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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.

Shelley Norfleet and Bonnie Dolan

We have been best friends for eight years, ever since we met doing a community college theatre production of Footloose! I (Bonnie) played Vi, the preacher’s wife, and Shelley played Urleen, the main character’s best friend. And despite not spending that many rehearsals together, since our characters’ storylines were pretty separate, we bonded over our shared sense of humor, ability to harmonize, and desire to stay up talking in the parking lot until 3AM with our other friend, Ami, talking about boys in the cast. We’ve been through so much together – breakups, career changes, family difficulty, falling in love, failure, success, coming out as queer… and at this point, we’re practically married. Read more>>

Luna Vela

I’ve always loved makeup! In high school, I would love to make makeup videos on Snapchat for fun, a lot of my friends would tell me I should do makeup, but I only saw it as a hobby then. I went to college in San Francisco and met amazing and creative friends and thought we could do fun photoshoots! It wasn’t until I moved back to Los Angeles that I realized I could do this fun stuff as a career! I went to makeup school, I did every internship there was available, picked up every opportunity, and took every advice! I’ve been lucky enough to have great mentors help me on this incredible journey! Read more>>

Rony Eduardo Castellanos Raymundo

I remember holding my mother’s hands in the middle of February 2007 as I made the choice to leave Guatemala at 15 years old. The promise of “safety” is something I vividly remember being shared with me as I began the journey. I knew there was no way back when I was dropped off at the van that took us to the Mexican border. My story is more than the days that I spent lost in the desert in Calexico, CA, and more than feeling unsafe with my own father. When I arrived in the United States, I felt very isolated and with no sense of community. I slowly began to feel comfortable speaking English as I was often made fun of not only for my accent but my Central American accent. I quickly learned the term “Undocumented” and I finally started to see more Queer people in my life. I was very afraid of truly sharing with my father about my queer identity. Read more>>

Patricia Roca

For 25 years, I had been working in Corporate America in healthcare marketing. The last six years of my life, I’ve been dedicated to a women’s health brand that supports the breast cancer community. I’ve always been so passionate about the work. It’s hard not to be: I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many patients that were brand ambassadors with such inspiring stories. My mother is also a breast cancer survivor of over 20 years, so I’ve always had an enormous amount of respect for the community and am always inspired by their resilience and courage. Then, in 2019, I was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. It changed everything. Immediately, I had to determine what my treatment plan would be. I went from one day where everything was perfectly normal to the next day where I was discussing surgical options that could impact my overall life expectancy. Read more>>

Philesha Stern

I was born in south central Los Angeles in the late 1980’s! As a young girl, I quickly became obsessed with 80’s fashion and hair and got into acting and theater! Bamboo earrings, wind-breaker jackets, finger wave hairstyles and convertible cars! LA in the 80’s was electrifying and I knew this is where I was meant to be. Growing up, my father and mother were Afro-centric, faith based parents that allowed me to be free and express my creativity through clothes and different hairstyles. This freedom allowed me to find my passion doing hair and makeup. In 2008, my life changed forever when I decided to make my dreams reality by enrolling in cosmetology school at Toni and Guy Hairdressing Academy in Santa Monica, Ca. After receiving my cosmetology license, I realized there weren’t many professionals, or salons for that matter, that catered to natural Afro-textures and curly hair types. Read more>>

YJ Park

I’ve actually never imagined myself as a designer. I’m currently working as an Associate Visual Designer at GOAT Group, and like I said, seeing myself working as a designer in Los Angeles still feels like a dream to me. I was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea. I remember when young, I wasn’t the artsy type of kid who is extremely talented at drawing, painting, singing, or dancing. But I was definitely a kid who wasn’t afraid of newness, new challenges, and experiences. Thanks to my guts, I went through a series of events in my life and it encouraged me to become an artist today. When I was 12, I went to study abroad in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for two years with my mother and brother. (My father had to stay and work in Korea to support us financially.) Those two years have influenced me significantly in many different ways. It was my very first time in an international educational environment. Read more>>

Derell Saunders

Majorette is a dance style that is not fully understood yet. It’s full of high energy, kicks, gymnastic moves, and bucking ( Pelvis thrusting ). I am originally from New York where Majorette isn’t a huge influence and I learned how to dance majorette by watching YouTube videos and consistently watching the hit show Bring It! At 15 years old I decided that I was going to start my own Majorette team in my hometown of Uniondale, NY. There was no where to do majorette in my town so I took it upon myself to make one and to make a name while doing it. At 15 years old I asked my mom for my full allowance of $150 so I can register my own team for our first competition. Read more>>

Reggie Foster II

I’ve always had a dream of achieving greatness, even if as a kid I didn’t know what that meant. I started playing football in Pop Warner at the age of six, and by the eighth grade, that dream turned into playing professionally in the NFL. My love for football just grew, and I began to learn everything about the sport. I spent hours studying the best athletes in the game, watching documentaries and training hard. When I didn’t have access to equipment or cones, I remember practicing alone at the park across from where I was living. I’d even imagine the trees were my opponents on the field to develop my techniques. Read more>>

Modisty j

As a young gyal who was always into clothes, shoes, and Jewlery. My love of fashion came into play from the womb. My mom is a woman of skill and hustle and growing up she threw clothing parties and also sold clothes out of the trunk of her car. What can you say, I came from this. 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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