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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.

Leonardo Merchan

I am originally from Bogota, Colombia. Started playing guitar at the age of 12 and quickly became well known at the local rock and metal scene. Later on, I was accepted into the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. At Berklee, I earned a Music Degree with a dual major in Production and Classical Composition. Read more>>

Lionel Araya

Growing up in Los Angeles in my late teens while other people were attending church, my church was Soul Train with the Reverend Don Cornelius. I started hip hop and street dancing then and became interested in other forms of dance at age 22 because of a girl. Read more>>

Olivia Thompson

Over the years, I’ve learned that circumstances don’t determine who you are or who you can become. I came to Los Angeles from Tucson Arizona at 18 to study product development and graduated from FIDM in 2013. As a child raised in a single-parent household, I had a solid understanding of hard work and perseverance. Read more>>

Rio Noir

I studied Architecture and Conceptual Design in High School & only a year in College before I decided to drop out and move to Medellin, Colombia for my short-lived passion for soccer. Well, after the realization set in that I will not be making it as a pro soccer player or World Cup champion. Read more>>

Nikki Boyer

My career started back in St. Louis when I was given the chance to be the host of St. Louis 11 Kids Club on KPLR Tv. Basically, my first job was in television. After winning 3 Emmy Awards and finishing my Broadcast Journalism degree, I loved to LA to expand an Entertainment career. Read more>>

Travis Prow

I was a mixed-up kid growing up in one of the agriculture heavy areas of California’s Central Coast. Having moved around so much I had gotten good at making friends, but I was struggling to find things to really apply myself to. In High-school I had argued with my Art teacher enough to find myself looking for a new elective. Read more>>

Den Kayo

Life is unpredictable. You either choose to embrace it or ignore your potential. My journey started with a happy coincidence. When I was 15 years old, I went to a music event with a friend where I met the owner of the venue. Unexpectedly, the owner asked me if I wanted to work as a Dj for him. With no previous djing experience. Read more>>

Colette Hanna

Three years ago. Going through a horrible heartbreak. Enter Colette, or Coco onto the Instagram paradigm. I was looking for a distraction, a healthy distraction. One other than shopping, eating, spending money uselessly! I was out with a good friend of mine, Carol, and I was approached numberous times throughout the night. Read more>>

Peggy Kelley

I believe life is book filled with many unique chapters from where you start to where you say…”The End”. My book started with drawing & painting when I was four years old in Minnesota and then Ohio. Art and story were and continue to be both my foundation and my passion. Read more>>

Keishawn Blackstone

I started as a film director through my passion for road cycling, upon cycling I met Television Director Gary Halvorson who was a mentor to me. He taught me things that you wouldn’t be able to learn in film school. Upon working with Gary, I was determined and ambitious. Read more>>

Jess Lamarre

I grew up in the wonderful “Motown” city of Detroit, where it’s easy to fall in love with music, being that Detroit was home to some of the greats that were birthed from “Motown”. I fell in love with performing at the young age of three. It all started with dance. I started dancing as soon as I could walk. Read more>>

Lakandiwa de Leon

I’ve always been a creative person who enjoyed making things. Over the last 15 years, I’ve been a full-time video editor in the entertainment industry, working mainly in television, but also editing many short films and documentaries. About two years ago, I decided to make a cutting board for my mom as a Mother’s day gift. Read more>>

Kion Williams

I didn’t start making music seriously until I was out of high school. Before that, I was just DJing parties and writing little rhymes and verses for fun. While I was DJing one time, I realized that I had a good ear for which songs would go together and why, so it made me think about producing music. Read more>>

Mandy Sciacchitano

As a kid, I was philanthropic. I was always helping others who were hurting, likely because I was highly empathic and really deeply felt others’ emotions. I was also very self-aware and introspective, which made me quite socially awkward and feeling like I never really fit in. Read more>>

Jean Pongsai

STUDIO DBJ emerged from my freelance business (Design By Jean), my work experience in the design industry and my participation in AIGA Los Angeles. These experiences help shaped my professional discipline in design, business and community impact. I left my full-time job to pursue freelance to create design solutions not limited by a company’s restrictions. Read more>>

Valeska Jacques

Before becoming a mother of three very active boys, Valeska Jacques was one of the early adopters of technology-driven solutions (creating apps), digital and social media. In 2006, one of her first notable clients was HARLEY DAVIDSON MOTORCYCLES. She helped them understand the purchasing. Read more>>

Brittney Santiago

I grew up in a small town in Northern Kentucky. I was a shy kid with little to no friends. When I was 13 years old, I randomly decided to try out for the 8th grade musical. To this very day, I don’t know what drove me to do this. I tried out and I got one of the lead roles. Read more>>

Taline Boyamian

It was in my senior year as a Criminology, Law and Society major at the University of California, Irvine that I found great purpose in helping people navigate the justice system. I had an opportunity to learn about the relationship between our criminal and family laws and the social injustices faced by marginalized groups in our communities. Read more>>

Melody Kennedy, Chelsea Castagnetto and Sara Pendleton

While all three of us were in different vocations, we had one thing in common: we all were the party girls. We were the ones who people called when they needed a party thrown, a baby shower organized, and a holiday soiree hosted. When Melody announced her pregnancy, Sara and Chelsea decided that they were the girls for the job. Read more>>

Charlotte Wilson

Our online boutique and beautiful spa birthed here in Los Angeles in January 2019. Glow Skin Enhancement founded by Charlotte Wilson started out as a dream. Actions made it reality. Our exclusive skincare line and services that’s changing lives. The gifted hands for all skin and all skin types. Read more>>

Emily Mathason

I was born in West Virginia and grew up in Southwestern Pennsylvania. My grandparents owned a bar, and from a young age I helped them in the kitchen there. Then, when I was in High School, my parents bought it and I helped them run it as well, bartending and working in the kitchen. Read more>>

Suzie Hicks

I work in educational media, specifically surrounding environmental awareness and activism. I recently finished hosting a live weekly show on entitled “I AM NOT A SCIENTIST”, and just began a position in STEM/literacy education for PBS on Monday. Read more>>

Khalid Brooks

In elementary school, I played violin from 2nd-5th grade then moved on to trumpet in 6th! I got into baseball freshmen year at Chatsworth High but my mother grew ill so I had to quit to care for my younger siblings. Around 16, I wrote my first song and recorded it on my webcam through my desktop. Read more>>

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>>

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