50 Most Beautiful People 2010 HTML Page 3


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Stephanie Sonksen: Freckled

Age: 26
Hometown: Dublin, Ohio
Party: Republican
Relationship status: Single

Stephanie Sonksen admits that losing a fitness contest to former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) wasn’t the proudest moment of her life. She still feels the sting of that narrow loss in the 2008 Walking Works Capitol Hill Challenge — an annual fitness competition with members and congressional staffers.

Sonksen was working for Sen. George Voinovich at the time, and the Ohio Republican’s office barely lost out to the 86-year-old Stevens and staff. The silver lining? After Stevens was indicted, the first-place trophy fell to Voinovich’s office.

“Sen. Voinovich rode his bike to work and wears a pedometer everywhere,” Sonksen says. “We literally used to have to run everywhere just to keep up with him.”

Sonksen, who now works as the new-media manager for Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), says she picked up some good habits from her former boss. She now rides her own bike to work a few days a week and is an avid tennis player.

Sonksen jokes that in her youth, she may have gotten some mixed messages when it comes to healthy eating. Her family owns both a candy company and a natural peanut butter company back in Ohio.

She headed to Capitol Hill from the public-relations world, hungry for more substance. Sonksen says she’s not used to getting recognized for her looks. The last time came in fourth grade, when she won the “most freckles” contest.

–Shane D’Aprile



Adam Comis: A really good friend

Age: 28
Hometown: Niskayuna, N.Y.
Political party: Democratic
Relationship status: Single

This is how good of a friend Adam Comis is: A few years ago, he agreed to help one of his childhood buddies move from San Francisco to New York.

Easy enough — except that they were to make the trip in a 1991 Honda Civic that had no air conditioning. In August. Oh, and one other minor glitch: The car was a stick-shift. Comis had never driven a manual before.

He learned on the fly, and Comis and his friend left the windows down most of the trip to keep cool.

“It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be,” he says. The worst part was getting stuck in traffic in one of the hottest areas of Nevada. But otherwise the two camped at the Grand Canyon, saw friends along the way and made it to New York in one piece.

Comis, the House Homeland Security Committee’s press secretary, is also a good friend to have if you like pizza and pasta. He comes from an Italian family and inherited a love for cooking from his grandparents. He also got firsthand exposure to Italian fare while studying abroad in Rome.

Comis admits to being a gym rat, and has the athletic physique to prove it. When he’s not at work, lifting weights or stirring a pot of tomato sauce, he busies himself working on his new condo in Washington’s U Street area.

As for how he puts together his look, Comis has a philosophy that makes sense for someone who doesn’t much like wearing suits on a regular basis.

“I try to be as casual as I can get away with — but still look good,” he says.

— Kris Kitto



Jessa Merrill: Agent spotter

Age: 23
Hometown: Kennebunkport, Maine
Political party: Republican
Relationship status: Single

Jessa Merrill may be relatively new on Capitol Hill, but the 23-year-old knows how to spot a Secret Service agent better than most of her colleagues.

Growing up in the small town of Kennebunkport, Maine, well-known as the summer home to former President George H.W. Bush, Merrill spent her summers working at a tourist shop. She not only got used to the black motorcades typical of Washington, but she also developed a knack for picking out the law enforcement agents protecting the dignitaries, even when the officers were off-duty.

“We always knew who the Secret Service was because it would be an odd pairing of men: one really older guy, one younger guy, always wearing an interesting outfit, like a simple sweatshirt,” Merrill says. “They’d just get off duty and want to buy their families a souvenir, and you could just tell, because it’s not a natural pairing of men.”

Merrill has been working for Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) since October, first as a staff assistant and now as a legislative correspondent.

With blue eyes and dirty blond hair, Merrill says she doesn’t have any beauty tips. She prefers the natural look — so much so that it wasn’t until college that she learned how to put on makeup.

“My mom always criticized me for not wearing makeup,” she says. “I had to have roommates teach me how to put on makeup.”

Merrill graduated from the University of Vermont last May and has been interested in politics since she was a child. She says she’s not sure what the future holds for her, but she hopes to stick around Washington for the next five years.

“I think my motto is to go with the flow, to an extent,” she says, laughing. “Let’s say a controlled flow.”

–Jordy Yager




Jonathan Black: All muscle

Age: 46
Hometown: New York
Political party: Independent
Relationship status: “Dating, but not married yet.” 

Beauty isn’t just about appearance for Senate Staff Health and Fitness Facility trainer Jonathan Black. For him, it’s a way of life.

The former bodybuilder never placed below fifth in his competitions, and he retired with three first-place distinctions.

Black moved to Washington in September 2004 from New York, where he worked as a personal trainer at a health club.

“I wanted to break into government and mingle with the insiders,” he says. He loves his adoptive city so far.

Black uses a combination of fitness, cardiovascular and strength training to whip congressional staffers into shape. A typical workout includes flexibility and strength building, weight training and some form of cardio — sprinting, jumping rope or boxing.

Black says his training style is fair but firm.

“I want to know that you’re serious enough to want my training,” he says. Outside the gym, he’s friendly, easygoing and soft-spoken.

As a track athlete at Boston University, Black was keenly focused on his own personal fitness, and people started asking for advice — even though he wasn’t a professional.

“It made me want to study more about personal fitness,” he says, adding that he’s passionate about his work because he’s “doing the thing that gives me the most joy.”

Black’s success has opened doors to other exciting opportunities. He once had an acting gig as an extra in a Woody Allen film, and he’s also done some modeling — or, as he describes it, work that “shows off the human form.”

His advice when it come to beauty? It has everything to do with living a healthy lifestyle — physically and mentally, he says.

“You have to believe that what you conceive, you can achieve,” Black says.

–Michaela Martens



Betsy Barrett: The sports fan



Age: 32

Hometown: Jonesboro, Ark.

Political party: Democratic

Relationship status: Single



Betsy Barrett’s love for sports runs deep. 

Once, during a congressional press secretaries’ trip to Yankee Stadium, the petite brunette grew misty-eyed as friends snapped photos of her playfully squeezing into Yankee-great Derek Jeter’s locker. During football season, she religiously follows the New Orleans Saints and her alma mater’s squad, the University of Arkansas Razorbacks. And she never misses a Yankees or Cubs post-season baseball game. Never. 

When she’s not absorbed in sports, Barrett loves to attend concerts, such as the Willie Nelson show she went to this Fourth of July in Austin, Texas. She also enjoys spending time outdoors, practicing yoga, traveling, wine-tasting and jogging.

In college, Barrett’s sorority sisters were baffled when they found her glued to the TV on Sunday mornings watching “Meet the Press.” Yet despite her self-described “obsession” with politics, she didn’t see herself pursuing a career in the field following graduation.

It wasn’t until after several years of work in Chicago’s private sector that Barrett caught word that one of her home state congressmen, Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.), was looking for help with a reelection bid. Barrett decided to hop on the campaign. Shortly after the election, a legislative assistant left the office and Barrett was asked to fill the spot. She has been in Washington ever since. 

Today, as Snyder’s press secretary, one of her favorite parts of the job is sitting in on the congressman’s TV appearances. Her enthusiasm raises the question of how the copper-eyed looker would herself fare in front of the camera. When speaking, Barrett is relaxed and articulate, complemented by an innocent Southern drawl and magnetic smile. 

It’s safe to say television would suit her just fine.

—Justin Cox



Rep. Anna Eshoo: A classic

Age: 67
Hometown: Atherton, Calif.
Political party: Democratic
Relationship status: Divorced

Rep. Anna Eshoo may have a Sophia Loren-esque look, but her pleasures in life are hardly Hollywood. Eshoo says she is attracted to things that are “classic [and] good,” so it’s no wonder her recipe for staying healthy and centered includes classic ingredients: friends, family, food, walking, reading and spirituality.

“I like a quiet evening with family or friends over, great food and great discussion and a lot of laughter,” says the Northern California congresswoman during a relaxed conversation in her Capitol Hill office. “That’s really what I think fills my tank.”

She also likes to spend time admiring the natural beauty in her district.

“I love to walk. There are so many beautiful places, unspoiled areas in my district,” she says, listing the Pacific Coast, the Skyline Ridge mountain area and her own neighborhood as a few favorite spots. “It’s not only good exercise, but it restores my soul.”

Eshoo finds solace in weekly Mass at Religious of the Sacred Heart-Oakwood Catholic Church.

“They inspire me,” she says of her church’s religious leaders.

Like most members of Congress, Eshoo calls it a challenge to find private time given her schedule. She goes up against the demands of representing a district nearly 3,000 miles from Washington and chairing a subcommittee of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. When her day is done, though, she has an escape: burrowing into a book, be it a biography or a classic work of fiction.

“I like something that takes me to another time and another place, just to be removed from what I do almost around the clock seven days a week,” she says.

– Kris Kitto





Vinoda Basnayake: Rapper’s delight 

Age: 29
Hometown: Washington
Political Party: Democratic
Relationship status: Single

In between working on music videos with Jay Sean, flying to Sri Lanka for business and keeping up his close relationship with his parents and sister, Patton Boggs lobbyist Vinoda Basnayake still finds time to work out.

The avid P90X user brings his Tony Horton DVDs with him wherever he goes, including small-town Sri Lankan hotels. 

After earning a degree at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law and a certificate in business and public policy from the same university’s Wharton School, Basnayake returned to his Georgetown roots (he completed his undergraduate studies there) and now lives within a block of Patton Boggs’s offices on M Street NW.

Although he scoffs when asked about any beauty tips he may have, it’s easy to see that Basnayake’s expertly coiffed hair perfectly frames his large brown eyes, and his suit looks tailor-made for his tall, slender frame. He’s come a long way from his childhood, he says.

“Two things South Asian parents do is overfeed their kids and insist on dressing you,” Basnayake says. “So up until about the fifth grade, I was fat and dressed by my mother. Now I like to work hard on my personal style.” 

Basnayake is a lawyer by day, but after office hours he runs The Nightlife Agency, an entertainment business he launched with friends from Georgetown. They own Eden, a new downtown nightclub, and they also produce concerts, which is how Basnayake met one of pop music’s hottest faces, Jay Sean. Basnayake had to reschedule his 50 Most Beautiful interview because he recently flew out to Los Angeles at the last minute to help shoot and be an extra in the rapper’s new music video, “2012.”

It makes you wonder how many other Washington lobbyists could pull of an MTV-style cameo the way Basnayake does.

– Kate Oczypok



Brittany Prime: The rocker gourmet 

Age: 22
Hometown: Chesterfield, Va.
Political party: Republican
Relationship status: Boyfriend

Brittany Prime always wanted to see Elton John or Billy Joel perform live. She never expected to have the opportunity to watch them both, and that’s why the artists’ joint concert at Nationals Park last summer was so exciting. It was a dream come true.

“They’re two of my absolute favorite artists,” says Prime, her baby-blue eyes twinkling above a wide smile as she recalled the event.

“It was probably one of the best experiences of my life, something I’ll remember forever,” the political fundraiser for The Levatino Group says.

At 22, Prime might seem young to be such a die-hard fan of artists who rose to prominence largely during the 1970s and 80s. But to her, that’s simply when the best music was being made.

“I’m a fan of the classics,” she says matter-of-factly. “I’m not one for the latest radio tunes, per se.”        

She might dismiss today’s music, but when it comes to food, Prime likes to try anything new and interesting. She and her friends have made a pastime of exploring Washington’s eccentric restaurants with a don’t-hold-back attitude. 

“If a restaurant has a tasting menu, we’ll try that. If they have the weirdest food ever, we’ll do that,” Prime says. “If we’re there, why not? Let’s go for it, enjoy ourselves and have an experience.”

Yet for her fearlessness at the dinner table, Prime leads a rather traditional family life. 

A self-described “homebody,” Prime decided to settle in Washington after college partly because it would keep her close to her older sister, who also works in the city, and her parents, who live about two-and-a-half hours away in Chesterfield, Va. 

“I could never be in, say, California – I need to be close to my family," Prime says. “This is my city.”

–Justin Cox



Jake Kuhns: A do-gooder

Age: 30
Hometown: Ligonier, Pa.
Political party: Democratic
Relationship status: In a relationship

After Jake Kuhns got the hang of working on Capitol Hill, he decided he needed a hobby. But rather than joining a kickball team, he started a nonprofit organization.

“I wasn’t doing much outside of work,” says Kuhns, a senior legislative aide for Rep. Tim Holden (D-Pa.).

A colleague and a couple of friends coalesced to raise money to build a well in Uganda. They far exceeded their expectations, raising money for two wells, and decided they should continue their efforts but focus on issues closer to home.

That’s how “Wake Up and Dream” was born. Kuhns and his friends started the organization to help young people in the Washington area become more involved in their communities. They leave it up to the kids to decide what issues need to be addressed and then provide the guidance and infrastructure to tackle the problem. So far they've helped kids attend local after-school programs and provided funds for textbooks, notepads and other materials for academic use.

As if that weren’t enough, Kuhns is in a master’s degree program for communication and organizational leadership. Somehow he still has time to hit the gym two or three times a week and pamper his 1-year-old French bulldog, Joey.

“Joey’s the most spoiled dog in the world,” he says, revealing that she has a new “fancy collar” in her future, having chewed up her old one. And she’s a social dog — he takes her to parties, he says, and “she gets along with all people, all pets.”

Joey may be going to some football games in the fall, too — Kuhns holds season tickets to the games of his alma mater, Penn State University.

– Kris Kitto



Mariel Lim: A modest globetrotter

Age: 27
Hometown: Pelham, N.Y.
Political party: Democratic
Relationship status: In a relationship

Full disclosure: Prior to her interview for this year’s 50 Most Beautiful People list, Mariel Lim, a legislative counsel in the office of Rep. Albio Sires (D-N.J.), brought this reporter one glazed Krispy Kreme doughnut, which may have favorably colored his impression of her thereafter.

It was also, in hindsight, an apt symbol of Lim’s good nature and abiding kindness — a thoughtful, charitable act of elemental sweetness. And here I’m talking about both the Krispy Kreme and Lim herself.

Dispelling the popular image of the congressional staffer as a Starbucks-guzzling, seldom-sleeping ball of harried energy, Lim is about as laid-back and down-to-earth as they come. She’s quick to laugh, easy to banter with, breezily unpretentious; in terms of outward appearance, her look is more Lisa Loeb than Lucy Liu. As for earning a spot on this year’s list, she offers a shrug. “I didn’t tell many people. I think this is all kind of awkward, really.”

All of which might be somewhat surprising when you consider Lim’s various accomplishments. Half-Chinese, half-Slovak — “I’m probably the only Chinese-Slovak staffer,” she laughs — she’s traveled extensively: London, Tokyo, Nanjing, Sydney, Rio. She speaks Japanese, some Spanish, a bit of Cantonese. She attended Valparaiso and Howard law schools. As if the demands of her day job aren’t enough, she finds time to devote to the Congressional Asian Pacific American and Women's Congressional staff associations, as well as to Suited for Change, an organization that collects clothing for low-income women looking for jobs.

Oh, and she’s a runner — kinda. “I run a 10-miler once a year,” she says, but when asked if she trains hard in preparation for the annual Cherry Blossom Run, her response is typically nonchalant.

“Well, you would think so, but … ” she says, trailing off.

– Mike Laws

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