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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.

Azra Valani

I graduated with an Applied Economics degree and had my eyes set on a career as an Investment banker. When I finally made my way to the corporate world, dream job at the tip of my fingers, I suddenly realized the 9-9 grind wasn’t for me. I yearned for more. I often questioned what my purpose was, and my desire for ‘money and power’ was almost non existent. I took an acting class on a whim and a few weeks into class, I realized acting gave me something nothing else in the world had: a voice. Read more>>

Matthew Leeb

I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio in a pretty musical family. My father played in bands his whole life up until he passed in February. Music was a huge part of my Mothers life as well and it was something I was drawn to from a young age. I’ve been writing since I was a little kid. Lyrics, stories, etc. Eventually, this turned into me writing music. I started making Beats on an MPC 2000 xl that my mother bought me at age 15. Read more>>

Meagan A. Culberson

I moved out to Los Angeles five years ago to obtain a career in entertainment. After almost giving up, God gave me an incredible opportunity to work at an entertainment representation company and I took it! As my professional life slowly began to develop and with watching my younger sisters become wives, I felt the pressure of needing to settle down. But I soon came to realization that my single season is my time to get closer to God. Read more>>

Michea Peterkin

I’ve wanted to be an actress from the beginning of time, and recently had a dream to become a flight attendant back in 2015. Through the five year process of me becoming a flight attendant, I figured out how to make both of my dreams work. It took most of my life to finally take my acting career serious because I was constantly being told trying to become an actress is a fairytale, and you have to have a solid back up plan. I put my acting career on hold for years trying to get my degree and working a full-time job to support my lifestyle. Read more>>

Parker Ricardez

I can’t remember a time where I haven’t been involved with drawing in one form or another. I grew up obsessed with comic books and superheroes. The dark blacks and flashy negative space you see in some of my illustrations today can be traced back to that inky comic style. Although I don’t draw Spiderman as much as I used to, I still find myself drawing very character-based drawings, super or otherwise. Read more>>

Armando Melendez

I was born and raised in LA. I’m 33 years old. I’m a first-generation Mexican-American with my first language being Spanish. Growing up, I was obsessed with “telenovelas.” The gorgeous gowns to the sexy mini skirts. This was my first introduction into gender-bending fashion. I wanted to wear the short skirts but I identified as male at the time and this wasn’t acceptable in a hetero normative “machista” household and community. Read more>>

Gabriella Toth

I am a Hungarian native living in LA the past six years. I started out as a model, I am still currently represented for print and commercial by two LA agencies. Gradually got hungrier for something more so I turned to films. Modeling and acting in Europe are really two different businesses, but here in LA, it seems like a model needs to have a bit of acting talent and an actor needs to have a bit of modeling talent. Read more>>

Kevin Welbeck

I’m a Ghanaian-American actor and activist, born and raised in Anaheim, CA. At the age of 14, I relocated with my family to Fontana, CA where I attended A.B. Miller High School. After graduating in 2008, I moved to Hollywood to attend AMDA (The American Musical and Dramatic Academy) where I enrolled in their Integrated Musical Theatre Program. I completed my courses and graduated in 2010. Since then, I have worked in various fields of the entertainment industry as an actor. Read more>>

Oboi Jones

Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I was heavily involved in church. I got my start in music playing drums for the children’s choir. As time progressed, I began to become more interested in the organization of music and the development of sounds. Around that same time, our church lost our head music director and lead pianist. This gave me the opportunity to step into a new role and develop more as a musician. Read more>>

Ed Olu

My passion for the ocean started long before I ever imagined that I would be a scuba diver. Growing up in Lagos, Nigeria I spent an insane amount of time at the beach but never in the water. I never even swam in the ocean. Even though I wanted to dive, I never thought I would. General fears of the ocean embedded in the back of my mind. Also, I had never seen anyone like me dive. Still, the unknown drew me. Read more>>

Margeaux Sippell

I’ve been a musician since the day I was born. My dad is a professional bass player and was a stay at home dad when I was growing up. He taught me everything I know about music, from how to stay in time to how to play guitar. When I was about 13, I started performing alongside him at an open mic on Sundays at the coffee shop down the street from where I grew up in Rhode Island. He would accompany me on guitar while I sang Beatles songs. Read more>>

Melissa Westlake

I have always grown up wanting to be a dancer. Starting with my grandmother who danced for the Roxies in Newark, NJ in the 1940s and then one of my aunts, who is also my godmother, was a dancer and a Rockette in NYC. From the moment I stepped into a dance class, I knew that that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and I worked hard to accomplish that. Read more>>

Yizhong Hu

I was born in a normal family in Beijing, China. My father is a cinematographer\director use to film documentary and commercial in China. I was not so sure about my profession until I made my first high school video project. That was the first time I cut the image with music together and play around with different cut. I feel so obsessive, I’m in love with this movie magic. And of course, my father was so happy to see me taking the same way as he did. Read more>>

Rita Krasniqi

I’m a female filmmaker from Kosovo. I was born in the city Mitrovica. I was raised in the capital city Prishtina where I went to school and finished my undergrad studies for filmmaking at the University of Prishtina. At the time when I was five years old, the Kosovo-Serbian war broke which forced us to leave our country and become refugees. During the journey of managing to cross the border to go to Macedonia, I’ve witnessed fear, anxiety, and defeat but above all, I witnessed so much love between people and families who helped one another. Read more>>

Shawn Mclemore

I started getting interested in music around the age of 10. I used to listen to all my dad’s CDs in my room when I’d be in trouble or grounded and the artists would range from 50 cent and Notorious B.I.G, all the way to Parliament and Michael Jackson. Then one day, I decided that music is something I want to do and a way to help get my family in a better financial place. I wanted to get my mom out of section 8 and get my grandmother the house of her dreams, as well as make sure that my future children don’t have to grow up like I did. Read more>>

Chani Schwarcz

I was probably around the age of five when I promised myself that I was going to be an actress, and, since then, I can’t remember wanting to be anything else. I come from a very musical and creative family. Both of my Russian grandparents are professional musicians. As a kid, my grandmother would often give me piano lessons. Growing up, my mother scraped together whatever she could to send me to ballet classes, performing arts summer camps, and, as I got older, guitar lessons. Read more>>

Leilani Ramos

My journey began when I was a little girl living on a tiny little island in the Caribbean. Obsessed with Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, my dreams of living in California continued to progress. All I wanted was to be like all of those kids on TV, but it felt impossible living so far away. My parents’ divorce at the time, felt like the worst thing to happen to me. My mom and I left Puerto Rico and moved to Florida. Read more>>

Teo Celigo

I was born and in from Slovenia. When I was graduating high school, it occurred to me, I ought to pick something that truly interests me and pursue it full force. I didn’t want to embark on something I knew I wouldn’t be behind fully. Acting was attractive because I’ve never done anything artistically but I always liked movies. In my mind, Los Angeles was the place to go. I got accepted to the Stella Adler Conservatory in Hollywood and as soon as I arrived, I knew this was it. Read more>>

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