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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.

Shemica Watkins-Johnson

I started dancing at five years old with a company known throughout the Bay Area Imotep under the direction of Linda Johnson. I fell in love with dance and it Loved me Back Hard. I went from Guninea, West Africa to Senegal, Haitian, Ballet, Jazz, Hiphop Afro diaspora dance styles and have been moving since I found it but it has been nine years since I was laid out from a blown ACL and two deep meniscus tears the fact that I couldn’t dance couldn’t see a future In dance couldn’t even stand up is something that shook me to the CORE, I pondered and wondered if this DANCE is what I was supposed to be doing I was depressed I was in a very dark space and THE THING I USE TO GET OUT OF DARKNESS WHICH IS DANCE could not help me because I could not dance the only thing that helped me along the way was old videos of me before THE INCIDENT but even that made me angry because I couldn’t get up and even try to attempt to move a muscle I was down for nine months. Read more>>

Joana Rubio and Seleste Diaz

Seleste and I are life partners band mates and business partners, we share a passion for veganism. While touring with our band two things inspired us to start our own vegan cafe. One the amazing vegan food that was available through the states and two the lack of vegan food in most states we toured. We both worked at Chango a coffee shop in echo park for many years having the experience working and managing a coffee shop and the passion drove us even more to manifesting owning our own vegan cafe, one in which we can create a safe space and empower our Latinx roots and share our pride to be in the lgbtq community. During prime pandemic, we were both unemployed and an opportunity presented itself for us to take over a cafe and start our new venture Little Barn Coffee House. Read more>>

Barrett Prendergast

Valleybrink Road is a luxury gifting studio founded by lifestyle curator Barrett Prendergast. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Barrett started her brand after a friend called her in a panic seven years ago. She needed twelve gifts for the cast of a tv show and needed them fast. Feeling completely uninspired by anything she found in the stores, she decided to put together a more luxurious gift in a wood box with artisan products and fresh flowers. The recipients were blown away and after posting a picture on Instagram, her gift box company was born. Her attention to detail and unique ability to create exceptional gifting experiences for her clients and the recipients has garnered her loyal customers who return again and again for her gifting expertise. Three years ago her husband, photographer Andre Vippolis, came on board to help build and grow Valleybrink Road. Read more>>

Sam Cao

I am a 17 years old running for a seat in the Ohio House. How did I get here? Less than three months ago, we were just a team of five! I became interested in public service when I was a fifth-grader. Together with a few friends, we produced a video featuring how liquid-filtering straws could help eradicate Guinea worm disease in Africa. Screened at the Carter Center’s 20th anniversary for Guinea Worms eradication, our video earned high accolades from former President Jimmy Carter and his staff and inspired health ministers from all four remaining endemic countries to involve kids in their countries in the eradication effort. Since then, I have played a leading role in many youth empowerment activities and created many meaningful films. I have contributed to the pandemic relief efforts organized by the Asian American community and beyond. Read more>>

The Tissues

It was a blurry Los Angeles night of drinking on the east side of Los Angeles looking for the next adventure when friends told me to “COME TO THIS SHOW NOW” I crossed the bridge and made my way towards downtown stopping at the 7th street punk house (RIP). Thirsty, I scoured the house and found no beer but made my way to the end of the long bathroom line when this girl with a wide smile at the front stuck her head out and yelled, “Anyone else want to pee with me.” I popped my head out of the line with a reciprocating smile and said, “ME!” Stumbling into the bathroom my new friend, Dana, pointed to the bathroom shower and said, “you could go there.” Laughing and yelling our greetings, we made our way to the show when she introduced me to her friend Kristine Nevrose, the synth player of darkwave band Flaaamingos who was setting up to play their set. Read more>>

Jim Lee

My family has always been in the fashion industry and after working in a corporate job for a couple years, I realized that I prefer to be my own boss. So in 2016, I decided to go back to school – attending night classes at FIDM Los Angeles after work. In my last quarter at FIDM, my professor, Sheryl Marcus, asked the class to research a problem with the American fashion industry and I stumbled upon an article written by Tim Gunn. For those not familiar with Tim Gunn, he’s an American tv personality, author, fashion educator, and mentor with an iconic fashion pedigree. Read more>>

Victoria Banuelos

Early in my twenties, I spent several years volunteering with Latinx students and having discussions about their college and workplace concerns. I began to notice a pattern in their challenges, questions, and internal dialogue. Not only did I relate, but also realized that some of the lessons I’d learned along my professional career were unique to our first-generation upbringing and not often shared. I gave the best responses I could, yet it never felt like enough. I wished there was a guide I could use to validate these students’ feelings and offer some sort of advice on how to jumpstart the next chapter of their lives. Read more>>

Gregga Prothero

Last time we spoke with Voyage LA, it was all about running a salon during the pandemic! We signed our lease for Gregga L.A on February 28th, 2020 – a week before a little thing called COVID-19 started shutting down businesses across the county. Given the timing, opening a salon in the pandemic has kind of become Gregga L.A’s origin story. ABOUT ME, I, Gregga Prothero, was born in the Philippines and have been living in LA since I was 4 year old. I was always experimenting with my friend’s hair, since the time I was in high school, it continued to spark a curiosity within me. Growing up in a traditional Filipino household, there is always pressure to go into the medical field… Read more>>

Ann Seletos

Spiritual connection did not come easily for me growing up. I was raised in a very strict religion where I struggled to connect, and often felt like something was wrong with me because of it. By adulthood, I rejected the notion of any spirituality or religion, identifying as atheist, and was nothing short of bitter and resentful when it came to such topics. If you had told me even six years ago what I’d be doing today, I’d never believe it in a million years. But, as life continues to prove to us all, anything can happen. I was living in my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona, doing all the things I love to do, with some of the most incredible and creative people I’ve ever met. Read more>>

Nicholas Suhr

I am an artist from the Bay Area. I am a musician, barber, and mens groomer, and I have been in LA full time for 3 years, but have been in and out of town for about 10 years. Music first brought me to LA, because I was obsessed with the feeling I got from being around other creatives. I loved it. LA can make you feel like a total outsider one day, and incredibly inclusive the next… I am a musician first. I began playing in local bands in San Francisco, then Sacramento, LA, etc… I basically moved around in order to play in bands lol. I was absolutely obsessed. Read more>>

Leslie Najera

I was raised by my mother, Francisca, my two older brothers, Eric and Ben and Eric’s wife Nancy. I grew up in the small town of Bell Gardens. My mother immigrated to the United States with my uncle when she was 24. She worked hard to provide a comfortable life for my siblings and I. I come from a low-income family and my whole life I have witnessed my mom push through the tough times to make ends meet. My mom is a tough love type of mother but I can understand why. That tough love that she provided has turned me into the person I am today. I am thankful for having my brothers by my side all of my life, they have helped me discover my hobbies and interests. Read more>>

Rachel Duhame

A native Angelino, the aesthetic world is one I’ve been acutely aware of since childhood. I knew I wanted to do something where I would enjoy my days, make something beautiful, build relationships and use my kinda obsessive sense of style. Starting your own business certainly has its ups and downs, but when you have an intrinsic love for what you’re doing, it all comes together! I’ve been doing hair on the Eastside for 7 years, and love calling Los Feliz home. My goal is always for you to just love your hair! Whether that means spending some extra time on stying tutorials, suiting your color regimen to your budget, or cutting your hair intuitively to enhance natural texture (hello, curls!). Read more>>

Mario Hernandez

I began making music in high school. It started with making beats on my computer and recording tracks for myself and all of my friends and family that made music. I wanted to get a better understanding of the recording process, so I enrolled and completed the Recording Technology program at Citrus College. I continued making music in my free time working with many different artists and helping them fulfill and execute their vision and ideas. For some time after that, I was doing some freelance engineer work at various local recording studios. As much as I liked making a little money helping others create, I was motivated to focus on my music and use my time and energy to perfect my sound. Which is still an ongoing process till this day. Read more>>

1 Comment

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    September 17, 2019 at 03:19

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