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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.

REGINALD HAWKINS JR.

The whole focus of It’s All Good Desserts is to keep my mother’s (Annetta Grays-Hawkins) memory alive through the staple of my company, Peach Cobbler. Growing up, my mother was known for her cooking. Whenever she would cook, I would always find my way into the kitchen whenever she would cook. I would watch and study everything she did and would be surprised with how she would make things so damn delicious. Read more>>

KAITLYN SMITH

Like most children of today, I grew up watching a lot of the classic Disney movies such as The Lion King, Bambi, Snow White, etc. Also since my dad works for Disney, I had quite a lot of exposure to the company growing up and was lucky enough to go to Disneyland a couple of times. This positive experience kind of inspired me to begin doodling some of my favorite characters when I was younger. Read more>>

MICHAELA TODARO

I was always the kid with a creative soul — always dancing, adventuring, and making things. I would say that I really got serious about the things that I do now in high school. Dancing was the first art form that I really pursued full-force. I was a competitive dancer throughout high school and then moved on to continue my training in college. In 2017, I graduated from Louisiana State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies. Read more>>

NOOREE KIM

I’m a Designer in the Animation Industry, and I’m also a Comic Artist and Toy Figure Sculptor. I graduated from Sheridan College (Oakville, Canada) with a Bachelors in Animation. Growing up, I was always interested in drawing and sculpting. I began to take this interest more seriously when I was accepted into an Arts High School. Attending an art specific school afforded me the opportunity to experiment and figure out what career path I wanted to take. Read more>>

RUNA BOUIUS

Should I become an actress or a psychologist? That was my big debate as a young woman graduating from college in my native country, Iceland. But life had a different plan for me and answered the question by sweeping me off my feet and into entrepreneurship at the early age of 23. I could say that I was an accidental entrepreneur. And in those days, being a young, female entrepreneur was definitely outside the norm. Read more>>

ANTHONY SIBRIAN

My passion for photography was sparked by music and emotion. Growing up, I was part of my school’s newspaper and yearbook class. I’d always be looked at, as someone who was creative but never had a proper outlet to fully express myself. Finally, I took a photography course in my senior year of high school. This course taught me how to express myself through the lens of a camera – by freezing time in certain ways that spilled out raw emotion. Read more>>

SOPHIA ARGYROPOULOS

I was so jealous of my smaller chested friends who had so many options. After years of complaining, a close friend of mine, who is also a fashion designer, encouraged me to design my own swimsuit. She said “all you have to do is start, don’t think about what’s ahead, just start”. She helped me sketch up my ideas and connected me with one of her manufacturers. Read more>>

MARK LAFLEUR

I have been working as a cinematographer in Los Angeles since 2004. That profession demands an understanding of the tools used for the job, which includes cameras, lighting, and lenses. My relationship with lenses in particular went beyond understanding and started to border on obsession. As I grew as a cinematographer, I began purchasing equipment that I could use on my own jobs to elevate my work. Read more>>

BRYAN SANTIZO

It began solely as a means to see if I could write and produce music in any significant way. Starting out with a “Rock Band” usb microphone, I ended up recording many random songs and ideas, which over time I eventually compiled on a CD for a couple of friends to listen to. Eventually, I uploaded these online and began taking the enterprise as a more serious music project after some decent feedback on online forums. Read more>>

MANUELE CARLI BALLOLA

I am an Italian film composer, and I have been living in New York City since six years ago. Since I was a toddler, I use to like classical music and opera, but it was only at the age of twenty when I decided to take the admission exam at the Conservatory of Music back in Italy. I remember that at the Piano admission exam there were 62 other students, and only four spots available. I was one of the oldest. Read more>>

NOEMY HERNANDEZ

I am half Mexican and half Colombian and an LA Native who runs two companies while working part-time for a nonprofit that provides arts education to underserved youth. I studied folklorico (Mexican Folk Dance) all of my life. My life was changed for the better when, at 13 years old, I joined Ballet Folklorico del Pacifico (now called Pacifico Dance Company) in Los Angeles. I connected to the music, community, and unshakeable work ethic the company provided. Read more>>

VICTOR RIVERA

I’m a Graphic Designer/Artist from PA but currently based in LA. I moved out here two years ago after I lost a position as a graphic designer for a Sign company based out of Lancaster, PA. I’ve been interested in Art since I was a kid and always knew that I wanted to take my passion for creativity serious and one day make a profession out of it. When I lost my job, I was pretty upset with myself and felt like that was the end of the world but honestly it was just the beginning. Read more>>

JACQUES ARTHUR DEROSENA

I grew up in Haiti & various cities in the south of France before moving to the United States at the age of 13. My first language was French. I learned English watching American Television Shows. My Family’s Background is Haitian, French, Dominican & Italian. I bounced around several US cities such as: Boston, Chicago, Maryland & New York. While in College studying Computer Engineering, I was bitten by the acting bug. Read more>>

BEVON FINDLEY

As a military veteran, I experience chronic pain in my ankles, back, neck, and hands. My first experience with CBD was synthetics in a CBD wax that I bought from a vape store in 2016. I went online searching for CBD Reviews and found that most of the reviews were all from the CBD companies that sold the same products. That’s when I started trying products and posting reviews. Three years later this September we are one of the largest community-supported CBD media company. Read more>>

TERESA AMMONS

I was always a crafty kid growing up. Artsy things always interested me but I never really knew what I wanted to do in life. It all started when my friend/manager Dez asked me to assist her at work which turned out to be fashion show. I assisted her and helped clean her brushes and kept her organized. I had never been in a setting like that before and at the time I was very new to experimenting with makeup. Read more>>

MAVERICK MILES

For five full years, confidence man Maverick Miles and his team were able to walk boldly into American banks across the country and pull off the greatest scheme in U.S. counterfeiting history. Under the guise of your average wealthy man spending a typical afternoon simply cashing in his bonds, Maverick was able to walk into banks across the country and, minutes later, walk out with thousands of dollars in cash that wasn’t his. Read more>>

SIMONE TAYLOR

My love for the arts started in elementary school when I was assigned to incorporate artwork with written assignments. My teacher, Mr. Matuszewicz, my mentor to this day, deepened my interest in visual arts. Throughout the years, he has inspired me to fine-tune my craft. During the school year, I would study painting techniques under the well known Colorado artist Ron Hicks. In the summer of my Junior year. Read more>>

MATTEO DEBOLE

I started making music when I was about nine. At that point, theatre and acting were my main focuses. Being in plays and musicals taught me a lot about narrative and performance, about how to be evocative through songs and words. My time acting definitely influenced the way I learned to write songs: many of my first compositions were narratives, with characters–really busy stuff that didn’t quite work. Read more>>

SUMWHR

I am an up and coming independent melodic-songwriter, producer, engineer, and sound architect, born and raised in Watts, California. Growing up in Watts, I turned to basketball to keep myself off the streets. It was only a matter of time before the streets caught up with me but the bright side to that is I got my first introduction to music. I watched my older brother Trelegend, known in the streets as a gangster rapper, record and shoot videos throughout the city of Watts and that’s when I knew I wanted to channel my emotions into music. Read more>>

KE’ARRA KELLY

It was back in 2016, I had just graduated from college (shout out to one of the only two all women’s HBCU, Bennett College) and I found myself moving back home here to Cali. I thought with my degree and all of the experience I had in media from internships that I would definitely snag a job. However, that wasn’t my story right after college. Instead, after a couple of months being home I found myself with no job and going through post-graduate depression. Read more>>

LYNDSI ZAPATA

I was born in Portland, Oregon and started taking creative movement classes at our neighborhood’s local community center when I was about four years old. However, I would put on dance performances for my family, friends, and neighbors, disregarding their willingness to participate as an audience member. I could tell early on that this was something that I couldn’t live without. Read more>>

BRIAN SMITH

I’ve always had different skills growing up. I was good at running track, playing basketball, skateboarding, dancing, selling and even odd things like pogo stick. I had a few crews back in my high school days and we were pretty well known in the “Jerkin” era 09-13. I switched on and off throughout the years with all these sports but one day in photography class 2010 one stretch changed my life. Read more>>

ERIC FELLS

I’m from Little Rock, Arkansas. My journey to where I am now started off fairly normal. I started playing piano when I was four years old. Everyone in my family is musically inclined so playing an instrument was just something you do. However when I was seven, my dad who was my biggest inspiration at the time, went to prison. Read more>>

SAM ARIAS

By my first year in college, I had a general idea of what I wanted. I knew I wanted to do business and I knew I wanted to run my own firm. Throughout the rest of that year, my interest in business evolved into a passion for marketing and small business. At some point that summer, I wanted to start a marketing firm for small businesses, but I had no idea where to start. Read more>>

LARI BASILIO

I was born into a musical household in São Paulo, Brazil. My father is an accomplished singer and acoustic guitarist. One of my father’s songs had some intricate and very emotional guitar phrasing in it and it touched me in a deep way. From that point on, I wanted to learn all she could about playing guitar. Read more>>

TRACY HANG

My career started in 5th grade when I decided that I wanted to become a fashion designer without knowing the depth of what a designer really was. I am 2nd generation Hmong American, so for me to tell my family that I wanted to design clothing as career didn’t make much sense. Read more>>

NACHO PAJÍN

I was born and raised in Spain, the youngest of three siblings, by my parents. I remember discovering Tim Burton in my preteens and falling in love with his magical world. He had this very coherent style no other director had; all his films were somehow connected by a common language, and they all shared the same universe. Read more>>

GAVIN MICHAEL BOOTH

I am originally from Windsor, Ontario, Canada. I spent most of my life there before moving to Toronto and then Los Angeles. I was always obsessed with movies and filmmaking. I had my first VHS camcorder in elementary school. I had saved up for it with money from my paper route. Through high school, I basically lived in the video production classroom. Read more>>

RAYNA GRAFF

The idea of Black Orchid Fashions came to exist while I was working at a small boutique located in Woodland Hills, CA and made me realize, “Huh, I could do this.” The thought of running my own business felt like a pipe dream and I spent a few months kind of looking into what I could do with running my own boutique. Read more>>

KAT VARGAS

I was your usual fashionista, flirting with a possible shopping obsession that needed mending when I began doing a little more research on the fashion industry. My goal was to find meaning in what I purchased, but what I found was the dark truth about the garment world: The unethical and unsustainable way our clothing is made. Read more>>

KYRIE CHALMERS

My dad and my uncle fueled my passion for rap music. We freestyled together since I was seven years old. I grew up in a household of three; me, my mom, and my younger sister. I saw how hard my mom worked and the struggle that came with being a single parent. So, I took it upon myself to work two jobs in high school, one of which was at my sister’s elementary school. Read more>>

CAROLINE LIEM, CHRISTY FAISON, AND JAMI RUDOFSKY

We met years ago as casting directors and teachers and always gravitated toward one another because of our passion for actors. One night over drinks at Christy’s house, we realized that our ideal studio could be created with the three of us at the helm. Six months later, the Village Acting Studio was born. Read more>>

LICITY COLLINS

Singer-songwriter-diarist, Licity Collins takes a unique approach to her music and shows. By blending sounds and formats from folk music to classic rock, songs and spoken word prose, Licity breaks through traditional genres to reach her audiences at an emotional core. Profiled by both the liberal NPR, and conservative Fox News, in this time of intense divisions among people, Licity is bridging audiences by grabbing hearts. Read more>>

REV, KAREN FROST

In 2011, I moved to LA from Chicago to break into the TV industry. After struggling to achieve my goals, I took every class the Global Truth Center offered, all the way through the ministerial program. The moment that I became a minister, my television career and my ministry skyrocketed. Read more>>

MAVERICK MILES

For five full years, confidence man Maverick Miles and his team were able to walk boldly into American banks across the country and pull off the greatest scheme in U.S. counterfeiting history. Under the guise of your average wealthy man spending a typical afternoon simply cashing in his bonds, Maverick was able to walk into banks across the country and, minutes later, walk out with thousands of dollars in cash that wasn’t his. Read more>>

KE’ARRA KELLY

It was back in 2016, I had just graduated from college (shout out to one of the only two all women’s HBCU, Bennett College) and I found myself moving back home here to Cali. I thought with my degree and all of the experience I had in media from internships that I would definitely snag a job. However, that wasn’t my story right after college. Read more>>

ARTHUR HAMILTON

I’ve always been a funny person, but growing up I never told myself, ”I want to be a comedian!” Honestly, I wanted to be play basketball and or be a rapper, but overtime I realized that my grades and attitude weren’t gonna get me to the league and I was with words, but I didn’t know what I was going to rap about that wasn’t a complete lie! Read more>>

Mike Falzone

Mike Falzone has been solving the internet’s problems since 2006 when he became one of the first creators to establish themselves on YouTube. Hailing from the great state of Connecticut, Falzone began touring as a musician at 14 and while still his first love, Falzone has since shifted his passion and drive into pursuing stand-up comedy. Read more>>

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