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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.

Matt Misisco

I have always had an attraction to art and creative expression. When I was a senior in high school, I had the opportunity to participate in a job shadow program with Kim Weston. Working with Kim allowed me to identify photography as my means of self-expression. I went on to study Art History in college and spent my free time working under local professionals, learning everything I could about photography. With the tools I gained working for other photographers, I moved to LA to open my own studio and pursue a career as a commercial photographer. After about six months, I was asked by a friend to photograph his stand up comedy showcase (another passion of mine). It was then that I realized that I wanted to focus on capturing the life, feelings and personas of stand up comedians. Combining my passion of photography with my love of comedy just made sense. Read more>>

Ashida Onrae

As the Founder and CEO of The Marriage Movement, she created the company to provide a fun and exciting place for engaged/married couples to receive a wealth of information on important topics to help improve couple’s relationships before and during marriage. As a motivational speaker and entrepreneur, Ashida’s goal is to inspire others through her personal journey. Her passion for life, along with her candid humor about her own marital pitfalls, has led many to seek out her advice and insight. In 2002, when Ashida was planning her wedding, she realized that she and her fiancé didn’t have the knowledge that would provide them with the tools to handle the many obstacles that they were up against; such as dealing with finances, communication, intimacy, family, emotional health and more. Read more>>

Ariel Ouziel

I grew up in the heart of Los Angeles, where you see endless amounts of concrete but not much wildlife. I can remember the day I was first immersed in a natural setting untouched by humans, or at least that’s what it felt like to an 8-year-old. It was during an elementary school field trip to the Ballona Wetlands, where our teacher took us for a volunteer day in an effort to try to expose us to something new. It introduced me to diverse ecosystems and taught me the importance of biodiversity. This was the idea of eco vs ego. That day changed my life and kick-started me into environmental advocacy. Read more>>

Melissa Golubski

I grew up in Olympia, Washington and spent the majority of my childhood playing outside, everything from climbing trees, riding horses or playing soccer and tennis. My deep love and respect for nature comes from growing up in the Pacific Northwest and being surrounded by forests and water. On the flip side, I was also fortunate to travel the world with two parents that worked for the airlines. I loved learning about different cultures and exploring new places and that hasn’t changed. By the time I got to high school, we had moved to Colorado and then I stayed to attend University of Colorado to study engineering. By my senior year, I found a love for biomedical engineering and that is what brought me to Los Angeles, the Master’s program at USC. Read more>>

Victory Brooks

I’m a singer-songwriter from Los Angeles, California. Originally I was recognized as a rock guitarist, then I fell in love with pop music and songwriting. In 2018, I moved to Los Angeles from Moscow, Russia to pursue my music career with nothing but two suitcases. Since then, I have developed as a musician, performer and a person as a whole. LA is a city like no other, especially from a musician’s perspective – you can run into an artist who inspired your entire career, you can meet someone who wrote all the music for your favorite movie. You just can’t sleep in LA. How do you sleep knowing the biggest things in the industry are happening 30 minutes away from you? Read more>>

Arianna Henderson

In the second grade, my teacher gave me the nickname “Miss Ham” for the way I would ham it up as soon as I saw a camera. I knew at a very young age that I loved to put on a show and make people laugh. It continued throughout middle school and high school when I discovered YouTube and pretty much always had a camera in my hand. In the 11th grade, my cheerleading coach told me about an audition she saw online for a junior reporter position with the National Cheerleading Association. My dad and I went to the open call and I booked it! I worked as the junior reporter for two years and went on to major in Converged Broadcast Media at the University of North Texas. While at UNT, I worked on our college station for the entertainment morning show North Texas Now. At this time, also started to grow my YouTube channel following and began making a name for myself on social media. Read more>>

Kamali Minter

I created Space For love in 2014 as a platform to offer education, programs, and resources to people in search of deeper connections and more intimacy in their relationships. This was quite a departure from the 15 years I had invested in building a career in the entertainment industry as a voice actor, TV editor, and filmmaker. As cliche as it may sound, I feel like I was called to the relationship work I do now, which feels like a perfect alignment of service, my natural gifts, and my personal lived experience. My parent’s divorce after 28 years of marriage started me on a path of deep inquiry about love, sex, and romantic relationships. This led to years of personal & spiritual development that included the study Tantra Yoga, Meditation, Taoism, Energy Healing, and work with several Relationship experts. Read more>>

Breana Plunkett

I’m originally from Atlanta, GA which is a HUGE music market for many chart-topping artists today. I was always a pretty introverted person throughout school. Anyone from my high school remembers me as “the girl with the headphones”. I even had headphones in difference colors to match my outfits. I had a more of a connection to music than probably anyone I encountered on a day to day in the hallways. When I was in middle school, I heard an artist with an EXTREMELY huge record that changed the entire trajectory or music today and influenced music for generations to come. But in my opinion, it was for the worse. I always believed that music should be honest and have something to say to anyone who’s listening. Read more>>

Ji Hye Lee

I was born in Seoul, South Korea. I grew up watching a lot of anime and I remember drawing Pokemon, Dragon Ball, and Sailor Moon for friends when I was in elementary school. When I was in middle school, I started getting table booths with friends at cons and I would make fanzines and laminated key chains of comics/games/bands that I was into. Then a lot of things happened with my family and I ended up moving to the States with my mom and my sister when I was 16. After graduating high school, I went to Otis College of Art and Design. Honestly thinking back, I had a great time at Otis. Read more>>

Natalie Perez

She TV Media first began in an intense, well-designed, and highly-professional powerpoint presentation by Meredith to myself. I had arrived at Meredith’s apartment on that chilly January weekday afternoon in 2018 thinking I was just going to catch up with my good friend after she had moved back to Los Angeles. Little did I know that I would enter into a formally-informal presentation about my soon-to-be next career. Meredith said to me, “I have something I want to show you! But don’t say anything yet. Just think about it.” And she continued to present to me “She TV”, a video production company founded by the two of us, that would focus on empowering women. Read more>>

Elise Solberg

I’m a pianist, songwriter, musical director, composer and producer based in Los Angeles. In Tokyo, Japan, I was born into a musical family. My home was constantly filled with a variety of music; the luscious strings from Brahms’ symphonies, the exquisite vocal phrasing of Frank Sinatra, and the sonic punch of Linkin Park. My passion for many styles of music proved to stick with me for many years to come. My parents are both musicians, and they noticed one day that I picked up the Japanese national anthem by ear and began re-harmonizing it on the piano at the age of four. As my musicality developed, my mother decided to advance my music education. I auditioned and was accepted into the Yamaha Advanced Piano Academy in Tokyo at the age of seven, until moving to Denver, Colorado a year later in 2004. Read more>>

Mel Rubin

I am a photographer, collage artist, and recently celebrated my 90th birthday. I began taking photos when I enlisted in the Air Force in the 1950s. My first camera was a Kodak Baby Brownie that I bought for a little more than a dollar. While in the service, I still remember what a wonderful and mysterious moment it was to see a photo being developed in a darkroom. It was then that I fell in love with photography. After my discharge, I received my Bachelor’s degree from New York University in 1969. I began taking photography classes at night at The School of Visual Arts. I bought a new camera, basic darkroom equipment and turned the bedroom into a darkroom. Read more>>

Isabel Damberg

Photography, as I’m sure is the case with many other artists, first started out as a form of escapism. I picked up my first camera in the heat of High School finals and SATs and found that it immediately relieved my stress. But it was really the post-production process where I found my stride. There, I was able to see a realistic photo turn into something fantastical and odd. I owe my photo editing journey to photographer Tasha Marie (otherwise known as TeaPalm). I was fortunate enough to stumble across her Instagram many years ago and saw that there was something else to photography besides pointing and pressing a button. She showed me that photography can be surreal and incredibly creative beyond my imagination. Read more>>

Leila Youssefi

I come from a Persian-American household. Like many children of Iranian ex-pats who fled during the Islamic Revolution, I am full-Persian and first-generation American. My culture is extremely family-oriented, poetic, and almost always down for tea. As I’ve witnessed within myself, having a binary culture can induce feelings of disassociation with both cultural and geographic homelands. However, this outlook has also offered me relatability towards a broader community. Read more>>

Amber Mayfield

I am a Floral and Event Designer. I go by the design name of @designsbyAmberMay on Instagram and the business name of designsbyher. I am homegrown from the city of Inglewood, California but my roots are by way of Queens, New York and the Southside of Chicago as both are where my parents are from. I’ve been in the event industry for the past ten years and have been designing floral art since 2017. I entered the event industry to create and be a part of the most joyous moments in life. My passion for floral design came from an innate love and appreciation of flowers, but my respect regarding floral artistry goes beyond my years. My work is solely done by myself out of my home (technically it’s my bestfriends home – thanks Nikki!) in Inglewood until I can afford to have a studio of my own. Read more>>

Gregg Chadwick

Gregg Chadwick has exhibited his artworks in galleries and museums both nationally and internationally. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree at UCLA and a Master’s Degree at NYU, both in Fine Art. He has had notable solo exhibitions at the Manifesta Maastricht Gallery (Maastricht, The Netherlands), Space AD 2000 (Tokyo, Japan), the Lisa Coscino Gallery (Pacific Grove, CA), the Julie Nester Gallery (Park City, Utah), the Sandra Lee Gallery (San Francisco), and Audis Husar Fine Arts (Los Angeles) among others. Read more>>

Craig Palm aka The Nūes

My music story starts in the basements of Chicago. From freestyle rapping for fun then onto national tours just a few years later, it was a crazy journey. Music was the furthest thing from my mind as far as a career. But my older brother/manager urged me to record some songs professionally in a studio, and I eventually had a mixtape that was solid enough to get me some gigs at the hottest night clubs in the city. I grinded on the scene for almost two years while I was trying to balance my 9 to 5. Struggling financially and at a crossroads….but after growing a local buzz, an investor saw potential and stepped in. He wanted to take things to the next level, so we formed our own label and. Our whole camp moved to LA in 2011 and things were off and running. Read more>>

Nabwire Butali

I am a current board member of the non-profit “Spirit Awakening Foundation” which serves at-risk youth within the juvenile justice system in and around Los Angeles County through writing, arts, meditation and other life-skills offerings. I was drawn to this organization after meeting its founder and CEO, Akuyoe Graham, more than six years ago. At the time of our meeting, I’d been working my way through the “grind” as a TV producer in Los Angeles. It had been a winding road since immigrating to the U.S. from Kenya. I had spent four years in the U.S Air Force before separating to attend college and finally worked my way to Los Angeles in pursuit of my dream as a storyteller. Read more>>

Cory Councill

Almost six years ago, I moved to LA without a job. I’d been working in radio and the service industry to make ends meet in Philly where my rent was close to $400 for an incredible top-floor room in a townhouse. Came here, I think with $1000 at best. Maybe 2K? Searched for jobs and finally got two interviews: one was to be a server at a restaurant, the other was to be an assistant at a Publicity firm. I was offered positions at both places on the same day. I went with the PR firm. When I interviewed with Fifteen Minutes PR to be the executive assistant of Howard Bragman, I took a questionnaire about TV/celebs, etc. I knew nothing and kinda made a joke of it knowing that I’d flunked. Who are the morning anchors on GMA? Idk! Read more>>

Allegra Samp

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, surrounded by a family of extremely creative individuals. Growing up, I called my dad “art supplies Mary Poppins”, no matter what it was, if I needed art materials, he always had the exact item buried in his studio. Not only was every member of my family in some sort of creative field, I attended an extremely unorthodox elementary school, which allowed me to focus my time on art and play versus the normal structure of a teacher’s lesson plan. I was the kind of kid who saw a skirt made out of neckties on Disney Channel and then begged one of my parents to take me to multiple thrift stores to collect enough ties for me to hand sew my own. Really quite nerdy if you think about it. After high school, I took a year off and worked as an artist assistant before moving to Oakland, CA to attend California College of the Arts. Read more>>

Biz LaChance

My story begins with a want to entertain. From a young age, younger and more unaware than I care to admit, I have had a passion and a drive to entertain people. Before you start thinking too hard what this could mean, I will gladly elaborate. I was fond of joke telling and impersonating actors and “funny people” before I was in my double digit years. My mother and grandmother helped by giving me the constant reassurance that I was talented and that the “room” wasn’t the same after I left my mark. I was lucky enough that by the time I realized I wanted to be an entertainer in some capacity, I was in high school. I was attending School of the Arts in Rochester, NY. I majored in writing, and LITERALLY almost failed out of the major! Read more>>

Thomas Mulzac

I’ve always loved food. It was honestly my first form of independent expression. During my freshman year, I realized that I wanted to reach people through eating. I honed my craft subconsciously all throughout middle and high school. I started with candy, then moved to cupcakes, and eventually began catering my own parties. It was only in college did I truly believe that there was a spot for me in the culinary arena. Read more>>

Ivuoma Okoro

I moved to LA in 2016 looking to be a writer in the industry. Like everyone who moves to this town to do that, I figured I’d write a couple of spec scripts for television since that’s where all the jobs are supposed to be. But quickly after getting here, I realized that I wasn’t that into the industry. The mindset, the culture of it, how everyone is more about what kind of sales they can make as opposed to telling great stories- it all turned me off in a big way. It worked out that the story idea I was working with made great material for a novel so I felt little guilt about orienting my attention to publishing for a while. And then, midway through working the manuscript for the novel, I heard an audio fiction podcast that turned the lights on for me. Read more>>

Quentin Gause

I am a former NFL linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots and Denver Broncos and the Founder of a Visual Marketing & Branding Consultancy – Iron Visuals. My story begins with a journey through my childhood starting with my struggle to learn concepts and needing an IEP/504 (Individual Education Plan) which is for special education needs students during my childhood and then extra tutors leading all the way up to college. At the age of eight, my father, a former football player, introduced me to football as a way to build confidence and social skills and in the long run teach us how to navigate through life with discipline, direction, the ability to multitask and drive. With my parent’s support and continuous motivation, we persevered through both educational hurdles and sports. Read more>>

Ian Pepe Santos Peterson

To start my photography journey, let me take you back to June 2016. I was working for my dad’s Rolex business. My job was to deliver watches all over Downtown L.A. Delivering watches and watch parts gave me the opportunity to admire the world around me. I was able to notice how beautiful the buildings and people were as I walked around. Everyday I worked, I began to take my own snapshots in my head. In July, my dad had given me the task to take pictures of watch dials. At first, I was skeptical about using a camera. I never used or had any experience with cameras. The camera I used to take pictures was a Canon EOS 70D. As I kept taking pictures, I began to feel attached to photography. To help get me more focused in shots, I would listen to music. Music helps me visualize the types of shots I want to make. Read more>>

Lucas Carvalho

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California and have been living in the same neighborhood my whole life. Growing up, I always knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur just like my dad. When I started high school, I really started to fall in love with hip-hop and the big emphasis it had on fashion. From the big and extravagant ways that the artist dressed or the way they composed certain outfits fascinated me. Since then, I have always been into fashion. Designing clothes, how to dress them and put pieces together and of course, the business side of it. In high school, I was too insecure to disclose any of this to my peers or family. As I entered college and Indiana University. I really began to open up and really dive deep into clothes. I started trying out all new clothes and styles and eventually came up with a style for myself. Read more>>

Jonathan Prince

Two generations after my grandfather made his way from Brooklyn to Beverly Hills (thanks to his “employment” by a well-known mobster who brought him West), I too came back West after a brief college respite in Cambridge, MA. I settled down in the same small town that was home to two generations before me. My mom and her sister went to Beverly High, as did my four sisters and me, and – once I had my own child – so did my son. We have always loved living here – with teenage memories of Saturday nights “hanging out in Westwood” having taken the 83 Wilshire Bus there and back. Or of summer days at Tee’s Beach (Lifeguard Station 4 in Santa Monica) and weekly breakfasts with my longtime best friends at Nate ‘n Al’s (orders taken from the legendary Kaye). I’ve lived in Beverly Hills before I left and since my return home from college, and only now – with my son and my stepkids about to move out of the house in which they’ve grown up – are my wife and I considering a move. Read more>>

Devyn, Madison, Sebastian and Mason

Since our summer was taken away because of the Coronavirus, we couldn’t do our normal summer activities. We would have regular family talks on zoom and one day, we were on our zoom call and we said that we should start a business of our own. We talked about a couple of ideas and we decided to sell banana pudding cups, which is one of our favorite desserts. Our family has a pudding recipe that has been passed down several generations, it’s very delicious. Our banana pudding has fresh organic bananas, nilla wafer cookies and topped off with whip cream. We began selling on July 4th at Ladera Park. We started with 50 cups and sold out within 2 hours. We created an Instagram page to help promote our business, made signs and we created a jingle too. Read more>>

Liang Zhao

It took me a while for me realize that I want to study and dedicate my creative path in the art of cinema. When I was in high school, I was obsessed with capturing moments of my friends and teachers with an old Canon camera my dad gave me. I felt excited and curious to see things around me through lens. To me, it magically brought out a different level of realism. And of course, I found cinema appealing too. Yet it was not until college when I got to peak a little bit behind the screen. I was taking an introduction screenwriting class when I was sophomore in Communication University of China in Beijing, and the teacher introduced a film called ‘Night on Earth’ by Jim Jarmusch which immediately attracted me by its simplicity and humor. Since then, the urge of comprehend the magic of behind the camera starts to grow rapidly. Read more>>

Alejandra Schrader

Growing up in Venezuela with a single mother and limited resources, I was always encouraged to educate myself in order to build a career, to “be somebody.” And that’s exactly what I did–I studied hard. Amidst a political and economic crisis in the place I called home, I decided to move back to the United States (my birthplace) to learn English in order to finish my bachelor’s degree. I was number one in my graduating class at SCI-Arc, a highly reputable architecture school in downtown Los Angeles, and then went to the University of Michigan to pursue a master’s degree. But only a few years into that career that took me so much work and money to build, the economic crash in 2008 left me unemployed (and with big student loan debt.) Read more>>

Flynn Hase Spence

Ever since I can remember music has been my passion. My father a classical guitar teacher taught me guitar as a young child and I spent a lot of my early years completely immersed in performing around London. As I grew older, I started to become fascinated with creating my own music with modern production and how this could add another dimension. It was the combination I think of both modern production and classical composition which led to an early interest in scoring for film and by my late teenage years, I was hooked in creating music this way. Read more>>

Jenna Madden

I never thought I would be an actor. I was a huge science nerd and thought I would end up in physics of some sort working in New York. Then when I was 16, I ended up working for a children’s musical theater company as a babysitter. It turned into me playing acting games with them and telling stories and I knew right then I wanted to be an actor. Inspiring someone with a great story or just simply making them laugh with a comedy sketch brought me so much joy. Less than a year later at 17, I moved to Hollywood and since then, I have been living my dream. Read more>>

Berit Freutel

It all started with a Band. The idea behind that Band is basically the idea of L.A.: Creativity rules in this city, where ideas are born from adventure and where people come from all over the world to dream. Where we all try hard and fail. And get up and try again. Transform, reinvent. L.A. is a mindset. And it’s contagious. Our Bands want to tie up the spirit of Los Angeles. Free spirits keeping it together. And a knot or two. By now, we do have a whole little collection featuring charity Bandaids, which are little cute bracelets (profits help support @safeplaceforyouth) and up-cycled fashion is in the make. Read more>>

Michelle Giun Ji

One day, I walked into orientation for Yoga Teacher Training led by Vytas Baskauskas. I still had my passport in my Chanel bag from landing from South Korea a week ago. Wearing Burberry jacket, Gangnam style hair, Cartier and diamonds, I was feeling something is missing. I was feeling a loss I can’t comprehend. When I landed in Santa Monica, everything was new to me again. Even the ingredient labels in English at the grocery store seemed so foreign to me after spending 8 years of my life speaking Korean in Seoul, the capital city of South Korea. Read more>>

Zaleb Brown

I always had a passion for music growing up, but I always sang privately. It wasn’t until 2017 I started singing publicly. I never thought I had what it takes to make it in this industry because I had a stutter, but it was my friends and family that pushed me to pursue this career. I sang my first cover “When we were Young” by Adele and put it on YouTube. When I shared it with the world, the positivity and love I received was overwhelming and I started realizing I had a gift. My covers began getting hundreds of thousands of views and eventually topped 1 million. In 2018, I started working with my brother Jdagr8 and we released our first song together. I started learning more about the industry, like the production end of it. I released my first single “Projection” in December 2019. Read more>>

Devin Stinson

I was born in Davie, FL and my parents moved us to Boulder, CO when I was five. My mom grew up in Miami and my dad is from Philadelphia and they wanted to raise us in Colorado for a number of reasons. There was a lot of crime in South Florida at the time and my parents thought Colorado would be a safer place to raise a family. Boulder is a liberal college town with access to endless outdoor activities and we took advantage of that. My parents have a hair salon in town and they both cut hair together. I have always been genuinely curious about different people and I inherited my parent’s ability to talk to anyone. They spend all day talking to people in their chairs. Communicating and connecting with a person you have never met before was a fairly normal thing in my family and has helped me tremendously in building and maintaining relationships in my work and personal life. Read more>>

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