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South LA’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 LA’s gems below.

Erianna Gowdy

A Dream that never seemed unattainable. A Dream that was mine, and nobody else’s. A dream that soon became, dream(S). Nowadays, in our generation, a lot of people feel that they have to place themselves in a specific category in order to truly succeed. You have your singers, your dancers, your artist, your actors, your athletes, and the list goes on. And whatever one thing they feel they’re best at, that’s the box they place themselves in. And thats okay. But, what happens when that one thing you thought was the only thing that made you who you were, becomes more? Growing up, I believed in the things that I had yet to achieve. At the age of five, I started playing basketball. That was who I was. But As I got older, I began to fall in love with Art too; all things art. Drawing, writing, music, designing, you name it. When I got to High school (Westchester High), I truly began to grow into a better player, but I also began to take art a little more seriously. However, there was still only one thing I felt was my ticket to greater. Read more>>

Jessica Graie

I am one of six girls from Cleveland, Ohio. The running joke is I was the boy my dad never had because I was an athlete and he had all girls. I played basketball, tennis, track and soccer. I was raised in a very strict household; blame that for my perceived conservativeness. My career started in Theatre and modeling and has evolved to include music and film. I have always been hardworking. I was my High school National Honor Society President and captain on the basketball team. I went on to college being on the dean’s list and many academic awards. I think the tools I learned in leadership and teamwork really help me in my career choices today. While filming the movie “Banger” in Cleveland actor Clifton Powell said “You present yourself as such a seasoned actor. You should get out of here.” So that’s what I did. I left my six sisters and 17 nieces and nephews and decided to move to LA. I had been in film, billboards, catalogs, and it was time to make a change. When I arrived in Los Angeles, let’s just say my 60-year-old Trump-supporting roommate was not quite how I thought I’d experience the city. I refused to let these bad experiences jade me so I continued to do work for my dream. Read more>>

The Empowerment Zone

The founder of The Empowerment Zone was always a student with great potential, but she hardly ever stood out to her counselors. Although she was able to attend and graduate from UCLA, she never felt like she or her peers had a proper support system. She went on to be a college advisor for high school students and saw the same issues persist. Students who had not been crowned “gifted” or had the highest GPAs were not given the support, information, and resources necessary for them to make plans for their (very near) futures. The Empowerment Zone was created in 2015 and its program engages students from K-12 to provide them with the essential knowledge and resources necessary to transition to higher education, vocational school, the military, employment, or entrepreneurship. We understand the unique cultural barriers our students face, and we often use our personal experiences to help them see the possibilities in their own lives. Since its start, The Empowerment Zone has built partnerships with several schools and organizations in LA and has been providing workshops and resources directly to LA students. Read more>>

Tikia C. Young

I’m a Southern girl who grew up in the Civil Rights City of Montgomery, Ala. I was raised by a single mom who believed in education, though she was only able to complete her high school diploma. When I was in third grade, she made the choice to place me in a private school to be exposed to a better educational environment. I ended up being the only black girl in my class from 4th thru 12th grade. I grew up in two worlds – one where I grew up on the impoverished side of town where all of my neighbors and friends were black, while I went to school with mostly affluent, white students. I went on to earn my Bachelor’s and Master’s degree and entered the fields of education, government and non-profit. I’m a helper and a lover of literature, which has impacted much of my decision to write a self-help, faith-based book for encouraging others through difficult times. Because of my faith, I have learned to help others process life struggles that I, too, have dealt with or overcome. I love fighting for the “underdog” and those who have been afforded tough situations. I hope to continue to provide as much hope as I can to people who find themselves lacking hope, direction or purpose. Read more>>

Daisy Epperson

Ever since I was a kid, I knew I wanted to make an impact in other people’s lives because I just have that urge to be everyone’s support system. I decided in high school that I wanted to study to become an OBGYN, but when I got to community college for my first semester my uncle passed away and it shifted my whole mindset, and I freaked out about the thought of losing my patient in the middle of delivery because I’m an emotional person who attaches their self to everyone they help. So, fast forward 6 1/2 years later, Spring semester 2020, I had to attend a women’s justice in reproductive seminar and it was a panel full of black women who are midwifes, doulas, and lactation consultants. Listening to their stories of why they are in the career they are in and what kind of work they do opened my eyes to realizing that’s what I need to do with myself. So, I connected with the doula afterwards, and she gave me the information to the program she is with and I applied for the scholarship in the summertime and received a 50% award, and now I am in my 3rd month and able to start working as a doula. Read more>>

Milton Fisher

I was born in Los Angeles and eventually ended up moving to Detroit, MI in my early youth years. I grew up with my father and aunts on the east side of Detroit, up until my dad passed away from lung cancer in 2010. After that, I ended up moving in with my older sister, from there on I was a different person. I don’t have to say too much about Detroit because Detroit is a known city, but it’s hard. It’s hard everywhere you go. I don’t want this to be looked at as a sap story because it’s not, it’s my story. As a teenager, I was very unruly and disobedient, I didn’t like rules, I didn’t like feeling like I was being controlled so I went the opposite way. Throughout the years of getting older and growing up, I started to realize that life is what you make it. Life doesn’t have to be negative, life doesn’t have to be determined by your circumstances. Life is what you make it when I realized that my perspective on “life” changed. I stopped asking myself why and started taking responsibility for what I attracted toward myself. I started a clothing line called H.O.P.E in Detroit, MI to bring awareness to mental health and light to the fights that people fight secretly everyday. Hope stands for “Hold On Pain Ends”. Pain is universal, everyone deals with it, besides death that’s one other thing that we as people have in common. Read more>>

Baylee Bryant

Most of us have a much more intimate relationship with money than we think. I first started thinking about money when I was about 13 years old. I was homeschooled and wanted to take more advanced classes that my family couldn’t afford. My parents had a sink-or-swim approach and told me, “If you really want something, you won’t be afraid to work for it.” This made me realize that the ball was in my court and that one sentiment started me off babysitting, cleaning studios, and tutoring to afford the education that I wanted. This mindset stuck with me throughout college. I moved to Orange County, CA, and rented a shared room in San Juan Capistrano to get myself through college. Some days, I would leave for work at 4AM and not return home again until after 11PM. I was doing what I was told was “right” – working hard and “getting ahead,” but I was burnt out. On top of that, all around me I saw students with equally complicated relationships with money. Some of my friends were taking out tens of thousands of dollars in loans to go to schools they believed would give them an edge in the workforce. Read more>>

Drew (NuSnse) Neal

I began making music when I was 11 years old. My father was a DJ who owned two nightclubs back in the day and loved to sing! My older brother was also a DJ and had his own makeshift apartment studio he used to cater to a slew of underground artists. So before I began on my artist journey, I was always exposed to music. Every morning I would wake up to music and the smell of breakfast, my dad kept (4) 5′ custom speakers in each corner of the living room so when that bass came thru, you could only ignore it for so long till you got up. I’ve always had an ear for melody but when I began creating music the beats that I was getting from my nephew were not the style I needed them to be. And I didn’t even know what style I was looking for but every time I’d hear a beat, I’d always have the thought that “I would definitely do that or that different” So I made the natural transition to making my first beat on Emagic’s Logic 4, which was on my older brother’s windows system. I remember asking my brother one day “how did you learn to record people?” and he pulled out a super thick book and said, “ By reading this”! I didn’t know anything, but I had the gusto to learn & I knew what felt right and what sounded good to me. I’ve always had a way with words since I was younger. Read more>>

Kimi Alejos

I started drawing for fun as a child and I think I didn’t start trying to draw a bit more seriously until I was in high school. There wasn’t as much emphasis on art being taught in school so I did have to learn a lot of it on my own. Social media centering around art was more accessible by this point (roughly 2008) so I was also able to ask other artists for input and advice. At home, I didn’t really have the privacy I would have liked in order to more thoroughly explore themes or ideas that caught my interest so it definitely took some time before I started feeling like I was able to do so. Art was the only thing I was interested in or felt like I was any good at, but I hadn’t put much thought into what I wanted to do after high school. I didn’t have as much support from family as I would have liked, but luckily I had supportive people in my life who encouraged me to try going to college. I’m not going to lie, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing but I kind of just went along with it. I’d never been able to plan that far ahead and was definitely more of a day by day sort of person. Read more>>

Toushonta Hogan

Toushonta is the creator of Scentsational Soaps, an all-natural skincare line for both men and women. A modern-day Renaissance woman described as always having an entrepreneurial spirit, she graduated from California State University with a degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Human Resources. Upon attaining her degree, she set her sights on seeking a career. After many interviews with a drastic economic hit in 2007, she received no response and soon decided to take matters in her own hands by establishing her own business – one that would offer increased responsibility and freedom while allowing her to spend time with her family. Years later, she continuously built her business which landed her in the local program of Target in 20017. She continued to expand all while raising her two children. It was also during this time, she learned her daughter created a video where she was using her mother’s make-up. Of course, while she was highly upset, she saw great potential and introduced her to the world of nail polish.  Read more>>

Alexia (Wavy) Gonzalez (Soul)

I go by Wavysoul – or Wavy for short. I’m from South Central, LA – a section that outsiders think to be violent, poverty-stricken, and less fortunate. However, I have great pride for where I come from because it made me who I am. I am one of few from my area who have beat the odds and had the privilege of going to college, despite the lack of resources afforded to the youth in my city. I have a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree from UCLA. If you asked me my goals three years ago, they would have included: continuing school to obtain a PhD and to open a charter school for urban youth like myself. While this is still a goal of mine, I had an epiphany in 2018 after graduating for the second time and I realized that I wanted to honor my creativity and pursue my more artistic dreams. This is how I came about doing music. I have always been a creative – I was a dancer beginning at a very young age and even pursued dance as a major while at UCLA for two years until switching my focus. Read more>>

1 Comment

  1. Jane

    October 9, 2019 at 03:32

    JBalloonFiesta is a hand made shop run by an great woman with an amazing story

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