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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.

Blake Martin

I began in this industry as a male backup dancer. I’ve performed on stage with some of the 90’s largest music artists. Doing choreography for a few years landed me an audition to choreograph a high end fashion show in Chicago, Illinois. I was hired on the spot and we began production about a week later. Five days before the show, the producer had a disagreement with the venue and quit, leaving the entire team in limbo. I was approached by a team member and asked could I take over. As a choreographer, I knew the show 2nd best. So I did. I instantly fell in love with the art of fashion show production and quit dancing the next day. Over the past decade, I produced over 300 fashion shows in Chicago, LA, New York Fashion Week, London, and a 32 city tour in China. I thought fashion show production was my end goal, it was my LOVE. Then, enter COVID 19- which shut down all live events, including fashion shows. In order to not be taken over my cabin fever, I decided I wanted to take up a hobby and learn photography. Read more>>

Rjhoff

I am a 23 years old musician based in Los Angeles, California. Born and raised in Columbia, Illinois, a small town across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, my life as an artist and a human has been marked by the many humbling experiences I’ve had that have allowed me to grow as a person and an artist. Spending much of my high school life playing in bands and studying jazz, I became deeply influenced by both the life and career of Miles Davis, an artistic legend who grew up less than 5 miles from me in Millstadt, Illinois, many years before I was born. This connection led me to further realize my vocation as a musician, a path that I knew required me to leave my hometown. A scholarship to study guitar in college brought me to Nashville, Tennessee, where I had the opportunity to grow and work as a session musician. Marked by experiences on stage and in studio with artists like Stephanie Quayle, Cage the Elephant, Maranda Curtis (Judah Temple of Praise), and touring in Spain with Tonina fall of 2019, I continued to grow in both my perspective of the human condition and the way we are called to express it as artists. Read more>>

Rita Phetmixay

I am a daughter of Lao + Isaan refugees. I grew up in a small rural town in North Carolina and moved to Los Angeles to pursue graduate studies. In short, I’m a small town southern gal with a big city girl heart! It’s hard to say where I truly started my journey, but I can always name my parent’s resilient refugee story as a place I began to carve my own legacy as a politicized healing practitioner in the Lao diaspora community. Growing up as the only daughter amongst three brothers with a strict militant father with PTSD and co-dependent mother in North CACK, I naturally inherited toxic forms of hyper-masculinity and co-dependent behaviors that took me up until my late 20s to thoroughly confront and heal. Upon doing my own inner (shadow) work at the beginning of grad school at UCLA, I was able to meet incredible colleagues/professors who were some of the first people to help me heal from the complex trauma I experienced from childhood to young adult life. Witnessing my own healing journey has been the most humbling and transformative experience to say the least. Read more>>

Lubens Ervil

Growing up a black boy in Palm Beach, FL the assumption was that the only way to make it out of the city was to either play ball or make music. 9 times out of 10 if you weren’t doing either one of those things, you would end up on the streets either selling dope or involved in gang violence. Luckily I was blessed with an amazing family that encouraged me to play football so I didn’t have to get caught up in the street life. In high school, I think that’s where I really fell in love with fashion and luxury streetwear. Although growing up, I didn’t have the funds to buy anything on these websites, it didn’t stop me from looking. Since I couldn’t afford to buy any designer clothing, I started to design my own. In high school, I took a class to learn how photoshop works in order to create my own designs. I would even stay after class to learn how to print my designs on leftover T-shirts the teacher wasn’t using. At the time, nobody in my city was doing anything like this and I didn’t want people to think I was soft for it. So naturally, I just kept playing football and ended up receiving a scholarship to Jacksonville University, where I would stay for a year and eventually transferred to USF to play for the Bulls. Read more>>

Nia Witts

As a seven years old tap dancer. How it’s going… I am a working actress, comedian, producer, host, and content creator. Read more>>

Brian Williams

My story starts in the small town of Athens, Ohio at Ohio University. Near the end of my freshman year in college, I was introduced to two guys, Christian JaVaughn Graves aka CG and Solomon Brown aka Dolo. The following summer these two formed a conglomerate dedicated to making great music known as Team Yizzo. At the start of Sophomore year, they were beginning to get some traction. I ended up becoming a part of the team because they were my friends and I had the only car on campus. From there, I became the everything guy; if something needed done and it wasn’t anyone else’s job I did it. Later that year, everyone found out I majored in finance and made me the business manager for the entire team. As college went on, we continued to progress. We traveled the country, sold-out shows, and met people from all over the world. At one point, we thought Yizzo was going to be famous, but that all ended when college ended. After graduation, I was recruited by a marketing company that worked all over the country. Read more>>

Michelle Samayoa

I’m very much motivated by the beautiful things in life. I started pressing flowers to preserve their beauty forever. When I used them to decorate my own photos, my friends asked me to start selling frames that decorated their photos with pressed flowers too. And so Petal Prints was started! Every customer submits a photo and a story that goes along with their photo. Based on their stories, I choose flowers whose symbolic meaning correlates with their stories. For example, if someone submits a photo of a passed loved one, I would maybe choose to use Sea Lavender, which symbolizes remembrance, success, sympathy and beauty. I grew rapidly on social media and sell out every time I restock, which has been a blessing throughout the pandemic. I started my business in April of 2020 on Etsy and now have my own website! I’m currently working on many more pressed flower products. Read more>>

Rikke Gajda

I always knew I wanted to be a hairstylist since I was very little, and at the age of 14, I started working in a salon next to school. I quickly started training with the up and coming stylists in the salon and at 15, I got my first scissors and was already cutting hair. But I always knew the salon life wasn’t for me, I always wanted something more and different and to be more creative. So after getting my license and working for a few years in the salon, I decided to move to America to see where it could get me. My license didn’t transfer from Norway so I went back to school. I had never been to America and knew very little other than it was a big country with better opportunities. I looked at the map and chose the school that was closest to Hollywood cause I remembered I had heard that was a cool place. (Lol) I ended up at Paul Mitchell the School in Costa Mesa and I was there for a year. After this, I went home for around a year before I came back and started working in a studio in Las Vegas. We did a lot of photoshoots and had fun projects but it still wasn’t enough for me. Read more>>

Stephon Bilyan and William Chavers

French Laundry Design Gallery was started back in 2018. I (Stephon) was working on the music industry and I was working on a backup business of my own. I juggled through a few names for some brands in early 2018 and went through a few trial and errors. Finally in December 2018, I got a call from a friend about their not so great experience at the French Laundry Restaurant in Napa Valley, CA. As soon as I heard the name, it clicked “French Laundry” It was more about making a hoody for us to wear back to the restaurant but then I figured why can’t something like this be an entire brand. We operated solely by cash app and reservations via email for sales. As time went by we started a site that I actually liked and went forward. Myself and cousin William Chavers has always been around wealthy individuals and family’s. William attends a prestigious school growing up and I knew his friends and the people he knew would be a target market. I asked him to join the brand in September 2020 prior to him being a brand ambassador which was basically me just making clothes and giving it to him to wear because he’s a trendsetter within his own right. His background in e-commerce coming from Pitney Bowes was a plus. Read more>>

Anna Cassady

I was born in a small mountainous Chinese city, Guiyang. Growing up, I’ve always been attracted to western films and literature, especially the Beat Generation. Their crazy adventures and free spirit fascinated me, so when I finally came to the U.S. to continue my education, I gave myself a professional name “Anna Cassady”, after Neal Cassady, the legendary beat figure. I wish one day I would be as free as they used to be, and indeed, I started my own adventure in this foreign country. I came to America to study film, and after four years of learning experimental cinema in undergrad university, I got into the MFA program of the filmmakers’ dream school: USC School of Cinematic Arts. The experience there was certainly a pain in the butt yet a life changer for me. I met so many friends, learned so much about filmmaking, but most importantly, I learned to explore and accept myself. I got to understand that every experience was a treasure for me as a filmmaker. I decided to advance my filmmaking career by also collecting life experiences.  Read more>>

Zeek Yan

Growing up in a small town in Louisiana, I learned to love the outdoors. My parents would always tell my siblings and I to go play outside. We’d catch fireflies during the hot summer nights and frogs after a big rainstorm. Our family vacations consisted of crabbing, camping, and driving to Florida to spend time on the beach. My family enjoyed being outdoors rather than being cooped in the house. Halfway through high school, my family moved to California. We decided to spend our first vacation in Yosemite. I instantly fell in love with the park and promised myself to visit more national parks. For those who haven’t been to Yosemite; seeing those gigantic rocks for the first time made me realize how small we truly are. There’s so much of the world that I have yet to see. Picking up a camera felt instinctual. I loved being able to capture moments. Pictures are able to encapsulate more than the image itself, but the emotion and feelings you had when you took that photo. Being able to remember who you were with and what you did that day through an image is so powerful. It wasn’t until when I started college and got hired at my university to film campus events that things started to take off. Read more>>

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