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Portraits of Hollywood

You matter. Your story matters. You don’t have to be a billionaire or pop star for your story to matter. We think it’s important to ask our neighbors and friends and people throughout the community to share their stories because if no one asks, far too many stories would go untold. The coffee shop around the corner and the artist next door have stories we can learn from, grow because of and be inspired by and we are so proud to be able to help make sure these stories are told each week. Below you’ll find inspiring stories from Hollywood and the surrounding areas.

Colleen Dunleap

I came to Los Angeles in 2013 as a dancer and a theatrical maverick. But I had a really hard time adjusting and finding where my place was in this crazy town. I started to look for new ways to dance when I came across Aeriform Arts. It was an aerial fitness studio which focused on dance and community. I immediately fell in love and dedicated all of my free time to practicing and learning the craft of aerial dance and circus fitness. Read more>>

Whitney Pollett

I grew up a bit isolated in the sleepy town of Santa Rosa in Northern California and was happy to have art as an outlet. I had this insane energy and not a ton of supervision (lol) so having the tools to channel it was a godsend. I’m grateful to my mom and grandpa for always steering me towards creativity becaaaause, I don’t really know where I’d be without it! My grandpa was an inventor and artist too so everyone in the family would say “she gets it from him” which was a huge motivator since Gramps was the coolest. Read more>>

Jermaine “J Young MDK” Carter

Jermaine Carter, notably known as J Young MDK, is a force to be reckoned with and the artist to watch. Continuing to suede his audience with his diverse style and unmatched wordplay. Oozing with star power, Young is a multi-talented singer, songwriter, and actor. Before gaining fame in the music industry, you could find him starring in a slew of television shows, movies, and commercials. Read more>>

Stephanie Lynn

My career as a makeup artist started as a hobby. I wanted to learn makeup so I could do it on myself but it ended up turning into my passion. I am self-taught but developed my skills while I worked for Sephora & then MAC. I began to build my own brand because I wanted to travel the world, do makeup and get paid to do it which birthed Beautifully Beat by Stephanie which has turned into Stephanie Lynn Artistry & Beauty. Read more>>

DeVaughn Hooper

I’m from the great capital of the United States. A Washington D.C. native. But not the luxurious part where all the tourist visits to take pictures. I come from Ward 8, where the poverty, crime, gun violence, and broken families inflate most of the area. Raised by a single mother with two, most of my younger years consisted moving around a lot while watching my mother labor to barely make enough money for ends meat. Read more>>

Lauren Hansen

An LA kid. Spoiled by sunshine, surround by beautiful people…I loved it. Ah, but I had one major problem: My bullshit meter is off the charts. And LA is full of it! At a very young age, I was fascinated and disturbed by adults. Why were they doing anything to seem important and attractive? Why did they value themselves based off of all the wrong things (possessions and appearance). Read more>>

Jana Fisher

I’m an artist manager and digital marketer, the Los Angeles office of Invasion Group. As a kid, I had no idea this kind of job existed. I grew up in Ross, Ohio, population 2,000, the daughter of an Evangelical minister. I began singing in church and by my tweens, I aspired to become a famous Christian singer. I didn’t listen to much contemporary secular music until I was thirteen and toying with the radio at home and discovered the local pop radio station. Read more>>

Morissa Trunzo

I’m the frontwoman of the LA-based pop duo, Misty Mtn. I’m also a SAG/AEA actress but I guess that’s part of my whole journey I’m going to share. I was born in New York City but I was raised in a small town right outside Missoula, Montana where there are definitely more cows than people. I had an interesting upbringing because I was always walking this line between being a city kid and being a Montana kid. Read more>>

Elisabeth Rogge

I’m originally from a suburb of Detroit, MI where I grew up performing in theater production from eight years old when I forced my parents to let me go to summer camp at a local theatre. From then on, I was hooked. I performed in everything I could, from Shakespeare to musicals including The Phantom of The Opera and Peter Pan, where I played Peter Pan and rocked a pixie cut. I even studied theater and English in college at Ohio State University. Read more>>


I was born and raised on the Lower East Side of NYC and am the child of a Ghanaian father and Sierra Leonean mother. I eventually moved to the West Coast for a job with Nike. I’ve been into music since I was a child. I took classical and jazz piano growing up and was always listening to things that weren’t on the radio. I’d listen to Jazz old soul, African Highlife and big band as a kid. My father definitely has the most influence on my musical taste. Read more>>

Ian Santillano

I like to start my story as a kid. I have always been intrigued by music. I used to sing along to soft rock radio stations that my parents would play whenever they would drive me or my brother to school or whatever. I didn’t know that being able to sing along to songs and hear melodies and sing them back was special. In the 4th grade, I picked up my first instrument. Read more>>

Arthur Johnson

I graduated Cum Laude from Missouri Southern State University in 2013 with a Bachelor’s in Orchestra Percussion and a minor in business. After graduating, I moved to LA and I received Musician’s Institute 35th anniversary scholarship to further my education. While on campus, I walked into an audition room and sat in the back watching drummers audition for a new artist. I was approached by a manager who convinced me that I should audition as well. Read more>>

Emily Colvin

The story starts back in my teens when a teach reached out to my mom and said art was going to be my future. Thank you Ms. Freddy, you’re a lifesaver. My mom was really down to embrace whatever it was we showed interest in so that’s where it all began. Moving and shaking through different colleges I didn’t care what kind of art style I was trying, everyone around me was so much better and none of it mattered. Read more>>

Kine and Einy Paulsen

About a decade ago, we arrived in Los Angeles from Norway to study at the University of Southern California. It was there we decided to start our first ever company, INGRI:DAHL. It was the world’s first company selling fashionable 3D glasses and our first taste of entrepreneurial life. From that experience, we learned so much. Some highlights were being featured by Vogue, Marie Claire. Read more>>

Michael Klug

I grew up in South Dakota, and I’ve been in the arts from a very young age. I was first on stage at age eight, and I began writing horror stories at age 10. My first tale was a pseudo-zombie piece entitled, “House of the Dead”. I acted and created short stories all through middle and high school. In college, I studied theatre, with an emphasis on acting and directing. I graduated with a BA in Theatre Arts and moved to Minneapolis, then to Chicago and now reside in Los Angeles. Read more>>

Phobia The Greatest

My mother told me stories about how I mumbled melodies and flows before I could speak. I began writing in elementary school, where I kept a secretive school notebook, overflowed with lyrics and poems. I recorded my first works of art at the age of 14 years old. I published my first singles, tapes, music videos, and soon after I found myself performing live. Read more>>

Octavia Goredema

I’m a career coach and writer, I moved to Los Angeles from London fifteen years ago and I’m now a dual US and UK citizen. I run a company, Twenty Ten Agency, that provides one-to-one career coaching to senior professionals across the United States. When I’m not coaching, I’m writing. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines I founded a digital platform called Twenty Ten Talent, which is dedicated to helping black women accelerate their careers. Read more>>

D’Antrè Cole

D’Antré is a Driven Musician from Washington D.C. His style blurs the lines between various genres, with roots in Pop, Hip Hop & R&B, and the ability to branch out towards other styles, including alternative. D’Antré is an artist who uses music as a means of self-expression, connecting with the audience on a much deeper level. On his latest mixtape “Escape the Ordinary” He begins with poetic and expressive tracks like Last Night & No Excuses. Read more>>

Paola Calliari

I am known as a professional movie and theatre actor, as well as a contemporary dancer. I was born in a small city in Northern Italy and started gymnastics at eight years old. At 14, I started studying ballet, contemporary dance, and theatre. It was my escape and it made me feel alive. My father was a priest before changing vocations and becoming a principal in school. He used to write poems. Read more>>

Aaron Smalls

Originally, I’m from St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. I went to the University of Central Florida in Orlando. I was 2.5 years into a mechanical engineering degree when I was introduced to the world of entertainment. I auditioned to work on a show for Nickelodeon. I started as a 19-year-old show assistant, shuffling around cartoon-sized props, whipping up cream pies, and engineering the perfect slime. Read more>>

Matt Lieb

I was born just outside of Los Angeles 34 years ago and grew up in the rough and tumble streets of just-outside-of-Culver City, just inside of West LA. But before you judge me for being a privileged, Jewish, white boy from LA’s affluent Westside area, please keep in mind that life wasn’t always easy for me. Yeah, I had struggles. I was raised by a single mother. Her name was Juanita and she took care of me and siblings while my parents were at work. Read more>>

Karen Bethzabe

I was born and raised in Mexico. I have always been a seeker, constantly looking to expand my comfort zone. That’s what brought me to the United States. My first years here were challenging, as you can imagine, coming to a new country by myself and trying to find my way. However, those years were also full of hope and possibility. Read more>>

Jasmine Ogunjimi

I’ve been writing all my life. And as cliche as it sounds, it’s very much the truth. As a kid, I’d create fake stories and then act them out, myself playing each character of course. When I played with my Barbie dolls, I one hundred percent did not need anyone else to play with because I provided Oscar worthy performances for each doll’s character. Read more>>

Katie Walter

As soon as people started asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I knew my answer: “A singer, actress and dancer!” I was blessed to have parents who supported my love of the stage and expression through performance. When I was in high school modeling came into my life and at sixteen, I moved to New York City as my career on the Ford Models Plus Board skyrocketed. Read more>>

Michael NiiON

I have just released an introductory EP called “One Bed, Two Dreams” which is just my journey to understanding love and how traumas for men can affect our ability to translate the frequencies of connection. Available on all platforms. Coming to LA was really just gravity it seems. Growing up as a child actor, then being engulfed into the NYC skate world is also a huge influence. Read more>>

Menu’Ette Silver

My love for storytelling developed at a young age because of my mother and father’s love. Being an only child led to creative and strategic manufacture of ‘Home Alone’ styled – booby traps I placed for my father. I would wait by the window for him to come home from work, watch him fall for my oddly successful traps, and jump out. Together we would laugh and laugh. Read more>>

Renee Garcia

When I was eight years old, I knew in my heart I wanted to be in the Entertainment Industry and by God’s will for over 15 years and with experience in many fields of the Entertainment Industry. It all started when my parents took me to Universal Studios and I was in awe of the whole thought of Hollywood I just didn’t know which field, I just knew I was fascinated with all of the filmmaking process and watched a lot of movies with my family and still do to this day. Read more>>

Layla McArthur

One of my closest and best friends got skin cancer when she was in her 30’s and it really prompted me to do my own research. While reading several studies and focusing on doctor’s methods from different parts of the world, who specialize in natural healing alternatives, I learned that there are several things we can do to encourage prevention. It is important to focus on skin health, as it is our largest organ. What we must do is prevent our skin and bodies healthy cells from breaking down. Read more>>

Lennon Hobson and Jackson Kendall

Jackson Kendall and Lennon Hobson met working on Evil Dead the musical at their alma Mater, Loyola Marymount University, in 2012 under director Kevin Wetmore. The two continued to work together in both theater and film projects in Los Angeles following graduation and found themselves looking around at all the talented artists they had surrounding them and their work. Everything from the amount of writers wanting help producing their work for the first time. Read more>>

Jada Tradez

I am a multifaceted music artist, performer, and writer. My life consumes music. I would write songs, poetry, and even taught myself how to dance at a young age. I still remember asking my parents to take me to an audition that was being held by the singer Ciara. I had practiced for a week after hearing about it on the radio. Somehow I was convinced I’d win and become a backup dancer/artist. Read more>>

Mada Atoms

Mada Atoms is off to an amazing 2020, but first let’s take you back to where it all started. From humble roots, I honed my craft through free-styling at local battles and in cyphers with other local artists on the East Coast from Ohio through the Carolinas to Atlanta. In 2016 I made the move to California with goals similar to those of many LA transplants, the goal to shine light on my craft. Read more>>

Leah Ramillano

I fell in love with theatre in college at the University of Redlands because of its inherent need for collaboration. Around the time I start school, my dad passed away and theatre became an outlet to both process the pain of loss and be surrounded people who lifted each other up to reach a common goal. Here, I learned what being part of a strong ensemble meant and knowing that sum is far greater than its parts. Read more>>


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