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.

Madeleine Perez | Writer & Filmmaker

I’m from all over Northern California but mostly the Napa Valley. For as long as I can remember, teachers, writing mentors, books about creativity have all gone back to that concept of writing what you know. As a child I longed to move as far away as possible from the world I knew; a chaotic household filled with children and enough musical instruments to equip an orchestra. Outsiders would compare our family of nine (four brothers, two sisters, my parents and me) to a sports team. Read more>>

Julian Mejia | Photographer/Video Producer

I was born in Colombia but raised in NYC since I was 11 months old. Coming from a family of immigrants has taught me the value in hard work and discipline. It was hard for my family to accept my choice in having a creative career after the plan to be a doctor flopped, but they see how passionate I am with my work and how hard I work to get to where I am today. Read more>>

Brenzy | Singer-Songwriter-Musician

I grew up in Virginia in a really tight knit family – the youngest of 3 with two older brothers. I’ve been surrounded by music for my entire life. From the time I was a toddler, my parents were in bands together and my oldest brother was in a couple of bands too. Practices and jam sessions were always held in our basement, and I would just sit on the floor to watch and listen. I eventually got my way onto a microphone and sang some “oohs” and “ahhs” for them, and then when I was 8, I sang on stage by myself for the first time at a church camp. I fell in love with it immediately. Read more>>

Draven Fuller | Writer of Raps

I’m originally from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Exactly… WHERE!? If you have been to Iowa it’s because you have family there, almost guaranteed. Other than that I’m sure it wasn’t part of the “top 50 places to visit” article you read before taking a vacation. Where I’m from severely lacks diversity, culture, artistic expression and opportunity: especially if you look like me. It’s flat, quiet and boring. If it’s not a neighborhood it’s probably a farm, factory or a Walmart. Read more>>

Cristina Malakhai | Artist, Songwriter, Producer & Music Executive

I am Spanish, from Barcelona, so I feel very Mediterrean, being Catalan and Spanish at the same time. I was born in Barcelona, but my family is from the South of Spain and Madrid, so I feel that I’m made of all parts of Spain. Also, I grew up very close to the ocean, so that makes me feel so Mediterranean and so in love with our nature and ocean heritage. That’s where I started composing most of my music in the beginnings. My parents used to have a caravan and we would go camping every summer in front of the ocean. I would start writing my first lyrics when I was 12. Read more>>

Eunsuh Choi | Artist and Instructor

I am a Korean-born portrait artist and my flameworked pieces are personal narratives, portraits of my own moments of growth. I arrived in the U.S. having already completed a Master’s degree in glass from Kookmin University (S. Korea), but determined to pursue further glass education. I chose the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, NY as a place where I could both study English and earn a second MFA degree in glass. Read more>>