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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.

Brandon Lau

I started playing the piano when I was four, picked up violin when I was 6, and decided to play saxophone when it was time to pick an instrument in 4th grade. In middle school, a lot of the cool kids were playing guitar so I tried that, and soon after, I started banging on the drums because that seemed fun too. Music has always been a part of my life, but I never really had the knack for performance. I’d get crazy stage fright during recitals, my technique was sloppy, and I just didn’t have the patience or maturity to practice effectively. As much as I loved music, it just didn’t seem like the path for me. Plus, I was pursuing another passion in chemistry. With excellent teachers in high school, both of my parents in the STEM world, and some previous experience working in a lab, I felt confident and excited to pursue the world of research and science. Read more>>

Lomel

Well, it all started on December 1st, 1984. In Springfield, Massachusetts. My mother at the age of 15 gave birth to me. My father was 12. My grandparents raised me and I was taken at the age of 8 and a half. Music was already my refuge. I bounced around numerous Foster Homes, Residential Programs and Temporary placements all over the country. To cut a very long story short. I dealt with years of abuse until I went to prison for a little while. I was an angry and violent person filled with pain and rage. My perspective was so skewed and I couldn’t understand why life happened to me the way that I had. Read more>>

Camille Kauer

It all started when I was a child, I was obsessed with Diana Ross and would always perform at family functions (comedy routines, dances). As an only child in a large family, I had to find ways to get attention and boy did I. I was notorious for my pranks and my dramatic antics. Becoming an actress seemed like the logical next step. I was raised in a film family, my father is award-winning producer Dwight Williams, and my mom is a retired stunt woman-artist and actor. I wanted stability so after graduating with my BA in Sociology, I pursued becoming a makeup artist and went to Esthetics school. I fell in love with working in Spas, I worked at Kate Sommerville”s Skin Clinic in West Hollywood and was the Assistant Spa Director at Equinox in Century City. After years in the esthetics industry and even working as a makeup artist for print, then severe carpel tunnel ended my career. Read more>>

Kati Kanerva

I’m originally a TV Director and Writer From Finland. I moved to LA 4.5 years ago and worked in TV industry until I opened up reDress in November 2021. I grew up with the concept and used to sell my clothes in Finland at rent-a-rack stores and also to shopped in them. When we moved to LA with my husband and dogs, I realized there aren’t many places where you can easily sell your clothes. My friend took the concept from Finland to Australia four years ago and it has been huge success in there. She also encouraged me to open one in LA. After working on TV for ten plus years, I was ready to try something new. My husband Joonas is my business partner but working on the background as he has his full-time job in real estate investment. Besides working on TV industry, I had a Scandinavian fashion and Vintage pop up little while in Downtown LA and Eagle Rock. We wanted to open up rent-a-rack store already earlier but Covid put a pause for our plans. Read more>>

Luciano Muller

I was born in Encruzilhada do Sul, in the south of Brazil. It’s famous for its vibrant culture, especially the Carnaval, which I looked forward to every year. I’ll always remember how fascinated I was by the music and the samba dancers and everyone’s amazing clothes. It was a magical time in Brazil that I still miss. Back then, I never imagined I would become a fashion designer in Los Angeles. Growing up, my dad worked in a bank, so we lived in many cities in Brazil. Moving around and seeing new places helped me develop my artistic skills. I drew landscape and abstract images. When I was a bit older, I decided to study business. It wasn’t for me, so I switched to architecture, which I liked but never really loved. I still feel that there’s an essential distinction between like and love. When I create garments, my last words must be “I love it,” not “I like it.” Read more>>

Britney “Dr. Joy” Powers-Elzey, PhD, CLC, Doula

With the motivation of the world around me, I found the encouragement to build my broken person in order to build others. After being bullied in the 9th grade, my mom decided into homeschooling. This gave me space to have peace. It also gave me the time to graduate high-school a little early which lead me to an early college journey. First completing my bachelor in education followed by clinical psychology which I furthered into completing my PhD in 2020. Between 2010 I opened my first Montessori program which later grew into a full family life center that caters to prenatal life coaching, pediatric psychology and overall wellness coaching today. Read more>>

Mariano De Luca

I’m originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I studied Film Cinematography and started in the business while in Buenos Aires 20 years ago. My first job in the Film Industry was in a big commercial, I was hired as an Electrician in the Photography Department, and it was a total blast! Remember having the big trucks full of equipment and having the sensation of being in the big league. After that, I did the hole ladder until eventually started working as a Director of Photography full time. I did a couple of other projects in between as a Director of Photography, and one of them ended up being a big documentary produced by HBO Latin America, which also ended up being distributed by Netflix a couple of years after completion. Five years ago, I got the opportunity to move to Los Angeles to continue my career with a couple of documentary projects. Nowadays, I’ve been working with brands like Vice, Blumhouse’s Crypt Tv, Spotify and Attn:, I’ve done two narrative pieces that gave me five cinematography awards in the year 2018 and 2021, and finished a Feature Film that will be premiered in 2022. Read more>>

Queen Pharao

I started my makeup services and cosmetic line, Slain Makeup LLC, in 2019, but the passion I have for makeup didn’t start there. Growing up in a small town, watching my mother take on the world by starting her own business while being a single mother. She would say, “Beauty is one thing, but having beauty and brains is dangerous.” I loved watching her do her makeup in the morning before going to her office. I felt like there was power inside that makeup, especially once she finished with that signature red lip. Once she left out, I would quickly go to the bathroom and try to imitate everything she had just done; right then and there, I fell in love with the feeling.  Read more>>

Gregg Garvey

Born and raised in rural northern Minnesota, music informed how I related to the world as far back as I can remember. As a little kid, I’d walk alone through the forests and fields surrounding my small town and I’d sing to myself, often making up melodies. With my teens came fully written songs and recording experiments. Eventually moving to Minneapolis, I formed a band called The Brutes where I got to work out some influences and tendencies. The experience of producing one album and two EP’s taught me many things, among which that I’d rather no longer write music protesting things I don’t like and instead create music that draws attention to what I appreciate. Read more>>

Erik David

I started doing make up in 2008 after attending MUD make up designery in Burbank. After that, I worked on TV and film. Then in 2010, I attended the Napoleon Perdis make up school in Hollywood. After attending that school, I was asked to be a direct assistant at New York fashion week. Then I was hired on in the company and we managed to retail stores for a year where I gained massive amounts of knowledge of skin types tones and textures. After that, I went for freelance working with Browns to the lakes of Mac, Lancome, Inglot and many more. In 2013 I started as the beauty Director for art hearts fashion. Where I was in charge of the hair and make up teams for creating iconic runway looks for over 150 designers during my time there. Read more>>

Sulayman Tahir

I was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA. I started out shooting videos in my neighborhood then I dropped out of high school to pursue filmmaking full time. After eight years of freelance videography, filming my first feature film and owning a photo studio, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue film. It took a couple of years and a few major setbacks but I finally found my lane in this film thing. Read more>>

Molly Basler

I was born in Downtown Los Angeles and raised in Woodland Hills, in the San Fernando Valley. At the time of my birth, I had three brothers. My parents wanted a girl, and they finally got one. I lived in a beautiful house that was up on a hill overlooking the valley with fields of corn and horses grazing. I grew up watching the sunrise every morning from my bedroom window and watched the sunset from our backyard that looked over the other side of the valley, houses, and Woodland Hills park. Our backyard was filled with eucalyptus trees and a basketball ball court at the bottom of our yard. From the time I can remember, I wanted to go into the entertainment industry — modeling and acting. So that is what I did. I graduated high school, moved out of my parent’s house, and moved in with a couple I met in an acting class. She was also an aspiring actress. Read more>>

Jen Woodward

I’m a Pilates instructor here in LA. Before I started instructing fitness, I was attending college in Michigan to become a Physician Assistant. About two years into college though, I started to see how transformative working out could be for people – both mentally and physically. I had this feeling that I could make a bigger difference in this field than in the medical field, so I decided to become certified in yoga and dropped out to pursue instructing fitness full time. Shortly after my yoga certification, I moved to Spokane, WA and taught yoga for almost a year. It soon became clear to me that I had found what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, but I knew I needed to be in an area with more opportunities if I really wanted to advance. Read more>>

Erin Wu

Born in Taiwan, I moved to Ohio where I started dancing and ice skating. I began designing my own competition dresses and my mom would make them. When I was ten, I moved to San Jose, CA where I started learning Wushu Martial Arts and Hip Hop, joining Future Shock SJ. My mom and I created costumes for performances for the community such as the D.A.R.E program and fundraisers for Stanford research programs. I competed at Berkeley International Martial Arts competition where I won first in Wushu Jianshu (straight sword). In 2009, I competed in Miss Asia West Coast and was crowned First Princess & Miss Talent for my Taichi/Wushu Sword performance. Then, I attended UCLA and was the artistic director of Samahang Modern, UCLA’s professional dance troupe, competing at World of Dance. I also was a part of UCLA’s Wushu team and won gold in Wushu Spear at collegiates competition in 2010. I graduated with a BA in Sociology and Theatre Minor. Read more>>

Adwoa Duncan-Williams

Born from Ghanaian parents, being a go-getter and hard worker has always been embedded in Adwoa Duncan-Williams’ bloodstream. Knowing acting and performing was always the true calling, it finally got to the point to take that leap and finally pursue it professionally. Relocating to New York City, the journey began and has truly been a journey. Having taken such a deep dive into the industry, the doors have opened tremendously, the talent kicking in doors. From training in the hustle capital, New York, to graduating and pursuing the craft in the height of a pandemic, Adwoa has done it. It’s lead-to groundbreaking major network roles, digital series and leading feature films for her. Taking the reigns and showing extraordinary strides in the profession. Theater plays, feature films, shorts and series, Adwoa has been a lead and the lead in these all. Read more>>

Andrea “Cookie” Smith

For as long as I can remember, the kitchen has always been the center of my life. It was the gathering spot in my house growing up. It was the salon as well, lol. My grandmother Ernestine, who was a beautician by trade raised me in Petersburg, VA. The kitchens stove is where she would heat up her hot comb & hot curlers. It also housed the dryer seat for her clients including myself. I can still smell the blue bergamot grease as we speak, lol. Nana (Ernestine) was quite the cook herself. She worked on the army base in her younger years as a cook in the dining facility. She also cooked three course meals for our family EVERY night. I’m a self-taught Chef. However, I learned a lot from paying attention to her not even knowing that I was retaining this information. You know she never said add this or put the oven on 350. I was always watching. No communication except hand me the butter or something like that. Read more>>

Brandy Robidoux

I cut my teeth in the music industry in New York City. I studied journalism at the University of Massachusetts and would move to NYC every summer to intern. I said yes to every opportunity that fell across my lap and no task was too small for me. Eventually, my resume landed on the desk of someone at Billboard magazine, which was my first real paid writing gig. It took a while to get my foot in the door, but I can attest that being nice and making strong connections will get your further than anything else. Read more>>

Makayla Gordon

I was born in the bay area and raised in Orange County, California. I grew up as a dancer by watching my older sister’s dance classes and shows. I wasn’t even three years old yet and I’d always try to sneak into class. Eventually, the instructor had no choice but to invite me in and the rest is now history. Although my mom would say that I have been dancing since I was in the womb, I’d always tap on her stomach when music was playing. It wasn’t until I was performing on stage that I really knew that I wanted to pursue a career in dance. I started out taking classes in technical skills such as ballet, tap and jazz. Read more>>

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