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The Valley’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 the Valley’s gems below.

Sarah Parsons

Growing up, my dream was to be an actor. The stories I saw on screen inspired me; whether they were fictional or based on a true story, I found so many characters in film that were touch points for me. I began acting when I was 12, was accepted into my first college theatre program at the age of 15, and transferred to Southern California’s CALARTS at the age of 19.  Around my mid-twenties, I began feeling dissatisfied with what I was contributing to the world and limited in my ability to create and share stories that mattered. It was around this time I began trying on different careers for size — yoga teacher, business manager, graphic designer to name a few. Eventually, I found myself as an executive of a LA-based start-up and then Public Relations Firm. Read more>>

Sasha Lewis

My career started straight after graduating college (FIDM, Los Angeles) in 2011. I studied Visual Communications with a serious interest in designing retail store windows… I was gunning for Bergdorf Goodman! While I didn’t get to Bergdorf’s, I did get into retail store design and visual merchandising almost immediately. I spent about 5 years designing retail spaces across the United States, working with retailers to improve their in-store marketing and increasing brand awareness on the physical realm. Read more>>

Markie Burns

My background is actually in social work! I am a licensed clinical social worker specializing in psych. Pre-pandemic and during I worked in the locked psychiatric unit at Northridge Hospital. During this time, my husband and I became pregnant with our first baby. After being on maternity leave for a while, I realized that having an infant and working in the mental health field for me, would not be doable. I know myself and my work ethic, and I knew I would be mentally/emotionally exhausted after work coming home to my daughter. Read more>>

Jennifer Popperl

Photography has always been a big part of my life. The first photographer I ever fell in love with is my father. He captured moments, big and small, teaching me the importance of making memories tangible. He really set the tone for what later would become my passion and career. Over the years, my photography has evolved. My journey started with abandoned locations, cemeteries, and urban landscapes. For a time, my emotions, mainly sadness, fueled my work. I didn’t know how to capture spaces outside of those feelings which made it hard to find my place in this field. Read more>>

Saana Laigren Campana

I have always been really interested in performing. When I was a little girl I used to dress up in costumes and play different characters. I started acting when I was 13 years old. I joined a youth theater group in my hometown. I fell in love with theater and have been on that journey ever since. I just recently got back to acting, after taking some time off to study for a degree in my other passion: I am becoming a legal administrative assistant. Luckily, right now I am able to combine my work as an actor, my family life and my studies. Read more>>

Mike Boss

From Switzerland to Hollywood After completing regular school in Switzerland, I was persuaded to start a 4-year apprenticeship where I ended up with a diploma in civil engineering design. Then, at the age of 20, I completed the Swiss military service before I went back to my boring office job. I not only felt that I was wasting my life, but I also felt unfulfilled, even unhappy and I realized that most of the people around me felt the same way! Read more>>

Jenny Karl

I am a decades-experienced cruelty-free beauty makeup artist and hair stylist based in Los Angeles. I was born and raised in NJ where I started my beauty career at the age of 17 as an artist in the Garden Botanika color studio, where I worked for many years while studying for my Bachelor’s degree at The College of New Jersey. After graduation, I continued to pursue a career in the beauty industry, working for well-known cosmetics company, MAC cosmetics, while continuing to freelance in Manhattan and Philadelphia. Read more>>

Rahat Khan

As a young girl growing up in the United States, I was always on the lookout for clothing that connected me to my rich and vibrant culture. I was uninspired by standard American fashion, but I also wanted to go beyond the traditional three-piece suits that are quite often the norm in desi culture. From very early on, I spent countless hours watching my mother and aunt make beautiful outfits for my sister and I; surrounded by colorful fabric and the comforting sound of the sewing machine, I always dreamt of the day when I would be able to design my own lenghas, shalwar kameez, and sarees. Read more>>

Jacob Balken

I first started creating when I was about 6 years old. I’d make goofy little videos with action figures and my parents’ video cameras. At around 12/13, I took my first video production class, and I absolutely loved it. I took a break from film and took Graphics and Publication my freshman year of high school. Sophomore thru Senior year I took video production courses, and a theater production class my senior year along with it. I graduated High School with a certification in Television and the Art of Film and the California Biliteracy Seal in the area of Spanish Language. Read more>>

Ciera Payton

My journey is definitely ever-evolving. I am an actress, entrepreneur, and educator, among many other things. And so, I have many branches into how I came into the different hats that I wear, but they all mainly tie into my primary career as an actress.  My first experience with being on camera was for a local Louisiana PBS special, where I and two of my fellow classmates from the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), narrated the story of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Looking back on that experience, I remember being so amped up to do it because I wanted to utilize all that I had been studying at my performing arts high school and put it to use on camera.  Read more>>

Sophia Louisa Lee

How I started. Hmmm. That’s something I’ve never really thought about. How did I get started? I suppose it was all a series of just doing. Isn’t that how it is for all of us? Moment by moment. You just do. I started off as a self-taught painter, who volunteered to write for the local paper to learn more about artists and galleries, who ended up being part of a gallery co-op, then converted a theater’s lobby into a gallery space, then ended up with another gallery not too far from LACMA. All of that was a series of doing. Read more>>

Emily Miles

I’ve always been the person that people go to talk things they don’t normally talk about but I didn’t always believe in myself because school was hard for me growing up. I didn’t think I had what it takes for graduate school. During and after getting my undergrad degree I spent time volunteering to run support groups for adult survivors of domestic violence and child abuse. It was very hard but very rewarding. It helped me learn that I was meant to be in this field. I went on to get my certificate in addiction counseling. Read more>>

Robin Bramlett

I began my musical journey as a child. There was an upright piano in the Bakersfield, California home where I grew up and my late mother, Lillie Bramlett, was my first music teacher as she was taking piano lessons. She taught me how to read the treble, and bass clefs with the Every Good Boy Does Fine and Good Boys Do Fine Always monikers. I also remember playing hooky from school so I can stay home and watch MTV. This is when I became obsessed with other musical instruments such as the guitar, drums, synths, and bass guitar. My parents purchased all of these for me, but I ended up sticking with the bass guitar. Read more>> 

Jennifer Roach

My name is Jennifer Roach, and I am the founder and CEO of Organization Fabulous, an organization company that works with realtors and homeowners, offering home organization, packing, move management, and unpacking services as well as prepping homes for sale. Along my career path, I found that I truly loved helping overwhelmed women find peace in their home, if nowhere else. I wanted to create a concierge service that could help people who are consumed by the daunting process of selling a house, buying a new one, and uprooting their entire family, all while trying to work and keep their sanity. Read more>>

Sharon Riche

I was born in Brooklyn, New York, and moved to Los Angeles a few weeks after I was born. I guess you can say I was a very independent baby. When I was seven years old, we moved to the San Fernando Valley living in Tarzana and then Studio City. I am a true Valley Girl. I was the only daughter between two brothers. My home was always filled with love, laughter, and music. We played with the neighborhood kids. I am still friends with the same girls today… My dad was a hidden child of the Holocaust. I learned from a young age that it was a miracle he survived, and our lives were a gift never to be taken for granted. Read more>>

Moses Sparks

I have been an established commercial photographer for over 30 years, starting out in the fashion industry and eventually moving into corporate and entertainment work. Along the way, I have photographed celebrities, CEOs, famous athletes, politicians, and countless others from all walks of life. The work has always been very satisfying for me because I get to meet so many different people and step into their worlds for a brief time as I try to make the definitive portrait of who they are and what they are about. Read more>>

Ashley Lee

This journey of mine was the result of diving into what was initially something I used to get through the hardest time of my life; In retrospect, it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I am a true believer in the fact that all the trials and tribulations you face guide you toward the right path. I am still paving my way to my desired future, but with every rejection, every doubt, every criticism, and countless setbacks, I know in my heart there is nothing else I would rather be fighting for than this dream of mine. I’m Ashley Lee, I’m a professional dancer, and as cheesy as it is like 50 cents infamously said “I ain’t going nowhere, so you can get to know me.” Read more>>

Robin Randolph

Hi, I’m Robin (she/her). I’m a natural redhead, Los Angeles native, UCLA Bruin, former ESPNer, and media professional. I knew as soon as I was out of the womb that I loved the arts and photography…through the years, I discovered I have a natural eye and an innate talent to take wonderful photographs.  What I didn’t realize was that I could make a career out of it! Much of my photography was inspired by my years on the east coast. I was fascinated by seasons and Mother Nature, always taking photos wherever I went. I soon invested in photography gear, designed a logo, and started to brand my photography business. Read more>>

Dr. Leslie Celis

As a kid of Colombian immigrants, I think I share a lot in common with folx who grew up first-generation and pursued higher education as a way to support their family legacy. I am the youngest of three and the only one to go to college and eventually doctoral school. As a kid, I struggled with my mental health and felt very unsupported by society. So, I took it upon myself to become who I didn’t have as a teenager. I have made it my mission to create access and advocate for health services for communities of color. I hope to inspire more folx of color to enter the field given that 80.9% of mental health providers are white/Caucasian and only 18% percent of all mental health providers identify as LGBTQIA+. Read more>>

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