Best of Jackson 2020: People | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Best of Jackson 2020: People

Godfrey Morgan Photo by Aliyah Veal

Godfrey Morgan Photo by Aliyah Veal

We here at the Jackson Free Press like to keep our focus on local: local people, local business, local food—you get the idea. There's nothing to us more local than Best of Jackson. We're officially in our 18th annual award season.

Here is who you voted as the best local people, places, food and more.

Best New Chef; Best Caterer: Godfrey Morgan; Godfrey's Carribean Restaurant

(2460 Terry Road, 601-398-3602)

Godfrey Morgan's signature blend of flavors from Carribean, Asian and southern cuisine in his recently opened south Jackson restaurant, Godfrey's Carribean Restaurant, earned him the honor of Best New Chef and Best Caterer.

Born in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, Morgan grew up watching his grandmother, Emiline Leer, cook. She had her own business in Jamaica, and Morgan's memories of her kitchen inspired him to enter the food industry himself. He feels honored when people enjoy his dishes and loves to create innovative recipes to satisfy their palates. "I've always loved to see how customers verify quality," he says.

Morgan ran food and learned to cook his first dishes In his first job at 16 years old at a hotel called Boscobel. He then went on to work in several hotel restaurants in Jamaica, honing his skills in preparing Caribbean, Italian, German, American and Asian food. He moved from Jamaica to Jackson to enroll in Hinds Community College, where he studied culinary arts.

"My eyes opened, because I knew many techniques, but only when I went to college did I know how to gather knowledge and skills," he says.

After gaining years of professional experience, in March 2019, Morgan opened Godfrey's, which includes menu items such as oxtail, sticky ribs, jerk chicken spring rolls, fried chicken and lobster-shrimp toast. He initially thought his business would be catering only, but high demand led Godfrey's to also become a sit-down restaurant as well. Find Godfrey's on Facebook. — Mauricio J. Quijano

Best New Chef

Finalists: Anna Mabry (The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen, 1200 N. State St., Suite 100, 601-398-4562, / Denton Wallace (Walker's Drive In, 3016 N. State St., 601-982-2633, / Hunter Evans (Elvie's, 809 Manship St., 601-863-8828, / Rashanna Newsome (Aplos Simple Mediterranean, 4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 174, 601-714-8989, / Sonya Allen (The Kitchen Angel, 119 Square St., Canton, 601-940-8557)

Best Caterer

Finalists: 4Top Catering (4500 Interstate 55 N., 601-942-4999, / Basil's (2906 N. State St., Suite 104, 601-982-2100; 120 N. Congress St., Suite L1, 601-944-9888) / Fresh Cut Catering & Floral (108 Cypress Cove, Flowood, 601-939-4518, / Local 463 Urban Kitchen (1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite 5002, Ridgeland, 601-707-7684, / Mangia Bene Catering (4465 Interstate 55 N. Frontage Road, 601-362-2900,

Best Bartender; Sexiest Bartender: Katie Fortenberry


Photo courtesy Katie Fortenberry

(Fondren Public, 2765 Old Canton Road, 769-216-2589)

Katie Fortenberry has been a bartender at Fondren Public for about three years. When asked what her favorite part of the job is she jokes, "The booze. No, I'm just kidding.The people. I have some amazing customers, regulars, coworkers and management."

She is a favorite among the crowd, so it felt only right to ask her how she does it. "I've had a lot of great bartenders that have shown me how to take care of people. I know how I like to be treated, and I try—try, mind you—to treat other people the same way. I'm lucky to have really fun customers and coworkers, and that makes it easy."

This seems simple enough, but Katie does it with a flair that leaves lasting impressions among her customers.

Finally, when asked what tips she would give someone new to the business, she offers: "Just to try and make people feel seen and cared for. Some of the roughest days of my life, I ended up in a bar where the bartender was kind to me, and I'll never forget that." — Sarah Kate Pollard

Best Bartender

Finalists: Andrew Gully-Luckett (Bar 3911, 3911 Northview Drive, 601-586-1468) / Jamie Moss (Fenian's Pub, 901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055, / Kree' Blackwell (Bar 3911, 3911 Northview Drive, 601-586-1468) / Kurt Monaghan (Hal & Mal's, 200 Commerce St., 601-948-0888, / Alry Lee (4th Avenue Lounge, 209 S. Lamar St., 855-246-9636,

Sexiest Bartender

Finalists: Courtney Boykin (Ole Tavern on George Street, 416 George St., 601-960-2700, / Jamie Moss (Fenian's Pub, 901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055, / Kree' Blackwell (Bar 3911, 3911 Northview Drive, 601-586-1468) / Kurt Monaghan (Hal & Mal's, 200 Commerce St., 601-948-0888,

Best Fitness Trainer: Misti Garner


Photo courtesy Misti Garner

(Get Fit with Misti, 123 Old Fannin Road, Flowood, 601-540-3601)

Longtime fitness trainer Misti Garner has the skills and experience to help clients reach their fitness goals. She owns Get Fit Studio, which she calls her "happy place," and has been helping people in the Jackson metro transform their bodies ever since. Garner's program is known as Get Fit with Misti. She works alongside a team of 12 other coaches who run various programs and regimens of their own within the studio.

In her Motivation Monday message, Garner says: "A goal without a plan is just a wish. It's not too late to get a plan. You CAN do this." Get Fit Studio is offering free trials throughout January 2020. Find Get Fit with Misti on Facebook. — Tunga Otis

Finalists: Curt McAfee (KutFit Personal Training) / Kendrick Lawson (Xplicit J3 Fitness, 1625 E. County Line Road, 601-850-3425, / Natascha Donald-Williams (G.I. Jan3 StudioX, 201 Ring Road, Suite 20, Ridgeland, 205-441-8291) / Pia Nedjar (Crunch Fitness, 2000 E. County Line Road, Ridgeland, 769-216-0693, / Terry Sullivan (Fondren Fitness, 2807 Old Canton Road, 601-540-0338,

Best Dressed; Best Hair Stylist: Nikki Gallagher


Photo courtesy Nikki Gallagher

(Ritz Salon, 574 Highway 51, Ridgeland, 601-856-4330)

Nikki Gallagher is a mom, fashionista and hair stylist who has been doing hair for 12 years after getting her start right after high school. Gallagher says she knew that she wanted to go into styling hair because it allowed her to be creative. Additionally, Gallagher's mother instilled a love of fashion and shopping into her at a young age. Rather than having a specific go-to style, Gallagher says her style varies day-to-day from edgy to elegant.

As a stylist, Gallagher says that her favorite part of the job is interacting with customers. "I have absolutely loved getting to be a part of people's lives, from the day-to-day struggles and victories to the big moments like proms, weddings, births and funerals. I have been there with them through it all," she says. — Kayla Sims

Best Dressed

Finalists: Alex Moore / Angela Jordan / Kristy Thompson / Melissa Kirksey / Tiffany Jefferson

Best Hair Stylist

Finalists: Gena Steele (THairapy Garden, 587 Highway 51, Suite M-1, Ridgeland, 601-832-5351) / Hannah Roland (The Hair Lounge, 151 E. Metro Parkway, Flowood, 601-896-3178) / Kacey Harrell (ACEY Custom Hair Design, 3015 N. State St., 601-362-0326) / Larson Graham (Molly Gee & Company, 219 Garden Park Drive, Suite 200A, Madison, 601-853-0054, / Lauren Ellis Knight (Top Attractions Salon, 2619 Courthouse Circle, 769-251-1667)

Best Chef: Nick Wallace


Photo courtesy Nick Wallace

(Nick Wallace Culinary, 601-919-6328,

Chef Nick Wallace describes the moment he became the first African American executive chef at the Jackson Marriott Hotel in 2003 as magical.

"I realized what I'm holding down because I'm the first African American to do it, but I'm not going to be the first African American to do it and be sloppy with it," he says.

Seventeen years later, Wallace has his own farm-to-table business, Nick Wallace Culinary; is a winner of Food Network's "Chopped: Alton Brown's Challenge"; and is presently working with "The Help" Director Tate Taylor for a film production project that aims to bring awareness to African American restaurant and business owners.

Growing up on a farm with grandmothers who loved to cook, a sister who did not and a mom who worked two jobs, Wallace was encouraged to be creative and put his heart into every dish. In 2017, his childhood experience motivated him to establish Creativity Kitchen, a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching children and staff in the Jackson Public School District how to prepare healthy meals. Today, Wallace offers a taste of what's to come: details on his opportunity to represent Mississippi abroad and his book, "Rooted," coming in 2021. — Alyssa Bass

Finalists: Alex Eaton (The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen, 1200 N. State St., Suite 100, 601-398-4562, / Daniel White (Local 463 Urban Kitchen, 1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite 5002, Ridgeland, 601-707-7684, / Denton Wallace (Walker's Drive In, 3016 N. State St., 601-982-2633, / Derek Emerson (CAET Seafood and Oysterette, 1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite 9015, Ridgeland, 601-321-9169, / Jesse Houston (Fine & Dandy, 100 District Blvd. E., 601-202-5050,

Best Facialist/Esthetician; Best Makeup Artist: April Epps


Photo courtesy April Epps

(A. Renee Makeup Artistry, 601-850-7658,

"Love what you do and the rest will fall into place," April Epps of A Renee Makeup Artistry says.

She is a Best of Jackson veteran, winning Best Facialist/Esthetician in 2018 and 2019, and she was a finalist in 2017 for Best Makeup Artist. This year, she takes the win in both categories. Epps has worked in the makeup industry for 16 years and in skin care for six. She regularly takes the time to learn and stay up on what's trending.

One of her favorite aspects of her job is meeting people and building relationships with them. "I love my clients. They become my family," she says. She values whenever she is specifically chosen to do work for important events in people's lives, like weddings. Recently, Epps did Elee Reeves' makeup in preparation of Gov. Tate Reeves' inauguration on Jan. 14.

"It means so much when people trust me enough to pick me. You know these huge moments will last forever for them," she says. — Sarah Kate Pollard

Best Facialist/Esthetician

Finalists: Emily Miraglia (AQUA the Day Spa, 1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite 8001, Ridgeland, 601-898-9123, / Jess King (Smoak Salon, 622 Duling Ave., 601-982-5313, / Katelyn Bass (Kat's Korner Spa, 116 Livingston Church Road, Flora, 601-955-2427) / Kristin Bomar (Cole Facial Clinic & Skin Care, 204 E. Layfair Drive, Flowood, 601-933-2004,

Best Makeup Artist

Finalists: Anna Catherine Hester (Molly Gee & Company, 219 Garden Park Drive, Suite 200A, Madison, 601-853-0054, / Camille Moenkhaus (THairapy Garden, 587 Highway 51, Suite M-1, Ridgeland, 601-832-5351) / Christine Cody (Makeup By Cody, 1234 Art Guru, Flowood, 601-760-2776, / Hannah Roland (The Hair Lounge, 151 E. Metro Parkway, Flowood, 601-896-3178) / Kayla Jones (The Beauty Pantry, 504 N. Bierdeman Road, Pearl, 601-850-9038)

Best Barista: Victoria Fortenberry


Victoria Fortenberry Photo by Sara Bannerman

(Cups Espresso Cafe, multiple locations,

Victoria Fortenberry worked as a barista at Cups Espresso Cafe in Fondren until 2018, when Fondren Public General Manager Brad Dreher invited her to work as a barista at his establishment. She later returned to Cups as a barista in the summer of 2019.

"Cups is like a family home to me, and I was glad to come back to my old routine and schedule and see all of my old regulars again," Fortenberry says. "I love the beauty of coffee, and I feel that Cups really brought that here to Fondren. It's easy to be here because of how close-knit we all are." — Dustin Cardon

Finalists: Cody Cox (Urban Foxes, 826 North St., 769-572-5505, / Jasmine Rivera / Michaela Fisk (Sneaky Beans, 2914 N. State St., 601-487-6349) / Maya Miller (Cups Espresso Cafe, multiple locations, / Josh Tannehill (Cups Espresso Cafe, multiple locations,

Best Local Business Owner; Best Urban Warrior: Jeff Good


Jeff Good Photo by Stephen Wilson

(Mangia Bene Management Group, 3317 N. State St., 601-982-4443)

Although Jeff Good may count 25 years in the restaurant business, he hadn't envisioned that career path as a possibility at the outset. He originally worked for a computer company here in Jackson, but when AT&T bought the company in 1991 and his branch closed, Good found himself unemployed, although hopeful that some other opportunity may present itself.

He already had ideas about opening a restaurant and decided to pursue the dream after a conversation with his high-school friend Dan Blumenthal, who had moved to California to work as a chef. "We lacked experience and money. We worked on a business plan for two years and figured out a way to attract private investment by hosting private dinner parties at my house and showcasing different foods," Good says. "We eventually secured $10,000 each from a select group of people and, in 1994, were able to open our first restaurant, Bravo!"

Good and Blumenthal, of course, did not stop there, subsequently creating and founding Broad Street Baking Company in 1999 and Sal and Mookie's New York Pizza and Ice Cream Shop in 2008. All his restaurants are created with purpose for not only culinary delight, but community connectivity as well. "I want good food and good experiences here in the capital city," Good says.

His newest project is the nonprofit Refill Cafe, located in the building that once housed Koinonia Coffee. "This is a workforce training program for people who are looking for a fresh start," Good says, upbeat as usual. — Mike McDonald

Best Local Business Owner

Finalists: Christopher Lockhart (Capital City Kayak, 571-322-6051, / Cody Cox (Urban Foxes (826 North St., 769-572-5505, / Jenni Sivils (The Prickly Hippie, 500 Highway 51, Suite F, Ridgeland, 601-910-6730, / Melissa Kirksey (BB'S LIVE - Bonny Blair's, 1149 Old Fannin Road, Brandon, 769-447-5788) / Phillip Rollins (Offbeat, 151 Wesley Ave., 601-376-9404,

Best Urban Warrior

Finalists: Amanda Paige / Brad Franklin / Phillip Rollins / Tonja Murphy

Best Local Drag Performer: Mia Chambers


Photo courtesy Mia Chambers

Joshua Conerly, better known as Mia Chambers, is Jackson's best drag performer for the second year in a row. In the local drag community for nearly two decades, Conerly has seen the evolution of the craft and watched as younger queens made a splash, but says his old "glamour queen" style still sets him apart. Taking cues from old Hollywood, Conerly blends the style into his vintage looks. He says he loves performing and especially the support he gets in Jackson.

Conerly found his outlet in drag performing, from sewing to singing. "Drag is a form of religion for me," Conerly says. "I have been doing it for over 17 years, and it has saved me more than once. It is really nice to get recognized. It just shows that people actually care about what you are doing and that they still want to see you around." — Caleb McCluskey

Finalists: Brooklyn Alexander / Erin Steele / Ke'Charra Illuminati / London Du'More

Best Massage Therapist: Tiffany Melton


Photo courtesy Tiffany Melton

(Massage by Tiffany, 4435 Mangum Drive, Suite B, Flowood, 601-317-1788)

Even when we do not immediately notice, our day-to-day grind can tax our body—the perfect time for a great massage. Jacksonians have once again selected Tiffany Melton as Best Massage Therapist. She has been a winner or a finalist in the category multiple times since she began her practice after graduating from the Mississippi School of Therapeutic Massage in 2011. In 2016, Melton opened Massage by Tiffany, which operates inside Warehouse Gym in Flowood.

Melton personally communicates with clients to draft a plan to offer an effective and relaxing customized session tailored to fit each clients' diverse wants and needs. "Whatever you are dealing with, I can help and find the best treatment option based on your individual needs," she says. — Tunga Otis

Finalists: Christopher Jordan (iRevive Bodyworks Massage & Spa, 1900 Dunbarton Drive, Suite C, 601-259-8918) / Courtney Mansell (Licensed Massage Therapist, 16 Northtown Drive, Suite 106, 601-966-1459) / Eclecius Franklin (E Fitness and Massage, 577 Highway 51, Suite C, Ridgeland, 601-790-7602) / Greg Griffin (Drench Day Spa & Lash Lounge, 118 W. Jackson St., Ridgeland, 601-707-5656, / Shanna Hartzog-Smith (Therapeutic Connections, 3003 Lakeland Cove, Suite C, Flowood, 601-214-9109,

Best Nail Technician: Kristy Nguyen


Photo courtesy Kristy Nguyen

(Rouge Nails Lash Wax, 5352 Lakeland Drive, 769-572-4747)

Growing up, Kristy Nguyen dreamed of becoming a nurse. Raised in a family of manicurists, she learned the craft at a young age and later used it to pay her way through the University of Mississippi. But a year into the Hinds Community College nursing program, she realized that her true love was not medicine. "I really enjoyed working with nails," she says.

Nguyen, who works at Rouge Nails Lash Wax, earned her certification as a nail technician and began working as a full-time manicurist in 2012. "I like connecting with different people and learning about them and their lives and occupations," Nguyen says.

She offers a variety of services, including manicures, acrylic, dip-powder nails and pedicures, but her passion is nail care. "I love teaching people about what is best for their nails and what their options are," she said. "I think that is very important, and people want to know." — Torsheta Jackson

Finalists: Adrienne Williams (Fondren Nails, 2906 N. State St., 601-316-9264) / Brian Nguyen / Sonny Nguyen (The Nail Lounge, 4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 1038, 601-398-4451, / Victoria Walker (Cuticles Nail Studio, 2947 Old Canton Road, 601-366-6999)

Best Photographer: Crystal Marie Thompson


Crystal Marie Thompson Photo by D'Artagnan Winford

(Crystal Marie Photography, 601-691-0487)

Crystal Marie Photography offers a versatile range of services to capture some of the most important moments of any customer's life. From weddings to baby pictures, the business covers an array of memorable experiences.

A native of Montana, Crystal Thompson relocated along with her love for photography to Mississippi in 2015. Originally starting her practice as a part-time gig, the mother of eight aimed to fully invest into her craft after her own children inspired her to do so. "Being able to provide and capture other people's memories and understanding their importance is due to my experience with my children," Thompson says.

Make inquiries or book appointments by finding Crystal Marie Photography's business page on Facebook. — Luis Montgomery

Finalists: Camille Moenkhaus (MILLE.ME, 769-610-6608) / Mallory Ann Stricklin (Hazy Dreams Photography, 601-405-6568) / Melody Thompson (Melody Ellis Photography, 769-257-9449) / Tristan Duplichain (Tristan Duplichain Photography, 601-946-3708, / Wiley Smith (Geran Photography, 601-826-1696,

Best Public Figure: Phil Bryant


Phil Bryant Photo by Ashton Pittman

This year's winner for Best Public Figure, Dewey Phillip Bryant, just wrapped up his eight-year term as Mississippi's 64th governor. From 2008 to 2012, Bryant served as the state's lieutenant governor, an arguably more powerful position in Mississippi politics. In that role, Bryant presided over the Senate and had considerable say over what legislation to push forth or kill.

As governor, in 2015, Bryant vehemently defended the Mississippi flag, which contains the Confederate battle emblem. He annually declares April "Confederate Heritage Month" and won an award from the Sons of Confederate Veterans named for Mississippi's secessionist and slave-owning governor. He has been a vocal opponent of LGBTQ rights, signing HB 1523 in 2016, which allowed businesses and government officials to withhold services from same-sex couples on the grounds of religious beliefs.

Bryant also signed the controversial "heartbeat bill" last spring, which would ban abortions past six weeks, the time at which most women even learn that they are pregnant. The Center for Reproductive Rights characterized the bill as "blatantly unconstitutional." Last year, reporter Ashton Pittman revealed the extent of Bryant's involvement in setting up and promoting Brexit US.

Like Haley Barbour before him, Phil Bryant now has the distinction of showing the breadth of the Jackson Free Press' readership and voting pool in the Best of Jackson contest. — Seyma Bayram

Finalists: Chokwe Antar Lumumba / James & Natasha King / Jeff Good / Rita Brent

Best Professor: Robert Ward


Robert Ward Photo courtesy Mississippi College

(Mississippi College,

The power a strong professor brings to their classes is undeniable, whether that manifests itself as mastery of complex ideas or genuine care and respect for their students. Robert Ward, assistant professor of psychology and counseling at Mississippi College, claims that honor this year. Ward is a Mississippi professor through and through, earning two bachelor's degrees from Mississippi College, and finishing his master's and doctorate degrees at the University of Southern Mississippi, returning to his first collegiate alma mater to teach. Students nominated Ward for his personable approach to teaching and the interest he devotes to those in his classroom. — Nick Judin

Finalists: Joshua Cotton (Jackson State University, / Mark Henderson (Jackson State University, / Tracey Wells-Harmon (Jackson State University,

Best Real Estate Agent: Shandra Thompson


Photo courtesy Shandra Thompson

(The Agency Real Estate Services, 350 Arbor Drive, Suite A, 601-291-1158)

At a recent housewarming-barbeque party, real-estate agent Shandra Thompson enjoyed meeting her client's family and friends.

"Maybe I sometimes eat unhealthily, such as on this day we had grilled pork ribs, but I always enjoy celebrating with my customers after they have moved into their new homes," she says with a giggle.

Thompson says he purchase of a new home is probably the best way to achieve her clients' goals of generational wealth. "I want to meet their families and see the excited faces. So many sales are a slow process. I don't want to rush it," Thompson says. "It is important to find the home that best suits the clients' needs. I enjoy the search as much as my customers do, and I want to be transparent and realistic. Buying a home is a big investment and my clients become my friends. Honesty, integrity and kindness are all part of the sale."

Thompson earned her bachelor's degree from Jackson State University and her master's from Belhaven University. She works for The Agency Real Estate Services and is married with two small children. She and her husband are active community volunteers. —Anne B McKee

Finalists: Amy Boes (Ann Prewitt Realty, 601-898-0663, / Candy Whitehead (KeyTrust Properties, 601-259-0758, / Hayley Hayes (Overby Residential, 1808 N. State St., 601-366-8511, / Kevin Partridge (eXp Realty, 7048 Old Canton Road, 601-720-0707, / Kimberlee Haralson (Crye-Leike Realtors, 601-825-1125,

Best Server/Waitperson: Alex Moore


Photo courtesy Alex Moore

(Saltine Restaurant, 622 Duling Ave., Suite 201, 601-982-2899,

While many people who have waited tables have found the job daunting, Alex Moore, this year's winner for Best Server/Waitperson, strives to make the most out of his job every day in every way.

Growing up, Moore had a love for fashion, but he soon discovered a new passion. Beginning his journey as a waiter at The Bulldog, he worked his way up to general manager within two years. Realizing that he missed being on the floor, he stepped down from his position and began working as a server for Saltine Restaurant in June 2019. Moore says he enjoys the communicative nature of being a server, because he gets to interact with customers, which he says is beautiful.

Moore values his position as a waiter and server and prides himself on doing what he can to be mindful of those he serves. He says you never know someone's situation, so giving customers a positive human interaction can be important.

"Treat every customer right. I know sometimes we prejudge people, but give them the same energy as you would give your mom, dad, family, friends or anybody else. Give them the same energy you wanted to be given because you never know their situations," he says. — Kayla Sims

Finalists: Ainsley Smith / Amelia Brunson (The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen, 1200 N. State St., Suite 100, 601-398-4562, / Casey Hardigree (Walker's Drive In, 3016 N. State St., 601-982-2633, / Michelle Corbin (Saltine Restaurant, 622 Duling Ave., Suite 201, 601-982-2899, / Taylor Decell (The Briar Patch, 1150 Old Cedars Lane, Flora, 601-559-8565)

Best Jackson Visual Artist: Wyatt Waters


Wyatt Waters Photo by Imani Khayyam


Wyatt Waters has been a painter since his earliest childhood memories, beginning at only 2-and-a-half years old when his mother would let him splatter paint on their soon-to-be-remodeled kitchen floor. After taking a brief hiatus from painting during high school, Waters again pursued his art seriously at Mississippi College. "I went to college (so that) I could invent myself again," Waters says. "So my sophomore year I began painting in earnest."

After completing his master's degree at MC, Waters worked various craft fairs and worked the Jackson area ever since and plans to continue his work while transitioning to larger studio pieces in the future. Waters says he creates his works with the goal of spurring thought from his viewers. "It's important to encourage people to think," he says. "My goal is to ask them to think and to feel and respond. I have faith that people will come to conclusions that are good." — Ashley Hobson

Finalists: Azha Sanders ( / Camille Moenkhaus / Eli Childers ( / Justin Ransburg ( / William Goodman (

Best Teacher: Harriet Eppes


Harriet Eppes Photo courtesy Jackson Academy

(Jackson Academy,

Harriet Eppes, a third-grade teacher at Jackson Academy, has been teaching at the school for more than 35 years.Born in Florida, Eppes graduated from Suwannee High School in Live Oak, Fla., then went on to Queens College in Charlotte, N.C., where she received a bachelor's degree in music in 1978. She worked as a music teacher in Florida for one year beginning in 1981 before moving to Jackson in 1982, where she took a job as a paralegal at the Watkins and Eager law firm.

Eppes continued her education at Belhaven University in Jackson and received her elementary-teaching certification there in 1984. After receiving her bachelor's degree, she began teaching at Jackson Academy while pursuing a master's degree in education at Mississippi College in Clinton, which she received in 1986. She moved to Madison in 2001.

"I love working with children throughout the year and getting to know them all personally," Eppes says. "Teaching at Jackson Academy surrounded by exceptional people makes me feel like my job isn't just a job, but a kind of ministry, something I was meant to do." — Dustin Cardon

Finalists: Chiquila Pearson (Gary Road Intermediate School, / Hanna Bourque (Oak Forest Elementary, / Leigh Ann Westbrook (Park Place Christian Academy,

Best Barber: Chris Paige


Photo courtesy Chris Paige

(Custom Cuts & Styles, 2445 Terry Road, 601-321-9292)

Chris Paige says the key to his success, beyond his barbering skills, is customer service. He wants his clients to feel like getting a haircut is like a "vacation away from work and home." For his business practice, Paige draws a similarity between being a barber and being a bartender, in the sense that he works to make sure customers are comfortable. "When (customers) come to my barber shop, they feel comfortable and relaxed, and they get away from the stress of home or the job. They come here, and they can be themselves," he says.

Paige has been a barber for about 20 years and has owned Custom Cuts & Styles in Jackson for nearly 10 years. Custom Cuts has been a previous winner for Best Barber Shop and is often listed as a finalist. Find the business on Facebook. — Richard Coupe

Finalists: Audrey Kendall (Fondren Barber Shop, 2939 Old Canton Road, 601-826-0707) / Blake Stevens (The Barbershop at Great Scott, 4400 Old Canton Road, Suite 100, 601-984-3500, / Christian Favorite (HunterPhillips Salon, 151 E. Metro Parkway, Suite 49, Flowood, 601-519-1399) / Lanis Noble (Noble Barber, 1065 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite F, Ridgeland, 601-856-6665; / Matt Heath (Noble Barber, 1065 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite F, Ridgeland, 601-856-6665;

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