As millennials continue to make their mark on the community, NI celebrates Naples’ next generation with five men and women who are leading the way
Photography by Heather Donlan | Hair & makeup by Patti TK and Cherylann TK, Philip Douglas & Co., Naples | Women’s styling and wardrobe by Ashleigh Ferguson and TKTK, Lilly Pulitzer, Naples | Men’s wardrobe by John Craig Clothier, Naples | Shot on location at Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club
Assistant Principal, Second, and EB Clarinet, Naples Philharmonic
An accomplished professional musician during the week and active worship leader on the weekend, 35-year-old Ashley Leigh has lived in town for more than 12 years, performing orchestral and chamber concerts and solo performances alike. At just 23, the talented clarinetist joined the Naples Philharmonic, the resident orchestra at Artis—Naples. She also was awarded the grand prize at the 2006 Buffet-Crampon Young Artists Clarinet Competition in New York. Last year, Leigh and her husband, Jeff, a professional violinist himself, started a Christian worship service called Calvary Chapel Abide in Naples. The couple have released two CDs together, as well as a collection of contemporary Christian songs they wrote together.
Prized possession: My Eb Clarinet, the tiny piccolo clarinet you hear in the orchestra on occasion. It’s super loud and super high, and I always get a powerful adrenaline rush during a solo part.
Favorite accessory: A cross necklace made from tiny pieces of multi-colored glass which my husband bought for me at Gallery One on Fifth Avenue.
Millennial mindset: I was born in 1981, the first year of the millennials. I think baby boomers tend to accept the traditions handed down to them, while millennials tend to challenge why our traditions and belief systems are there in the first place.
Hidden talent: I make great enchiladas. My husband and kids love them.
Stress reliever: Being productive; having a great practice session despite a hectic life with kids does a lot to relieve stress for me. That, and a beautiful, foamy cappuccino.
Fine and Performance Artist
For 35-year-old Juan Diaz, what drives his art is the expression of oneness and connection. “I believe it is our urgent need to recognize that humanity is all connected,” Diaz says.
The award-winning artist was born in Bogotá, Colombia to a family headed by a professional sculptor and ceramist father who helped cultivate his son’s artistic talents. After moving to Naples in 1995, Diaz gained acclaim through his poignant and powerful works in painting, drawing, installation, and mixed media, including pieces featured at the Baker Museum, Naples Depot Museum, and Florida Gulf Coast University.
He received the 1999 Porter Goss Award as well as the Jade Reidel Scholarship Award from the Naples Art Association, and his signature light performance art series, where he paints live behind back-lit panels and in front of an audience, has been commissioned by the Holocaust Museum of Southwest Florida, The Sidney & Berne Davies Art Center, and The Naples Film Festival.
Biggest inspiration: Humble, simple, and genuine people who stand up for what’s right. The ones who dedicate themselves to master who and what they are truly leave the world a better place.
What’s playing in his earbuds: Bossanova and classical piano.
What might surprise people: I’m allergic to spicy food and I’ve never owned a TV.
Words to live by: Take advantage of every opportunity as if it’s your first and last. Treat others like you want to be treated. Do everything the best that you can, it shows who you are.
Favorite local restaurants: Sunburst Café, The Black Forest Restaurant, and Taqueria San Julian.
Co-Founder, Venture X; Chief Information Officer, DeAngelis Diamond
After traveling the country with his father on a search for technology companies to invest in, Brett Diamond developed a passion for entrepreneurship. He noticed the trend of a shared community workspace that businesses of all shapes and sizes could utilize, and modeled that same idea in Naples in 2012 when he cofounded Venture X, a membership-based office space for local companies. The 27-year-old, who lives in North Naples with his wife and one-year-old daughter, Olivia, also oversees innovation and technology at his father’s company DeAngelis Diamond, and has been expanding his Venture X concept globally through franchising – the first of 10 locations will open early this month.
What can’t you leave home without? Phone. My full-time command center.
Prized possession: Wedding ring. It’s physically attractive, but the meaning behind it is worth even more.
Technology you can’t live without: Movie streaming services (Netflix, Prime, On Demand, etc.) I’m a huge movie buff.
What might surprise people: I’m usually the first person to hit the dance floor at a wedding.
Words to live by: “Don’t dwell on your weakness, everybody else is already doing that.” –Gary Vaynerchuk
Millennial misconception: That we don’t work hard and are given everything. I feel it’s the opposite.
Vice President, J.P. Morgan Private Bank
Having grown up visiting Naples’ beautiful shores at her parents’ second home each winter, 32-year-old Shanna Davies jumped at the chance to relocate here permanently in 2010. After having worked with Merrill Lynch in New York City, Davies landed a job at J.P. Morgan, where she’s worked ever since. She’s involved in numerous organizations in the community and was named Young Professional of the Year in 2015 by the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce. Outside of the bank, however, the newlywed can be found spending time with her husband, coddling her pug, Layla, and serving on the board of directors for the Humane Society of Naples and the young executive board for the David Lawrence Center.
Bucket list topper: Waking up in the morning and not knowing or caring if it’s Tuesday or Sunday and traveling the world—Thailand, Australia, and Hong Kong are just a few on my list.
Favorite travel spot: Capetown, South Africa. It’s where I had my honeymoon, the weather’s great, it sits on two oceans, and it has amazing wine and lots of animals!
Playing in her earbuds: Thomas Rhett’s “Die a Happy Man” because my husband played this on the piano for me at our wedding.
Best advice ever received: As my grandmother always says, “The best things in life are free.”
Words to live by: Fairytales and true love do exist, sometimes it just takes a little patience.
Vice President, Leadership Collier Foundation
Leadership comes naturally to Amanda Beights, who can be found out and about making connections throughout the community. The 35-year-old began her career in education, taking on roles including the Dean of Early Childhood Education at Royal Palm Academy in Naples before moving on to Leadership Collier, where she manages programs including Growing Associates In Naples and Youth Leadership Collier. Beights also has a passion for volunteer work, from serving on the Naples Junior Women’s Club board as philanthropy chair to working on the Blue Zones Community Engagement Committee.
Proud moment: I had heard about the need for Big Brothers Big Sisters for years and knew children were on a waiting list. This fall, it finally clicked and my husband and I became a Big Brother to a young boy in Collier County. Everyone is busy and thinks they don’t have time. But this was only a 4-hour (minimum) commitment a month. It has changed our lives—it’s a match made in heaven for all three of us!
Guilty pleasure: I have a group of girlfriends who meet every Monday night to watch terrible reality shows.
Biggest shopping splurges: Anything pertaining to my home. I am always trying to channel my inner Joanna Gaines from Fixer Upper.
Shows you’re currently following: This is Us and Stranger Things.
What can’t you leave home without? My husband. We are a team and I could not accomplish half of what I do without his support.
Millennial misconception: That we are addicted to our smartphones. While many of us may have it near us at all times, we are often using it simply as a tool to enhance our work and make our work more efficient.