3 Local Power Couples to Watch

Together or apart, these three power couples are making their mark on Miami (and beyond) one project at a time

Elena and Grant Cardone. Photo by Jerry Rabinowitz
Elena and Grant Cardone. Photo by Jerry Rabinowitz

Elena & Grant Cardone

Grant Cardone has closed countless deals. But the hardest one was getting Elena Cardone to become his wife.

“At the time, he was so stable, and I was so scared and fluttery and didn’t want to commit to anyone or anything,” Elena recalls. “I thought men were out to be controlling and take away my independence.”

But Grant was persistent. Because he approached Elena with so much love and care, she says she realized he wasn’t going away. His love was real and deep, so she came around. Together, they have built an empire centered on empowering others to achieve their dreams.

It all started from their own struggles.

“Ten years ago, I was trying to take care of my family, and I realized I had failed,” says Grant. “I was a newlywed with a baby on the way, and the economy was in trouble and my businesses were failing after 25  years of work. I was sitting down in reflection, thinking about what I could do differently, and I realized I could have gone 10 times bigger. I ran into the kitchen and told Elena that that was what I needed to do.”

His realization led to the best-selling book The 10X Rule, which outlines how taking “massive action” can lead to success. The book has spawned growth conferences and corporate sales and marketing engagements with both small businesses and Fortune 500 companies. Elena has been an integral part of that growth, authoring her own best seller, Build an Empire: How to Have it All, and running programs for women who “may relate to me easier than they would Grant,” she says.

“There aren’t enough women-run ventures,” continues Elena, who homeschools the couple’s children. “Everything I’ve done, I’ve done behind the scenes, providing [the] mindset, infrastructure, and support. Grant’s book became successful and it saved our marriage. I want to show other women how they can have it all too.”

Through the Cardone Foundation, the couple also provides mentoring and financial literacy education to at-risk adolescents, especially those without a father figure.

“I was an at-risk kid because my dad died when I was 10,” says Grant. “I was raised by a single mother and wanted a father figure in life. I want to give small kids and big kids what I didn’t have, showing them that they don’t have to wait until they graduate to succeed.”

In 2022, Grant plans to build up his $1 billion real estate portfolio while Elena looks to establish her own real estate enterprise. They will also launch 10X Media, which will produce shows about startups and entrepreneurs, as well as 10X Health Systems, which will provide alternative solutions to medication and surgery.

“Right now, dreaming big is harder to do and harder to achieve,” says Grant. “But I also see people working together and becoming more entrepreneurial, not giving up.” — Paige Bowers

Dr. Amira and Wale Ogunleye, Shot on location at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, photo by Jerry Rabinowitz
Dr. Amira and Wale Ogunleye. Photo by Jerry Rabinowitz; shot on location at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami.

Dr. Amira & Wale Ogunleye

About 12 years ago, Dr. Amira Ogunleye was having a girls’ night out with one of her friends when she noticed a tall man in a gray shirt sitting at a table nearby.

“My friend nudged me and said, ‘See that guy in a gray shirt? A man like that will change your entire life,’” recalls Amira.

Mr. Gray Shirt was former Miami Dolphins defensive end Wale Ogunleye, who noticed Amira noticing him. He also noticed another guy checking Amira out as she got up to leave. But before Amira could get away, Wale reached out to her and said, “It’s me,” in what he describes as his “best sultry voice.”

“I thought he was something else,” says Amira. “We talked for a bit and then he asked if he could text me later. And I said no, because real men who want to get to know me call.”

Wale called and called some more. In that time, Amira learned that he was so much more than handsome looks and a successful career. He was someone who, like her, had an immigrant background and valued hard work and family. He was old school, just like she was. And he was someone who could accept that she was her own woman, with her own career as an award-winning cosmetic dentist.

“She was like, ‘I know what you’re used to [with other women], but I’m a badass in my own right,’” says  Wale. “Over the next four years she showed me just how bad she was, and we got married.”

Since then, Amira says it has been all fire and fireworks, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. There is no 50-50 division of labor with these two—only 100-100, whether they’re raising their two children or doing the laundry.

“Whatever we do, we do it 100 percent,” says Wale, who is now head of sports and entertainment at UBS Wealth Management. “It’s the best way to navigate life. That’s what has made us so successful in anything we put our minds to. Plus, we love each other and care about each other’s happiness. And happiness starts with us flourishing in our marriage, our personal lives, and with our friends.”

The Ogunleyes frequently think about their legacy and what they can do to uplift, encourage, and inspire others. Neither of them came from money, so they strive to help others from underprivileged backgrounds, oftentimes paying for everything from Thanksgiving turkeys to smile makeovers and dental care—all out of their own pockets. Amira, for her part, mentors young women of color because there are so few of them in the dental industry. 

No matter the project, the Ogunleyes are in it together, pushing each other to help as many people as they can. “I’m appreciative of what we have together,” says Amira. “For us to have strong values and views and then to go out in the world with the same mission of impacting others is a blessing.” — P. B.

Sam and Emina Nazarian, Photo by Stefanie Keenan
Sam and Emina Nazarian. Photo by Stefanie Keenan

Sam & Emina Nazarian 

Emina Nazarian says it was Sam’s height that first caught her eye. She jokes that he was the only man she had ever met who was taller than her. 

It was nearly 12 years ago, and the former model (and winner of Elite Model Management’s Elite Model Look contest in 2001) had been vacationing in St. Barth’s for the new year when she noticed Sam commanding the attention of a large group nearby. “They were all focused on him,” she recalls. “That intrigued me, and I wanted to know, ‘Who is this man?’ I wanted to have a little bit of that attention from him.” 

When Emina eventually got Sam’s attention, he says there were sparks right away. “I think what got me instantly was the energy and the laughter,” says Sam, who at the time was living in Los Angeles. “It instantly turned into 30 minutes of laughing when we first met.” 

The pair eventually parted ways—Emina traveling back to New York while Sam returned to the West Coast—but they kept in touch. “It was that constant level of humor that connected us and kept us connected until we met a couple months later in New York,” shares Sam. The pair wed in 2015 and have since grown into a family of five. The couple now calls Miami home base, having recently purchased a home in Coral Gables.

They’re no strangers to balancing their work and family life. Sam created the hospitality brand sbe in 2002, which includes a portfolio of more than 45 high-end brands in nine countries.  He’s since refocused his attention to form C3 by sbe, the largest digital food service IP company in the world. C3 aims to reshape the future of the food industry through virtual kitchens, full-service restaurants, and lifestyle food halls. One of Sam’s most recent launches is the Citizens Miami culinary market at the flagship Brightline station, which features partnerships with such acclaimed top chefs as Masaharu Morimoto and Dario Cecchini.

During her modeling career, Emina appeared on the covers of international fashion magazines, from Vogue to Marie Claire, and walked the runway for Tom Ford. With family roots in Albania, she now serves as vice president of the Fundjave Ndryshe Foundation, an organization based in the Balkans that works to pull families out of poverty, bring them closer to city life, create homes, and provide medical assistance.

The couple also gives back—both internationally and in the U.S.—including work with the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Family Foundation. They’ll often partner with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and local charities that support law enforcement and first responders. “Now that we’re in Miami, we’re starting to focus here,” says Emina, who is optimistic about the ways she and Sam will be able to combine their skills to help communities in need in South Florida. — Melissa Puppo

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