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Inspiring Stories from South LA

The heart of our mission at VoyageLA is to find the amazing souls that breathe life into our city. In the recent weeks we’ve had the privilege to connect with some of South LA’s finest artists, creatives, entrepreneurs and rebel rousers and we can’t begin to express how impressed we are with our city’s incredibly deep talent pool.  Check out South LA’s rising stars below.

Marin Asano

My mother told me that once I started walking, I was already turning around like dancers. I still remember that my mother took me to see ballet concert for the first time at the age of five. I couldn’t take my eyes off from all the beautiful dancers. At that moment, I was for sure that I want to start dance training and be on the stage. I started my dance training when I was six years old in Japan. I have trained in classical ballet most of my life until I came to the U.S. I came to the United States at the age of 17 to hold a BA in performance from California State University, Fullerton. During the course of my career, I have performed principal roles in the ballet productions such as the Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty. I have also performed jazz, modern, contemporary, African American dance, hip-hop and Improvisation on the stage. I currently dance with Nannette Brodie Dance Theatre, Dagdag Dance Contemporary company, and being a guest artist for various studios in LA county to gain my professional career. As an artist or dancer, I love being a part of human evolution using my own body. My goal is to become a performer to spread the enjoyment of performance around the world. Read more>>

Freddy Bunkers

I came up for the idea of HyperGo when I was 14 after a club volleyball tournament. I was sick of sitting in my sweat on the car ride home after 8 hours of volleyball. This was also during the beginning of puberty so sweat was definitely an issue. Let’s not even talk about the smell in the car on the ride home with my teammates… I also had braces at the time and I made a pack to myself, “Freddy, you can’t have braces and acne,” and since I couldn’t do anything about the braces, I had to do anything to get rid of the acne–starting with the sweat. Coming from an entrepreneurial household, I always knew I wanted to start a business. It was amazing to watch my mom grow her company while dealing with six kids. Yes, I do have five siblings—there’s a lot of us. Seeing as I always wanted to start a business, I just waited until I had the perfect product idea to give in to my entrepreneurial aspirations. In comes…the after workout wipe. I knew I needed to get the sweat off my face and body immediately to get rid of the dirt and smell, so I thought, “why not a wipe?.” Of course, I tried the products that were already out there…baby wipes, wet paper towels, to no avail. After all, I was a teenage boy, not a baby. Read more>>

Astrid Williams

Dr. Astrid Williams has an extensive background in public health. She believes all women should have access to safe and quality healthcare to support their health and well-being. Unfortunately, Black women carry a higher load for exposure to toxins and unequally affected by chronic diseases. Read more>>



My back story started when I was around three years old. When I was sexually abused by a family member(s) that continuously went on until I was in my mid teens. I was also physically and mentally tormented by the very ones who were supposed to protect me. I was raised in a perpetuated system that turned a blind eye to kids like me. All the teachers saw was a kid who could not sit still long enough in class to figure out what the right answer was to a specific problem. I was labeled as the kid who struggled to listen and pay attention to save her life. What people didn’t know was that I was battling all of these internal struggles of feeling like a motherless child and just having to deal with all of this trauma on my own. I did the best I could and it has lead me to where I am today. I am 31 years old and in the middle of creating platforms for other children and young adults to tell their stories and not be ashamed or embarrassed by it. My story is deep and will resonate with many, but I just want everyone to know that I have been lead by unwavering faith and that faith alone has carried me through hell and back, I am finally here to tell my story, but most of all create domestic and global opportunities for the ones like myself, who did not get the chance to be great earlier in their life, because society told them no. I will speak for the underdogs, the ones who people turned a blind eye to, not because they are inadequate, but because they are so great others are afraid of their potential. Read more>>

Jo’Von Hollowell

Born and raised in Oak Lawn, Illinois and a small city of Benton Harbor, MI, life was rough growing up. Very rough. Grew up being the middle of three boys in a very Abusive household, working and experiencing homelessness by The time I was nine. Lost my oldest brother in 2011 and my two cousins whom were brothers to us as well by 2013. My stepdad taught me everything he possible could while I was home. Once I turned 11, life started for me. Then I lost him in 2015. I was already highly proficient in constriction And mechanics by the time I was 13 years old due to my dad always pulling me out. Boxing and street workouts while taking care of home was my Dad’s vision of a walk of life for me. Including Gymnastics and world knowledge. Mia famiglia e italiano. I had to do everything differently. He wanted me to make it out. More than I did at that time. Read more>>

Iris Esmeralda Romero

Growing up as a first-generation Salvadorean/American lesbian woman. I received a lot of pressure from my parents to get a “Real Job”, since my passion was make up artistry. I pursued this creative business seven years ago as a freelancer, I have worked in production, bridal makeup, editorial photoshoots, etc. I decided to then continue my education. As I earn My B.A. in Psychology to learn more about our brain and healing trauma. I then resumed to my M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy, Specializing in Latinx Studies. This was an amazing opportunity to do my own healing with a therapist, which allowed me to process trauma and more. I was able to real-eyes my triggers, my limiting beliefs and start being my true authentic self and coming out of the closet as a Lesbian. My name is Iris, as part of our eyes, my intention is for you to feel seen and acknowledged no matter how you identify. Read more>>

Dameion Lucky Smith

Born with two mothers on the Westside of South Central LA, it was a beautiful struggle transitioning through life as we know it. At an early age, I knew that living in the conditions I was subjected to would only amount to a life that went against what I truly aspired to obtain. Gang Affiliated, Drug abuse, Drive-Bys, Shoot-outs, Robbery, I’ve seen it all in my section–literally. Nonetheless, knowing my dreams and having motivation that came from my spirit combined with the heart-shaped the tunnel vision I have to this day! I was raised by the streets and wouldn’t want it any other way to be honest! It’s beauty in the struggle, I’ve learned that it’s just another sign to let you know that the universe and GOD loves you! Dedication & Determination, 365 is the formula I love by!. Read more>>

Carlton Dossou

Writing poetry has always been something I’ve done. As far as middle school, I can remember writing little poems here and there. However, I started taking my writing seriously in 2019. The writing was and still is an outlet for me to express my feelings due to me being a person that keeps it all in instead of vocalizing them as others would. Covid and quarantine was the turning point for me. During this time is where I got to where I am. With nothing to do the notes app and I became best friends. By the end of the year, I had over 30 poems done. After sharing some with friends, they convinced me to start posting them on my Instagram. Although I was very hesitant. The first one I posted was a piece called “You” and the love that I got was what encouraged me to keep writing and posting them. Read more>>

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