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West 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 West LA’s gems below.

Patricia Alvarado

I have been in the field of mental health since 2010. During my training in and after grad school, I didn’t think that I wanted to own my own business and become my own boss. I was working within the non-profit world and then slowly transitioned to the corporate side of mental health, within managed care. This is when things really changed for me because I no longer was seeing clients on a daily basis. I was managing people as they did case management and while I enjoyed the management part, I really missed working with clients. Read more>>

Clint Schwabedissen

I’ve been privileged to have worked with a lot of amazing talent like Dave Chappelle, Khalid, Kevin Hart, Sienna Mae, Deorro, Sarunas Jackson, Johann Vera, and photographing Jake Paul. Before I was even born, my dad was running around the house with his VHS camera filming the family. There was just something special about being able to capture pure moments and watching them after. Read more>>

Cody Renegar

If I were to summarize my story in one phrase, it would be: Homeless to Hollywood. I was abused most of my childhood – my mother was a prostitute and abusive towards my siblings and me; I was placed in and out of foster homes where I also experienced abuse, was homeless, and without much direction/thought about my future because of all that I had experienced at a young age. That was until I started volunteering in a nursing home as an after-school activity. At the time, I didn’t have parental figures in my life; the concept of grandparents was foreign. Read more>>

Kevin Thornton

L.A. Sailing started as an informal boat-sharing club in Redondo Beach hosted by Kevin Herink. As a long-time, sailor in the South Bay, he was always looking for a way to get reliable and fun crew on board, while sharing the extensive costs associated with boat ownership in Southern California. I met Kevin through this club in 2012 and as he taught me how to sail, I quickly realized this would become a lifelong passion. He inspired me to learn as much as possible about sailing and through his tutelage assisted in me getting my captain’s license as expeditiously as possible. Read more>>

Owen Garrett

I am a Cuban American actor, stand-up comedian, martial artist, and soon I will also add the title of Coder to this list. I am currently enrolled in the UCLA Coding Bootcamp and because my classes are completely online, I am using this opportunity to visit family and do comedy in Chicago, Indianapolis, and Washington DC while I learn how to code software! I felt that it was very important for my mental and physical health to break out of the cycle of dead-end jobs and living with strangers in strange places. Read more>>

Jason Weissbrod

I started off as a teenage actor in Hollywood. Working on commercials, tv shows, and film and hustling in and out of auditions, and driving around town trying to make my mark in this tough industry. In college, I got my BA in Directing and Acting at Cal State Long Beach. After college, I continued to work in the Entertainment industry doing every job possible to learn about the business. I booked some great roles on tv shows and films like iCarly, Happy Endings, Never Been Kissed, and I continued to have lots of success acting in commercials, but I wanted to create my own films. Read more>>

Ashley Long

I was introduced to acting at the age of fourteen. From then on to this day now, the experience of the craft is still absolutely exhilarating. The state of flow is my favorite part of the craft. When all of the work, contemplation, technique, and research can strip away. There’s this state of flow of listening and in-the-moment responding that is simply put, indescribable. I think Elizabeth Gilbert calls it “Big Magic.” It’s a special experience. Acting is really a beautiful act of service when I meditate on it — to honor someone’s life through storytelling. Read more>>

Lauren Zavala

Zavala Bespoke was a hobby turned business. In 2017, I was living in London working on my master’s in Decorative Arts; living away from family studying all the time and I was *stressed*. The only thing that seemed to help was painting. I had been deep into watercoloring when I discovered leather paint. This acrylic paint is able to bend without cracking, making it perfectly wearable. It was Christmastime, so I painted pieces for just about everyone in my family, including my boyfriend’s leather jacket. Read more>>

Rachel Brockbank

“Tishmal is my native name. It means hummingbird in luiseño, or chaamtela, the language of my native American heritage. This name was given to me when I was about 11 years old—around the same time I began to seriously write music; turning my dreams into poetry, and then into songs. I don’t think that timing is a coincidence at all.” – tishmal Tishmal’s star is rapidly rising, opening dates for big names like chvrches, the aces, Zara Larsson, hippie sabotage, xylø, and the moth & the flame. Read more>>

Aubree Gilbert

Ever since I can remember I’ve had big feelings, big emotional reactions, and persistent curiosity. Like most kids, teens, and even adults, I didn’t have the language to explain what I was feelings or understand how, why, or where I was feeling it. I always felt like something was wrong with me–I had asthma, constant stomach issues, mood swings, and would go into what my family calls my, “shut down mode” where I get very unresponsive, icing everyone out (notice I’m using present tense). I started partying and relying on substances at a very young age, had low self-esteem, and what I now understand to be anxiety attacks. Read more>>

Amy Suddleson

As a child growing up in the Bay Area, I craved organization because life often felt out of control. Whether I was sorting Barbie clothing by type or rearranging my room, I had a love for visual clarity, order, and design. Even at a young age, I realized how our external surroundings have a direct impact on how we feel internally. Having your space in order leads to feeling energetically lighter, calmer, and more centered. I graduated from The University of California, Davis, and earned a design degree with a focus on visual communication. Read more>>

Allesondra Helwig

I started Authentic You: Coaching for Actors very quietly in 2021. Like many coaches, I began by doing zoom sessions to get started slowly. In January 2022, I decided it was time to go full speed ahead and I found a in-person studio on the west side of Los Angeles. I initially began coaching because there were so many actors asking me for advice, help, and information; and it felt really great to be able to offer my knowledge and encouragement to those actors just starting out. Read more>>

Tasha-Nicole Terani

I was abandoned as a baby in the streets of Iran. Someone heard my cries and decided to rescue me from the street and bring me to an orphanage in Northern Tehran. There I would spend the next few years in an overcrowded and understaffed orphanage. I choose to believe there was a divine reason for why I was abandoned. I was eventually adopted and brought to the United States, where I would continue to fight to belong and to be loved. You see, unconditional love wasn’t something I had known yet. I had to discover it on my own and learn how to channel that within myself. Read more>>

Lawren Marie

When I was 8 years old, I used to draw little outfits in a purple spiral notebook. That was my first sketchbook. Those were my first designs. The first time I used a sewing machine was in my grandparents living room. My debut fashion show as designer/model was in that living room in front of a very intimate audience- my grandma, her camcorder, and my baby brother. I was 8 and then I was 18. At 18, I finally decided I didn’t want to become a therapist and I had a flashback of that purple spiral notebook. I dived right back in like the next day. Read more>>

Nicole Rutsch

I grew up on a farm in a town called Stadecken, outside of Mainz, Germany, which is where my passion for farm-to-table cooking and the arts came from. I have spent much of my childhood learning how to make preserves from leftover fruit my grandparents’ orchards. In 2011, after High School, I moved to New York City as an exchange student to learn English. I ended up staying in NYC and getting a degree from The Fashion Institute of Technology in Advertising and Marketing. Read more>>

Meera Sharma

I came to the limelight on ITV’s Take Me Out, which is a dating show that’s really popular in the UK, since then I’ve been using my platform to talk about identity, representation, and staying motivated! I’ve written for the likes of The Independent, as well as appearing on BBC radio, Channel 4 to name a few! I’m a firm believer that you can achieve your goals and dreams but at the same time, I do acknowledge we can all have a down day, which is exactly when we need someone to cheer us on. Read more>>

Luis Miranda

My music journey started in Madrid the first time I went to a club when I was 13 (sorry mom!) and got hooked on acid house and the role of the DJ, while in parallel I was learning classical music and piano in Madrid’s Royal Conservatory of Music. Then the following years I spent a lot of time learning how to play with vinyl while skipping classes to spend hours in record shops. I played a lot as a DJ in Madrid, my hometown but after college, I put my professional music career in second place, as a hobby for a while, during a time when I was focused on building a daytime career in advertising and marketing that took me to live in London and Singapore for a while. Read more>>

Kenneth Cartel

I really don’t know where to start because being a part of the new generation of multi-disciplinary artist each art form of life starts and ends so many time it’s all parallel when you reach your own personal level. I’m going to make a long story short because it’s some many points and moments in my life that would need to make a book or have a video interview. For people who may not know me I was born in Tallahassee, Florida. Raised in Jacksonville, Florida, and majority in Charlotte, North Carolina. Read more>>

Kaschief Miller

My name is Kaschief “Black Ice” Miller I am a film writer, Director, and Producer. How I started is actually a very long story, but I’ll only tell the interesting parts. For a while I struggled with my purpose, I didn’t know what my purpose was, and those who have this issue know it’s a very troubling feeling “why am I here?” “What do I do?” are always the questions you ask yourself. So, what happened was I went to community college for four years, each semester I changed my major, simply because whatever I was doing didn’t feel like it was what I was supposed to be doing with my life. Read more>>

Jazmene Thomas

J. Moton Event Elements (JMEE) is a Nationwide boutique event planning company established by Jazmene Thomas. Jazmene, an accredited Event Designer, was driven to establish what started as a passion, into a thriving business in 2020. JMEE values the importance of creating memorable once-in-lifetime events. “Planning is not a hobby nor is it a pastime, Planning is my passion.” Read more>>

Kimberly Haynes

I have two passion pursuits in my life. Music reigns supreme as it allows me to express and create in ways nothing else really does. But right up there with that is my passion for service. How I got started in music goes way back to the early years. It was the ears of others that reflected back to me that I had something special and unique. I sang along with the radio, records, cassettes – anything. Those around me acknowledged they were hearing something special and that encouraged me to keep going. Read more>>

Katherine Quigley

When I was pregnant with my son, I started to become more careful about my choices, realizing that every choice I made now affected the little guy growing inside me. I initially started with food – being diligent to eat more organic, non-processed foods. But after some research, I began to realize that what I put on my body could also have a serious effects on my health. While I found options for chemical-free lotions and safe sunscreens, what I learned about clothing startled me. The vast majority of clothing is laden with harmful and toxic chemicals. Read more>>

Melissa Meier

I can’t remember a time when art wasn’t an important part of my life. After high school, I was accepted to Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, and couldn’t have been happier to be surrounded by fellow artists. I was most interested in fine art, but my parents wanted to make sure I could find a paying job when I graduated! So, with a degree in illustration, I spent many years working as an illustrator and designer in New York City. I freelanced for MTV, VH1, The New York Times, Time Magazine, Fortune, Discovery, and various others. Read more>>

Ulato Sam

I’ve been in Los Angeles for 6 years now. I came for Grad School and found UCLA to be a BARS Press of sorts. As an Actor, UCLA TFT was a space that refined and exposed me to skill sets and concepts that I’ve been able to utilize and expound upon. As some of your readers may be aware, I’m originally from Jamaica and studied at Morehouse College for undergrad; and since moving to LA, these two experiences have informed so much of how I move through the city and industry. As I grew as an Actor, I received the Mariska Hargitay Scholarship for Actors and became a Hollywood Foreign Press Association Acting Fellow and Zuri Adele Acting Fellow, which further impressed upon me ways of refining my skill sets and exfoliating my craft. Read more>>

Eduardo Del Signore

I was born in Montevideo Uruguay a block away from neighborhood called “Barrio Ansina” which was a deep representative of the Afro-Uruguayan roots. The Afro-descendants called those neighborhoods “Nations”. There were a few Nations around town and each of them had their own musical voice represented by variations of what is known now as the rhythms of “Candombe”. The Candombe of barrio Ansina had the most aggressive and rebellious rhythm calls or “Llamadas”. Read more>>

Dr. Tanya Gilbert

It was not easy, because the environment I was raised in did not prepare or support me for any level of higher education, outside of a high school diploma. However, I knew that there was so much more to life, and I wanted to show my younger siblings and other family members that we did not have to be or stay at the level that we were born into. I wanted them to know that living your life is about being able to make our own choices. This resulted in me working truly hard to earn my Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, with a specialization in Client-Centered Psychotherapy and Diversity Group Leadership. Read more>>

Yashira Ponce

I was very close to my grandma who passed away when I was 16. In the grief that followed, I found a huge sense of comfort in watching movies. That’s when I realized I wanted to be a film director and create the uplifting type of work that uplifted me during a difficult time. Getting into a filmmaking path was difficult though because I was born and raised in Honduras and at that time there was very little film industry there. Read more>>

Charlie Bellarose

My story is a bit unusual. I am originally from Paris, France. I grew up watching American cinema. My parents had a library’s worth of films that I would binge on as a kid. I would get lost in the characters and their stories; living vicariously through them. I’ve always had a wild imagination, a knack for storytelling, and a need for artistic expression. I would often perform skits for my family, making up elaborate scenarios. I loved entertaining others and making them laugh. However, as a teenager, the concept of being an actor and a filmmaker seemed more like a fantasy rather than something rooted in reality. So instead, I studied creative writing and graphic design. Read more>>

Nonna Gleyzer

I spent my life learning how to heal myself. As a professional gymnast who competed for the Ukrainian national team, my body was so worn out and damaged and would often fall into spasms, leaving me unable to walk for days. When I got re-injured, a friend of mine mentioned to me to do Pilates,” and the rest, as they say, is history. Having overcame so many challenges I decided to get my BA in physiology and specialize in preventative injury and rehabilitation. I created Body by Nonna in 2008, so I can pass my knowledge onto my clients and continue doing what I love. Read more>>

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