Where you grew up and your background can often have surprising effects on our lives and careers. We’ve asked folks from the community to tell us about how their background has affected them.

Christina Green | Filmmaker & Actress

Generally, when people ask me where I’m from I respond, “I’m from Maryland,” because in the back of my mind I know none of my more specific answers will feel satisfactory to either them or me. I’m mixed race, black and white, from an upper middle class, semi-happily divorced and blended family. We had moved to different towns and cities around central Maryland 7 times by the time I was 13. I grew up everywhere from a farm in Sykesville where the craziest thing to happen to us was a bull breaking into our backyard, to a townhouse in Baltimore that was robbed multiple times in a year. My background is so varied that no one seems satisfied by any short answer. If I say, “I’m from Baltimore,” people eyeball me dubiously. Why is that? Am I not black enough? Am I too well-educated or not poor enough to fit their narrow notion of what Baltimore is like?. Read more>>

Vivian Martinez | Comedian

I’m originally from Los Angeles county, grew up all over the place- Carson, Torrance, Silverlake. Most people think growing up here is super glamorous but I didn’t appreciate it until I moved away from college. Now I see how growing up in such a special place helped me get a leg up on working in the arts industry. Read more>>

Beatrice Pacheco | Small business owner of MotherMoonQuiltCo and TarotbyBea.com, witch, tarot reader and quilt maker

Growing up in El Paso Texas, I had the honour of living in a border city that has this unconditional love about it. Doesn’t matter who you are, the people of the city have pride for one another. It’s a place where Everyone is referred to mijo or mija. A place where people pull over for funeral services and pay their respects even if we don’t know them. It’s a large city with that sense of community still in full force. A great example is the ever talented singer Khalid who without a hesitation gives back to the community here or even Aaron Jones who gives back as well. The common denominator for el pasonans such as myself is that it’s second nature to care for one another. It’s basically Mr. Rogers neighborhood with a Chicano flare! It’s an unspoken instinctual agreement we have instilled within our community that I myself hold very dear and attempt to share within my creative work. My goal is to spread the same sense of community outside of the sun city. I hope The compassion and care for one another will spread like wildfire and help us to regain our sense of community and initiate healing in a country desperate for connection and healing. Read more>>

Vaughn Davis | General Manager, Youth Sports Coach, Mentor, Philanthropist and Father

I am proud to have been born and raised in Guyana, located on the north coast of South America. Guyana is the only English speaking country in the region, boasting untouched forest, powerful rivers, Atlantic coast line, and even the world’s longest free falling waterfall, Kaieteur Falls. Growing up in this vibrant landscape, and having the opportunity to spend summers near the Mahaicony and Essequibo rivers, I learned real life survival skills like fishing, hunting, swimming, building fires and how to work with nature. I also had the privilege to attend the first private school in Georgetown, where I excelled at the top of my class as well as every sport under the sun. All of these experiences instilled in me the core values of integrity, joy, peace, love, patience, ambition, innovative spirit, and above all a drive toward solutions. Basically, if you’re not giving back, or contributing a positive solution, then what are you doing?. Read more>>

Andrea Ardila | Entrepreneur

I definitely would call myself a Southern California native. I was born in South Carolina but my family moved to Oceanside, Ca when I was still a baby and I’ve spent the past 29 years here. As a kid, my brother and I were very active. I was involved in Track and Field, Cheerleading and Dance classes throughout my entire childhood. Fitness was just so natural. I was always the tall skinny girl growing up, but enjoyed working out and being the best at whatever I put my time and efforts into. I can remember being in middle school and going to the gym with my mom. We would participate in aerobics classes and spin classes. When I got into High school, my sole focus was on cheerleading. Year round I was doing whatever I could to better myself. That included yoga classes 2-3 times per week, weight training and conditioning. It’s always just been so natural. Read more>>

Jasmine Morrow | Certified Health and Wellness Coach

I definitely would call myself a Southern California native. I was born in South Carolina but my family moved to Oceanside, Ca when I was still a baby and I’ve spent the past 29 years here. As a kid, my brother and I were very active. I was involved in Track and Field, Cheerleading and Dance classes throughout my entire childhood. Fitness was just so natural. I was always the tall skinny girl growing up, but enjoyed working out and being the best at whatever I put my time and efforts into. I can remember being in middle school and going to the gym with my mom. We would participate in aerobics classes and spin classes. When I got into High school, my sole focus was on cheerleading. Year round I was doing whatever I could to better myself. That included yoga classes 2-3 times per week, weight training and conditioning. It’s always just been so natural. Read more>>

Samantha K. Tan | Producer & Photographer

Growing up in Worcester, MA, I was exposed to all different types of people and cultural backgrounds. I saw a lot of people who looked like me or shared similar values as me. As a Vietnamese-American, that meant a lot. I didn’t have trouble fitting in or embracing my culture. I wasn’t embarrassed by the food I ate, and I could freely speak in my language to other Vietnamese students. My peers and I were open to learning each other’s languages and culture. There was a sense of community, and I loved it; I felt like I belonged. When my family and I moved to Pennsylvania, everything changed. Like every 11-year-old, I started caring more about what I looked like and how I presented myself. It was important for me to keep up with trends and to adapt to a community that wasn’t so open or welcoming of my culture. Yes, there was a large POC community and there was plenty of great opportunities for me to grow, but I didn’t have any role models. Read more>>

Brady | Music artist

I grew up in a nice town outside of Boston. It was a great place to grow up but it took a while for me to appreciate it (I’m sure I’m not alone in the love/hate relationships with hometowns!). Read more>>

Az Rudman | Actor/ Recording Artist

Surrounded by highways and farmland I grew up in the suburbs of STL in the early 2000’s. I was born at just the right time in just a boring enough of a place to spend most of my free time on the internet. It was at school during a free period that I discovered Jay-Z on Youtube and my passion for hip-hop grew from there. In college I spent 2 and a half years in a fraternity that felt more like a trap house than a Panhellenic establishment. There I was exposed to Young Thug, A$AP Rocky, Kendrick and J. Cole and the rest is history. I grew up in the temple, my first education was religious not secular. Growing up in a reform synagogue meant that I was always surrounded by music. That connection to ancient music at an early age definitely shaped my passion for performance and singing. At one point I even considered becoming a Rabbi or Cantor before eventually settling on film school and starting my music business. Read more>>

Alessandro Restelli | Gelato maker

We are from Italy and Mexico, different countries but both sharing a culture for real artisanal food and work, all the hard labor behind a meal is never underestimated and we celebrate the uniqueness of all the ingredients and techniques used, that have been passing through generations. Sometimes we talked about how “spoiled” we are with food, we were raised under a very high level of fresh ingredients and it just made us appreciate more every single one. When we are creating new gelato recipes we go for simple ingredients and try showcasing them in their most simple form so anyone who tastes them in the second they have them can immediately identify the flavor. Starting our own business we have no questions about what we wanted, we were sure we wanted to bring that artisanal feeling to LA, in a world where everything is starting to be automated or cutting corners, it’s almost a rebellious act to make something by your own hands. We respect the traditional recipes we were thought and we will never change them as they are part of our identity. Read more>>

Lauren Purves | Artist

I’m a Scottish Canadian gal living in California. I grew up with Holocaust Survivor grandparents who made nothing into something – a craftsman, a tailor, a fashion designer, and a seamstress. They also owned a scrap metal yard at one point, but we never heard much about that phase. My dad was (and still is?) an architect. My mom always worked for architects but never practiced herself. She marketed their work. I fall somewhere all between all of this. I got my degree in Fine Art History, have a background in painting and drawing, but most people would say I’m more of a curator of objects usually under the microscope of the camera. I love textiles, objects that hold a sense of history and storytelling. My love of life revolves around sharing, experiencing, and connecting with like-minded individuals who encourage the ongoing growth for this desire. Read more>>

Splitting Silence | Rock Band

Being from Seattle, we have a very rich history of great music that has come before us. This has inspired our creative lives in countless ways. We grew up surrounded by constant reminders of our idols. Whether it be a statue of Hendrix on the side of the street, hearing the soundgarden whistle in Magnuson Park, or walking through the EMP (MoPop) it truly has shaped who we are as people and musicians. We’re lucky enough to live right by many legendary studio’s which paved the way for the grunge scene in the 90’s. We even had the privilege of recording our newest singles in the famous London Bridge Studio alongside legendary sound engineer Jonathan Plum and producer Ben Smith. Some of our favorite records were made there like Alice In Chains’ Dirt and Pearl Jam’s Ten just to name a couple. We developed our hard-rock sound from some of our favorite Seattle bands like Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam. Read more>>

Brian Dinh | Painter & Designer

As an Asian American whose parents are immigrants, being an artist, challenges very traditional standards and values which really unveiled how expression operates culturally. I’m born and raised in Orange County, California which is the crux of a space determined to be boring but within OC lies bubbles of artistic enclaves discovered during my time at a performing arts high school. As an institution that promotes what one might call the strange, the unique, or the reality: the individual— it lowered a lot of guards I had which were placed there by our social systems that have us distance ourselves from things aren’t as practical or conventional. The total reversal or deconstructed sense of tradition at an arts school made me less afraid of seeking solutions outside of the convenient purview. I endlessly credit my time at a community that wore many hats and faces to really shake you from the mold I think so many persons before us decided what that should look like, and what success looks like as an extension. Read more>>

Nadia Ho | Global Citizen, Entrepreneur & Community Manager

My life illustrates how troublesome the seemingly innocuous question “Where are you from?” might be for some people. I was born in Vietnam and lived in its capital city of Hanoi for the first nine years of my life. So “I’m from Vietnam” was my no-brainer answer while growing up in the Czech Republic. But once I felt I had fully integrated into the Czech society, I extended my answer to: “I’m from Vietnam but I grew up in the Czech Republic.” Later on, when I started my globetrotting journeys in my early twenties, I adjusted my response according to the situation I was in. At an international summit where I represented Vietnam, my sticker would reveal my identity as coming from: “Vietnam.” During an exchange program abroad, however, I would say I was from the Czech Republic. Now, as I have lived in the USA for almost six years and I intend to stay long-term in Los Angeles, I am pondering when to start saying: “I’m from the USA.” The moment I take the naturalization oath? When I have reached the proverbial American dream? When I have lived in the USA for a longer time than I have in other places? Or whenever my heart feels it’s time?. Read more>>

Lilli Goldschmidt | Animator / Story Artist

Before moving to California, I grew up in a very historical part of Massachusetts. My dream was always to move away from the snow and embrace the sunny California lifestyle. After I graduated with a degree in Animation, I finally could live on the west coast. My Bostonian vernacular stood out in a strange way and I was delighted by just about anything I had seen in ‘Clueless’. At first I felt I was at a disadvantage, not having all the amazing opportunities that art students had here. The more wonderful artists I met, the more I realized how much our perspectives were our most valuable asset. I redirected myself from making my art ‘fit in’ and instead had it ‘fit me’. My Hungarian roots influenced my design and shape language, the fall in New England inspired a mood, the Victorian homes in my nehiborhood helped express my love of detail. By focusing on the unique experiences I had, I could diversify and authenticate my portfolio. Being from a different state didn’t hold me back from being my best, it in fact had lifted me up. Read more>>

Nigel Groom | Composer for media

I was born and raised in Cheltenham, England. Growing up, my Dad was into bands like Europe, and Rainbow; my Mum liked a lot of Motown; and I used to listen to my older brother’s Madness and Depeche Mode tapes. My Dad and brother took me to my first concert in 1995. From there I became really intrigued by live music and started to discover music for myself. I bought a bass guitar when I was 15, after going to a No Doubt concert with my best friend. From there the floodgates opened, and I started getting into everything from Hardcore, Grindcore, Punk, Classical, Metal, Dance. Cheltenham is quite a small town with not much going on for teenagers, so I spent all day everyday teaching myself how to play music. I’d put my favourite albums on and teach myself how to play them from front to back. If there were any gigs on locally, I’d go to them no matter who was playing. Read more>>

Poe The Passenger | LA Based Alternative Rock Band

We are a Los Angeles-bound alternative rock band. However, Jeff, the lead singer, is from Chicago, IL. He moved to Los Angeles, CA at the age of 18 to pursue acting and in the process found a love for singing and songwriting. Jeff in the process of being in LA started the band Poe The Passenger. Trent grew up in La Canada, CA drumming for multiple bands until he joined Poe The Passenger, he then began to song write for the band and met Jeff at a comedy show. Matt grew up in Pasadena, CA playing bass guitar for just recreation until he was asked to join Poe The Passenger. Their upbringing is heavily family-oriented and the pursuit to be authentic and connect with others has been the driving force for their music. Read more>>

Cat Wilkins | Screenwriter

I’m originally from Dallas, Texas. I grew up in a two-parent household with my older brother and twin sister. My grandmother also lived with us and was a strong influence in my life. I’m incredibly lucky to have grown up in such a forward-thinking environment. My parents never enforced gender roles or stereotypes. They also enrolled us in diverse schools with students from all different backgrounds. I’m sure my parents would’ve appreciated if at least one of their children took an interest in math or science, but they never criticized our artistic ambitions. They were our biggest cheerleaders — and still are. My parents deserve so much credit for the things they sacrificed for us, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to thank them enough. (And no, they didn’t pay me to say that.). Read more>>

Paige Bounassi | Production Assistant, voice actress & Realtor

I’m Italian, born and raised in New York. I came from a low income family so money was something we always had on our minds. Since I didn’t grow up financially stable I worked extremely hard at a very young age. I know the value of a dollar and working to earn that dollar. Nothing was handed to me. Everything I have I gave to myself. I never had a hand out and in some ways I think it makes how far I’ve come a little sweeter. I’ll never forget where I came from and I will always be reminded of my roots no matter where I take my career!. Read more>>

Crystal Lee | TV Producer and Golden State Warriors In-Arena Host

My sister and I grew up in San Francisco as the children of Chinese-Taiwanese immigrants. My father was an entrepreneur and started several failed small businesses before opening up an optical laboratory doing same-day jobs for optometrists around the city. Growing up, my father would pick me up from school and take a circuitous route home, stopping at customers’ offices and having me run in finished jobs. He would drive up, I’d hop out and hand over the glasses, run back into car, and continue on and repeat it at every stop until we went home for me to start my homework. This hustle was normal to me and helped me develop an appreciation for hard work and the sacrifices made by small businesses owners. Read more>>

Katy Frame L.Ac. | Licensed acupuncturist, Qi gong and meditation instructor

I am from all over! I was born in Canada and grew up in England and moved to the states at 13 years old. My mother is Scottish and my dad is Canadian. My mother was all into alternative medicine and I remember had us taking crazy garlic and fish oil pills which I hated. She introduced to me to Acupuncture when I was a teenager. I played tennis competitively and had chronic shoulder pain which resulted in a few surgeries. Acupuncture helped me for many years keep playing and also recover from surgeries. I didn’t know how it worked, just that it worked. After I was done with tennis and didn’t want to teach anymore I needed to make a plan of what was next. During that time my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer. My dad and I became her main caretakers as I lived the closest of my siblings. My initial intention was to go to physical therapy or med school. Read more>>

Velia De Iuliis | Environmental Artist

I was raised by two European parents in the eclectic city of San Francisco. Both my folks and the city were fundamental in my development as a creative. San Francisco, a cultural melting pot, instilling in me a curiosity for the world while my Italian and Swiss parents encouraged my instinctual need to create and make art. Read more>>

Alexa Wright | Multi-Disciplinary Artist, Designer, Art Director

I was born and raised in Houston, Texas. I’m lucky to have amazingly supportive parents who nurtured my sister’s and my own wide-ranging interests. From my British dad, a scientist and engineer, I inherited a passionate interest in understanding the natural world. My insatiably curious Vietnamese mom was totally averse to the concept of boredom and encouraged endless exploration. They both enjoyed traveling and thanks to them, we got to visit many parts of the world. Growing up, I loved visiting my Vietnamese grandparents’ home in California. My grandfather’s eclectic taste had a profound influence on my design style, while my grandmother passed down her love of handicrafts to me. My extended family is like a mini-United Nations. We’re all over the map! Coming from a multicultural family had a huge impact on my worldview, and experiencing a mix of cultures and traditions has shaped my creative identity and path. My work is a synthesis of expression across many disciplines — digital design, furniture, photography, video, and beyond. I love exploring the common threads between art forms, along with what makes them unique, and finding the ways they can be interwoven. Read more>>

Victor P. Corona

My family moved here from Mexico in 1983 and I grew up in a suburb of New York City. When you come from an immigrant family in a low-income community, the biggest challenge can be learning the rules of the game—figuring out how things work in the real world and what success requires. My parents never finished college, so I felt very lost when I started school at Yale. I had no one to really guide me and I mostly had to face and overcome my very deep insecurities on my own. Sociology gave me a way to make sense of the world and my place in it. My favorite professors were a huge inspiration and I really owe them a lot. Read more>>

Aljenon Cooper | National Evangelist and Young Ministry Leader

I am a native of Los Angeles! My background and upbringing not only had a major impact on who I am today, but also where I am today. I was given up at birth by my biological mother due to the influence of drugs in her life at that particular time. Fortunate enough to know my biological mother and have what we now consider a toxic relationship with her, I grew up experiencing the aftermath of rejection and abandonment. There were many days that she would make promises and not keep them. What stands out most would be the times that my mother would tell me she was coming to see me or pick me up and she would never show up, wouldn’t answer the phone, or call me. Noticing the difference that she put between my siblings that she raised and me. There was a time I could not talk about what I had gone through without becoming emotional. I would even have dreams of some of the mistreatment and I would wake up with my pillow wet with tears. Read more>>

Ella Rosa | Singer songwriter

I am from Henley on Thames in England, and I moved to New York City when I was 11. After living in New York for 8 years I moved back to England but and to London to pursue music writing and performing. Once I took a trip to LA for a week I realized I had to spend more time there and decided to move full time. All this moving around taught me how to be resilient and kind to new people. Read more>>

Rich Sandomeno | Jeweler/fabricator

I’m from an urban/suburban area of Northeastern New Jersey.. in a town called Elmwood Park. Both sides of my family migrated to the United States from Italy around 1905-1912. My father, grandfather, and great grandfather were all mechanics of sorts, my great & grandfather were tool & die machinists, and my father an auto/heavy machinery mechanic. My other grandfather was an Italian pastry baker. Working with my hands is something that I believe is coded in my DNA, and the curiosity of understanding how things worked was encouraged by watching the men in my family repair and build things, and the women cook amazing homemade food. Early in my life we lived with my parents’ family.. There I could be found either in the basement helping my grandfather repair something, or in the kitchen helping my grandmother making something delicious. Read more>>

Zong Chiang | New Media/Music Composer

I’ve been learning and exposed to music since I was a kid because My father is a musician, so I grew up in a musical environment. I started to learn piano at the age of 3 until I came into contact with the touching cello in the third grade of elementary school and started to learn cello playing. By the fifth grade, I used all piano’s black keys to improvise and compose my first song. From that moment, I began to receive formal classical music training until the master’s degree. I started to be exposed to MIDI computer music from elementary school. I was told about more diverse forms and styles of music from high school, and I became interested in multimedia music. Read more>>

Freddy Giorlando | Actor-Producer-Entrepreneur

First off I’d like to thank Shoutout LA for the opportunity to share my story. I’m truly grateful for this platform. I was born in New York, in Manhattan on the Lower East Side but I was raised in Old Bridge, New Jersey. I had it lucky though because even though I was raised in Jersey and grew up there, my parents, born and raised in NY would always take us back into the city for Sunday dinners every weekend with our immediate family. They all grew up in the neighborhood of Knickerbocker Village. I would spend most of my summers there as a kid growing up, so I would have the best of both worlds growing up in the suburbs as well as getting influenced by the city life. I love both New Jersey and New York City. They each hold a special place in my heart. Read more>>

Jack Jerry | Social Media Influencer/Actor/Model/Gymnast

Jack Jerry is an Actor, Model, Gymnast, and Social Media Personality. He started doing Gymnastics at the age of 12 in his home state of Michigan. He quickly became a state and national champion gymnast at the Junior Olympic Level and was recruited by the University of Michigan in the fall of 2015. He competed in the Division 1 NCAA Gymnastics scene at the University of Michigan while studying Communications. He moved to Los Angeles in February of 2018 and began to appear in many notable feature films/commercials, music videos, modeling campaigns, and social media skits. He has worked with Netflix, Butterfinger, Ellen, Huawei, Hollister, Gateway Computers, Adidas, Dunkin Donuts, and many more in the film and fashion industry. He has grown his social media presence to reach over a 4 million + reach and has worked with some of the top creator companies like Facebook, Instagram, LIKEE, Tik Tok, LiveMe, and many more. Read more>>

Sandy Nguyen | MUA, Founder, and She-EO of Glam Haus Cosmetics

I am a second-generation Vietnamese American born in San Jose, California! I was raised in a very traditional Vietnamese household, however, my parents were very inspired by the lives of celebrities and enrolled me in pageants at an early age. When taking part in pageants, I was exposed to wearing makeup, getting my hair done, and dressing up. I was always very intrigued by the process of putting on makeup and how amazingly passionate and artistic the MUAs were. My mother is extremely nurturing and kind towards others and so my passion for taking care of others stemmed from that. As a child, I loved watching my mom style her hair and put on makeup so much that I even started asking if I could assist her! Luckily, I was gifted with a steady hand and took my first “client” at the age of 10. My aunt who was living with us at the time was getting ready for a wedding one day and I remember asking if I could help her get ready. She allowed me to put on red lipstick for her and tied her hair into a half-up/ half-down style. That’s when I knew the beauty industry was where I wanted to be. Read more>>

Amy Lebrun | Culinary Director & Executive Chef of Fermentation Farm in Costa Mesa

I was raised in Huntington Beach. As a kid I loved eating new foods and finding great restaurants. Orange County is so big, far beyond Huntington Beach, and you have all of these areas with different cultures. Growing up I would go to my Chinese friend’s house and eat. I had Hungarian and Armenian neighbors. I would at like 3 dinners a night sometimes. I went from house to house and kept eating. I loved food. It’s true. There’s no graceful way to say it, ha, but it molded who I am today.nWhen I was a bit older, coming out of culinary school in Orange County, it was really important that I chose 1 of the top 5 places to work, where I could learn. I felt that was the Ritz Carlton in Dana Point. Read more>>

Aaron Robles | Founder/CEO of Founders Spark

My family and I are Mexican immigrants. I’m a DACA recipient now but for many years couldn’t legally work or drive, until I was in my mid 20’s, actually. Although I was raised in America since I was 8 months old, I wasn’t really fully American. Despite that reality, we had to live our lives and my parents taught me that from a very young age. Once I came to adolescence I started to notice that the doors that were open for many of my peers were not open for me. I had to climb over a 20-foot wall where a lot of other people could simply walk through the door. Although discouraging at times, it taught me that I had to put the effort into everything I wanted in life. Instead of focusing on the “fairness” of the situation I worked twice as hard to get half but damn it, I did what I had to do to get it. Years of this calcified within my mind. It gave me a drive and tenacity that has served me well, even more so the older I got. My desire to still live and progress in life despite the walls that tried to stop me showed me how possible anything was if you really wanted it bad enough. Read more>

Miranda Kahn | Paper artist and animator

I’m from Berkeley California which was definitely a zaney and free thinking place to grow up! But more importantly I come from a lineage of artists. My grandparents were both painters, both WPA Federal Arts Project artists, their life was art. They loved family and friends and their artistic work. The bottom floor of their apartment was their studio -a big industrial space filled with collected artifacts from their imaginative lives. My father is an architect and lives his life with a creative eye, my mother captures the beauty and pain of life through her camera lens, my sister creates incredibly detailed beaded necklace works of art. My aunt dances and her work blurs the boundary of dance, theater, and clowning-it’s both hilarious to watch and breaks your heart. My uncles are singers and artists and my cousins are singers, filmmakers, healers…they have all deeply impacted my life and my work. I am so inspired by them and they have created the fabric of my artistry. Read more>>

Dawnique Chapman | Entrepreneur

I am from Los Angeles California and I remember my father and aunts who were entrepreneurs who worked for themselves. My mother remember me saying as a child in elementary that I wanted to work for myself and become an entrepreneur and teacher. I am keeping that promise to myself building my own business to one day become my own boss. Read more>>

Gentel Sharrie | Actor

Born in Orlando, Florida and raised in Lexington, Kentucky, my background and upbringing really impacted with who I am today because I started out modeling and acting at Images Modeling and Talent Agency when I was 4-years-old. I always wanted to be in the entertainment business as a kid, but it didn’t work out the way I wanted so I continued to pursue different avenues as I was growing up. I cheered, danced, I was in karate, and on the track team throughout middle school to college. When I started college at St. Augustine’s University I majored in Mass Communication with a concentration of Broadcasting, I was the sports reporter for the athletic teams and the CIAA athletic conference. I became a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc. and also served as Miss St. Augustine’s University. Once I graduated I started working at Fox News in New York and producing the News at ABC 57 in Indiana. Read more>>

Stephanie Siomara | Photographer & Filmmaker

I was born and raised in Paterson, New Jersey and moved to North Carolina late into my adolescence. Paterson is one of the most populous and poorest cities in New Jersey, Jim Jarmusch recently made a film about it. Both areas have deep historic roots and an extreme range of poverty and wealth. I find myself somewhere between these two worlds. Living in these places, helped me adapt to different environments easily. Read more>>

Chrissy Lucia | Chrissy Lucia Chocolate founder, health coach, translator, language teacher

I was born and raised in England. My mother was Uruguayan and raised us in Spanish, my father is German and raised us in German. We regularly visited family in Germany, Uruguay, and Spain. When I was 14 we moved to Singapore for five years, where I went to an international school and we travelled around South East Asia. I appreciate that multicultural upbringing because I’ve learnt so much from being exposed to different cultures and languages. It’s made me more adaptable to new situations and surroundings. Today, living in Los Angeles and raising my daughter in Spanish, I try to pass on some of that. Read more>>

LaTonya Carmouche | Author & Speaker

I am from Lynwood, Ca I was raised to be open to people. I was not conditioned to see color, age, gender, beliefs, etc. My background taught me to acknowledge everyone and treat them with respect. I was taught to learn a person, let them show me who they are and then make an informed decision on how and if a relationship should develop. My background taught me to keep God first, to be responsible, to complete any task assigned to me, to be willing to work, to be honest, to be sincere, to know how to survive with very little and to be appreciative with a lot. My background and upbringing helped develop who I am today by showing me how to utilize and exhaust all resources to reach success. If an opportunity does not present itself to you, make your own. Do not be afraid to start small, do not be afraid to fail, do not be afraid to ask for help, do not be afraid to just try. It has been embedded in me to know that I can overcome any challenge with work, wise decision making, and perseverance. Read more>>

Abimael Acosta | Writer, director and producer

I was born in a small town in Puerto Rico, Adjuntas. Adjuntas is in the center of the island. My parents where born in Adjuntas too and they were hard working people. My Mom always supported me in every step I did to achieve my goals to be an artist when I was a kid, and my Dad taught me the importance of hard work and discipline to get whichever your dreams were. I’m the eldest of three children, and being the eldest gave me a lot of responsibilities towards my siblings and made me a more mature person for my age back then. When I finished my high school I moved to San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico. Life in big cities is very different from the life I had in my small town, but my desire to achieve my dreams and the skills that I developed through my life helped me to start a career in entertainment business in Puerto Rico. My parents taught me to be independent and when I decided to move to Los Angeles to continue my career this helped me a lot. Read more>>

Rebecca Halpin | Event Planner

I grew up in a thriving Jewish community in Houston, TX. My 7th grade year (1993-94) , I attended a Bar or Bat Mitzvah almost every single weekend, some weekends more than one. My parents would schlep me from party to party, where I was always found on the dance floor, Electric Sliding the night away. Since I attended music theater specialty schools in both middle and high school, my weekends were reserved for my Jewish community. Religious school at my Reform synagogue was a chance for me to connect with my Jewish friends and enhance my spiritual education, and once I hit 6th grade, almost every Saturday night was spent in a hotel ballroom or some other venue with these friends, donned in my “5-7-9” best. I never realized at the time that there could be a career as a Mitzvah Professional, working with teens at this prime age to celebrate a huge accomplishment (reading Torah and leading their congregation in prayer) with a fun and unique party as a Planner. Read more>>