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Downtown’s Hidden Gems

Every day we have a choice. We can support an up and coming podcaster, try a new family-run restaurant, join a boutique gym started by a local fitness champ or we could keep giving away our money to the handful of giants who already control so much of our commerce. Our daily decisions impact the kind world we live in; if we want a world where small businesses are growing and artists and creatives are thriving then we should support them with our time, money and attention. We’re proud to highlight inspiring creatives and entrepreneurs each week in Hidden Gems series.  Check out some of downtown’s gems below.

Arialle Kennedy Smith

I have always been sort of a renaissance personality finding myself at multiple intersections throughout my lifetime. I began my ballet training in my hometown and later moved to New York City and trained as a fellowship (scholarship) student at The Ailey School. For three years, I immersed myself into this hub and was enriched by the diverse dance curriculum. At the completion of my studies, I took the advantage to perform both internationally—traveling through east and west Europe, Canada, and the Caribbean with Emmy Award-winning RWS & Associates/ Holland America and locally in the feature film Bolden. Additionally, I performed with several companies before suffering a level 3 sprain and hip injury. Read more>>

Markee Murphy

I’ve always been a creative and artistic person, just naturally. Even with that being the case, I somehow convinced myself I could not use my gifts as a career. I’m grateful that I did however rediscover my passion for creativity in college. My freshman year, I studied Pre-Med and quickly discovered it was not for me!! I almost flunked out and took a semester break from school during this time, I took my first job in 2012 as an Assistant in my churches marketing department. I knew by the end of my first day that I found my passion!! Read more>>

Kwame Garrett-Price

The scenic route is my best friend. Most people don’t experience an instant rise through the ranks of their profession. Some of us are better served by taking the stairs. You appreciate the view more, and you’ll stay at the top longer. I have a rare genetic condition called Von-Hippel Lindau, which manifests itself with tumors throughout your body. I was also diagnosed with Renal Cell Carcinoma (kidney cancer). Both diagnoses came in 2019. I had two major surgeries within eight months of each other, revolving around those conditions — I had to be still for a bit. Some days I don’t have the energy. Other days, I catch fire and get ALL the things done. I guess you can call it load management, ha! I know when to take a break. Sometimes for a full 24-36 hours. Read more>>

Javan Martin

I started first doing music, I was producing, DJing & Rapping at first because it was something we just did for fun, I still do music from time to time I always wanted to be different and fresh and at the time people were just going to google and stealing stuff for artwork. Me & a couple of other friends had this mindset of “let’s just see what we can make on our own” that’s when I picked up the camera first it was on the iPhone then I graduated to a camera like six months later, I was borrowing the camera. It was an old Canon, then I brought my own camera like a starter camera which was a (Sony A6000) and I kinda fell in love with it because I was editing on my phone. I just fell in love because I realized I can create whatever I want I can manipulate a photo and perspective and it’s mine, IT’S ME. Read more>>

Myaar Moneir

I’ve always had a natural love for music, singing and playing instruments, so my intent was always to be a musician. I started to be really inspired when I was fourteen, right before high school. My sister was visiting from college and brought home this DVD of Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Concert Tour that she borrowed from her roommate. I always loved Michael, but watching the goat in action at that time was perfect because it reflected back to me why music was my desire in the first place. Fourteen was also when I started taking myself seriously as an artist, singing everywhere I could, entering talent shows, posting covers to youtube, recording demos — the whole bit. Read more>>

Hanna Radjawane

As a queer Indonesian person, I found it incredibly challenging to find projects that I identify with. So, I decided to write stories that are true to me. In doing so, I discovered audiences from different backgrounds connecting to the unifying themes deeply layered within our intrinsic human emotions. The desire to love and feel loved by someone, to feel accepted while holding onto one’s individuality, the good and the ugliness inside ourselves. I want to present these stories through my lens. Read more>>

Ian Claproth

In 2018, I journaled the idea of introducing an Indonesian Food-concept to LA. I realized that not many people are familiar with Indonesia’n Saté so I knew right away this would be a great idea. My Oma taught me her Saté recipe, and I began practicing and after sometime, I created my own version of her recipe. I worked our first festival in September 2019 and sold out. I then partnered with my cousin, Stephanie, and since then, we have worked street pop-ups, events and had a kitchen space in DTLA. Read more>>

Zac Carson

It may sound cliche and corny, but truth is my journey in storytelling started unofficially when I was in my childhood and I was unable to read and comprehend well. All I would do is watch movies and study them. From the directing of the movie to the actors’ performances, to the lighting and editing. While other kids were outside or playing video games, I was watching Alan Ball’s American Beauty. Officially, I started writing scripts in 2013-14 after I decided that I would not go to med school or any other post-grad program. I worked in education during the day, and at nights and school vacations, with the help of Sydnis Field’s “how-to’s” and reading over 100 scripts, I taught myself how to write, pitch and sell a script. Read more>>

Ujo Wadjet

My journey into intuitive wellness coaching began during my transition from the military. It was during that time I had to make a decision on whether I was going to stay in the military or if I was going to pursue my spiritual endeavors. I started my journey as a health and fitness coach, but I quickly realized my clients weren’t just having a hard time eating healthy or working out. Many of them struggled mentally; our minds play the biggest role in how we approach health and fitness. My own spiritual journey leads me to bridging fitness, health and spirituality together. My path began as a tarot reader and has expanded into offering spiritual mentorships, intuitive development training, energy healing and more. Read more>>

Sandra Dennis

My metalsmith artisan journey began with a childhood fascination for transferring interesting textures from the surfaces of old coins and other objects onto the bright, shiny surfaces of gold, silver, and other colored foil papers. Using my repoussé-textured paper, I would then create my own beautiful, unique rings and bangles. As an adult, my passion for jewelry making was rekindled when I helped my then young daughters with their beading projects. Read more>>

Adrian Vasquez

I remember looking out of my cell window, mesmerized, seeing snowflakes fall for the first time in my life. I was captivated by their shapes and sizes. As a snowflake began to drift slowly towards me and struck my window, I realized, for the first time, what it meant that I was a 21-year-old sentenced to life in prison. Staring out of the cell window at High Desert State Prison, tears began to run down my face. Read more>>

Tanisha Pope

We all know the cost of living in L.A. is mad expensive and when you’re not from here, you sometimes get yourself into some crazy roommate situations trying to save money. Even with two jobs, I was barely making it. I personally had nothing to start it with. Until one day, randomly in conversation, I told my homegirl Dominique from back home (Ohio) my idea. She heard me out, then was like “ yo, I think your idea is dope. I don’t have a lot of money but here go $50, maybe you can get some samples or something?” And that’s where it started. I bought five hats in Downtown LA Fashion District and got my logo embroidered on them. Read more>>

Porsha Key

Porsha grew up in Ann Arbor; a small college town Michigan. Always having a love for fashion, she recalls flipping through Vogue and ELLE magazines while her mother shopped at the grocery store. But, she has always maintained a love for math, science and technology too. Later relocating to Nashville, Tennessee Porsha attended Tennessee State University where she studied Architectural Engineering and Civil Engineering. Thrust into HBCU culture at TSU, Porsha noticed how well dressed her campus was; in comparison to the sweats and pajamas worn on the campus at home at Michigan. Read more>>

Aki Cao

The story begins with a girl growing up in Shenzhen, China. Having been playing the piano since four, I took part in the Shenzhen Senior High School Symphony Orchestra for five years as a pianist at 13. Around the same time, my fanatical love for film music was seeded when I watched the great Jack Sparrow voyages on the Caribbean Sea with the uplifting tune. That pitch-perfect tune beat my heart and energized me as if I were sailing with him. Since then, I always hopped into the theatre as soon as the new movies were released and listened to the original soundtrack repeatedly afterwards. Read more>>

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