At just 14, Baton Rouge native Seimone Augustus was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated for Women. The headline? “Is she the next Michael Jordan?” No pressure.
The former LSU All-America selection has proven her worth fighting her way back from a torn ACL and fibroid tumors to become the leading scorer for the WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx and a Finals MVP. A lot of Baton Rougeans love Augustus for the charity work she does still in the city, including pitching in with her parents at the Food Bank last Christmas.
Runners-up: Mo Isom (21.8%), Jenni Peters (19.2%)
Tyrann Mathieu (35.6%)
Overachiever. Scrapper. Honey badger. LSU’s fearless cornerback and highlight reel-making Heisman finalist is above all else a playmaker. Listed at 175 pounds and 5 feet 9 inches tall—yeah, on a phone book—the New Orleans native has, through sheer will, it seems, become one of the most feared defenders in the country, with incredible timing and speed and an uncanny ball-stripping ability. With punt returns for touchdowns and fumble recoveries, Mathieu reversed LSU’s fortunes multiple times last season. He’s back this fall to lead another top-notch Tiger defense.
Runners-up: Jarrett Lee (26.2%), Brad Wing (11.2%), Glen Davis (7%), Morris Claiborne (7%)
J.R. Ball of Baton Rouge Business Report (43.2%)
They start meekly enough. “Latest ramblings…” Ball posts to Facebook before linking to another precise dissection of questionable decisions made by the Metro Council, the mayor, the governor, anyone. Ball drew the ire of mayoral candidate Mike Walker by sniffing out and critiquing his intentions before the councilman even announced. “Why don’t you ask your mouthpiece, J.R. Ball?” Walker snarled during an on-air call to WJBO’s morning hosts last October. “Every time I read his column he seems to know everything I’m thinking and why I’m alive.” Just ask Walker: even Ball’s enemies read him religiously. businessreport.com
Runners-up: Jay Ducote of Bite and Booze and 225 (30.2%), Maggie Howes of My Baton Rouge Mommy (12.7%)
Chris LeBlanc Band (36.8%)
Whether shredding or sliding, playing solo or with his band of rotating blues rockers, Chris LeBlanc is a master of his six-string and the rich Southern voice that has made him a staple of bars and festival stages across the city, state and country for more than 20 years. chrisleblancband.com
Runners-up: The Benjy Davis Project (36.3%), The Michael Foster Project (20.8%)
Whitney Vann (16.4%)
While helping fourth graders at Polk Elementary prep for the LEAP test, Whitney Vann learned a valuable lesson herself. “If we as a community could just give a little more time in our public schools, everyone could reap huge benefits,” she says. “These kids were so hungry for help, so thirsty for knowledge, so eager for instruction, that my faith in our youth is forever renewed.”
As anchor of WBRZ’s 2une In morning show, Vann is welcomed every morning into the homes of our city, but the Kentucky native has even more impact on Baton Rouge through her work with organizations like the United Way, the Community Fund for the Arts and St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Whether volunteering behind the scenes or working on air and under the lights, Vann stays true to herself.
“I always try to talk to the camera like I’m talking to my friend,” Vann says.
“The only person I know how to be is me.”
Runners-up: Pat Shingleton (15.4%), Sylvia Weatherspoon (14%), Greg Meriwether (10.5%), Donna Britt (9.9%)
Lauren Barksdale Hill (26.8%)
At 21, Lauren Barksdale Hill announced her arrival as a commercially viable artist with Elle Alexandra, her stylish line of vintage Mad Men-ready illustrated cards, invitations and prints. In the years since, the Baton Rouge native and LSU alumna has steadily built a reputation as one of the city’s best-selling artists. From expressionist landscapes and figures to animals like the fanciful peacock pictured, Hill’s vibrant layers of acrylic paint and pencil blend emotive color and depth with a designer’s sense of balance.
Runners-up: David Humphreys (16.6%), Rhea Gary (14.2%), Lisa diStefano (11.3%), T.J. Black (9.5%)