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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.

BRITTNEY MENDOZA

I’ve been very fortunate to grow up in a diverse family where I fell in love with both of my cultures. I come from a strong nitch family where my mother and father always instilled strength and perseverance. My mother and father grew up in the streets of South Central Los Angeles CA. In South Central you see adversity and I was always determined to be more than what I saw. Read more>>

CHLOE MAKHANI AND SOPHIA PARSA

Mountain Gate started by accident when Sophia Parsa invited 20 strangers to a dinner in her parents’ backyard and 60 showed up. She handled the surge of guests so well and people were so thrilled with the dinner that most were contacting Sophia wanting to connect with the people they had met. This is when Sophia created a facebook group for all of the attendees and realized how special this thing could become. Read more>>

ALEJANDRO MONTOYA

I was born in Bogotá, Colombia, in between mountains and cityscapes. Looking back, my entire life is painted now as a journey of loss and love. Perhaps, that’s where my love for storytelling and music began: as a way to understand that where I come from and what has been part of that journey along the way, has been necessary and has led me here. Read more>

ELISA FOWLER

We were always on the go, but for some reason all forms of entertainment were always introduced to me; whether it was live music, plays, Disney movies, television series, etc. It was always in my face and ever since I was a little girl I always knew I wanted to be in the entertainment industry. These forms of art became my safe place. I was able to find myself through the many films and television shows I watched.  Read more>>

SAMUEL DUMAS

My life started for real when I was able to acknowledge my truth and step into it. For me, this process started when I moved to Chicago for my freshman year of college. Thinking about it now, I always knew that Chicago was going to be a temporary stop – it was a point in time where I could remove myself from the insecurity I felt while I was growing up in Massachusetts and start a new path. After a year in Chicago, I transferred to a school in New York City. Read more>>

ELLADA DAVTYAN

Everyday I remind myself how far I’ve come, to remain grateful, and strive to constantly grow. I am always interested in connecting with other creatives! Feel free to reach out if you want to collaborate, get feedback, ask questions, or simply want to share stories. Read more>>

FERAZ OZEL

At 21, I walked away from acceptance into law school and the CIA for stand-up comedy, and never looked back. But, I carried with me my deep interest in socio-political ideas, and desire to make some difference in the world. Sound naive? It probably was, and is. But, I’m still at it. I’ve been obsessed with stand-up since I was eight. Guys like Carlin, Chappelle and Greg Giraldo grabbed my attention like nothing else. Read more>>

MARCELINA CHAVIRA

I was a twin. I ate my twin. And then there was one: Marcelina. Louisa. Chavira. (I have such a good name!) My first name was my Abuela’s. My second name was my great grandfather’s with an “a” at the end to make more lady-like. And my last name is my father’s. Like it usually is. Wait. This is supposed to be how long? Ok. Sooooo, I was conceived over the Easter Holiday weekend in Eagle Pass, TX during a ham fueled moment of passion. Read more>>

LELAND MONTGOMERY

I originally moved to Los Angeles to be an actor. I’d gone to drama school in San Diego and when I graduated, LA felt like the natural next step. My mom, however, begged me not go go. She’d grown up in Palos Verdes and had hated it. She fled Southern California as soon as she finished college. When I first got to LA I’d just recovered from pretty horrific jaw surgery and spent the first year of my post-college life with my teeth wired shut. Which meant… no acting, no auditions, and no real job. Read more>>

ROB WOODCOX

When I was six months old, I was adopted within extended family and moved from Houston to Detroit. I grew up with a big imagination and was always creating alternate realities through drawings and paintings; I think being “saved” in a way from a potentially more abusive childhood always gave a me a big appreciation for life and the idea that you could change your reality using your ideas and actions. Read more>>

KYM KRAL

I was always a funny person. Always a performer. I knew I wanted to have my name in lights and dreamed of that ever since I was a little girl. I grew up forcing my cousins to perform in plays during the holidays. Mostly, movies I had rewritten so that between two and four kids could act in them. Two of my favorites that we did were the musical Grease and the western Tombstone. All these years later, I’m still particularly proud of ten years old me for pulling them off. Read more>>

CAMERON LEE

I was born in Taiwan and moved to LA when I was a kid. I had my mindset on being an actor when I was younger and I was lucky enough to have booked a commercial that got me into SAG right out of high school. I got into Pepperdine University as a theatre arts major, but thanks to my Asian parents, I changed my major to Advertising Communications and minored in Asian Studies and Marketing. Read more>>

AMANDA RAFKIN

I started playing the piano when I was six years old and truthfully played nothing except classical music until I was in my 20’s, even for fun! Everything was about training for the next concert, competition, or jury. But as it turned out, the classical world was not for me. At the time, I felt there was too much emphasis on creating what I referred to as “human player pianos” rather than cultivating artistry and passion. Read more>>

RALPH LUCCHESE

I knew I always wanted to be in the film industry. I remember watching Martin Scorsese’s “Casino” when I was six years old and being amazed by it (I used to sneak it. It’s not like my parents didn’t care what I watched, they just had no idea) so I guess I was introduced to film at an extremely young age. Growing up, I was the kind of kid that would watch a movie frame by frame with the subtitles on to write the script for the movie. Read more>>

KELLY WALLACE-BARNHILL AND LINDSEY GENTILE

Kelly and Lindsey met in 2008 in an Upright Citizens Brigade improv class and fell in love. When we met, the lightbulb inside of our tiny brains turned on and we thought, “Are we really doing what we moved here to do? And more importantly, are we happy doing what we’re doing?” The answer was no. And the solution was to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps to pursue what we love and to DO IT OURSELVES. Read more>>

ALLYN

I first fell in love with music at three years old. I started playing the violin. When I turned five, I started learning the piano. As a classically trained musician, I grew up playing in many different adult orchestras and symphonies. In every setting, I was always the youngest person. The youngest female, and one of the only people of color. I later became interested in jazz music. I studied jazz and classical music every day. Read more>>

JULIA ROTH AND SOPHIE TABET

We met in a silent rave their freshman year of NYU. Six weeks later, Julia was staying at Sophie’s parents’ house in London, writing our first short together. Since then, our friendship and writing partnership has spanned cities, countries, and continents. While Sophie was a CE in New York and Julia was in development in Los Angeles, an online article sparked an idea for a TV show, and we quit our jobs and started writing.  Read more>>

STANLEY POPOVICH

Stan Popovich is a Penn State graduate and the nationally known anxiety author of “A Layman’s Guide to Managing Fear”— an easy-to-read overcoming anxiety book that’s helped thousands of people to confidently manage their persistent fears and anxieties. Stan is an award-winning and respected contributor on the topics of managing fear and the consequences. Read more>>

SASSY MOHEN

As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a film director. I was very fortunate in the fact that my parents had been part of showbusiness their entire lives and did everything they could to expose me to broadway, film, and great music. I remember two specific moments growing up that cemented the deal for me, one was when I was in 4th grade: my dad took me to an indoor soccer game. Read more>>

JUAN CORTÉS

My passion for music first started when I was in high school. My friends and I used to meet after school to play our favorite songs, I usually played the guitar. This first experience made me realize how music led me to connect with other people in a very intimate way. My love for guitar playing led me to discover famous bands like The Mars Volta and Dream Theater, both of which were formed at the Berklee College of Music. Read more>>

MARA KLEIN

I started as an actress (still am!) and as far back as I can remember that was the dream. And a dream I pursued with a single-minded ferocious stubbornness. From the age of 3, I was putting on plays for my parents and any of their friends who stayed long enough to watch. Did community theater all through childhood in the Maryland/DC area where I grew up. Read more>>

BIJAN MACHEN

The purpose of life is to have fun! I started living my dreams once I decided to ignore the doubt and negativity of fearful people and go after what I really wanted. I grew up in a small town Akron, OH where there are not many examples of successful musicians or artists. I went from playing college football at Georgia Tech and working for Microsoft Corporation to becoming a full-time artist, making a great living teaching, painting, and creating music. Read more>>

MICHAEL JOSEPH PIERCE

I am a member of Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) and The Television Academy. I was classically trained and studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles. I have actually lived my entire life in Southern California and am a 2nd generation San Diegan. My roles in front of the camera started in my teens with small appearances in films, commercials and Television. Read more>>

JOHN ALLEN AND BELLA LE NESTOUR

John Allen and Bella LeNestour are co-founders of The BirdHouse, a non-profit organization in Beachwood Canyon dedicated to serving as a hub of exchange for those attracted to caring for the land and people, through arts and ecology. Helping to foster the vision of The BirdHouse alongside John and Bella are Jessica Perez, Director of Educational Development, Cameron Miller. Read more>>

BEN CRICK

Like every 8-year-old, I started life wanting to be a secret agent. Every fiber of my being was dedicated to becoming the next James Bond: I was asking Santa for spy gadgets, making up secret missions that I had to go on, pretending every car ride was an epic chase sequence with a dramatic soundtrack – you get the picture. Read more>>

DOUGLAS NEWBY

I have always loved magic ever since I was little. I saw my first magic show when I was about eight years old. I saw Doug Henning in Las Vegas and I really appreciated seeing him, because he had the same first name as me! Shortly after that my parents gave me my first magic set for my birthday. It wasn’t until almost 30 years later when I went through an enormous change in my life that magic become very important to me. Read more>>

DANIELLA CASTORIA

I was born in New York City and raised as a Jersey girl in a small town just 5 minutes away from an 18 mile beach called Long Beach Island, New Jersey. I grew up as a competition dancer starting at the age of five, while also participating in local musicals in my community, as well as trying just about every sport, but my professional journey begins at the age of 16. Read more>>

ZACHARY CLARKSON

Once upon a time in far off land called New Jersey, there lived a six years old Zach who could be found glued to the television at all times drawing Sailor Moon fan art. From a young age, I consumed a substantial amount of animated media which pole vaulted my artistic journey. Drawing my favorite characters from all different kinds of shows propelled me to be a lean mean drawing machine, cranking out drawing after drawing. Read more>>

MICHAEL ST. MICHAEL

I have been noted as a key wardrobe stylist in international editions of major fashion publications such as Vogue, Elle, GQ and more. Even though I was viewed by some to be a tastemaker, I felt more like a hierodule to fashion trends or the assumed ‘postmates of clothing’ for the big wig editors; to whom my opinion didn’t really matter. I needed something to channel my soul urge for artistic expression. I needed to create my own style with sovereignty. Read more>>

VANESSA LUA

I was born in a small city in Mexico called Zamora. Then I moved to Guadalajara to study college and graduated as an Industrial Engineer. Life brought me to Dallas, TX where I worked on the electronic industry but I was very unhappy because I didn’t have friends. My co-workers were so nice but they were much older than me. On my quest to find friends I volunteered at AFI Dallas (Now known as Dallas International Film Festival). Read more>>

FRANK MOJICA

A decade ago, I traveled to England to attend the Glastonbury Festival. Armed with only a notebook and a digital camera, I documented everything I saw and experienced, then wrote a story from the perspective of a music-obsessed, festival-loving Coachella veteran making this pilgrimage into this place of legend. Taking the feedback from that story to heart, I started writing for music sites, covering concerts, reviewing albums, and interviewing artists. Read more>>

JON MANGANELLO

I started baking and decorating cakes last summer. I’d been an avid fan of baking competition shows and when I watched I’d find myself thinking “I could do that!” I was also on the paleo diet and jonesing for baked goods. I told myself that at the end of my 30 day diet I’d bake myself the greatest cake ever. It was something I had never done before, but I was happy with the first ever cake I made. Read more>>

KRISTEL ARABIAN

I was born in Beirut, Lebanon to an Armenian family rich in culinary traditions. Food and big meals were a central focus of our family gatherings and culture. As a child, I was always interested in determining the “whys and hows” of all things. This stretched from the sciences to the daily occurrences in my mother’s busy home kitchen. Instead of cartoons, I would watch hours of Julia Child. Read more>>

LEE BENTON

Actress/Producer/Evangelist Lee Benton was born & raised in Tampa, Florida and grew up with loving parents and one older sister. Lee and her sister sang gospel songs in various churches & events performing as a duet, known as the “Benton Sisters”. When she was a teenager she started attending modeling school on Tuesday nights “just for the heck of it”. Read more>>

JINNY CHUNG

I was that kid with the really chapped upper lip and wet hoodie strings. I don’t remember sitting at my own desk much, as I spent most of my elementary days sitting at the teacher’s desk for talking too much. ’Course, I would then just try to yuk up the teacher, to varying degrees of success. Mr. Spinelli had to endure me acting out A1 Sauce commercials and TV spots for ‘The Birdcage’. Mr. Spinelli had to teach me the word Ritalin. Read more>>

JIMMY “JIMBO” RECINOS

I started my blog, JIMBO TIMES: The L.A. Storyteller in 2014. From the start, JIMBO TIMES emphasized a perspective in Los Angeles that Nipsey Hussle’s movement recently brought back into the limelight: the upliftment of L.A.’s neighborhoods as essentially sacred places to be a part of. I wanted to capture Los Angeles as I saw it on the streets. Read more>>

MIKE DOLPHY

I moved from Florida to Hollywood and literally started from the bottom as an extra/background performer bouncing from set to set earning minimum wage while learning the industry for an entire year. My best friend (and roommate at the time) Muja Muhammad introduced me to actor Edwin J. Bennett who booked a voice-over job in Singapore. Shortly after, Muja booked the same job, & then I booked that exact job. Read more>>

MONIQUE MARIE GELINEAU

I am an LA native, born and raised in Hollywood and now residing in the valley. I attended Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, then earned by B.F.A. degree in Acting from one of the nationally highest-ranked theatre programs during that time, California State University, Fullerton. Read more>>

KOLBY DANIELS

I started my online startup in the 7th grade at the age of 12. After wanting something of my own, and I’ve always wanted cool shirts to match my Jordan’s. I thought why not start a T-shirt line where I make my own Designs with matching colors, and etc. I’d spend day in and day out teaching myself the game of business and all the background stuff you’d never realize from: Manufactures in other countries, bulk orders, and the LEGAL Stuff. Read more>>

JEFFREY OZAWA

I grew up in a small Quaker town in New Jersey. My dad is Japanese and my mother is from Philadelphia. Food was always a special thing for us because it was able to make sense of the weird combo we were as a family. I never really thought about any of this as unusual until I left home for college, and I realized the stuff I grew up with was impossible to find anywhere. Read more>>

JoAnn Schinderle

I guess I could pin-point that I started stand-up comedy because of Oprah. Honestly. I was in my 20’s and wanted to write a book about an emotionally abusive relationship I had just gone through that left me bankrupt and severed ties with my family (Shout-Out big banks for not grasping identity- theft scenarios in the early 2000’s). Read more>>

Holly Laurent and Greg Hess

My husband Greg and I met doing comedy in Chicago. We both come from an improv background — he plays with the Improvised Shakespeare Company at Largo here in LA, and I come from the Second City in Chicago. We moved to LA five years ago, and most recently have been touring with the public radio variety show Live From Here with Chris Thile. Read more>>

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