50 Most Beautiful People 2010 HTML Page 4

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Linsey Godbey: In bloom

Age: 27
Hometown: Dunbar, W.Va.
Political party: Democratic
Relationship status: Single

Linsey Godbey was once a Cherry Blossom princess, but she swears she has never won anything like a place on The Hill’s 50 Most Beautiful People list.

“It’s kind of hilarious,” Godbey says of her reign as West Virginia’s 1997 representative at the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival. “You get, like, a sash, get to ride around all week, but no type of beauty and/or talent involved.”

Godbey, a deputy press secretary for Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), attributes her accomplishments — even her latest one — to her wide, easy smile.

“I don’t think I got nominated because people or somebody walking through the halls said, ‘Oh, my God, she’s beautiful,’ ” says Godbey, 27. “I think they know I treat people kindly. I laugh and smile a lot, and I think people respond to that.”

As a member of Rockefeller's communications team, Godbey spends most of her day working with the press. She helped staff the Senate’s newest (and potential 50 Most Beautiful People list) member, Carte Goodwin (D-W.Va.), on his first day in Congress.

In addition to working for the Mountain State’s senior senator, Godbey grew up just outside of Charleston, W.Va., and graduated from West Virginia University, so her selection as Cherry Blossom royalty was natural.

Even with her hectic work life as a Senate press secretary, she knows that it’s best not to take herself too seriously. She says she learned many of the skills she uses daily while working for public-relations agency Golin Harris, where her main client was McDonald’s. She proudly notes that she attended Hamburger University in Illinois, the company’s marketing school, where she got to know about Ronald McDonald, Mayor McCheese and — her favorite — the McNuggets Band.

– Walter Alarkon

Bret Manley: No worries

Age: 27
Hometown: San Dimas, Calif.
Political party: Republican
Relationship status: Single

This blond-haired, blue-eyed Californian gives off a true West Coast vibe.

Having graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, as a business major and then realizing that working in sales in San Francisco was not fulfilling, Manley moved to Washington, D.C., with no job and no apartment.

“I’m not a big worrier,” Manley says. “Life goes on. You gotta do what you gotta do.”

Fortunately, a fraternity brother worked in Rep. Gary Miller’s (R-Calif.) district office and recommended Manley for an internship with the Washington office. After a month of hard work as an intern, Manley was offered a position and now works as Miller’s financial services policy adviser.

Manley doesn’t regret choosing to follow his heart and taking the path to politics. A fellow Berkeley alumnus who made his living as an investment broker once cautioned him on the loneliness of a life in finance, and Manley realized the life described was not for him.

However, as Manley has found out, life in politics is unpredictable. Lucky for him, Manley does not require too much sleep, making the long nights in the office bearable, though he’d much prefer playing the guitar, his instrument of choice for 13 years.

In his free time, Manley likes to relax with a beer and play on his softball team, the Suspicious Packages. Though Manley does not know the story behind the name, he does know that coaching the team and taking a break from the work week with friends is the key point of the whole experience.

When not hitting softballs, Manley maintains his active lifestyle by playing volleyball with friends or frequenting the gym. Because the congressional gym is located so close to Manley’s office in the Rayburn House Office Building, he allows himself no excuses.

“I feel lazy if I don’t exercise,” Manley says. “I don’t go there to socialize.”

—Barbra Kim

Erikka Knuti: Woman of the world

Age: 27
Hometown: Falls Church, Va.
Political party: Democratic
Relationship status: Single

Erikka Knuti was living in Moscow in 2000 when the Kursk, a Russian nuclear submarine, went down in the frigid Barents Sea. She watched Vladimir Putin’s government manipulate the release of information — all hands perished in the disaster — as the anguish of the sailors’ relatives played out on television. 

“Seeing how thin the line is between government control and the ability to challenge authority — when you actually get close to seeing that structure threatened or fall apart, it’s shocking,” she says.

“Reporters aren’t the enemy,” she adds with a bright smile. “I like reporters.” 

She has to. Knuti is Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-Minn.) communications director. 

Knuti looks the part of a staffer from the Upper Midwest. She’s tall, with dark hair and a soft complexion that appears unscathed by the sun despite weekends spent lounging in Washington’s Walter C. Pierce Park. She credits sunscreen for that, but her Scandinavian heritage probably helps, too.

Knuti was baptized in Minnesota but grew up in Northern Virginia, where her father worked for the CIA. Her family eventually went abroad, and she bounced between Moscow, Budapest and boarding school. She’s used to a hectic schedule, drawing on a reserve of energy that she exudes in quick-fire conversations and an exercise regimen built around pacing her office. (She also goes to the gym.)

After a stint with Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) and as a consultant in Chicago, she decamped to Pennsylvania to work for Rep. Joe Sestak’s (D-Pa.) first congressional campaign before returning to Washington to work for Media Matters, a liberal media watchdog group.

“I thought I was going to go into the State Department and do good things and help people,” Knuti says. “At some point I realized there were some things that were out of my control.” 

She pauses, flashing a grin. 

“I’ve been pretty lucky to play a part in the things I believe in,” she says.

—Sean Miller

Jessica Knight: Miss Hospitality

Age: 27
Hometown: Hattiesburg, Miss.
Political party: Democratic
Relationship status: In a relationship

Jessica Knight has been following in her famous grandfather’s footsteps — but doing it in high heels. Knight competed in beauty pageants starting in high school, eventually becoming the first black Miss Hospitality in Hattiesburg, Miss., and the first black homecoming queen at Millsaps College, where she earned her bachelor’s degree.

“Most people look at the pageants and think it’s very superficial, but the interview process is incredibly grueling,” she says. “A lot of it is poise, how you carry yourself, being well-spoken, that kind of thing.

“I wasn’t a very serious, serious competitor,” she adds unconvincingly. 

Knight is named after her grandfather, who was the first black fighter pilot in the Navy. 

“He was Jesse LeRoy, and I’m Jessica Leroyce,” she says proudly. Her grandfather was killed in action in 1950 in Korea, but his time in the service helped break down the Navy’s race barrier. There’s an exhibit dedicated to his career at the African American Military History Museum in Hattiesburg, Knight’s hometown.

Knight came to Virginia in 2005 to work on Democrat Tim Kaine’s long-shot bid for governor. After he won, she was hired by Berger Hirschberg Strategies as a national fundraising consultant. One of the firm’s clients was Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), who now chairs the Congressional Black Caucus. Meeks and other members were impressed with Knight and eventually brought her over to run the CBC Political Action Committee — at the age of 25.

Knight maintains an exercise routine carried over from her pageant days. She works out with a trainer twice a week and uses the elliptical machine at her LeDroit Park home when she can’t make it to the gym. 

Her experience on the pageant circuit also helped her in other ways.

“The makeup tips that I learned, they’ve pretty much proved priceless,” Knight says. “I can put on, like, a face in five minutes. That comes in handy.”

– Sean Miller

Jonathan Aronchick: Amen

Age: 23
Hometown: Philadelphia
Political party: Democratic
Relationship status: Single 

Jonathan Aronchick may work for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, but he is a religious studies nerd at heart.

Aronchick double majored in environmental policy and religious studies at Brown University and enjoyed learning about early Christianity and its origins in Judaism. He is also fascinated by the emergence of new cultures and philosophies, and while still in school, he examined the roots of Western law and social mores. Not exactly the embodiment of a John Belushi-style college student.  

Aronchick considered enrolling in a doctoral program to follow the intrigue of religion, but a summer internship with the Senate’s environment panel convinced him that he has an equally strong calling to pursue environmental policy.

So after graduation and without a job, he moved to Washington, and months later, landed his “dream job” at the committee, which he describes as “a magical place.”

When not working, the affable Aronchick never tires of visiting local museums and monuments. And unlike many other residents of this city, he enjoys being around tourists. 

To keep in shape, Aronchick plays tennis, runs and works out at the gym five times a week. He says he would go more if he had the time.

“I’d like to go twenty days a week, if I could,” he says, chuckling heartily.

Though Aronchick’s interest in religious studies is now reduced to reading academic articles for pleasure, he says his ongoing interest in the topic has indirectly influenced his work on Capitol Hill.

“My focus on different people has made me more open-minded, and [I] appreciate the hodge-podge of Washington, D.C,” he says.

–Shira Poliak

Tara Setmayer: Cool, calm, collected

Age: 34
Hometown: Paramus, N.J.
Political party: Republican
Relationship status: Single

Tara Setmayer figures if she can survive a verbal assault from the Sex Pistols’ Johnny Rotten on live television, she can handle most members of the press.

It happened during a Bill Maher appearance in 2001 when Setmayer so offended the apparently intoxicated rocker that he jumped from his chair screaming and practically charged at her from across the stage, she says.

After the show, security officers wouldn’t let her leave until Rotten’s limo sped away, Setmayer says. She ended up receiving flowers and an apology from Maher.

Not much fazes Setmayer, though, and that becomes obvious after spending just a few minutes with her. Even though she says she doesn’t like talking about herself, Setmayer stands out as an extrovert on Capitol Hill, one of the most staid settings in Washington.

“I'm so not girly,” she says. “I’d much rather be watching sports on a Sunday than shopping.”

A native of liberal northern New Jersey, Setmayer somehow emerged as a staunch conservative, despite growing up next to one of the most Democratic counties in the entire nation. She eventually found her way to Capitol Hill as communications director for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.).

“I’m a minority, female, conservative, so I automatically stand out, and I get that,” she says.

Setmayer gets emotional when talking about the nearly two years she spent working to free jailed U.S. border patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean in what became a conservative cause célèbre. 

“Seeing them walk out of prison was the proudest moment of my life,” she says.

–Shane D’Aprile

Maria Plakoudas: Growing up Greek

Age: 28

Hometown: Marlboro Township, N.J. 

Political party: “Moderate Republican”

Relationship status: In a long-distance relationship

Many of us spend hours per week in the gym and watch what we eat in pursuit of the ideal — and oftentimes unachievable — physique. Maria Plakoudas, on the other hand, does little more than an occasional stint on the elliptical machine to maintain her tight, and apparently God-given, contours. She is the owner of a rare and coveted biological gift.

If it weren’t for her affable demeanor, disarming smile and lilting voice, it would be easy to envy the tawny head-turner for her genetic good fortune. But that’s part of what makes Plakoudas the total package — you can’t help but like her. And she can’t help but find a way to explain beauty as something other than what you see in the mirror.

“I know it sounds cliché, but if you’re a good, happy person, you’ll be beautiful — because it shines through,” she says.

If that’s the case, Plakoudas must be a saint bursting with inner joy. Growing up, Plakoudas’s strict father — he barred her from dating until college — and protective older brother were undoubtedly a source of much frustration for the neighborhood boys seeking to court the brown-headed, almond-eyed cherub. But Plakoudas says she didn’t much mind the overprotection. Instead, she filled her time with Greek school classes (she’s fluent in the language), Greek dance lessons, swimming, soccer and gymnastics. In fact, the second of five children to first-generation Greek immigrants hopes to raise her kids (she wants at least four, maybe five of them) in a similar environment. It’s why she has a gender preference for only her firstborn.

“I want a boy, so he can protect his younger sisters,” Plakoudas says. 

Too bad for the neighborhood boys. 

— Justin Cox

Anina Caso: On the fly

Age: 22

Hometown: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Political party: Democratic

Relationship status: Single

Anina Caso travels by the seat of her pants.

When she was studying abroad in Italy a couple of years ago, Caso would go to the train station on her allotted travel days and decide on the spot which train to board based on the destination that seemed the most interesting. 

Wherever she ended up — London, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Prague — Caso would play it by ear, using what little knowledge she had of the native language to interact with the people and find out what to do. 

She took a similar approach the following semester while studying in Buenos Aires. And her trip to Portugal scheduled for later this year? She’s making no advanced plans. 

“I'll just make it up as I go along,” says Caso, who came to Washington five years ago to study international relations at George Washington University.

Asked if she has any beauty tips, the lithe brunette with wispy, near-shoulder-length hair shows her funny side, tilting her head back and scratching her chin as if pondering the question before responding: “Besides taking the occasional shower?” 

The joking hints at what she looks for in a man: a sense of humor. The guy has to be able to laugh at himself, she says.

“Oh, and looks don’t hurt, either,” she adds with a smile.

– Justin Cox

Michael Bloom: American made

Age: 27
Hometown: San Francisco
Political party: Democratic
Relationship status: Girlfriend

Michael Bloom sees his dress as a big part of his role as a congressional staffer.

Bloom, often seen in well-tailored suits, says he tries to make a good impression for people visiting the Capitol.

“I try to buy things that are made in America and try to dress respectfully, recognizing where I work,” says Bloom, the deputy policy director for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). 

“I come into work every day still in awe that I work in the Capitol,” he says. “Sure, it’s an office — but it’s also a landmark, and there are people from all over the world coming through all the time.” 

Bloom recognizes that he works in a highly demanding, stressful environment and makes a conscience effort to stay healthy. He says he makes a priority of eating well, getting enough sleep and running in order to maintain his fit physique.

Bloom’s love of politics blossomed in San Francisco while he was still in high school. It led him to enroll at George Washington University and also to pursue an internship in Pelosi’s office, his hometown congresswoman and the House minority leader at the time.

Five years later, Bloom says he still loves every minute of the work he does for Pelosi.

“You ask everybody you know if they have a job where they work for somebody they believe in, for causes they believe, loves the work that they do, and work with great people,” Bloom says. “How many people do you know would answer yes to those questions?

“That’s why I consider myself lucky,” he says, “because I would answer yes to those questions.”

–Molly K. Hooper 

Blake Adami: A Texpat

Age: 25

Hometown: Corpus Christi, Texas

Political party: Republican

Relationship status: Single

The White House was a pit stop for this wild Texan. Literally.

While on a road trip to a sports camp during his freshman year of college, Blake Adami jumped out of the car and snapped a picture with the White House in the background while his cousin circled the block. After being in Washington for just 10 minutes, Adami promised himself he’d return.

Adami stayed true to that vow, and now works as a legislative assistant to Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas). A proud “Aggie,” or graduate of Texas A&M University, Adami left the state his family had lived in since the 1800s when he got the job offer. 

The past two years at the Capitol have changed this Southern boy in several ways; for one, he is definitely more bipartisan.

Adami’s social circle includes friends whose politics range widely. When he hangs out with his Democratic friends, they leave politics at the door. “If we’re all hanging out and a political debate heats up, someone yells, ‘Partisan!’ and that’s our code word to relax.”

So far, the code word has prevented any undignified exit from a bar. Rarely the mediator, Adami enjoys lively debate and said the code word often reins him in.

“Maybe not the first time it is said,” he admits, “but it usually does the trick.”

The former track and football star’s smile turns carefree when confessing that he allows himself to offset his active lifestyle of working out with an unhealthy appetite for Washington’s famous Pizza Boli’s big slices and Southern chicken-fried steak. 

He grows sheepish when admitting to being named both homecoming and prom king in high school.

“I was just one of the most involved,” he says. “It was a small school and a small town.” 

–Barbra Kim