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Hollywood’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 Hollywood’s gems below.

Trudy Bellinger

After studying Visual and Performing Arts at Brighton University in UK, I worked in many jobs to support my work as a multi-media artist exhibiting at the ICA New Contemporaries and several small art galleries in East London. Jobs included assistant to fashion Photographer, Photography teacher for Youth Training Scheme, Knitwear designer, Photographic recruitment, corporate and commercial stills producer, assistant to artist Helen Chadwick, hair, makeup and styling agent. I then landed a job as Floor Manager at The Power Station, a music TV channel broadcast on the short-lived BSB .where many celebrities and presenters started their careers. Read more>>

Lois Lee

In 1973, I wrote “The Pimp and His Game,” the basis of my training of thousands of members of law enforcement and my expert testimony in state and federal courts since the 80’s. As a PhD student in sociology in 1979, I discovered children, some as young as 11 years old, prostituting on the streets of Hollywood for food to eat and a place to sleep. When I realized that these youngsters were “falling through the cracks” of the social service system, I made it my mission to help, opening my home to more than 250 children over the next three years; thus was the founding of Children of the Night, where I continue to serve as President. Read more>>


Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to pursue music. Anything worldly like music with drums, movies, tv to name a few, were not permitted. I didn’t know that I had been born into a closed religious community, indoctrinated into believing that the outside world was a one way ticket to hell. I never dreamt that I would one day be free. Free to drive myself and my rescue pitbull to Los Angeles with that fire in my belly. My name is Kalliah [Kuh-lee-ya] and I am a songwriter, recording artist, instrumentalist [piano, fiddle/violin, guitar], and visual artist. Read more>>

Koji Kawahara

I am 31 years old and I am from Yokohama, Japan. Currently, I am working as an actor in LA, but I have never done neither working any acting job in Japan not attending acting school in Japan. The beginning of my story, the reason why I wanted to be an actor is because I watched the movie “The Mask”, which is staring Jim Carrey when I was 13 or 14 years old in Japan. I felt the movie was goofy and hilarious, every moves from Jim Carrey makes me smile and laugh. Therefore, I started to think I want to make people’s smile by doing what he does. Read more>>

Stephanie Matthews

I remember being captivated by the violin while watching a performance on television when I was about three years old. My mom loves listening to gospel music and my father loves listening to classical music so those were my two greatest musical influences from a very young age. I fell in love with the sound of the violin and I literally begged my parents every day to let me play until they eventually enrolled me in private lessons a year later. My younger sister and brother played the piano and cello respectively, and our family piano trio performed a lot at church and at local events in our community. Growing up in the DC Metropolitan area, I was a student in the DC Youth Orchestra Program and the Levine School of Music. Read more>>

Josh Fassbind

I was born and raised in Geneva, Switzerland and moved to Los Angeles in the summer of 2013. I started shooting when I was 12 with an old Ricoh camera my parents passed down to me. I was hooked to photography. I signed up for an extracurricular class where I learned proper shooting, processing black and white film as well as printing in the darkroom. It was great! After a couple of years, the class stopped and since I didn’t have any equipment at home, I started bringing my film to a lab but that got expensive so I distanced myself from photography for a few years. Read more>>

Robert Miller

I am the leader/bassist/composer for Project Grand Slam, a Rock Jazz Latin fusion band. We’re based in NYC and we’ve performed at festivals, major venues and clubs around the U.S. and abroad. Nine albums including a Billboard #1 and over 4 million video views. I come from a musical family – my father played the trumpet and I started out playing the trumpet too. But when the British Invasion hit in the ’60s trumpet suddenly wasn’t very cool and I taught myself guitar and then bass. I took lessons with Jimmy Garrison, Coltrane’s bass player, who introduced me to jazz. In the ’70s I got into the jazz fusion movement. Read more>>

Renata Murtol

I can’t really pinpoint the exact moment in time where I decided I wanted to be an actress. There wasn’t a movie or performance that inspired me or made me realize that this is what I wanted to do. I think I just always knew but was too scared to admit it. Every time I brought it up with my family, they would say I was already too old, that those people start when they’re really young. I was twelve, lol. It wasn’t till my first day of film school when my teacher told me that we couldn’t act in our films when I truly realized that that was exactly what I wanted to do. Be in front of the camera and not behind. That gave me the courage to tell my parents once and for all that I was serious about pursuing a career in acting. Read more>>

Rebecca Shapiro

I was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. I’ve never been the type of person who had one passion and just pursued that one. Growing up, I played all kinds of sports, danced, took art classes, acted in plays, sang in choirs and so much more. When I got to college, I struggled to figure out what I wanted to study (because I wanted to do it all!) but I landed on a major that offered a wide variety of classes. I graduated from Tufts University in 2018 with a BA in Child Development and Human Development with a focus on Developmental Science. Read more>>

Aaron Wilson

Oh, wow…so much. I have been in L.A for two years now! And I have my new single releasing this new month which I am super excited about, called “Rise to the Top”. Read more>>

Aishwariyah Dhyan Vimal

My love for filmmaking started from a very young age. I remember spending hours on Microsoft PowerPoint creating animated shorts with my sister. We would record sound, animate the characters, create stories, and screen them to our family. I never made the connection back then, I just thought that’s what all kids did. I only realized that film could be a career in my sophomore year of college. My friends and I made three video assignments, and one of them was a spoof of “THE AMAZING RACE.” My best friend and I wrote, produced, directed, filmed, and acted in it. It was so much work but was so incredibly fun. I then took a film noir class during my time at Cornell University and fell in love with the craft. It stunned me that you could tell a story just with lighting and camera movement. Read more>>

Mariel Garcia

It was right after my divorce and I knew I had no choice but to start all over again; it was time for a new chapter. I realized I had been living for other people and had totally put my dreams aside. I had always wanted to style in both tv and film, but I had no idea how I was going to get there. Months before my divorce, my brother had met Jasmine and mentioned how amazing she was. He said she was so creative, fun, and such a talented stylist and that I should follow her on social media and reach out to her. I remember being so fascinated by her—she was a strong woman who did incredible work and I thought about how lucky she was to be doing what she loved. Read more>>

Cheryl Hunter

I began my journey as a small-town cowgirl with big-city dreams. As a teenager, I “escaped” from my family’s horse ranch in the mountains of rural Colorado for the bright lights of Europe, with nothing more than an over-packed suitcase and a dream. Once I arrived, I was approached by two men who promised to make me a model. Instead, they abducted me, held me captive, and eventually left me for dead. I survived this life-changing trauma, refocused my life, and became a model anyway. Read more>>

Bry Cruz

Art has always been a constant presence in my life, but I think it really cemented itself when I was a teenager. I am originally from a small town in Indiana, where art isn’t necessarily praised or thought of as more than a hobby. I remember every year I absolutely had to take some sort of art class in order to keep myself sane. In high school, I had the opportunity to study art in France for one month in the summer. I can’t begin to tell you how much that time in France as a 17-year-old really inspired me to be in the art world. I mean c’mon seeing a Picasso in person leaves a lasting impression on anyone. Read more>>

James Swoope

I’m from Cleveland, Ohio. Ever since I was five years old, I wanted to be a filmmaker. My favorite movie was “The 3 Ninjas,” and I remember telling my parents, “wherever they do this at, I wanna be there!” They informed me films are created in Hollywood. When I was 16 years old, My uncle Floyd Swoope who was in the entertainment and hair care business, was the first to put a camera in my hand. He taught me the basics of production, how to pan, how to tilt, and how to edit. I then began to exercise my gift over the years at his place of business. Read more>>

Seth Goldsmith

I fell in love with hip-hop pretty early in life. I think 4th grade. I actually got suspended from school for giving a girl that I liked a D12 CD. By 10th grade, I had a home studio set up & was experimenting with making music & audio engineering. From there I just kept going. I tried my hand at being an artist for a long time. Actually, my artist/business partner Ricky P (producer/artist, Taylor Gang), who I manage & run Kush Factory Studios with now, was interested in managing me in 2017-18. I moved to LA because of his interest & started bouncing around the scene. Once I got a grip on how things really worked I knew I was going to be more valuable behind the scenes. Read more>>

Shawn Sheridan

I moved to Los Angeles in the early 80’s, intent on pursuing a career in showbiz. I grew up an avid movie buff, and my particular obsession was horror and sci-fi cinema. From the classics to modern-day genre films, I ate up everything related to horror, monsters and the fantastic. One of my first jobs in Hollywood was working in the mailroom of the William Morris Agency. I soaked up everything I could about the business and eventually read scripts for agents, providing story coverage and analysis for the literary department. Read more>>

Pilar Newton

I am one of those kids that knew that I wanted to be an animator by the time I was 8. I would watch Saturday morning cartoons the Smurfs were my absolute favorite cartoon. Because of that, I wanted to create my own worlds. I started drawing and filling up notebooks and I created my own whimsical world populated with creatures called Snozzlewinks. Now decades later, I just released my Snozzlewinks graphic novel. I went on to study animation at the Rhode Island School of Design. One of my first gigs post-graduation was being a prop designer on Dilworth’s Cartoon Network show Courage the Cowardly Dog. Read more>>

Leah Kayajanian

One night in July of 2006, I found myself drunk off Jagermeister shots and trembling onstage at the Loony Bin Comedy Club in Oklahoma City – my first open mic. I told jokes like this: “I have a friend named April. She was born in November, so that’s kind of confusing. Every time the month of April rolls around, I wonder if she feels just a little bit more like herself.” The thing about standup is once you get a laugh, it hooks you. I did get a laugh (maybe even TWO laughs), and just like that, I got into standup comedy. I was 24. Read more>>

Deidra George

As far back as I can remember at an early age, I was immersed in performing arts. Growing up in Oakland, CA I gravitated towards the creative culture as an outlet through dance, music & theatre. My home away from home was known then as the Alice Arts Center, now the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts. This Arts Center was the training ground and genesis of my artistry roots. I have always had a deep desire to create, connect and inspire people in a positive way. My dreams began to materialize when I was accepted into the Performing Arts Academy at Skyline High School in Oakland. I trained rigorously as an advanced arts student on and off campus. Honestly, I was in love with the intrinsic nature of performing on stage and on camera, nothing compared to that joy. Read more>>

Kalman Szili

I was born in Hungary and brought up in Russia. I always wanted to be an artist, so I ended up being a musical theatre actor in one of the most popular Moscow theaters. At the same time, in 2018, under my solo project, Datura Kilos, I released my first EP “Goodbye, Faith”. Funny thing is that it was released a day before I made a decision to move to America due to political tensions rising across Russia. It was (and still is) quite a journey that inspired me to write “Sadder than Lana Rey” – first single I recorded in Los Angeles. Read more>>

Tania Wilk

Truthfully, I believe I started singing while in the womb. By age five, I had joined my aunt’s church choir and throughout grade school, I was in all the musical groups (orchestra, band, choir, showchoir, jazz ensemble, improv…). I continued my passion in college earning my B.F.A in musical theatre at SUNY Fredonia. After graduation, I moved to Bayridge, Brooklyn to pursue my musical career. I waited tables while auditioning and landed leading roles on Off Broadway stages and in the film world. Needing a break from audition life, I took some time away and backpacked Europe for five weeks. Soon after, I got engaged to my senior prom date and was whisked away into the military lifestyle. Read more>>

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