Just Who Is Maria Papadakis?

The daughter of the late Drexel president Taki Papadakis is the city’s new It Girl. Is she a budding Philly power player, or just another pretty face?

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I’m roaming around a giant warehouse by the Delaware River, looking for Maria Papadakis.

Maria isn’t hard to spot when she’s onstage with a mic in her hand, her long blond hair spilling onto her bright blue dress. When she’s not onstage, like right now, I have more trouble. The event is called Feastival. Maria’s emceeing, and if there’s such a thing as Philadelphia society, much of it is here, swilling absinthe cocktails and clogging Pier 9 to the point of non-maneuverability.




Before I find Maria, I find her mother, Eliana Papadakis, who flashes a gap-toothed smile and gives me a hug. She tells me she’s just arrived from “the other event with Liam Neeson.” Eliana is the widow of beloved Drexel president Constantine “Taki” Papadakis, and a veteran of the philanthropic/charitable cause scene. She quickly cuts the chitchat and begins picking off VIPs.

“Richard! Richard!” Richard Vague is summoned. “Did you see Maria?”

“I did,” drawls the board president of FringeArts, which is what we’re celebrating tonight. “How could I miss her?”

“Did you like her?” Eliana asks.

“I love both of you,” he says, then floats off.

Moments later, Eliana spots Comcast matron Suzanne Roberts, treading slowly. “Suzanne! Suzanne! Oh my God!” Next up, Ed Rendell, distracted by two young women and not in the mood to talk. Retreating, Eliana whispers to Marsha Perelman, who has recently materialized: “He’s aged.” Her longest conversation takes place with Tom Knox, a Papadakis family friend who, along with 500 other people, was on the guest list at Maria’s wedding, which was held last November to great fanfare. (The marriage ended seven months later, to less fanfare.)

“He’s writing a story about Maria!” Eliana tells Knox, pointing to me. “Do you want to say anything about Maria?”

“She’s very pretty,” he says.

Eliana frowns.

“She’s very outgoing, attractive, she’s going to be very successful in life,” he adds.

I nod and tell him that many of her friends say she has the ability to accomplish whatever she wants to.

“Well, not whatever,” Knox says. “But most things.”

Feastival is precisely the sort of power-crowd schmoozefest Maria got acquainted with at the Drexel president’s mansion in Wayne. It’s also a good illustration of the professional niche she’s now carved out for herself. Since her father’s death in 2009, the 28-year-old has become an all-purpose cheerleader for the city, hosting a monthly arts expo, a video series on Philly.com, and a show for Comcast SportsNet. She’s also shooting episodes for a national TV program, the details of which are currently embargoed. Maria owes much of this success to her ubiquitous presence in society photographer HughE Dillon’s party pictures, which turned her into an object of gossipy fascination. “She was absolutely famous,” HughE says, “until I made her famous on a bigger scale.”

Famous is a relative term. In Philadelphia, it doesn’t take much to get there. Here’s one route: A society photographer decides that you’re a bona fide member of said society. He befriends you, makes you his muse. Hundreds of photographs later, your name and face have become inextricably lodged in the city’s consciousness, and the rest of the local media begin to play along. This dynamic is in full force at Feastival, where HughE Dillon of PhillyChitChat.com photographs Philly.com contributor Maria Papadakis and her soccer-player boyfriend Chris Konopka—their relationship was first reported by the Philadelphia Daily News, which is principally owned by the same guys who own Philly.com—and promptly sells the image to Philadelphia magazine, which sponsors Feastival.

All of this incestuousness makes it more or less impossible to figure out if Maria’s fame is, in fact, warranted. Is she a pretty blond legacy kid taking advantage of a celebrity-starved city? Or a bright girl squandering her impressive credentials by spending her time smiling for the camera? Put another way, does she owe her current station in life to the city’s insularity? Or is it Philadelphia that’s holding her back?

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  • baba booey

    I HATE THIS GIRL!!!

  • Robert Higgins

    This girl is everything that is wrong and bad about Philadelphia. First, she isn’t that pretty. She needs her teeth shaved down and her hair style that she walks around town with on a normal basis looks like the girl who works at the local Jersey diner HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Funny about the one poster on this, but she has baba booey teeth. In fact, my friends are going to start calling her Baba Booey. Just another way to make fun of this girl who really does nothing and means nothing. It’s sad that Philly Mag has shrunk so low that they feel that this girl is worthy of an article inside of their magazine.The fact that the writer is making fun of her and her Mom, this girl is too dumb to see that. She’s the female Arthur Kade. Another low-life loser. If Philly Mag wants to do an actual newsworthy article about pseudo philly wanna-be celebs, you should find out how Arthur Kade actually has any money (or makes any money). While HugeE Dillon is a really nice guy in real life, he doesn’t get or understand that people are using him, as he’s probably using them too. Wasn’t it a few years ago that Sabrina Tamborino was the Philly “it” girl. . At least Sabrina is actually cool . Maria from what I’ve been told by multiple people was a really fat girl for the longest time and then dropped some weight and now considers herself pretty. I’m sure her husband, errr, I mean ex-husband (of 6 months) has some interesting stories. Philly Mag, you should tell your writer to dig deeper for the better story. How happy can her Mommy be of her to have a $300,000 wedding to have her daughter end the marriage 6 months later. My father would KILL me. But of course, the wedding wasn’t about them, it was about the “look at me” that her mommy installed. The writer did a good job of showing that and does make that clear.
    The world of Philadelphia doesn’t need Maria. The world of Philadelphia doesn’t want Maria. I’m sure if HugeE told Maria, “look hon, I’ve been paid $50K to not mention your name in any press or take a pic of you for 1 year” she’d drop him like a hot potato. Basically, fake friends. Self-promotion at it’s finest. Maria, take Webster and the whole Papakapolis family back to Drexel and please don’t think that you are newsworthly. You are a joke in Philadelphia. All the real power players and real people who have real meaning in this town know it. They either don’t even know who you are, talk behind your back, or they quickly shuffle away from you when you walk by. HugeE and Philly Mag, at least have a hot-ass chick like that Christina Honickman as the Philly “it” girl. At least, she’s hot to look at.
    BABA BOOEY TO Y’ALL

  • Amy

    I graduated Drexel with Maria. The way she was treated was insane. She had 5 majors, an entire floor of a dorm hall to herself and every teacher was scared to death of her. During graduation they stopped the whole ceremony just so she could walk on stage and get her diploma from her dad. No one liked her and she was very heavy. She is hardly an it girl….I agree there are better candidates out there.

  • Eileen Siways

    Philly Mag, you must really need readership and your desperation is showing. September’s issue featured ‘The Dead Girl in The Bathtub” and now in this issue you are trying to hype up pseudo Philly celebrities that are non-existent. Why don’t you act like a top tier magazine and start producing more substantive stories rather than this crap.

  • Chuck

    HughE Dillion a “Society Photographer”? Oh, Please.

  • kg

    I only read 3 lines of this article and it was a waste of my time. The fact that someone got paid to write this is shocking- or not. It’s phillymag, it’s not supposed to be good, and I have to remember that.

  • MB

    I think people are missing the point here, Simon included. Maria is just at the beginning of her career and has a lot going for her. Part of what people are missing is that today, the media is always changing. There is no one way to do things anymore. So what she is doing and has accomplished is much different than what what people are use to. A regular 9-5 job is not the norm now-a-days, especially in the line of work Maria is in. Simon missed some key points in Maria’s current life like where she works and what exactly it is that she does. You don’t need a 9-5 job to be successfull in today’s world. Her charity work is just one part of who she is and God bless her for taking advantage of her resources and using that to not only help her grow as a person, but to keep her family’s legacy in this city alive. Not everyone is fortunate to be able to have such resources in life but if anyone is so greatful and appreciative, it’s Maria. And shame on those who took a stab at what she looks like. She needs to shave her teeth? Unreal.

  • Charlie D

    I am a fan of Maria’s show, I think she’s a riot, and the
    writer touches upon how ridiculously down to earth she is. I met her at a
    Flyers game she was taping at; she stopped her shoot so me and all my friends
    could talk to her when we asked for a photo. She was the nicest, funniest girl
    I’ve ever met. Wasn’t expecting that.

    I googled her after reading this article and I found out she interviewed the
    Dalai Lama and Christopher Reeves?! I had no idea, because it’s not in the
    article. So I see why the writer says she does more funny segments like they do
    on the morning shows. But Katie Nolan is my girl for that sole reason. And she
    is a kid, and with a great personality; I’d rather watch her be fun and that’s
    not a bad thing to me. I do like the title of the article on the cover of
    the magazine, “who doesn’t love maria papadakis”. I guess some
    commenters on here don’t though lol. Me and my friends fell in love with her
    after talking to her. I see why some dude proposed to her on a first date.
    Maria, will you marry me? Charlie from Lehigh you met at the Flyers game. I
    follow you on twitter: Go orange and black!

  • Shannon Maria

    At 28, I think she’s doing well for herself in a city that is known for quickly turning on its own. If she had five majors, then it sounds like she’s got a lot of interests, many of which are combined into her current ventures. Thanks to the internet and social media, the world is no longer 9-5. My hat is off to Maria for making a living doing what she loves and promoting a city that obviously means a lot to her.

  • Dana

    As a patron of many charities Maria is involved in, and having helped run a few myself, I’d like to better highlight her involvement to to help this be a more enlightening piece. Maria started working with one of the organizations I am involved with over 4 years ago (a childrens nonprofit theatre group), and she started half of the city’s young friends organizations for non profits before they became “the norm”. I have seen support these organizations through website revision, accounting guidance, and fundraising. There were no cameras or publicity in most of what I saw Maria do, but she still helped from the ground up. . Although her now “famous” name can garner a powerful team to help in many ways, I saw first hand how she just wants to make a difference, like her dad whom I adored. If that means a charity who normally gets little publicity may get some now because of her fame, God bless her and them. She wields the fact that a city “loves” her (which is the cover page title) and follows her to help others. The article somewhat showed that, but not in the humble way I know Maria to be. For me, there was too much about a gala or celebrities (though I get that is what people like to read). It just would have been been nice to read more about the many organizations she’s helped so much, like FringeArts- which is why she emceed Feastival mentioned in the article. Maria has depth and heart – as well as a beautiful face and personality.

  • AL

    She’s fat with a skinny neck & jawline.

  • anon

    I believe the point of the majors was that she had 5 majors and a dorm room floor for free……

    • Cassie F

      Oh come on that was a ridiculous comment, obviously untrue…if Chelsea Clinton can’t get a whole dorm floor, no one can. Student rumors also said she had a helicopter and a jacuzzi. Really? You don’t think anyone would have noticed a black hawk picking up people at the dorms. LOL…And 5 majors, don’t you think the writer would have mentioned any of this. Seriously guys lol?
      You guys just turned this into exactly the point the writer is making, our city’s fascination with celebrity. Our own TMZ and gossip!