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Inspiring Stories from Hollywood

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 Hollywood’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 Hollywood’s rising stars below.

Sarah Tomchesson

I started selling sex toys in 2007. I had just deferred acceptance to a graduate program in Social Work to focus on a small clothing line I had founded with a friend. I was excited to see where it would go and was also involved in community event organizing in LA that I was invested in. I was part of the volunteer group that founded Dyke Day LA (www.facebook.com/DykeDayLA) in 2007 and was producing Shotgun, a weekly queer night at the Eagle LA. Read more>>

Will Conlu and Francis Labra

Our story started in the Summer of 2008 in New York City. We briefly met in college and had plenty of mutual friends but didn’t really connect until we moved to NYC. We both started in the creative industry and pursued our dreams trying to establish ourselves in the big city. Meanwhile, we had no idea that the recession was happening, so we went through some of the most difficult times in our career. Despite all this, we still maintained a positive outlook and found creative ways to make lemonade out of lemons. Read more>>

Julie Krokowicz and Sacha Laloum

We decided to create Himalayan Blue when we started gaining awareness of the environmental situation. Plastic is taking over our ocean, which is our main oxygen supply, as well as the landfills, creating an accumulation that takes literally hundreds to thousands of years to decompose. We started dreading going to the supermarket, as the amount of plastic containers on the shelves is alarming. There’s a very little amount of eco-friendly, responsible products being made and we believe it’s about time we start taking things seriously. Read more>>

A.J. Cosmo

Like so many people in Los Angeles, I moved out here to pursue a dream in screenwriting and, like so many in Los Angeles, I ended up in a completely different and unexpected field. The difficulty of the film industry proved to be too much for me, so I started looking for something else to do with my talents. In 2010, during the tail end of the great recession, I was unemployed and struggling. That was when I discovered Amazon’s Kindle publishing platform, which had this incredible new take on self-publishing, and decided to give it a shot. It was a gold rush mentality at the time. Read more>>

Ashley Joy Beck

I was born to artistic wizards of sound and light. Both my parents are sound, and lighting engineers and they own a production company in the Central Valley called West Coast Sound and Light. They used to work IMATS (International Makeup Artist Trade Show) every year in Pasadena since it began back in the mid/late ’90s. I started working for my parents tying power, climbing truss and focusing lights, operating the follow spot, plugging in monitors, mic-ing a stage and generally setting up/breaking down for events and rock shows around 11 years old. Read more>>

Max Kirkham

The child of a government family, I went to four high schools while growing up between Miami, FL, and Cary, NC; with a brief stint posted overseas. Eventually, I got my undergraduate degree from UNC Greensboro in North Carolina. Graduating Magna Cum Laude with a double major in theater and media studies. After graduation, I worked two jobs for eight months to save enough money to move west to Los Angeles where I founded my company Ursula Major Productions and began producing The Bitchery of History with Allison Powell, one of my best friends from back home. Read more>>

Geeta Novotny

My path as a wellness practitioner specializing in voice and sound began with my career as a musician and performer, a career that was challenged from the beginning by my lifelong battle with severe chronic asthma, which proved later in my life to be my most important healing gift. In spite of my limited lung capacity and the intensive medication I started taking to treat my asthma from an early age, I never let my condition hold me back from anything I wanted to accomplish. I was determined to pursue a career in music as I considered music to be my greatest source of healing and self-expression, and truly my first language. Read more>>

Brandi and Zavier Hall

We started with an idea of helping people with their health issues in a more impactful way than simply showing them how to work out. We had less than one hundred dollars to start, but we used what we had and created a “lemonade stand” at a local gym selling individual smoothies. From there we developed a detox system that has effectively been able to help over two hundred and fifty people in less than twelve months transform their health. We started out of our home kitchen with one blender and grew our business to operating a food truck. Read more>>

Krystle Rich

I am currently a host/anchor of a brand new show called, “Sixers Outsiders” on NBC Sports Philadelphia, a regional TV network. The show gives sports commentary on Philadelphia’s NBA team, the 76ers. Building up to broadcast in the number four TV market (Philadelphia) has been a lifelong goal and a long journey. I started my career in college, which I believe young people should take note of. A successful career does not start after college. You must build while you are in school through real hands-on experience, jobs, and internships. Read more>>

Francesca Ellana

First, thank you so much for taking the time to feature PopFuzion TV. PopFuzion TV is a media outlet that fuses pop culture and celebrity charities. Initially, it started out as a blog where we would report on celebrities who were using their platform to spread social good, and then it turned into a 30-minute talk show. The topics you can find on our social media pages and blog are mostly “good news reporting” fused with trending pop culture events. We wanted to change the media industry and promote less gossip-more positivity. We are so excited that our talk show is airing in Los Angeles on AT&T U-verse ch.99 and Spectrum ch.32 every Monday at 8:30 am and 8:30 pm. Read more>>

Linda Pianigiani

Dogs and photography have always been some of my greatest passions. I grew up in Italy, with two beautiful specimens of Siberian Husky and since moving to Los Angeles, I’ve been lucky to spend time with some incredible dogs (thanks to their owners), one in particular, beloved Luna, who served as my main inspiration for years. Dogs have always been in my life, whether in my family or through friends. I even considered a career in dog training and obtained a training certification that is often coming in handy! Read more>>

Jordi Ruiz Masó

When I was a kid, I read fairy tales under my blanket, at night, with one unique light that created an atmosphere that captivated and allowed me to feel and imagine the story. That’s when I began to notice that light affects the story. Because of this, what I find most fascinating about people are the stories and emotions that come along with them. Initially, I wanted to be a photographer. I spent many days in a darkroom. After I completed my Degree in Photography, I realized I wanted to focus on cinematography. Read more>>

Laura Van Yck

I was born and raised in Belgium and discovered my love for art at a very young age. I started art academy when I was seven, as I was always drawing and painting. I became interested in writing as well and even wrote a movie when I was 12 years old. It was a supernatural action film about spies, a lot of fun! I was just always making up fantasy stories and acting them out as a way to express myself. The desire to act in my own movie was my trigger to go to acting school. I enrolled in a local drama school, and that is where my entire acting journey started. Read more>>

Nilangana Banerjee

I did not begin my journey with the thought of becoming a photographer, in the first instance. Coming from a society, which considers photography no more than a hobby and pursuing art just an avocation, I always thought I would pursue one of my parents’ professions when I grow up. My mother is a teacher and father is an engineer. They belong to professions that are not even remotely related to art or photography. Although I thought I would have to choose either one of the two or probably something around it, I never felt the passion to pursue either of their professions. Read more>>

Matt Orlove

When I graduated from school (University of Miami), in the spring of 2001, I had zero aspirations to what I wanted to accomplish in my life. I moved to Los Angeles, hoping to work in motion pictures, my first love. After struggling to find work in that lane, I was introduced to the General Manager at KTLA, where I landed my first corporate job, as an assistant to three of their top producing Television Ad Sales Account Executives. I would be the first one in, last one out, often times even coming in to work alone on the weekends. Read more>>

Nic Novicki

Nic Novicki is an actor, comedian, and producer who has performed on six continents and is the 2017 recipient of the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists’ Harold Russell Award for his ongoing contributions to the overall awareness of the disability experience through the media. His television credits include: Boardwalk Empire, The Sopranos, Loudermilk, Jack and Triumph, Alone Together, The Neighbors, Austin and Ally, Private Practice and Drop Dead Diva. Read more>>

Kelly O’Malley

I started A Light in Dark Places because I wanted to find a way to use theater to break down the barriers that surround suicide. I lost my dad in 2011 and had experienced a lot of uncomfortable reactions when revealing that information to people, and I wanted to change that. I wanted to create a space where people would talk openly, learn about resources, and be reminded that no one is alone. There is hope. I thought the communal aspect of theater made it a great place to start. Read more>>

Ammy Ontiveros

I went to CSULB to pursue a degree in Theater Arts with an acting emphasis. There, we had a student ran theater company which I soon got involved in and took a leadership role as Artistic Director in my last year, There we would produce a new play a week during the school year which meant working with new artists around the clock. This ignited my producing and theater management passion and went to take an internship at Center Theater Group during my last semester. I was given a taste of LA theatre and wanted to be in the scene. Read more>>

Amy McAndrew

I grew up performing in community theatre, and as a child, I always felt that my future would involve performing on stage. I majored in musical theatre in college and moved to New York shortly after graduating. I loved New York, and I loved the life I lived there. It wasn’t always easy, and I spent many years waiting tables, babysitting, and about a hundred other jobs while supporting my career. But I had success too. I performed in many regional theaters, traveled around the country with tours and performed Off-Broadway. Read more>>

Kelly Lohman

Ripley Improv formed in 2016 when initiating member Madi Goff felt inspired to create an ensemble with whom she could collaborate long-term. She brought women together who were, at the time, studying narrative long-form improv with Impro Theatre Company and performing in their studio theatre. Each member has several, some dozens, of years of experience improvising. In addition to Impro Theatre, we’ve trained at the Groundings, UCB, iO West, Seattle Theatresports, and Second City in Chicago. Read more>>

Noah James

The story begins where my memories do. My fondest memories of my grandfather always include him with a camera in his hand, or him putting new prints on the wall. As I grew older, heavy anxieties started to consume me, and I began to find solace in this craft. The mere idea of being able to create peaked my interest at an early age, but I never found myself satisfied after painting or drawing. So here I was, for a big part of my life, and arguably the hardest part, either repressing my emotions or hiding my pain, anxiety, and frustrations in old, bad habits and vices. Read more>>

Sherif Higazy

I was born in Sydney, Australia to Egyptian diplomats. I moved to the UK, Jordan, Egypt (where my family is from) and India where I graduated high school. When I was 16, I signed up for a ceramics class, and my father, an endearingly impulsive guy, called the school to get me into a “better elective.” Since Drawing & Painting was full, he signed me up for Digital Filmmaking which was the second most consequential decision he’s made on my behalf after birth. (Decision? Mistake? Who knows. Let the biographers decide!) Read more>>

Sophie Hard

I spent the majority of my life thinking I had to go to medical school to make a difference in other people’s lives. Painting and drawing have always been a part of my life, but always on the back burner. I never thought it was possible to make a living doing art. I went to UCDavis and studied Biopsychology with plans to go to either medical school to be a plastic surgeon, or grad school to become a therapist. I moved to LA after I graduated, so that I could recover and blossom from a breakup and to take improv comedy classes, which I had fallen in love with during an acting class in college. Read more>>

Josh Ravetch

I had been writing and directing plays in my childhood bedroom that I shared with my younger brother from the time I was five (or so my parents tell me). My brother once said that I used to get in trouble for making up stories as a kid, and now I get paid for it… My first real play at a substantial theatre was ‘Girders’ which ran for close to a year at The Coast Playhouse here in Los Angeles. We kept meaning to close, but word-of-mouth kept us extending week by week until we had almost a year under our belt. I produced the play with my credit card and the unrelenting work of a friend, Evan Greene, and by the end of that year, the play got me noticed. Read more>>

Rusty Wadatz

My passion for interior design has been with me since birth. I used to rearrange the homes of the kids I babysat while their parents were away and my mom would have to tell me, “You can’t do that!” Despite her protests, I often got praised from the homeowners for my work. I would consider myself self-made and self-taught. I sprang to the top of the design community soon after I made the bold leap from corporate America to interior design. Read more>>

Angelica Natalie

When I was a little girl, I consistently had people asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I could never give them the answer they were looking for, so I would say “I don’t know yet.” What I really meant and wanted to say was that I could be anything I wanted to be. I learned that later in my life, and hold true to this day. During my life, my sense of adventure and curiosity has taken me on many journeys, experiences, and places. Looking back on all these worthwhile moments in time, one of the most consistent things I carried around with me, was a camera. Read more>>

Erick Del Aguila

Born in Peru, I started playing guitar in bands in my teens and moved to the US to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston on a scholarship. After graduating, I tried NY for a few months until I got offered an assistantship to composer Daniel Licht (“Dexter”) in LA. I moved to LA, did the assistantship for one year, and then got accepted to the prestigious USC SMPTV Film Scoring program. Since then, I worked on various award-winning studio/indie films and TV-shows in networks like Disney, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, Lifetime. See IMDB: www.imdb.com/name/nm5614184Read more>>

Shaina Lynn Simmons

Shaina is a New Orleans-born, LA-based actress. She is also a writer, poet, Afro-Futurist, and multimedia artist that demands the healing of the Black woman’s experience in America. As the creator and a writer for pursuitofnappiness.org and contributor for HuffPost, Shaina cultivates spaces for analytical writing, love, and acceptance. Internationally, she has presented work at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the Ludwig Foundation, and Fabrica de Arte. She is an RYT 200 yoga instructor offering a private lesson. Currently, Shaina is studying at the Drama Therapy Institute of Los Angeles to become a Registered Drama Therapist. Read more>>

Mike Habs

I grew up on the south side of Chicago, and always loved art, but it was never really an option or practical passion to pursue. Regardless, certain members of my family noticed early on and kept encouraging me to always keep it a part of my life. My grandfather James O’Malley was from Ireland, and for as long as I can would save the Sunday comics for me. No matter how many weeks passed as I grew up, he would always save all of them, knowing I would dive into them for hours. Then he noticed which strips I really liked and would make sure I got their books, so I didn’t miss any of the comics. Read more>>

Tiffany Broadway

I started BOLD Swim to offer a better experience when shopping for swimwear. Many luxury brands cater to one body type. Choosing swimwear is personal, but it shouldn’t be complex. BOLD Swim is about inclusive luxury for all no matter body type and or swim style.  Going into business for yourself isn’t always smooth. It’s about constantly overcoming. I left everything I knew including a career in corporate leadership and my newly purchased home in TX and packed up everything to start my life in LA. I regret nothing. Read more>>

Hannah Rose Sesser

When I first moved to Los Angeles from Denver almost three years ago, I didn’t really know why I was moving, or for what, all I knew was I wanted change in my life. I’ve always been into the arts doing musicals, plays, dancing, etc… But when I moved I didn’t know anyone and wanted to meet like-minded people while creating art. So I decided to take my hobby of photography and become serious about it. I started to meet so many great people and created fun art. Read more>>

Vanessa Vazart

I got to Interior Design by way of fashion. I worked in the fashion business for years and experienced many different facets of it. I always loved decorating my home and taking my inspiration from fashion, film, music, art, and travel. The year my daughter Lilli was born, I decided it was time to take the leap. I begged my best friend T’ien to take that leap with me. She was also working in the fashion business and was aching to delve into something more creative. She had grown up with an interior architect mom and knew more about the technicalities of the interiors world than I. Read more>>

Ashley McDonal

About five years ago, I started helping my sister with her YouTube channel. For a couple of years, I just helped with filming and assisting her with her videos. Eventually, I decided to start my own channel! I fell in love with the platform, especially how it was a creative outlet, and it forced me to try new things each week. I feel like I have come a long way since I first started posting content. When I first started my channel, I was definitely just posting what others were posting, but now I feel like I have found my niche and am more intentional and creative with the content that I post. Read more>>

Cheray O’Neal

I’m an actor, writer-producer with a strong belief in matching purpose with passion. I also know first-hand the impact cancer has on the family dynamic as my mother, Patti O’Neal Robertson, lost her battle to breast cancer. My mother believed in the power of giving back and the lasting footprint your art has in this world. I do too. This partnership with the play ‘Journey This’ American Cancer Society and Lyrical Hair is a match made in heaven. Our philanthropic partnership begins Oct 11th, 2018 – Nov 11th, 2018 for Breast Cancer Awareness Month here in Los Angeles at The Lounge Theatres 6201 Santa Monica Blvd Los Angeles Ca 90038. Read more>>

Robert Watkins

Robert Palmer Watkins caught the acting bug early on, beating out hundreds of other teens for the coveted role of Danny in Barksdale Theater’s production of GREASE. After two years studying musical theater at Christopher Newport University, he left everything behind to move west where he would graduate from the prestigious American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Hollywood. Robert’s professional journey began when he booked his first guest stars on Spike’s 1000 WAYS TO DIE and Lifetime’s MY CRAZY EX. Soon after, he was elevated to leading man status in his first feature, SAFARI. Read more>>

Miguel Izaguirre

Miguel Izaguirre, like many before him, immigrated to America in search of a better life. This journey began in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where he was born, and landed his family in Miami, FL; a city that, to Miguel’s young mind, embodied the very essence of opportunity. As he grew up, the city he now called home inspired a new perspective – one that dug deep beneath the shiny veneer of South Beach to the heart of urban grit, natural beauty, and a melting pot of community influence. The very streets of Miami seemed to breathe artistic expression. Read more>>

Aaron J. Lucas

I was born in Cincinnati, OH and was immediately drawn to the camera that my family purchased to record our memories. I was drawn to movies and could remember lines from movies verbatim at a very young age. I knew I was meant to be in the entertainment industry. In third grade, I hated reading and writing and thought them to be pointless (Ironic no?) In 4th grade I discover they wrote original plays. It was my first experience with original content little did I know then it would be something that I would be doing. Read more>>

Rainelle Saunders

A true renaissance woman, Rainelle Saunders has spread her wings far from her childhood home in Bridgeport, Connecticut. By age six, she had already been recognized as a creative writer and placed in a class of gifted children. She wrote plays, stories, poetry, and songs. She won a Best Actress award in her senior year and went on to study drama at NYU. Rainelle began her professional career in New York City. Eventually, destiny brought her to Hollywood, where she became a writer/actor on the hit BET show, LA Friday. Read more>>

Laurence Fuller

I first fell in love with film when I was a little boy, I imagined myself within these great adventures unfolding, and the household I grew up in, was full of art and creation, my mother is an artist, and my father was an art critic championing British Romanticism, that sense of the hopeless Romantic has never left me. When I was three my father died in a car accident, I was in the passenger seat, and my mother in the back also surged. Read more>>

Christina Dunbar

I’ve always been a storyteller, but there were a lot of years where I just wasn’t doing anything with it. I came to Hollywood as a teen to pursue acting, got into stripping to make ends meet, and stayed stuck in that world–making money but not following my soul. At the time, I had so much inner conflict about who I was as a woman. I felt shameful and dirty but also empowered by dancing. I ended up writing a solo show about that journey called Dirty Me Divine, and things snowballed from there. Read more>>

Stephania Sanquiz

I grew up in the dance floor. My mom was a jazz dancer, so when she got married, she went back to my hometown, Coro- Venezuela and built her own pharmacy, working in her second career didn’t take her passion away, so she started teaching jazz and fitness classes in her gym, I still remember they were rehearsing choreographies, and I used to sleep on the dance floor, while they were jumping my body was bouncing too, lol. I also practiced gymnastics for seven years, it was like a meditation for me, I was so little, and I loved to do those risky jumps. Read more>>

Jackie Shea

This is such a loaded question for me! I really believe that the sum of my life experiences has led me to this career path—from heavy childhood trauma to addiction, to battling Lyme disease. I’ve always been highly empathic, wanting people to feel loved and included—this sensitivity certainly DID NOT gain me any popularity as a young girl! I found performing when I started middle school and took my first drama class. I took to performing immediately. I decided I wanted to audition for LaGuardia High School (The FAME school)—I got in and… well, that’s a whole story in itself. Read more>>

Byron Quiros

While I was shy and insecure as I child, I’ve been dancing for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a violent neighborhood in a broken home with divorced parents. At the age of eleven, I took on the father-figure role given I was the oldest. That role came way too early for me. But I took it on with a fierce focus despite having no real-life experience as a “man.” When I was 19, I won the title of Mr. Costa Rica. This immediately immersed me deeper into my Latin community making me realize how important it was and is to become a role model for younger kids, especially those with backgrounds similar to mine. Read more>>

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