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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.

Irving Lambert

It all started when I was young. I used to make cell phone stop motion with my action figures and go over to my friend’s crib and pretend I was a Dragball Z character or whatever character. I got a inspiration for entertainment when I saw the movie Coming To America and saw the barber scene and saw Eddie Murphy played 5 or 6 different parts and I got inspired. Around 7th Grade, I got into a school play and I was an understudy but see people’s reactions being on stage and felt that energy, immediately I got hooked. Years later, went to a college in Gaylord, Michigan. I got on the app Vine then started making content in the dorms. I wasn’t big on that platform, then I started to get discouraged, then I got a brand deal for Microsoft literally at the end of vine then things started taking off. Read more>>

Alrik Bursell

I started making movies in high school, which led me to go to college at San Francisco State for Radio and Television. From there, I worked on a movie as an assistant director where I learned a lot of what works on a set and what doesn’t. After that, I started working as a production assistant on shows like Trauma for Universal, Contagion with Steven Soderberg and then moving onto working as a production coordinator on Francis Ford Coppola’s Twixt. I settled at a job working at production company as an equipment manager where I met my team that I would make all of my future films with. After two years in that position, I quit and went freelance and made my first short film called Strange Thing which really set me on my filmmaking path. After touring with the film at over twenty film festivals, I released it online where it quickly got traction online. Read more>>

Dan Hegarty

This all started when I was growing up in New York – with a 65 on the first important music test that I ever took. I had loved music for as long as I could remember and I knew I could do better than that. This led me to take private lessons, stick with my school music program, and spend as much time as possible listening to music. For some reason, drums and rhythm spoke to me the loudest. I’m not sure if it was my sports background (it’s a common activity with a lot of us – probably due to the amount of repetition, timing and physical contact) or because nothing else made sense to my ears at that time. Then when I was a teenager, I got to meet Metallica. One of my father’s friends worked in the music industry and he got us passes to a meet and greet with the band in midtown Manhattan and that experience changed everything. I was intrigued not just with the band but with the entire operation that put them in this music store in front of the fans. Read more>>

Kimberly Cowan

I began as a painting artist in Memphis, TN. Doing murals, art competitions, small sewing gigs in high school, etc. So I knew early on that my future had to include some kind of creativity or “artsy” career. Began taking art classes in standard college then transferred to Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta, GA. Switching from making art to designing clothing was a somewhat smooth transition because I was still creating. After participating in the final runway show and getting praised for my work from Miss Jay Alexander and Andre Leon Talley, I wanted to continue pursuing fashion because at this point, it was time to crack down on a job and it was crucial because either you continue with pursuing your passion, or you try “something else”. I knew I had to keep going. From there, I began working in retail which is the token place you go if you want to stay in fashion but keep a steady paycheck. But, I used this time to put my college studies in Anatomy and Life Drawing to learn the body and its curves. Read more>>

Bryan Olson

OUR ROOTS: The start of 818 Brewing can be traced back to three things — the discovery of a new bar, our curiosity and our entrepreneurial spirit. The time spent at a new, local bar was actually our crash course to the craft brew scene. Thanks to this crazy new bar in Winnetka, CA and our buddy the bartender, we were introduced to new styles of beer that were much different than the commercial brands we were used to. After many conversations on the process of making beer and the brewing techniques of smaller breweries, we decided to take a chance at brewing our own malted, adult beverages! We signed up for a Maltose Falcons class, bought a brewing kit and a turkey fryer and made a batch of beer on June 23, 2012. After this first batch, we were hooked! We invested more time in learning about the process, fabricated custom brewing equipment and experimented with new recipes while tweaking them to make them our own. Read more>>

Claire Sheridan

After spending 20 years in retail marketing and research in New York, my husband and I relocated to Los Angeles in July 2014. I had no interest in returning to the corporate world, so I went as far the other way as I could and became a nanny for the most wonderful family with three kids. During that time, I noticed that there was very little eco-friendly shopping in the Valley. To find any depth of selection, I would have to travel to a number of different areas. I began finding brands for myself on my own through research. As the children I was in charge of began to grow, the needs lessened. With the support of the family, it was then that I started to consider possibly opening my own boutique. I began investigating locations and establishing relationships with the brands. After extensive independent research, I found a number of brands I thought might do well here in Los Angeles. Everything, including my plans, came to a screeching halt in March 2020 when COVID arrived. Read more>>

William Gooding

Becoming a musician was really sort of a coping mechanism. You know how a lot of parents make their kid take piano lessons at seven just to see what works and what doesn’t? That was definitely my childhood. I enjoyed it enough and my piano teacher kept saying “you have a good ear”, but I never practiced so my progress was slow. It wasn’t until about three years later, when my mom entered the hospital, that I really started to realize how much I needed music. That’s when I picked up a guitar and when it ultimately clicked. My mother passed shortly after that and I lost a part of myself. I lived with my uncle from here on out and, luckily for me, he was very supportive and helped push the music narrative. It was the only outlet I had to deal with the grief of losing my mother, eventually my father, and my friend as well. Later on, it also helped me cope with being an out gay teenager in Virginia. Read more>>

Drew Martin and Thomas Freckleton

It all kind of started with a phone call I made to Thomas after hearing about a local music store going out of business. I had spoken to him, nearly ten years prior, about a dream of opening a music store, but it never seemed possible. Being friends for that same amount of time and business partners scrubbing solar in the hot sun, I needed to ask him a very important question… “Do you want to start a music store with me?!” So, I decided to call him… on tour… in Berlin, Germany. He did answer and was stoked to hear my voice, but then couldn’t believe what I followed through and asked. He was pretty confused and said… “bro…. I’m in Germany right now, what are you even asking?!” After explaining what was happening to the old music store, revisiting my old business plan, and considering the state of our musical community, he agreed to do it with me and thus, the partnership was born. Read more>>

Jessica Belle

I lived in Los angles for 20 years of my life but recently moved to Kansas City, Mo. I do youth development still in both cities. Jessica Belle is a host, youth advocate, CASA, entrepreneur, Ministry School graduate and teacher in Kansas City, MO and a youth program developer in Los Angeles as well. Jessica began her career in youth advocacy almost ten years ago in Los Angeles. Her experience as a mentor has opened the door to allow her to speak up for the youth and communities who have been muted. She has had the opportunity to speak, host events, and connect with people from all walks of life to encourage them via blogging, public speaking, and her podcast “UnMUTE your Mic. Read more>>

Catherine Alonso

In 2010, I decided to venture out and start my own business. I wasn’t sure what I’d be doing, but I knew I wanted to start a business and work for myself. When my mother was diagnosed with skin cancer then breast cancer, I decided to look into using more organic and natural ingredients for skincare. I realized what we put on our skin affected our overall health in so many ways. After countless hours of research, I started experimenting with different ingredients and started making my own skin and body care products. I received such great feedback from friends and family that I decided to pursue my new venture full time. I started making handmade soaps and body care products and sold my products online and at local Farmer’s Markets. By 2014, I had my products in 8 retail stores in Los Angeles. By 2020, when the pandemic impacted so many lives not only physically but also mentally, we decided to add natural crystals and mediation stones to our product line. Mental health is just as important as our physical health and we decided to share our love of meditation and natural crystals with our customers. We are now able to offer our natural skincare products as well as natural crystals and stones for meditation and energy healing. Read more>>

James Dhaïti

I’m a dancer from Montreal Canada, I’ve been dancing since the age of six and I’ve been developing my love to dance so much that it became not only a passion but now a career and an identity. Since I’m 17, I always knew what I wanted to do with dance and I’ve been working towards that goal which is to be touring with and artist on a world tour. So, since 2016 I’ve been training as much as I can in New York, Los Angeles, bunch of conventions around the United States, back home in Montreal, and I started to be working a booking jobs in Montreal and doing some performance in Egypt and Kuwait. I knew that my goal had to be fulfilled and the only way I could to that was by moving to Los Angeles and shoot my shot and this is exactly what I’m doing. So I’m currently working on my visa so I can move by the beginning of next year(2022) and live the dance life that I work hard to have and that I want. I’ve been dreaming and working towards that goal ever since and seeing myself getting closer and closer really give me confidence and pride in all this journey. Read more>>

Robyn Sasha

I was born in North West London. I’ve always loved to sing since I was young. I would always sing & perform any time I could at school for numerous talent contests and for family gatherings, in the school choir and school singing lessons. I started writing songs in my room from the age of 14 to get me through hard times. I sang gospel in a church in London & became a councilor for the youth in the church youth group. My family wanted me to take a more realistic career path so my mum enrolled me into a Media makeup course as I was always doing everyone’s makeup and was rather good at it, but as fate would have it, that was the very place that would lead me to where I am today. Read more>>

John J. Fox

I grew up about an hour outside of Houston, TX in a city called Magnolia. Growing up in a small town in the south I was raised in church, which is where I discovered my passion for music. Playing in churches all around Texas is where I became a multi-instrumentalist and developed as an overall musician. Vocals were always my forte, singing lead vocals in my band ‘Radio Union’ while playing bass in High School. That is where I developed my love for songwriting and decided that I would shift my focus and figure out how I can write the hit songs I hear on the radio. I decided to try out for American Idol season 13 to pursue my dreams of being an artist and songwriter. After my audition aired on TV, I ended up getting a lot of gigs and sessions in LA and decided to make the move to LA and pursue being an artist. Read more>>

Andrea Surova

As a teenager, I wanted to be a performing musician, but in my home state of Massachusetts a profession in music is not encouraged. After college, I spent years pursuing probably a dozen different careers from psychology to medicine to yoga therapy to teaching English as a second language. After a lot of starts and stops, including two and a half weeks of premed, walking out of the LSAT, and short careers in human resources and neonatal brain research, I finally made a commitment to do what I love and hope for the best. I am now filling my days with homeschooling my children, fostering children who have been separated from their families, and writing. It’s not always easy and I have to forgive myself for not being perfect, but I’m happy because I’m not trying to be something I’m not. Read more>>

Brit Tobin

First and foremost, thank you to Voyage LA for the warm welcome back! I’m a huge fan of this platform as well as the artists and professionals who share their stories here. It’s an honor and privilege to sit down with you again today. In my professional career, I leave no stone unturned or presence ungraced – mainly due to my never-ending obsession with learning new things, from style and technique to new trends and the continuous evolution of our world and the entertainment industry. When I moved to Los Angeles a few years back, I knew exactly what I wanted to do: make TV shows. I’m a writer by trade but I have a problem with sitting still. I can say for myself that this past year and a half took a turn for the extra creative, but that’s probably a fair statement for most of the entertainment industry. It was an unexpected jolt that shook things up, incited change and sparked ingenuity – and zoom meetings, lots of zoom meetings. Read more>>

Antoine Taylor

I went to Saint John’s University in Minnesota for football. My major was pre-med and I was a full-time athlete all four years.I struggled in school with this major, but I chose pre-med because that’s what my mom wanted me to do. Even though my scholarship through football covered most of my costs, I didn’t have the funds to meet some of my needs like being able to fly myself home for Christmas break or seeing my family. Within the first week, I sold socks 512 socks. I was hyped. At the time, I was a sophomore in college and I made my first $5,000 which to me was a lot! You couldn’t tell me nothing. My mother was a single parent who did her best to give me anything I needed but circumstances of our finances made it hard for her to do so. This is when I started to come up with ways to make money because asking my mom for it wasn’t an option. Read more>>

Nimra Hayat

For as long as I could remember, I would dream about working in fashion. I would dress up and accessorize my barbie dolls constantly and even had fashion shows in my room with my friends when they would come over. I still remember that we used my bed as a runway taking turns walking, while the rest of us would be the audience watching from the floor. I would be so excited for this that I would steal my mom’s makeup and apply it on all the other girls. I didn’t comprehend it at the time, but there was something that felt so liberating about expressing myself through fashion. I attended college at CSUN, a local university based in the Valley. Growing up in an immigrant household, telling my parents I wanted to pursue fashion was not an easy conversation. Everyone around me was being pushed into STEM degrees, but I knew it simply wasn’t for me. On a whim I took a business class and it clicked that this was a path that would enable me to pursue a career and work in the industry I was passionate about. Though after graduating, I worked different corporate jobs in business operations, I always intended to start my own company after gaining some experience. Read more>>

Embracing Oceans

Embracing Oceans was started as a result of a musical connection that was undeniable. The duo is comprised of Brazilian guitarist and producer Edi Roque and American oboist and vocalist Skye Butterfield. We discovered our compatibility while performing with a local band and began writing spec work for TV and film. After our first writing session together, we knew we had found our partner, both professionally and in life, and things really started taking off in a million different directions. We found ourselves writing and recording for licensing libraries, scoring for film/TV, and working on our debut album, Dear Dawn. While we each have parts of our career that move separately from each other, the projects we have working together are by far the most dynamic and expressive collaborations. Our duo extends beyond being a band and is an all around partnership in music, business, and love. Read more>>

Deanna Visperas

Before, I’ve never really known when the idea for this business is going to strike. I was working in 9 to 5 jobs, although I have this great interest in digital marketing. I’ve always envisioned owning a digital marketing agency. However, I found out early in life that I didn’t enjoy working for others, so I decided to work for myself as soon as I graduated from college. But things didn’t come up the way I planned. With my interest in digital marketing, I’ve learned that it is not some sort of easy task. Even though my course is computer-related, it would never be enough. I realized that I have to gain massive experience if I have to own a digital marketing agency. I had been working for marketing jobs for different enterprise companies where I gained a lot of marketing strategies for more than five years until I finally decided that it’s the right time to make my dreams come true. Read more>>

Breana Marin

I moved to LA and went to the Musicians Institute where I studied vocal performance and music business. I got connected with a successful songwriter and became an intern at their management company. It was there I was introduced to the world of songwriting. I got to sit in on many iconic sessions and was able to hone my skills through this experience. After my internship, I went on to get a publishing deal and placed records with Keyshia Cole, Fifth Harmony, Letoya Luckett, and many others. After my publishing deal ended, I started focusing on growing my career through the internet. I became one of the top sellers on the platform Beatstars by licensing my hooks to independent artists. My hooks have been used by artists like Phora and Nyck Caution. I later pivoted to TV/ FIlm and have since written songs for Star, Empire, The Chi, Ghost, and Twenties. Read more>>

Jenn Horst

I was born and raised in The San Fernando Valley and have started and run several businesses in my life, one of which was being a hairstylist for 14+ years. I knew there was opportunities in the world beyond having to directly trade my time for money, as this concept has a relatively low financial ceiling, and I wanted to be helping others on a much bigger scale. I always knew my purpose was rooted deeply in service to others, so I dove into seeking out what might be next for me. Becoming a real estate agent was introduced to me by a friend and client after I had shown interest in real estate investing, and I thought what a great way to learn everything there is to know while also helping many others achieve their dream of homeownership or investing. I truly believe that by serving others first, I in turn serve myself. I have extreme gratitude for my clients; families and individuals that have since become friends that have allowed me the opportunity to help them with buying and selling homes and we have fun while we do it. I can’t wait to see what the future holds and see how my business evolves as I help more and more people. Read more>>

Khalia Taylor

I am now the brand director for a cannabis brand here in Los Angeles named Rapper Weed. I moved to LA in November 2018 to pursue my wardrobe styling career but with the circumstances of life and co-vid, all roads led me to a very amazing opportunity – which is becoming an official brand director. Read more>>

Jessica Santana

Jesse’s Grind journey began May 2020, like everyone else in the world, I was affected by the pandemic, laid off from my full-time job & had a lot of spare time, not knowing what was next, I was gifted an espresso machine by my wife. A long-time dream of mine had been to open a coffee shop. With so much spare time, a new espresso machine and a lot of recipes in my head I got to work. I posted my new journey on Instagram and was surprised by the amount of support from my family and friends. We are literally taking it one cup of coffee at a time. We are now catering private events, weddings, pop-ups and festivals. Our goal is to open a coffee shop in our community. Read more>>

Diane Christiansen

Nearly 30 years ago, Diane Christiansen accidentally became an acting coach. We say accidentally because she had never planned on teaching actors, having been an actress herself since the age of eight. She had been teaching dance for several months at a studio near her home because her three years old daughter’s teacher moved back to NYC. When the owner of the studio mentioned she couldn’t take on any more classes, Diane decided she would let her know she had been a professional dancer, including dancing with the famed Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall as well as the Bluebells in Paris at the Lido de Paris, because Diane’s daughter had bonded with the other toddlers in the class and loved dancing! And there it began….teaching for a living!! Once the dance classes were well underway and doing quite well, she decided to have a go teaching what she loved the most at that same studio……and became an acting coach!! Read more>>

Dawn Stillo

I grew up in Issaquah WA and ended up moving to L.A. in 1982 after placing 4th place in the Miss Issaquah Pageant. The 4th place prize was a small chunk of money to use as a scholarship anywhere I wanted. I picked the Roland Dupree Dance Academy in Hollywood. Dance was my passion, it was my best and only true form of expression. Just three years after moving to L.A. and getting eaten alive due to my naïveté, I began practicing Nichiren Buddhism (chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, (what Tina Turner practices)). Three years after chanting away, I encountered yoga at a gym on 3rd St. I was fascinated with the coordinating breath with movement, something had I known would have made me a much better dancer. Along the way, I danced professionally (nothing big), got married, raised two amazing boys, became North Ranch Country Club’s singles and doubles champion, accruing many injuries which led me back to yoga heal. Read more>>

Robert Miller

I played Division 2 football at Ferris State University in Big Rapids Michigan and after my senior season I had ambitions to continue my football career. I made the decision to leave school with a semester left and go play overseas in a small American Football league for a team in Vejle, Denmark. After spending two seasons abroad, I figured it would be best to finish my degree and start figuring my life out. I enrolled at CSUN and finished my obtaining my business degree with a focus in marketing in 2011. At that time, I decided to complete an internship at “The Factory” a training facility in Westlake Village, CA and it was there I found my passion for training youth athletes. In order to not be just another “trainer” I studied to become a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) in addition to working as a physical therapist assistant to understand the mechanisms of injury and design programs to keep my athletes healthy. In 2014 after three years of growing as a strength coach, I went off on my own to start my business Phenom Performance LLC. Read more>>

 

Mira Rocca

I became a Psychotherapist because I was always drawn to hearing people’s stories. Hearing about their growing up stories. Hearing about what messages they picked up as they were growing up. I then gravitated to working with teens and kids. Feeling like if I could help them find their voice and feel safe in their bodies early on, they can have an opportunity to live life independently from their growing up story. Fast Forward a bit to when I found out I was pregnant with my first daughter, and everything shifted for me! Something woke up in me. It was a knowing and a desire to show up better for myself. To truly BE the human I wanted my daughter to look up to. I needed to love my body more, to begin to accept the parts of me that I was mad at, upset with, uncomfortable in. It was time for me to heal old wounds and create a gentler pathway for my life! There was a knowing it was my time to grow and evolve differently! For the last 14 years, I have been deeply passionate about helping females heal their relationships with themselves, their bodies, and their growing up story. I am also Equine Therapy Certified. Read more>>

Dawn Garcia

I was born in Santa Monica where I spent my youth roller skating the boardwalk with my mom who saw the world as colorful and beautiful, where I would spend my childhood submersed in Shel Silverstein and unusual literature. I spent my days falling madly in love with the culture and diversity of Los Angeles. I would secretly long to go to museums and see art house films, but instead I’d listen to wild Old Hollywood stories from my Mexican Spanish grandmother (she was Max Factor’s secretary) and tales of old movie stars that would come into the Santa Monica Bank where my Welsh grandmother worked. My grandfathers were both incredibly animated. My Mexican grandfather loved eclectic music, women and a good dive bar—and introduced me to Monty Python. My other grandfather was always telling jokes, ready with hugs, golf stories, and was a firm believer of big dreams. Fast forward to graduating high school with a Cosmetology license and 800 hours of studio makeup and special effects training, where I immediately started working in film and television. Back then you could walk onto a studio lot and I would do so every day until someone gave me a chance. I got some pretty amazing opportunities by being tenacious!. Read more>>

Skye Borgman

Growing up, I was always fascinated with my father’s National Geographic magazines. I dreamed of visiting the far-off places and meeting the people in the pages of that magazine. So it’s no surprise that when I graduated college, I spent a few years traveling the world…which ultimately led me to make documentary films. I guess it’s a natural curiosity I have and by making documentaries, I have the opportunity to meet people from all kinds of different backgrounds, places, and perspectives. It’s such an honor to be allowed into someone’s life and to tell a small part of their stories. In 2014 I made the film “Abducted In Plain Sight” about a young girl who was abducted twice by the family’s best friend and neighbor. That film firmly launched me into the true-crime documentary space and I have been firmly planet there since. My husband and I created our own film production company in 2010 called Top Knot Films and have been creating content under that banner ever since. Read more>>

Chris Pearson

I am from Indiana where I played baseball my whole life including at the Division 1 level. I always thought I would get drafted and play professional baseball, but when I got to my Senior year, my interests had shifted to wanting to work in entertainment and move to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, playing baseball at that level means playing year round so the opportunity to go out and get cool internships that help on a resume was not possible. After college, I was living at home and taking on three jobs to save up money to make a move to LA. When I finally moved in August 2014, I was staying on a friend’s couch. I would wake up everyday and apply for miscellaneous jobs throughout the industry that I would find online. I just wanted to get my foot in the door. I remember walking from Hollywood on Argyle all the way to West Hollywood on Crescent Heights visiting boutique talent agencies. I would walk in and shake hands, trying to give people my resume. Looking back, this was a silly approach but I was from the Midwest where I thought “this is how you make it!”. Read more>>

Vainayaki Sivaji

I was born and raised in Los Angeles. One thing I always knew about myself is that I loved to make music and that I would always be a musical artist, even before I was old enough to understand what the concept of a career was. My family is artistic and I’m grateful that they nurtured that interest in me. My mom used to be a professional dancer and I remember looking through the photo albums of her life when she was on tour. I really enjoyed seeing her and the other dancers do their thing on stage. My younger brother that I grew up with is also a musician – the guitar is his main instrument. At our apartment, I remember being five and playing dress-up in sparkly fun costumes that my mom’s crafty friends would make for the neighborhood kids. I’d sing songs that I would make up outside of our window for all the apartment complex neighbors to hear, pretending they were my sold-out show. My father was an influence on my musical ear in the fact that he would always have Hindu music playing in the house. Read more>>

Jeremy Licht

I began my career as a life and medical insurance agent in 2004 when people were being declined for medical insurance due to pre-existing conditions. Thankfully, that’s all a thing of the past with the passing of the Affordable Care Act in 2014. I love helping people put the financial puzzle of their life together so they can protect their assets, their health, and their loved ones. Read more>>

Amanda Jackson and Matthew Avila

Scout’s Honor BBQ was dreamt up while we were working together a few years ago with the chain Pizza Rev. We bonded over our years of experience in working and managing restaurants + our love for the creativity and art that comes with building a delicious menu. We’ve both been passionate about the goal of owning and operating our own space, and right off the bat starting creating Scout’s Honor BBQ. Read more>>

Kathren Andromeda

I am a Goddess empowerment coach, shamanic healer, hypnotherapist, reiki healer, sacred song vocalist, sound healer and ASMR artist. I came to my healing work through a dark night of the soul journey. In the past, I suffered from PTSD and coped with it in unhealthy ways. This leads to an addiction resulting in suicidal ideation. I checked myself into a rehab program; however, I saw how long others had been in the program and I didn’t want to stay stuck in a victim consciousness mentality. Being there motivated me to find another interest that would give me goals and more responsibility. I signed up for hypnotherapy school, not knowing much about it. I thought I was just going to learn one specific skill set but I ended up going down a complete metaphysical and spiritual rabbit hole. From hypnosis school, I was led to reiki, shamanic healing, sound healing and ASMR. Read more>>

Jenny March

BI think what brought me to this career path honestly was 1. Hannah Montana and 2. Watching Broadway musicals in NYC. Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, the Lion King, and In the Heights.. those in particular. Along with being impacted by those, my mom’s side of the family were heavy dancers. I started dance classes when I was three, vocal lessons at 11, did school talent shows, musicals at the University of Cincinnati’s Musical Theatre Program, along with my own school shows, and I played lacrosse and soccer. I don’t know how my mom managed all of that, but I am super thankful because it’s how I learned what I was passionate about at such a young age. I just really loved entertaining people in all forms of art. A friend of my mom’s recommended that I join a talent agency in my hometown, Cincinnati, Ohio while I was in middle school and my mom took me there for a meeting/audition type thing and I walked out of the meeting with an agent. A few months later or maybe a year, I can’t exactly remember, a Los Angeles talent manager came to do an acting workshop for my agency. Read more>>

Shane Alexander

I left Western Pennsylvania and moved to Hollywood when I was 19 years old to study guitar at Musician’s Institute. After school, I began performing live around town and started doing some sessions. When I was 21, Richie Podolor (veteran producer of such seminal acts as Three Dog Night and Steppenwolf) saw me playing at the Coconut Teaszer on Sunset Blvd and asked me to come to his studio in Woodland Hills to record some lead guitar for a band he was producing. Working closely with Richie (and engineer Bill Cooper) was an absolute revelation. I ended up playing guitar in that band for about five years, eventually becoming one of the principal songwriters, and we had a pretty decent run – playing shows in Southern California and the midwest. Then, in the late 90’s, I took a job working for Irving Azoff’s label, Giant Records (and later, Azoff Music Mgmt). During my decade working for Irving, I had many jobs, from the mailroom to assistant to the CFO, and ultimately became what I called ‘packmule to the stars’ – a liaison to the talent, and got to know many of the world’s biggest acts. Read more>>

Amanda Brown

I am an Afro-Latina singer/songwriter from the Bronx, NY. This November will mark my third year living in LA. I began singing in church when I was around six years old but later studied classical voice in high school at New York City’s FAME school, LaGuardia High School for Music and Art and Performing Arts (that’s what it was called at the time). My secondary school experience inspired me to pursue a career in music. At the time, I didn’t care what I did as long as I was singing. I quickly entered the wedding band circuit and soon after booked my first background singing job singing for Alicia Keys during her As I Am world tour. That experience changed my life. Not only did I travel the world for the first time but I realized that I wanted to share my story in a similar way to Alicia – I found it inspiring and brave to be able to tell stories that not only helped oneself process the experiences of life but potentially a complete stranger as well. I began experimenting with songwriting and studio recording and the idea of sharing my original songs. Read more>>

Brandi Perse

Once I had my kids, I knew I wanted to start something for myself, but also to give back in some way. I had just adopted my first horse. He was really skinny and haggard. I began to learn about discarded horses. Some off the track and others who were being sold at auctions for consumption. I knew immediately that this was what I wanted to do. Read more>>

 

Kate O’Neill

Ever since I was a kid, I dreamed of being an actor. LA had never really been on my radar – I had visited for a few weeks as a teenager, and I really did not like the city. I found it dirty, and I hadn’t felt safe. On top of that, I was victim to the Australian mentality of needing to ‘make it at home before daring to move to the US’. I gave LA another shot a few years later when I came to train here with The American Arts Film & Television Academy, and I fell in love. I flew over with zero expectations of the city itself, and was focused on the work and training I was about to embark on, however, being immersed in the industry, being active, and having purpose, showed me a whole new version of the city I hated at 17. As soon as I arrived back in Australia, I was desperate to get back. I was working again, saving money, and making a plan to get back to the US. I never really believed in manifestation, but four months after returning, I was lucky enough to win the Greencard Lottery. I started to feel like I was truly meant to be there. A little over six months later, I had my visa and booked my flight for May 2020. Then came covid. Read more>>

Tiffany Shelton, PhD

People are calling me the “Manifesting Psychologist” because I’ve been on a mission to help folks manifest their dream life! You know how people have big dreams but don’t know how to make them a reality? I’m a psychologist who helps people attract their deepest desires using techniques backed by science, psychology, and proven mindset strategies! In fact, I’ve helped clients manifest love, babies, dream jobs, and even financial freedom! I started off a burned-out hustler looking for love in the wrong places. I started my manifestation journey as a broke burned-out hustler looking for love in all the wrong places. I was constantly burned out and stressed trying to make my dreams come true while also dealing with heartbreaks and repressed pain. Read more>>

James Kautz

My father was a musician, my Mom, a writer, so I grew appreciating the ups and downs of an artist’s life. It wasn’t until I was about to graduate high school though that I found my place in the arts. My English teacher, this wily old thespian, went off curriculum and had our class read Hamlet out loud. As self-conscious teens, we were all fairly mortified, but it kicked up something in me, something pretty primal. This well of un-channeled feelings were given daylight (and a community) and I knew I needed more. My English teacher told me about his years in NY as an actor and encouraged me to consider it. A few months later, I moved to Manhattan and started studying acting. I began an Off-Broadway theatre company, The Amoralists, and we scrapped together just an astonishing amount of productions – astonishing because the plays were literally being written as we produced them and also because we had so little money. But the critics and the audiences really fell hard for us, and it was a wonderful ride. Read more>>

Ariel McCleese

I was sitting in the Pasadena Laemmle theater on my 25th birthday. I had no idea what to expect as the lights dimmed in the theater. The film begins with a lone figure walking on a deserted highway surrounded by tall trees. A car approaches. Unprompted, the figure jumps in front of the car, causing it to crash horribly into one of those trees. The figure, evident now as a young woman, approaches the car and peers into the window. Smash cut to the title in giant red letters: RAW. Others in the theater retched as Julia Ducournau’s lead character nibbled flesh from her sister’s severed finger, stomping out of the theater in indignation and disgust. I sat in my seat feeling a profound, giddy joy. As the credits rolled and the lights came up, I decided I was going to become a filmmaker. I have always been an artist. Prior to my cannibalism-inspired revelation, I had worked in sculpture and drawing. But my feminist politics never felt fully articulated in the static art objects that I created. My ideas and passions felt stilted and inert, suspended in the amber of a still object. Read more>>

Mariana Peirano

I was born and raised in the coastal city of Mar del Plata, Argentina. My mother tells me that even at two years old, I was drawing and in grade school, I became the class artist. My family moved to the US in time for me to start middle school. Having suffered through the immigrant experience, I dedicated the earlier part of my life to education, in particular English Learners. Back then, my art was relegated to elaborate bulletin boards for my classroom and superhero drawings for my sons. I decided to start painting again as a form of release and self-reflection in 2013. I chose portraits, women portraits, to reflect my own feelings and emotions. I used pastels and acrylics for a while but once I started using oils, I didn’t stop. I wrote poems to go along with my paintings to help me express that which I couldn’t. Read more>>

James Lopez

I moved out to LA ten years ago in aspirations to become an actor. I booked some roles here and there and tried to stay as active a possible in the grind. Eventually, I got a great serving job in Malibu and began to work there pretty much six days a week 60 plus hours every week. So naturally I want to be able to dedicate my time the way intended. Then my best friend that I met here in acting class really started to reopen my eyes and pushed for writing our own material and putting out there ourselves. It only made perfect sense, so after a little convincing, I quit my job and we started our production company and have been doing so ender since. Honestly, it’s the toughest but best decision I’ve made towards reaching my goals. Read more>>

Brett Barney

I was raised around makers. My father always had projects underway that ranged from furniture making to home remodeling projects. Then for a couple of years in grade school, we lived near my grandparents and my grandfather who had recently retired would pick me up after school and we would do projects. They were typical of any 3rd grader’s skill level but most importantly, I learned to work with tools and I learned the process of making things. In high school, I learned sculpting and metal casting working in a dental lab followed by working in custom yacht manufacturing facility. I managed small businesses in my early career and then found my way into several leading hi-tech companies. One was a leader in 3D graphical computing, another was Dell Computers, and then lastly a startup in Asia that partnered with US companies to run their Asia Pac subsidiaries. The experience at these companies gave me an incredible opportunity to learn world-class manufacturing practices while also traveling the globe to do business. Read more>>

Alina Gainutdinova

I do vodabike classes already for three years. Initially, my sister started to do it. She was a fitness bikini model, but one time had a back problem and did surgery. After surgery doctor said that she can’t anymore have any workout, only swim. She has been on vacation in Italy and first time tried aqua cycling, very liked it and asked where she can study this fitness, get a license and buy bikes. That school have an education course and shop too. It was five years ago. I lived in Russia at this time, when she showed me this I decided to come here I tried it too. It was great. I’m professional sportsmen in the past and did bike too, but aqua bike it’s more interesting and helpful. I came to her, tried it, helped her with advertising and etc. Came back to Russia, packed all my stuff and went to Italy to study it too and from 2018, I here in LA helping people to burn calories and to be in a good mood. Read more>>

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