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Portraits of Hollywood

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 Hollywood.

Shannon Decker

I was born in Washington State. My parents divorced when I was two years old. I had an older brother who I was obsessed with and wanted to do everything that he did. My mom was on welfare and my dad was a “derelict” who we saw but mostly cared only about surfing and his own survival. I was naturally very athletic and had a lot of energy. I was willing to participate and try new things. My brother ran away but I wanted to stay with my mom so I could keep playing sports – so I started the long hard process of being emancipated. I lived with friends and some foster care until it got so bad I had to move to a small fishing town with my dad. Read more>>

Laura Goycochea

This is a true love story! Story about the love and bond of mother and daughter. Originally from Latvia, Europe we made it all the way to Santa Barbara, CA. It has been a long, adventurous, exciting, difficult and very rewarding experience. Blue Blossoms was dreamt by Laura (daughter) one night, and she knew this was a gift that she will give to her mother for moving across the World to be with her and her family leaving everything she knew behind. Working with flowers was Ingrid’s childhood dream that never seemed possible to bring to life so together with many dreams, lots of love and some bravery our company was made. We have moved from our bedroom to garage and finally to our own studio and store. Read more>>

Tara Maietta

Born and raised in New York, I always had the ambition to want to get into fashion out of college. It wasn’t until I landed my first job working for bridal designer that I would immediately fall in love with weddings. My first job out of college also just happened to be a start-up in downtown Soho, NYC. The opportunity allowed me to learn all facets of how to run a bridal business from early on. I had tremendous amount of responsibility at such a young age. This included running their wholesale and retail business while handling all PR requests and events. I had the great privilege of working with some of the most incredible photographers to include legendary Peter Beard. From there, I took on the most important position of my life at Vera Wang where I spent almost a decade spearheading their international wholesale business and select freestanding stores across the globe. My greatest accomplishment was opening the Vera Wang flagship on Melrose. Read more>>

Marie Alex

Growing up, I was highly blessed to be surrounded by an incredibly musically creative family. My grandmother began teaching me scales and piano at a very young age, and I just remember being hypnotized by her ability to play music by ear and play guitar as naturally as breathing air. Though I’d always been a very shy person, it wasn’t long until I discovered my love for performing in front of an audience. My first showcase was at the age of six, and I sang “If I Aint Got You” by Alicia Keys. Afterward, I recall a plethora of unfamiliar faces approaching my mother and encouraging her to push my talent and growth. That’s when I realized, “Oh okay, this is actually what I was placed on this earth for.” I really just dove into the art from there. In my free time, I began studying Jazz and R&B religiously, familiarizing myself with old school classics, and really trying to decode how these pieces were made with the intent of replicating them someday. Read more>>

Christiane Maertens

When I look back at the path leading to the founding of DoGoodery, so much of it now seems inevitable. But a lot had to go right to get here. We are a consulting agency working with partners who have an authentic commitment to doing good, born out of my passion for creating impactful social and environmental programs. I can easily trace back through my career: seven years with The Walt Disney Company, leading the design of its first corporate social responsibility portfolio; my tenure as the Deputy Director of the North American Association for Environmental Education, building a professional team that leads one of the largest and most diverse environmental education networks in the world. But most often, I think about working in my family’s pupuseria as a kid. Read more>>

Jon Carlo

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be involved in the entertainment industry. As a kid, I was obsessed with movies, but growing up I never really believed it was a possibility. In college, I was a pre-med major, and the plan at the time was to be a doctor. Things began to shift for me my senior year, where on a whim I decided to audition for a play. To my surprise, I got a cast gun a small role and on opening night, I caught the proverbial “bug” everyone talks about. Being on stage in front of an audience gave me an adrenaline rush I never felt before and that was it. I was hooked. Read more>>

Armaan Lucknowala

I started out in high school as a computer science major and always wanted to be a coder in life, but the passion fell through when I realized my love for photography, which really kickstarted everything. I decided after high school to do a one month program in New York for filmmaking and I absolutely fell in love with it. I am the type of person who thinks knowledge is always a useful and intriguing weapon in today’s world, and that’s why I choose to join the New York Film Academy for a Bachelors in Filmmaking course to gain as much knowledge and experience from it. I just graduated almost a month back and now I’m currently working as a freelancer and in the process of finding a job. Read more>>

Jessica De Soto

At a noticeably youthful age, a big nosed, brown-eyed, cinnamon colored little girl knew she could fly in her dreams, but as well as in real life. Eventually, the little girl began to discover she had the gift of healing the broken and exposing the raw truth in ways her intellect was not able to grasp. While she began to blossom in her age, her family and friends took notice that there was something luminous about her and beautifully distinctive, and maybe one day, it may cure the corrupted world we all live in Without pride but with humility, she was gifted with an incredible gift to love unconditionally and to sustain an authoritative leadership role without consuming the temptations of what society offered. When people began to take notice of her spirit, it brought opposition and trials in her life, but the light inside her heart was a continuous reminder that she had been birthed for a reason. Then it became evident, and almost aborted child was a gift from God to the world. Read more>>

Greg Ellis

Music has always been a big part of my life. I was brought up in the late 60s-70s by my single mom in Los Gatos, CA, an hour south of San Francisco. There was so much musical diversity happening at that time and my mom was a big music lover. She’d take us to the San Francisco Symphony one weekend, then to see blues or soul music the next. We would go to the Monterey Jazz Festival every year. I heard a lot of horn sections in all this music which influenced me to choose my first instrument, the trumpet. I began playing at nine years old and my school band teacher noticed I had a natural ear for music. His encouragement inspired me to practice a lot, which is probably the most important thing to learn as a musician! Though I enjoyed playing the trumpet, once I was inside the band my ear was always drawn to the drums. Read more>>

Megan Graney

Megan Graney is a singer-songwriter based out of Los Angeles. She grew up singing in choir and still does so today. Her classical background in music blossomed into a love for vocal jazz. An alumni of Berklee College of Music, she sang with several A cappella groups and graduated with a Music Business Degree in 2013. The Bay Area native is a strong advocate for mental health, caretaking, and sharing vulnerability in her craft. Her music can be heard as conscious New-Age music, with the intention of helping listeners heal past trauma through sound. Prior to her artist career, Megan has been supporting film composers for the last four years. She earned credits in major films that include Despicable Me 3 and The Nut Job 2. Her work at Bear McCreary’s studio, Sparks and Shadows, ultimately earned her the studio management role for Brazilian film composer, Heitor Pereira, located at Hans Zimmer’s film score company – Remote Control Productions. Read more>>

Roman Sanchez

I started when I was 16 promoting a show named Gradfest with a gentleman named Marvin Street that show was taking place at the Arena Nightclub with over 3,000 people attending and I just felt that I wanted to do that for the rest of my life, that I found the career that was perfect for me. Little by little, I got more involved til I became a partner. Then we started doing even more shows at different venues got involved in the EDM Scene witch opened much more opportunities for me met more people and just got involved huge festivals all over California and Vegas. After a few years of that, I got introduced to a gentleman named Carlos Rojas and Jeff De Leon decided to leave the EDM and went with them to another nightclub that hosted only Hip-hop instantly I fell in love with the shows and the scene itself big famous people performing for us anyone that was someone at the time was performing at our stage. Read more>>

Mike Guevara

I am a performance coach and consultant of athletes of all levels. I started off as a performance intern who quickly advanced as a base-level performance coach at The Elite Factory in Westlake Village, CA. Over the course of the next three years, I helped trained NFL Combine prep, high school and college athletes, and tennis players. I earned a traveling contract with then WTA World’s #5 Victoria Azarenka. We were able to experience great success including a World’s #1 ranking for over 50 weeks. After training in tennis, I was able to transition into working with NBA basketball players where I settled into a great niche and identity. Working with Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis has projected me as a known name in the world of performance for basketball players. I currently oversee the athletic development of numerous NBA basketball players, high school athletes, and a few NFL football players. Read more>>

Jaison Sydney

At the age of 13 (Summer of 2003), I would film videos of my best friend James doing BMX bike tricks on the street, using his mother’s video camera. That Christmas, my dad bought me a Sony DVD video camera and I then began shooting short stories in my neighborhood with my friends. The stories were based on crime, suspense and action. Read more>>

Amber Stanford

I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I grew up with dogs my whole life and my love for them started at two years old. As a nurse, taking care of others and their health is something I’m very passionate about. I feel the same exact way when it comes to our fur babies. I hate that dogs have relatively short lives and I believe the foods they intake can either prolong or hinder it just like it does for humans. My dogs King (mix of Pekinese and Shih-Tzu) and Oreo (full Shih-Tzu) have sensitive stomachs. With so many overwhelming options in the pet food aisle, all claiming to do different things for our dogs, I decided to try a few. Unfortunately, the treats gave my fur babies allergies, skin problems, and gastrointestinal issues. Read more>>

Damian Crouthamel

I began playing guitar at a young age, around six or seven. Although every young musician imagines themselves on a stage while they practice alone in their room, I never actually considered music as a potential career until the end of my college career. I had completed my undergraduate program in Music Industry, specializing in Audio Engineering and I was approaching the start of a one-year MBA program and I think I just panicked at the thought of letting my youth and the opportunity to play music pass me by. I had been meeting in person with my academic advisors pretty frequently over the course of that year and built my senior year schedule all around this MBA program to allow for a smooth transition, and about four days before I was supposed to start classes, I withdrew from the program and made the decision to move to Los Angeles. At this point, it’s almost been two years since I made that decision and it’s been scary, difficult, and extremely fun and fulfilling all at the same time. Read more>>

Bob Peace

Basically just a suburban kid from New York. Always had a soft spot for good music from a very young age like Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, good down-home piano blues music, stuff like that. I think that’s pretty good for now just find Bob Peace on Spotify etc. and make up your own mind. Read more>>

Humberto Carlos Guida

I was born to a manic-yet-supportive family of Cuban refugees and raised in the intense cultural landscape of Miami. I wanted to do something noble with my life like rally the world against evil and injustice, but after I realized that all I was good at was talking shit and writing stories, I figured I would make my mark through media and entertainment instead. I got my start in publications like the Miami Herald, New Times, Village Voice, Ocean Drive and Vice covering the nefarious corners of culture and society. I moved on to television with NBC Universal and wound up interviewing my fair share of interesting and/or famous folk. Currently, I’m the executive producer and host of the syndicated docuseries LATINATION, where we dive deep into the lives of rising Latin artists, athletes and activists. Read more>>

Rick Dominguez

I started in 2007 working for a friend’s farm selling avocados and citrus at local farmer’s markets. In 2014 I started my own company and got my own farm. In 2017 we opened our first store in East Hollywood. In 2021, we opened our second store at the original farmers market. Read more>>

Mike Stang

I was born in Baltimore, MD then moved to a suburb outside of Philadelphia, PA. Eventually, I moved to Hershey, PA and then made the move out west to Los Angeles. Growing up, music was always encouraged in my family. My Mother, Great-Grandmother, Sisters and Uncles all played instruments. Family gatherings always ended up in jam sessions at some point in the evening. I was very lucky to be surrounded by that.I started playing trumpet when I was ten and stuck with that for a few years then transitioned to playing piano. Somewhere along the lines, I wanted to be in a band. When I was 14, most of my friends had started playing guitar and I was catching the itch to do the same thing. My close friend, Dan recommended I take up the bass since every one of our friends played guitar and they had no bass players to jam with. Crazy to think how a decision at 14 years old sets an entire course for your life. I really just wanted to play music and write songs. I’d have been willing to play anything. Read more>>

Vedant Mugalikar

I am a kid from a small town called Latur in India and my city was famous for making doctors and engineers. I was born in the city of Latur but grew up in the city next to it called Nanded. Both cities were small and did not have many resources. I am from an Indian middle-class family. My father is a police officer so he had to move around but he put us kids ahead of himself. Me, my mother and my younger sister stayed in the city of Nanded. My mother had to play the role of my father in my father’s absence. My father used to visit and he knew everything we were doing. I had a clutter so my school life wasn’t filled with happy memories but we humans always find a way to make some happy ones so I made some good friends and memories too. My father is an artist and art admirer so from the time I was a kid, he wanted me to do the same. First, he made me read books and the thing about books is when you go into the world of stories, it’s really hard to come out. Read more>>

Allison Giroday

Ever since I can remember, I’ve had a love for makeup. I would practice on my younger sister and her friends all the time. Starting out, I worked in retail with MAC Cosmetics before becoming a freelancer in Vancouver for a several years (where I’m from). I then lived in Toronto for a year before moving to LA. Read more>>

Paige Stone

I have been an international published model now for eight years and have always had a strong sense of self and what I find attractive to wear as a woman. I started self-styling my modeling shoots, which fueled my inspiration to create elegant, feminine one off pieces to fit my unique taste. After two years into my modeling career Glamnoir Couture was born out of my love for the dark seductive side of life. I used my passion as inspiration and started to design and hand-make sample pieces. Glamnoir Couture is based on contrasts of Dark Romantic’s with a fetish twist. I used feminine laces, trims, beads, sequins and sheer fabrics and add O-rings, straps, chains, latex for a dark edgy twist. Read more>>

Tyler Peck

It’s a pretty winding story as my interests, passions and direction changed and evolved over the years. I started out doing fine arts but ultimately went to college at Cornell University to study Architecture because I was more compelled by the scale, complexity and impact of that level of design. Design School was challenging and very eye-opening, and after college I began working at a large architecture firm in Boston, then added being an adjunct faculty member at the Boston Architectural College onto that, which made for a massively full plate. Not super happy with the world of professional architecture, at least as I had experienced it in firm culture when the economic downturn happened in 2008, I decided to explore some things I’d never tried and casually landed on acting. I thought it would be a very brief and silly love affair, but it quickly turned into a full-on passion, and I got a lot of indie work very fast. Read more>>

Nargis Bahaduri

My online clothing boutique, ShopNargis.com, is something I have been dreaming about for years. I knew I always wanted to be my own boss and own a clothing boutique, I just knew it was going to be a lot of hard work and patience. I learned everything I needed to learn about starting my own business when I attended FIDM in Los Angeles and got my Bachelor’s in Fashion Marketing. At that point, I just had to apply everything I learned from school into execution. I kept putting it off until the 2020 pandemic hit and I was stuck at home with nothing to do. I noticed a trend of a lot of people creating their own business so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity for me to start as well. From the very beginning of even thinking of starting my own business, I knew I wanted to incorporate a message of giving back within the brand. Because there are so many causes that need help, I thought of the idea of rotating causes every few months so that I can give back to multiple charities. As of now, with everything going on in Afghanistan, giving back to my family back home and others in need of support is my main focus. Read more>>

Alex Geringas

Actor and Playwright turned Grammy-winning, Emmy and Annie nominated Composer and Songwriter Alex Geringas had 18 No. 1 Hits in Germany before he relocated in 2011 to Los Angeles… His Songs were performed by Snoop Dogg, Jessie J, Timbaland, Cher, Kelly Clarkson, Mary Lambert, Ben Schwartz, Dove Cameron and many more. Alex scores since 2017 the Trolls Franchchise TV Shows TROLLS THE BEAT GOES ON and now TROLLSTOPIA, the Disney Jr. Show CHUGGINGTON (season 6). Besides that, he and Mike Himelstein are the Episodic Songwriters of the Disney Jr. Show THE CHICKEN SQUAD. Alex also contributed additional music for Chris Lennertz’ movies PITCH PERFECT 3 and UNCLE DREW. He also contributed Original Songs for the Robert De Niro and Uma Thurman film THE WAR WITH GRANDPA (D : Timothy Hill) and wrote Additional Music for the Melissa McCarthy film HAPPYTIME MURDERS. Besides that, he just worked with Timothy Hill on the upcoming THE SPONGE BOB MOVIE: SPONGE ON THE RUN for Paramount Pictures. Read more>>

Joseph Casimiro

Better known as JoetheDirector. Well known for working with one of the biggest influencers on social media and Music Artist, is an American videographer from Santa Paula, CA. I come from a Hispanic household and where I was taught at a very young age to not only chase my dreams but put in the hard work, and that’s what I believe has got me to this point. At 18 years old, I started my first job in agriculture where I spent hours in the hot sun trying to make a living for my family and I. One day I decided to leave my job in order to pursue my dream as a filmmaker. I started creating videos, starting out I focused on everyday life, shooting videos of friends at school, parties, parks and concerts. In 2017, he began spending more time shooting videos for upcoming musicians and social media influencers, such as King Lil G, Tory Lanez, Phora, This is L&S, The ACE family, Gunna, Lil Baby, and much more. Over the years. I gained a ton of experience but also made friends and who I now call family. Read more>>

Charlize Diaz de Leon

I’ve been performing for as long as I can remember. I will forever blame Meryl Streep’s performance in Death Becomes Her, Nicole Kidman’s performance in Practical Magic, and Michelle Pfeiffer’s performance in Grease 2 for infecting me with the acting bug. I’m kidding… well sort of. My entire childhood was filled with unofficial surprise performances by yours truly at family get togethers in front of my television and piano. Once I was old enough to understand that those people in the tv screen actually had a career as playing make believe I was sold. I started out doing Community Theatre when I was six. The first musical I had ever performed in, I had one line but I was in absolute heaven. I booked my first feature film when I was eight, it happened to be filmed in my hometown of Tucson, Arizona. It was a horror film called After Dark. Read more>>

Hayden Hishaw

As far as I can remember, I have always enjoyed performing and making people smile. As an energetic five years old who loved to act out my own shows at home and at school, my mom decided to sign me up at a local theater where I was cast in my first play before I knew how to read. Seeing how much I enjoyed the stage and entertaining an audience, my parents signed me up with Models Melange in Tucson, Arizona for training to compete in the IMTA scouting event in Los Angeles, California. It was such a great experience and I secured a LA agent and manager to jumpstart my career. Quickly, I began traveling regularly to Los Angeles for casting director workshops and getting auditions in print, television and film. I cast television pilots at the age of seven years old as the sassy, outspoken kid in the pilot “Blank Pages” and “What’s The Norm”, followed by films like The Legend of Catclaws Mountain & Their Lies Another World. Read more>>

Ezekiel Pacheco

I started at 19, my father heard an advertisement on the radio searching for actors, we signed up my little brother and the school director asked if I was interested in joining as well. I was hesitant as anyone else would going into something unfamiliar but my parents convinced me to join. Fast forward I got agents, started auditioning, and over time I was blessed to start working as well as earning respect and recognition in the industry. Read more>>

Mam Jobe

The Chaku Company has been one of our biggest dreams. Being able to create this dream and make it a reality has been one of our biggest accomplishments. Over five years of working in the hospital inpatient and outpatient services, we have decided to build a brand that pertains to our everyday lives from work to home. The Chaku Company is where passion, safety and comfort are our top priorities. We want you to be beautiful and comfortable while doing what you love. Choose The Chaku Company “Let’s Make Work Fun”. Read more>>

Jarrett Mateo

I grew up in a single-parent household, it being my mother and I. Starting at a very young age, I realized that I was a true DREAMER because I always imagined myself as someone that can inspire an entire community and create. This is where my love for acting and performing came from. I was the normal kid that would dress up and create my own imaginary world and act it out based on ideas I got from movies and TV, but one thing I knew is I was always too shy to do it in front of others. At the age of 11, I was provided the opportunity to chase my dream when my mom and I were approached by an agent searching for young/ new talent to put on display. At my first showcase, I froze with stage fright and it was at that moment I felt that maybe I was not cut out for this dream; I mean what artist hasn’t felt that way at one point in their lives? So throughout my teenage years, high school, and college I just focused on my education and sports where I learned to build my confidence and work ethic. Read more>>

Frances Love Harris

When graduating high school, one of my graduation gifts was a gift card to a day spa. During my first massage, I noticed I focused more on the techniques of the massage therapist, as opposed to relaxing. Yes, this is against what I advocate for anyone receiving a massage from me or any other therapist, however, that is when I noticed my passion for massage. From there moving forward, every time I received a massage I practiced what I learned. Now, 15 years later I am a huge advocate for self-care and ensuring all take time out to reset for everyday experiences. Read more>>

DaKarPENters

Bryan Jaymes and Matt Gradnigo had been working on music within our own circles as artists for some time. Throughout our separate journeys, we collaborated a couple of times and realized we had great chemistry in the studio and are pretty much speaking the same language. With both of us hailing from southern Louisiana and both being students of 90s/2000s RnB it began to become clearer that we should join forces and bring our nostalgic musical leanings into a modern context. Bryan Jaymes, along with his wife and fellow songwriter/videographer/co-ceo of DaKarPENters parent company, Just One Entertainment, Jewelz Marie, moved to Los Angeles in 2017 with Matt Gradnigo following suit less than a year later. Although Bryan was skeptical at first, having dealt with a lot of talkers in the industry, Matt Proved he was really bout that action, and in 2020 they officially came together to form DaKarpenters. Read more>>

Tiffany Faith

I grew up in Montreal, Canada. I studied Interior Architecture & Design at The Academy of Art University, with the dream of becoming an interior designer, designing boutique hotels. I’ve been financially independent from a young age, which led me to exploring a variety of career paths. These include starting an event planning and influencer marketing company and serving as the Director of North America at Matrix, London, the Director of Global Travel & Beauty at WESSCO International, and the Director of Business Development at M-Theory Group. My range of experience and skillsets helped me develop my entrepreneurial side as well as my creative side. All of these experiences and skillsets spanning technology, beauty, and design-led up to me into founding Upkeep, the new beauty app providing the first digital marketplace for the Medical Aesthetic and Medspa industry in the U.S. Read more>>

Aderinsola Popoola

Since I was young, it was apparent that I had a creative mind. Growing up, I had interests in photography, videography, sketching, painting, and fashion design. I once had the idea that I would be a doctor/artist/fashion designer. That childhood idea has been restructured throughout my life but my interests still remain the same! Photography had always been apparent in my home. My family had many different types of cameras that I often enjoyed using. We had film cameras, point and shoot digital cameras, etc. In the summer after my freshman year of college, I bought my first DSLR camera for myself, the Canon EOS Rebel T3. I spent most of my summer testing out the camera and watching videos on YouTube about how to use it. When school resumed in the Fall, I asked many of my peers if they would model for me. I had so much interest from them that I had to schedule shoots weeks and months ahead. From there, things grew for me!. Read more>>

T-Dubb-O White

T Dubb O is a hip-hop artist born in Saint Louis, MO. He began freestyling at the age of six and progressed to writing, producing and recording by the age of 11. First, Dubb entered the Streets Status Battle League arena and was quickly recognized internationally as one of the best rappers coming out of Missouri. From there, he released a couple mixtapes that destroyed the stereotype that battle MCs could not make good music and became cult classics on the underground scene. Dubb enjoyed a rapid ascent in the music world after releasing his third mixtape. In 2016, Dubb released his first LP entitled “The Drop.” The project garnered international support, even being featured on BET France. From there, we saw Pleasure, Money, and Pain, a collaboration release with UFC Legend Tyron Woodley titled “Chaos Theory, Defiance, Bruce vs Bane II, and Don’t Stop At Lights.” Read more>>

Isabela Penagos

I was brought up in a very Colombian household, with two super supporting parents and two crazy older brothers. I spent the first 12 years of my life living in the Bay Area. It was an amazing place for me to grow up and really allowed me to enjoy my childhood. Halloween was my favorite ‘holiday’; The idea of dressing up and becoming a witch, ghost, hippy, pirate was thrilling to me. Even though I was more of a shy kid, everything about the arts called to me even at an early age. At the end of 6th grade, my family and I moved to Lille, France. I spent four years of my life perfecting the French Language and became trilingual after only six months of living in a country where all I knew how to say was Oui and Bonjour. This was not only a linguistic challenge but also a cultural clash. I remember having to overcome stereotypes and prejudices to truly fit in my new community. France was where I took my next step as an artist. My days were filled with voice classes, singing, guitar and dance, all so that I could achieve my dream. Read more>>

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