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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.

Taryn Vander Hoop

I moved to LA a little over a year ago from NYC and promptly landed the dream job I had been working so hard to get for so long as a Full-Time Professor of Dance at Loyola Marymount University while continuing to run my dance and yoga companies. So that’s where I am, but how I got here is a long and winding journey that is hard to put into words. I moved to New York when I was 23 to pursue my MFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts and met Sumi Clements. We co-founded Summation Dance just a year later in the midst of the recession. At the time, there were no opportunities for dancers, especially for those who identified as women. Even though women dominate the industry, there are very few in leadership roles, so I learned at a very young age to work hard and create opportunities where there are none. Read more>>

Wyatt Daily

As a filmmaker, I’ve always been passionate about connecting with people through storytelling. The challenge with my latest documentary, “Spoons: A Santa Barbara Story” was bringing viewers into one of surfing’s most insular communities and use that as a platform to tell a universal story. I wanted to show how a community sprang up and has maintained a strong central compass over generations. The answer to that question lies with the people; mentors, innovators, creatives, and hard-working people are the bedrock of any culture and that’s what we sought to show with this film. Read more>>

Giacomo Lamparelli

I grew up in Padova, Italy. My dad started giving me piano lessons since I was six, and my mom showed me how to strum the guitar enough to entertain my friends during summer camps. At 11, I was accepted at the conservatory of my hometown, where I was going to spend the following 13 years studying Classical Piano and Jazz piano. In the meantime, I was performing with local bands, playing keyboards. I’ve always been more attracted by the Contemporary music far more than the Classical. I was having the time of my life every time I was stepping into a studio to record, while I still remember with anxiety the years I spent studying 24 preludes and fugue from Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier (among a load of other composers) for my exams. Read more>>

Malini Iyer

Life’s most impactful moments are those hinges that send you on a different path. For me, that was the passing of my father followed immediately by a breakup. My father was my friend, philosopher, guide and cheerleader. His passing pulled the rug out from under my feet and I was deeply lost. For about four months, I sat in a tiny guesthouse with unpacked moving boxes piled up, staring into abyss. The rage in me threatened to destroy my very own being. That’s when I landed on my spiritual path. The first time I closed my eyes in meditation, I experienced Shiva sitting alongside Dad. There was no turning back then. I plunged deep into spirituality while pursuing an intense PhD that required me to be in the laboratory at 5 am. I also started dancing a lot, having previously trained in Bharatanatyam, a classical Indian dance. The yoga teacher training and daily meditation I pursued delivered me to the next level of spiritual growth. Read more>>

Sarah Girard

At the age of two, I was diagnosed with a rare eye cancer known as retinablastoma or cancer of the retina. Being the only one in my family with the genetic marker for this disease, I spent much of my youth asking the question, “why did this happen to me?” Because I had way too much energy, my mom put me in dance and it provided the safe place to release my internal world of emotion which was often tumultuous and intense. As I grew up, I kept moving to calm things down, but eventually when I started practicing yoga, I learned to be still. Read more>>

Rana Lustyan

Maddy Pryor

Honestly, the idea for Rogue came to me at a time where I was trying very hard to escape LA and the “corporate ladder” I had such an aversion to after college. I was 26 with some agency experience under my belt and had hit a point of total disillusionment. I’m not sure if it was the industry or where I was in my life, but I impulsively bought a one-way ticket to Colombia with no real plans to come back and started backpacking alone through South America. Over the course of that trip, I started to recognize how to redirect my business education and marketing skillset for social good. Conscious consumption was a big buzz phrase at the time, but seeing it in practice as small healing centers, permaculture farms, family-owned businesses and wellness organizations enlisted the support of their communities and grew based on need brought the concept to life for me. Read more>>

Taj Meadows

I’ve always wanted to start a clothing brand as a hobby just because I liked wearing cool clothes. I started my clothing brand for a few personal reasons. I simply got tired of buying other clothes, a few different phases I was going through in life, and I wanted to create something that I follow and believe in. Hence where the name “Chances“ came from. At the time, I was taking chances and betting on myself in different instances which spearheaded the inspiration for the brand. I reached out to my uncle, Rico Hendrick who does graphic design and apparel screen printing, with my ideas and concepts. Read more>>

Anisa Butt

I was raised in the UK and decided when I turned 12 that I really wanted to act. I was always heavily involved in school plays and the arts. As well as studying drama at school and doing my BA in Drama (performance) I actively did courses outside of my education as well to learn more about acting. I also grew up watching Hindi films, so was fascinated by dancing from a young age. During university, I joined a dance company called Flex FX productions for a couple of years as an actor/dancer. We got to do some fabulous shows and shared the stage with talent like Atif Aslam at prestigious venues like the Royal Albert Hall London. A feature film audition for a ‘Bollywood’ Film led me to being called out in India. I got selected for the project and begun workshops, as well as learning Hindi. Read more>>

Ayan Vasquez-Lopez

Well, let’s start with music. Music is what actually got me into the world of art and fantasy. My first instrument ever was the violin, which I still play to this day. I also sing and play some percussion whenever I can. I played in orchestras throughout grade school end even joined the school mariachi back in high school! There has always been something about creating music with other people that I’m attracted to. The feeling of creating vibrations in a group…that feeling to me will always be indescribable. Read more>>

Amy Huynh

I and Nibbs Club did not have a glorious start. It was late one night and I had just finished cleaning my pup’s diarrhea and vomit. A few days before, I took him to the veterinarian and they ran a battery of tests. They all came back negative. Through a process of elimination and reintroduction, I realized that night that he was getting really sick from bad food and treats. Like many dog owners, I did not understand how over processed and unhealthy dog food and treats are. Since then, I started experimenting with recipes and learning more about what I can make for my dog and introduce that to other pet lovers. Read more>>

Rana Lustyan

In 2009, a national news story cut through for just a moment and it changed everything for me. News of yet another massive recall of almost 4 Million units of “big food” cookie dough (we’ll leave name calling out of this, you can look it up) was being pulled off shelves as many consumers were getting sick and nearly 90 people were hospitalized due to eating their cookie dough raw when it is meant to be baked. This was my moment. My passion for all things sweet and sugary, my Le Cordon Bleu culinary degree, my pastry chef experience at Spago in Beverly Hills, my deep love for eating raw dough as I bake cookies on the regular all kicked into high gear as this question burned in my brain: why does edible cookie dough NOT EXIST?! Read more>>

Lennon Gabriel

I am the designer and founder of Tits ’n All. I always knew I wanted to work in the fashion industry. I recently came across my 5th-grade yearbook while cleaning out my studio and found the question: Where do you want to be in ten years? My answer: Studying fashion in New York. A very specific answer for an eleven years old, but ten years later I was indeed living in Chelsea, studying fashion design and communications at Parsons. I started working in the industry when I was sixteen as an intern for an up and coming costume designer. Her career was blowing up, so she frequently had multiple overlapping jobs. She would have me oversee the smaller jobs – music videos and such. Working on these various jobs, I made connections that led me to explore the more editorial side of things. Read more>>

Anton Krasavin

I was born in Russia, small-town Elektrogorsk. There was nothing to do as there was a lack of infrastructure but my parents still signed me up for classical dancing, karate, swimming, but I never was passionate about it. Considering that I was shy, sensitive and unconfident, I preferred to stay and play computer games. Perhaps, too much gaming. But I remember how I and my friends learned Russian and English songs and we would organize like a small show for our parents. We’d sing and dance in front of them. I was uncomfortable when somebody stared and judged me, but I had an inner feeling of joy and satisfaction. Like it was something that I finally enjoyed. I just wish I had courage at the time to start acting or ask my parents to help, which I did not. Read more>>

Vasco Del Rey

I come from a small village located in Southern Mexico where I grew up until the age of eight years old. I was raised primarily by my mother and lived in a household of only women, which continues to have a large impact on me. Although I didn’t know it then, in 2005 when I moved to LA to meet my father, it would also be the last time I’d see my mother. The first few years were a bit tough, I picked up English within two years but was made fun of a lot due to my accent. The cultural shock was intense. Art would prove to be the bridge that would allow me to find peace in this new environment. Read more>>

Lauren Gregor

As a working mom of two boys, I was always juggling and looking for ways to find convenient solutions to help me through parenting and career. I started to get annoyed with how much waste we were generating in our home – toys, strollers, and clothing. My children were growing so fast and I was constantly shopping for the next size of clothing, only to turn around and have them grow out of them the next week or month. I felt there had to be a way to make this easier for parents and also ensure we were building a better planet for our children. It was this idea that turned into Rent-a-Romper. Read more>>

Tiffany Blake

As a designer working for fashion houses in NYC and Los Angeles, I feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to travel the world for inspiration, sourcing and manufacturing. The most exciting part of creating for me has always been discovering beautiful leathers, colors and treatments and pulling them all together to design a unique and special product. Last year, I realized that while working for other brands provided security and opportunity, I still had a creative vision of my own that I wanted to bring to express. So – I created Citriin!! Read more>>

Rachel Moody

I was born and raised on the Monterey Peninsula by an artist and teacher. My father is an oil painter and painted every day in his studio next to our house. My mom was always exploring crafts, from spinning and dying to weaving, gardening and painting. She was the teacher known for bringing arts and crafts to the kids, from murals in the classroom to each student getting their own loom and learning how to spin, dye and weave. She taught my sister and I as well. As a young teen, we were road tripping to Montana attending pow wows on the Flathead Reservation, where my mother has family roots… Read more>>

David Myles Lewis

I’m so fortunate to have grown up in a loving and supportive musical family where I was always encouraged to be creative. My father plays tabla, which is a North Indian classical drum, so I was immersed in world music and culture from a very young age. Piano was my first instrument and catalyst into a lifelong career of music. After playing classical piano for a few years, my parents sent me to Interlochen performing arts camp in Michigan during the summer between 6th and 7th grade. I went there as a piano player, and arrived home a drummer… I was in love, and not long after, I got my first drum set and there was no looking back. Playing the drums became an obsession. I studied hard and performed all throughout junior high and high school. Read more>>

Jillian Risigari-Gai Lopez

Jillian (Risigari-Gai) Lopez is a proud Los Angeles native, freelance artist, and arts advocate. She started her musical path at the age of three due to her mother’s love of Mariachi music. Her versatile style has been mentioned by LA Weekly (Hollywood Fringe Festival) where they describe her as “one who reaps musical dividends, adding to the story’s magical feeling” and her musicianship adds “delicious upstage accompaniment” – Stage and Cinema. As a professional musician working in Los Angeles, knowledge of many different musical styles has been essential in regards to her process. The range of musical ability that Jillian encompasses consists of Orchestral, Chamber, Recording, World, Electronic, and Commercial Music. Read more>>

Britney Winthrope

For most of my life, I considered my sensitivity to be more of a deficiency than a positive or even neutral quality. I was a boisterous kid. I sang, I danced, I just made noise in general. My earliest memories were of noticing how great it felt to interpret whatever interesting things I noticed as I went about my day. At 7, my primary creative outlet was playing the piano. The etudes were addictive. I obsessed with perfecting those little finger-strengthening drills, doing them so often that my whole family knew the tunes by heart. It was my introduction to the tense but rewarding headspace of deliberate practice. I found out then that study, observation, and expression brought me joy. Read more>>

Kamera Man Kash

When it comes to taking photos, it all started back in college when my friend wanted to start modeling. At the time, I had a camera intro class and access to a camera so I went for it. Fast forward to 2020 and after a couple of years in the field with my experience, I decided to create Kash Money Media. Read more>>

Alison Carscaden

Whether she is drinking wine with friends and family, sampling obscure wines with potential buyers or examining vineyards, Ali Rush Carscaden loves wine and the industry. Ali completed her Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture determined to break into the field of wine. The path to loving and understanding wine first began with a job in the tasting room at Castoro Cellars in Paso Robles. Upon graduation, she was promoted to assistant marketing manager, exposing her to the sales side of the industry. While learning about the business, Ali gained some insight into the magic of winemaking, motivating her to get back in school. Within a year, Ali was completing her Master’s degree in Agriculture. Read more>>

Katie Kay

In the background of 30 years in the legal/corporate field, I was studying the spiritual and metaphysical world. I dove into whatever I could find: channeled entities, crop circles, prayer counselor studies, ancient philosophies, psychology, philosophy, tarot, astrology, and more, Leaving the daily corporate world behind, I now use all these studies in my own business as a spiritual coach. My certifications as a life coach and astrologer work together as I use the astrological natal chart of clients instead of discovery questionnaires. As partners, the client and I both uncover old patterns and coax them into new strategies for an adventurous life instead of trepidation, worry and dread. Working with populations in recovery, legal staff management, being a mother, and now a grandmother, add that “on the job training” of knowing people as only experience can. Read more>>

Alessandro Restelli and Alejandra Unger

Ecco un Poco was born not only as a business plan but as a way for us to be together. Our relationship was long distance for years after meeting in Buenos Aires in 2012, we knew we wanted to create a future together and we wanted to do something that made both of us happy. While Alejandra has a culinary background being that she studied culinary arts, worked on several restaurants over the years as pastry chef, Alessandro came from a completely different background but wanted to create something that’ll make him happy. We used to joke with the question “Where will you be happy working everyday?” and the answer for us was “In a Gelateria!” Read more>>

Dr. Nancy Irwin

Originally from Atlanta where I trained as an opera singer, I moved to New York City in 1985 to pursue a career as a stand-up comedian. While I’m a good singer, I’m not good enough for Big Time Opera and discovered I had some other transferrable stage skills: comedic flare. I was fortunate enough to perform all over the country and abroad, and moved to Los Angeles in 1994 when I heard that Hollywood needed more blondes… While I enjoyed being staff emcee at the Melrose Improve, among other clubs, I had a lot of free time, so began volunteer work for Children of the Night, a shelter for sexually abused children in Los Angeles. This experience was absolutely cathartic, waked up the healer in me, and prompted me to pursue a doctorate in clinical psychology to specialize in trauma recovery. I am in private practice in West Los Angeles and am also on staff at Seasons Recovery Center in Malibu. Read more>>

Walker Barnes and Kemma Filby

Originally from Ireland, Kemma moved to LA to pursue acting and screenwriting in 2015. One year later, Walker moved from Florida to LA also in pursuit of acting. Through the magic of the universe, they ended up with the same manager and met at a commercial audition that they were sent to do together as “real friends.” They drilled each other with “get to know you questions” in an attempt to learn about each other quickly to convincingly play real friends. They discovered they share the same favorite movie – Ron Howards’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas. They tanked the audition because they couldn’t stop quoting the movie but what was fiction became fact and a friendship was born. Read more>>

Daniel Arróniz

My journey began five years ago when I started taking pictures of basketball hoops as a hobby. Basketball has always been my biggest passion, so I found really interesting capturing the different shapes and colors of basketball courts everywhere I traveled to. I didn’t expect this to lead me where I am today, but after a few months of photographing hoops with my phone, I bought my first camera. From that point, it all went as it was meant to be.  It got to a point when I thought: “What if I create a platform to share my content and share my passion for the game of basketball?” That’s how Hoops Outside was born. Read more>>

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