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South Bay’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 South Bay’s gems below.

Olesya Alferenko

I am that mom who wears her camera backpack everywhere she goes. Originally I was born In Siberia, Russia and moved to the US when I was 15. I now live in the South Bay, Los Angeles with my sweet middle school-aged twin boys and my beach sports-loving husband. I love to hike and explore nature, dance it up wherever good music is playing, travel the world, practice yoga and laugh with my boys. Photography is my true passion, which I have turned into a profession four years ago as I left a corporate job to chase sunsets and sunrises with my families.Photography is my true passion, which I have turned into a profession four years ago as I left a corporate job to chase sunsets and sunrises with my families. After completing a graduate school of business degree, for many years I worked with big consumer packaged goods brands as a brand marketing professional designing strategies and marketing programs to drive brand growth. Read more>>

Rae Benjamin

I decided to transition into screenwriting after a career in graphic design. I was frustrated with the lack of transparency about how the entertainment industry works. Most jobs are unlisted, training is basically non-existent, and people don’t know where to begin. Even worse, misinformation is spread at an alarming rate. People easily take advantage of those with limited knowledge by charging exorbitant fees for unhelpful advices and courses. For the Black community and other groups who have been historically shut out by traditional Hollywood “gatekeepers,” it can be even more difficult to build a network and learn vital information. Read more>>

Brandyn Hernandez

I won’t go too far back, I’ll start a few years ago when a good friend of mine says “B, you are such a connector. You have this extensive network of allies, and you link people together so effortlessly, it’s such a gift”. From that, it made me realize that there is more I can be doing. I can honestly say I’m nothing without my “Tribe”, my people that pull together to help make a positive impact in our community. Pops Purpose represents that. It’s purely the community, it’s a collective effort. From that moment, the decision was made, I would be the connector in the community. Read more>>

MonyChann McCarty

I struggled with depression during four different seasons of my life. SIngleness, Motherhood, Single motherhood, and Marriage. I realized shortly after giving birth how difficult it was to seek help, let alone ask for it, which fueled this idea, a vision that quickly grew into my life’s Mission. A Podcast turned non-profit aiming to help break the stigma against mental health. I recognize that healing doesn’t look the same for everyone and that therapy needs to be accessible, affordable, non-clinical, and unorthodox. I grasp that the podcast was just the beginning of a much more extensive calling and that healing requires community, accountability, and partnership because we deserve a safe space to grow, connect, reveal, and heal. Relating with like-minded women while building meaningful relationships filled with intentions and purpose by collaborating with women and their locally owned businesses that offer services and events that nourish the mind and spirit in the wake of mental disparity. Read more>>

Emily Moore

Looking at a journey of over 30 years in music, I can see overarching phases present. When I was four years old, I picked up a violin for the first time and started private lessons. I soon added lessons in piano and pipe organ and filled my weekends with youth orchestra, chamber rehearsals, and practicing. This phase was crucial to my development as a musician because I learned the base tools of my trade. I learned the values of consistency and delayed gratification. I learned that sometimes it was easy and sometimes it was hard. I even tried to quit. A few times. As a senior in high school, I took auditions for every major conservatory in the United States and chose to attend USC’s Thornton School of Music. However, within the first month of classes, I had switched out of a music major and ended up taking a year off from serious playing. Suffering from a form of burnout and almost a mid-life crisis of sorts (I was 15 years into music at this point!), I began to open my eyes to other worthwhile ideals- creating my own art, community, and a diverse world that was represented so beautifully in Los Angeles. Read more>>

Kristina Newhouse

I studied Communications as an undergraduate at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. One summer in the mid-1980s, I was supposed to go on an archeological field study, but it got canceled. Because I had already budgeted to be in Portland that summer, I decided to stay and take art classes. Lucky for me, Oregon rewarded k-12 art teachers for extended education and I fell in with the most amazing group of school teachers, who came to Lewis and Clark to study ceramics with artist Judy Teufel. It turned all my life plans on their head. Instead of going into journalism or filmmaking, I went into the arts. I received my MFA in Ceramics from California State University Long Beach, where I studied with Tony Marsh and Jay Kvapil. While I was finishing up the program, I began to question whether I needed to be an object maker. I did not want to be an art historian, even though I had to admit I was more interested in ideas than in making things. I organized my very first show while part of an art collective called 34 Degrees (the latitude of Los Angeles County).  Read more>>

Dennis Forel

I started making balloon animals while working for a Shakey’s Pizza Parlour in Gardena, a few months later I was in a magic shop in Old Towne Mall in Torrance looking for a book on how to make balloon animals. They didn’t have one but they sent me to the marketing director of the mall who hired me immediately… Shortly thereafter, I started performing in shopping centers, amusement parks and major special events. These days I primarily perform at state and county fairs as well as nightclubs. I am a member of the Magic Castle in Hollywood and the Western Fairs Association. Read more>>

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