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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.

Vijaya Lakshmi

I am a world-renowned Indian classical dancer, an acclaimed exponent of Mohiniyattam, the graceful classical dance form from South India. I’m also a choreographer, speaker, feminist, actress, writer & singer. I have taken Mohiniyattam to higher levels by constantly exploring uncharted territory and expanding traditional boundaries by celebrating both Indian and worldwide culture through unique innovative choreography. A recipient of several prestigious awards, last year, I was awarded the coveted Regents’ Professor & Lecturers Program at UCLA – an honor given to luminaries like Nobel laureates in the past. Read more>>

Abby & Erick Paul

“In the fall of 2008, we found each other.” Abby of Lake Orion, Michigan, and Erick, of Seattle, Washington were performance partners with a professional touring company that was traveling across Europe. “I knew the first person that would ask me to slow dance someday was going to be my husband,” Abby told her friend Erin in high school. Years later on a night out with the company cast and crew in Malaga, Spain, Erick held out his hand and asked her to dance. The tone of the night was written from a storybook. A live band serenaded the cast while these two danced under the stars in an outdoor venue. Read more>>

Bree Arline

It really started back in 2007, I was a part of the Young Black Scholars club in high school, and we did a trip to New Orleans to volunteer after Hurricane Katrina. I wish I had a camera sooo bad back then, it was an amazing trip and new experience. I was always interested in photography. I knew it was something I wanted to pursue eventually. Fast forward, I entered myself into an essay contest through the church I was attending NDCV (New Dawn Christian Village) and wrote about my experience last minute and actually won first place! Read more>>

Evonne Britton

I am a track and field athlete who is passionate about health and beauty. I found my love for the hurdles when I was in middle school. I knew I was made to hurdle when I won my first race after never practicing and my dad volunteering me to run the hurdles race. Ever since then, I have had the desire to be the best athlete I can be and compete at the highest level. After winning the Texas stare meet in high school, I ran on a full scholarship at Penn State University where I was a junior Olympic medalist and currently hold the 60m indoor hurdle record and am one of the fastest 100 and 400 meter hurdlers. Read more>>

Ruben Urena

I’m a producer/musical artist born and raised in South LA. You can find me under the artist name Simpatico. Music was not even a career in my mind growing up. I wanted to major in philosophy until I learned it was practically useless unless I wanted to teach it or go into Law, neither of which I wanted to do. In college, I spent a lot of my time switching majors and deciding what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. After getting an associate’s degree in psychology, I was at an impasse as to what came next for me. Read more>>

Jasmine Heard

Event planning was always a thing that came easily to me growing up. I was always the planner in any of my friend groups. In almost every restaurant I worked at, I was put in charge of planning parties, hosting events, and coordinating guest parties. It continued to expand and I found myself planning baby showers, birthday parties, and weddings for my friends. I loved what I was doing, but it was always just a hobby in my mind. It took a long time for me to realize that this was something I could make a business out of. I had my sights focused on other things. I moved my son and I from Colorado to Cali with hopes of modeling. Well we all know how well that turns out. Here I was a year in and getting zero traction and making very little progress. All the while trying to find a way to get out of the industry of working for other people. I no longer wanted to build dreams for everyone else and I wanted to build my own dreams but I didn’t know how to start.  Read more>>

Amanda Allen

Teen mom to business owner, from Toronto to Los Angeles; To say my journey was easy would be an understatement. Passionate about providing a legacy for my son and family, I knew that no task was too small. Making the choice to pack up my belongings into my VW Cabriolet (at the time), cross country drives three days with $350 in my account was not a light-hearted decision. But one I felt was needed at the time and I don’t regret it. Gratefully, I had family who looked out and met some encouraging friends who introduced me to the LA way of life. Connecting and building strong relationships has been the cornerstone of all my career paths from bartending, fashion/entertainment, public relations and now real estate. I started in the (real estate) industry as an assistant to several agents in 2015. A year later, became a buyer’s agent for a small team. And now happy and excited to approach my 6th year anniversary (January 4) of selling while starting my own boutique brokerage. Read more>>

Ingrid Estrada-Darley and Crystal Hawkins

Ingrid and Crystal were born and raised in South Central LA and were childhood best friends throughout Elementary and Middle School. Despite going their separate ways in their teens, they both studied early childhood development in college and earned Masters in Social Work. Their paths converged again in adulthood and the idea for Black Girl, Brown Girl Books was born. After working in early childhood settings several years and witnessing firsthand the lack of diversity in books for children of color, Crystal and Ingrid made it their mission to make a difference. In 2019, they co-founded Black Girl, Brown Girl Books and began their journey into the world of children’s book publishing with the specific intention of expanding the representation of Black and Brown characters in early literature. 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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