There are so many factors that affect how our lives turn out, but one of the most interesting is how our backgrounds give us unique strengths and perspectives that affect who we are as adults. We asked rising stars from the community to tell us about their background and upbringing and how they feel it’s impacted who they are today.

Chloé Malaisé | Actor & Wellness Center Manager

My mother is from Paraguay, and my dad is from France. I was born in Paraguay and my sister Arami was born in France. We moved to Chile right after I was born and I grew up there until I moved to the US at the age of 8. For a long time, nowhere felt like “home.” When my sister and I would visit Paraguay every year, they’d say “the yankees have arrived.” In France we were the Americans, and in America we most certainly weren’t Americans, even after I got my US Citizenship 15 years after living in the states. Read more>>

Leonard Hayes | Classical Free Lance Pianist and Graduate Teaching Assistant at the University of Southern California

I was born and raised in the North Texas. I grew up in an area labeled as the “Sunny South Side” of Dallas; a neighborhood marked by homelessness, poverty, drug smuggling, and crime. The first half of my childhood shaped by great-grandmother’s guardianship. For example, we were expected to arrive home before sundown and be reachable at home, church, or School. While this disciplined parenting, appeared to be unloving, my great-grandmother instilled values of respect, love, faith, and honesty into me. Read more>>

Julian Graef | Musician, Entrepreneur

I was raised in Missoula, Montana. Growing up I spent a lot of time with family down near Jackson, Mississippi, as well as Gulfport/Biloxi, Mississippi. Growing up in a predominately white city with not a lot of ethnic diversity – spending a lot of time in these areas early on gave me a new perspective of people and where I lived that I feel not a lot of my peers/friends had growing up; having been introduced to a variety of different cultures and ways of living. The city (if you can even call it that) that I grew up in had/has little to no music scene: unless you want to be a folk or country singer of course. There’s about 5 venues in the town of 80-something-thousand people that host real rap shows, few of which are all owned by the same company that for whatever reason doesn’t like supporting/booking local acts; and the other two being a questionably maintained basement dive bar, and the other being a literal bicycle shop (all love to Free Cycles). Read more>>

Clarissa Karagosian | Hair artist & stylist

I am originally from Worcester, a city outside of Boston, Massachusetts. My parents had no accomplished any of their dreams, therefore always discouraged me of doing such. I was raised hearing that creative jobs were fun college jobs, not careers. This made me want to follow my calling even more. I knew I wanted to work for myself, and lead others while inspiring their creative side. I knew I wanted so much more than I was told I was capable of. My upbringing filed the fire to succeed and do what I love, regardless of what anyone thought of it. My complete focus for as long as I can remember, was to prove people wrong and simply keep getting better and learning new ways to be creative. Worcester was full of crime and low income households, however I met so many great artists in all different forms of art. Read more>>

Jacqueline Hamati | Private Chef Instructor, Founder of Jackie’s Middle Eastern Kitchen & HR Manager

Born & raised in the Middle East I became passionate about Middle Eastern cuisine, which is highly influenced by my travels to Jordan, Palestine, Qatar, Dubai, Syria, Egypt, Israel, and more. I am of Lebanese descent, born in Jordan, and lived in Palestine where food has important cultural and symbolic meanings that go beyond what is on the plate. I love to meet people with “Ahlan wa Sahlan” which means “welcome”. I brought delicious dishes to my customers to experience the Jordanian culture of generosity without leaving LA. Read more>>

Marnie Jackson | Creator of plastic free, vegan products

I grew up in Arenzano,Italy. Our family home was situated next to a 200 year old farm. Our neighbors the farmers grew everything they needed to eat in the farm. Or they fished with cast nets on the local beach for fish. I grew up learning how to collect eggs from the chickens and bake bread for the week, how to skin a rabbit and how to gut a fish. Life was simple . I came home to my house in the evening dirty and tired. My mom started paying the old Italian woman Ricceta because I would spend the whole day learning from her on the farm. Read more>>

Mateo Navarrette | Writer, Editor, Podcaster

I was born and raised in central LA. I moved away for college for four years, but moved back. The first place I grew up was in mid-city, and the second place was not far away on the outskirts of Koreatown. I’m currently smack dab in the middle of Koreatown and I love it. It’s hard to imagine living somewhere else, but I still may someday. Read more>>