@d_lphoto and Miss San Antonio USA Pageant

Lillian Perez couldn't contain her joy when she was crowned Miss San Antonio USA 2023. However, she went straight back to work the next day, preparing for the next stop in her journey. CultureMap connected with the pageant queen to learn more about her path to winning the crown, and what she plans to do next.

Perez has been committed to doing the work ever since she was crowned Miss Teen San Antonio USA back in 2018. Perez tells CultureMap, "I truly know that my purpose in life is to push people outside of their comfort zones, I want to be that source of drive. And this title gives me the opportunity to do that."

Juggling life as a full-time student and a Cyclebar Stone Oak instructor on the side never slowed Perez down as she kept prepping for the pageant, learning how to walk properly, perfecting her stage presence, prep for interview questions, and maintaining a healthy, yet rigorous gym routine.

"Discomfort is growth and you can't have one without the other," Perez captioned one of her Instagram photos at the gym, where she frequently posts motivational content for her nearly 3K followers.

Perez acknowledges that for every inspiring fitness post of hers on social media, there were moments where, "I'd count myself out before I even get started." Her mindset could be her greatest asset, and sometimes, her worst enemy.

When it came to those moments, Perez had to remind herself, "if you weren't ready, you wouldn't have the opportunity. And if you weren't capable, you wouldn't have the desire."

And to say that Perez had the desire and drive to earn the Miss San Antonio USA 2023 crown would be an understatement. Her days as a student, pageant queen in the making, and cycle instructor were easily 12-15 hours long, if not longer.

Perez recounts, "I was [taking] seven courses, [working] a part time job, [and] assist[ing] in research opportunities." Not only that, but she had to remember to hydrate (relatable), work out every day, and stay on top of her healthy diet plan.

Although the Miss Texas USA pageant is the most immediate next step on Perez's journey (you can root for her when the pageant takes place on July 14-15, 2023), Perez already has a longer game plan in mind for her career.

Currently studying kinesiology, Perez aims to get into a doctoral program for physical therapy. "With my career as a physical therapist, I plan to accrue enough capital to one day open my own gym. I have two semesters left, so I'm almost at the finish line."

One of Perez's close friends, former Miss Texas Alayah Benavidez, (also a former Bachelor contestant), was crowned Miss San Antonio when Perez was crowned Miss Teen San Antonio USA in 2018. Naturally, Benavidez was there to cheer Perez on during the 2023 Miss San Antonio USA pageant.

With the support of all her loved ones, Perez presses on, determined to work hard to achieve every dream and use her platform as Miss San Antonio USA 2023 to help others.

"Your perspective is your power," Perez adds, "I want to be that source of drive and inspiration [for others] to work hard, and to focus on things that matter like education, a healthy, active lifestyle, and kindness."

Spoken like a true Miss San Antonio.

Photo courtesy of Hari Mari

Texas flip-flop brand Hari Mari steps into brave new world of women's boots

Kicking it up

Texas footwear brand Hari Mari has arrived to help women transition the closet from flip-flop season to boot season.

The premium, Dallas-based brand known for its comfy, celeb-favorite flops has just launched its first ever women's boot. Called the Hari Mari "Midland," it's described as "a versatile women’s Chelsea boot constructed with premium suede, soft-squeeze foam midsoles, and generous goring to allow for easy slip-on, slip-off access."

The boots also include dual-density memory foam inserts that provide the "immediate, out-of-the-box comfort" that Hari Mari prides itself on.

“Our female sandal customer asked and we listened,” says Hari Mari Founder, Lila Stewart, in a release. “Over the years, we’ve been perfecting our sandals, which customers love for the immediate comfort and durability, so we decided it was about time we brought these same product characteristics to women’s boots.

The Midland is offered in three colors — autumn, black and taupe — and sells for $170 , in Hari Mari’s Dallas Flagship store, on HariMari.com, and select retailers across the country.

It's a bold step into the already crowded world of boots, especially in Texas. But the brand promises that the comfort level will set them apart.

"This beautiful, classic boot will allow our female customers to wear Hari Mari footwear through cold and warm months alike, experiencing the brand’s fanatical commitment to comfort whether it’s 80 degrees out or snowing," Stewart says. "And, believe us, they will feel the difference. It’s Hari Mari’s calling card and we’re excited to be able to offer year-round footwear to all of our customers."

Since it was founded in 2012, Hari Mari has built its reputation not only on quality, fashion-forward flip-flops (and other kinds of shoes and apparel), but also on its sustainability and philanthropic efforts, which are a part of the company’s DNA. Hari Mari gives 1 percent of sales to support kids battling cancer through its called Flops Fighting Cancer initiative.

Photo courtesy of Project Runway

Bistr09 presents B9 Fashion Brunch

Bistr09 presents B9 Fashion Brunch

Bistr09 will present Project Runway All Star's winner and designer Anthony Ryan Auld at their next Fashion Brunch.

The event features a lavish brunch dish while a runway of models showcase the innovative designs of Anthony's clothing line, Couleur + Blindé. He creates fashion to inspire the modern woman with clean lines, definitive shapes and bold fabric selections.

Photo courtesy of ChildSafe

Roshnic’s 8th Annual Fashion Show benefitting ChildSafe

Roshnic’s 8th Annual Fashion Show benefitting ChildSafe

Local designer Roshnic Latif will present an exclusive cross-cultural fashion show, benefitting ChildSafe. Roshnic is celebrated for her colorful one-of-a-kind hand painted silks and block print designs in both western and eastern styles. This is a socially distanced outdoor event.

Photo courtesy of Vogt Auction Galleries

Vogt Auction Galleries presents Luxury Estates Auction

Vogt Auction Galleries presents Luxury Estates Auction

Vogt Auction's Luxury Estates event will feature more than 350 lots of designer jewelry, watches, fashion, art, and decorative arts from the finest homes and estates in San Antonio. The auction event will take place live in-person and online, featuring iconic designs from Cartier, Hermes, Rolex, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany, Piaget, Chanel, and others.

Photo courtesy of San Antonio Food Bank

San Antonio Food Bank presents Runway 2020

San Antonio Food Bank presents Runway 2020

Fashionable and philanthropic Hunger Fighters presents the San Antonio Food Bank’s annual signature fashion show event, Runway, in partnership with R World and Saks Fifth Avenue. This year will turn back time with a mid-century modern theme. There will be delicious cuisine, drinks, and more.

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James Beard award nominee Nicola Blaque set to open 3rd restaurant concept in Hemisfair Park

Hungry at Hemisfair

Chef Nicola Blaque has a new restaurant concept in the works at Hemisfair Park.

The City of San Antonio Historic and Design Review Commission officially approved Blaque's concept for her third restaurant, Port Royal, to be housed in the historic Schultze House in Hemisfair Park.

While Port Royal will feature similar menu items from Blaque's original restaurant, the Jerk Shack, the Hemisfair spot will also feature a full bar and cocktail program, the first of its kind for Blaque's restaurants.

For anyone who hasn't had the pleasure of eating at the Jerk Shack, Blaque's signature culinary style is artisanal Jamaican cuisine, with menu options like Blaque's signature jerk chicken, fried plantains, jerk egg rolls, and more.

Guests at Blaque's new restaurant concept will also be able to order 'steakhouse-menu like items,' per an official press release from Hemisfair. Port Royal will also have the distinction of being one of the first public tenants on what is the now-driveable E. Nueva St.

So we know what you're thinking — when does Port Royal open anyway? Can we expect cocktails and food at Port Royal this summer?

Bit of bad news fellow foodies — Port Royal is slated for a summer opening, but not until summer 2024.

However, anything new from the James Beard Award nominated chef (most recently she made it to the James Beard Award semifinals for 2023) is always worth the wait, so just hang tight for now and we'll keep you posted on details of Port Royal's grand opening.

Blaque, who is also a military veteran, had this to say about Port Royal in an official statement — "The response to The Jerk Shack has been amazing, which has allowed us to expand across the city...Our fans and customers have been extremely supportive of our growth so we’re looking forward to bringing The Jerk Shack to Hemisfair."

Port Royal will join other new tenants at Hemisfair's Civic Park, including Künstler Tap Haus, Bombay Bicycle Club and Kusch Faire.

Construction on Port Royal is slated to begin in fall 2023.

American Airlines adds summer travel perks including Wi-Fi enhancements, meals, and movies

Airline Food News

Fort Worth-based American Airlines has made some additions to its in-flight lineup for summer 2023, including new meals and foodie snacks, Wi-Fi updates, and new movie options to stream. That includes a special selection of films celebrating Pride Month in June.

Food first!

The new food options include chef-curated menu options in premium cabins and choices for the indulgent or health-conscious traveler in the main cabin.

Plant-based: Customers flying on transcontinental American Flagship service flights have a new premium entrée and it's plant-based, woo-hoo: The new Plant-Based Bulgogi Noodle Bowl entrée comes with yakisoba noodles, stir-fry vegetables, and plant-based beef crumbles — offering a new meal option that is both nourishing and delicious.

Avli on the Park: Customers flying in premium cabins to Europe from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport this summer can enjoy dishes from Avli on the Park, a Greek restaurant in Chicago and a Michelin 2023 honoree. Options include a Greek Beef Orzo Stew and a Kagiana Egg Scramble for breakfast. These items from Avli on the Park are available on six nonstop flights to Europe: Athens, Barcelona, Dublin, London, Paris, and Rome.

Wi-Fi updates
Wi-Fi enhancements for the summer months include:

Complimentary Wi-Fi for T-Mobile customers: By July, 100 percent of American's Wi-Fi-equipped regional and narrowbody aircrafts will offer T-Mobile In-Flight Connection On Us, allowing eligible T-Mobile customers to enjoy complimentary connectivity with streaming on domestic flights.

Summer streaming: Travelers to international destinations should be able to enjoy faster Wi-Fi speeds and a more reliable service for all their connectivity needs thanks to increased bandwidth planned for American's widebody aircraft, offering 100 percent mainline aircraft with video streaming capabilities.

New film and viewing options include:

Monthly exclusives: New movies will be offered monthly which customers can watch exclusively inflight such as the new AppleTV+ movie Ghosted.

Pride Month: American is offering an entertainment channel featuring top LGBTQ+ talent; customers can choose from a list of movies and series.

American Black Film Festival channel: This summer, American is bringing new content to the American Black Film Festival channel, elevating the unique voices and power stories of the Black community to offer a deeper understanding of the Black experience.

"Our customers are the inspiration behind everything we do, and American is committed to consistently deliver a world-class experience for them,” said Kim Cisek, Vice President of Customer Experience. “We know customers want a convenient travel experience throughout their journey on American and to arrive at their destination satisfied and ready to explore — a focus we keep in mind when refreshing and creating new experiences for them to enjoy on the ground and in the skies."

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is ridiculous and fun at the same time

Movie Review

The Transformers series has been one marked by near universal derision by the critics and (mostly) massive box office, highlighting the divide between those who watch movies for a living and those who just go for fun. Given that history, it seemed unlikely that the latest film, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, would unite the two factions.

Like the last film, Bumblebee, Rise of the Beasts is a prequel to the Transformers films directed by Michael Bay from 2007-2017 (Bay remains as a producer). Set in 1994, it features a way-too-complicated story involving something called the Transwarp device prized by three separate groups of Transformers: The Autobots led by Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen); the Maximals, animal-esque bots led by Optimus Primal (Ron Perlman); and the Terrorbots, led by Scourge (Peter Dinklage). One guess as to which of those groups is the evil one.

Mirage (Pete Davidson) in Transformers: Rise of the Beasts

Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Mirage (Pete Davidson) in Transformers: Rise of the Beasts.

Noah Diaz (Anthony Ramos) is a former soldier in Manhattan who can’t find a job and tries his best to take care of his sickly brother, Kris (Dean Scott Vazquez). Elena Wallace (Dominique Fishback) works at a museum on Ellis Island, where she encounters an artifact with unusual markings. Through a series of unlikely but still fun events, both of them are dragged into the conflict between the Transformers, with nothing less than the fate of the universe at stake.

Directed by Steven Caple Jr. and written by a team of five writers, the film is as ridiculous as any of the previous iterations, and yet somehow it becomes the most entertaining entry yet. Some of this has to do with the human characters, who are given engaging scenes outside of the ones with Transformers, allowing them to be relatable instead of just pawns in the robot battles.

The trifecta of Transformer groups turn out to be actually interesting, rather than an excuse to fill the screen with CGI nonsense. The Autobots, as usual, are the main heroes, and with Bumblebee using movie quotes to talk and Mirage (Pete Davidson) lobbing wisecracks constantly, they’re rarely unentertaining. Having the animal-like Maximals on board gives a new dimension, and the seemingly unstoppable Scourge makes for an intimidating villain.

That’s not to say, of course, that the film doesn’t devolve into chaos on multiple occasions. Several of the battles, including the final sequence, seem designed to be almost incomprehensible. But Caple and the visual effects team appear to have understood that clarity makes for a better moviegoing experience, and so even as bedlam reigns, there’s a level of focus to the film that other films in the series have not had.

Even though his character isn’t fully fleshed out, Ramos brings a kind of streetwise energy to the role that makes him stand out. Fishback is not given as much to do, but she’s still highly enjoyable. Cullen, who’s been voicing Optimus Prime since the 1980s, is still a commanding presence, allowing Davidson, Michelle Yeoh, Perlman, and more to bring their own unique flair to their characters.

It may be a low bar to jump, but Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is the best film so far in the series, cracking the code of pairing humans with robots for a (semi)intelligible story. A late movie teaser will have fans geeking out over the future, but it’s best to enjoy this film for being as good as it is.


Transformers: Rise of the Beasts opens in theaters on June 9.