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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.

Brooke Baevsky

Brooke “Chef Bae” is a celebrity private chef in Los Angeles, CA. After receiving a dual degree in Product Development and Food Science from Syracuse University, she began exploring the world of food on the internet. She became the famous hands in BuzzFeed Tasty recipe videos, one of the first graduates of a holistic nutrition culinary school program in the world, and a healthy recipe developer for companies such as Starbucks, Freshly, Nestle and Panera. Read more>> 

Catalina Langen

I co-founded Civic Wellbeing Partners in 2020 with Julie Rusk, former Chief of Civic Wellbeing at the City of Santa Monica. Civic Wellbeing Partners is a startup project whose mission is to develop and promote civic innovation through engagement and partnerships. We use data and equity-focused solutions to improve the quality of daily life in Santa Monica and beyond. Our work began with the development of the pioneering community Wellbeing Index and continues as a project of the Santa Monica Bay Human Relations Council ( Read more>>

Riccarda Richter

My journey in front of the camera started with my TV shoot for “Professor T.” (ZDF). I had already completed my acting training by then and had taken an intensive course at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. Even as a child, there was no question that I would be drawn to the film and television industry. I loved playing in different characters and dive deep into fantasy worlds. For example, I slept three days in a basket because I really wanted to portray a dog or I drove my mom crazy making her believe I could do real magic. Read more>>

Polett Ramírez

I’m an actress from Mexico City. Ever since I was a child, I always dreamed of dedicating myself to the world of acting, but for various reasons, I was never able to make it a reality. For many years, I heard negative comments and criticisms from people telling me that acting was a difficult path and that I should look for a more stable job, that I was too old to start from scratch. But despite all of that, I always felt that acting was what truly passionate me and made me happy. Read more>>

Jackie Cohen

I grew up in New York. I have always been an athlete and learned a lot about teamwork and confidence through sports. I’ve been a pitcher and a quarterback as I gravitate toward leadership roles. I took my skills learned from sports and used them in youth and community development programs both in NYC and Los Angeles. I have been a part of large basketball tournaments sponsored by NIKE that have middle school girls playing basketball as well as many other youths including teens in foster care to get involved in sports to gain skills and decrease negative behaviors and of course to have joy in their lives. Read more>>

Claudie Marne

In the Caribbean, food is love. As a child, growing up in Guadeloupe and Paris, I was always surrounded by freshly baked goods as my mom was a baker. Since I became a mother and have my own children now, I know how precious it is to have wholesome and good ingredients in our baked foods. I want to share this experience I had growing up with people around me. I was always surrounded by women and mostly my mom, who loved to bake and made amazingly delicious dishes. Read more>>

Janet Hernandez Philipps

I am a Peruvian-born designer residing in Santa Monica, CA. After many years in the business, I finally launched my own label of sustainable swimwear and resortwear. As a one-woman show, the thought of starting my own business, in the middle of a pandemic no less, was quite a terrifying feat to say the least. I had to pause a few times due to lockdowns and economic uncertainty but was finally able to launch in Sept. 2022. I learned so much, had many ups and downs and sacrificed everything you could possibly think of. Read more>>

Starr Parodi

Starr Parodi first entered the public eye playing keyboards as part of the house band on the hit late-night Arsenio Hall Show. Since then, she has become a vibrant part of the Los Angeles composing community, scoring hundreds of episodes of TV & film as well as being a passionate and innovative solo artist and GRAMMY® winning producer & pianist whose work has been featured on NPR, THE BBC, KCRW and iHEART Radio. Read more>>

Sergio Carbajo

I am a Basque-Spanish-American scientist, educator, musician and composer, and creative writer residing in Los Angeles and Donostia-San Sebastian, Basque Country in Spain. I grew up in Hernani, a working-class town neighboring Donostia, where my loving parents and community were able to provide me with early exposure to arts and science. During my upbringing, I was classically trained in music and composition while I attended school. Read more>>

Nina Kairouz

My mother’s name is Najat, but we affectionately call her Najeau. When she was 20 years old, she came to the U.S. from Lebanon. It’s where I lived as a child, and I have vivid memories of my mother sitting in the sun with her hair wrapped in Saran wrap, eyes closed and breath calm, eating pistachios. My mother and all the generations of women before her would mix oils from the earth with egg whites and create a mask to use on their scalps. Read more>>

Rylee Shull

The idea for Aylorien was born out of my (Rylee Shull’s) personal struggles with health nutrition on a vegetarian diet. My first five years as a vegetarian were normal. Then all of the sudden, without making any changes to my eating habits, I started gaining weight. I had gone through a recent breakup and felt anxious and depressed. I developed a nasty rash around my nose and mouth, and nothing my MD or dermatologist prescribed helped. I started to struggle with sleep, which made my anxiety even worse. Read more>>

Nazli Yuksel

I moved to LA from NY in 2018 and not finding the sandals ı wanted was a turning point that inspired me to start my own business. The fact that ı come from Bodrum, a coastal city in Turkey known with its bougainvillea flowers and leather handmade sandals gives me a unique advantage in creating sandals that are authentic and stand out from the competition. Also, my degree and experiences in international logistics and buying are valuable assets that have helped me in creating and running my business. Read more>>

Steven Bradshaw

I always wanted to be a therapist. I just never knew I was allowed to be one. I started out following the family script, which as a South African man, was to compete in everything and sacrifice your own needs to become a provider. I earned a Master’s degree in business and worked for six years in investment banking and private equity. At age 27, I had a successful career in finance and had “made it” in New York City and Los Angeles. But it felt hollow and false. My body was burned to a crisp and refused to get out of bed most mornings and I had frequent migraines and back pain. Read more>>

Laura Emanuel

I’m the Founder and CEO of Mothership Rising- a free app that makes it easy for friends and family to support the new parents in their life. Mothership Rising is an app that creates community care circles for new parents. Our mission is to solve the isolation they feel by organizing their friends and family to check in on them via text. We are like a meal train for emotional support. I had my own challenges with PPA after I gave birth to my son in 2019 and I was humbled by the support I received from my community. Read more>>

Dustin James

As an intuitive coach, I’m passionate about helping others interpret their energy and to learn how to use it to improve their lives. Being an energy reader can be a challenging and rewarding experience. It requires a deep level of self-awareness and the ability to sense and interpret the subtle energies of others. I was sort of this closet intuitive/energy reader for a long time, mostly hiding out in odd jobs or unfitting corporate careers. But between those gigs, I was researching life’s great mysteries, asking questions such as why are we here. Read more>>

Philip Folsom

I’ve been in the men’s workspace for over 30 years and consider this work to be a sacred calling. As an army veteran myself, I was passionate about the challenges veterans have reintegrating back into the civilian world. This interest drove my specialization in anthropology into ancient warrior cultures and how they all contained similar reintegration, purification and emotional regulation rituals. The only culture missing these rituals is ours and this is the primary reason we see such sobering rates of clinical anxiety, depression, addiction and suicide in our society. Read more>>

Zoe Katzen

My entrance to film began in the city of Haifa, where I was hired by Jewish and Palestinian directors to collaborate on scripts. While I’ve always been a lover of cinema and a writer, it had never occurred to me that screenwriting was a valid contribution to the arts. The medium came naturally to me, as I’ve recorded my dreams for nearly a decade, and in this writing, I use the present tense, vivid descriptions of setting and action, dialogue, and character tracking. It felt like I’d been preparing for script writing all along! Read more>>

Emily Sie

Hi! I’m Emily and I’m a singer-songwriter from Indonesia. I have always loved music growing up, but music was never a first choice for me. It was just a hobby and something I enjoy during my past time. I remember my 11 year-old self listening to a David Foster and Friends tape my dad used to play for me over and over again and fighting over the last physical copy of Taylor Swift’s Speak Now album with my best friend in the nearest CD shop back home. Read more>>

Sela Pierce

I’m Sela, a gaffer and cinematographer based in Los Angeles. However, I’m originally from Louisiana and grew up in a town about thirty minutes outside of New Orleans. From a really young age, I found myself enamored by cinema. I remember having a Jurassic Park VHS that, in hindsight, I must have deeply abused from the amount of times I’d sit and watch it. However, I never understood what really went into filmmaking until I was approached by my middle school arts teacher, Shane Brooks. Read more>>

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