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Portraits of the Valley

It’s more important to understand someone than to judge them. We think the first step to understanding someone is asking them the fundamental questions about who they are and how they became the person they are today. Understanding and empathy are essential building blocks for a better, more compassionate world. We’re incredibly fortunate to be able to ask these questions each week through our interview series. Below you’ll find inspiring interviews from in and around the Valley.

Kelly Baskin

I grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where I attended a performing arts high school. From an early age, I had my sights set on Broadway, New York, that whole life. For a project in my senior year of high school, we had to create a five year plan, and I’m both proud and embarrassed to say that I followed that five year plan almost exactly. Read more>>

Angela Brumfield

My story is one that has so many twists and turns you would think that you were at Magic Mountain so strap in and get ready for the ride! As someone that had always been considered “skinny” for most of my life, the first loop de loop came when I had my first child in 2004. The doctors told me that I was underweight for my pregnancy. Read more>>

Agostino Zoida

I started at the tender age of just 20 years old, but the world of comedy was on my radar since I was just a young boy. First, by watching movies and then when I got a little older, I discovered that all of the Actors that I had looked up to and laughed at from those movies all came from Stand-Up Comedy roots, and so I started watching a lot of Stand-up comedy. Read more>>

Jessica Brittani

When I was 15, I was diagnosed with depression and put on depression meds that only made me worse. Years later, the depression came back bad enough to reach out for help, I started seeing a therapist and they recommended being put on depression medicine again and the side effects were daily anxiety, no appetite and bad headaches. Read more>>

Sam Toselli and Scout Sparrow

A little background on Sam: Ever since her first job as a teenager at an authentic Italian restaurant in Milwaukee, Sam has had a passion for cooking. After coming home from serving in the US Marine Corps, Sam dove right back into the culinary world, earning an AA from Le Cordon Bleu program in Pasadena and beginning fine dining training with Wolfgang Puck Catering. Read more>>

Blair Chambers and Joe Shea

Joe and I started our YouTube channel last year of July but our story goes back a little further than that. Joe is from Blair, Nebraska, and I’m from Omaha, Nebraska. We both met in college in Iowa in the theater department. I was on the acting side of things and Joe was on the tech side of things. During that time we actually weren’t even that close of friends. Read more>>

Marketta P. Wilder

I am an actress, singer, writer & philanthropist. Ever since I can remember, I’ve always had a love for the fine arts and the entertainment industry. I am originally from Chicago, IL (south side). March 3rd, 2020 will mark my 5th year living here in Los Angeles. It’s crazy how time flies. It feels like yesterday when I packed my car and drove almost 72 hours to LA. Read more>>

Brittany Steele

I was working in the legal field for seven years from the receptionist to paralegal and even almost went to law school before I became a licensed esthetician. I knew I did not want to give someone else control over how much money I can make ever again. One of my friends started doing lashes about five years ago and told me I should do the same to be able to make my own hours and control my salary. Read more>>

Alex Uribe

I was 17 when I got the name Infinity while reading Albert Einstein’s biography. The idea is that energy is infinite and cannot be destroyed or created, only transformed. I use all the pain and joy that I’ve experienced in my life and transform it into art that inspires people and hopefully speaks for those who don’t feel safe expressing what’s really going on inside their heads. Read more>>

Connor Simon

My story begins with an 11 year old boy inspired by martial arts movies, begging his mother to enroll him in TaeKwonDo lessons. Finally, my mom agreed and I was on my way to a long journey I would’ve never guessed I’d accomplish. When I was 13, I started a sport called “tricking” Tricking is a movement art that is inspired by bits of gymnastics, break-dance, free-running, and heavily correlated to martial arts. Read more>>

Jolin Miranda

I am a self-taught artist born in Glendale, CA. I’m also the owner of Boricubi, an online shop that features artwork creations and adornments made to empower women with self-love and representation. Growing up, Afro-Latinx in Southern California has had its challenges. I didn’t know where I fit in. As a child, I had a hard time feeling accepted by both my African American and Latinx peers. Read more>>

Meagan Lesher

I was always the tall/petite one. Very athletic , ever been in shape for all of my life. Growing up , I always got told I should model. Later on, in high school , some of my friends were photographers and we would shoot together. It just went from there. I started to grow more and more. I also am an entrepreneur & love to do business vs a job. Read more>>

Jessica Foster

I’ve been in business for almost 17 years. Scary! I lived abroad in Spain when I was 18. I attended the university with other non-Spanish speaking students, so I met people from around the world. After growing up in a small town on the central coast of CA, the exposure to new cultures, cuisines and flavors struck me and I came back home super passionate about food and cooking. Read more>>

Andrew C. Phan

As a first-generation Asian-American to Vietnamese immigrant parents, I was told to pursue a stable career that would allow me to survive. Although I’ve pursued filmmaking since 2012, my storytelling journey began as an eight-year-old. However, before then, entertainment and arts were not common around my household. Read more>>

Tim Simek

I began my acting career in Austin, Texas, in 1989. I was involved in steady acting classes, performing comedy improv with ComedySportz, doing stage plays and student films. I was always reading at least two books on acting at any one time. I couldn’t get enough. I wanted to learn as much as possible. I secured an agent in 1990 and began booking commercials, print work, industrials, T.V. and film. Read more>>

Aaron Dooolittle

I started making short films with my friends in High School, went to college for theatre, moved out to LA to become a movie star and in the meantime, continue to make short films with my friends and other talented members of our community. Read more>>

Ari Zizzo

I was born in July of 1996 and raised on the upper east side of Manhattan, NYC. I wasn’t born biologically male, but knew I was in the wrong skin from the moment I could walk. It was hell to try and understand what was “wrong” with me at such a young age. I had no idea how to communicate about it to anyone because I thought I was the only person in the world who felt the way I did, I felt completely alone. Read more>>

Kait Elizabeth Anderson

At 11 years old with a Flip Video camera in hand- I wrote, shot, and edited my first sketch. As I grew up, I continued to drag my siblings and anyone who dared to be my friend into my bizarre projects with no idea that one day I’d turn my antics into a career. I have always known I wanted to be a filmmaker in some capacity, but my options were minimal living in Indiana. Read more>>

Lauren Bray

I wrote and acted in my first movie when I was about nine- it was called “Freedom in Paradise,” with paradise being my Aunt Candice’s backyard since she had a pool. When I was 12, I booked the first role I had ever auditioned for as Rebecca Gibbs in “Our Town.” If you’re an actor, try not to book your first audition as you will suddenly think this is the norm and be disappointed when you are cast as Villager #3 in “Fiddler on the Roof. Read more>>

Marcus Baldwin

Growing up, I don’t like to think that I was spoiled, but I certainly never had to want for much. My parents weren’t the Joneses, but my whole life, they’ve done well enough to put me through private school and give me a great shot at whatever future I wanted. And best of all, they weren’t the least bit deterred when what I wanted was to put that money toward $500 headshots. Read more>>

Morgan Mantilla

My brother got me into photography when I was a kid; he would take me to shoot landscapes in the Santa Monica Mountains and taught me all about photography. I got my first camera when I was ten and experimented a lot with self-portraiture while I was in middle school since I didn’t exactly have models to shoot. Read more>>

Greg Bach

My initial exposure to art was cartoons and comic books. I would spend hours a day drawing my favorite characters. And while I excelled at art in school, I didn’t quite have the motivation to pursue a career in the art world. After spending a couple of years at community college, I began working full time and creating art part time. Read more>>

Mario Roson Samson

I was born in Culver City and went to school in parts of LA that at the time were considered dangerous but are now gentrified and have cool coffee shops in them. After getting funny in San Francisco, thanks to drag queens and the LGBTQ community up there, I came back to LA to take the dance world by storm. The storm got downgraded to a drizzle. Read more>>

Louise Millroy

I studied a Bachelor of International Business & a Bachelor of Creative Industries at University in Australia, while doing a few different internships/freelance jobs on the side. One of them was for a fashion label where I found a particular interest in the manufacturing side of things. Having been to Bali many times since I was a child. Read more>>

Matthew and Mark Watson

Over a decade ago, Mark and I wrote a web series, Almost Famous, that we wanted to act in. After the first day of filming and paying the DP we hired, Mark thought, why not invest that money into ourselves? So instead of moving forward and paying someone else “x” amount of dollars a day, we invested in a DSLR and filmed the rest of the series ourselves. Read more>>

Dominique Thomas

My name is Dominique Thomas! I’m a 30 years old crooner living in Los Angeles! I was born in St. Louis, Mo. My mother Carla Hundley was very young when she had me (14 to be exact), so I was raised by Her, my Grandmother, and Great Grandparents! I moved around the city a lot, but eventually ended up in Kirkwood Mo. Read more>>

Baisakhi Saha

The river of life flows, writing her story everywhere she goes… My story is long; like a river initiates her voyage in the glaciers of majestic mountains, flowing across the earth, navigating storms and vicissitudes, eventually merging into the mighty sea, my journey is parallel to this river story. Born in Kolkata, I grew up in different states of India, each with a distinct culture. Read more>>

Kristin Mabry

I grew up in a small town called Watertown, located in Connecticut. Growing up, my mom was a single mom working three jobs and had four children. My dad has lived in Florida for as long as I can remember and my brother and I would go visit every summer. I was the youngest of three older brothers, so I learned how to grow up and mature quick. Read more>>

Brett, Kyle Truett and Fara Zimmerman

The Chest Hares are a family band. They are the Truett/Zimmermans or the Zimmerman/Truett’s or Zimmeretts for all you hip conflations–otherwise known as Mama Hare, Papa Hare, and Kyle Hare. They got their start in 2014 when Papa Hare (aka Brett Truett) started a tribute to the Beatles on his Facebook page to commemorate the 50th anniversary of The Beatles arriving in America. Read more>>

Melanie Hidalgo-Cruz

I am originally from Edmonton, Alberta, CA located in the middle of the country. Usually, not many people know about this city since it does not carry the rep that Toronto or Vancouver does, thus why my story carries so many obstacles and amazing experiences! I come from a low income family. My parents only had money to put me through school, put clothes on my back, put food on the table and a roof over my head. Read more>>

Laura Wong

I have always been a creative spirit. My professional background is in performing arts and connecting with people, not necessarily design/visual art. I grew up on the central coast of California, which is full of natural beauty. I knew from a very young age that I had a unique connection to the earth around me. Read more>>

Kristina Zlatanov

I was born in Sofia, Bulgaria and moved to the US with my family at a young age. Our first apartment was in Van Nuys, so ever since then, I have been a valley girl! I was a pretty shy kid growing up so I spent a lot of my time drawing and doodling. I loved fashion, so I would draw cool outfits I’d make up and girl’s faces with wild makeup. Read more>>

Dan Snow and Eric Lalicata

Anarchy Post was born from chaos. We were working at a post facility in the San Fernando valley that was in trouble. Big trouble, like “the courts are appointing a receivership” trouble. The facility had clients who had already paid deposits for sound services on their projects. Those projects would soon be tied up in the worst kind of red tape and nonsense. Read more>>

Gilli Moon

I conceived the concept of Songsalive! over 20 years ago when I was in Sydney, Australia. When I moved to Los Angeles a year later to pursue my music career, I brought Songsalive! With me. Los Angeles has always been, to me, the epicenter of original music, but more particularly, the promotion of music to the world’s markets. Read more>>

Rex Darnell

I started learning how to play the piano when I was a wee one, and by the time I turned 13, I was sure that I wanted to be a composer. From that point onward and all through college, I stuck to a rigorous practice routine, always writing new music and regularly scouting out obscure locations in the Oregon wilderness to film and score my own avant-garde pictures. Read more>>

Kris Allen Rodriguez

I got into creating a video about eight years ago, shooting and editing these little visual vlogs about trips and happenings. I look back at it now and think the content was pretty cringeworthy but saw the beginning of my eclectic editing style in these short edits. It wasn’t really until 2017 when I started taking video production in a more serious tone. Read more>>

Mark Prudeaux

I was reintroduced to Pete Sarenana, Carry-On Band’s founder, around 10 or 11 years ago. A mutual friend was getting married and wanted to reunite a popular high school band to perform at his wedding. Pete’s place was the designated rehearsal studio. Pete and I had gone to the same high school and had many friends in common though we didn’t know each other very well. Read more>>

Katherine Lesh

My father, Tom Shepherd, has been an organic farmer in Santa Barbara County before ‘Organic’ was even a thing. I was raised on a farm, tending his farmer’s markets, and learning about the business. In 2012, my boyfriend at the time and I inherited my parents old vintage wagon where we opened a farm shop in downtown Carpinteria. Read more>>

Matthieu Jean-Pierre

I moved to LA at 16 with my cousin. I came to LA the summer before I moved and went to an acting workshop. Numerous agents offered me representation, and after a lot of prayers, my mother and I decided it would be best if I move. At the same time, I had the opportunity of a lifetime. We only had two weeks to pack up all my things and find a place to live, not knowing how LA always has a long waiting list to move anywhere affordable. Read more>>

Rainy Kerwin

I started as an actress in Los Angeles and was frustrated with the lack of funny roles for women. So, I began writing. Producing was also born out of necessity. I had projects that I wanted to move forward, so I needed to get them out there. It’s Raining Films was formed in 2008. It was the production company behind the film “The Wedding Invitation”. Read more>>

Amb. Manna Dabholkar

That night almost a decade ago was a game changer for me in many ways. As I stepped inside that dingy dirty brothel, instead of young women, I found toddlers as young as four years old tied to tabletops to be sex trafficked. Sight is so brutal that I have spent every living moment since then advocating for prevention, working to establish programs and resources that would stop the exploitation of children. Read more>>

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