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.

Samantha Schultz | Artist & Musician

I’m a proud Canadian girl born and raised in a city way up north called Edmonton, located deep in the prairies of Alberta. We’re a capital city, but there’s a small town feel that’s uniquely Canadian- bonded by the deep cold of winter contrasted by vibrant summer celebrations filled with art, theatre, music festivals, and more. Like many Canadian cities, Edmonton is a melting pot of backgrounds and stories from all over the world. My family embodies this with a mix of Germanic European lineage on my dad’s side and a direct connection to the Philippines, as my mom immigrated from the islands when she was a young girl. These aspects of my identity are something that have recently taken on new and profound meanings in my life in ways they didn’t in my youth. I’ve learned to be proud of my mixed heritage, celebrate its diverse history, and identify ways to help others do the same. Read more>>

Joe Normal | Singer Songwriter

Our family lived in the shadows of New York City, in the port town of Elizabeth, New Jersey, surrounded by the docks, the factories and the Bayway Refinery. My dad and most of our parents worked those blue collar jobs. Elizabethtown was a tough place in the 70’s and 80’s when I was coming up, and it seemed everybody had some kind of hustle going, some kind of scam or scheme to get over so they could get outta there. Mine was to make it in a rock band. I had a job delivering machinery parts to many of those factories and others all over New Jersey, and those scenes and faces have stayed with me. The scars and struggles of our parents and family and experiences have never left. My songs and stories are often informed by them, as well as the many working class themes and characters I’ve seen and learned from. Read more>>

Sandra Gomes | Wine Importer & Wholesaler

I am the daughter of twice immigrants and am an immigrant myself. My parents left Portugal in the late 70s seeking better opportunities and migrated to Venezuela, where I was born. In 1989 my father’s business was destroyed after civil unrest decimated parts of Caracas. With few options at rebuilding, my brother, parents and I made the move to New Jersey to connect with extended family as well as one of the largest Portuguese communities outside of Portugal. After a few short years living in the US my father set up his second business, a wine and liquor retail shop in the Bronx. I’ve seen my parents rise up from the ashes twice and build a life that is emblematic of the American Dream. Being an immigrant child growing up with the NYC skyline in my backyard gave me a sense of urgency. The urgency to build upon what my parents had, and continue to not only keep that American Dream alive, but to derive my own dreams from it and keep the hustle going. Read more>>

Anaiah Simons | Artist (Photographer/Dancer)

I was born and raised in Redlands, CA. I immediately jumped into dance classes and theatre at 3 years old. Next came modeling, vocal coaching, and piano lessons. Shortly after, I was a part of the classical and show choir for all 4 years of high school. Finally, I was enrolled at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy at 18 years old. Therefore, I moved to LA in 2013 and have been here ever since. I guess you could say I was meant to end up here. Rightfully so, my parents and their parents were all part of the arts at some point and the legacy still continues. I am incredibly grateful to be born into a family who believes in the arts whole-heartedly and has lived in it and experienced it themselves. I am now a photographer and have been for about 3 years. I love capturing peoples essence and telling a story in a single frame. I am so grateful to have experienced so many different parts of the industry throughout my life. Read more>>

Izzi Ray | Artist // Musician

I was born in Orange County California and raised in Whitefish Montana. Growing up in a rural area surrounded by the most beautiful nature cultivated a deep love and appreciation for my home. I loved Cooking with my dad, playing music with my brother and riding horses with my mom. Wandering and finding my favorite hidden spots of the forest are some of my favorite memories. The sense of wonder and independence really stuck with me through those formative years and my parents encouraged the pursuit of self discovery. My whole family is musical and my parents both worked in the music industry and started their own record label when I was little. I’m so grateful that they showed me the ropes and shared so much wisdom with me. I often feel like I’m made up of juxtapositions, but as I’ve gotten older, I see that all the pieces, places, and people of my background are part of what makes my art and myself unique. Read more>>

Anchi Shen | Storyboard Artist

I was born and mostly raised in Taiwan. Growing up, I had the chance to travel and live in different countries due to my dad’s job. Before I could fully acquire a language, I would already be moving to a different city. Because of that, I never understood what people around me were saying. Since I was just in pre-school at the time and the teachers knew I was there temporarily, I always get “special treatments”, such as having the luxury to play all day in the back while everyone else is learning stuff in class. Therefore, I spent a lot of my childhood being in my head, creating stories for my toys, giving them personalities and trying to entertainment myself. The fact that language was a barrier for me meant that I quickly developed the skill to read people’s expressions and body gestures at an early age. Read more>>

Chris Geer | Owner

I’m from Los Alamitos, CA. I grew up in a middle class neighborhood and oddly enough the tract that I grew up in was called Suburbia. I loved growing up in the seventies where parenting was very different. We grew up doing a lot of things that kids mostly don’t do today, some good, some bad. Although I have fond memories of growing up in Los Alamitos I couldn’t wait to leave when I was old enough to live on my own. My family would drive to Long Beach on special occasions to go to brunch and I fell in love with the older buildings in Long Beach. I loved the different styles of architecture and knew I wanted to live in a city with more history and old buildings. So a few years after finishing University I ended up in Long Beach. Read more>>

Melvin Harper | Visual Artist & Creative Art Director

My ‘father’, or more specifically the individual contemporary identity politics identifies as so through a trace of bloodline and matrimony, is ‘Native Indian’, ‘African-African’. Equally, my ‘mother’ is some bio-geo-political hodge of ‘Welsh’, ‘Indian’, ‘American’, ‘English’. My parents met in the UK when my father was stationed there on an American air base during the Cold War. They had my sisters and went back to the States. Eight years later the fam returned to the UK, I joined the party and spent 20 years growing up as an Englishman. Which is to say 20 years of pedagogical internment in British imperialism. More precisely English speaking England, which has only been so since the 1700s, previously ruled by a French and Norman aristocracy, and Saxon fedualships. Read more>>

Céline Haeberly | Photographer

I was adopted from China by an American-Italian mother and a Swiss father. I flew around the world at seven months and while I cannot remember those moments, they have forever shaped me. Our family of three became four and my sister and I grew up in Connecticut. However, our roots always seemed “elsewhere.” I identify strongly with my father’s side of the family who we’d spend one month out of the year visiting every summer in Switzerland. My grand-maman has always been a bottomless source of inspiration and this recently materialized into a road trip I will never forget. (You can read more about it on my Instagram @celinehaeberly). In sum, being raised in an unconventional and multicultural household has challenged me to continuously define and redefine what travel means to me. I’d like to thank my parents for this gift that keeps on giving and thank you, dad, for showing me how to use a camera. Read more>>

Amanda Mears | Artist

My father’s airforce career meant that my childhood was very international. We moved countries every couple of years and so, wherever we were, I always felt slightly foreign or out of place. On the plus side, that experience gave me an insatiable curiosity about every place I found myself. I was always exploring and seeking to understand, looking closely and asking questions: traits that set me up perfectly for my first career as a documentary film maker. The question of “where’s home?” however remained unanswered for me until I began to make paintings. I found myself drawn to landscape imagery, specifically of places near my grandparents’ home on Exmoor in North Devon: the textures of the stone walls, the incredible shifting colors on the land from sun breaking through cloud, standing ankle deep in freezing river water trying to tickle speckled trout as they slipped by in the flowing reeds. Read more>>

Cody Harrison | Beyond Sustainability Specialist

I grew up in a faraway land called Montana, about an hour south of the Canadian border, near the continental divide and Glacier National Park. I think growing up in this part of the country/world instilled in me a natural appreciation for this beautiful planet, but it wasn’t until I was in college that I became interested in working in the environmental/social impact sectors. I guess until then I didn’t understand quite how messed up everything was. See, I grew up with a lot of privilege. Like a lot a lot. Cis-gendered straight white able-bodied/minded upper class male. Pretty much all the classic labels of privilege. But I at least knew that to some extent. In Montana, like many states in the US, there is a “third world” just a short drive away, for us in the Flathead Valley that “third world” could be found at the nearby Blackfeet reservation. Read more>>

Sael Bartolucci | Co-Founder and Designer

I am half Italian on my fathers side, half Texan on my mothers side. I was raised in Florence, Italy until I was 18 so while I have lived in the US off and on since, I do feel like my values and life perspective is very much Italian. I am so lucky to have had supportive parents growing up, both my mom and dad are big travelers and have always taken my two sibling and I on wonderful yearly trips growing up and this very much impacted my understanding of the world. I recognize the privilege that living abroad and visiting the US as a child offered me. When I moved here as a young adult I took to wearing the figurative American hat to assimilate the culture in a way that even my own American mother could not teach me. I observed the differences and tried to fill the cultural gaps by being earnest in my learning but mostly I tried to keep my italianess on my sleeve! My family is very Italian in their unabashed love of life and while this might sound generic or cliché it is true. Read more>>

Mystic Dylan | Professional Witch| Author| Shop Owner

I was born here in Los Angeles but moved around pretty frequently between my parents in Los Angeles and Miami, FL with my grandparents. As a kid, my life was a little scrambled. My parents were very relaxed and easy-going, they were both in the entertainment industry. When they were in rehabilitation from addiction I lived with my grandparents. They were also super loving and supportive but a little more reserved. Living with them brought out my more rebellious nature. However, both were always very supportive of my interest in Theatre and History. Witchcraft and the occult is something I was always fascinated by, even at an early age I remember going into a shop in Hollywood called Panpipes with my mother and being fascinated that witchcraft was practiced in real life. Despite any personal hardships I’ve been fortunate to have a family that loved me and ultimately supported me most of the way. Read more>>

Felix Galvan | Illustrator

Being from California, my interests were highly influenced by the many creatives in my life. Both of my parents were creative thinkers, and therefore, was raised in a creative environment. One thing I do know, is that there are certain values that they taught me through example, that allowed me to be able to become a working artist. My father, where I get my dedication and work ethic, always taught me the importance of presence in my work. He is also the most honest critic of my work, so I’ve always been able to inquire knowing I would get an honest reply. That, to me, is as good as gold. My mother is the source of my adventurous side. She’s the reason I never gave up on my dream to pursue a creative career. I consider myself fortunate to have my family as a strong foundation of support and creativity. Read more>>

Mike Chun | Hip Hop Artist & Software Sales Rep

I was born and raised in Chicago, IL. My family and I moved around a lot within the city, so having to make new friends and adapting to a new environment became a normal thing for me. Chicago has extreme summers and winters, which are big contributors to the unification of the city. For example, when it’s snowing outside, everyone and their neighbors are shoveling their driveways and sidewalks. Everyone’s late to work or school because of the traffic in the slippery streets. I believe that helps build character for the city – to struggle together and to overcome together. My family and I faced many challenges and hardships when I was growing up. Everything from the loss of family members to financial ruins to battling addictions. When it rained, it definitely poured. Read more>>