LA Mag’s Top Stories of 2021

From LA’s Psychedelic Explosion to the Woke Wars at Brentwood School, our 20 Most-Read Stories of The Year

Dear Readers,

A year ago today, the pandemic was raging out of control, an insurrection was brewing in the Capitol, and the city was a ghost town. The year 2021, we thought, would be a piece of cake. Of course, we were wrong. The past twelve months will go down as among the most consequential in L.A.’s history, with spiking crime and a virus that’s thus far evaded both vaccines and commonsense.

Through it all, however, Los Angeles has continued to do what it’s always done best—covering the people, places, and issues that matter most to Angelenos. We infiltrated the speakeasies (and sex parties) that sprang up across the city in defiance of lockdowns. We mapped out the hundreds of L.A. businesses, restaurants, and retail stores that fell victim to the pandemic, and celebrated ones, like Lawry’s, that found new life amidst the plague.

Last Summer, as parents staged noisy protests to reopen shuttered schools, we secured a rare sit-down with the powerful and controversial president of L.A.’s teacher’s union, Cecily Myart-Cruz. Her combative response to her critics—“There is no such thing as learning loss”—drew fire from both Fox News and the L.A. Times—one of many stories this year that made national waves. Our coverage of an alleged sexual assault spree in Newport Beach inspired one of the year’s top podcasts.  Our story on the city’s psychedelic awakening is being made into a TV series and, curiously, an amusement park.

Along the way, we introduced you to the art world’s diverse new kingpins, the best pizza west of Brooklyn, and the exodus of Angelenos to Portugal. We wandered through Little Richard’s closets, Hunter Biden’s Venice hideaway, and L.A.’s coolest second-hand emporiums. We got close with local luminaries like Saweetie, Aaron Sorkin, and The SopranosDavid Chase. And in one of the hottest media stories of the year, we pulled back the curtain on Twitter wizard Yashar Ali, the mysterious, massively influential internet enforcer who was hiding a few secrets of his own. The story, which trended on Twitter for three days, sent Ali into a self-imposed social media exile. (Word is he’s planning a comeback. We’ll keep you posted.)

So before heading forward into the brave new world of 2022, we thought we’d take a minute to recall some of the most impactful—and most popular—stories that graced our website and magazine this year. Reporting on a city as vibrant and multifaceted as Los Angeles is never easy, but it’s hard to think of a more exciting or fulfilling job. None of it would be possible, of course, without the loyal readers, advertisers, and subscribers who have made this our most successful year ever—and kept Los Angeles going strong for over 60 years.

Happy Holidays and thanks, as always, for your support.

Maer Roshan
Editor-in-Chief, Los Angeles

yashar ali
Illustration by Robert Carter

The Curious Rise of Twitter Power Broker Yashar Ali
In just a few years, he’s become one of the most fearsome media figures in the country—mobilizing his vast Twitter following to promote his famous friends and punish a long string of foes. Can his own past survive similar scrutiny?


paulina porizkova
Photo by Jill Greenberg

In With the Olds! Why Aging Is No Longer a Dirty Word 
With help from activists like Paulina Porizkova, a new Gray Pride movement is taking off across the country as people over 50 have gained economic and cultural clout. So why do Hollywood, the media, and Madison Avenue still obsessively cater to the young?


Photo illustration by Liz Bretz

‘Shrooms! Shamans! Kosher LSD! Why Los Angeles Is Suddenly Tripping
Housewives in the Hills are doing it. Hipsters in Los Feliz, too. L.A. is ground zero for a new psychedelic boom, with shamans as coveted as shrinks and ayahuasca ceremonies as common as barbecues. But is microdosing ‘shrooms really the answer to what ails Angelenos?


Illustration by Justin Metz 

How L.A.’s Brentwood School Became a Battleground for Culture Wars 
A shift to a progressive curriculum at one of L.A.’s most elite private schools has parents, faculty, and students locked in a furious struggle over race and privilege that’s tearing the campus apart


ryan adams
Photo by Ian Spanier

Ryan Adams: ‘I Felt Like They Were Asking Me to Die’
Two years after a series of #MeToo allegations turned the platinum-selling rock star into a suicidal pariah, Adams is finally breaking his silence. But does anyone want to hear what he has to say?


Illustration: Justin Metz

Why the Golden Globes Blew Up
Racial showdowns. Whacked-out press conferences. Sketchy backroom deals. How the awards show that Hollywood loves to hate finally went down for the count


cecily myart-cruz
United Teachers of Los Angeles president Myart-Cruz at union headquarters. (Photo by Shayan Asgharnia)

Cecily Myart-Cruz’s Hostile Takeover of L.A.’s Public Schools
To her supporters, the head of the L.A. teachers’ union is an ambitious and uncompromising crusader. Critics blast her as a demagogue whose gamesmanship during the pandemic has especially hurt the city’s most vulnerable kids


(Photo: Corina Marie Howell)

Is Gavin Newsom Blowing It?
Dining out during lockdowns. Fumbling the vaccine rollout. With a recall effort against him steadily gaining steam, California’s once-golden governor is fighting for his political life. But don’t count him out just yet


nipsey hussle
YG and Nipsey in 2018 (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images)

How Nipsey Hussle and YG Harnessed the Power of Hip-Hop and Took on Donald Trump
Before he ran for president “The Donald” was something of a Hip-Hop icon. Then Nipsey Hussle stepped in.  His profane anti-Trump rant tanked the candidate’s Black support and became the most influential protest rap song of the decade


downtown covid-19 resurgence
A TALE OF TWO CITIES: Blocks from Skid Row (left) the rooftop pool of the Standard Hotel beckons (right). An estimated 66,000 L.A. residents are homeless, many of them living in tents on downtown’s
sidewalks. (Photos by Shayan Asgharnia)

After COVID-19, Can Downtown L.A. Get Back Up?
The pandemic brought DTLA’s comeback to a screeching halt. Here’s how the city’s historic hub can reclaim its swagger


Illustrated by Cartifact

116 Downtown L.A. Businesses Shuttered by the Pandemic, Many Permanently
‘It’s like a bomb went off in the center of the city.’ A detailed map of the trail of devastation that COVID has left in its wake


The scene outside Wi Spa when the protest turned violent. (Photo by Jeremy O’Quinn)

What Really Happened at Wi Spa
A viral video shot outside the ladies’ locker room of a Korean bathhouse set off weeks of violent skirmishes and a national debate over trans rights. But nobody got the real story


Max Lugavere in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. In the traditional medical world, HBO chambers are used to help heal brain injuries. Biohackers believe the machines aid in anti-aging and health optimization. (Photo by Elisabeth Caren)

Everyone’s Buzzing About Biohacking, but Will It Actually Help You Live Longer?
From Santa Monica to Silicon Valley, a growing band of New Age techies is leading a billion-dollar health revolution that promises to add decades to your life. Is the road to immortality really paved with oxygen chambers and ozone enemas?


Ace, photographed by Christian Witkin

The Citizens of Skid Row: A View from Inside the Hub of L.A.’s Unhoused Community
Since the ’70s, this four-square-mile swath of L.A. has been a symbol of the city’s urban blight. But for the thousands of people who live there, it’s a neighborhood with secret codes and customs all its own


Illustration by Risko

How the Kardashians Took Over the World
A deep, metaphysical dive into the trillion-dollar Kardashian phenomenon: How a sex tape and some selfies turned an ordinary Calabasas clan into L.A.’s biggest export since McDonald’s


Sweetgreen’s Jonathan Neman; Scooter pioneer Bird’s Travis VanderZanden; KKW Beauty’s Kim Kardashian West (Photos via Getty Images)

Some Entrepreneurs Are Fleeing, but California Is Still the ‘Unicorn’ Capital of the World
Elon may be gone, but The Golden State remains America’s entrepreneurial engine, home to more privately-owned billion-dollar start-ups than any other place on the globe.


Photograph by Beau Ryan

The People and Cars of L.A.’s Lowrider Scene
Lowrider culture, spawned in the 1940s, is once again thriving across Southern California.  But now it’s women who are ruling the road.


Cover illustrated by Justin Metz, Cover image by Getty Images; BACKGRID

Barely Legal: The Surreal Saga of Tom Girardi and Erika Jayne
Swindled orphans. Crooked investigators. A fortune squandered on bling. Inside the scandal that toppled L.A.’s top lawyer and his ambitious reality TV star wife


spring fashion
Photos by Magnus Unnar

Spring Awakening: Meet the Iconoclastic Angelenos Taking the Art World by Storm
From curators to painters to gallery owners, a colorful new crew of stylish provocateurs is shaking up L.A.’s stodgy art scene


Ronan Farrow attends the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

Michael Wolff Roasts Ronan Farrow — and Defends Woody Allen — in New Book ‘Too Famous’
In an exclusive excerpt from his controversial new book, the bestselling ’Fire and Fury’ author dissects Farrow’s improbable rise from failed MSNBC anchor to Pulitzer-winning pin-up (and shares some impolitic thoughts about the “unspoken weirdness” of Mia Farrow’s mothering)


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