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Inspiring Stories from DTLA

The heart of our mission at VoyageLA is to find the amazing souls that breathe life into our city. In the recent weeks, we’ve had the privilege to connect with some of the LA’s finest artists, creatives, entrepreneurs and rabble rousers and we can’t begin to express how impressed we are with our city’s incredibly deep talent pool.  Check out LA’s rising stars below.

Rena Patel

I’ve always loved stories. The earliest memory I have of writing something of my own was in kindergarten. I wrote and illustrated a four-page book about my favorite thing to do during each season of the year. Kindergarten was also the year I had my first leading role in a play. My teacher picked me out of all of the girls in the three kindergarten classes to play Clara in our school’s holiday production of The Nutcracker because according to her, I was not shy. Looking back on it, it kind of feels inevitable that I’m here, almost 20 years later, completely enveloped in storytelling of every form. I decided I wanted to write a book in sixth grade after a boy in my class got stuck in the P.E. shed. I was reading Narnia at the time and thought, “Wouldn’t it be crazy if he found a tunnel to a magical world in that shed?” What resulted was a 266-page novel that would’ve gotten me sued by the C.S. Lewis Estate. That book was my proudest achievement, but I don’t think I would’ve had the drive to see it through to the end without the support of my seventh grade English teacher, Mr. Alzamora. He would take every chapter I wrote and give me back extensive notes and words of encouragement. Read more>>

The Little Things Foundation Team

“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” – Maya Angelou  This quote by Queen Angelou herself had predicted our future before any of us had ever read it. About a year and a half ago, a group of young women (who happen to be great friends) realized that they were in a position of privilege. The privilege to help others. Having no idea where to start, we decided to start small… and The Little Things Foundation was born. The Little Things Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to providing little bags of compassion filled with an assortment of life essentials, such as masks, socks, and toiletries, designed to aid our fellow human beings overwhelmed by hardship. In times of crisis and despair, the little things that are often taken for granted can have the greatest impact. Read more>>

Dennis Caasi

In 2016, I worked at a global non-profit but the sheer amount of work and drama tore me apart. I really wanted to have the freedom to pursue my passions. I took a leap of faith, left my job and joined the 1099 world. Since then, my mental health and opportunities have continued to flourish. I started working with a small but mighty team to create the wildly successful DTLA PROUD Festival. I lead the fundraising efforts and operations for the growth of the non-profit – DTLA PROUD. As we couldn’t produce our festival and other events in 2020, we decided to put all our efforts to start a documentary – PROUD in a Pandemic. Though I am extremely dedicated to community work, I still longed to express something deep inside. After working with so many creatives and artists for the festival, I was inspired to embark on my own journey to write and record music. A year later, I have recorded two songs and made some videos to compliment. Read more>>

Micah Glenn

I was born in Detroit, Michigan – moved around a lot in high school and ended up graduating from a school right outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Ended up attending the University of New England and upon graduation moved to Los Angeles. Throughout all of the moving around and being in different environments though, I’ve always had a passion for clothing and wanted to make my mark in it. Luckily enough for me, the majority of the places I’ve been have had some form of mentorship and guidance in helping me navigate to the point where I could start my own thing. Read more>>

Vaishnavi More

The journey so far from India to Harvard to launching my own startup in the Silicon Valley at 27 has been extremely challenging but also something that I am very proud of. I come from a city called Pune in India where I’ve lived all my life and studied at a small minority architecture school prior to Michigan. Applying to the top schools in the world is never an easy process, especially with the kind of competition that exists today. I first applied to Harvard in the year 2015 and was rejected at that time. But I was persistent about my goals, I knew what I wanted to do and where exactly I wanted to be in the next few years. Thus throughout my education at Michigan, I diligently chose courses that got me one step closer to my goals. I remember the time when reapplying for Harvard, I was in the middle of my final exams for my Masters at Michigan. It was a stressful time juggling with my finals on one hand, my application process on the other and then there was my Statement of interest and portfolio that seemed like a long shot. Read more>

Ivoree Xavier

I started singing at a young age. I would always sing in the car with my mom and two younger sisters, Bria and Olivia. We would spontaneously breakout into song at home. I went to a Jewish school from 4-8th grade and every year there would be a musical sang in Hebrew, and there would be narrators singing in English. I was cast as the lead in 8th grade as Peter Pan and even got sick the night before opening night but still sang my heart out. My freshman year of high school, I was a background character in Sweeney Todd and after that, I didn’t really do much musically and instead chased my dream of being a cheerleader. So I became my high school’s first male cheerleader. A few years later, I auditioned for The Voice in Philadelphia and then two years later, I auditioned in Chicago. I didn’t make it either times, but it was a great experience. I moved to Huntington Beach, CA in 2016 and started to write what later became my first EP, and then moved back to Ohio, as I didn’t feel the city was right for me. Read more>>

Carmen Sham

It’s always been a hobby of mine to make cute delicious treats and gift them to my friends and family. Seeing the smiles on their faces when they receive my creations brightens my mood and brings me great joy to know that I made their special occasions all the more memorable. That desire to spread happiness was what inspired me to start my own business. I started with an Instagram account and posting some of my very first creations. I didn’t expect people to like my posts or even know I exist for that matter, but the Internet is such an amazing place and social media helps connect us to so many people who share similar interests. Through Instagram, I was able to connect with a large number of clients and more importantly gain new friends and influencers who have only lifted me higher and guided me on how I could continue to grow my business. Food in general is meant to be shared and just like food, the foodie community likes to share new findings with one another. Read more>>

Anthony Pratt

My story dates back to my early childhood days growing up in South Central Los Angeles. I went to school in the Valley, most notably Parkman Jr. High (Now Woodland Hills Academy) and Taft High School. Living in South Central LA and attending school in the Valley were contrasting dynamics. Overall the experience created balance in my life. My senses became sharper while learning new perspectives in a world that seemed so far away from where I lived. Growing up in South Central taught wasn’t easy. I grew up in a household governed by my grandparents, Dave and Katie Pratt. Under their guidance, I was able to navigate around situations that threatened my future such as gangs and drugs. My grandfather was a WWII veteran who inspired me on a daily basis to be a little better than I was the day prior. He taught me to keep moving forward and to never lose sight of my goals regardless of how challenging situations became. So I began to dream. Anthony “Ape” Pratt was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles – 32nd street to be exact – yet I never let the harsh realities of crime and gangs interfere with my dreams. Read more>>

Joey Montoya

I was born and raised in San Francisco, CA. At a very young age, I was taught some of the fundamentals of painting and was heavily influenced by the artists in my family. It wasn’t until high school where I began to love graffiti art. When I started at San Jose State University in 2012, I began to explore deeper into many different art forms such as videography, graphic design, and photography. This was around the same time I launched Urban Native Era (UNE) – an online platform that focuses on spreading awareness about Indigenous issues through design, photography, and social media. After graduating in advertising, I continued to work on building Urban Native Era. Today, UNE is a recognizable brand that focuses on increasing the visibility of Indigenous Peoples through clothing design and content. Read more>>

Yanique Petioma

I am the owner of Stamp’d by Yaya. Some fun facts about me: My favorite colors are lavender, rose gold, and cheetah/leopard print. I am Haitian and I love Disney! Crafting is my unofficial middle name! (I actually don’t have a middle name). Ever since I was a little girl, crafting has always been my therapy. Whenever I don’t feel like my usual happy self, I would create something with my hands to express those feelings. Michaels is my piece of heaven on earth. I can get lost in those aisles getting whatever catches my eye and just letting the creativity flow. Stamp’d by Yaya was created when I was blessed with my first two godchildren in October 2019. I didn’t want to gift them with stuff from the stores that anyone could’ve bought. I know it would’ve been easy to just buy stuff off the registry (which I did), but I wanted to be able to give them something that was just for them and they would feel the love I have for them. I didn’t even know I would be their godmother until the end of the baby showers. The first items I ever made were onesies for them and it was special because those were thought of before I knew the important role I would play in their lives. Read more>>

Rue Bleak

Rue Bleak really came about late in 2019 when we decided to finally start something that we’ve talked about doing for several years since middle school. We worked on our first drop which was a couple of tees we dropped in march 2020 that were called “Love Hurts” and after that the rest has been history in the making. Read more>>

Kofa Muse

It all started in 2017 when I started working on designs for my own personal brand @NebNine because I was a music artist. I did what most people did starting off, you go downtown, find blank shirts and find a vendor to print them. I am a genius with creativity but as for making music, I had the wrong intent with it and it flustered my creativity pretty much. I sucked, lol 😂. As I questioned my own artistry because I was around great artists like @y2heru @stbohdi @the8AE @derek206 @keskross @mrjameskaye @trevcase @Therealsymba and too many others to name. A friend and roommate of mine Trev Case had a friend of his chucky come over with none other than NBA superstar Karl Towns. As a hobby, KAT wanted to work on music with Trev Case, @cAmmeekins, @bllaine and @jinluv. When I met Karl, he said he liked my merch and asked who made it. I said I did and laced him Up with some free items. That was my first subconscious sign I was onto something. The 2nd sign was when Karl had Quentin Miller come to my house the next day to help him with songs and Quentin had said the same thing about my brand after seeing me wearing a shirt. Unfortunately, I was out of stock on the merch to give him anything. However, I took mental notes. That was my second sign. Read more>>

Leonard Lee

Husband and wife duo, Leo and Lydia Lee, both share a rich culinary background spanning three generations. Even though they had different paths in life, Leo grew up in Mexico and Lydia grew up in Hong Kong, they both shared a common lineage in growing up and working in their family’s restaurant. While their grandparents opened restaurants in the 1980’s out of necessity, Leo and Lydia opened RiceBox 2018 to honor their family’s hard work and pay a warm and enthusiastic tribute to it. Remembering where they came from and what their family did in order to give them the life they have today. Keeping their heritage and memories alive is the best way to honor it. Utilizing recipes passed down from their grandparents, they recreated many childhood favorites, such as soy sauce poached chicken, slow-braised curry beef stew, and homemade almond milk buns, but there is one item that stood out and it is their signature “Char Siu” BBQ Pork. When they first tested their grandfather’s “Char Siu” recipe in 2014, Leo and Lydia knew they had something special. They knew it was something they cannot let go and wanted to share it with everyone. “Char Siu” is quintessential to what Cantonese BBQ is and is also the recipe that created RiceBox. Read more>>

Carolyn Knapp

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been making things. Writing, painting, filmmaking; I never considered limiting myself to one medium. As a kid, I was a voracious reader and wanted to be an “author-illustrator” when I grew up. I was, and still am, obsessed with and inspired by humans. I discovered the ability to make movies at age six through a student film festival at my Elementary School. My debut was a fantastical adventure short starring myself as the heroine. Every year after that, I planned my film festival submissions months in advance, adding more classmates and neighbors to the casts each year. By the time I entered middle school, I wanted to be a director. My entrance into the industry was at Marvel Television, working as an intern in the development, production, and post-production departments. At Marvel, I learned the ins and outs of television as I helped find directors for upcoming episodes and joined meetings with Marvel shows’ writers, production teams, and streaming services. Since then, I have worked on Universal Music Group’s internal content team, °1824. Read more>>

Bryant Santos

I grew up on the remote island of Guam and like many others who grew up in a small town, I always longed for something more. After I graduated college as class valedictorian from Full Sail University with a BS in Entertainment Business, I moved out to Los Angeles to follow my dreams of working in the exciting entertainment industry. One of my first gigs in entertainment was as an entertainment host and writer for Maria Menounos’ AfterBuzz TV. Unfortunately, COVID19 had other plans for my first job. While working for AfterBuzz TV as a host, I was also working full-time at Disneyland as a member of their college program, but COVID19 had other plans for that job as well. I was eventually laid off from Disneyland at the start of the pandemic, but the silver lining was that it allowed me to focus on AfterBuzz TV more. I was extremely grateful to be entrusted with a daily interview show after only being with AfterBuzz for three months. I solo-hosted AfterBuzz’s original series “Quarantine With The Stars”, where I chatted with a different celebrity every day about their upcoming projects and their quarantine life, all while quarantined at home myself (and making Zoom my new best friend). After a few months, AfterBuzz eventually went into broadcast hiatus and became editorial only. Read more>>

Marquis Harrell

I’m a model, actor, dancer, artist and host from the small town of Victorville in California. I started my journey in entertainment when I was in 2nd grade singing in the talent show at my elementary school and fell in love with the stage and inspiring others through my art.  From there, I continued to perform, winning talent shows in middle school and doing dramatic and musical theater in high school where I had my first lead role as seaweed in hairspray the musical which was so much fun! I started to take my acting and modeling career a lot more serious towards my junior and senior year of high school shooting with local photographers in my small town getting used to being in front of the camera falling more in love with my craft. After high school, I took it upon myself to start doing background acting on many different sets and networks which got me used to being on set very quickly. I also took it upon myself to audition all around Los Angeles to many different modeling and acting casting calls. Mind you, I’m traveling back and forth from Victorville to LA during this whole journey so I have spent so much time traveling on the road but it was never an issue for me because I have a huge passion for what I do and will do all the work that’s needed to reach success in my art. Read more>>

Germôna Sharp

Originally, I’m from Pittsburgh, PA and I actually currently reside in Raleigh, NC. I got my start with entertaining by watching my family sing and dance and learning that I have a deep background when it comes to performance. As I got older, I was in Chorus and trained with teachers to craft my voice. I got into acting a little later (high school) and from there, I just kept going. I always saw myself as a full on entertainer that could do anything and I knew I would need to practice in order to achieve the best me. I am blessed to have as many opportunities come my way now and be able to have people know who I am and respect me for my talent and craft. Currently, I’m doing a mixture of both singing and acting and working to balance those out as best I can but I enjoy every minute of it and hope to go further. Read more>>

Christina Casarez

I am a Black Woman with Puerto Rican and Mexican roots. My roots run deep as I am still tracing them to this day due to the fact that I was adopted into my very loving Mexican family, whom I am forever grateful for! My mother once told me that during the adoption process, the agency asked them if they were comfortable adopting me due to my undeniable ethnic difference from her already established family. What she told me has forever cemented the respect that I have for my parents, as her response was, “Why would the color of her skin matter? I will love her the same if she were purple, yellow, or green.” Purple, yellow, and green–all colors that tie into my bold cosmetics collection and that remind me to be myself because I can’t deny who I am. So many black and brown women want to do the same, and I am using my story to create this platform for them. I moved to Los Angeles in 2009 to attend F.I.D.M. where I received my Associate’s Degree in Apparel Business Manufacturing and quickly landed a job at the headquarters of Guess Inc. as a Women’s Apparel Merchandiser. Read more>>

Tyra Rush

As a college freshman, I was not sure what I wanted to do with my life. I loved beauty, art and science but society will tell you that you have to pick. There’s no way to mix them. Along with my struggles of having multiple passions, I found myself to be conflicted with certain things pertaining to my appearance. I hated feeling like I had to rely on enhancements to feel good about myself. So one day, I decided to make a change. I took a break from wearing hair extensions and makeup, cut off my hair and stared at myself. I forced myself to look at every detail and feature on my body. I acknowledged the raw/uncut ME for the first time in a long time and decided I loved her regardless of what people would say are flaws. However, we can love ourselves and still acknowledge that there are things we can improve. While we can’t change our genetic makeup, we can find ways to naturally enhance and perfect what we already have. That is exactly what I did. I conducted tons of research and found natural remedies to address the features I wanted to beautify. Read more>>

Tintin V

Like many others who’ve transplanted themselves out here to LA – ‘burning passion’ was the singular fuel that kept my little Honda Element running as I drove all the way here from Orlando, FL a little over eight years ago. Looking back, I wasn’t completely sure how to tackle all that I wanted to achieve but I knew I had to at least be here to allow any of my dreams a fighting chance for fruition. I already had pushed a decade’s worth of classical dance training to the grind through various companies in Orlando, so continuing a career in dance was seemingly the path of least resistance. After some odd months of couch surfing & job hopping in LA, I landed a contract with a dance agency & began my journey as a professional dancer. Things were wonderful for a while. I started to book plenty of auditions, did a few commercials & was I beginning to feel grounded. Then fall came around that year & I incorrectly landed a leap during a ballet class, spraining my right ankle. This was followed up a month later by a bad case of sciatica in my lower back. Read more>>

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