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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.

Mat Cipher

I was born and raised in Budapest, Hungary, classically trained in music from the age of five. I play guitar and piano, and was in an alternative rock band named “Walrus In The Sunshine”, and performed at Sziget Festival in 2016. Shortly after that, I moved to Los Angeles to further pursue my musical aspirations, specifically the art of music production. In 2018, I met Manu Beker through some CalArts contacts, and that led to me dropping my album “Dominoes” a year later. Manu sang and co-wrote the last two songs on the EP, “Astral Travel” and “Lie”, and sang on the lead single, “Dominoes”. The EP was mastered by Grammy-winning industry veteran Randy Merrill, known for working with artists like Kygo, and Dave Kutch, who mastered for example The Weeknd’s latest album. The remix pack of the album came out shortly after in 2020 featuring remixing artists who were supported by David Guetta and Martin Garrix. Read more>>

Bryan Wong

I’m an artist based out of Burbank who’s been working in animation for the last six years. In my free time, I do gallery work and write/illustrate a graphic novel called Simulacra, which is about a mysterious urban legend in a remote Southwestern town in the late 70s. I burn through podcasts and documentaries about cults at an alarming rate, and I’m increasingly worried that there’s a cult out there with the perfect pitch for me. Lately, I spend a lot of time thinking about how awkward everyone’s going to be at parties once the pandemic’s finally over. I have this really clear premonition of myself months from now at a friend’s house party, unable to stop myself from bringing the conversation to the fact that all amphibians may be extinct within our lifetime due to pollution, deforestation and climate change. “How are we going to explain to our future grandchildren that Kermit the Frog was based on a type of animal that used to exist?”, I’ll ask, ruining the vibe permanently. Read more>>

Grammy Szn

I’m a RIAA Certified Platinum producer, songwriter, & artist that was born & raised in Indianapolis, IN. I began making music electronically at the age of 12 during 7th grade. A few years later during sophomore year of high school, I went into foster care and then moved to Spring Valley in San Diego, CA. After I graduated, I chose to begin professionally pursuing my passion in the music industry which was deeply rooted in my families legendary background of trumpeters & father’s love for music. I transitioned into a highly competent, self-taught producer. In 2015 at the age of 22, I made a sample pack that would eventually be the seed that would plant the bloom of my career. During this time, I began perfecting my craft and unique sound that would land me a major placement with Def Jam in 2018. My persistence in having my music heard led to a major label A&R selecting my production to be placed on Def Jam artist Danileigh’s breakout single “Lil Bebe” that would eventually feature the popular rapper Lil Baby on the remix as well as Nio Garcia & Rauw Alejandro on “Bebecito (Latin Remix)”. Read more>>

Emily Detweiler

My lil shop blossomed from my senior project in college back in 2016. I began college studying Art & Design, but halfway through decided to add Journalism as my second major. Studying journalism changed my entire perspective on life. My struggle as an art student was finding what purpose my art served. How could I make an impact with my art? What meaning does my art have & how can it cause the viewer to feel moved? Once I began learning about the ingrained sexism in American media through my journalism courses, I knew my art had to bring awareness to these issues that I never fully recognized and now felt so strongly about. The over-sexualization of women in the media throughout history and the inability to “reclaim the female body” was something that intrigued me, and the grey area between the power of the female nude versus the objectification of a naked body. My new found goal as an artist was to comment on how mass media has portrayed women throughout history and has created an idealization of what truly makes a woman sexy and powerful. Read more>>

Kaleah Jones

As a creative and introspective thinker, I feel like all my life I’ve been on a journey of self-discovery. Growing up in the small military community of Fayetteville, NC, I was a girl with big dreams and a hunger for more opportunity than my environment allowed. After high school, I joined the United States Army where my path of self-discovery deepened. I deployed twice and served over the next seven years as a human resource professional (HR); obtaining two degrees along the way. Following my transition out of the military, I moved to Los Angeles, CA. I climbed the corporate ladder until I finally had a seat at the leadership table. Only to find myself mentally and emotionally stressed and still unfilled. I felt like I was living a double life. There was the identity I showed to the world and the identity I yearned to let out of her cage. I was so confused, I did what societal and culture programming told me I should do. So why was I still unhappy. I set out on a personal mission to take my own power back and find my purpose in life. I immersed myself in personal and spiritual development, the study of epigenetics, universal laws, and really understanding how the mind works. Read more>>

Allison Rozzen

As a working new mom, balancing the lack of sleep with extra cups of coffee, I began to endlessly read books and watch videos about infant sleep and implementing good sleeping habits at a very early age. To be honest, implementing what I was learning came naturally to me. My son was sleeping through the night while my mom-friends called me desperate for help. It brought me so much joy to help other moms. I quickly became a mom of 2-under-2, with Emmett was born July 31, 2018, followed just 15 months later by little sister Shiloh on October 30, 2019. When my daughter was born, I decided to get certified as a sleep consultant and launch my business, When Baby Sleeps, helping parents through their sleep struggles. Read more>>

Danny Dunbar

I started as an apprentice in a tattoo shop in Mobile, AL in the year 2000. Originally from Alabama, I’d dropped out of high school and had no idea what I was going to do with my life. After tattooing for a few years, moved to Pensacola, FL and continued the tattoo career. Around 2003, I started working tattoo conventions around the country and made some connections the old-fashioned way. Elbow rubbing, portfolio pushing, traveling type of networking. Found myself tattooing n Denver, Co for a few years before moving to New York for a while. I moved to Los Angeles in 2008 and have been making tattoos full time the whole way. Read more>>

Chef Renny

Growing up, some people struggle to decide what career they want to pursue. But as far back as Renny Shannon can remember, she was certain of the path she wanted to take. She wanted to be an entrepreneur – and a chef. As the daughter of a chef, Chef Renny made friends with knives and pots and pans from an early age. Bewildered by her dad’s innovativeness in the kitchen and his mastery of preparing delectable dishes, Chef Renny found her passion for cooking and a desire to step into her dad’s shoes. Chef Renny has had an awe-inspiring journey as a chef from being a novice in her dad’s kitchen to becoming a highly sought-after Private Celebrity Chef in Los Angeles. To Chef Renny, cooking is far more than a job but is a way of life- refined over hundreds of hours in the kitchen sharing her love & knowledge for good food with others. Her craft is defined by her great value for food as a remarkable component of stirring an event. Read more>>

Lauren Quinn

I’ve always wanted to be an actress so when I was in high school, I worked two jobs and saved up enough money to move from my hometown in Florida to New York City three weeks after my 18th birthday. I didn’t know anyone in New York and I didn’t have any connection to the acting industry so I just started by self submitting myself to projects and taking as many acting classes as I could afford. When I was 19, I submitted to an “extra role” for a crime reenactment show and when I went into the audition, they accidentally gave me the script for the lead role in the episode and after a few callbacks, I ended up booking the role! It took a whole year of being in New York before I booked my first TV role but it was very exciting and also was my first time getting to spend 12 hours on a set and I loved every minute of it. After working with lots of different agencies and booking a few other small roles, I signed with a manager in LA and decided to move again. I loved New York City but knew at some point I’d have to leave and go to LA. Read more>>

Maria Cavalieri

I started Relentless Fitness LA eleven years ago. I’m originally from Long Island, New York and moved to LA when I was eighteen years old. I was a fearless, aspiring young actress, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with no Plan B. It was a lot tougher than I anticipated especially when California felt like a whole new world compared to New York. From the scenery, the food, and the people, especially how they tawked… I was a fish out of water. I hated it here. The change took a toll on me. I fell into a deep depression. I started feeling insecure and my self-confidence plummeted. The pressure of having a Hollywood’s “perfect body” began to plague my mind and my thick NY accent didn’t help! I had an extra twenty pounds that ruled me and my thinking. I started working out with Personal Trainers (that I couldn’t afford) just to try and to quiet the negative talk in my head. I would say to myself “See? You’re doing everything possible.” I tried every trainer, gym, class, diet, protein bar and excuse. NOTHING worked. This went on for years. Read more>>

Marissa Reyes

I own Poppy Blu a contemporary affordable online fashion boutique for women. I have always loved all things fashion and even more at an affordable price. I have a background in Marketing and Public Relations and have a degree in Business with a specialization in Marketing. I’ve always loved to be able to problem solve and execute things in a way to have people connect with the person, place, item. My dream has always been to be own boss, but I never knew what I wanted to be the boss of. Now I do. I was inspired by friends and co-workers for starting their own passion projects, so I knew I wanted to find a passion project of my own! Of course, right away I didn’t know what that would be, fast forward to July 2020, prime quarantine time- Poppy Blu was born. Like, I am sure many of your readers, during quarantine my time spent online shopping went through the roof. I found myself using the most time shopping online at different online boutiques, once I realized it was a habit, I just told myself that I wanted to rebuild my wardrobe. Read more>>

Cameron Knox

I’ve always had a passion for fashion, and as I got older I wanted to explore the industry more. In 2018, I got blessed with the opportunity to work for Kyle Kuzma, of the Los Angeles Lakers, and his clothing line. Working for him inspired me to start my own clothing brand and led me to my passion for fashion. That experience taught me many things, as well as inspired me in many ways. I was able to see how the industry works, and I met many influential people. Seeing the way Kyle worked hard towards the things that he wanted to achieve really motivated me to be the same way. He really put that fire in me to go above and beyond, as well as remind me to never give up at any cost. What I learned and experienced inspired me throughout the process of opening my business. This year, I was laid off from my job because of the pandemic. This was a tough time for me, like everyone else, and things eventually got so bad that I could barely pay my bills. Despite my situation at that moment, my faith and trust in God really pushed me into starting my own business. Read more>>

Tim Molina

I’m a Set Design for Screen graduate from the University of the Arts London. I was born in Isabela, Philippines, then lived, studied and worked in England for 12 years before I moved to LA around May of last year. It was either a brave or foolish move coming to the States because I was moving to another new country, new city looking to expand my network and open opportunities for myself. At the same time, I was leaving my friends, my network and forcing myself out of my comfort zone. Since then, I have made new friends and creatives who are equally passionate about filmmaking. I’ve built a new network and worked on a variety of commercials, music videos and feature films in the Art Department as an Art Assistant, Set Dresser, Buyer, Art Coordinator, and other roles. Currently, I’m staffed on a new show earning my union days as I continue to work up the ladder and eventually work as a Production Designer. Read more>>

Sam Miller

I began getting serious with photography and content creation when I enrolled in a vocational program at Porter County Career Center through my high school in Valparaiso, IN. My teacher Mr. Phelps was key in getting me going with the basics and the most important thing of all, getting a camera in my hand. A couple of years after graduating from high school, I decided to move to Chicago. I lived in a town west of Downtown called Wicker Park. The new landscape of the city kept me busy exploring and shooting. Chicago is such a photogenic city with the most beautiful skyline. My photography skills improved so much in the short time that I lived there that I decided to open my first online print shop. I worked tirelessly on my website and made it perfect for my launch. I didn’t know much about running an online shop and unfortunately the results showed. I didn’t sell much, but I learned a lot from the experience that ended up benefitting me later when I relaunched my site this year. After ten months of living in Chicago, I decided to move back to Missouri to live with my parents and brother. I go into further detail why I moved in the next question. Read more>>

Courtnie Van Gorder

I sort of tripped and fell into what I’m doing now, and I finally feel like I am doing what I was put on this Earth to do. I also have so much to learn because this all just started back in August of 2020. My best friend suffers from Endometriosis and ended up having surgery this year, so my first thought was to get her flowers. But before we get into that, we actually have to rewind a bit… So, a few years ago I used to work for a private airline and I made the floral arrangements for the private jets, which is where I found my passion for flowers. Although it was not love at first sight. When my boss told me that I was going to be in charge of the flower arrangements, I was thinking to myself “Ummm, I have never made a floral arrangement in my life, I hope they know that this will most likely look like sh*t.” But I just nodded my head and said, “sure I would love to be in charge of flowers.” They took me to the flower mart, showed me around, told me what they usually get, and then they said “have fun!” I was so lost and did not know where to start. Read more>>

Valerie Thueson

Our company originally started as a couple of friends getting together to make music videos and pitch for work because we just wanted to create some pieces within our field. Noah Miller and myself, Valerie Thueson were working in the media department of Marymount California University but wanted to do more. This went on for a bit making music videos for micro budgets of $300-$1,000 until we started working with another production company. While working for that company for two years, we honed our skills doing a little of everything. I produced multiple commercials, music videos, and shorts while dealing with the company’s finances and day to day operations. Noah became more of a director and taught himself 3-D animation, even though his original degree is in screenwriting. We pitched to create a short film within the Alien franchise for Twentieth Century Fox and were pleased when we actually won along with five other filmmakers. While creating our short film Alien Alone, we spent a lot of time looking for filming locations and the more we looked into studios, we realized we wanted to open our own. Read more>>

Ruben Cruz

Grew up with the passion for music in general. Love all genres. Started freestyling any moment there was an opportunity. Linked together with a friend of mine named Grizzle. Recorded our first song off of a headphone as a recording mic. Fell in love with recording and just never stopped. I have so much unreleased music it’s stockpiling. Close friends, I have recently been urging me to drop all of it. Read more>>

Stephanie Rodriguez

I started playing and touring in bands at the age of 16. I was in a Florida based progressive metal band called Being, a rock band named Automatic Loveletter, and in 2011 I moved to LA to pursue more music opportunities. I have since shifted away from live performance to focus more on music production and arrangement. I created a fantasy-folk band named Blackhaven, wrote and produced for Wholecraft which was a techno project, and I am currently producing an EP with rock artist Lexi Layne. I’ve made it a personal goal of mine to explore and absorb as many aspects of music as possible. It really expands my ability to create freely, and it is an ongoing journey for me. Read more>>

Becky Lynn Blanca

I was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, and I began playing in bands in 2006. For a long time, I was solely a vocalist in the garage/soul outfit, Los Blancos, doing small gigs around town and eventually traveling overseas in 2016. I began playing ukulele in 2012 and collaborating with musicians who played more 1920’s/30’s jazz and blues. With a newfound passion for these styles, I started Penny Matches, which features Dave Stuckey and members of California Feetwarmers. In 2019, I began touring and writing as a solo performer, with only myself and my banjo ukulele, Grampa. Me n Grampa have been all over Europe and Canada, playing with all kinds of magical folks along the way. Spring of this year, I spent a couple of weeks in New Orleans trying to dial in my abilities as a solo performer. I returned home the second week of March, and which was when we went into our first lockdown. I did my first live stream show that Monday evening and decided I would return at 1:00pm the following day. And every day thereafter. Thus the Sad Gurlz Klub Hour of Power was born. Read more>>

Salpy Bedrosian

I’m a LA native and a proud product of Armenian & Egyptian Immigrants. I grew up in the valley, with two loving and extremely hardworking parents, but spent most of my childhood in Santa Monica with my grandparents while my parents were working. I have always been surrounded by powerful and hardworking women who could throw down in the kitchen like no other (amongst other things). I don’t know the exact moment my life became food-centric, but I can remember that food and feeding people have been my love language for as long as I can remember. Whether it was my mom’s, aunt’s, or grandmother’s cooking, food always brought us together. It always represented love, family, and togetherness. Watching my grandmother and mother in the kitchen baking different kinds of cookies, cakes, and dishes all from memory was always so beautiful and mind-blowing to me. In high school, I found myself reinventing traditional recipes with a modern twist. Baking became like therapy. I would bake to get my mind off things, destress, or see what new boundaries I could push with food. Read more>>

Jessica Wade

Mighty Little Giants, Inc. (MLG), a National 501(c)(3) Organization that supports families with babies in the NICU by providing monthly peer-to-peer mentoring, emergency financial support, as well as life after the NICU life skills. MLG’s mission is to bridge and stand in the gap for families with babies in the NICU by embracing MLG’s core values – Integrity, Compassion and Encouragement – ultimately giving them peace and becoming their light during their dark and difficult season. I am Jessica Wade, founding President/CEO of MLG. I have spent the last ten years working in my community, advocating for underserved women, children and families. My passion for NICU families and mothers experiencing preterm births developed as a result of my personal experience of being hospitalized on total bedrest for eight weeks prior to delivering my first son, 12-weeks prematurely. Once my son was released from the NICU after his 143-day stay, I made a promise to myself that I would do everything in my power to help families that experience similar situations. Read more>>

Lily Shaw

As an LA-based actress and an award-winning motivational speaker, I’m determined to become a positive voice for change and transformation. My focus is empowerment through diversity—due to my own struggles as a woman of color in the entertainment industry. When I was three years old, I went on a family trip: Other fellow travelers were casually walking along their path and playing drums. As it happened, I heard the drums, ran towards them, and, unprompted – started dancing to the beat – My Dad followed me, and soon enough all the travelers joined in and made it a dance party for all! As I grew up, this love for dancing morphed into a passion for acting. I grew up on a steady diet of Bollywood cinema, but once we emigrated to US– I threw myself into becoming a Hollywood actress. All I wanted to do was act, and it didn’t matter to me where it was and in what language! My JOURNEY in the real world started about ten years ago when I decided to move to LA to pursue acting. Read more>>

Erica Martin

My childhood was pretty unique. I grew up in Largo, Florida and was raised in our family business, a martial arts school. My dad built our 10,000 sq/ft school from the ground up with our personal residence in the back. Growing up, I watched my dad pursue his dream of becoming a world champion while my mom took care of me and my two younger sisters. When I was 15, I decided I wanted to open a martial arts school, just like my dad. He started bringing me to consulting meetings for martial arts business owners. I gave up my teenage weekends to learn about running a business. I was 16 years old, in a room of 45+ martial arts business owners, who were mostly men. With my dad’s support, I opened our first branch martial arts school. I was 18 years old. Our first year in business, we generated 3.5x the national average. Eight years later, my school was in the top .01% of martial arts schools worldwide. At 26 years old, I turned the school over to my dad. I started an online consulting company to help struggling martial arts school owners. Read more>>

Andrea Ramos

I started my small business during the beginning of COVID-19 when I was laid off my job as a substitute assistant and a friend mentioned the idea of sewing scrunchies and headbands to sell. I had no idea how to sew and I was in the midst of a wave of depression and feeling like my purpose was pointless.  I have struggled with anxiety for many years and with my anxiety and depression, it was so easy to doubt myself to the point of giving up before even starting. I was still healing from an abusive relationship that lasted several years, traumatic childhood, and other events that scarred me yet also pushed me to do better for myself and continue to try and resist generational silence and unhealthy coping mechanisms. Once I started my small business, I put what little money I had into it and tried to find ways to finance, advertise, create, and engage better. Read more>>

Leah Hamilton

“Teaching is only demonstrating that it is possible. Learning is making it possible for yourself.” This quote by novelist Paulo Coelho sums up my approach to understanding and teaching the skill of learning, which is essential to my story. Whether as a classroom teacher, tutor, or a business owner, I am happiest when I’m interacting with people, thinking creatively, and indulging my nerdy side by learning and teaching new things as often as possible. However, I didn’t always love learning. In fact, while growing up in Newton, Massachusetts, I was painfully shy and disliked school, save for middle school Spanish class which I looked forward to every day. That Spanish class led to my decision to spend my entire junior year at the University of Massachusetts living abroad in Spain learning the language and the culture on site. My love for learning and the adventure of travel was born out of that experience. After college, I lived in Spain for two years, a truly life-changing moment. Inspired by that experience, I traveled for the next five years spending time in Argentina, France, and Cuba, sometimes as a teacher and other times as a student. Before moving to Los Angeles, I had spent several years in New York City teaching ESL through Drama at a newly formed high school specifically designed for international students. Read more>>

She’Chinah

Growing up in Memphis, I’m sure, has had a big impact on me as an individual and artist. I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember. Mostly everyone in my family shares the same love for music, so it was a part of all we knew growing up. I was the daydreamer in school so I was always doodling or journaling. I enjoy thinking about how the things I enjoyed doing as a kid fused together to help me be who I am today. I am a singer/songwriter now staying in the Valley. I’ve written and performed house music, and I have written and performed neo-soul. I create music based on how I feel at the moment. It keeps my music pure and genuinely in line with me as an artist. I honestly feel so blessed to have been given the gift to know how to express myself through music. Read more>>

Lee Lavi

North Valley Aikikai was established in October 2005, with the vision of creating a community-oriented center for martial arts and Yoga. The idea was to include people of all ages and walks of life, to provide a space to help kids and adults achieve balance and skill in their lives. I was an apprentice of an Aikido master for six years, traveling back and forth between Los Angeles and Berkeley. With over a thousand training hours a year, I eventually became an Aikido teacher and was ready to open a dojo. Read more>>

Marcus Santos

I started off my brand last December of 2019 with the goal of creating a brand that portrays the uniqueness of each of us as individuals but also is able to bring us together as a collective. 2020 was a very challenging year to be a designer due to COVID-19 as you know, all business were shut down for a few months in the beginning of the year which caused a huge hault in the development of my brand as my income was reduced due to the fact that I became unemployed due to Covid which created a huge challenge as my budget decreased drastically for my brand. But thankfully, my brand was growing at a steady rate and my customer base was steadily growing also which kept my brand afloat to get to where I am currently now. Read more>>

Rondrell McCormick

I’m a southern gentleman. Born in Lumberton, NC. Raised in Robeson county. Single parent home. I spent the majority of my childhood in a black hole I often try to forget about… Maxton, NC. It was hard. It was even impossible at times. I experienced poverty, bullies, riots, racism, molestation, drugs, gangs. I saw a lot as a child. None of which comes close to the unmovable tattoo of seeing my superhero of a mother struggle so much to make ends meet. While playing sports, I was given an ultimatum… Football or Theater. This made me lean even further into the arts. My chorus teacher Ellen Jackson and my dear friend and history teacher at the time John Hodges really helped me dive into this part of myself. They poured into me and helped me see beyond my circumstances. At the time, I didn’t realize how much I needed the foresight. I didn’t know that music and theater would literally save my life. I went to undergrad at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University in Greensboro, NC. Read more>>

Zebulon Griffin

I was born and raised in Newnan, GA, just southwest of Atlanta. At the age of four, I fell in love with music, more specifically, hip hop. I was obsessed. I would rock with anything I could get my hands on. If my parents wouldn’t let me buy it, I’d borrow the tape from a friend and sneak it in the house. Nine times out of ten I got caught, too. Apparently, I wasn’t all that slick. I listened to groups like The Fugees and Outkast and west-coast artists like Dr. Dre and Cypress Hill. For a while, it was just a deep appreciation and connection to the music but, the moment I heard DMX’s ‘It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot,’ I knew I wanted to rap. I started writing rhymes in the sixth grade. My dad passed when I was thirteen. Up until then, I played a lot of sports and hadn’t really explored music beyond rapping in my bedroom. In freshman year of high school, I started playing the drums. My drum instructor at the time put me on to so much music, from jazz to reggae to afro-cuban. He took me some of his gigs in Atlanta as his roadie/drum tech and introduced me to jazz legends like Marcus Miller and Dave Weckyl. I started listening to less and less hip hop. Read more>>

Dylan Waterhouse

I grew up in a small town nestled in the mountains of Western Massachusetts. The arts weren’t as prevalent then as they are now, but I had some great educators in public school who inspired me to pursue a life in music. I hadn’t fully committed to it until a couple of stints in community college, working a full-time job, joining a band in Connecticut, and a failed audition to Berklee College of Music. Thats when I learned to persevere, work even harder, and was accepted on my second try. There I developed a passion for recording and mixing. I found I really excelled at that and just enjoyed every aspect of the process, not to mention the people around me were incredibly inspiring. Upon graduating, I was a little nervous to follow my peers and make the jump to Los Angeles, but after a couple of years of freelancing in Boston and a huge itch to be where the action was, I finally moved here. Relatively quickly, I was privileged to land a gig as a runner (and occasionally assistant) at Henson Recording in Hollywood, where I really got a taste of commercial recording. Read more>>

Tasji

I’ve loved singing ever since I was a little girl, but I started writing songs and playing guitar when I was 12 years old. I’m originally from a small farm town in Illinois and LOVED Taylor Swift, so naturally, I fell into writing country music. I began performing at small bars and festivals when I was 15. My vocal teacher at the time introduced me to a producer named Joe Carrell in Nashville, TN. I began making trips to Nashville to work with him throughout high school, and my first EP which was released in 2015. Around this time, I was beginning to make a name for myself around the central IL area and was getting opportunities to open shows for some of my favorite country artists. It was a really cool thing to experience and I met some really beautiful people along the way. Once I graduated high school, I decided to move to Nashville and attend Belmont University, where I majored in Music Business with a Music Production emphasis. I released my second EP, “Forever in a Second,” in 2018, which charted on the iTunes Country Albums Chart. Read more>>

Rashaun Sibley

A lot of my friends and family call me Raisin. My name is misspelled a lot and the best one was when a cast announcement credited me as Raisin Sibley and thus, my (more popular than I’ll ever be) alter ego was born. I always wanted to be that kid that knew exactly what they loved and what they wanted to be immediately and as a child, I knew I wanted to be a dolphin trainer and perform in dolphin shows. I can’t even swim… but somehow I was still very shocked to hear on a school field trip that in order to be hired you had to pass a swim test. So young Rashaun shut down that dream and decided the clear, next choice of a career path… was to perform. In all seriousness, it’s been a series of happy accidents that have landed me here in LA as an actor. I was born and raised in Fort Worth, TX and I wasn’t around many opportunities to perform. But I fell in love with music and singing as I grew up in the church. After time in my middle school’s choir I learned that I didn’t have the attention span to stand and sing so that inspired me to try theatre in high school. Read more>>

Camille Cruz

I always had a feeling I would be working in entertainment somehow. I was the kid who loved watching all the MTV and BET shows and wanted to work on them so bad. I studied broadcast journalism and dance at Hofstra University in Long Island New York, and it was there I got my start working at the school’s radio and television studios and eventually interned for the local radio station. After graduating, I spent about two years permalancing for digital publications, such as Sirius XM, The People’s Choice and Essence, covering entertainment news, trends and culture. However, I was not getting the experience needed to land the bigger types of roles I wanted. So, with the help of an associate, we researched the local television station and figured out how to get a show on public access TV. Here, we developed our own talk show that aired on public access tv in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. Being able to develop something on my own, from the ground up was challenging but gave me tons of experience in development, producing and deliverables. Read more>>

Joy Post

I have always been someone who loves hair, loves styling hair, cutting my hair, braiding (protective styling) my hair. I am the oldest daughter of six children, second-born with three younger sisters. After going through one of the black woman’s “rite of passage” and getting a perm at age ten. No one told me that if your hair doesn’t fall out, it doesn’t count. Sure enough, after telling everyone I just use water and baby lotion (the one in the pink bottle) in my hair. Boy did that perm do a number on me. My hair fell out!!! I was distraught, and I had to cut my hair off. It was official, I was a chicken head. I hated my hair during this time. I didn’t really start doing hair until I was about twelve. From about twelve to eighteen, I wore various styles from braids, buns, presses, and more. Big chopped in 2011 and wore protective styles until my hair was long enough to touch my neck while being flat-ironed. This is my hair journey, my hair has been one of the only things I have immediate control over whether it has been through coloring, cutting, braiding, etc. Throughout the years, family members and friends alike have asked me to braid their hair or someone they know. Read more>>

Jaimi Gray

It all started with $400 and a vision. I will never forget January 15th, 2015. I had more faith than I had money as I flew to Los Angeles for the first time ever to pursue a career in entertainment hosting, voice acting, and TV/Film. I’m blessed because I am actually doing it and it feels good to recognize & appreciate my wins so far. Looking back, I remember how driven I was about moving to LA. I had talked about moving to LA since I was a teenager with no clue how to get here. After college, LA was still on my mind, so I knew I had to come up with a plan. I had a friend in Mid-City whose air mattress I knew I could sleep on for a few weeks. Great. Next, I would need to somehow find a job and get my luggage, my car, and most importantly, myself to Los Angeles. So, I did. I changed the address on my resume to my friend’s LA address and started scheduling tons of phone interviews with potential employers letting them know the official date I was moving. Read more>>

Ani Tsatourian

I’m a fine art portrait photographer. It’s not something I ever thought of as a career but always loved and appreciated. I went to college for arts and 3-D animation and in addition to my classes took photography for fun almost every semester. In the meantime, I was a full-time bookkeeper to pay the bills. In 2009 I got laid off. Being in the middle of economic recession it was hard to find a job, so I started thinking what I could possibly do on my own. This is when I thought to give photography a real chance. I can’t say it was easy. It may have been one of the hardest decisions of my life. At that point, it was only a few years that I had been living in the US and I didn’t have many friends or connections to spread the word for me. I somewhat knew the craft but didn’t know anything about the business. I also had no money to pay others to help me get it off the ground, market it, or create a website. I had to do a lot of research and find resources to educate myself and build the business on my own. Read more>>

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