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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.

Karishma Bhandari

I started acting from the age of 11 where I attended a stage school learning acting and various dance styles such as, jazz, ballet, tap, modern and hip pop. In school, I started taking drama classes to improve my confidence. During GCSE’s I left with a C in drama studies. During this period we had a film director come into our school to cast for the main lead for an upcoming film called ‘Fish Tank’. I was shortlisted for that character at the age of 13 but unfortunately didn’t bag the role. I was determined to improve and not let my shyness get the better of me so I continued drama into A Levels where I took Performing Arts. As the subject got tougher, I achieved a B in Performing Arts and an A in Media Studies that year. Read more>>

Gladyse (GLADICEMUA) Guegue-Perez

I was born & raised in the Philippines. When I was growing up, I didn’t really know what or who I wanted to be, but I know one thing.. I love anything related to art. I hated drawing, and I was bad at it. I wanted to be creative in a different way and that’s how I got into beauty, specifically makeup. When I was in high school & college, I thought I wanted to be a journalist, a news anchor, until I saw my mom got into hair styling and beauty and that industry intrigued me and she became my top influencer. So I started getting into beauty. I used to remember I would use red Lipstick to create a look. Eyeshadow, blush, lipstick.. It was fun. Years back later.. Read more>>

Alyssa Abshier Victoria Nadler

We first got the inspiration to start Amber Sol Collective while we were freelancing for other small businesses in the events & arts industries. Alyssa had just moved to LA from San Francisco, with the intent of a career change, to immerse herself in the event and experiential marketing world. With a background in fine arts, it led her towards a curiosity for the thriving event scene in LA. Victoria had recently made the move from NYC to LA, where she was working as a prop stylist and set designer in the photo world. Having a background in photography and fine arts, the transition from sets to spatial & atmospheric design was a very natural process that led her to designing events. Being that we were consistently running in the same circles of freelance work, we ended up managing an artists’ studio and online shop, side by side, as our day job. Read more>>

Marissa Hutter

About fifteen years ago – as a restless, heartbroken twenty-something — my journey to Ayurveda began inside a healer’s apartment in Venice, California. Through my tears, I managed to relate my sob story, and he responded with a simple suggestion that changed everything. He said I should wake up feeling rested and rejuvenated. I remember just staring at him. I had been struggling with fatigue. Something definitely felt wrong, I was a first year elementary school teacher, and blamed my fatigue on my hectic work schedule. Everyone around me felt overworked and exhausted. We all relied on coffee to get through the day. I thought that’s what it meant to be an adult, and have a career. I didn’t realize my body was trying to communicate a deeper message. It was screaming for help. Exhaustion was so normal to me, that I hadn’t even considered that there might be an alternative. Read more>>

Kasey Elliott

I grew up poor in a very small town in Michigan. I always wanted to act, but where I grew up there wasnt anything like that around and we had no money to travel to the cities and my school didnt even have a drama class. So I did cheerleading and choir. Then I figured I couldnt be an actor anyway because I had crooked teeth and had no idea how people got started so I kind of gave up and found photography. Through that I was able to tell stories and put myself on camera in pictures. I left home and moved to Idaho when I was 20 I became a stripper and bought myself braces. I acted in 1 really obscure short film in idaho but it wasnt until I moved to Oregon that I really started pursuing acting.  Read more>>

Unknown Phrazes

Mario Hernandez, known as, “Unknownphrazes”, is a producer, singer/songwriter from Jaumave, Tamaulipas, Mexico. He was introduced to Hip-Hop around the age of 8, shortly after he moved to the United States. Listening to artists like, 50 Cent, Eminem, N.E.R.D, & Dr. Dre, he would find himself writing raps for school projects, which then led him to find passion in writing. Growing up in the south, a move to Cleveland pushed Mario to embrace his artistry as a form of expression, eventually leading to forming the Cleveland Hip-Hop group, “Common Ave”. With the group, Unknownphrazes, was able to open up for acts such as, Dom Kennedy, Vince Staples, Curren$y, Ab-Soul, & many others. After their debut album “Aurora Borealis,” the group decided to split in 2016, which pushed Mario to embark on his solo career, as Unknownphrazes. Read more>>

Denise Brown

7 years ago my partner and I made the decision to pack our belongings and move from Germany where we both grew up to the United States to chase the American Dream. California was top of the list and we decided very quickly that this is the place where we are going to force our luck. I always had a love for Houseplants and started to collect plants 2 years prior to the pandemic. It was a great outlet for me and helped me connect with others in a new city, a new state, a new country on a different continent. When the pandemic started many others found the love for plants and a huge community grew the demand was incredibly high and supplies where running low, within the first few months. Read more>>

Chesley Allen

Chesley Allen also known as “Cheese” is a Raleigh, North Carolina native who started his humble beginnings as a drummer for local churches and artist. After high school, Chesley attended Shaw University was a member of the marching band and played in the drumline as a quint player. Pursuing his dream he moved out to Los Angles California and landed his first major gig as the drummer for Pop and Grammy award winning Megan Trainer. Touring with her from 2016-2020. Along the way, he has toured with other various artist such as Jazz legends Marion Meadows, Bass guitar greats Chip Shearin and Ethan Farmer. Currently, you can catch Chesley touring with Queen Naija, Victoria Monet, and Mr. Carmack. Read more>>

Geivon “EG” Cisneros

I started in the industry as an intern for grammy award winning duo, The Avila Brothers. They introduced me to my first circle of solidified industry friends, taking me to all their meetings and walking me into capital records in 2014. They gave me the chance to show people I can be a person of trust and value.
I turned my network into my net worth by capitalizing on my relationships I gained though my time of interning and most importantly delivered results with disruptive creative marketing involving influencers. Read more>>

Kasheem Clifton

I’m originally from South Carolina, but I moved to LA in the middle of 2019 from Atlanta, GA right before the pandemic hit. I moved out here knowing that I wanted to be an entertainer, but I didn’t know what avenue I wanted to take. I was always the guy who could come up with the witty comebacks and funny one liners, but for some reason I never thought about doing stand up. I would joke with customers and coworkers at my job all the time and everyone would always ask if I was a comedian and I would always say that stand up was a different kind of skill that I didn’t think I had, I was wrong about that. Read more>>

Albi Neziri

I’m an actor and dancer from Switzerland, my roots are Kosovo-Albanian. I remember my first time on stage; 1st grade, the show was a Brother Grimm kids theater play. I was so bad at it that my older brother was very ashamed and tried to make gestures from the audience that I shouldn’t be that loud, I was doing bad. The moment was born of improving myself. I knew I needed to proof my brother, my destiny got me. 23 years later and my destiny led its path back to acting. But this time on a bigger stage with different audience and a brother full of tears, hope and being the persons who never stops believing in me. Life is a journey and as long as my little light is lighten up I will never loose hope even if it takes another 23 years to make someone feel my art. Read more>>

Mon Castro

I was born and raised in Mexico City, and I’m currently based in Los Angeles. I moved here in summer of 2021 (anniversary coming soon!) to study my MFA. I am starting my second year of the Producing Discipline at AFI Conservatory. I can proudly say that film is the ever-lasting love of my life, I have never had any doubts about it. I was one of those kids that grew up glued to the screen. In a mostly unconventional way, I must confess. Instead of watching shows for children, my mom let me watch SAW over and over again. Loving the media runs in my family, as I got the fascination for the movies from my grandfather. Every time I went to visit him, he was sitting in his same chair, with a coffee, in front of the screen. Read more>>

Pothmolita Dou

My name is Pothmolita Dou better known as Apple.I am an international makeup artist and the first Cambodian special effects makeup artist to work in the Hollywood film industry. I was a top 5 of the prestigious Vi Neill Makeup Artist Scholarship in 2016. I grow up in the small town of Stung Treng, in a northern province Cambodia, (close to the Lao border). Being brought up in a developing country, that was coming out of many yearsof war, there was not much to offer education-wise, particularly for women and even more so in my hometown. There were one or two English classes that I could attend, but only if my parents had earned enough money that week. It wasn’t until I attended high-school, that I had proper classes. Read more>>

Laciann Buchanan

I’ve been a beauty enthusiast for as long as I can remember. As a child the roll-on lipgloss and smackers lip balm were in every pocket. If you know, you know! My real beauty career started in 2012 when I began working at Sephora. This was my dream job and I had finally gotten my foot in the door after 9 interviews over the span of 2 years. In 2014 I began doing makeup on friends and family. During this time I perfected my craft and became one of the most sought after artist in the store. It was then that Laceface Artistry was born. In 2016, while going through a quarter life crisis, I needed more and I wanted to set myself apart from other makeup artist so pursued my esthetician license. Read more>>

Blonde Experiment

“Tony n Tina’s Wedding” on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. Shortly after, they both made the leap to Hollywood to pursue more TV and Film jobs and have both landed success. You know Veronica as Kitty from the first three seasons of HBO’s “Insecure”, and Ariel from starring alongside Natasha Lyonne in Backlash Film’s “All About Evil” as Judy. But as actors, you don’t get much say about what parts are written for you, what you say, or how you say it. So together they created Slapstick Gold, a production company who made their goal on Seed & Spark to raise the money to make their first feature film “The Blonde Experiment” ( based on “true events”). Their friendship has spanned over a decade surviving rejections, breakups and bangs. “The Blonde Experiment” was shot in 11 days all over Los Angeles, 3 days of which were in the middle of the pandemic summer 2020. Read more>>

Arlen & Yanin Varela

GZV CREATIVE born out of the idea of merging the best of music and fashion, founders Yanin and Arlen Varela joined forces and decided to take a global direction for GZV, a creative powerhouse, and boutique agency that focuses on supporting artist development across different media while being a safe space for creation, connection and collaboration. The founder’s values and passions blend the best of arts, music, and fashion on a multicultural level. The agency has hubs in Mexico City and Los Angeles. Read more>>

Peeradon Ariyanukooltorn

Besides my full name, you can call me Zan. I am a 29-year-old Thai photographer and cinematographer based in Los Angeles. After six years of my professional career in Thailand, I decided to move to the US to expand my skill as a cinematographer. I am currently a cinematography student at UCLA Extension. My life in photography started when I was studying in the first year of university as an architecture student. I found myself in love with taking photographs, especially of landscapes and architecture. During my study, I was selected to be the president of the university photography club. I led many student workshops and had a lot of opportunities to work with camera companies, such as Nikon and Canon. After graduation, I began my career as a professional architectural photographer to combine my design and photo shooting skills. Read more>>

David Gnozzi

I started my journey in the music industry as a professional musician, I was signed with a major label with the band I founded in the early 2000’s, that relationship didn’t go that well. We released another album later on but at that point it was clear to me the musician life wasn’t for me. Between the problems with the label and the lifestyle – I was never a party person – I knew the studio was much more my envirnoment. Fortunately, I was already mixing and mastering back then even if I wasn’t promoting myself as an engineer, and I was the songwriter in the band. I started producing and engineering for others and landed two big remixes early on for Ladytron and Felix Da Housecat.
From there it was a lot of years of paying my dues with local acts and slowing going up the ranks. Read more>>

Bella Kelly

Music has always been so much more than a passion. When I was younger, I felt alone because I had to get pulled out of school and moved to homeschooling from getting extremly bullied. I also moved around a lot so it was impossible to make friends. Music and my writing was a healthy way i coped with my depression and anxiety’s. It was in a way, the only thing that kept me from feeling so lonely. I put headphones on, turned up the music and escaped from what I was going through. Or I wrote poems and stories that I’d escape into. The pen and paper became my bestfriend. I’ve always wanted to make music to help people heal and escape from whatever they are going thru. I want to teach others that there are healthy ways to cope like to be creative instead of doing something that hurts themselves. I want the people who feel alone to know and feel they aren’t alone. I want my music to be for others, what music was for me. Read more>>

Milbelynn Soto

It’s really hard to pin point exactly how I got started. Family members always remind me that from around the age of 6, I was always doing something ‘weird’ around the house… like putting on clown makeup and making my mothers’ dresser my stage. All artists really, have an innate desire to be heard…to be seen. There’s always something tugging at the heart with what it is we want/need to say. As an Actor, Singer, and Songwriter, I have multiple forms of expression and am always getting asked which I’d love to do most. To be frank, I’ve never had the intention of giving up any, and I won’t start now. I do believe however, each discipline requires focused attention, and right now my main focus is definitely on the Acting. Read more>>

Miyo Yamauchi

I moved to California from Osaka, Japan, in 2004. Before I came, I thought my English would become perfect automatically. But my English didn’t go anywhere — even after living here for years — because I’m a computer programmer. I didn’t need to speak to anybody! Speaking English fluently is like having a good credit score. Without it, your options are limited, and people look down on you. A change was necessary. I needed to force myself to speak more. So I joined Toastmasters, known for teaching public speaking skills. Toastmasters taught me not only how to speak in public but also how to organize an event and lead a team. It was all fun in the beginning, but I got bored eventually. Then, I met StoryMasters (https://thestorymasters.org). Read more>>

Nicole Tiedemann

growing up, I would spend my summers in Japan visiting my grandparents. I was always mesmerised by Japan’s mastery of design, arts, and fashion. I spent my summers people watching on the streets and being so inspired by the individualistic style. Japan as a society is extremely closed off when it comes to talking about emotions, feelings, and personal hardships. What I found fascinating, however, was how this social repression lead to expression through innovative and individualistic street styles. My mom was raised in a culturally traditional Japanese household, so she raised me and my sister in a similar manner. I’ve never been the type of person to express my emotions and feelings to others, which unfortunately lead to me dealing with a severe anxiety disorder and depression growing up. Read more>>

Aaron Dodge

My favorite story to tell is how I got my first job out of college. It was an internship for the New Orleans Hornets NBA team. I wanted it so bad but I didn’t want to be just another resume in a stack of 200. So I made a DVD (yes I said DVD) of myself and why they should hire me. I filmed it on my crummy digital camera and mailed it to team. By the next week, I had an interview and was hired shortly after. That one decision changed my life as I worked the next 10 years in the NBA. I lived in 3 different cities, worked 4 NBA All-Star Weekends and traveled to China and South Africa. Since I stepped away from the NBA, I’ve worked for multiple Marketing Agency’s, a video production company and in the middle of COVID 2020, I went into business for myself doing social media consulting and content creation. Read more>>

Junyi Zhang

Like most children, I like to draw. I enjoyed my time alone. I can cut paper, draw different patterns on it as a doll baby’s dress, and play with that for hours. I noticed small details in the world, enjoying all kinds of exquisite objects. I remember observing a stone full of patterns for an entire afternoon as a primary school child. This attention to detail has stayed with me throughout the years and allowed me to become a sought-after visual development and background design artist, bringing that unique sense of observation and research to my work. I work as a background designer at Roughdraft Studios for the Futurama project. Rough Draft Studios, Inc. is an award winning animation studio specializing in traditional and computer animation for television and film. Read more>>

Dave Jia

Growing up, I was always fascinated by everything related to the arts and performing. I think my first school play I acted in was The Cat in the Hat. And in my free time, I loved drawing pictures of Pokemon with oil pastels, reenacting WWE moments with my friends as our favorite wrestlers, and writing comedic comic books about superheroes with terribly stupid powers. When I got to high school, I was in a band, producing original music, performing at festivals, and covering Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. Read more>>

Pamela Mora and Abby Guerra

A year ago at this time, we pitched a comedy variety show to the Fountain Theater with nothing but a goat puppet and a dream! Our first show had a number from Ratatouille the Musical, our second show featured a human centipede, at the December show Santa came down the chimney and out of the closet, and the VDay show was in a backyard with a live goat. At our April show, we performed six movies in one hour and now we’re six shows in and not slowing down any time soon! GOAT SHOW FOR THE AMERICAN WAY coming JULY 30TH at 11PM 5060 FOUNTAIN AVE. Tickets at goatshowla.com. Read more>>

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