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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.

Leni Weisberg

I went to Syracuse University and studied television, radio, and film. The night I graduated, I moved straight to LA where I worked as a Page at CBS until I was able to get a job in casting. I worked in reality tv casting for two years until Covid-19 hit. During lockdown, I admittedly got a little bit bored and decided to take a few online classes, all in PR, since it was something I have always been interested in. After finishing my classes, I decided that PR was for me. So I tirelessly networked and eventually got my “big break” as I was offered a job at a below the line PR firm, which is where I am now working as a publicity assistant. Read more>>

Jonathan Sergent

If you ask anyone that knows my story, they’ll say the parents I have are saints and here’s why. I was born with meningitis and at two weeks old, I almost died from it. I recovered miraculously. My birth mom was not mentally capable of taking care of me so I had to be put in the foster care system. My parents today took in a two weeks old child without hesitation. They fought to have me adopted in the early 90’s. The court had a problem with a white couple adopting a black child. My parents already had three birth children at the time, you see. Certain social workers and judges felt I would dissociate from my race and lack confidence in myself. They were incredibly wrong. So my parents fought back and forth with the courts for four and a half years to have me adopted. I jokingly say I was the first-round draft pick in the family because my parents adopted me first. Then they adopted six more. So, three birth kids, seven adopted children, ten total. I have a very diverse family. Four of us black, four of us white, and two of us biracial. My parents selflessly raised ten kids, seven of which weren’t their own by blood. Loved us as if we were. They gave me a chance when no one else would. Read more>>

Rourou Ye

I was born and raised in China in the late 80s. I started my dance training in Chinese styles since I was five, followed by rigorous training in a conservatory setting until I graduated from my undergraduate college-Shanghai theater Academy, with a major in choreography. I then worked at Musical Theater Department from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, one of the most prestigious conservatories in China for three years teaching dance classes and choreographing for musicals. In 2015, I relocated to New York for my Master in Dance program at Sarah Lawrence College. My two-year master program opened up a whole new world to me. I studied contemporary experimental dance and theater directions, including somatic practice, improvisation, dance theater, object theater, live-feed performance as well as research and seminars. After my graduation in 2017, I started to work as an independent choreographer to hone my own artistic vision in New York City. I just recently moved to Los Angeles. For the past three years, my works were supported by NYC’s major experimental dance organizations. Read more>>

John Goetz

Swiss born Canadian Painter that became a US resident in 2000. Lived and painted in NYC before moving to reside permanently in Santa Monica Studios. My wife (Tanja Rector) and I share a large studio together at one of the converted airplane hangers at the Santa Monica Airport. Beyond the gallery exhibitions, I outsource many artworks to interior designers here in LA, Chicago and Texas along with the film and television productions. I am also incorporated as Runningboy Productions Inc. that facilities motor coach and catering services to commercial car and editorial photoshoots here in LA and nationwide. johngoetz262 running boy_productions Instagram. Read more>>

Ms. Hitch

Ms. Hitch by all means was not an overnight identity. It is one that had been developing over time and eventually blossomed into the spunky charismatic lifestyle love influencer we know and love today. Early on in my life, I was quickly faced with and unhealthy amount of deaths first her grandmother who passed at 45, next her aunt who sadly passed away at 16, then her mother who passed from cancer at 44, and three years later losing her father at the ripe age of 52. I was faced with growing up rather quickly and had to take on a lot of responsibility at a young age. I got my spark young in the game and was killing it in the hospitals and saving lives at the young age of 23 then giving it up to pursue a new venture in real estate, I was flipping properties and eventually reached a peak in my life in which I thought at the time was my lifetime fulfillment. But then there was an underground journey I had to go through in which all the success I had accomplished had been taken from me and I was required to start again from the ground up. When I was released from jail after a year of serving time, I had nothing, and the life I had made for myself was practically non-existent. Read more>>

Refugee Rude

I was born in Montego Bay St. James Jamaica, the second city on the west side of the island. My mom was a cashier and my dad a tour bus driver. I also have two older brothers and a younger sister. Our city was known as the tourist capital which led me to know more of what was outside of Jamaica. All the different cultures, music, fashion, lifestyles, and people in general. Throughout my childhood, my father took me to work with him a lot especially since I’m always getting into trouble with friends, I guess this way I’d become more acquainted with tourism. I developed more of my passion for music and fashion through these work trips. My older brother played a major part in my talents, he always heard me singing the songs when he played them to me. I would remember every word as soon as I heard the lyrics singing along like crazy and so he decided to bring me around his friends that write and played music. After first glance, I was definitely more into it, I started writing my own, I got mentored by a few of his friends and became the lil kid who wanted to rap. This was funny because I’m Jamaican and with all that I was learning from his friends they couldn’t tell why I wanted to rap, it was such an American thing and us, Jamaicans have a different dialect from America so it was crazy to explain why. Read more>>

Faatimah A

My name is Faatimah Amen-Ra A. I was born in Toronto, Canada but raised out here in Oakland, CA. Someone once told me, “If you can make it in the Bay or LA, you can make it anywhere.” I’ve always held on to that saying as I grew older because it was true; this is the home of innovators, entrepreneurs, and creatives. Growing up, I developed a strong love for basketball; it taught me discipline, respect, and appreciation for my self-worth. From the knowledge that I’ve received from my mentors throughout the years to the experiences that have molded me into the person I am today, I’m proud to call myself an innovator within my community. Read more>>

Lisel Lewis

I am passionate about helping you live and move better. Having played competitive tennis for 17 years in Southern California and earning a full scholarship from a division 1 university, I had plenty of injuries along the way. I thought medication, aches, and pains were just going to be a part of life. During my freshman year of college, I suddenly felt this intense, electrical, sharp pain in my left shoulder while studying on my computer. I couldn’t shake the pain, and it persisted for the next eight years. When the shoulder pain first began, I went to our athletic train for help. They just told me “ice & stim, ice & stim”. This advice gave me no relief, so my next option was medication from the student health center. Medication that I would have been reliant on for the next eight years. Did it help me? No, it actually made me feel worst. Where are you supposed to go when you are supposed to be young and healthy, but you don’t feel young nor healthy? What are you supposed to do when you have pain, but no bones are broken and no ligaments are torn? Are you just a broken human? Do you need to be fixed? These were my exact same questions. Read more>>

Professor Andy Rohm and Professor Matt Stefl

In 2012, the advertising industry was suffering from a talent shortage. Advertising agencies in Los Angeles were finding that their entry-level hires lacked the necessary skills to hit the ground running once hired. On top of this, these agencies were poaching entry-level employees from their competitors to fill the talent gap. But these were employees that agencies had spent significant resources training and developing, only to have them learn on the job and then leave for another agency. The M-School @ Loyola Marymount University answered the challenge from the advertising industry and ThinkLA, the preeminent advertising association in greater-LA, to provide a new breed of job-ready creative marketing talent. As a result, the M-School was born, with the mission of creating a world-class creative marketing education for undergraduate students within LMU’s College of Business Administration. Read more>>

Juanita Carrillo

Well, my story begins when I was about 12 years old sitting in salons as my mother would get her hair done. I was so intrigued with watching these women make other women look and feel beautiful. I couldn’t get it out of my head so I practiced everyday I had time in my room with my music on determined to figure out any style I came across in magazines. Read More>>

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