second to none.

Babs Carryer

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Babs is an unstoppable force in the Pittsburgh startup scene. Last year alone she’s coached at Thrill Mill, Fulbright Scholars, and countless others in how to stop excuses and make money in business. She also supports her former students by going out to their award ceremonies. She’s one of my favorite personalities in Pittsburgh due to her blunt advice. Her take it or leave it attitude is wonderfully refreshing. She’s also always right, and I swear she didn’t pay me to say that.

Nina Barbuto

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Nina Barbuto, pictured with Carrie Nardini, had a fantastic year. She was named director of Assemble, helped thousands of kids join the maker revolution, and got to see Rock-afire Explosion at Billy Bob’s Wonderland. A Pittsburgh Evangelist and holder of a level two Pittsburgh Secret Pass, she will destroy your team at any Yinzer trivia night… but in a loving, caring way. She doesn’t have a mean bone in her body.

Ronda Zegarelli

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Marketing Maven Ronda Zegarelli, seen here with Socialite Anthropologist Kate Benz, has pulled the strings to many of the year’s top events including Heaven and The Chocolate Bar at the Benedum. Ronda’s super power is she never gets stressed. Sold out event? Political unrest? She just shrugs it off with a laugh. The show must go on. No one said it was easy, but Ronda proves it doesn’t have to be that hard.

Sarah Zeffiro

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World renowned artist Sarah Zeffiro has been ferociously attacking the canvas as well as gallery events. Her and Leigh crushed it this year. In between events, she can be visited at her arts studio at Creative Cube.

Gisele Barreto Fetterman

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Gisele Barreto Fetterman balances her life as a Pittsburgh icon and bad ass mom. She’s the founder of the Braddock Free Store and co-conspirator at 412 Food Rescue. Her life’s mission is tackling the problems in front of us that are often ignored. Rumor has it, she’s married to some politician.

Richard Parsakian

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Richard Parsakian grows on you. Outside of owning Eons Fashion in Shadyside, Richard is a magical force in designing the atmosphere behind fundraisers and parties. He is a uncompromising perfectionist with a heart for causes. Notable examples form 2015 are Attack Theatre’s Dirty Ball VIP, Planned Parenthood’s War on Women Art Show, and Mayor Bill Peduto’s Holiday Party.

Pete Spynda

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Pete Spynda is the driving force behind Pandemic Stompy Stompy Dance Party, Bayardstown Social Club, and Weather Permitting. Think good music that brings people out.

David Bush

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David Bush has such a wonderful personality and a smile to match. It makes me overlook the fact he’s a banker. He and his partner are the quintessential Pittsburgh socialites. What sets him apart is his fashion expertise.

Tim McVay

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Tim McVay does the standard handful of boards, chairing fundraisers, and the things you’d expect from a modern man of stature. Despite all those social responsibilities that would stress others out, his take on life is sweet as honey. In a world of, “Who are you and what do you do?” Tim’s lovely opener is, “What’s your passion?”

D. S. Kinsel

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D. S. Kinsel has gotten a lot of press lately. The anti-authoritarian artist and curator of Boom Concepts is balancing the many professions he juggles. Recently he’s doing a Third Thursday at CMOA.  As his projects expand across the city, I expect 2016 will be a year of focus for him.

Kate Colligan

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Kate Colligan has an interesting perspective on social interactions. Her background as an archivist gives her x-ray view into the connections between people. Imagine her as the anthropologist of the group. When navigating the complicated interworkings of modern society, she’s the best navigator around.

Eileen French Jordan

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Elieen French, pictured with Rachel Carlson, is another one behind the fascinating marketing projects and PR campaigns that dot the valley’s landscape. Partner at Revive Marketing Group, she is a jack of all trades. Don’t let that fool you. Her mastery lies in launching creative campaigns around memorable events like this year’s Party at the Pier.

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