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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.

Ella Halikas

Well, super long story short… My journey started when I transferred to the University of Hawaii in 2016, where I started to take a ton of photos on the beach, explore the island, and share them on my Instagram! That’s where I started to pick up some traction online – people gravitated towards my confidence, through my content. I started taking more and more photos, and then realized ‘Hmm.. maybe I could pursue modeling!’ I started to do some smaller swim shoots in Hawaii and pitched them to different brands online to send me suits/products in exchange for social content. And that’s where my modeling and influencing career all began. Read more>>

Faith Abili

A-Billi Cosmetics was founded, inspired and throttled by the mission of inclusion, diversity and representation. Like many people in the BIPOC community, growing up, I did not see myself included in the eurocentric standard of beauty the cosmetic industry portrays. I guess you can say it instilled a sort of determination in me to make Us the focus of this brand. Founded on March 19th, 2021, A-Billi Cosmetics has been devoted to accurate representation for our community, as we are a BIPOC centric line.  Read more>>

Juan M Ferron

J. Ferron studied his Master’s in Film Scoring under the mentorship of Dr. Daniel Walker at Cornel School of Contemporary Music (CSCM), in Los Angles, California, USA (2014 – 2016). Along teachers and mentors like Norman Ludwin, who is an upright bass player and arranger for Michael Giacchino (composer for films like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ratatouille, The Incredibles, Jurassic World, among many others), Michael Bradford (producer for Deep Purple, Madonna, Kid Rock), Mauricio Guerrero (world-renowned Grammy winner audio engineer and producer for artist like Shakira, Beyonce, Neil Diamond, Celine Dion, Gloria Estefan, Luis Miguel, just to name a few) Read more>>

Heidi Damata

I’ve been obsessed with color, style, and aesthetics for as long as I can’t remember. I grew up in the picturesque town of Evergreen, Colorado, living in several mountain homes which my parents filled with the colorful art, antiques, and textiles acquired during our many trips to Mexico. In many ways, my early childhood was pretty idyllic, surrounded by nature and art, both of which informed my interests and passions. Read more>>

Tess Henderson

I was introduced to interior design at an early age thanks to my mom. She isn’t a professional designer, but to this day she is the most creative person I know. She sewed drapes, installed wallpaper… There’s really nothing she can’t do. I noticed that our house looked different than all of my friends’ houses. Not because it was bigger or we had fancier things, but because my mom wasn’t afraid to ignore trends and do her own thing. Our house was full of color and patterns and personality. It told a story. Needless to say, she fostered my creative side. Read more>>

Kiyoon Nam

My passion for films as a kid was my only context for visual storytelling. I’ve always loved animations and watching movies I was way too young to be watching. However creativity and art were not something I thought of as a marketable skill or interest. Not knowing what to do after high school, I applied to college for film; I thought I had wanted to be a cinematographer. But within the first week of college I had heard about a major called Motion Design, where they applied the storytelling techniques from films, as well as animation and graphic design principals. Read more>>

Dr. Jon Marashi

I’ve always been attracted to smiles. From the time I was thirteen years old I remember being fascinated and mesmerized by braces, because I knew what that smile would become. I ended up following that path from a young age to become a dentist. I grew up in Spokane, Washington in a middle class family—I didn’t grow up with many luxuries, but we had all the basics. This taught me early on that I was going to have to work hard to create the life I wanted, and I did! I learned so much from working a ton of jobs during my youth: paper routes, shoveling snow, cutting grass, you name it. Read more>>

Fernando Ramirez

After growing up in Bogota in the 80s and 90s, I left Colombia to study acting, theatre and filmmaking at Santa Monica College, Cal State Fullerton, USC and UCLA. Fresh out of school and without an acting reel, I asked my friend Justin to shoot a few scenes I had kicking around in my head. My reel turned out great and soon Justin and I found ourselves producing scenes for all the actor friends we’ve made along the way. Today, Lucky Break Reels is the top-rated reel company in Los Angeles and I’m still having the time of my life! Read more>>

Amrita Sen

I’m passionate about working in design, film production, and entertainment – but music has always been at the center of my creative process. I’ve been a professional world music playback singer and musician for over 10 years and in 2009, I performed at the Academy Awards with music legend AR Rahman, singing Jai Ho from the Oscar-winning movie, Slumdog Millionaire.  Read more>>

Amanda Solomon

It’s been a wild ride. I’m now in gaming but started in fashion. When I was seventeen, I started a fashion resale business. While getting my undergraduate degrees in marketing and accounting at UCLA, I ran that business. Once I graduated, I sent out hundreds of resumes, but I wasn’t getting any callbacks. I remember feeling so unqualified that I decided to continue my education. When I started my MBA at Chapman University, things started falling into place.  Read more>>

Joanne Doyle

After many years of watching and supporting my husband as a MMA fighter and coach, I decided to start training MMA at 27 years old. I quickly realised it was the sport for me and began training daily around working full time for the Police Force.
I felt the best way to progress in the sport was to compete as much as possible, So I started with regional jiu jitsu tournaments and inter clubs. The next step was to have my Amateur MMA debut. After winning my first 2 fights my coach suggested I try out for the UK MMA team to compete at the European Championships in Prague. Read more>>

Belle Le Grand

I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY to a first-generation Jamaican mother and Afro-Italian father. Growing up, my interests were primarily music-based. My father— being the main influence here, was a phenomenal singer, guitarist and pianist. I spent most of my childhood singing and playing piano with him. After he passed in 2008, I continued my pursuit of music, performing in places like the Apollo theater and the Jacob Javits Center, however, music never really felt the same. When I was 15, I was cast in my very first short-film that was shot on an iPhone 7. After this experience, I knew acting was what I was meant to do. I’d never felt so sure about anything else. Read more>>

Kristin Mothersbaugh

Hello and thanks for this interview Voyage LA! I hope that what I share encourages someone out there. My story begins on a small farm in mid-Missouri, USA. I was an empathic and insecure child with an independent and daring spirit that led me to start dreaming big at a very young age. I liked animals, nature, and tended to always only see the good in others. Our loving family was Christian and I was devout while young, though I did find some of the teachings confusing, and I was naturally attracted to magick in secret.  Read more>>

Taided Betancourt

I grew up in a Cuban family of food lovers where food was the center of every celebration and everyone pitched in. Making and sharing food has been a part of my life as long as I can remember. For the last 15 years, I’ve worked as a private chef for some amazing families in New York and Los Angeles. Leading up to becoming a private chef, I trained in the field while working at restaurants and catering companies in New York as well as opening my own cafe in Brooklyn. Read more>>

Alise Armour

In 2013 I was finished school in Osaka, JP and was moving back to NY. I had enough money for a one way ticket to LA and decided to crash on my brothers couch in Santa Monica. I figured I would just find a simple job, make some quick cash and high-tail it back to NY. However, I ended up finding a job at an audio post-production studio, met my now husband (he’s an audio engineer), and here I am. Everyone there is family for me as well. It’s been a wonderful place to still be involved with 10 years down the line. Read more>>

Any Ferreiras

My name is Any Ferreiras, I am an actress from the Dominican Republic. I have been living in Los Angeles, CA for more than 3 years. My start in the seventh art was very unconventional. When I was 14 years old, without previous experience, I had the opportunity to audition for what would be the first Dominican Horror Movie, called Andrea: The Revenge of the Spirit (2005). Based on a true-life story. To my surprise, I was selected to play the lead role. Read more>>

Mike Fister

I first began woodworking like many of my ‘era’, doing whatever it took to improve our homes using sweat equity and possibly to even offset some furniture purchases in favor of buying tools with the savings. Of course, my wife soon figured out that the latter was never a timely solution, but allowed me the luxury… Apprenticing with my talented father, Sears was my primary tools source and most often softwood or cheap hardwood (poplar, sometimes oak) was my base; it’s why manufacturers created dark stain and paint. Read more>>

Elijah Jones

Growing up I never really found a huge interest in music. That was until I was about 10 years old, when the hit game “Rock Band” was more popular, I became infatuated with the franchise’s spin-off game “The Beatles: Rock Band”. Something about the music took over my emotions when I listened and I knew that I wanted to actually make people feel the same way that I did. So I asked my mom to put me in lessons for piano, guitar, vocals, and drums. Read more>>

Olivia Sparks

I became a skin care enthusiast at a young age simply because my own skin was not so great. As a child I struggled with acne and breakouts all the way up until my early 20’s. Being a young teen with acne is never easy and I always dreamt of having clear skin. That being said, I quickly became my own guru and tried every product and facial under the sun. I just remember being teased at school and wanting nothing more than skin confidence. Read more>>

Michole McBroom

My partner and I started this business in March of 2021. I wanted to start a hat brand because I love wearing hats but my head is too big for many of the hats I wanted to wear, so I thought I would create my own. I knew I was capable of doing the backend work which entails the accounting, inventory and customer support, however, the design had to come from someone with great style and ear to the streets. I have a great eye for quality but my partner is a student of design, culture, environmental issues, as well as social causes. Together we make an awesome team. Read more>>

Elisabetta Fox Piantoni

I grew up in a tiny Italian town surrounded by mountains, where kids still play in the streets to the smell of Bolognese sauce coming from the windows of the nonnas preparing the Sunday supper. I moved to Boston on my own when I was 17 for my senior year of high school and then to Chicago and Vancouver. I then moved to the Netherlands where I studied Business Administration and a minor in Neuroeconomics. After graduating, I wanted to do a master in Product Engineering but I instead decided to take some time off to travel. Read more>>

Asia Hilario

A childhood abuse survivor turned thriving entrepreneur- Self-Love Coach and Business coach. I help women reach higher self-awareness, uncover hidden mental blocks, release self-judgement, and quiet inner and outer critics so that they can live a life of fulfillment and develop a love for themselves that knows no limits). As a childhood abuse survivor, I’ve developed PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Read more>>

Dr. Milena Anfosso

Hello, readers of VoyageLA! I am so happy to share my story with you. I will start by saying that I love Los Angeles with all my heart. I feel immensely grateful to be here. My name is Dr. Milena Anfosso. I am an award-winning scholar in Historical Linguistics, a multilingual (Italian, English, French, and Spanish) published author in academic and creative writing, a public speaker, and a highly qualified translator.  Read more>>

Eileen Le Guillou

I have always oscillated between worlds. My parents come from different countries and traditions and each lived abroad throughout their lives, so my twin brother and I began traveling and navigating different cultures before we can even remember. I believe this fostered in us a deep curiosity and an insatiable desire for learning. Creativity, starting with ballet at age four, was a way for me to express myself and hold my center while so much was going on around me.  Read more>>

Kelli Camille Hubbard

I was born and raised in Chicago, IL. I made my transition to Los Angeles in 2010 aspiring to be in the entertainment field, however that was short lived when I fell in love and had two beautiful sons, I then attended Cosmetology school in the Wilshire area. I struggled for awhile to make ends meet living in Los Angeles so I decided to pick up and go back home to my family in Chicago , that’s when I decided to get into Real Estate , so I went to school and got my license in the state of IL, business was good however I missed being in LA so much and missed all my friends so I flew back and attended real estate school in Los Angeles and received my License for California as well. Read more>>

Amy Elbaum

I grew up very close with my grandmother who was an interior designer and she exposed me to the world of textiles and furnishings. After graduating college I moved to New York and started a job in media planning. A few years in I knew something was missing and I decided to go back to school at Parsons and get my degree in interior design. I was then hired by my professor to work at his architecture and design firm and I worked there for several years absorbing all the information I could. Read more>>

Stephanie Gilbert

I’m incredibly grateful to do what I do. I love being a therapist and my goal from the time I decided to get my Masters in Clinical Psychology was to be a private practice clinician. I got my degree from Antioch University Los Angeles specializing in Spiritual and Depth Psychology. While studying I also took the opportunity to study Buddhism in France and study the connection between spirituality and medicine in Brazil, two different study abroad trips. I learned so much while at Antioch, and also chose to train at Antioch University Counseling Center, a community mental health clinic that does so much good in our community. Read more>>

Yassin Koptan

It started in 2005 when my classmates encouraged me to start skateboarding when Skateimpact, Egypt’s first skateshop, started. I was 11 at the time and didn’t expect much out of it but being a first generation skater, that was probably one of the most important pivotal moments in my life. In 2009 I got sponsored by Skateimpact and by that time, I had already picked up some skills like filming, editing, organizing events, photoshopping posters, printing stickers etc. The skateboarding scene in Egypt was pretty limited. No skateparks and no more than 3000 skaters so we had to pull a lot of the leg work ourselves and we still do. Read more>>

Kevin Fong

I was born and raised in Hong Kong. Then I went to Berklee College of Music to continue my music studies in film scoring and Music production. After that I relocated to LA to pursue my passion of film music Well cultural differences has always been a thing. Getting involve and to know people around the city would be hard for an introvert like me. I am a music composer and producer. I mainly write music for films, TV, documentaries and multimedia. I also do music arrangement and production for my singer songwriter clients. I am really passionate about hardware synthesis and electronic music. Read more>>

Dr. Ellie Farahmand

My story is unconventional compared to my colleagues, as in my mind, I had checked all of my boxes. I went to school, prioritized being a mother and raised a family. Ultimately, I found myself asking, what am I doing? In answering that question, and in the midst of COVID, I chose now or never, and it was the best decision I have ever made. When most of my classmates established their own practices soon after dental school, I chose to work part-time while raising my family. I was in a wonderful practice as an Associate for 24 years, and in that “now or never” moment, I decided to honor my original dream of being an owner of my own practice. Read more>>

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