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J.J. Colagrande Headshot

Miami Is So Fake It's Frustrating

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As Miami evolves out of a stale fun-in-the-sun, weird vacation destination into a first-class city with diversity and emerging culture, we still continuously shoot ourselves in the foot.

Face-eating zombies, corrupt politicians, cheesy reality shows.

Have you ever lived in a city with more fake people?

Moving to Miami is hard. When I first arrived in 1999 I struggled. I had no money, knew few people, and didn't fit in with the jet-set crowd I encountered living on the beach.

Over 15 years, I still have little money, but I know people. I went to graduate school; worked at restaurants and lived in apartment complexes making friends. As a writer who covers culture, I've seen this city evolve from a cultural void into an emerging Mecca. And I know a lot of the players involved. To this day, I struggle with people I meet in Miami.

There are two types of "fake" or "phony" people and they both occupy Miami.

One: The nip-and-tuck, augmented, collagen, Botox, fashionista style fake; a breed who need to look good, drive fancy cars, live in fancy houses, go to fancy parties. You see this with your own eyes on South Beach, in Brickell, Bal Harbor, Key Biscayne, on television with Deco Drive, in print with Ocean Drive; you hear it in antiquated anthems from outsiders trying to define Miami: "hundred thousand dollar cars, everybody got-em..."

Real Housewives of Whatevs...

This breed of phony is almost forgivable, given our billion dollar fashion and film industry, cutthroat multicultural assimilation, and high-end haute luxurious income inequalities.

The other type of fake in Miami is more frustrating. It hides behind smiles and pats on the back. It lives in the hearts and egos of those who look you in the eye. They say one thing, do another. They're your friends on Facebook but at socials walk by you like you don't exist.

It's a weird type of phony, more than a California flake: It's indigenous to South Florida. Not only can you not rely on people to follow through, to do what they say, to follow-up, you also can't trust anyone's rhetoric. Definitely ego-based, our selfishness and distrust for neighbors and friends makes Miami one of the hardest cities to endure, despite all that which is beautiful here. This is one reason why people don't stay long and we have a carousel of rotating souls, coming-and-going, escaping-yet-returning, only to escape again.

I've never lived in a city where I reach out to more people, invite them to basketball games, out for drinks or dinner, for no reason than to pick heads, build and establish friendships -- and time after time the invitations are ignored, rain-checked or flat-out denied.

It hurts.

It makes me feel sycophantic, as if I want something from people in return, when I don't.

It's easy to understand where the "fakeness" comes from; there are indeed hucksters, peddlers of propaganda, fly-by-nighters, so people here must protect themselves, but it's different in Miami. You don't see these "masks" in New York or Chicago or Boston.

After awhile, in Miami, you just have to give up. Obviously not everyone's fake. You find people who are real and you foster those relationships, cutting out unhealthy people.

Putting effort into a relationship with a person who clearly doesn't want one with you is sadomasochist. It robs you of your self-esteem and confidence. Why would anyone do that?

By wasting energy on "phony" people you pour emotions into a bottomless hole. It never gives back. You keep pouring but nothing fills. It's a relationship that does NOT give back.

So you focus and cultivate your energy into those who believe in you. Those relationships give back. These are not bottomless holes. They fill and grow seeds and plants.

Everyone doesn't have to like you, especially in a city known for haters and fakeness.

If someone is not on your side: let them go.

It may be the only way to survive in Miami.