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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.

Ella Lee

My mother was a fine artist and she had her own studio and teaching students. So, when I was young, her studio was my playground. I remember I always painting and drawing for fun. She influenced me a lot in my life. I think that was my first impact that having a designer dream. I still remember the scent of oil paints on a fresh palette and the sound of wooden charcoal pencil on the canvas. Growing up in my mother’s art studio, I learned how to use a paintbrush and mix color from a young age. This naturally made me attentive to my surroundings and I was keen on capturing all the world’s endless sights and playful textures. These were all sweet sensations that I melted into my creative work and vision, which I believed were colorful, not just pigmented in the feelings they evoked. Read more>>

Roger Castillo

I was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to the United States when I was six years old. Like many other Dominican children, I dreamt of being a baseball player but somewhere along the way, I discovered movies, photography, and my joy for storytelling. My filmmaking and photography journey got traction during my senior year of high school. A college recruiter came in and had a conversation with a couple of selected students ( myself included ) about going to school for something that we were actually passionate about. Being an immigrant, I experienced firsthand the struggle and amount of work my parents put in to make sure we got a proper education and did something with our lives so not going to college was never really an option for me. That being said, I did not want to be a doctor, lawyer, or accountant I wanted to study the arts. After that meeting, I made a heartfelt decision to pursue storytelling.  Read more>>

Deyanna Denyse

Visual and Performance artistry came to me accidentally as I was reminded by an onlooker that I was performing for them during a class. Unbeknownst to me, my posing sequences looked as if I was dancing. The inspiration of my works derived from several ego deaths and spiritual reawakenings to the truth of the world around me. I then found ways to spread those truths via movement, poetry, and pictorial references. My journey started as a nude yoga instructor looking to heal myself and others from self-deprecating beliefs regarding body image. After discovering the way nudity triggered the masses, I then realized something had to be done to correct the narrative of nudity in its entirety. Shortly after, I started figure/art modeling as a way to gain extra income when I fell in love with the environment. I found healing and strength in nudity and wanted to be the example I wish I had. Read more>>

Layla Anderson

My professional journey began during my undergraduate career at Wellesley College. I was an eager Black Student looking for a reflection of myself in the field of Psychology; which seemed to be dominated by eurocentricity and stigmatization. In my senior year, I came across an incredible Black Psychology professor who embodied poise and professionalism. She introduced me to the Black pioneers of Psychology, Mamie Clark, Francis Sumner, and Maulana Karenga, who were just as influential to the field as Freud, Maslow and Jung. Studying Black Psychology gave me a deep understanding of the power of social support in helping Black people to achieve professional success. Read more>>

Logan Donovan

At the age of 12, I decided I would be an actor. It was the first time that I was taking something on that was completely for myself in the sense that I decided I would be the captain and choose the course I thought best. There was a lot of self-empowerment in stating this for myself and it is a journey that has defined the context of my life in almost every way. At the age of 13, I was given my first 35 mm Canon camera and from that point on, I learned the craft from my father who has been a professional most of his life. The camera taught me composition and balance that has interwoven into the foundation of all I do in my life. These two directions have been the boat that has carried me down the river of my life ever since. It has allowed me to see the beauty in the world, experience different psychologies and experiences as an actor, reflect on who I am on deeper and deeper levels as well as to suffer in a world that doesn’t always understand the artist’s ways or processes.  Read more>>

Joel Wall and Jon Flynn

We met at work in Hollywood in 2009. We both worked retail and had similar interests in music and we had both gone to audio engineering school, so we hit it off right away. We did some playing in bands together and recording together so we decided to write a song together. Four albums later here we are. Read more>>

Chester Gregory

Also known as C.H.E.S.S. I am an artist of serval disciplines and I’m originally from Gary, Indiana – the home of Michael Jackson- and that is part of what sparked me to pursue a career in the arts. Every day on this earth is a blessing, and I plan to use my gifts to inspire as many people as possible. I have performed all over the world, including Broadway and I’ve worked extensively in the studio recording and releasing music. Whether it’s acting, singing, writing, producing, or consulting, I love art! I’ve collaborated with many artists in the industry. Most recently, have enjoyed being a content creator, making an exciting transition into television and film. Read more>>

Yanyu Dong

I am a filmmaker, film programmer, and writer (in Chinese) based in Los Angeles. I am originally from Qingdao, a coastal city in northeast China. I grew up in a diverse family with grandparents from four different provinces. They ended up in Qingdao, following the military’s lead. Given the policy at the time, my parents only have me as their sole child. A fortune-teller named me Yanyu妍妤, as protection for me to cross all the barriers in life. The first character means goodliness or flower blossom, the second character means smart, it is also a laudatory title for females in ancient China.I came to the United States in 2013, later receiving my master’s degree in film at the California Institute of the Arts. I am currently programming for film festivals including the Los Angeles Chinese Film Festival and the Slamdance film festival while trying to come up with new ideas for films. Read more>>

Masakazu Yamamoto

I am an LA-based Japanese House DJ. How I started getting interested in music was the guitar I got when I was in junior high school. Started with Rock, after listening to various genres of music, I came across Hip Hop. With Hip hop, I gradually became interested in DJ and actually started DJing with two turntables when I was 16 years old. Later on, as my name getting bigger and known in west Japan, I started considering moving to the U.S. to challenge my music career. It began in Los Angeles in 2009. Now I’m well experienced of spinning at night venues in LA such as House of Blues, Roxy Theater, Avalon, Belasco theater and more. The Winner of Wicked Paradise first DJ Competition 2021. Read more>>

Sarah McAtee

When I was 13, I had a teammate tell me a matter of factly, “Sarah, you’re going to be a Life Coach when you grow up!” At the time, I didn’t know exactly what that meant, but Life Coaching showed up again in my life when one of my college roommates started informally referring to me as her Life Coach. I just started laughing it off as I didn’t think Life Coaching was a real career option and at the time, I was studying to be a Marriage and Family Therapist. Well fast forward to 2014, when a friend reached out and asked if I wanted a free coaching session. Midway through the session, she said, “You know Sarah, my intuition keeps telling me that you need to be a Life Coach. You should look into getting certified.” I realized at that moment that Life Coaching had been knocking at my door for the last ten years and I probably should see where this takes me. I got certified in 2015 with a Law of Attraction based Life Coaching company and was offered a position working closely with the president of that company.  Read more>>

LynZ Wells

I was four years old. I was in the kid’s choir and given a solo one Sunday. The pastor’s kid was this cute red-headed boy that I had a crush on so honestly I wanted to sing the best I could to impress him. It worked! I sang my heart out so well that the choir teacher also noticed and went up to my mom after church and said “your daughter has a gift. You should get her in vocal lessons.” So at the age of seven my mom did just that. Thru my first vocal teacher, I started singing all around Austin. I grew up singing in musical theatre productions, sing at prominent music venues & for professional and semi-professional sporting events all around TX. In High School, I starting writing songs and performing at a studio there. I worked with one producer that knew a vocal coach named Kim Wood Sandusky who has coached many celebrities. He got me an audition and I started taking vocal lessons from her my Junior year of HS. She recommended me to go to Belmont University where I got a Music Business Degree.  Read more>>

Parker Burr

My journey to becoming a photographer was definitely non-traditional. I studied business at university and worked full-time in the tech industry for about five years before making the switch. I had a three months gap in between jobs and decided to buy a camera off of craigslist. I had no experience prior to this, just a creative itch. For the next year and a half, I had a gradual climb from begging friends to let me shoot them to eventually being booked on jobs. When the pandemic hit, I decided to take the leap and pursue freelance photography full-time. A year and a half later, I am happy to share that I am fully booked and my business is continuing to grow. Read more>>

Frank McComb

Most people want to place me into the “Neo Soul” category which limits my capabilities. I’m extremely versatile so I say with pride and humility that I call myself a “Soul/Jazz” recording artist. This “title”, if you will, describes more flexibility and removes the “limits” that the music industry has the tendency of placing on recording artists. My fans and followers affectionately describe my work as a recording artist as the perfect combination of Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, and George Duke. I’ve worked with many of the entertainment industry’s giants including but not limited to: Prince, Branford Marsalis, George Duke, Najee, Patrice Rushen, The Rude Boys, Phil Perry, Tommy Davidson, Fred Hammond, John P. Kee, Songwriting duo Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, D.J. Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince (Will Smith), Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly, Rickey Minor, Teena Marie, Marqueal Jordan, Avery*Sunshine, Ledisi, Lalah Hathaway, Terri Lynn Carrington, Phyllis Hyman, Valerie Simpson, Philip Bailey, and more. Read more>>

Rebecca Morandi

I grew up wanting to become an actress, I did acting all through school and I was determined to study acting in college. After high school I worked for a year, I saved up and came to LA to go take summer acting classes at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts here in LA and at NYFA in Florence, Italy. While at NYFA, I worked a lot with the filmmaking students and realized that what they were doing was actually really cool, so once my classes were over, I started working part-time as an assistant at a friend’s video studio near my hometown, I was not paid but my friend was giving me filmmaking, camera and lighting classes at the end of the day… and I loved it. I quickly realized I had no money to actually go to film school in the US like I wanted to, so – by a series of fortunate coincidence – I got a summer job at NYFA Florence, which then turned into a year-round position for 3+ years, and allowed me to learn everything. Read more>>

Val Gallo

I’m a rock singer/songwriter living in LA. I was born in Miami, Florida, to a Colombian-Italian family. I started school in the US and went back and forth from Cartagena to Miami until we fully moved to Colombia, where I was raised. I started my musical journey at four years old, playing piano and dancing ballet, mostly because my grandmother loved classical music and that’s what I would listen to all day. She would play operas, ballets, concerts, and I would dance around in her living room. I never really knew I could sing, I would express my love for music through dance, and I played a few instruments in school. When I was 14 years old, we had the option to pick an art form for our curriculum, I chose music because my best friend and I loved rock and would sing and play guitar after school at his place. We were the misfits of our grade, it was us against the world and rock music was what made us feel like we belonged somewhere. Read more>>

Irene “La Sentío”

I started dancing flamenco when I was a child and all my life, I have been dreaming of becoming a professional “bailaora” (flamenco dancer). I can say that I made my dreams come true thanks to hard work, a touch of passion, dedication and determination. I always say than my biggest privilege is to be able to express myself every day through my Art, which is flamenco music and dance. I have been living in Spain for 16 years and I managed to work in all the best theatres, ‘tablaos’ (the places where we perform flamenco daily), and the best companies dancing with the most well-known artists. I have participated in the most renowned Flamenco Festivals all around the world (Europe, Japan, South America, USA, Canada). All this experience made the Artist that I am now. Read more>>


Shireen Jamehdor

When I made the decision to go to fashion school, I knew I wanted to have my own label someday, and I also knew I wanted it to be high-end and eco-friendly. What I didn’t know is that my label would end up specializing in uniforms. Over the last 15 years, I’ve worked for several uniform companies, mostly medical, and it’s actually made me a bit uniform obsessed (not just about scrubs and lab coats, but all types of uniforms). It has been a dream of mine to create a brand that reflects my values and combines all my experience as an artist and designer. Now that dream is finally becoming a reality through Art Of Uniformity®–creating beautiful uniform style that puts people and planet first. Read more>>

Deandre Smith

I grew up as the only introverted child from Chicago. Raised by my grandmother. That was the first part of what would shape my childhood. Growing up, I discovered the power of VHS tapes that allowed you to record multiple films, and with that I discovered my love of horror films, which was added to my already established obsession, Michael Keaton’s Batman. The seed of filmmaking was planted and then it grew and grew all the way to college (film school) until it wilted away. Film school, so I thought, was supposed to establish and build my skill level so my craft could be molded. It did the opposite. After graduating, I spent a good chuck of the past decade rediscovering my love for an art of which I thought was long gone. What helped me rediscover it was life – falling, rebuilding, and then falling again… to NOW where I’m rebuilding and making sure it’s bolted and never moves. But most importantly, my grandmother. Her never wavering support and undeniable love for me is why I am the person I am today. Read more>>

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