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.

Lex Macon | Director | Producer

Being from an Isolated place like the Inland Empire can pose a lot of challenges when trying to accomplish certain goals. Its really easy to get complacent. I was born in San Bernardino Ca, but was raised thought the consortium known as the I.E. I was completely unaware of how big the world was, which is why I’m so curious about growth and development; especially within my craft. It wasn’t until I moved to Atlanta for school where I learned more about not only my heritage, but about people from different walks of life. This has impacted my visual expression so much. Read more>>

Alec Santamaria

I’m was born and raised in Tujunga, CA, to a house full of immigrants: from the Philippines on my mom’s side and El Salvador on my dad’s, which makes me the ultimate Gen Y intersectional! My musical intake was eclectic from birth, ranging from showtunes and classical favorites on my grandparents’ piano to a mix of gangsta rap, college fight songs, Eurotrance, and alternative rock which my uncle blasted over late-night Jack-in-the-Box runs. With all these different sounds, it’s no surprise that my musical output would become as varied as it is! Read More>>

Sophia Strother | Entrepreneur & Inspirational Speaker

As a human trafficking survivor, I’ve always viewed myself as currency. Until my mid-thirties, I struggled to see my value beyond transactions benefitting other people. Breaking free from that mindset and starting to heal had to be purposeful. I had been so successful raising funds for other nonprofits, government entities, and ministries that I forgot that I had aspirations too. When I turned 40, I realized I was truly worth the investment into my own dreams. I heard the saying ‘nothing beats a failure but a try’, so I had to try. I finally realized I was worth the investment and definitely worth the risk. Read more>>

TJ Genosky | Music artist / photographer / designer

I’m from Burlington New Jersey I grew up as a child actor doing movies tv shows auditions constantly. I wasn’t the best in school I never enjoyed it and proffered music/photography. I dropped out of highschool to move to Los Angeles to pursue photography. It led me into music videos and working around a lot of artists and seeing all different styles. It influenced me to start making my own music which is where I’m at today just 4 days ago I dropped my first single Remember on all platforms and it’s doing amazing Read more>>

Master Shake | Musical Artist & Fashion Curator

I am from a small country town called Fountain Inn, SC “The 4-4”. Where I came from, its a very close nit family-esque community. I come from a long family of hustlers, men and women. Hell man, you gotta be hustler or have that same level of aptitude to make it out of that small town mentality. We were taught the value of being genuine towards one another and I know that might seem like some corny shit but its the most vital lesson I’ve ever learned in life. Read more>>

Marquelle Ferrette | Baker

My name is Marquelle Ferrette and I am from the greater Los Angeles area just on the border of Inglewood. I am half Korean (maternally) and half Trinidadian (paternally). My family is considered a working middle class. Growing up I was ALWAYS in the kitchen. My mother (Cookie, Rest in Love) was always cooking breakfast lunch and dinner everyday for me and my 9 siblings. In my family we have a birthday every month so we bought cake A LOT! For me, tasting cake from different bakeries was just the beginning. I began to take notice of what I liked and what my family like or why we didn’t like about each and every cake. Read more>>

Gail Dudley | Publishing Consultant & Media Personality sitting at the intersection of people, purpose, and politics.

I am a native of Columbus, Ohio, USA. I was born and raised in the near East side of the city. It was considered poor for the most part. Today it is being gentrified. I lived in a duplex home. My grandparents lived on one side, and my parents lived on the other. Both my grandfather and father worked, but they would do whatever was needed to keep the bills paid when they were laid off. As a little girl, I would go with them as they painted, washed walls, repaired carpet, and do all sorts of jobs in a home. Read more>>

Peter Hannan | Writer, Producer, Artist, Author, Songwriter

I grew up in a small town in upstate New York on the Erie Canal. I had a happy childhood, despite a healthy dose of marital strife, mental illness, and death. All in all, ours was a loving family in a house full of music and art. All of these things—the good, bad, and ugly—contributed to who I am today. Read more>>

selena rox | freelance entertainment industry professional

I grew up in a small city in Maine, just a bit north of Portland on the coast. I have spoken to other people that I tour with/work with in film that are also from “middle of nowhere” type places, and my conclusion from our shared experiences is that not being from a major city where entertainment industry jobs are more common, we have all had to put in a lot more legwork to get experience and networking opportunities to have gotten ourselves where we did. Read more>>

Kaviya Ravi | Maker, Designer, Entrepreneur

I was born in India and came to the US 16 years ago. Moving to a new country you leave everything familiar behind and have to start from scratch. It has taught me resilience, hard work, to be humble and never forget where I come from. It constantly pushes you outside of your comfort zone and to be open to new things. I grew up in a traditional Indian family, where a straight path was drawn for me and it was unacceptable to diverge from it. Read more>>

Charles Greaves | Actor/comedian

I grew up in Brentwood NY. Brentwood is a rough place to come out of, but it’s also a very diverse community. So while it made me tough, it also helped shape me into a more sensitive and understanding person. Read more>>

Brad Koepenick | Entrepreneur, Producer, Educator

I was born in the San Fernando Valley and attended Chatsworth High School with theatre friends (who went onto Tony, Emmy and Oscar winning careers in the industry) who I remain close with to this day. While I produced and acted in TV and Film, I was lured into education through my work in non-profits and charter schools. The actor and artist Val Kilmer and I had worked on films like Shakespeare High, then Cinema Twain and now the A24 documentary film V A L premiering this July at CANNES 2021. Read more>>

Lauren St Laurent | Costume Designer

Being from Dallas, Texas, I grew up in a big city with big city ideas on art and expression. I never felt like my creativity was diminished by my location. I was also very lucky to grow up with two parents with vintage ideals. My mother is an antiques dealer and appraiser and my father collects and restores old muscle cars. I grew up going to vintage car shows, estate sales, antique hunting, etc, so I was always around items that called from a past era. I think that’s where I get all of my vintage and historical costuming aesthetic! Read more>>

Mathew James | Singer/Songwriter

I’m originally from Sacramento Ca. I grew up around music. My brother Marty was into collecting vinyl and was a big influence for me. He took me to shows when I was young. He got me my first guitar and I started playing in bands my freshman year in high school.. Read more>>

Amos Glick | Actor/Director/Writer/Producer & Spatial Data Analyst

Though I was born in Austin, Texas, my family moved to Massachussettes when I was five and I grew up in two small towns there: Medway and Holliston. I grew up both in the towny, Hockey culture and the waspy private school culture having attended both private and public schools. As a comedic actor I think I share that sarcastic, biting perspective that Bostonians and people from the greater Boston area are famous for. I was raised in a secular Jewish household where The Three Stooges and the Marx Brothers were held in high regard and at family gatherings my father and other relatives would hold court doing bits, impressions and telling funny stories; Read more>>

Keishorne Scott | Accomplished Author, Speaker, Heartbreak coach, and TV personality.

I feel that my background being someone who went through the troubles of growing up poor, dealing with heartbreak, and navigating life are what fuel the work I do today. As someone who is an immigrant I didn’t have many options so I knew I had to work for many of my goals. Read more>>

Jekka Kuhlmann | Tech Entrepreneur & Children’s Book Author

I always pause a bit on how to answer this question as I had quite an unconventional upbringing in a way so I don’t necessarily have one place I’m from. I feel like I’m from a multitude of different places. And for that, I feel very fortunate as you’ll see how that has so beautifully led me in the multi-faceted directions I’ve taken both in my personal and professional life. Read more>>

April P. Bond | Entrepreneur, Business Coach, Speaker, and Author

I’m from the great city of Baltimore, MD! My upbringing impacts me today, because I grew up with an entrepreneurial spirit. There were many opportunities in Baltimore for youth, at that time. I sold candy, hand-written rap lyrics, and delivered the Afro-American newspaper. Both of my parents were hard workers and that affected me as well. I’d see them go to work day in and out, My Mother as an Electronic Technician, at Westinghouse, and my Father as a correctional officer, at Patuxent Correctional Institute. Seeing them work everyday, instilled in me the work ethic I have today, to be consistently consistent! Read more>>

Jonathan Jennings | Software Engineer / Game Designer / Teacher

Making a little out of a lot is an example my mom has always set as an example for me throughout my life and something that plays into my work and the worlds I build as a Software Engineer and Designer in the Game Development and Virtual Reality spaces today. Read more>>

Alexandra Genetto | Artist and Designer

I was born in 1957 to a single mother who had just gotten her PhD in Classics from UC Berkeley. She had been able to return to school on the GIBill because she had been a WAVE and had lived in Japan after the war as a Navy translator. As a student at Berkeley she had a years long affair with a married professor, my father. She was two years older than he was and was nearly 38 when I, her first and only child was born. Read more>>

Kelby Knapp | Production Designer

My mom was a wedding and event planner growing up. This gave me my taste for putting productions together. The amount of work that goes into party/ wedding is insane. I honestly believe more so that film and tv because on set we only you what we want you to see. At an event it’s about the experience and how you feel which was very important to clients. I think this taught me to focus on the details and give my director/ actors a space that has a look but also a feeling. Read more>>

John Paul Thornton | Artist, Art Historian and Author

The Tyrannosaurus-Rex skull at the Los Angeles County Museum was the featured highlight of my childhood. I took all my friends on annual pilgrimages to see it each year for my grade school birthdays. Its fossilized teeth were huge and I imagined it coming alive before my eyes. I dug deep holes in backyards and vacant lots, dreaming I was an archeologist. I climbed trees, built forts, splashed in creeks and drew and painted. I knew I was an artist since I was six. Both my parents were artists. They never discouraged me or dismissed my art. I never doubted myself. Read more>>

Jessica Redish | Award-winning Director, Choreographer & Writer

Chicago made me who I am – I learned how to be a team player and lead with clarity, while also collaborating. I grew up in Chicago theatre and the focus was to put the greater whole before yourself. The priority was the work. I was taught to love the art in yourself, not yourself in the art. I still live by this. When I start a project I ask myself, “What can I bring to this and whom do I need to bring on to make it the best possible piece of work it can be?” I play to everyone’s strengths. Read more>>

Garrick Dixon | Barber & Men’s Grooming Products Owner (Dixon’s 1737j

I’m from Mitchellville which is located within Prince Georges County, Maryland. PG County is the richest black county in America. So therefore I grew up around a lot of black people that made a good income. This showed me that black people can work together to build a strong economic system. My father owned a transmission shop and my mother was a Administrative Assistant. Earlier on I got to see my father as a entrepreneur which has always given me the motivation to start my own business. Read more>>

Mary Kate Wiles | Actor

I’m originally from Fayetteville, Arkansas, and I lived there until I was 18 and moved to LA to attend USC. Fayetteville is a fairly liberal, tree-huggy, hippie pocket of a pretty red state. Northwest Arkansas has been thriving and vibrant since I grew up there, and is even more so now. I knew from a pretty young age that I wanted to be a performer, and at the time, Fayetteville didn’t offer the sort of performing opportunities I was dying to take part in, so I spent a lot of my high school experience just wishing, YEARNING for Los Angeles. And it’s not that I’ve wanted to move back since I’ve lived here Read more>>

Yuri Hasegawa | Commercial Photographer, Foster Dog Mom

I am originally from Tokyo, Japan. Before I pursued my current career, professional photographer, I was a professional dancer / choreographer in Japan. I quit 9-5 job to pursued my passion. Growing up with traditional asian parents with the fact to make living being professional dancer was not easy path to do, quit 9-5 was big decision with big risk. Pressure was high too. I just worked harder, put all noise aside, many sacrifice to make. Just kept going. I was definitely lucky but also hungry & I made it. Read more>>

Sophia Papadopoulos | Reiki Master & Intuitive Healer

I was born in England in a town called Derby to an English mother and Greek father. When I was 4, we moved to Bahrain through my Dad’s work. Unfortunately, my parents divorced whilst living in Bahrain. Shortly after, my mother ended up remarrying a US Navy submariner and by the age of 10, I was living in Guam. My dad ended up moving to Dubai, so my sister and I would have to travel across the world as unaccompanied minors to see our dad on our school breaks. Read more>>

Kim Smith | Indigenous Goddess Gang Founder

I come the great Diné Nation. Our homeland is the size of West Virginia. Ancestorly it spans throughout the 4 corner states of the Southwest. I was raised in St Michaels AZ & Iyanbito, NM. My mother’s family is from AZ & my Dad from NM. I had a strong upbringing of Diné culture and ceremony, while also attending a Catholic school from K-12. My siblings, my cousins, my mom, aunts and uncles all went to this private Catholic school. Read more>>

Julia Gogosha | Executive Optician

I’m from parents who fled the former ussr pregnant with me to come to the States to pursue a life of possibilities for themselves and their kids. In the old country, my father was a welterweight champion boxer in his 20s who became a coach and physical therapist and my mom a chemical engineer. When they came to the states they started over with no language and no credentials. Read more>>

Thales & Tuuh | Nordex

We are from Brazil! Our country has a lot of japanese influence because it has the biggest population of japanese people out of Japan. We were always fans of anime and we started our own anisong bands over 10 years ago, which eventually led to Nordex! The impact we manage to make on the scene is due to hard work and a lot of practice, for sure! There are no secrets, just pure love and effort. Read more>>

Selena Schoups | Los Angeles Talent Manager

I grew up far from Hollywood, or at least from the glamour of it. I’m from a very rural town near the Bay Area, where there were a lot of agricultural farms and livestock ranches. My father worked in tech in Silicon Valley and my mother worked in healthcare but she had a passion for horses, especially Arabians. So they bought an old five-acre mushroom farm where they could buy, breed, and raise Arabian horses. Read more>>

Dee Frank | Musician & Producer

We’re an L.A. band with 3 Los Angeles natives and a New Yorker (Brittany). We all group up in working class families and developed a DIY attitude and applied it to our music. I think the grit undoubtedly shines through in the intensity of our music and lyrics. Read more>>

Maya La Maya | Artist & Singer/Songwriter

I was raised in New Hampshire, moved to Maine in middle school, and spent my college days in Boston. Both of my parents were concert pianists and taught me everything I know about music from a young age. From ear-training games to weekly attended concerts, I lived and breathed melody and rhythm. Being homeschooled since before high school had its advantages since I got to really focus on my creativity. Visual art and artisan projects also became my passions. Read more>>

Jill Kloster | Interior Designer

I am originally from Oakville, Ontario, Canada. I am first generation Canadian as my parents immigrated to Ontario in 1968 from Capetown South Africa. Born during the Apartheid era and classified as “non-white”, my parents faced many cultural and societal obstacles in their time there, education being one of those obstacles. In South Africa, the university and career choices were limited, however they were fortunate enough to obtain teaching degrees from The University of Cape Town. Read more>>

TJ Simon | Music producer & General Contractor

I was born and raised in the bold city of Jacksonville, FL where I began my professional music career in 2015. Earning my first national placement with R. City on their debut album “What Dreams Are Made Of” which featured Adam Levine and production from Jevon Hill and Dr. Luke. Read more>>

Jaimee Park | Composer for Media

I’m from South Korea. I grew up listening to classical music even before I was born, thanks to my parents who are the big fans of J.S. Bach. I started playing the piano since I was 3 years old, and composition was a part of my hobby back then. Music’s always been a part of my life. My uncle is a conductor of the best choir in Korea and he’s helped me form my musical ability and intelligence. I went to one of the best Arts high school and music college in Korea, which helped me to change my attitude towards music. I built the cornerstones while learning there. I listened to a diverse genres of music and literally, lived with music. I never regretted that part of my life. Read more>>

ZsaZsa K. | artist, curator, filmmaker

I’m from L.A. (born & raised), but I’m Seneca Indian ( Onöndowa’ga:’ / Hodinöhsö:ni’ ) on my mom’s side. Lately my biggest motivation has been the fact that my Great Grandma Lucy was a survivor of an Indian Residential School on the Seneca Nation of Indians Cattaraugus territory (NY). Over the last year, I’ve started to realize how that truth has impacted so much of who I am (via the ways it affected my family thru the generations). Read more>>

Renata Murtol | Artist & Actress

I’m originally from Monterrey, Mexico and that is where I spent most of my childhood. Since I was very little I always liked to draw and write stories. I would spend days writing these little fables that had a message at the end so I could read them to my grandma. I always enjoyed having different outlets of self expression, but as I grew up I kind of left them behind, until I had to pick what to study in college. After months of thinking about it, I decided to pursue my passion for acting and moved to Los Angeles to study at the New York Film Academy. I truly believe LA was the place that made me the artist I am today as I was able to fully embody that and be confident about it. It gave me freedom to pursue other passions I had left behind such as painting. Read more>>

Andrea Solanki | Energy Healer and Reiki Master

I’m from a small village in North Wales called Gresford which dates back to the 7th century. Growing up surrounded by Celtic history, folklores and an abundance of nature definitely shaped how I view the world. From an early age, I was fascinated by the beautiful myths of the Fae and naturally inquisitive, would often while-away afternoons looking for fairies. The neighboring Fairy Glen is like something that belongs in Tolkien’s Legendarium! It was a magical place to grow up and is the root of my love of nature, herbs, animals, fairies, crystals and forests. Read more>>

Donnell “DistantStarr” Jones | Hip hop Artist/ Producer & IT Specialist

I was born in NYC. Spent a lot of time in a few boros mainly Queens. I come from a pretty humble upbringing. Single mom in the hood. Because of this I had to pay for my own college. I started working very early around 15. This taught me to work hard for everything I have. To this day I work a full time job and do music once I clock out. Work ethic is key and consistency. It’s the very familiar kid from the hood working for a normal life. I now have 3 kids a beautiful wife and my own home. It took a lot of work to get here and this is something my parents never had. Give thanks everyday. Read more>>

Isabel Geneus | Founder of IzMade4TV & Head of Culture at Pod People

I was born from brawn, brain, and beauty. My family originated from the beautiful country of Haiti. My parents immigrated to the east coast in Connecticut (where I was born and raised) with faith that opportunities that were not allotted to them will be given to their children. With that, I was set on my ways to follow my dreams. I knew from a young age the sacrifices that my parents had made, and that always drove me to work harder. Read more>>

Brie Lakin | Photographer

I was born and raised in Southern California. Growing up I spent the majority of my childhood as a competitive athlete in trampoline and tumbling as well as soccer. We practically grew up outdoors camping and surfing, the beach felt like our second home. This had a huge role on impacting the person who I am today and the things that I value most in life. Sports gave me an outlet to express myself creatively while also teaching me passion and resilience. I feel so grateful to have parents who continuously encourage(d) me to follow my dreams and did whatever it took to always find a way to make it work. Read more>>

Lisa Marie Pfeiffer | Owner / Master Esthetician Peaches Skin Care

I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana to a single mother. We were poor most of my childhood and I watched her struggle most of my childhood. My childhood was filled with abusive stepfathers, foster care, living with extended family, unstable living situations, etc. I swore I would never allow my childhood to define me or allow what happened to my mother happen to me. Read more>>

Armaan Ali | Photographer & Marketing Strategist

This question is something I always have trouble answering. I’m from all over the place is sometimes my answer, sometimes it’s California, sometimes it’s Costa Rica, or even Kansas. I’ve moved around so much that I’m not really from anywhere – my roots are everywhere but also somehow, nowhere. I was born in California, lived in NorCal and some time in Los Angeles, then I moved to Kansas when I was 5. I lived in the suburbs of Kansas City (I was the only Indian person I knew for the longest time) until I was 12. Then we packed up everything, and hauled it across the country into Toronto, Canada.  Read more>>

Nadine Promes | Artist: Comics • Storyboards • Art Therapy

I was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela and for those who don’t know, for over 20 years Venezuela has been in a constant downfall due to government corruption. I was raised with the idea that leaving my country was the only option. For over 10 years now I have lived outside of Venezuela and I can’t say I miss the empty shelves in the grocery store, the daily blackouts and water rationing, the violence in the streets and the constant fear of losing a loved one. One could say that Venezuelans are a modern-day nomadic culture, forced to leave their own country for a chance at basic living. Read more>>

Benson Quach | Producer & Assistant Director

I was born and raised in San Diego, CA as a 2nd Generation Chinese/Vietnamese American and youngest of 3 boys. Both of my parents came to the United States as refugees from Vietnam in the late ’70s. These factors played a huge role in my upbringing as I had to navigate between several identities. At the time, there wasn’t a blueprint on how to raise kids in this brand new environment and culture but my parents made sure we learned the value of hard work and discipline. Read more>>

Tha Chill | CMW ( comptons most wanted ) CEO of Boomdocz productions

Im born and raised in Compton Ca. my upbringing was fair with the cards I was dealt. I had mom in the house doin her best ,so if we was poor ,I couldn’t tell cause I never knew wut rich felt like. at the same time grown up , I always strived for more so music was my outlet. Read more>>