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Photograph: Courtesy Bea Helman

10 women who are making New York City a better place (2019)

Meet the women who are making our city more beautiful, fun, delicious and stellar

Written by
Jennifer Picht

In honor of Women’s History Month (that’s all of March, pal) we’re calling the girls to the front and spotlighting ten fierce femmes who, according to us, are kicking ass in New York right now. We’re talking about the community builders, advocates for social change, comedians, artists and event hosts that motivate and inspire us to leave our couch. So, in the most convenient definitions, meet our NYC Wonder Women. You may recognize a few of them as the girl who makes you laugh-cry at Club Cumming, the host of that out-there rager where you danced into the wee hours, or the lead chef of the falafel joint where you go to get your hangover food the next day. No matter what her specialty may be, these New York icons are so impressive and inspiring that they each deserve a non-joking “Who is she?”

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Women's History Month in NYC

RECOMMENDED: Women of the Year (2020)

Meet our NYC Wonder Women

Julia Cumming

Who she is: Bass player and vocalist of rock trio Sunflower Bean

Why we love her: As she sings during “King Of The Dudes,” the first rebellious track of the group’s 2019 EP, Cumming is shaking her proverbial fist by restating the hard fact that women wear the pants (and the crown) too. During an age where the fight for equality feels just as predominant as it was nearly 70 years ago, Cumming’s assertive, raspy vocals sound very self-assured. The 23-year-old frontwoman is using her fierce voice in another badass and commanding way by leading an all-ages activism group Anger Can Be Power!

What’s next: Cumming and her organization just hosted a free event called “New Year No Fear” at Baby’s All Right in Williamsburg. “It’s an opportunity for people of all ages to refocus and energize their activism in 2019,” says Cumming. The afternoon featured impactful speakers like Suraj Patel (a Democratic candidate for New York's 12th Congressional District in the U.S. House) as well as attendees from other grassroots organizations for folks to connect with. Cumming says more events like this are in the works. Rock on.

X Mayo

Who she is: Comedian who runs “Who Made The Potato Salad?” and writer for The Daily Show.

Why we love her: Not only does she make us laugh, but we admire X Mayo for building a community of entirely POC writers, actors and directors that perform during her popular, all-women-led sketch comedy show “Who Made The Potato Salad?” Each performance includes a DJ, liquor, cookout bites, dancers, and what Mayo terms “a balance of righteousness and ratchetness." Most of all, we love how she has helped bring more POC female comedians to the spotlight. “If I only present problems and not solutions, then I am part of the problem. I have a heart for my community and want to help people achieve their dreams. I create shows that only star people of color because I want to create a platform for us to amplify our voices, showcase our talent, and tell our stories,” says Mayo.

What’s next: Mayo is one the talented acts to see during Pop Show (Union Hall, Brooklyn; Mar 15; $8, $10 day of show), an event where comedians perform original pop songs or give presentations. She's also performing with a hip-hop improv crew during NYC ImprovFest 2019: Take it Personal With Cipha Sounds (The Peoples Improv Theater, Flatiron; Mar 21; $12).



Who she is: Producer of all-inclusive queer parties like Holy Mountain. 

Why we love her: Worshippers of New York’s party scene know that a Lady Fag-hosted rager is where nightcrawlers go to church. “Nightlife has always been an important part of the fabric of New York City, and I’m proud to do my little part to keep New York special after dark,” says Ladyfag. She’s being modest: Her “little” ragers are kind of a big deal as her next venture has an anticipated 3,000-person guest list.

What’s next: LadyFag just wrapped shooting her second short film Holy Mountain: Poison & Pearls which will come out via IGTV and Vimeo the week before her next Holy Mountain event (Avant Gardner, Williamsburg; Mar 22; $25-$40). The party is described as a surrealist bash across four rooms with infinite DJs. “It's basically a rave meets a Fellini film with Tim Burton characters,” says LadyFag. “It's much more than a party. It’s a community center and nexus for all types to come together. I'm sort of just a platform for other people to be creative and to come out and dance, so come dance all over me. Everyone is welcome!”

Catherine Cohen

Who she is: Comedian with a solo cabaret show called "The Twist? She's Gorgeous."

Why we love her: "It’s pure heaven to perform in NYC,” says the musical funny woman with the voice of an angel. (She even makes singing about burying a misogynist alive in the dirt sound cute.) We’re girl crushing on her because of her totally transparent and coyly orchestrated songs accompanied by the talented Henry Koperski on the keys. She lays—or croons—it all out there, like her one bit where she announces that her high school nickname was “Critter’ before it was shortened to “Crit,” which sounds a lot like, uh, you know. “I am a lot like a clit. I’m extremely sensitive, I love to be touched and straight guys don’t know what to do with me,” jokes Cohen. This girl is not afraid to take her self-deprication to dark places or find the light-heartedness in hard matters like being diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. She may, at times, be the butt of the joke. But she does so while still affirming that she is fabulous, and we couldn't agree more. 

What’s next: In addition to performing every Wednesday at Club Cumming and Joe's Pub once a month, catch her on International Women's Day when she opens for music artist Sir Babygirl (Baby’s All Right, Williamsburg; Mar 8; $10–$12).


Einat Admony

Who she is: Israeli chef that has built an impressive empire of West Village restaurants.

Why we love her: Owning one of the best falafel chains (Taïm), reopening New York staple (Balaboosta), and debuting a third eatery and couscous bar (Kish-Kash) this past year alone, Einat Admony is hungry when it comes to flourishing her career, and isn’t afraid to step out of her comfort zone. (FYI: She’s breaking into New York’s comedy scene and performed at the Comedy Cellar las month). Determined and adventurous as exhibited in her extracurriculars and use of ingredients for seemingly traditional Middle Eastern cuisine, she has a personality and knack for creating dishes that make you feel at home. Dining in one of her restaurants is like having a meal in the comfort of your own apartment, and for many New York transplants, any comparison to a home cooked meal is crucial. “I thought for years that I do what I do only because I would be unemployed and couldn't do anything else. But it's actually because nothing gives me greater pleasure than cooking, feeding and make people happy,” says Einat.

What’s next: Einat is the new spokeswomn for Sabra hummus and is currently working on a TV cooking and comedy show (we stan). She is also releasing a cookbook called SHUK this fall. 

Keavy Landreth and Allison Kave

Who they are: Co-owners of bakery and cocktail joint Butter & Scotch in Crown Heights. 

Why we love them: These booze-touting bakers know what the people of New York (okay, we) really want: A place to drink a good cocktail with a slice of cake as a chaser. The spot puts women to the front with certain cocktails that are created in honor of empowering females. The joint’s latest beverage, the Are You You!, tastes like a stick of “Juicy Fruit” gum and was influenced by cultural facilitator and artist Shantell Martin whose work covers intersectionality, identity and play. Unwind and imbibe with a slice of Birthday Cake covered in sprinkles, and you can feel extra good about spending moolah here as $1 from each cocktail sold on the seasonal menu is donated to Planned Parenthood.

What’s next: The bakery-and-bar is selling pink T-shirts that say “Count Orgasms Not Calories.” Ten percent of the proceeds go to The Sex Workers Outreach Project, a nonprofit that helps give legal aid to sex workers.


Georgia Clark

Who she is: Host of storytelling series Generation Women

Why we love her: Clark is an ambitious multihyphenate who leads one of our favorite monthly events in the city: Generation Women at Caveat. The show features a diverse group of female storytellers (Clark included) who share a personal tale centered around a predetermined tug-at-your-heartstrings theme. When we went, it was tough not to ponder and appreciate how even though the women on stage come from different walks of life, hearing them unravel in front of a live audience reminds us how tenderness and vulnerability are what truly bind us together. (Are you tearing up yet?) As Clark puts it, “Selflessly, I do these events to tell and showcase stories that are inclusive, joyful, honest and entertaining. Selfishly, I just want a reason to be in the room with smart people and get invited to fun parties.” See, you can have it all!

What’s next: Clark's next Generation Women (Caveat, Lower East Side; Mar 20; $30) event titled “New York Stories” includes Phoebe Robinson of 2 Dope Queens on the lineup.

Lisa Switkin

Who she is: Senior Principal at James Corner Field Operations

Why we love her: In this concrete jungle, we’re indebted to our city’s parks, and Switkin has certainly made our metropolis much greener. She led the design of the High Line, and oversaw the redesign for the totally-transformed South Street Seaport and the gorgeous Domino Park. Since these spots are considered some of our most popular New York attractions, it's great to know that a badass woman was at the forefront of executing some of the major additions to our city which make New York so unique. Switkin says, “Our projects foster environmental health, resilience, and greater connections between nature, culture and community. In the end, what drives me is the knowledge that public space is where people come together, are inspired, and connect with the environment."

What’s next: Switkin is currently working on a few exciting projects in NYC: The Gansevoort Peninsula in Hudson River Park and the Domino Refinery Plaza and Domino Square in Brooklyn with Two Trees Management and PAU. She also adds that construction is now underway for the 21-acre North Park Phase 1 at Freshkills Park on Staten Island. 


Kiki Smith

Who she is: Iconic, global artist

Why we love her: We’re in awe of Kiki Smith and her work, especially her starry, stained-glass window display at the Museum at Eldridge Street that leaves onlookers completely mystified. As a figurative, post-feminist artist, her art incorporates themes of sex, mysticism and regeneration, and we’re inspired by her playful curiosity. "I have been making work in New York for forty years, and I still have no idea what’s going to happen when I do it. So that is a big pleasure, to be walking in the unknown,” she says.

What’s next: A new exhibition, Kiki Smith: Murmur, opens at Pace Gallery and showcases Smith’s newest works including prints, etchings, bronze sculptures and more that exhibit the similarities and differences between the natural and spiritual worlds (Pace Gallery, Chelsea; Mar 1–30; free).

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