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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.

Shanelle John

I came to the states from London 12 years ago when I was 22. I wanted to come straight to LA but, my family thought it was better for me to be in New York because I had relatives there. That was a tumultuous time for me. Read more>>

Karina Luna

Growing up in a humble first-generation Mexican-American household, there were many ways my life was “limited.” There were many things my very traditional parents disapproved of with regards to the American culture due to their own fear of the potential negative influence it would have on my upbringing. Read more>>

Kendall Johnson

I’ve always been a creative at heart, and grew up constantly pursuing different artistic mediums like writing and painting. As much as I had also enjoyed photography, I didn’t truly fall in love with it until six years ago, when I received my first DSLR as a Christmas gift from my dad; something I had asked for with hopes of learning to take better photos of my oldest son, who was seven at the time. Read more>>

Matthew Bautista

The only music background I had was that I learned how to play piano by ear in the sixth grade and was actively playing up until my sophomore year of high school. At that point, I lost interest in playing, plus school and sports took up a lot of my time. Read more>>

Austin Barbera

When in high school, I decided to join a smaller group of kids that would travel class to class together for a more “creative” learning experience. Once I joined, I found out that it was a film program. Read more>>

Nikki Valentine

I have always been fashionable and stylish. Starting at the tender age of six years old, when my mother let me pick out my own ensemblay (yes, I made up that word or it may be French, LOL) for my 1st-grade class picture. It was a red tartan jumper dress and it had a thin yellow stripe within the plaid print and I chose to pull that color out pairing the dress with a yellow turtleneck. I was fly that day, baby! Read more>>


I spent my entire childhood immersed in music. I was taking piano at a young age and began singing at the age of 12. I absolutely loved choir. Everything about it just gave me life, and even if I was sick I wasn’t missing a single performance. Read more>>

Chelese Belmont and Shannan Reeve

We formed Beleeve (which is a combination of our last names – Belmont and Reeve) in 2012 because we were inspired to tell stories that we believed in and to give voice to underrepresented characters. Read more>>

Thurston Cherry

Like most actors, I caught the acting bug at a very young age. I remember wanting to participate in anything creative when I was a child. I jumped at the chance to perform, whether it was at church singing in the choir. Read more>>

Arun Ganapathy

I remember being in the third grade in elementary school where they’d start introducing you to music and band. Everyone in the class got a cheap recorder and we had to learn “Three Blind Mice”. I’d practice hard to learn that song. Read more>>

Shareef Jamal

Some of the biggest life lessons I’ve learned come from simply throwing myself into the uncertainty. And for me, I’ve gotta try everything at least once. Everything that’s happened to me over the course of my life. Read more>>

Elcor Aragundi

I’m a U.S. Army veteran who just so happens to be a recovering addict with four years of sobriety. I used Methamphetamine for almost 21 years. I was prescribed amphetamines when I was in the military to help me make my weight when I was active. Read more>>

Ashley Balderrama

I am a Los Angeles born and raised Latina Freelance Photographer and small business owner. I officially started Moments by Ash in January 2018, but unofficially began in early 2017 when I started taking photography. Read more>>

Mary Rose Skokna

As a child I remember using sand, sticks and flowers to express my emotions. I carried this tool of expression with me through my teens into college with painting, chalk, dancing, singing, and finally pottery. Read more>>

Nicole Rombeau-Jennings

For The Furry is the chic and cuddly brainchild of an LA native Nicole Rombeau Jennings. Inspired by the absence of luxury, modern pet products on the market, Nicole set out to create a different kind of pet store—one where design. Read more>>

Beau Ryan

I think it all goes back to high school and discovering the old disposable camera. I was hooked. It was always a hobby up until 2016 when I went on a three week trip in the Grand Canyon with some friends. Read more>>

Adrian Sierkowski

I suppose I came into film in the most typical way possible; my family. My dad worked in film and video as a lighting camera-man and so, to see him at all when I was young, I had to learn how to be quiet and sit around on set. Read more>>

Terrell Howell, Alex Morel and Oren Shani

The company was created by three friends, Alex, Terrell, and Oren, whose shared knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit has turned our avocado obsession into an actual business. Read more>>

Whitney Austin

I loved to draw as a child. As the years went on, I attended an arts high school but ultimately didn’t do much with art for quite some time. In fact, I’d completely stopped drawing and never thought about painting back then. Read more>>

Yasmeen Todd

I had my sights set on being in the electric guitar class at my middle school but the class was completely full. So, my music teacher said, “Hey, why don’t you try playing the drums?”. I said yes hesitantly and from there, I became obsessed. Read more>>

Arden Tse

Arden is originally from Shenzhen, China. He spent his youthhood in England, he completed his bachelor’s degree in film & tv production (minor in theater studies) at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Read more>>

Samirah Jenks

As a native Angelino and self-proclaimed Valley Girl, I knew that I didn’t want to stray too far from home after graduating high school. Having always had an admiration for the college freshman that lived the dorm life. Read more>>

Arda Tashdjian

I worked in the cosmetic manufacturing industry for over 15 years and always had a love for it. In 2016, after my daughter was born, I wanted to paint her nails and realized that most of the nail polishes. Read more>>

Rebecca Knowles

I never really grew out of the magic of playing pretend. I don’t know that I ever made a conscious decision to start acting, but I guess I never chose to stop. In first grade, I remember my class performing a skit about barnyard animals at a school assembly. Read more>>

Natalie Louise Town

After an internship in New York City, a summer job in LA and a diploma from Central Michigan University – I moved to Los Angeles to pursue my childhood dream of being a Disney Channel Star. Read more>>

Nicole Pryor Dernersesian

Nicole Pryor Dernersesian is the President and CEO of Firestarter Entertainment, a talent agency based out of Los Angeles that represents actors for television, film, commercials, print and theatre. Read more>>

Robin Baab Olascoaga

I was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs and graduated from The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a degree in Journalism. My early career in Chicago included marketing and PR for boutique architecture and package design. Read more>>

Jacqui C. Smith

I always knew that I wanted to work in an artistic field, but I didn’t have much exposure to the arts. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and I moved to Los Angeles about eight years ago. Read more>>

Luke Freitag

Trying to think back to how I got my start I hear the swell of an electric guitar and the synth plink of a keyboard as the words “I want to be the very best, like no one ever was.” echo out over a lone boy in a stadium. Read more>>

Sin’ X

It all started in the desire housing development of New Orleans, Louisiana. Or the desire projects or the 9th ward. Where my beautiful queen of a mother gave birth to 12 kids in a very tough societal situation. Read more>>

Abby Guild McGill

I’ve always associated memories with the space in which they occurred — the pattern of the wallpaper, the feeling of the natural light in the stairway, the scent and texture of the aging raw wood wainscoting. Read more>>

Summer Amariah Bosket

I’m an artist originally from Las Vegas, NV. Creativity has been my thing since I was a little kid. Once I got older, I decided to make a brand for myself. I find joy in most all things that require creativity. Read more>>

Shelley Hunter

I had never planned, nor dreamt of becoming an innkeeper. It is something that just happened. One door closed and another opened. I have been a graphic designer and artist for decades. Read more>>

Brad Lewandowski

I got started in theatre my senior year of high school. I was a hockey player growing up and all through high school and I didn’t really think too much about what I wanted to study in college. Read more>>

Bonnie Rose

I serve as the minister of a very eclectic, deeply kind, and fun-loving spiritual center. I had no intention of ever running a church! I stared out in Nursing, then got a degree in music. Read more>>

Giselle Field

I can attribute where I am today to one opportunity leading to another as well as luck. I landed my first design job as a first-year student and my university after showing some posters I designed in high school during my interview. Read more>>

Mindy Worsley

I have always had a love of fashion and a drive to start my own business. I wanted to create a boutique where women could shop online from a carefully curated collection of brands and pieces to make shopping easy and fun. Read more>>

Nicole Collins

I always think about when I started and every time I feel like there’s a professional answer and an honest answer. The professional answer would be from the moment that I knew what I wanted to do and set out to be and the honest answer would be before that. Read more>>

Lena “Levi” Levchuk

I’ve started as a videographer in Moscow, Russia. After a couple of years working, I went to London, UK to study Filmmaking at Met Film School at Ealing Broadway studios. I always wanted to work closer to a camera department. Read more>>

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