Best of Philly

Best Local Hero

2022 Best We-Knew-Him-When

James Ijames

Ijames has been on the Philadelphia theater circuit for nearly two decades, writing and directing plays across town. His reward? Just a little moment in the spotlight in the form of a Pulitzer Prize for his latest opus, Fat Ham, a reimagining of Hamlet set in the South. The show just capped a three-month run at New York’s Public Theater — the place that once put on a plucky little production called ­Hamilton — but nothing will change the fact that the premiere was here, at the Wilma Theatre, where Ijames serves as an artistic director. Read More »


2022 Best Tech Champion

Sylvester Mobley

Mobley has been a citywide hero for a long while, having previously been honored with the prestigious 2018 Philadelphia Award for his groundbreaking work in advancing his nonprofit, Coded by Kids. But he’s become a tech legend since launching his new venture capital fund for under-represented founders — and he continues to rack up national recognition and accolades, including being named a For(bes) the Culture 50 Champions honoree last year. Read More »

2022 Best Quizzo Partner

Ryan Long

We all watched him plow through the Jeopardy! competition this past spring, but it wasn’t his domination that kept us tuning in every night. It was his kindness, his humor, and — well, the fact that he repped Philly every chance he got. (First purchase with his winnings? A Reggie White Eagles jersey.) When he returns for the Tournament of Champions in November, we know who we’ll be rooting for. Read More »

2022 Best Prodigal Daughter

Maisha Kelly

This West Mount Airy native, who graduated from St. Joe’s and went to grad school at Temple, last year was named athletic director at Drexel — the first Black woman AD at any of the city’s D-1 colleges. Stints at Rutgers, Vanderbilt and Bucknell prepared the mom of two young kids — her husband’s with Temple’s track and field program — for the role. “I know that my pathway was formed by others who have been first,” she told the Inquirer of her rarefied status. But there haven’t been many: Of 248 open NCAA college AD positions between 2010 and 2019, only 11 were filled by Black women. Go, Dragons! Read More »

2022 Best Plot Twist

The Tale of the Teeth

Bear with us here, because this one is complicated and unlikely. Last February, a local driver named Greg (understandably, his last name’s been withheld) rammed into the car of Ambler’s Cecilly Rudalavage on the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge. While they were exchanging info, Rudalavage, a sales rep for implant maker Ditron Dental USA, noticed — well, Greg’s lack of teeth, long an embarrassment and handicap for him. Through her professional contacts, she arranged for Fairless Hills surgeon Simon Oh to rebuild Greg’s jawbone and implant a full set of new teeth … for free. Now? Everybody’s smiling. Read More »

2022 Best Grace Under Pressure


How Philly’s coolest hometown hero just got cooler, in four steps: 1) Directed the riveting Summer of Soul. 2) Won an Oscar for it. 3) Gave an unruffled (heartfelt, human) acceptance speech mere moments after Will Smith’s slap heard ’round the world. 4) Admitted he missed the whole shebang because he’d been meditating. At the Oscars. Questo forever! Read More »

2021 Best Cleanup Act

Terrill Haigler, a.k.a. Ya Fav Trashman

Of all the pandemic’s heroes, none is more uniquely Philly than Haigler, who rose to Instagram prominence during last summer’s trash slowdown by delivering trash tips and updates and has since parlayed that fame into his own block-by-block, neighborhood-by-neighborhood­ city-cleanup operation. Read More »


2021 Best Nose

Lon Taylor

Cyrano de Bergerac has nothin’ on this Chester County newspaper delivery guy, who averted a Christmas Day disaster at the Ovations at Elk View 55-plus community by sniffing out and reporting a big gas leak while making his rounds. After evacuating residents, PECO found a broken gas line and high levels of natural gas throughout the community center’s basement. A Christmas miracle! Read More »

2021 Best Cassandra Vindication

Katalin “Kati” Karikó

Between the lines of the various hagiographies of Karikó — the Hungarian-born, Rydal-based scientist/BioNTech SVP whose dogged work on messenger RNA is the basis of the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines — is a dystopian tale. At each point where Karikó loses her sponsor, loses her funding, or has her work dismissed, lies a portal to an alternate time line where cases aren’t plummeting and we’re all bracing for the next deadly spike. Read More »

2020 Best Use of the Bully Pulpit

Joel Embiid

Sixers center Joel Embiid wasn’t having a banner season. There was a sense that maybe the honeymoon here was over. But when it was reported that Josh Harris, one of the team’s billionaire owners, planned to cut salaried employees’ pay by 20 percent to help the franchise weather the coronavirus crisis, Embiid pledged to help those workers out of his own (also deep) pockets — and donate a half mil to COVID relief. Rightfully chastened, Harris backpedaled, and the city’s love affair with Embiid blossomed anew. Read More »