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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.

Dana Shaw

I grew up in Moorpark in Ventura County and started singing at the age of six when my mom realized I could hold a tune and put me in voice lessons! I remember my first-grade class was doing The Wizard of Oz and I was so scared to do the acting part of it by auditioning for an actual role, but since the teacher knew I could sing-she had me sing all the introductions to every single solo in the show! I continued singing in my community up until high school in which I fell in love with acting as well (primarily musical theatre). After graduating from both college and an acting conservatory, I went on to perform in many regional musicals and plays all over the country. I had the experience of living in quite a few different places such as Portland, Sonora, San Diego and New York City all while pursuing my craft. Read more>>

Pascal Pristly

I started singing in my high school choir at Birmingham charter high school over here in the valley. In 2017 a year after I graduated, I came out with my first single “switch up” gave me that rush that I wanted to keep doing this. I came to Culver City to woe with this producer/engineer coming out with my hottest single “lonely for you only” first single of mine to be all over platforms bringing me buzz. I connected with a team called Innrcrcl and started writing and recording tracks. I met Jason Strickland who runs the cave LA and after a year, I was signed to his label recording, making music videos, being on podcasts, and going to high-end events. Performing my singles at shows to get our names out there. Read more>>

Jessie Yarborough

I’m the cliche of a small town North Carolina girl who moved to the big city to follow my dreams. Basically, since the time I was five I had this dream of doing hair and makeup in Hollywood, with no real idea of how I could ever, and if it was even a real job. I began doing makeup for school plays, reading books by writers that had careers I admired like Bobbi Brown and started reaching out to locals creating to see how I could join. I moved to LA at 19 and started reaching out to Craigslist ads and artists I wanted to assist and did every job I possibly could. Eventually after years of persistence, I found a groove and my niche and became a full-time makeup artist. As I discovered my niche, I started specializing in men’s grooming and natural glam and am so grateful to be in a place I do what I love full time. Read more>>

Matt Jacobson

Professionally known as Matty J. I grew up in the greater Los Angeles area. I’ve been writing poems and song lyrics since I was a little kid. I was always fascinated with the drum tones or the cool the guitar riff. You could always find me walking around school with my Sony Walkman CD player! I was failing 9th grade French and had to quit the baseball team, but my dad gave me an ultimatum – That is, if I got my grades up, he’d get me a music program that I could make beats. A year later, I asked for a guitar and ever since have been making music. I played in several bands in high school but I mostly wrote and produced my own music. Read more>>

Noelani Mei Lee

My film career started in Austin, Texas at an early age. In 2006, at fourteen years old, I worked as a production assistant on my first set, an indie called “Strings”. I began directing my own short films two years later. In 2012, I went into production on my first feature film as a writer/director. “Sleight” is a story about a man with Multiple Sclerosis and follows his journey as he struggles to come to terms with living with an invisible disease. I moved to Los Angeles the following year and have spent a decade working on film sets as a script supervisor while finishing post-production on Sleight. In 2020, Sleight won several awards at various festivals both nationally and internationally and is now going through the distribution process. My team is currently hard at work preparing for our next film venture, a psychological horror titled “Sugar Water”. Read more>>

Anita Morris

I’ve heard of people starting businesses and doing amazing things after experiencing unimaginable life trials. But I never imagined that one day I would be one of those people. My brand, Anita by Design, was born after one of the most devastating trials of my life, marital betrayal. My immediate thought was divorce, but after a long, hard, painful fight to save our marriage, my husband and I recovered from the storm. While rebuilding our marriage, we fell in love with each other all over again. We became more intentional about each other and our marriage blossomed into something more beautiful than it had ever been. Read more>>

Amanda Greenbaum

I’m born and raised in Los Angeles. I became a certified mixologist in 2018 just before graduating from UCLA. I also founded the Sommelier’s Club at UCLA during my time there where I taught students about the wonders of wine. That’s also when I developed my wine and spirits blog SOMMthing Rad. After UCLA, I moved up north to study at the International Culinary Center in Campbell, California where I was fortunate to graduate top of my class and on the Dean’s list and received a certificate in Wine. I then passed the Court of Master Sommeliers examinations and currently hold the title, Certified Sommelier. Read more>>

Julia Stockman

When I was three years old, I saw my first ballet on television, The Nutcracker staged and danced by Mikhail Baryshnikov playing the Nutcracker Prince and Gelsey Kirkland as Clara. It was right then and there I knew I wanted to dance. It wasn’t until I was eight that I started my training in classical ballet. Everyday since I was three and before going to my first ballet class at the age of 8, I danced in the living room and put on little performances for my mother. Watching ballets on tv, finding videos and books in the library, and starting a collection of my own with what my mom would buy for me, I would try to mimic what I saw the beautiful ballerinas do. I also enjoyed just sitting and watching the wonderful stories and beautiful dancing. Read more>>

Katie Shorey

I moved to LA with a Performing Arts and Music Degree, having signed with a big management company here. Shortly after, I was chosen from over 1,000 girls to land a spot in an amazing 4-part harmony R&B girl group. We were quickly signed to Interscope Records on Will Smith’s Label. I learned about the music business, how to record in studio, and how to write songs. The first song I ever wrote was with Will Smith. I worked with another band after that, with original songs published on Quincy Jones’ Label. Quincy loved my songwriting and voice. I played for him on his grand piano in his living room, which still seems surreal! I was called “the new Stevie Nicks” by Quincy and Jimmy Iovine of Interscope because of my vocal similarities to her. Read more>>

Alexandra Boylan

I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts, always dreaming of becoming a movie star. I was active in everything and anything that had to do with performing growing up. Living outside of Boston was awesome, and I started auditioning at the age of fourteen. A year after graduating High School at the age of nineteen, I moved to Los Angeles, CA all by myself. After a year in LA, I became homeless and lived out of my car for a month. I spent the next ten years struggling, waiting tables at night and auditioning in the day. But I just couldn’t catch any break, and my life just kept spiraling downhill and I felt like such a failure. Ten years from the day of moving to LA, I gave up everything I owned, and only kept what I could fit in my car and moved out to Albuquerque New Mexico, in an effort to start fresh and refocus my life. I spent a full year just wondering the desert and re-envisioning of how I wanted my life to be. I ended up meeting some awesome filmmakers and we all set out to make our own films. Read more>>

Kate Rees Davies

After many years working in the corporate world, I decided to pursue my real passion in the Film and TV Industry, so 14 years ago I moved to Sydney and decided to finally pursue that goal as an actress. I auditioned for NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Art) and got into a six months intensive acting course. After pursuing my training for one year I ended up booking a national commercial and performing for The Pope on World Youth Day. I love acting but while auditioning for a commercial, the owner of the business asked me if I could also direct it. I’d never directed before but I knew enough about the business to give it a shot. I hired an amazing student DP, Zoe White who did a great job of executing my vision and the client was very happy with the finished result. Zoe White is now the Camera person on Hulu’s The Handmaids Tale! After directing the commercial, I got the directing bug and started writing and directing my own short films. Read more>>

Jamarius Leeks

I was born and raised in and around central Florida. I fell in love with music at a young age listening to 90s- 2000s R&B that my mom would be playing during our car rides. If it wasn’t for her, music would not be a part of me. Since 13, I’ve been working on writing and recording music but it wasn’t until after graduating high school, I decided to pick up audio engineering professionally then moved to LA. Currently, I’m working at Retro LA studios in Studio City. Recently released a song called “Keep Calling” and also I have a song with Problem and Snoop Dogg called “Dim My Light” that comes out October 1st. I’m pretty excited for what’s coming next. Read more>>

Scott StJohn

An “Overnight” sensation rooted in 25 years of uplifting others It’s no coincidence that over 25 years ago, Laura and Scott’s relationship started in a college classroom at age 19 and 20 before it blossomed into a lifelong career dedicated to teaching and empowering others. Prior to launching Strong Confident Living in 2014, Laura and Scott helped grow their family’s ed-tech company, Imagine Tomorrow, to over 700 locations, strategically partnering with Discovery Channel and Toys R Us to bring online classes, starring the dynamic couple, to children worldwide. Read more>>


Favorit was formed in 2018 when we came together over our love for music. We would spend hours in the alleyway behind ZED’s apartment in the valley writing songs with an acoustic guitar ZED had. Or at guiter center dreaming over all the instruments that we later invested in. It took Ace 1 Guitar and two different basses to find his way back to drumming something he had since he was a child. Later that same year Zed and Ace met Una Jensen at Westlake studios where she worked alongside us in creating our first 1st single Ringtone. Through that process the two of us used our film and photography background in creating visuals and promoting our band ourselves. After that release of Ringtone, we fell in love with the process. We continued working with Una in releasing “Real Kind Of Love” and “TRUTH COMES OUT” and later through COVID, we reached out to Novoa and collaborated in creating our latest release “Do that”. In 2020 we started collaborating with Kalum Casson, a new Producer, where we have be spending most of 2021 creating our New ep that will be released later this year! Followed by playing live shows! Read more>>

Dr. Kimberly Dixon

I grew up for the first ten years of my life in South Central Los Angeles. My parents are both from the deep South. Both are African American. They came to California seeking a better way of life and opportunity. Although our community was less than desirable, they made sure that my sister and I knew the value of education. Education would be our way out and our way to a better life. I learned that as long as you have a solid support system, self-belief and people who believe in you that you do not have to become a product of your environment. My parents made me feel like I could accomplish whatever I wanted to achieve in life. Read more>>

Jonathan Goldhill

My first business struggles came in the clothing business. A failed Venice Beach, CA business with a “wearable” clothing artist and designer seemed destined to succeed given my family history and my entrepreneurial enthusiasm. But our success was short-lived – a failure easily explained by a partnership gone awry. Had we been family or shared a vision with a long-term outlook, we might have succeeded. Instead, we were just crossing paths in life as time would reveal. I felt enriched and ripped off by the experience of my partnership with the artist. You learn more from your failures than your successes, as they say, and this experience sent me heading off to graduate school to get my MBA in entrepreneurship and cement those learnings. But my real challenges were yet to come. Degree in hand, I joined a small consulting services company, which dissolved around me when the Executive Director retired one year later and all our contracts dried up.  Read more>>

Faviana Gonzalez

I was born in Northridge, CA specifically the Northridge Hospital so I suppose I am an SFV native! While I have spent most of my life here in California, I did spend some of my adolescent years in Medellin, Colombia and DF, Mexico. My parents divorced at a young age and my mom was forced to play the role of mother and father more often than not. Seeing my mother’s struggles, I always strived to be independent and be able to give back not only to my mother but others who were in the same situation. However, I must thank my stepdad for being a great role model once he entered our lives. I do have two brothers and one sister, but I grew up and am closest with my youngest brother, Fabian. He was diagnosed with autism at the age of three and his struggles, unique personality, and caring nature taught me patience and that life is not always seen through the same lens. I owe so much of who I am to him and his experiences. He encourages me to be more open-minded, caring, and an overall better person. As an adult, I have focused on breaking generational cycles of trauma and stigmas. I am so blessed to have a loving partner who supports me in my healing and all endeavors. Read more>>

Shanni Azami

I was raised in a city full of creatives: Los Angeles. Growing up, I was always aware of LA’s reputation for attracting artists. To prove it further, all through school I was surrounded by so much talent that it was kind of intimidating. Sure, I took some piano and visual arts classes, and I was always doing some sort of art project in my free time, but I never felt like I was a “real” artist like other people I knew. In my head, I just wasn’t good enough to really pursue art full time. I did, however, know that I was good at concrete classes like math and science. There was always a right answer to get and a system I could follow, so my insecurity couldn’t get to me when I knew I was getting things correct. So, when it came time for me to choose a focus for university, I chose math. To be completely honest, I didn’t much enjoy being a math major as much as I enjoyed my minor in education. I found one of my passions was teaching math and I ended up tutoring in the subject after graduating. I then taught high school for a year before I went on to managing my own math tutoring center. I didn’t forget about my art, nor did I stop creating, but I did keep it on the down low and didn’t show much of my art to anyone who wasn’t my close friend or family. Read more>>

Kimberly Licht

One evening, at the beginning of quarantine, I was reading a book to my son about celebrating Shabbat. At the very end of the story, there was a recipe for making challah. He asked me if we could make it one day and, of course, I said yes. My first attempt was a complete fail. I had no idea what proofing yeast meant. It looked beautiful but came out as hard as a rock! I felt challenged so I tried again and the next one came out great! I didn’t love the flavor so I started experimenting and hunting down different recipes. I finally found one that worked for me and I began experimenting with different flavors and following various bakers on Instagram to get ideas. I started posting pictures of my creations on Facebook for fun. Quickly thereafter, friends were asking me if I would consider selling them because they looked so delicious. At first, I thought it was a crazy idea but then I decided why not? We’re in the middle of a pandemic and stuck at home so I may as well give it a shot! The reception was so positive that I decided to keep going and expanding. What started out as a hobby turned into a trial business and has blossomed into The Accidental Baker! Read more>>

Megan Potts

I started with my company in 2013, I was 19 years old and just looking for a 2nd job to help pay for school and life when I was invited for an interview that included a live lunch demo! I was super excited for free food and I knew I needed to learn to cook so I was curious. I arrived at the location and the cooking started and I was BLOWN AWAY! I was so excited at the opportunity to learn to cook healthy, I knew I needed to learn more, at least enough to share with my family. Learning and training was some of the most difficult things I ever had to do, I was pushed outside of my comfort zone and had to learn to present information to people and learn to cook live in person as well… Even though the learning process was challenging, it was also the most rewarding thing that I had done not only for myself but to help others learn too. Read more>>

Frank Mosley

I grew up in Arlington, Texas, making movies on my father’s Hi-8 camera in the late 80s and early 90s. That passion continued into my teens and college, where I received a film degree alongside my Bachelor’s in English literature at the University of Texas. Since 2006, I’ve been acting professionally in independent feature films, shorts, and series while writing/directing my own films both in the U.S. and internationally. I moved from Texas to Los Angeles in January of last year—which was very surreal timing with the pandemic, as you can imagine. Even amid the lockdown, I was fortunate to keep creating and writing, as well as making a new short film. While we were readers for the Slamdance Screenplay Competition this last year, my partner Joslyn Jensen had the idea for us to start our own company. So we started Script Eater, a screenplay coverage and feedback service for writers at any level of experience. We understand how hard it is for screenwriters to find constructive feedback that isn’t provided through a competitive lab, workshop, or institution. It’s been wonderful to extend our art into a personal business while having our day jobs—but I still love being a substitute teacher for elementary schools! Read more>>

Monique Deville

I started my skincare career in 2008. I worked for a dermatologist as a medical assistant and my interest in skincare and skin rejuvenation deepen, so I decided to advance my knowledge and obtained my Esthetician license in 2010. I have always been a creator and this career allows me to create. Jump to 2021, I have a thriving skincare boutique that focuses on mind, body and skin. Read more>>

Dr. Tana M. Session

Dr. Tana M. Session is an award-winning International Speaker, Best-selling Author, and Certified Executive-level Performance Strategist. Her path to success was not an easy one and started out with her being born into the New York City foster care system where she remained until she was 3 1/2 years old and reunited with her biological family. She pushed through her adversities and went on to build a successful career in Human Resources and a successful public speaking and consulting practice. Tana openly and readily shares her life and career lessons with audiences and clients so they can learn from what worked and what did not work along her personal journey. Her ability to overcome obstacles, both professional and personal, has fueled her to stay-the-course to be successful in all her endeavors. Read more>>

Maddison Cross

Ever since I was a child, I knew I wanted to be a cartoonist. I love creating stories and characters. When I was about seven years old, I teamed up with some friends in our afterschool daycare to create and sell our artwork. We made comics, posters, and bookmarks from our loose leaf sheets and priced them for 25¢ a piece. Being an artist just makes sense to me, considering my family is full of artists of various mediums. My grandmother scrapbooks, my mom builds, and my aunt used to be a cosmetologist. I always wanted to sell my art and leave some sort of impact in the world that resembled kindness and hope. With a few different paths along the way, I can definitely say younger me would be very proud of who I am now. Currently, I am finishing my degree in computer animation to become a storyboard artist. I also sell my own art online, I’ll be selling in the artist alley for the first time at LA Comic Con, and I know there is definitely more to come in the future! Read more>>

Marisa Hood

I started acting as a kid, I took a drama camp and some on camera classes where I fell in love with film. Throughout my teenage and early adult years, I acted in student films, industrials, etc – wherever and whoever would have me. When I was 20, I took the leap and moved to LA to pursue a career in film full-time. I signed with an agent and continued auditioning and going to acting class consistently. When I was about 25, I wrote and produced a web series with a friend and realized how much I really enjoyed writing, especially comedy. From there, I continued acting but also started to dip my foot in writing and producing my own projects a lot more. I now have written, produced, and acted in several short films that are currently in festivals and am working on my first feature. I love connecting with other independent filmmakers and frequenting film festivals as much as possible. Read more>>

Joanna Heart

It was New Year’s Eve 2017. I was at my best friend’s house and we were having champagne. When a lighthearted laugh we were talking about some of our talents. My talents were a graphic design, HR, recruitment, and I had a huge passion for coffee and we joked around and said we should open a coffee shop would be the perfect job for me! The next morning our husbands were looking at coffee shop locations together I didn’t realize they were so serious but the more I thought about it the more I thought these are all the things that I do naturally and how amazing would it be to consider this! At the time, I’ve been working in fashion recruitment and design recruitment for over 15 years and it was just time for something new so I sort of took hold of that and ran with it. And now, honestly I feel like I never worked a day in my life! I love what I do and I love meeting and serving all the people in my community! Read more>>

Jill Elam

My journey started many years ago as a licensed cosmetologist. Upon completion of high school, I wasn’t sure which direction I wanted to go in, but my mom made it very clear that “I had to do something”. A good friend of mine was going to cosmetology school, so I thought sure why not; I’ll go to cosmetology school with my friend. After completing the program, I worked in the field for many years but in all honesty, it wasn’t my passion and or my forte, truthfully speaking, I wasn’t that good at it. After leaving the field of cosmetology, I worked several odd and end jobs, just enough to pay my bills. Eventually, that played out and I decided to go back to school. I started with my associate’s degree then got a bachelor’s, master’s and eventually a doctoral degree at the young age of 55 (It’s never too). During the many years of school, I was also working as a social worker. While I enjoy helping people and that is my overall passion, the job itself was not fulfilling. Fast forward to the pandemic. Read more>>

Lisa Morton

I’m a writer, a Halloween expert, a paranormal historian, a bookseller, and a lifelong Southern Californian. My particular genre happens to be horror; I’m a six-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award (for both fiction and non-fiction works) and a former President of the Horror Writers Association. As a writer, I actually started in film; but after having six feature films produced – four of which I’d like to disown – I moved into prose. I’ve had more than 150 short stories and four novels published in the horror and mystery genres. Last year I had a story included in Best American Mystery Stories 2020; this year started with my story from the anthology Speculative Los Angeles receiving a Locus Recommendation. As a Halloween expert, I’m the author of The Halloween Encyclopedia and Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween, and yes – I’m one of those talking heads showing up in History Channel and Travel Channel documentaries on the holiday. My latest books include Calling the Spirits: A History of Seances and Weird Women Vol. 2: Classic Supernatural Fiction by Groundbreaking Female Writers 1840-1925 (co-edited with Leslie S. Klinger). I’ve worked at the Iliad Bookshop in North Hollywood for thirty years; since it’s a used bookstore, it’s a wonderful resource for a non-fiction writer! Read more>>

Lizzie Cugnini

I’d always been involved in my school plays and art classes growing up but it wasn’t until my senior year of high school that things changed. Some friends of mine started a web series and I joined as one of the characters. Doing this super small series made me fall in love with TV/Film and realize that I could actually pursue a career in that creative field. I then went to college and got a BA in Theatre and Media Communications with concentrations in acting, directing, and video production. So I decided that moving to LA to pursue my passions was my next step, and now I am here. Read more>>

Mary Jane Cole

I’ve been an artist for as long as I can remember. My mom was a painter and had me drawing when I was still in a crib. I fell in love with Photography pretty early on, probably around junior high and started taking macro shots of flowers and bugs and whatever I found interesting around my house. When I got into high school, I was into the car scene and started taking my mom’s camera to car meets and pretty soon everyone knew me as “the photographer” and started asking me to take their senior photos or photos with their car, and I started to become interested in studio lighting and how to flatter someone with angles and was really pushing the limits of my camera gear and my own creativity. All these years later, I’ve experimented with just about every genre of photography, but I always find my way back to Portraits. I love the psychological aspect of learning to read emotion and capture genuine moments– or draw them out of people. The more I learn people, the more comfortable I become behind a camera so it’s an ongoing challenge that carries into every aspect of my life. Read more>>

Sydney Kramer

Four years ago, I came to Los Angeles barely knowing anyone and had no job lined up. So that first year was very stressful but a bit of a journey. When almost a year was up, I found ways of connecting with other people trying to make it in the entertainment industry. So over the last three years, slowly I worked everywhere from production assistant, background acting, script supervising, etc. Some of the work I have done involving those jobs are music videos, infomercials, commercials, a few feature films, photoshoots, and the list goes on. Recently I made an appearance on Jay Leno’s new show You Bet Your Life which was a fun and exciting experience. Especially since I have always wanted to work with Mr. Leno since childhood. There was a time where I lost hope during the early days of the Pandemic which was extremely tough. But since time has gone by, I gained hope and confidence back and over the last six months, I have been working non-stop. Every month has been a new project and meeting more and more people opening more days to new work opportunities. Read more>>

Ernie Watkins

After getting out of the Marines, I got a job as a sushi helper. No previous kitchen experience but I’ve always wanted to work in a restaurant. After a few years of that, I became sushi manager. I was there for over seven years until I left to become a line cook at a casino. Going from sushi to making burgers and steaks was definitely a challenge but helped my skills develop even more. After being promoted to Assistant Food and Beverage manager, I started learning the business side of the restaurant. Learning skills that would later help me when I opened my first restaurant. After a few years at the casino and getting married, I needed to work closer to home as commuting in bay area traffic will add stress and lost time. Read more>>

Jonathan Andrade

Derek Lee Ramsey and I started Brews With Masters in 2019. Longtime beer fans, we set out to put the faces behind the beers we love on center stage. We very literally have brews with masters…master brewers. We interview head brewers and brewery owners about their beers, brewing inspirations and brewing processes. We also speak with brewery patrons to see what they enjoy about the tasting room. By giving a brewery’s backstory while providing an inside look to the facility, we hope to convince viewers to support some of our favorite local breweries. We’ve done insightful, in-depth features on breweries throughout The Valley (8one8, Hand-Brewed, MacLeod’s, Brewyard) and beyond, including Moorpark (Enegren), Anaheim (Backstreet), Monrovia (Pacific Plate), Santa Clarita (Telco) and Newhall (Draconum). Read more>>

Evin Spain

There is a family recipe for chocolate pie that I am the fourth generation to bake. When I learned to make that pie, it started a hobby of making (and eating!) pies for fun. After several years, people would often suggest I sell them or “open a pie shop”, they’d say. But it was never something I took seriously. Baking pies is fun and easy for me on its own, but doing it as a business seemed impossible and ridiculous. My strengths are not left-brained, businesss minded problems. I am a creative and a dreamer, maybe even to a fault; in that I am able to get lost in a daze while pondering pie and its possibilities. That’s why I need a business partner. Our partnership is what makes everything possible. Her name is Amanda, and she is awesome. She pitched me on the idea of the pie business, and it was an idea that excited me in a way that was impossible to resist. So I leaned in. We also happen to be married. Read more>>

Jennifer Gonzales

I could tell you that from a young age, I wanted to make “lotions and potions”. My Mom could tell you stories of me chasing her around the house with the “magical” concoctions I mixed up in my Barbie washing machine. Though that is what lead me to the beauty industry, it is not what pushed me to start my own brand. I had reached critical burnout in my job. Too many years working in an industry that was letting me down and too many bad bosses. I loved the customers and working with people to help them feel better in their skin, but outside of that, I was miserable. Something needed to change. Read more>>

Brigitte Caille

In 2013, I decided on a career change, which included going back to school to earn my esthetics license. About a year after that, I was hired by one of my clients to do makeup for a large bridal party. It was pretty clear to me from the beginning how much I enjoyed it. Read more>>

Jeff Roy

It feels like I took the long road in my pursuit of music. In my early years, I played in a lot of orchestras, won music competitions, and got into some conservatories. But my interests were certainly too broad than what conservatory life would allow. I guess I always felt a bit like an outsider in the classical world. Coming out (as gay) in high school, coming from a two-mom household, and growing up in Milwaukee inspired my commitment to social justice through local community organizing. In undergrad, I studied Comparative Arts and explored connections between culture, politics, and art. I also began studying with Ustad Imrat Khan, a master of surbahar and sitar, expanding my range of techniques and repertoire on violin to include North Indian classical music. Read more>>

Chloe Burns

I graduated with a degree in Film & Media Studies from the University of Kansas, after which I produced two independent projects before moving to Los Angeles. Once in LA, my first goal was acting classes, and then I did a few student films. When COVID cut off my employment in the city, I went back home to Kansas, which was a struggle at first because it felt like I was putting my career on hold. My mental health started to deteriorate, bringing back memories of old traumas, so I started intensive therapy. This inspired me to write “Trauma Bonded,” a web series about facing difficult events. I am happy to say that we are now crowdfunding to produce the series, which I will be able to act in as well. Read more>>

Yolando Mitchell Brown

My story is like so many of us who travel West in search of a dream. At the time, I was convinced that I wanted to be in front of the camera. I soon found out that I loved being behind the camera more than in front. In 2003, I began thinking about producing a talk show for everyday women. It was the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey. In 2004, I became the Showrunner for Every Way Woman. My two-bedroom apartment was my studio. For the next six years, I was creating content from my home, local studios, and sidewalks. Read more>>

Danielle Beckmann

I’m a multi-faceted artist specializing in acting, writing, producing, and coaching. I grew up in San Diego, and I now live in Los Angeles after having cut my teeth for 13 years in NYC. In New York, I truly did it all: I was in countless Off-Broadway plays, workshops, readings, web series, short films, commercials, musicals and I even had my own podcast (shocker, I know). Then in 2019, I made my first film “Liza Anonymous” and the film bug bit me–so yes, I’m officially addicted to filmmaking, and there is no cure. “Liza Anonymous” premiered at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival, and since starring in and producing that, I now have three films in development and I couldn’t be more excited. Read more>>

Wade Patterson

Growing up in Mississippi, I was surrounded by storytellers. My parents, my grandparents, and even strangers in the hardware store were more than happy to stop and spin a yarn about growing up in a small town, high adventure in the woods, or that time my dad got chased by a bull and had to jump a thorn bush to escape. Telling stories runs deep where I’m from, and I found myself inspired to try and tell my own stories. My first inclination was to become a writer, and I set out to write the great American novel in high school but got bogged down in the medium. It was a kind of writer’s block, but I didn’t really understand why I couldn’t write. I had so many ideas, but something was missing. One day I was in the library, and I happened upon a book called Moviemakers’ Master Class by Laurent Tirard. It featured interviews with many, many different film directors all over the world. Read more>>

Eddie Grigorian

I always had a drive and passion for events as long as I can remember. I started to coordinate events for a law firm in my early 20’s and started my own event company soon after. Everything halted once I started graduate school to study History. After several years of teaching at the high school and college level, I knew I was missing my passion for events. I began helping friends with their events and soon began bartending when needed. I realized how much I enjoyed serving and making drinks immediately. I enrolled in a bartending school and got certified in order to make sure I am able to meet all of my client’s needs. After working for a company for several months, I realized the only way I am going to truly make it is to start my own business. Hence Classic21 Bartending Services and have never looked back; best decision I ever made. Read more>>

Bas Janssen

If this was an ice-breaking exercise, playing two truths and a lie, I’d say: 1. I’m Dutch 2. I have a Guinness World Record for playing the Triangle and 3: I went on a tour to Portugal with my Cricket team. The lie would be the tour was to Spain, but that is the quickest skim over the randomness of my story. But let’s unpack shall we? Yes, I am originally from the Netherlands, but by the time I turned eight, I moved to France, Utah and England. That’s where I first picked up drumsticks after being inspired by Nick Cannon in ‘Drumline’. This is what started my musical journey, but because I was living in England, I was joining orchestras, playing timpani, marimba, etc. That isn’t exactly the ‘Drumline’ vibe, but I was hooked on music. From there, I played in orchestras that toured Europe, competed as a soloist and prepared myself for the next step. College… or they say University over there. Read more>>

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