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Pasadena’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 Pasadena’s gems below.

Alexandra Almendarez

I’m an actress, singer, and salsa dancer based in Los Angeles. I’m represented across the board by Sapphire Entertainment Management (LA/NY) and JVC Talent Agency (LA). My passion for performing began early on at the age of nine when I joined the school choir in elementary school. From then on, I continued on the path of music and theater. Those early choir concerts, plays, and monologue competitions were really the foundation of my performance career. I always enjoyed school and excelled in English and Writing, but I’ve always known that performing is my true purpose. My journey thus far has been wonderful, but it wasn’t linear. I worked hard in high school, and in addition to the high school workload I also had to start working when I was 17, working a minimum of 20 hours a week. Despite the workload, I graduated in the top five percent of my class, maintained a high GPA while juggling AP classes, a lead role in a play, choir solos, competitions, speech and debate club, and student directing. Read more>>

Curtis Drayton & Elena Martinez

When Elena and I bought our mountain getaway home two and a half years ago, we would have never predicted the creation of our first retail establishment as a result. After ten years of vigorously traveling for work, a new city every week and basically living out of a suitcase, it was time to buy a place that we could relax in during our time off. Nowhere in the US was off limits and the possibilities were endless. Our event staffing agency, Models On Demand Inc. was completely mobile and could be ran from anywhere in the world. I love working with my hands and Elena has a passion for home design, so we began looking for a fixer. By an act of fate or destiny we found the perfect place here in the SoCal mountains. Fast forward six months and the event industry was still dry, no calls or signs of any upcoming events. Covid lockdowns and quarantines basically shutdown the entire event industry, our bread and butter. Not realizing how long this would last, we carried on fixing up the house and realized maybe it was time to switch gears for a bit. We began soul searching. Read more>>

Nathan Schroeder

I grew up in a less affluent area of St. Louis, Missouri, where life in the trades was the expectation rather than college. My great passions as a child were art and movies. I was always drawing, painting and building models from scratch; and I was always fascinated by the immersive visual experience of movies. Films that were set in foreign locations opened my eyes to a larger world, but I was really obsessed with science fiction and fantasy films that took place in completely imaginary settings. I was fortunate to be of the generation that saw 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, Alien and Blade Runner when they first came out in theaters. I was soon to discover a cadre of influential artists such as Ralph McQuarrie, Joe Johnston, Ron Cobb, H.R. Giger and Syd Mead and I realized that I could combine my two passions into a viable career. I attended the University of Southern California film school and also Art Center College of Design; then spent the next decade working my way up from the lowest entry-level jobs in commercials, videos, TV, and finally arriving at my current occupation as a concept artist in feature films. Read more>>

Jordan Hurst

The beauty industry started to spark my interest in highschool where I experimented with coloring my own hair and also doing makeup applications on the theatre actors for plays (out of a small caboodles makeup kit) and hairstyling/color/makeup for friends at my school. I knew my junior year I wanted to go cosmetology school upon graduating highschool. So in early 2009 I started my journey at the AVEDA institute in St. Petersburg, Fl. Where I attended the Cosmetology program, graduated and finished the masters portion of the school allowing me 400 additional hours above what was needed in my state to obtain a license. (1200 needed I graduated with 1600+). In school I quickly discovered my passion was behind Photoshoots and doing both makeup and hair, as that was our final project and out of everything I learned and applied there I felt myself drawn to that area of the industry. After graduating I immediately moved to Miami, Fl.  Read more>>

Janet Lin

I’m a Concept Artist based in the Los Angeles area. I’ve been drawing ever since I was 5, but never thought I’d get into it professionally until Junior year of high school! Before that, I’ve always been more focused on music. I went to an arts high school for classical piano, intending to become an accompanist and/or teacher in that field. I soon realized that I function better in a team environment, rather than practicing alone in a cubicle for 5 hours a day. Additionally, in trying to fulfill my parents’ dreams of me becoming a computer scientist, I also dabbled in robotics programming. I then entered several “FIRST” robotics competitions with my team. This also did not ignite my passion, so I tried to add an artistic element into it. I got an apprenticeship in Gray Area, a foundation based in San Francisco focused on combining technology with art.  Read more>>

Sheree Rome

I am the CEO and Founder of Moving Purpose, LLC. I am a dancer, choreographer, social worker and an advocate for at-risk youth. Moving Purpose was created to empower teen girls and women, through the art of dance and fashion. The idea behind Moving Purpose was to combine my 20 plus years of dance experience and my professional social work experience, into an entity that was bigger than myself. In addition to creating an outlet for youth and women, I also admired the idea of owning an athletic line that catered to dancers and empowered women. Moving Purpose initially started in 2017, one year after I graduated from DePaul University, with my Masters Degree in Social Work. During my last year in graduate school, I had to create a program proposal for one of my classes. With this in mind, I decided that I wanted to create a program proposal that could be implemented for my internship. Read more>>

Trina Hines

I’ve drawn my whole life, I never expected to be earning my living through illustration alone. I was raised in Massachusetts by two jazz musicians, alongside my little sister who also loves to draw. It goes without saying that this creative environment influenced me a lot during my foundational years. We loved watching cartoons & playing video games, particularly Nintendo. When I discovered manga & anime, it captivated me & further elevated my style. Today I am a full-time illustrator & blossoming animator. My main source of income at the moment is album artwork for a range of musical genres. Recently, I’ve started designing full vinyl packages, which has become some of my most fulfilling work. I also do concept art, character design & portraiture. After graduating high school, I tried art school, but it wasn’t for me. I wanted to leap right into life… and life came quickly! Shortly after dropping out. Read more>>

Rach and Matt O’Leary

We are a British couple, we met in London 12 years ago (we just celebrated our ten years wedding anniversary!) and we have been living in LA for five years now. We are both actors which is why we made the move to LA, so health and fitness have always been super important to us and during both of our careers, we’ve had to change physically for different roles. With our joint passion for fitness and our desire to have our own company doing something we love, we decided to study hard and we achieved our Personal Trainer qualifications 11 years ago and have LOVED helping people reach their goals ever since!We are also both Black Belt martial artists so it’s safe to say we’re an interesting pair!. Read more>>

Winnie Wang

I am originally from Hong Kong, and my parents sent me to a boarding school in Andover, MA when I was 15. Due to the pain of separation from parents and friends and my home, #MeToo and also a breakup, I soon became a workaholic and by 11th grade, I immersed myself in work. Now I have four science degrees: computer science, Sloan school of management from MIT; Integrated Marketing from NYU and Oriental Medicine from Alhambra Medical University. Most of my life, I suffered from anxiety and depression. I was suicidal three times in my life. In 2017 I was in a near-death car accident, which was the catalyst of my spiritual awakening. At the moment of the accident, I realized that all the stress and resentment are illusionary suffering that I created for myself. I was always worried in the future or dwelling how I have been wronged as a victim in the past. I was in constant survival mode. That same year, I started learning meditation, Reiki, and I became a spiritual seeker. Read more>>

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