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East LA’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 East LA’s gems below.

Daniel Mayúgba

Looking back and trying to coherently stitch the pieces of my story together has always been a bizarre experience for me. If I were to have spoken to myself just a few years ago, working as a Film Director would probably be one of the last places I would have expected to end up. In many ways, I’d say my story is that of a very typical West Coast kid. I grew up in the quiet San Dimas suburbs around half an hour drive from downtown Los Angeles. I played soccer (thought I’d go pro), sung in a band (thought I’d go pro) copied my friends’ homework (never thought I’d go pro), and eventually managed my way into college to study business. Read more>>

Whest Cornell

Started with a shity camcorder in 2003 filming my homies on the block while they skated. Learned how to edit on a compaq computer and then it started. High school, I was the ultimate hip hop head and that’s all I ever thought about and dreamed about. Started making music in high school with my best-friend Mike (aka Mikeo) and that love carried me to do so much. Met Joe Kay of Soulection in college, we both bonded over our love of J. Dilla and he noticed I had a camera on me so I started filming him and the radio show, which turned into me capturing content for Soulection over the next seven years. Read more>>

Manuel “Manny” Macias

I have always been an artist, I just maybe didn’t have the language, tools, and the access until I got to college. Growing up, my body was always something I was aware of and kind of ashamed of– and dancing male bodies were something that we’re always supposed to be ‘rigid’ in my family. I kind of internalized this avoidance of moving. I was a musician in high school and gravitated toward jazz music (as a saxophone player) and percussion. I didn’t realize it at the time but playing these instruments kind of fulfilled this movement and embodiment that I think was missing in my life. When I got to college at Cal Poly Pomona, I began taking dance classes and the rest is history. I was fortunate enough to be nurtured and mentored by Professor Gayle Fekete, who is a really pivotal figure for me. Read more>>

Crystal Chatman

Growing up in the housing projects of Memphis, Tennessee, Crystal Chatman felt ill-equipped to deal with life’s difficult situations. She wished for a mentor to teach her about the importance of education and self-worth. As an adult, she channeled that desire into action by founding Beautiful Spirited Women (BSW) in 2010, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering and advocating for girls. BSW provides young women with a powerful platform to share their personal experiences with sex, drug abuse, domestic violence, low self-esteem, bullying and depression, and equips them with important life skills to advance in schools and workplaces situations. BSW tackles difficult issues such as poverty and teenage pregnancy by bringing young mothers to talk to program participants and working with girls who hold dreams of one day owning their own businesses. Read more>>

Natalie Center

I kind of fell into being a printer, I was never much of a painter in art school and worked almost exclusively in black and white. It wasn’t until I discovered print that it opened me up to all the possibilities of color in a more controlled way. When I discovered RISO printing, it was a match made in heaven, I had started participating in zinefests and art fairs and the combination of high-speed production and beautiful color overlays was exactly what I had been searching for. Read more>>

Cindy Bru

My dreams of working in film started in grade school. I had a deep love for movies — so much that my mother would ground me from the TV in hopes that I would redirect myself toward something a bit more “educational”. When I was 19 and living in New York, a psychic stopped me in the middle of the crowds of Time Square and went on and on about my “striking aura” and the need to read my palm. Let’s just say it led me on a US tour with a small-time rock band whose final destination was Los Angeles. Shortly after, I gave birth to my daughter, Olivia, then later raised her as a single parent while following those grade school dreams to audition as an actress. From successful auditions, I built relationships throughout the entertainment industry and those relationships brought me to film production. Read more>>

HaiYao Liang

I was born in Taiwan on October 21, 1991. When I was a kid, I very wanted to come to Los Angeles because I loved Hollywood movies. In high school, I was a basketball player; however, I haven’t played the high school league for my high school life, and I had a regret that I want to change my specialty was filmmaking. First of all, I thought learning filmmaking was more manageable because you have ideas and stories; you can create anything in the film. But, learning filmmaking was tough and borning since I needed to study theory. I didn’t have much experience in film production. I thought I wasted four years in my college life, and I wanted to decide to go to Los Angeles to learn filmmaking. On November 1, 2014, it was my first time to land in the United States. The main issue that my English was terrible. Read more>>

Jade and Rusty Valore

Rad Coffee was an idea that we came up with to sell what we love for a living as well as do what we love for a living, together! From a little pop-up shop to now a storefront (our second location coming Fall 2020) one of the top coffee trucks in Southern California and an online store featuring our own clothing brand… we’ve hustled our way from the bottom to get where we are today and it’s definitely just the beginning. Read more>>

Laura Burhenn

Our Secret Handshake was founded in 2018 by myself and Jade Nazareth as an outlet for a new, more collaborative, healthy/feminine (e.g., decidedly not toxic/masculine) way of working in the music industry. I’d spent over a decade as a musician — putting out records and touring with my own band, the Mynabirds, as well as with the Postal Service & Bright Eyes. Jade had worked with top management clients like FKA twigs, Arcade Fire & Paul McCartney. We were both proud of the work had done, but wanted to lean into something that felt more authentic to who we are — women who care deeply about amplifying under-heard voices and under-told stories, who want to help others develop their careers (or even take new turns from long and deeply successful careers), and who want to help advance the work of other women and non-binary folks, especially. Read more>>

Jamee Ranta

I started in Dayton, Ohio looking to pursue a career in physics. I met someone in college who was a film major, and that sparked my interest in film, mainly cinematography. After graduation, I packed up my car and drove to LA with a goal to become a cinematographer. While shooting a video I booked off of craigslist, I helped production and the client on that shoot kept telling other colleagues that I was the producer on that shoot, although I was the cinematographer. I needed work, so I stepped into it and from that point on, I have built my career as a producer on a word-of-mouth basis. Read more>>

Dave Kehs

Growing up in Maine, I spent most of my days learning and playing music with friends. As I got older, music seemed to be the activity I was most interested in and passionate about, which propelled me to pursue it by going to school for music engineering. To be honest, I didn’t do very well in high school and was pretty nervous about going to college. I was afraid that I wasn’t smart enough to get through. Once I got into classes and was working on projects, I was inspired to learn and started getting straight A’s. I continued that through school and passed with honors. That was such a big hurdle in life, realizing I wasn’t the stupid kid I thought I was, previously failures didn’t mean shit anymore. I was free to learn and grow. Read more>>

1 Comment

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    September 17, 2019 at 03:19

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