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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.

James Egan

Having grown up in a Southern conservative family, I always had to hide what I really believed in order to survive. From an early age, I was inspired by those who spoke out at the risk of losing everything, even their life. People like Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. These are the kinds of stories I wanted to tell when I was given the chance to produce for Participant Media. My first project was “Angels In the Dust,” about the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Read more>>

Greg McKIllop

Since I was little, I always knew I wanted to do something creative, but figuring out what exactly that something was, took me a while to figure out. After graduating from college on the east coast, armed with a degree in International Studies (spoiler alert, this is not the most helpful field of study for the aspiring creative professional), I packed up my 2006 Ford Escape and drove out to Los Angeles. After spending my first year in LA working at a digital advertising agency doing copywriting and content strategy. Read more>>

Chad McMillan

In the earlier part of my career, I dabbled creatively but was more focused on the traditional path of finance and the financial markets. This came naturally by way of the fact my family has been involved in the early-stage financial markets for nearly 40 years now. Ever since I was a kid, going to soccer games, my father and I were talking business as he would share stories of the big deals he was working on. Growing up like this, dealmaking, business building, innovating and the like have always been in my blood. Read more>>

David Liehn and Joe Laporte

Joe and I met on a commercial shoot in Los Angeles in 2018. We were both aspiring film directors making our own creative content, and we decided it would be to our advantage to work together. In 2019 we teamed up to form the directing duo, “Frick & Frack.” Our credits include multiple award-winning short films, music videos, and spec commercials. We are currently looking for projects to shoot, and a script to develop into our first feature-length film. Read more>>

Ellen Shane

I was born and lived in Montreal, Canada for the first 38 years of my life. My husband’s work was the reason for our big move to Los Angeles. At the time, we had two young children and I was pregnant with our third. My life and that of our family changed forever when our third child, our daughter named Emily Rose, was tragically murdered on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu on April 3, 2010. She was thirteen years old and was senselessly killed by an enraged driver. Read more>>

Peter Purcell

I have always loved music. For most of my childhood, I fell asleep each night with an old Discman and headphones listening to Bob Marley, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Eminem, Sublime, and Blink 182. I would close my eyes and just get lost in the colors of the music and the meanings of the lyrics. This led to my passion for writing music, which started when I was 14 years old. One day I was lying on my bed, listening to John Lennon, and I had this epiphany moment where I thought to myself. Read more>>

Madison Shamoun

I was the kid in the cul-de-sac who would put on plays for the neighborhood, forcing our families to endure an hour of “Candyland” the Musical. I just remember being really young and obsessing over tv/film. I would memorize my favorite films front to back after school and was always involved in the drama dept. Fast forward to High School, and I’m enrolled in commercial workshops, had my first agent, and got into UCLA’s Theater, Film, and Television dept for Undergrad, with an emphasis in Acting. Read more>>

Trinity Rose

My parents realized my love for singing when I got up and sang, “Here Comes The Sun” at my piano recital when I was eight years old. I started taking lessons after that. It wasn’t until I was scouted while singing the National Anthem on July 4 in the Paiisades for NBC The Voice that I started singing and songwriting professionally. I won my first singing contest when I was 12 years old out of 7000 and made it out of 50,000 other artists to The Voice. Read more>>

Marina Haywood

For me, my passion for hair started as a young girl. When I was seven years old, I was diagnosed with cancer and endured chemotherapy and lost all of my hair. My earliest memories of being passionate about hair, are the days my hair grew back. I remember waking up before anyone in my household to make sure my hair was perfectly styled before school. At about age 14, I remember being so excited that my older sister asked me to do her hair for her senior prom. Read more>>

Ehsaan Mesghali

My story in LA pretty much starts from birth. My parents immigrated to the states from Iran in the late 70’s / early 80’s and settled in Culver City. Growing up, I excelled academically but I always had the most fun drawing and painting, that eventually led me towards two degrees in architecture and a career in creative direction. Towards the end of high school and early in college, I began getting involved pretty heavily with digital design in a self-taught capacity and started offering services to people in my network and word of mouth. Read more>>

Bill Moldt

I’m from Central New York originally. My father was an electrical engineer in the CIA and my mother a biology teacher who once built a television set from parts, so I was encouraged from a young age to tinker with technology and explore my interests. My first storytelling endeavors were coding video games on my dad’s computer and creating puppet shows for my family using pre-recorded voices, music, and effects on a boom box behind the stage. Read more>>

Shaun Chasin

I was born in Canada in Toronto, Ontario. I grew up with a loving and endlessly supportive family surrounded by a plethora of cats. I was always into music and played guitar but never really took it all that seriously growing up. In high school that changed when I switched to a school for the performing arts where I was able to study music more formally and began to dip my toes for the first time into studying composition. Read more>>

Michael Benjamin

I love to tell stories and help others tell their stories, to engage the culture and connect the world. My story starts in Beijing, China — no, really — as an Emma Bowen Foundation intern with NBC Sports Group covering the Games of the XXIX Olympiad from Beijing, China. I was able to not only create and champion dynamic storytelling but also engage and connect with cultures around the globe through sports and media. Read more>>

Yulia Medovoy Edelshtain

I moved to Los Angeles 20 years ago to find myself. I was born in Russia, grew up in Miami, and found my Yoga teacher, Raghavan, after a month in LA. I knew it would be my life. Before that, I had a great time working on cruise ships. I enjoyed traveling and working with people from all over the world and found my love of performing on stage and hosting events on board. Read more>>

Sasha Lebedeva

I was born and raised in Moscow, Russia. I moved to LA when I was eighteen all by myself to study film at college. I honestly was overwhelmed: I didn’t drive, didn’t know anyone; didn’t speak English very well; didn’t have enough money to feel comfortable in LA. I tried to meet people or be closer to the film industry but had no idea how to approach either. On my 19th birthday, my mom helped me buy a professional digital camera and I started taking pictures. I was reaching out to people through Instagram and Facebook to collaborate on photoshoots. Read more>>

Amy Henson and Patrick Lundquist

We (Amy and Patrick) are partners in life and business, so our personal and professional lines blur. Which is of course a potential highway to the danger zone. Thankfully, in the case of OOVO, it’s been incredibly rewarding and productive. Back in 2017, Patrick was running the national education programs for the GRAMMY Foundation and the GRAMMY Museum. At one of his sessions, a top voice coach began handing out plastic straws to students for them to modify and sing through, which was puzzling. Read more>>

Rachel Coopes

I’ve always been the artsy-fartsy kid with a wild imagination — you know, the one who always gets crafting kits for her birthday, or bosses her neighborhood friends around to reenact scened from Harry Potter or Spy Kids. On top of that, I’ve also been a competitive dancer since I was very young, and let me tell you, performing was my thing. I was never the dancer in the company with the greatest technique or tricks. Read more>>

Josh Saideman

I’m originally from England and moved to New York two weeks after 9/11. All of our friends in the UK thought we were crazy to still be moving to New York at that time, but my parents saw an opportunity for our family. I was raised just outside of NYC; a couple exits north of the Bronx in Westchester county. As with any big city, it was a massive melting pot of cultures. I was pretty immersed in the skateboarding scene. Read more>>

Karla Vargas Gastelum

I didn’t always know I wanted to be a filmmaker. I think when I was a kid, I thought I would end up in a science field, as I have always been very interested in science. I was always very academically driven however, and I knew from a young age that I wanted to go to college. I was born in Mexicali, a border town in Baja, California, Mexico; I lived there until I was eleven. The conditions I lived under, and struggles I faced there, even at such a young age, would not have allowed me to move forward in the path I wanted to follow. Read more>>

Felicia Baker

I started writing in a journal my mother gave me, around ten years old. I never stopped. I wrote my thoughts and feelings, songs and poetry. I believe my mother wanted to know what I was thinking. I started writing my own songs after writing casually with friends and ghostwriting, here and there. Producer friends would say they wanted to collab and create. Most times, it wouldn’t happen. A few times it did. I recorded some songs with a producer from the bay, Poetiq Beatz. I let a few people hear a song or 2. Someone close to me took interest. Read more>>

Marcel Cuevas

I’m a Photographer born in Los Angeles and raised all over lol. I have had the opportunity of living in city’s such as Austin, Houston, San Diego and of course LA. I’ve always been a social butterfly and because of this freelance photography has worked out great for me. I do specialize in the “Car Culture” scene. This means I do large scale events as well midnight style meetups. My vision is to get these beauties in their natural state and for cars usually that’s either sitting pretty or on the move. Read more>>


I got started back in 2012 (junior in high school), I used to freestyle around school in the lunchroom, football and basketball practices. My friends and teammates in school would encourage me to take it seriously so I started making songs and putting them out on YouTube. A local artist (EastGawd Seli) in the city reached out to me to collaborate on a song called ‘Bars Ain’t Nothin’ which took off and did better than we expected. I was going by T-Raw at the time. Read more>>

Leire Aguilera Kelly

I grew up in the colourful, yet chaotic Mexico City where there is a story happening on every street corner. However, I was always in the bubble of a private school where the biggest drama was always something that now seems insignificant: an unrequited crush, a failed exam, or whether you were selected to be a part of the big sports events or not. I won’t complain, I loved my little bubble, but it was a tad unrealistic. Read more>>

Tatiana Caillaud

I was born and raised in France. For a lot of years, I wanted to work with dolphins but I changed my mind in High school and find a cinema school. I did a lot of acting in middle school (I was part of the drama club). I was also taking dancing classes for years and watching a lot of making of… The cinema school came rather naturally and I found where I belong the first time I was on a set. I got my bachelor’s degree in film with a major in directing in 2015. I then move to the US as an Aupair for two years in NYC and Atlanta using that time to network. Read more>>

Doug Burdge and Nate Garnero

Doug Burdge: “Nate and I are long-time friends and colleagues. We’ve both been designing and building homes in Malibu (I’m an architect, Nate is a builder) for many years. When the Woolsey wildfire struck Malibu, we called each other and figured out how we could provide immediate relief to our community. We grabbed a couple of trailers, went to Home Depot and loaded up supplies to bring to our friends and neighbors who had stayed to fight the fire. Read more>>

Sophie Xing

I’m originally from China. I have lived in America for ten years so far. I became an American citizen in November 2019. Personally, I think America is a better place for artists to grow than in China. I have loved to draw and paint since I was a kid, but I had a hard time and obstacles to achieve my goals in art in China. My career has changed a lot since I graduated from undergrad school in China and started working in America. I was a model, a website designer, a graphic designer, and an illustrator when I was in China. Read more>>

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