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LCAHouston’s Top Ten People of the Year 2017

LCAHouston’s Top Ten People of the Year 2017

It has been a historical year for Houston. Hurricane Harvey caused historic and catastrophic flooding, leaving thousands in the city helpless and homeless. Blue skies and sun finally appeared after days of torrential rain in August, and months later, there are still many ongoing stories of heartache and tragedy. But what makes Texas, and this city, so special is the brave and determined hearts of its people. Houstonians’ immense capacity for humanity and compassion during tragedy is a hallmark of their true American spirit. Neighbors have come together to help one another irrespective of race, religion, or political affiliation. And in the midst of our recovery from tragedy, Houston once again made headlines for all the right reasons as our Houston Astros won the World Series! What an incredible year!

Real estate is booming with high rises popping up everywhere from the Galleria to Midtown to Montrose. Our city is a shining example of continued growth and prosperity in the face of adversity. Houston has always bucked the trend and this past year was no different. #HoustonStrong has become a style statement.

One thing is certain: NOTHING can stop this city. It continues to thrive successfully and stylishly, and it is a true reflection of its citizen’s resiliency. As we wrap up the year, we are proud to present LCAHouston’s Top Ten People of The Year 2017!

Alicia Smith

Alicia Smith proudly wears many hats: wife, mother, entrepreneur, volunteer, and philanthropist. Alicia is the President and CEO of Innovative Legal Solutions and was honored to be recognized as a 2017 Woman of Substance. Her entrepreneurial drive led her to expand Associated Video into Innovative Legal Solutions in 1997. Alicia was appointed to the CRCB Task Force in 2008, serving on the board of directors of the Women’s Business Enterprise Alliance, The Houston Ballet, the Southwest Regional Board of Directors for UNICEF, Palmer Drug Abuse Program (PDAP), and is a member of the International Women’s Forum.

With several awards under her belt, Alicia has been involved in an extensive range of philanthropic endeavors, chairing many high profile galas including the American Heart Association, the Amschwand Sarcoma Foundation, The Houston Ballet, and UNICEF, just to name a few.

Photo By | Gittings Photography

Alicia Smith

Bashar Kalai

Words fall short to describe the generosity of Bashar Kalai, the CEO and Founder of Amerapex Corporation, who with persistence and patience, grew his company organically to a couple of hundred employees and global operations over the course of 15 years. Along with his wife Brigitte, they support several charities. His background is international, as well as, being born in New Delhi to a Syrian diplomat. Bashar draws upon his heritage as the source of his compassion and his humanity towards those in need. Recently the couple donated one million dollars to the Interfaith Ministries.

Photo Courtesy | Lebanon Times Magazine


Minal Patel Davis

Minal Patel Davis serves as Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Special Advisor on Human Trafficking, the first municipal-level position of its kind in the United States. Appointed in July of 2015, Davis is charged with making a local impact on human trafficking in the 4th largest city in the U.S. from a policy-level perspective, and by advancing systemic change. She developed and is currently implementing the Mayor’s Anti Human Trafficking Strategic Plan, which is the first comprehensive municipal response to human trafficking by an American city. In May of 2016, she spoke at the United Nations World Humanitarian Summit on how the City of Houston is addressing, through its Strategic Plan, irregular migration as it presents itself in human trafficking.

Photo Courtesy | Minal Patel Davis

Travis Torrence

As Vice President of Legal for Jiffy Lube International Inc., Travis Torrence advises executive leadership on critical legal issues, risk management, and compliance matters. His focus is developing creative solutions and protocols to achieve key business objectives while enhancing the ethics, reputation, and crisis management response of his organization. He earned his J.D. at Yale Law School and graduated Summa Cum Laude from Tulane University. Travis serves on the Board of Directors of the National LGBT Bar Foundation, the Texas Bar Foundation, the Houston Bar Foundation, Bo’s Place, and AIDS Foundation Houston.

Photo By | Morris Malakoff


Kiran Verma

Chef Kiran Verma, is considered the ‘godmother of Indian fine dining,’ who has created world-class Indian cuisine at her eponymous restaurant, which reopened at its new location in Upper Kirby in January this year. A self taught chef, who has been guided by her upbringing and love for fine cuisine. Her cuisine is defined as a combination of culture, philosophies and modern cooking techniques. The restaurant is synonymous with elegance and sophistication, and blended with her warm personality.

Photo By | Chuck Cook


Michael Chabala

There is no slowing down for this former Major League Soccer player who believes in keeping the ball rolling. Founder of Sphere, Michael played back to his strengths and realized his true calling to #keeptheballrolling. Searching for a workout that matched the intensity, team mentality and exhilaration that soccer provided, he put his cleats back on. Learning from the field and mistakes made, Michael started to play in a different direction from his previous 25 years. He focused on quality of play instead of minutes on the field, connecting people rather than passes, and doing more with a ball than just scoring goals. From that, Sphere was born – a soccer-inspired fitness concept and signature game-changing class. Huddle up and get ready to practice like you play!

Photo By | Sphere


Rania Mankarious

Crime Stoppers of Houston officially cut the ribbon and opened the doors to the first-ever Crime Stoppers headquarters anywhere in the world on Friday, January 27, 2017. After 36 years of exemplary service in Houston, the historical building became Crime Stoppers’ first permanent home. Rania Mankarious, Executive Director of Crime Stoppers, is a powerhouse and cheerleader for Houston’s safety. Boston-native Rania received a Masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. Her extensive resume boasts many accomplishments including an interview with First Lady, Laura Bush.

Photo Courtesy | Rania Mankarious


Nicole O’Brian Lassiter

What can we say about this reigning beauty queen, Nicole O’Brian Lassiter, a former double crown winner of MISS TEXAS TEEN USA® and MISS TEXAS USA®. She was a runner–up to MISS TEEN USA® and MISS USA® as well as winner of the Swimsuit Award in both national competitions. Nicole has been featured in Real Simple, Readers Digest, Houston Modern Luxury, Prevention, Endeavor Lifestyle, and Wired Italy Magazine. Her acting roles include a performance in Days of Our Lives, and the lead role in the movie The Mark, and placed 3rd in The Amazing Race. Nicole has been the host of multiple television shows including The Drop Spot, Winds of the World and My Fox Houston Live and traffic reporter on Fox 26 Morning News.

She is the owner of a consulting business, Bee Your Best, where she coaches young women on stage presentation, modeling, poise and styling. She is passionate about issues involving children at risk as well as cancer awareness and research, specifically pediatric cancer and breast cancer awareness.

Photo By | BethieLife


Arpan Gupta

With a promising career in medicine on the horizon, Arpan Gupta rebooted his trajectory in 2009 by launching Carnegie Homes. The serial entrepreneur with a passion for design and construction took a major risk that has not only paid off in business growth and success – the company was ranked on both the Houston Business Journal Fast 100 and Inc. Magazine 5000 lists in 2017 – but also in an array of projects that have created new landmarks in their respective neighborhoods. The past year saw the unveiling of several residential enclaves, including Masterson Oaks in the historic Westmoreland section of Montrose, as well as Kensington at River Oaks, featuring the tallest townhome in Houston with postcard views of the city. In 2018, Gupta will continue to expand his business reach with two stunning speculative home starts in the prestigious pockets of Avalon and Oak Estates, and will expand his recently debuted custom home division, focusing on multi-million dollar properties.

Photo Courtesy | Studio Communications


Rebecca Brinkley

Rebecca Brinkley, a native Houstonian, is a Fashion Stylist and Consultant who is attuned to the needs of her clients. She majored in fashion merchandising at Texas Christian University, and began her styling career in Dallas where she has styled many high profile socialites, including wives of sports personalities and other celebrities. Rebecca certainly has an up-to-the-minute grasp of fashion, and how to create a classic yet dynamic presence for her clients. With her incredible work experience at Dior, Akris, and Neiman Marcus, Rebecca has styled in-house runway shows. She strongly believes that everyone has their own personal style, and that a stylist can take them to the next level. Her favor quote: “Fashion Fades, Style is Eternal,” by Yes Saint Laurent.

Photo By | Sonya Abid


About The Author


Ruchi Mukherjee, Editor/Founder of LCAHouston, started her career in journalism and reporting with The Times of India, her stories have journeyed from India’s notorious red light districts, to NASA breaking news, to interviews with Hollywood royalty. Along with her stint in journalism and reporting, Ruchi takes active initiative to volunteer for various nonprofit organizations that involve women and children.

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