Nora Jones

REMEMBER THE COVER OF THE Sinatra album No One Cares? A gin-soaked Old Blue Eyes sits alone at the bar, clinging by his fingernails to last call. It’s a masterpiece of self-pity, but one Norah Jones song on the jukebox is all it would take for Frank to pick himself up and get back in the race. Albums don’t get any more intimate than Jones’s debut, Come Away With Me, which has sold six million copies worldwide since its release in February 2002. The Dallas-raised singer-pianist doesn’t dwell on my-baby-left-me blues. Instead she purrs “Turn Me On,” “I’ve Got to See You Again,” and the title song, all in her thin but utterly beguiling voice. Sultry is the only word for it—not Christina Aguilera, take-it-all-off sultry, but seductive in an altogether adult fashion. And here’s the thing: She’s just 23 years old.

The daughter of the famed Indian musician Ravi Shankar, Jones studied music at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, in Dallas, and the University of North Texas, in Denton, before returning to New York, where she was born. Soon there were appearances on Leno, Letterman, and Saturday Night Live. Plus, she’s just picked up five Grammy nominations. That’s a steep trajectory for any new artist, much less one whose music sounds like something from her grandparents’ record collection. Come Away With Me has been hailed as something new, but in fact the sixties and seventies were full of coolly restrained pop records from the likes of Nina Simone and Carole King. Norah Jones stands proudly beside them. And no matter what rough roads may lie ahead, you can catch her anytime. No one cares? She knows all about it. Just press play. JEFF MCCORD

Marshevet Hooker

THEY’RE CALLING HER “THE NEXT Marion Jones,” but San Antonio’s Marshevet Hooker has one thing the celebrated Olympian did not: an early focus on one sport. Like Jones, the eighteen-year-old Southwest High School senior—whose father, Ricky, now a school principal, was drafted by the Spurs in 1983—is a top hoops star. But Hooker will stick to track and field year-round for the University of Texas at Austin, where she’ll be a freshman in the fall. Hooker’s recent exploits include Texas UIL 5A titles in the one-hundred- and two-hundred-meter dash as well as second place in the long jump. She also won bronze and silver medals in the one-hundred-meter at, respectively, the World Junior Championships and the Junior Nationals. Athens 2004 is not out of the question, which could make her both a teammate and a competitor of you know who. “I watched Marion run in Atlanta and later in Sydney,” Hooker says. “I watched the way she came out of the blocks, and I watched her form. I pictured myself doing that. It would be a dream come true.” JASON COHEN

Susan Combs

IN HER OWN WORDS SHE’S “head and shoulders above everybody else in this group”—because the Texas agriculture commissioner stands six feet two and one-half inches tall and is damn proud of it. Susan Combs, 58, has the perfect pedigree for a Texas politician: She’s a fourth-generation Texan with roots in both city (she grew up in San Antonio) and country (two ranches south of Marathon have been in her family since 1882). After two terms in the state legislature representing Austin, she won her current job in 1998, succeeding Rick Perry, who went on to bigger and better things. Combs would like to do the same. The pro-choice Republican (with exceptions) won reelection last fall with more than 59 percent of the vote—second only to Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander (now Strayhorn) on the all-victorious GOP ticket. Look for her to run for the U.S. Senate if Kay Bailey Hutchison’s seat becomes vacant in 2006. Meanwhile, she has an issue to push in the current legislative session: getting vending machines that sell junk food out of elementary school cafeterias. Citing “unprecedented rates of type 2 diabetes,” Combs says, “we’re running the risk of killing our children.” PAUL BURKA

Claudia S. Miller

FOR MORE THAN THIRTY YEARS Claudia Miller has been in the thick of our most controversial public health issues. Now 56, Miller is an allergist and a professor of environmental medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. In the seventies and eighties she researched the effects of chemicals in the workplace—the pesticides, preservatives, and such in so-called sick buildings—and the multiple sensitivities that people can develop to them. In 1991 she co-authored the highly acclaimed book Chemical Exposures: Low Levels and High Stakes, which made her a popular authority on Gulf War syndrome. Next Miller turned her attention to the health problems of the border region, creating the South Texas Environmental Education and Research Center, in Laredo. The center studies the health effects of pollutants and other health hazards common to the area—bacterial contamination of the Rio Grande, for example—and offers a course in environmental medicine, the first of its kind in the nation. Miller’s lectures are perennially packed, guaranteeing that she will be a force in setting Texas’ public health agenda for years to come. JIM ATKINSON

Dao Strom

AUSTINITE DAO STROM (NÉE NGUYEN) WAS two years old when she fled Saigon with her mother, a journalist and publisher, in 1975. Her father, also a writer, stayed behind as the city fell to the Viet Cong. Some 27 years later she opens her impressive debut novel, Grass Roof, Tin Roof (Houghton Mifflin), with a soul-searing fictionalization of her parents’ harassment by the government in the waning days of South Vietnam’s democracy. Strom’s principal characters Tran, a single mother writing a newspaper serial inspired by Gone With the Wind, and her editor, who hides behind Tran’s byline to print subversive articles—suffer trials (figurative and literal) that are vivid reminders of Vietnam’s tumultuous early seventies. The plot of Grass Roof sags a bit when Tran and her children immigrate to California, but Strom’s writing is flat-out wonderful. Houghton Mifflin plans to publish her second novel in spring 2004. With her unique perspective on the contemporary American immigrant experience and her knack for empathic detail, Strom ranks high among the most intriguing new voices on the Texas literary scene. MIKE SHEA

Hilary Duff

UNLESS YOU’RE A PARENT OF a girl in her tweens—that’s, like, nine to fourteen—you probably haven’t heard of Hilary Duff. But the perky, chirpy fifteen-year-old actress, who grew up in Houston and Boerne, was one of 2002’s breakout stars. Seven nights a week on the Disney Channel, Duff plays the title character in Lizzie McGuire, a half-hour snapshot of middle-school angst that is one of the highest-rated shows on cable. (Repeats air Saturday mornings on Disney-owned ABC—ah, synergy.) She also sings the first song on the show’s soundtrack CD, which went gold in December, and stars in two forthcoming movies: a big-screen version of Lizzie, which was shot last fall in Vancouver and Rome, and the teen spy flick Agent Cody Banks. And if that’s not enough, her cartoon likeness is plastered all over the predictable bounty of Lizzie merchandise, from clothes to diaries. Not bad for a kid who got her start in acting classes at Saint Mary’s Hall, in San Antonio. “I never thought this would happen,” she says. “It’s been so amazing. I do a scene and I go, ‘Wow, is this really me?’ I feel like a normal kid.” EVAN SMITH

Juliet V. Garcia

JULIET GARCIAíA EXUDES THE sophistication of a South Texas doña and the wisdom of an educator who has spent years in the trenches. The 54-year-old is the president of the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College—the first Mexican American woman to head an American campus. Under her leadership at UTB/TSC, a university and a junior college that share facilities and an administration, more Latinos are becoming the first in their family to get a degree. Nationally, the majority of Latinos who want a college education start at a junior college, but many never make it to a university, in part because of the complicated transfer process. UTB/TSC, however, offers an innovative four-year program with a single course catalog and degree plan. It has become one of the fastest-growing universities in the UT System; the only American school that graduates more Latino math majors is Texas A&M. With a Ph.D. in communications and linguistics from UT-Austin, García is an inductee of the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame, a former member of Bill Clinton’s task force on Hispanic educational issues—and a natural leader for the future in a state where Latinos will soon be the largest ethnic group in the workforce. CECILIA BALLI

Misty Keasler

IN 2000 MISTY KEASLER GAINED national attention when her ambitious photo series on young heroin junkies in Plano—which juxtaposed a grotesque subculture and its suburban surroundings—was published in D Magazine and then featured on MSNBC. Before that, she had documented a friend’s grueling eight months of chemotherapy. Lately, the 24-year-old Richardson resident has turned her unflinching eye on more-far-flung subjects, shooting orphanages in Romania, Russia, and India, gypsies in Romania, and New York City’s Guardian Angels, a volunteer civilian crime patrol. The prestigious Photo District News magazine will name her one of thirty emerging talents in its March issue. Meanwhile, Keasler’s images can be seen at Austin’s Women and Their Work gallery in “Inside/Outside: Texas Women Photographers,” a touring exhibit that debuts this month and includes prints chosen by Anne Wilkes Tucker, the photography curator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. “Misty and her pictures are gutsy,” says Tucker. “She’s young, yet she has already spent long periods of time in foreign countries where she didn’t know the language and managed an engagement with her subjects. And visually, she has a very restrained approach; she lets the viewer draw his or her own conclusions.” KATY VINE

Priscilla Owen

EXCEPT FOR PRESIDENT BUSH FEW Americans stand to gain more from the new Republican majority in the U.S. Senate than Priscilla Owen. Last year, you’ll recall, the 48-year-old justice of the Texas Supreme Court was nominated by the White House for a seat on the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, only to be derailed by the Democrat-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee. According to Senate Republicans, she was the first nominee unanimously rated as “well qualified” by the American Bar Association to be rejected by the committee. Now the White House has resubmitted the controversial Austin jurist’s nomination to a friendlier Senate. The battle lines will be the same: The New York Times has editorialized against her as “a choice that makes sense for . . . ideologues who want to turn the courts into a champion of big business, insurance companies, and the religious right,” while Owen has said, “The picture that some special-interest groups have painted of me is wrong.” This time, the outcome will likely be different. Owen should reach the Fifth Circuit—but for how long? Already she is being mentioned as a possible nominee for a U.S. Supreme Court seat if Bush wins a second term. PAUL BURKA

Sharon Hage

SHARON HAGE HAS NEVER KICKED anything up a notch in her life: “Subtlety” and “balance” are her bywords. The owner of tiny York Street restaurant in Dallas, the 38-year-old Hage has recently emerged as the best-known woman chef in Texas and has already begun to attract national attention (the New York Times and Esquire have paid her handsome compliments). In the year and a half since she bought York Street, the intensely focused Hage (rhymes with “stage”) has made it a citywide dining destination for deliciously creative dishes. On a given evening you might get skate in caper-berry-and-tangerine brown butter, peppered Texas fallow-deer venison with pomegranate-spiced couscous, or a soft-scrambled duck egg with black truffle crème. Like California’s Alice Waters, to whom she has been compared, Hage insists on purity and freshness, serving organically raised produce and meat as much as possible. Luckily for Texans, the Detroit native has no intention of leaving Dallas, her home since 1991. “People ask if I want to move up—or on,” she says, “but I’m exactly where I want to be.” PATRICIA SHARPE