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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.

Ray Velazquez

My fitness journey started early in childhood when I entered into formal martial arts training and gymnastics, as they both required rigorous physical conditioning. Later as a teenager, I was very skinny and I new that weightlifting could help to enhance my skills and abilities in martial arts and gymnastics. Read more>>

Pooja “Rani” Lakdawala

My love for beauty and fashion sparked at a very young age. I always loved the art form of how a makeup artist could change your appearance. I found it amazing how you can alter the shape and size of a persons’ facial features without having to go through a permanent change. Read more>>

Shauna Markman

In my former life I was a talent agent at a prominent agency, and then I was a manager. I left the business long ago and had been raising my 2 kids. I have always loved jewelry (what girl doesn’t??) and decided to make a few beaded bracelets for myself. Read more>>

Kea Meyers Duggan

What a long and winding road with several peaks and valleys my career has taken! The road to becoming a life + career coach started in 2011 when I was living in Portland and considering becoming a therapist. While I absolutely adored the people I worked with, my actual role was sucking me dry. Read more>>

Nea Simone

I founded BESPOKE Media Marketing as a Minority & Woman-Owned integrated Media Marketing agency comprised of creative, smart, and results driven multi-generational and cultural professionals to create customized PR & marketing campaigns, and productions for a range of entertainment, blockchain, cryptocurrency and consumer brands projects. Read more>>

Sandra Zebi

I was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Industrial Design and also studied Architecture and Classic Sculpture. I lived in London for two years and traveled around Europe, Asia and Australia before coming to Los Angeles in 1986. Read more>>

Amy Nelson

During my time as a lawyer, I understood first-hand how difficult it was to be a mom and a full-time professional in a world that was designed for men (who are still in the minority in terms of primary caretakers) to succeed. I noticed that fewer women continued practicing law after having a child, and even fewer became partners. Read more>>

Bijiao Liu

I was studying business and law in undergraduate back in China 3 years ago, but now, I’m an graduate student studying animation at UCLA, life became much more boring when it’s more predictable, in China, most of the people think it’s for the best if they can find a stable job after graduate. Read more>>

Nova Renay

I have photos of myself at the piano in diapers. Some of my earliest memories of music were watching mothers’ hands as she played Bach, Beethoven and Mozart on our grand piano. I would mimic her hand movements learning how to see patterns quickly and using my ears to catch mistakes. Read more>>

Jeff Schaffer

Although I better understand the trajectory of my career in hindsight, I’ve been fortunate to do work that I believe in, and to contribute to solving critical social concerns. After college, I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Micronesia, on a small island just north of the equator, half-way between Hawaii and Japan. Read more>>

Evelyn Liao, Kyle Douglas

Evelyn was born in raised Kaohsiung, Taiwan. She has worked in the Boba & Milk Tea industry her whole life. After we met and became engaged, I flew to Taiwan to meet her family. While there, in the birthplace of Boba, I experienced it in a way I had never before. Read more>>

Linda Kunik

I became an artist late in life—after teaching high school Spanish in the suburbs of Chicago, moving out to Los Angeles to help my husband start a business and being a housewife and mother for many years. My first foray into art was as an art docent at my children’s school and then as a docent at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for seven years. Read more>>

Maricela Becerra

On January of 2012 I started my journey as a grad student. My son was 2 years old back then, which made everything more complicated but definitely worth it. I remember driving back home after working an 8 hour shift as a waitress and thinking I needed to do more with my life. Read more>>

Rebecca Cox, Debra Vigna

Although we’ve been friends for nearly a decade and immersed in the design/art world forever, it wasn’t until a trip to La Saladita, Mexico with our husbands, as we swam, ate, drank, read, surfed, and relaxed, that we got to seriously, deeply talking about our mutual love of interiors, textiles, and art (the shared love of animals was already firmly established). Read more>>

Felicia Coitio

My first love of wine started at age 15 with a family trip to Madeira, Portugal…the birthplace of my father and maternal grandfather (Virgil) We visited a vineyard after a year of difficult weather conditions and a stubborn fermentation, their wine didn’t come out as hoped. Read more>>

Thuc Nguyen, Don McLoghlin

We met on an app and right off the bat decided to do something other than the conventional sit across from each other asking interview questions. Don offered to make me food and I said I’d get the groceries- because why not? Read more>>

Nik Ingersoll

I grew up in the remote and rural countryside of Western Nebraska. My family didn’t have a lot of money and at times we relied on government assistance to get by. To get to where I grew up, you have to fly into Denver and drive 4 hours across 2 state capitals. Read more>>

Rod Rotondi

Growing up in an Italian-American family with food as the center of family and social gatherings, hospitality and food preparation are second nature to Rod. From hand rolling his grandmother’s “secret” gnocchi, to enjoying formal banquets in Rome at the residence of his grandfather, the American Ambassador, to cooking courses in Paris, Rod’s youth was food-centric. Read more>>

Ashley Salomon

‘I always knew that I wanted to take a natural and holistic approach to healthcare and wellness when going into medicine. Finding the deeper causes of why people are not at the level of health that they should be in the 21st century, or at least why they aren’t feeling as vital as they should, required me to train well beyond what I learned in medical school. Read more>>

Rachael Thompson

Storytelling runs through my blood. From the time I could write, I kept a journal, crafting stories about my experiences and my community, and unlocking a passion that would eventually lead to a 15-year career in investigative journalism. Read more>>

Bryan Landers

Two threads woven throughout my story are technology and art. When I was 10 years old or so, I had a cheap Yamaha keytar, which I often took apart for the fun of exploring the mysterious circuit board and electronics within. Read more>>

Kristen Konvitz

Can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today. You can include as little or as much detail as you’d like. I grew up in a film industry family. My father and mentor had a varied career as an agent, studio executive and for the greater part of my life, an entertainment lawyer. Read more>>

Gina Buccola

I use to do costume designing/wardrobe styling for TV, film and print as a single mother. I also owned a laundromat by myself. My brother then fell ill with Lou Gehrig’s disease and I became his caretaker. It was all to much so I decided to take a year off of costuming and sell the laundromat. Read more>>

Ashley McNamara

I’ve been a professional in the jewelry industry for almost 20 years now. It all started when I was a young single Mom living in Colorado with my 2 year old daughter, Rain. I’d been studying both Art and English at Santa Monica College (go, SaMo!), bartending and cocktailing in the evenings, and realized I couldn’t keep going on like this. Read more>>

Brady Connell

In the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s, it was all about film for me… writing spec scripts, directing short films, making plans for my career in cinema. Television wasn’t even on the radar. But after one too many Top Ramens, my film-on-a-credit-card-plan faded, and I started taking whatever jobs came my way. Read more>>

Tracy Capisce

I started out as an intern at Sony Music in Santa Monica and also did some freelance work in the beginning illustrating motorcycles for Hard Rock Hotel. Through my passion of learning communication arts, I experienced working on a letterpress for a booklet I designed which was the first design award I received. Read more>>

Chris Wizner

I grew up poor without knowing my own father until I was 7 and fully supported by my mother who was a waitress in Malibu. At age 8 I taught myself computers and bought my first 386 with the only $800 I had in the world at the time. Read more>>

Rolan Pongpuntara

In 2014, Rolan, who was a pharmacy technician, began getting into of cold-pressed juices and their health benefits over conventional juicing. As these ideas diverged, she decided to open a small healthy eatery in Santa Monica, a place where the community could have the option of drinking cold-pressed juices and devouring a healthy burger or salad. Read more>>

Michelle McCloskey

I initially got the entrepreneurial bug at the age of 21 when I created my very own stationery line. Later in 2007, I opened and managed an online vintage clothing store, Hourglass Vintage, for about four years. In 2011, I officially launched Run Around Betties which was the result and combination of my 10 years as a personal and executive assistant working with small business owners and entrepreneurs. Read more>>

Rebecca Aghalarpour

On Sunday afternoons my daughter and I have a ritual of lighting a candle, making a pot of tea and baking together. The presence of the candle light brings a warmth, softness and sweetness to our shared experience and enables us to commune with the moment. Read more>>

Christine Lusita

As an active, curvy and petite person, buying athletic clothing was a nightmare. Low waistbands maximized my muffin top (who doesn’t love that?) Long pant legs bunched around my knees or caught on my sneakers. Every top made me look like either Betty Boop or Pope Francis. Come on. Read more>>

Ruslan Karablin

Born in Soviet Russia(Odessa Ukraine) in 1969. Migrated to the U.S. in 1975.
Created SSUR© brand around 1990 as a way of signing my paintings and fine art. Decided to expand to tees and caps as a form of advertising for the art and the clothing brand was formed and officially inc’d in 1994. Read more>>

Kristofer Eriksson

My story with Hastens LA started about five years ago in Stockholm when I won the green card lottery. Just previously I had been over to Los Angeles for a year of studies after I completed my Bachelor’s degree in Business Adm and just fell in love with the city and the sun. Read more>>

Jenna Jackson

My husband and I were living in San Francisco where I was working in merchandising at the Gap. We always dreamed of taking a year off and traveling around the world before we had kids so for years we saved up a special bank account to do it. After 5 or so years we had enough to make it work and I was also consulting for an e-commerce company so we DID IT! Read more>>

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