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Inspiring Stories from The Valley

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

Sarah Wahl

Art has always been a part of my life, I’ve painted since I was a kid, painting on things my mom probably wasn’t always happy about, but as I grew up it’s a passion that got pushed down. I pursued other dreams, getting involved with acting and stunt fighting, traveling and experiencing living in LA. I felt a little lost in what my purpose was and then I started teaching yoga. Built-up an amazing community and found peace and health in yoga. Art came back to me when I was going through heartbreak. I wish I had the exact moment it happened but it really felt out of my control, art just came back to me. It’s as if art was like “I’m here for you, I will get you through this.” Once I picked up the brush again I couldn’t put it down. I’d go to work and come home and paint into the early hours of the morning. Something lit up in me again, a dream and passion that I had brushed aside. A dear friend encouraged me to share my art online and honestly, I was very shy in the beginning. I didn’t even put my name on my first pieces or advertise that I was the artist. Read more>>

Reapersake

Born in Los Angeles but moved to Moreno Valley where I was raised pretty much my whole life. How my music career started was when I was heavily influenced by Eminem and Lil Wayne, that’s when I knew in my heart that I wanted to start making music. During my school days, I was always a kid that disliked school. It just wasn’t for me, in the classrooms I would only think about what I was going to record when I got home. If I wasn’t at basketball practice or games, I would be in my room constructing music and dropping them on Soundcloud and YouTube 24/7. What made me take music seriously was when I first got arrested during school hours which took effect on me because people I knew and loved stopped talking to me and the students around me started looking at me as if I was the bad guy. How I started getting buzz on my music was when a YouTube channel called Crybox posted my song which gave me a decent boost of listeners and following. Read more>>

Sarah Elgart

Well, I’m a choreographer, director, writer, and producer. I wear a few hats. I create work for stage, screen, and site, I direct dance films, music videos, etc., I teach, and I’m Founder/Director of Dare to Dance in Public Film Festival (D2D – @dare2danceinpublic). My work appears under the auspice of Sarah Elgart/Arrogant Elbow (@arrogantelbow). Read More>>

Chris Attoh

At an early age, I was inspired by my father who was an international performer who always motivated me to be apart of something greater than myself. Born in Ghana, Fred Attoh traveled the world dancing/performing before he returned to be enstooled as a king to the people of James Town, Accra. He spent over 20 years in the US and he would captivate us with stories of American culture and footage of shows and films from the 80s. Watching actors such as Sidney Poitier, Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro and Louis Gossett Junior made me want to pursue a career in film and entertainment. Shortly after my first degree, I moved to London to study acting at Pinewood Studios under Tim Kent. After doing a few acting gigs in the UK, I then moved to Johannesburg, South Africa to work for the Waka Agency, MTV Base, DSTV and MNet Africa and ended up starring in a popular soap that aired in 54 countries across Africa and in other parts of the world. In 2010, I branched into studying filmmaking and directing at the New York Film Academy in New York and used this training to create films and TV projects for networks in Nigeria, South Africa and Ghana. Read more>>

James Leong

Throughout my early childhood life, my dad would always film home videos of us. My brother Jason and I would film silly videos from an old camera lying around. Making videos and the process of photography and filmmaking was always a part of my life. The passion for these things stemmed from the shared experience of coming up with an idea or documenting things we did together. One moment in my life that I can remember vividly is the moment I got my first DSLR. My aunt, Joyce gave me one for my birthday when I was about 13. It was on that beginner Nikon DSLR that I learned how to control the camera’s manual settings. From then on, I fell in love with the medium of art. Throughout my high school career, I learned more and more about how to use it and always taking pictures and videos on our family trips. It gave me so much joy to capture moments with my family with the use of something that harnesses light. My entire life, I also struggle with expressing the things I think and feel. I realize that the things that I use in the medium of photography and filmmaking could express the deep feelings I have. Read more>>

Braxton Chea

I worked as an intern for a larger Music blog in my last two years of college. When I graduated, unfortunately my internship as a music journalist ended. Finding a writing position that would pay me fresh out of college seemed extremely difficult (especially with the layoffs due to the pandemic), so I decided to start my own music blog: NoiseWeekly.com. Read more>>

Princess Bizares

When I was six years old, I distinctly remember this moment I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. With all the unbridled and unashamed gusto of a first-grader, I replied that I wanted to be an ARTIST. But life happens and flash forward to high school, I didn’t want to admit that to myself anymore, especially growing up as a Filipino-American with immigrant parents that kind of really, not-so-subtly, wanted me to be a registered nurse. I was impressionable and insecure, and in general kept pretty quiet while I immersed myself in academia. I eventually graduated high school thinking that I wanted to pursue architecture at Cal Poly Pomona because it seemed like a good balance between something more “practical” yet artistic. Right before the fall semester started, I took an art class just for fun, and that’s when I realized I wanted to get into animation instead. Architecture, who? When I was waitlisted for dorm placement at Cal Poly, I took it as a sign and made the sudden and unexpected decision to withdraw my acceptance and enroll into community college instead, two days before classes started. My parents were surprisingly okay with it. Read more>>

Serafia

Sidewalk Singers was formed by musical couple, Serafia and her partner Dan Kattan at the start of the Covid-19 lockdown. All their tours and gigs were immediately canceled, but they still wanted to continue to entertain, spread joy, and help their community, all while maintaining social distance protocols. Their goal is to provide a fun, safe, and memorable way for people to celebrate their special day during these tough times AND give a portion back to the community and neighbors in need! Sidewalk Singers performs for teachers and hospital workers at a donation only price and donates back a portion of booking costs to two charities. The Noho Arts District Save The Theaters campaign, which goes directly to helping preserving the theaters in the historic Noho Arts District neighborhood and the LA Food Bank. So far, $6,000 has been donated back, and counting!!! Up-to-date donation receipts are posted regularly on their website. Read more>

Alex Luciano

I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York where hip hop was a huge part of my life. Everyday I would wake up to the sounds of the Notorious B.I.G/Tupac/The Wu Tang Clan/The Fugees etc. playing on the radio. It didn’t take long before I realized what I wanted to do with my life. I remember hitting up the music spot everyday after school where one of my good friends would work just to cop a few instrumental CDs for $5. Those were the days. I started to write rhymes and rehearsing them over and over at the age of 12, Trying to remember bar for bar so I can spit them to my friends at school the next day. My passion for music grew stronger and stronger as I got older. Hearing these amazing but rugged beats that were being produced by the most talented heavy hitters in the game (Dj Premier, Ski Beatz, Alchemist, 9th Wonder, Swizz beats, Timbaland) I mean the list goes on and on. Learning from the biggest rap/producer titans in the game made me want to go harder everyday. Throughout the years, I decided to take music serious and went to school for audio engineering/production in 2011. Read more>>

Desiree Cinco

When I was younger, I never knew exactly what I wanted to do. I just knew I wanted to help people. I finished two years at a community college and wanted to see what else I could do before committing myself to a university. I walked into to tour a massage school and signed up that day! Massage school is what got me interested in energy work and crystal healing. I took a basic chakra balancing class and everything took off from there. I started collecting crystals and looking up healing properties. I took any class they offered that included energy work but it was very limited. I researched other schools and teachers to help teach me more. I found a great crystal healing school and community. I’ve learned so much about the healing properties of crystals. Through them, I was able to become a Certified Crystal Healer and now I can help people remotely during the pandemic. Read more>>

Amy Apparis

I am a twenty-year-old up and coming music artist. I grew up in a musical family where my grandmother was a well-known professional singer and my uncles were in a very successful 50’s band. I used to sing all the time in front of my family and with their love and support, it was just a matter of time before I would follow in their footsteps. Throughout my educational career, I was in musicals, had lead performances and solos. In high school, I was in the Vocal Ensemble where I was the president of my junior and senior year. After high school, following my heart and passion, I went to a performing arts college in Hollywood where I was able to enhance my vocal, writing, theory, and producing skills. I recently released my first single, “In My Dreams” where I wrote and did the arrangement, as well as played on the track. I also recently released a remix of “In My Dreams”, and I am really proud of how well my music is doing. My songs are available on all major music platforms, including Itunes, Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, Soundcloud and etc… With being able to track the analytics for my music, I have been played in 20 countries and I will strive to continue to make music that resonates with people. Read more>>

Heather Kozlakowski

Most of my childhood was spent on a farm in homogeneous Sanilac County, Michigan. Due to some drama, I left home when I was 14 or 15 and lived with my Aunt in the suburbs of Detroit for about six months. I had dreams of multi-cultural friend groups making human pyramids in the park. In reality, I made one friend and was very sad and lonely. Enter Cable TV and Stand Up Comedy; a light in the darkness! Here is where I personally thank Steven Wright and Janeane Garofalo. This is a 30 min show I wrote, directed and acted in called I AM NOT A MAN, winner of an Encore Producers Award at the 2019 Hollywood Fringe Festival. https://youtu.be/WIk8eUCaZtw. After graduating High School, I went to Specs Howard School of Media Arts and after eight months of training started working as the mid-day talent on a classic rock radio station in Saginaw, Michigan. I worked in Saginaw for five years and would drive and hour or two for acting classes. I studied Meisner with The Actors Workshop in Royal Oak, Scene Study with Stephen Black in Warren and with Redbud Productions in Ann Arbor. Read more>>

Michelle Rivera

Michelle Rivera is a Contributing Writer for Entrepreneur Magazine, a Lifestyle Blogger, former T.V. Host, and is also a licensed California Real Estate professional. Her expertise includes digital marketing, social media management, social media strategy, content development, brand building, media, and consulting. She is the Founder of the company Michelle Rivera Lifestyle, LLC., where she runs her Lifestyle Blog, ‘Michelle Rivera Lifestyle,’ at www.MichelleRivera.net. Through her blog, Michelle has worked extensively as a Content Creator, Brand Ambassador, and Influencer for Fortune 500 companies, such as Disney, HBO, PBS, Fisher-Price, Universal Pictures, Costco as well as countless others. Michelle’s accolades include a Heartland Chapter Regional Emmy Award in 2008, being named ‘On-Air Rookie of the Year’ for the TV show she hosted, entitled ‘Around the Town,’ on the television network Altitude Sports and Entertainment. Also, in 2016 PBS’s Hispanic Lifestyle named Michelle as one of their 2016 ‘Latinas of Influence.’ In 2019, Michelle was recruited to become the Director of Business Development and Marketing for Connect Escrow, where she now enjoys working in all aspects of the Real Estate Industry while also continuing her work with Michelle Rivera Lifestyle, L.L.C. Read more>>

Tryphena Wade

I was born and raised in Columbus, OH. I’m an actor, author, and Certified Life Coach specializing in Fearless Living. I discovered my love for theatre, dance, and singing at an early age, performing in productions in school and at church. My formal theatre training did not truly begin until college. I studied at the renowned Howard University, the alma mater of stars such as Chad Boseman, Taraji P. Henson, Phylicia Rashad, and Susan Kelechi Watson. While matriculating at Howard, I had the opportunity to study at the SOAS in London, England and completed a semester abroad researching Ghanaian culture, history, and popular music at The University of Ghana in Legon, Ghana, West Africa. That experience opened my eyes to the beauty of the world and the richness of the world’s cultures. I’d always wanted to travel but that experience sealed within me a love for Ghana and a deep passion to explore the world. I finished my studies at Howard, earning a BFA in Theatre, and began my acting career performing throughout DC at a myriad of theaters including The Folger Shakespeare Theatre, The Kennedy Center, Signature Theatre, and Theatre of the First Amendment. Read more>>

Finley Walker

Basically, born and raised in Santa Clarita (which some may know as Six Flags Magic Mountain) provided a relatively mundane origin story. I grew up as #3 out of 4 girls in my house, which was one of my family’s trademarks (imagine the disappointment when we weren’t the “Walker Girlies” anymore). My childhood was standard and safe, but my struggle with making and maintaining friends (along with some deeeeeep gender issues unrealized until my mid-teens) led me to develop severe depression at an early age, which some may know can include the side effect of memory loss. I do not remember a lot and I have a hard time recalling memories from before high school if I can at all. Once I made it to 8th grade and changed schools, I met the first queer people who were my age. They introduced me to a community that felt both terrifying and enticing. I knew it was where I belonged but I could not figure out how. The queer community was the missing puzzle piece but I couldn’t figure out which angle to piece it in. I thought I was a lesbian for a while (and so did my parents) then I came out as pansexual. Read more>>

Derek Lodge

I’m an LA transplant from a small town next to Oakland, CA….or “across the water from San Francisco” if I want to sound fancy. Long story short…Immediately after high school, I attended CSUN with aspirations of becoming an American Sign Language interpreter. I was accepted into CSUN’s 2-year Interpreter Education Program (one of the concentrations within their Deaf Studies major), then halfway through had a change of heart with how I envisioned my post-grad. life. I made the tough decision to step out of the program after one year, still received my B.A. in Deaf Studies (just a different concentration), and simultaneously completed a personal training program, becoming a N.A.S.M. Certified Personal Trainer. It took me five years to obtain my B.A. plus I became a Certified Personal Trainer. Woot Woot! It has been just about one full year since finishing both programs. I now work in the Health & Wellness industry. I have learned many new skills and techniques since stepping into my new career field now providing 1-on-1 assisted stretching, recovery services, as well as personalized strength training services. I currently work part-time for a recovery company, part-time self-employed, and am a budding entrepreneur. Read more>>

Emma Cohn

I grew up in a suburban town about 40 minutes outside of the city in Los Angeles. I was raised in a very stable home with two sisters, one older and one younger. As the middle child, I always found myself mediating and organizing every situation in and outside of my home. My personal space has always been something I cherish. It is my safe place and having it in order was a non-negotiable. Throughout my school years, I never knew the career path I wanted to take, but I knew I wanted to do something creative. I decided to go to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in the heart of Los Angeles where I studied Visual Communications. I graduated with a high GPA but still questioning what my future would hold. I went out into the working world and worked corporate job after corporate job because it was comfortable. In the mix, I nannied for several families and helped friends elevate their space as a hobby and found true joy in doing so. About five years ago (2015), I discovered my passion for organizing and parenthood. I was too afraid to take the leap of faith and say goodbye to my steady income job so I stayed – until this year (2020). I took the jump, quit my jobs, and went full force into creating my brand, Common Fold. Read more>>

Kathy Hart

As a fashion design major, my love for fashion and beauty continued and led me into the beauty industry. I was brought into microblading watching my sister Lucy Hart. I was inspired by the happy and beautiful reactions from clients we received on the daily. Knowing that I am helping women save time with their eyebrows everyday and helping them feel more confident in their skin pushes me to want to go to work everyday. I am so happy that I can incorporate my prior experience in design and my love for creating in my job now. One of the best feelings is when new clients come and sit into my chair and trust me to create the perfect eyebrow for their face. Read more>>

Cash Master

From an early age, I can always remember me creating. Over the years, it’s become a love/hate relationship due to my constant battle with severe depression, anxiety and of course surrounding environments. Growing up, I had been to 10 different schools within the 12-grade school system. Which gave me a great sense of adaptation to pretty much any person and environment. Later on in life, this skill became very useful to me. My nickname is cash and anyone who truly knows me or knew me knows that I have always been a hustler. So the fast life always attracted me. Little did I know the sacrifices that came with it. After getting all of that out of my system. GOD sent me a beautiful blessing, my daughter and as we all well know nothing great comes without great sacrifice. So when things didn’t work out with me and her dad, I wasn’t surprised. After healing from so many lives and lifestyles. I decided to try school and actually apply myself. This is where all of my previous years of creating came together. I enrolled and majored in graphic design and minored in photography but ended up loving videography. Read more>>

Nique

I am a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and Florida native. As a nine year old girl when I discovered my Dad’s “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” CD; I knew I wanted to sing songs like her. I started singing for as long as I can remember. When I got to middle school and joined the choir and won my school’s talent show; I received confirmation that I could actually sing. I always knew that making music and singing in front of an audience was where I always saw myself. Although I always knew all roads would lead me here, I took diffeent paths and decided to get my undergraduate degree. I was a full-time student/athlete and I always battled with the notion of giving it all up to begin my music journey. After completely my degree I decided it was time to go for it. Two years ago, I made the decision that I could no longer take detours to fulfill my purpose and had to start my journey. I started writing songs and recording music. I didn’t have any background in music, but the transistion came naturally. Read more>>

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