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.

Polaris Castillo | Artist & Filmmaker

I’m a Chicano working in Los Angeles, California. My parents came here from Mexico in the 80’s, and they’ve instilled a powerful, cultural and healing drive in me that fuels a lot of my work today. It is incredibly important to keep a strong connection with our ancestry. To remember where we come from and who we are is the only way to know where we are going. As a Mexican-American of Mexica/Yaqui descent, I pour a lot of my heritage into my art as a means of cultural identity, as a form of healing, as a way of decolonizing, and as an outlet to express the deep cosmos of my heart. Read more>>

Soobie | Singer-Songwriter/Music Producer

I was born and raised in Chennai, India, and part of a musical middle-class family. My dad composes and writes songs for Indian films, and my mom is a violinist/singer. They would always play music tv channels in their free time in Tamil and sometimes Hindi. So those melodies and musical choices help influence my own. Sometimes I’ll be singing a song I wrote and accidentally end up connecting it to something I listened to on repeat back in 2008! English music was all the rage when I started high school and it was easily accessible on YouTube. So, instead of begging my parents to buy me a CD, I’d search and discover many songs online. Read more>>

Cindy Trinh | Photographer, Visual Journalist, Organizer and Activist

I was born and raised in Orange County, California. I am the daughter of Vietnamese refugees who came to America after the Vietnam War in 1975. My mother struggled to adjust to a new life in America away from her homeland. She worked tirelessly to raise my brother and I. My mom and dad got divorced when I was really young and my mom was raising us on her own. We were very poor when I was a kid, living in the basement of my aunt’s house. My mom struggled to put food on the table and there were many days we went to bed hungry. Read more>>

Jessica Unsell | Owner of Wild Fire Water

I was born and raised in a log home in Brecksville, Ohio. Brecksville is very close to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, a 32,572-acre National Park outfitted with wildlife, hiking trails, waterfalls and much more! Being a child of the 80’s, I spent a lot of time outside making mud pies and forts. I spent summers exploring the river and the winters sledding and making snowmen. My parents were avid campers/ travelers and we spent a lot of the time on the road. By the time I was a teenager I had traveled as south as Florida, swam in the Atlantic in many beaches, seen the Blue Ridge Mountains and rode to the top of Pikes Peak (The Rocky’s) on the back of my dad’s Harley. Read more>>

Tyshon Lowe | Creative Artist

I’m from South Central, California. My upbringing impacted me in a very positive way. I’ve seen a lot coming from where i come from so i learned from other people’s experiences as much as i learned from my own. Who i am today reflects that with the way i approach my everyday interactions with people. I try to understand that everyone is fighting something on the inside and it’s my duty to be kind and be that light that might spark them to see something great in themselves. Read more>>

Alex Uriostegui | Founder/CEO of Salsa Valente

I was born in Acapulco, Mexico. I Crossed the border with my mother and my uncle when I was 8 years old. Before the age of 15 my life was truly a messed! Parties, Drugs, Ditching School and Jail. Jail was my lowest point in life. Realizing what we went through when we crossed the border and seeing how hard my dad and my mom worked their asses off, this was the turning point in my life and made me realized that i need to create a better version of myself. When you have nothing and leave everything behind you realized you have nothing to loose but to give your best to become the person you want to be. Since then i always wanted to create, explore and make something out of nothing. All of that has made a HUGE impact in my life, when I’m not feeling good or motivated i look back and think about what we went through and i use this fuel as a boost and for motivation. Read more>>

Hipatia Lopez | Inventor

I was born and raised in New Jersey. My parents are from Quito, Ecuador. I was raised in a very strict household. Education was very important especially to my mom. She came to USA right before she graduated so she never got to finish and pursue a degree (career). Both my parents worked factory jobs and did not speak any English so it was difficult for them in the beginning. My mom insisted I always study even after school to learn ahead. I became a straight A student and loved being recognized for accomplishments because I worked real hard for them. I am very grateful to have had them very involved in my school studies and pushing to always want more out of life. Read more>>

Kay Matsuyama | Photographer

I am from a little city in Georgia called Marietta. It is just thirty minutes northwest of Atlanta and it rests amongst droves of sleepy oak, vibrant maple, and fragrant pine. Marietta has always felt like a small town but it is actually one of largest suburbs in Atlanta. It is the home of TV personality Alton Brown, defense contractor Lockheed Martin, and the 56-foot-tall KFC behemoth that we call The Big Chicken. Embedded within the unrivaled southern hospitality and the warm feeling you get when a stranger calls you “honey” is the deeply tumultuous history of the Antebellum South, too. There is quite a lot for an impressionable little Japanese boy to learn. After living there with my family for eighteen years I moved to southern California for college in 2011. Read more>>

Caira Butler | Founder of StylemeC and Stylist

I am from Saint Louis, Missouri. My interest in fashion came from my mom and cousin being part of the fashion world here in Saint Louis. My cousin owned her own bridal salon selling gorgeous gowns and accessories. I remember being young and small feeling like I was in the most magical place in the world (yes, better than Disney). It was such a luxurious boutique filled with different dress styles, colors, and fabrics. I was amazed at how beautiful clothing could be. My mom modeled for a few years at Florissant Valley Community College at their annual fashion show. Read more>>

Carlos Vargas | Music Producer

I was born in Mexico City, Mexico, but have lived the majority of my life in Los Angeles. My father was a music aficionado. I remember growing up listening to the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Elvis Presley, and other great artists from that time because of my dad. In my house, you could always find a musical instrument. I would see how passionate my dad was with music and that drew me to also seek music. When I was six I began to take piano classes, but I wanted to be a drummer. However, we did not have a drum set at home so I began to play the instrument we did have, the guitar, and I loved it. Ever since then I focused the majority of my free time playing the guitar and improving my skills. Read more>>

Rachelle Apgar | Certified Master Hypnotist and Spiritual Mentor

My parents met in Hollywood, CA and moved to a small town called Grand Junction, CO when my mom found out she was pregnant. I was born and raised in the Rocky Mountains where small town values, nature, and art became the core of my being. Although my childhood was beset with adversities- including losing my parents to their battles with addiction by the time I was eight years old and being a child of divorce alongside my seven non-biological brother’s and sisters- I somehow held onto my spark and moved to Los Angeles, California as soon as I turned eighteen. Read more>>

Keila Solorzano | Creative Director and Songwriter

I grew up on Lucas Ave, close to the 110 freeway entrance in the depths of Downtown LA. My parents were both from El Salvador and barely knew English. I was an only child and the only “friend” I had was a girl named Jocelyn and calling her a friend is only an understatement. I was alone most of the time since my parents weren’t on the best terms with each other and the apartment I lived with my mom was a studio size apartment. I was bullied constantly throughout those 5 years of elementary school and most of the times I spent during recess and lunch was me walking around the playground in my own mind, in my world with my own imaginary friends. Read more>>

Suzannah Ruth | Professional Dancer

I was born in Manchester, England. Manchester has such a strong sense of community and is famous for its music culture and media. My family always encouraged me to pursue my dreams, I was in dance training most evenings from a young age. I could see the success of older students (many booking TV roles!) from my theater school and that drove me to work hard early on! My mum instilled confidence in me and a positive work ethic to keep reaching for my goals. Read more>>

Jo Galloway | Writer/Director/Producer/Actress & avid wine enthusiast!

I am originally from Cape Town, South Africa and come from a family of crazy creatives. Both my parents were musical theatre performers in the West End before moving to SA after touring with the musical West Side Story. Our family now runs The Waterfront Theatre School in Cape Town, which has become the biggest international performing arts college in the country. We focus on all aspects of the performing arts under our banner “Perform. Teach. Create.” The goal is to create self sufficient performers who can not only perform as triple threats, but also create and develop their own work. Read more>>

Anet Abnous | Designer, Artist and Founder of Anet’s Collection

I am LA based Armenian/ Persian Designer, Artist and founder of Anet’s Collection art inspired accessories and fashion company. My passion for arts started early in life and was nurtured and inspired by my father’s dressmaking and tailoring skills. I grew up in the world of fashion and retail learning the basics from my family. I believe my parents were the main influence in my work ethic, great sense of customer service and fashion sense. I enrolled in sewing and pattern making classes at the age 16 and got certification in fashion from Zahra University in IRAN, later earned a Fine Arts Degree from Queens College- CUNY. Read more>>

Josh Sadowski | Content creator, singer, and entrepreneur

I’m originally from Frederick Maryland, but I’ve lived in 6 different states over the years. Growing up, I was constantly traveling because of my dads work, and my moms participation in ministry as an opera singer. I grew up around artistic and creative people which inspired what I do. Read more>>

Veronica Burnett | Certified Life Coach, HERSAC Enterprises, LLC

I am from a small town in South Carolina, however, I was raised in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area. I come from a family that believes in and serves God. We believe the principals set forth in the Bible. My grandmother taught us how to serve others, how to be kind to others and help others who need it. Those same principles were reinforced by my mother who would encourage women in shelters in DC when I was a part of a mentoring program called the S.B. Step Ahead Program. In that program, we were taught and shown how to help others who were in need and to do so in love, knowing that if not for God’s grace and the tables are turned, it could be us. Read more>>

Rebecca & Ursula Recinos | Small Business Owners & Creatives

We were born and raised in Los Angeles, California. We grew up in Echo Park where a lot of our family resides. Our parents migrated from El Salvador in the 1970’s. Throughout our childhood we watched them work extremely hard to provide opportunities for us despite the risk and obstacles they faced.
Their impeccable dedication moved us in ways that also inspired us to work hard towards our goals and create something of our own.
Our roots continue to represent who are, and it is something we always carry within whom are today. Read more>>

Erica Neufeld | Voice Reclamation Advocate & Intuitive Energy Reader

I was born in the humid, bustling city of Bangkok, Thailand to an Irish-Catholic father and a Thai-Buddhist mother. We moved to Cairo, Egypt right before preschool, where I attended an international school until the end of first grade. At the age of 6, with a new little sister in tow, we moved to my late grandparent’s house that was once on unceded Konkow land, also known as Paradise, California. I stayed in Paradise until I left for college. Read more>>

SOLOMON EYOB | MOGUL

I am originally from a small country in Africa not to many have heard of it is called Eritrea. Eritrea is one of the most beautiful places in all of the world, and one of the most if not safest place in the world and is home to the strongest army in Africa. Our Red Sea coast alone is home to over 300 hundred islands not to many even know of not to mention the rich historical background of the region that Eritrea holds to be shared. I speak and understand my native language Tigriyina fluently which helps me embrace other cultures today. Read more>>

Levan Geliashvili | Arts Manager

My name is Levan, I live in Georgia, capital city Tbilisi. It’s a small country in Eastern Europe, probably with one of the most chaotic, diverse and eclectic culture and architecture. The cultural mix of American, European and West Asian origins, with the addition of post-Soviet heritage, is finally embedded in one substance, that is sometimes very cool, but tiring at the same time. Probably, you see what a human I am like. Read more>>