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Inspiring Stories from West LA

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 West LA’s rising stars below.

Kennedy Porter

I started modeling when I was 16-17 because a few friends of mine had cameras and were eager to get out and test them out. Needless to say, I fell in love with modeling first. Just when I started getting my portfolio built up, I was encouraged to audition for a school play with ZERO acting experience and I got the lead. That encouraged me to move to LA to become a Theater Arts major at LMU and pursue acting. At LMU, I have done three productions and had a lead role in two of them, reaffirming my passion for the arts. Currently looking for representation to get the ball rolling. I still enjoy modeling but acting has stolen my heart. Read more>>

Jes Frances

I’ve been singing ever since I can remember. I was singing along to The Beatles and the Rolling Stones by the time I could talk thanks to my Dad who plays guitar and would sing jazz songs by Nat King Cole with my grandfather who sings. Growing up, I always loved soul/blues/R&B and was very influenced by Stevie Wonder, Santana, Alicia Keys, and Aretha Franklin. I began writing when I was seven and began co-writing when I was 12. All throughout high school and college, I continued to sing, write and collaborate with songwriters and producers however I did not showcase my work publicly until 2013 when I released a song for a friend of mine who passed suddenly. The grief that followed his passing is what woke me up to my purpose to share my gift fearlessly and do what I loved as I realized, you never know when your last day will be. Read more>>

Gabriella Halikas

Better known as Ella Halikas online. I’m a curve model based out of Los Angeles, CA signed with Scout Model Agency. I went to the University of Hawaii at Manoa and studied Journalism, which I then wanted to be a news anchor. It wasn’t until I began posting a ton of photos on the beach in Hawaii, where people kept telling me I had a chance at modeling. I thought my friends were crazy, considering I was a size 14 and far from society’s beauty standards. But I believe my confidence is what inspired people through my photos. The second I got behind the camera, I felt so empowered and confident in my skin that I instantly knew I could go somewhere with this. Read more>>

Nacho Arimany

I was born in Madrid, Spain, and one of my first memories I have was asking for a piano when I was six years old. Probably because I always saw an old piano at my grandmother’s house, and I was deeply connected with my grand aunt, María de Pablos, who was the first woman in Spain’s history to become an orchestra conductor. By age seven, I was already combining my classical piano studies with performing as soloist singer in operas, choir and symphonic pieces leading me to share stage with soprano diva Monserrat Caballé at the Spanish National Auditorium. I was 13 years old. Read more>>

Juliet Sikora

Everyone asks me when I started drawing and painting. I always say since I was born! My mother’s side of the family are all artists. Growing up, I didn’t realize it was unusual for family members to make all their own greeting cards or art on their walls. I continued drawing through high school. When I got to college, I double majored in fine art and advertising/public relations at Penn State. I also studied studio art, art history, and conservation of archeological objects at SACI College of Art and Design in Florence, Italy. There I was submerged into the past, present, and future of the art world. I met so many great teachers and students who taught me how to take my art to the next level. Read more>>

Claire Ellis Ellis

Before I even knew what I wanted to do when I grew up, I knew I wanted to travel. I remember asking my father, “which jobs can you travel?” He replied, “journalist.” So from ages seven to ten, I thought that what was I wanted to do. That is until our creative writing course in fourth grade, where I realized writing wasn’t my best skill. Fortunately, this dream would not die there as I had my first opportunity to live overseas in college through a study abroad program. In an effort to justify my plan to up and move to the South of France, as someone who had only un petit knowledge of French, I created an excel spreadsheet that would outline the cost differences to my parents. Read more>>

Celina Rodriguez

I’ve been in the beauty, music, and fashion industry for ten years. Born and raised in Los Angeles, CA, having lived all over the West Coast, now bi-costal splitting my time between LA and NYC. I started my career in these industries as a makeup artist full-time, working primarily in music, and a year ago transitioned into Art directing / creative directing, still in beauty, music, fashion. My makeup career allowed me to hold space at events like Oscars / Grammy weekend, every major music festival in the states, NYFW, Art Basel, some iconic magazine covers, three feature films, hundreds of music videos/commercials, and more flights than I can count. Read more>>

Alessandra T. Shirley

I’m a Founder of HereNow CBD. I am from a small town in Brazil and I have always tried to search for health and wellness in natural sources. I am a software engineer and a mom of two young children, Larissa is ten years old and Nathan is seven years old. When my daughter was about ten months old, I started having panic attacks and I also became terrified of flying. Around 2018, I turned to CBD to alleviate my anxiety. I appreciated that CBD was a natural solution as I didn’t want to have to depend upon pharmaceuticals. CBD changed my life. Not only had I become a fan of CBD, I became a better version of me. Read more>>

Alice Ford

I grew up in the woods of New England, living closely in harmony with nature with parents that loved travel and adventure. As I grew older, my love for traveling grew into a full on passion to see the world and become connected to people of other cultures, find meaning in the human spirit and see places that blew my mind for its natural beauty. I competed in three sports throughout college and besides travel and conservation, my passions were in sports and entertainment. Hoping one day, I could be the next Samantha Brown. After college, I received a Masters in Science in Environmental Management in hopes of spending my life in conservation, environmental assessment or environmental law. Read more>>

Xavier Jones

Born and raised in Dallas, TX—The oldest of three boys and two dogs. Xavier has been an athlete his entire life, He and his brothers were also avid swimmers and tennis players growing up. Intimately innate with the understanding that nothing else brought him more joy than being at play, X began training at The University of Houston in 2010. 2014 Xavier graduated from the University of Houston. Upon graduation, he was also commissioned into the active duty US Air Force where he became a Certified Minuteman III Munitions Maintenance Expert. Read more>>

Leisle Bartley

As a Licences Clinical Social Worker and parent of two teenagers, I’m interested in educational material that will help my children grow into healthy and happy adults. In learning about One Love and engaging with some of their content, I reached out to the organization to offer my help in launching One Love here in Los Angeles. With the country’s second-largest school district (LAUSD), many universities and colleges, including UCLA & USC, the entertainment industry and countless community organizations, Los Angeles is full of potential and I want to help mobilize local efforts to share One Love’s relationship health messaging. Read more>>

Ambika Talwar

As all sentient beings, we are each interconnected. I understand that everything we do is related and interconnected. It is a basic principle of all life. So this idea is fundamental to everything I do. As a poet, I am grounded in seeing the world through this lens. Naturally, how we use language creates our reality. Therefore, poetry and healing are also interconnected in the re-shaping of one’s own sense of self. As an educator, I have sought to inspire this idea in my students whether it be through stories, cultural mores, or world events. In this way, you see all that we do overlaps. So every single thing we do very naturally feeds the other. Read more>>

Brian Bergeron

From very early on, I knew that I wanted a career in art and design. Growing up in Vermont, I was always painting, drawing and fantasizing about becoming an artist when I grew up. I graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in Illustration/Graphic Arts and began my career in NYC, designing gift wrap for a company called Stephen Lawrence. From there, I moved to Boston to begin my career-long work with museums at the Boston Children’s Museum as a graphic designer. At 30 years old, I moved back to NYC to work for The Museum of Modern Art and the MoMA Design Store. Read more>>

Ashley Berry

I really can’t remember a time when I wasn’t fascinated with healing in one way or another. I suppose it’s part of my lineage as my parents met in a hospital where my father worked as a physician and my mother as an ICU nurse. I can remember pouring over a book on holistic health that a friend of my mom’s had given to her when I was a kid, and I think even then some part of me knew that my purpose was to support people on their wellness journeys, but it never even occurred to me that I could pursue a career that was off the beaten path. Read more>>

Liz Townsend

I am a native Angeleno, raised by my parents who fled Vietnam during the Vietnam War. My parents left their country with only two suitcases to their names and came to America to rebuild their lives. They went on to have four children and sacrificed so that we could have everything they didn’t. As the oldest child, I found my interest in crafting at a young age. I was always very independent and curious. My mother was a professional seamstress and she taught me how to use her sewing machines. I took great pleasure in the process of creating outfits for my dolls. I learned how to make jewelry, knit, crochet, and cross-stitch. My creations littered our family home– to the point where my parents often told me to spend less time crafting and to go outside and play. Read more>>

Nadir Rhazi

I go by rhaziondabeat, I am a music producer, composer and piano player. I am originally from Morocco, and I moved to the united states for good at the age of 14 years old with my family to pursue a musical career. I knew that I wanted to be a musician since a really young age. I have been playing the piano for 20 years and I got into music production for the last 3. Music is and has always been a big part of my life, it has taken me through my toughest times as a teenager and I will always be grateful for that. Read more>>

Valerie Chaika

Rather I realized that I could make an impact bringing my energy directly to people and build something I can be proud of. After a few years of soul searching and different trial and errors, I came across Bruno Munari’s book “Design as Art”. It had a profound influence on my worldview and I decided to launch my jewelry brand RIIA. I believe that the main task of our time is to slow down the pace that we all live in today. And it goes to all aspects of life from unhealthy long working hours to stuff we buy, as every purchase usually impacts some communities in another part of the world. Talking about the jewelry industry, gold and silver mining are some of the most polluted productions in the world. Read more>>

Ignacio Viau

HOKALI is the first marketplace that connects surfing students with surf instructors. The two founders met four years ago surfing in San Francisco, California, and have been sharing their passion since they met. Ignacio used to compete in surfing when he was twelve years old. Tomas used to be a high-performance competitive sailor and coach until he was twenty-six years old. They both have a unique and strong connection with the ocean. After brainstorming about how they could connect both passions, the idea of connecting students with coaches shows up. Read more>>

Shi Jun Ng

I had spent six years in advertising but wanted a more purpose-driven, fulfilled life. Early childhood memories at my grandfather’s coffee shop helped shape my course and the vision for The Assembly: an inviting community space — inspired by art and design — for people to come gather and engage in meaningful exchange and conversation. I would say I part stumbled into it; I had known for the longest time that I wanted something of my own, but it didn’t fully take shape for at least a few years. Read more>>

Davey Allen

I grew up in northwest Indiana near Chicago. I was drawn to music and performance from an early age. I was leading the church choir by 16. I saw the world through the lens of melody rhythm. During the summer months, I moonlighted as announcer for the 2nd longest-running water ski and stunt show in the world. Fast forward to 2012, when I finally made my way west. My partner and I made the trek together. She was born in East LA but had been in Indiana since the age of 10. We landed on the floor of her sister’s dining room in the Fairfax district, eventually moving to the westside to be close to her graphic design job in Lawndale. Read more>>

Mengying “Irene” Yang

I am a multicultural film producer with roots in China. Being a creative mind myself, I have developed a deep interest in creating spaces where compelling stories and unique voices can be told. I have been passionate about film since I was very young. I have always believed in the power of films, that they could resonate, inspire, and even change people. Determined to become a filmmaker, I studied Film Directing at the Beijing Film Academy from 2013-2017. In 2015, I was awarded a scholarship for an exchange program at Columbia College Chicago, where I wrote and directed two award-winning short films. Read more>>

Kelley Kali

I used to be an archaeologist before becoming a filmmaker. I would excavate sites in the Central American Rainforest and others around the United States. I loved archaeology and I found myself loving it so much that I wanted to document everything we were doing on film. One excavation, there was a documentary crew that came along and they needed some guidance on the details of the archaeological research being done so I helped draft up the questions that in essence shaped the direction of the film. At the time, I didn’t realize that I was helping to “produce” the movie. Later, that same film that I helped shape went on to win awards and I thought to myself, “Wow, maybe I can do this filmmaking thing too?” Read more>>

Molly Joseph

Feel lucky every single day Am STOKED to get out of bed in the morning. Do what I love and get to literally be myself for a living Am extremely confident and happy. Cannot believe HOW EASY things are. (This one still blows my mind, honestly) Have the most incredible, supportive and nourishing relationships. I am joyful EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Am completely and totally in love with my life. Read more>>

Hiram Altamirano

I wish you CHAOS! You know, lately it’s been hard for a lot of people to find balance. We are going through such a tragic transition that not everyone knows what to expect, including myself. I was born in Mexico City, March 12, 1991. When I was eight years old, I was kidnapped in Mexico City but thanks to that, my family and I had to move to Los Angeles, California and this was the time and place where I discovered myself. Read more>>

Andres Obelmejias Lattanzio

I suppose going way back, my efforts to get into my line of work professionally date back to when I was about 12 years old which was when I first began making 2D animations. I would animate stickman fights and post them on YouTube. I did that for about two years until I delved into game dev programs such as Unreal Engine 3. Living in Venezuela at the time and approaching my latter high school years, I began to study 3D animation more seriously when I was about 16 years old. Read more>>

Jessica Sonnenthal

My first introduction to art began at the age of 11, when my aunt, a fellow artist, gifted me with my first visit to an art class. While attending the class, I fell in love with art as a medium of expression. Initially drawing inspiration from Rembrandt and Renoir, I always knew I wanted to pay homage to the art of realism. With oil on canvas being my primary medium of choice. Before stepping out on my own and beginning my artistic journey, I began working in the Contemporary Art Scene as the Marketing Coordinator for MOCA, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and then by helping with the LA Art Show in 2016. Read more>>

Barbara Heller

I moved to LA about 15 years ago with my sister. She came to LA to be a songwriter, and me an actor… I chose to live in LA because I found the climate, terrain, and the people here worlds warmer after living and training in cold NYC. I also loved that there was an option to practice Judaism, hiking, and meditation in a vibrant big way here. Read More>>

Sugar Panbehchi

I’m an energy and vibrational coach and the creator of Be Crystal Clear Wellness & Sound Healing Center in Los Angeles. I was a highly intuitive sensitive child and I remember from a very young age that I loved nothing more than to help and take care of people. I understood empathy at a very young age and I felt compassionate towards other people’s pain, sadness, grief or whatever they would try and hide from others. It was something that felt very normal to me. Read more>>

Eric Leatherwood

Growing up in the Inglewood – Culver City area, I have always had a fondness for entertainment, science, and video games. This resulted in a unique blend of both a tech nerd and a proud African American. My friends and I were into stuff like Naruto, Dragon Ball Z, Mortal Kombat, Grand Theft Auto, and many more. There was nothing like having your childhood be marked by games like: Mario Kart 64, Super Mario 64, Final Fantasy 7, Super Smash Bros, Pokemon Blue, etc. Then being in high school and airing out beef through games like Call of Duty Modern Warfare and Dragon Ball Z Tenkaichi 3. Read more>>

Simona Sacchitella

I started working in fashion thanks to the Roberto Cavalli Team in Milano. I moved to LA and started my own company six years ago. I am a celebrity fashion stylist. I have clients worldwide but especially in the USA and Italy. Read more>>

Dr. Marc Kayem

I moved to Los Angeles in 1997 and started a new Otolaryngology (ENT) practice. Initially joining a group in Century City, then moving to Culver City in 1999. As my practice grew, I made the move to Beverly Hills in 2006, and have been there since. My practice is split between otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat) and facial plastic surgery. I cover all aspects of my specialties but have special interests in snoring and sinus issues, as well as facial rejuvenation. Read more>>

Kai Sato

I grew up in Arizona, and my family went through a slew of challenges that involved substance abuse, divorce, and bankruptcy. Motivated to alter my environment, I was lucky to earn a full scholarship to an esteemed boarding school near Santa Barbara and left home when I was 14 years old. After high school, I migrated to Los Angeles to attend USC on a merit scholarship. The summer after my freshman year of college. Read more>>

Jonathan Moore

I am originally from South Florida, Miami to be exact. I grew up performing in musicals all the way through high school, before I moved to Los Angeles in January of 2013, in pursuit of beginning my acting career. When I soon figured out you can’t just walk in a casting office and ask to be in the next film they were casting. Which I did do a few times. I immediately began to look for work so that I could stay in Los Angeles. Read more>>

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