Through our work we have had the good fortune of seeing firsthand how success comes in every shape, size, color, faith, and orientation. More importantly we’ve learned that success is often the result of people embracing their unique backgrounds and so we’ve asked the community to tell us about their background and how it has impacted where they are today.

Cago | Artist & Audio Engineer

I was born in Urbana and grew up in Champaign– eventually graduating UIUC in Music Technology. Being in the city for so long, I had access to what felt like all branches of the hiphop scene there. I learned a lot of my sound by working with other artists and experimenting on a variety of different styles. I even learned most of my performance chops by the way of a single open mic that I attended every week for 1.5 years at The Canopy Club. I learned how to interact with people there, as both an artist and a human. I went from very antisocial and uncomfortable on stage, to enjoying being with the crowd and telling stories/hyping people up through my songs. They showed me how rich musical collaboration can be, and I continue to try and collaborate with as many people as I can today. Read more>>

Chris O’Hara | Character Designer and Animator.

I’m from a small, rural town in Ireland. I think there’s both positive and negative implications of where and how I was brought up. Working the wet and cold Irish summers with my father, who was a Stonemason, allowed me to experience tough, manual labour. I think this helped establish a solid work ethic and gave me good perspective. It helps me really appreciate the luxury my job affords me as I sit in my comfortable, home office creating art for a living. Living in the countryside I also appreciate the freedom I had to create and build during my youth, be it drawing, woodwork, painting or metalwork. As my work these days is mostly digital and requires sitting at a computer I’ve come to understand how much I actually enjoyed the physical and hand-crafted experiences growing up. As I’ve grown to understand myself more and identify what has shaped and influenced me as a person I’m trying to embrace those elements again and open myself up to a little more self-diversification. Read more>>

Alessandra Levy | Voice Actor & Musician

I’m from New York, (4th and 5th generation New Yorkers (city) and music and culture has always been such a huge part of my upbringing. My parents are both musicians, my mom was an orchestra teacher for almost 40 years and my dad is a guitarist and vocalist. Music, performance was all around me. We didn’t really watch too much TV on the weekends, we sat around the living room, putting music on and all playing along on different instruments. My parents were so supportive of creativity and it definitely shaped who I am today. My parents had a video camera a lot when I was growing up, and I was always making up characters, stories and taking them on tours of the house, always curating content!. Read more>>

Victor Artis | Singer songwriter & Producer

I grew up in Hawaii on the island of Oahu, growing up in such a culturally diverse environment really influenced my outlook on the world and how I see individuals. Read more>>

Anna Chen | 3D Designer & Lighter

I was born and raised in Bangkok. Since I am ethnically Taiwanese, I grew up experiencing different cultures daily, from living in a mandarin speaking household, to eating somtam with my nanny, to attending an international school. As a little kid, I didn’t spend much time reflecting on my identity at all, because it never felt like I needed to belong to a specific culture. As I entered middle school and high school, however, I found myself slowly drifting away from my Chinese and Thai roots. English phrases wiggled into my conversations with my parents, Thai rolled a little less smoothly off my tongue, and I pinned all my energy to moving to the states for college. I felt like I wasn’t Thai or Taiwanese enough – and I definitely wasn’t American. I didn’t know if I should feel proud or ashamed that english had worked its way up to be my most fluent language. The more distant I felt from being Thai or Taiwanese, the more I latched onto my pursuit to move to America. Read more>>

Paola Lecler | Secret Plan Studios Owner & Animation Director

I moved to Los Angeles from Italy in the late ’90s to work at the then brand new DreamWorks Animation studio. I think what drew me to the animation field is how badly I wanted to grow up without letting go of my childhood memories, of that sense of magic that you feel in everything when you are a child. The feeling understandably grew bigger when I moved here by myself and far from my country. Going backwards through the years, I remember waiting with anticipation for the new Disney movies to come out in Italy, at a time when only one new feature was produced every couple of years and not many other big studios were giving us more. Read more>>

Charles Xiuzhi Dong | Writer & Director

Starting as a kid, I had a passion for telling stories. As a 12 years old, I started to play magic tricks and amazed everyone around me. My interests slowly transitioned into film – the power of images intrigued me. In 2019 I graduated from the Tisch School of the Arts NYU with a degree in film. Since then, I was fortunate enough to direct numerous short films and commercials and am working on my first feature film right now. Currently, I am part of the AFI conservatory, honing my craft of storytelling, always with the goal of telling stories in the most impactful way. In 2018, I got the opportunity to direct my short film ‘After Class’, produced and shot by my fellow NYU peers. The short film is very well received by festivals worldwide and won numerous prices, for example ‘Best Short Film Asia International’ at the Oscar qualifying Short Shorts Film Festival. Read more>>

Alexandra Shepherd | Actor

I am a half Jewish, half Anglo millennial born and raised in Miami, FL. Growing up, Miami felt like a small town to me. I had been to all the hottest nightclubs before I even turned 18. But it wasn’t until I moved to the Northeast for college and then to the Midwest to work on a theater production that I came to realize just how special of a place in America it was to grow up. Because of its rich multicultural history and population, Miami is another world compared to the rest of America. Even as a white girl growing up in Miami, it was normal for me, my friends, and family to enjoy foods and customs from the various cultures including Haitian, Cuban, Dominican, Jamaican, Bahamian, Peruvian, Columbian and more. Although Miami has its fair share of poverty, violence, and racism, looking back I am grateful to have grown up in a city that embraces and respects all people and their customs. Read more>>

Anthony Jolly | Founder, Hot & Cool Cafe | Founder, Coffee Professional, and Roaster, Crenshaw Coffee Company

I’m from Washington D.C. and my upbringing formed the foundation of my goals in my personal and professional lives. I was raised by my mother and grandmother in the heart of Washington D.C. and they worked extremely hard and sacrificed a lot to bring me up. My friends became my family but as time went one so many of them were victims to the attack on black men with the drug epidemic and the penal code/laws. It’s crazy because looking around now there are so few black men in their 40s and it’s because so many were in jail, often for minor things, and many grew up without stable fathers for similar reasons. I knew I wanted to have stability and generous love in my family life. I met my wife and we had three kids, and I cherish everything about my family life. Read more>>

Jacqueline Stevens | Certified Coach, Soulful Speaker & ⚡️ Energy Curator.

I identify primarily as a Cali-Sotan. (Californian Minnesotan) Which means I alchemize the approachability & kindness from the Midwest
With the added West Coast flare of ease & empowerment. I have always struggled to answer this question. “Where are you from?”
The question seems so finite (limiting) and is developed under the assumption that you have to “BE” from one place. My Story isn’t that simple.
My family moved often, so my “from” = The Road. By 18, I’d moved 12 times. Born in Texas, but I have no memories. Nebraska & Idaho for elementary school. California for middle school & most of High School. Then the DRASTIC culture shock of moving from the diversity of California to the
painfully cold Plains of North Dakota in my final year of High School.
Minneapolis, Minnesota lured me for College. Then back to Cali. Read more>>

Cary Lin | CEO & Co-founder, Common Heir

I immigrated to the United States at the age of 5 and grew up in Berkeley, CA. Which I realize in retrospect is a very unique place to have grown up in – it felt like everyone recycled, cared about environmental causes, and valued entrepreneurship. That said, I never dreamed that I would start my own company until I worked for a notable female founder in the beauty space years later, because the flavor of entrepreneurship in the Bay Area was so dominated by the classic (male) tech wunderkinds. But my background has definitely been informed by these early values of environmental consciousness, the importance of diversity, and openness to failure and risk-taking. Read more>>

Thiago Vitorio | Pianist & Educator

I was born with a disease called otorrhea which caused my ears to constantly leak pus and blood. The doctors even told my mom that I would eventually experience total hearing loss. After six months old, I was healed and today I am a musician.nIt all started with my father. He always wished that we had a musician in our family. So, I was enrolled in violin, drums, trumpet, bass and guitar lessons, but gave up all of them. One day when I was ten, my mom decided to bring down a little keyboard that was abandoned on top of our wardrobe. When I saw it sitting in our living room, I didn’t think twice and started messing around with it. A couple of years later, I was admitted at a local Conservatory to learn classical piano. At age 17, I got accepted at Barra Mansa Music University, graduating three years later in Music Education. In 2012 I took a 3-week course in CallArts (California Institute of Arts) where my dream about studying in America started to give birth. Read more>>

Mari Dennis | Singer/songwriter, indie artist, producer

I am originally from the Philippines, born and raised. I migrated to the US when I was 13. Although I’ve been living in the US now for more than 10 years and have assimilated, I still am very much in touch with my Filipino side. My upbringing in the Philippines was quite different from how I grew up in America for obvious reasons: differences in culture, language, societal standards, norms, etc. It was a little difficult at first, learning and discovering what it means to be Asian- American but I’ve definitely grown to embrace both sides. I think it’s made me a multifaceted person, and I’ve learned to really love and appreciate living in very diverse communities. I grew up with a lot of family, a lot of food and practice a very collective mindset. I would describe my huge family as loud, very close, fun and something that I can’t imagine life without. Older family members took care of me growing up, and I took care of younger family members as well. Growing up in a culture of collectivism and this “tribe” of people supporting each other has definitely impacted my life in a positive way. Read more>>

Bassima Mroue | CEO & Co-founder, SkinTē

I am Lebanese-American but consider myself a Global Citizen. I was born in the US, and grew up in the Ivory Coast and Canada. My mother and grandmother were married at a very young age (14 and 16), but I was given the opportunity to have an education which changed everything for me. Growing up in Africa, I was able to see the tremendous gap between the rich and the poor, and I was also exposed to the beauty and strength of the African culture and spirit. It grounded me at an early age. Having visited Lebanon throughout the years, I was able to understand the devastating impact civil war can have on a country, while also experiencing the resilience and endless passion of the Lebanese. Growing up in Canada taught me so much about a country that is beloved no matter where you go in the world, and living in the US, exposed me to the “American” dream, a country where truly anything is possible. Read more>>

Karim Esmail | Producer: Professionally known as “KVRIM” (pronounced Ka-reem)

I was born and raised in Croydon, South London (UK). I was introduced to music from a young age, mainly as a listener, having my older cousins & older brother around, babysitting or staying over, they would bring their tapes over and put me on to a lot of stuff that they listened to. One of my cousins was more into UK Garage & House music and another was more into R&B/Hip-hop so I was blessed to get a wider spectrum when it came to genres. I definitely gravitated more towards the R&B side of things but UK Garage/Grime etc, definitely has a special place in my heart. I think because I was such a heavy R&B listener, it drives my primary sound when it comes to producing. My adolescent years were spent in a city called Sheffield which we had moved to when I was like 11. Sheffield, in my opinion, was a dead-end city for me, it had a ceiling. Read More>>

Shalom DeSota | Actor and Business Owner

I’m originally from Flint, Michigan. I grew up in a pretty unconventional household and ask a kid I moved around a lot living everywhere from the inner city to an actual dairy farm. I have 4 younger siblings and my dad always worked at least 3-4 jobs to keep us afloat. By the time I was 8 years old I knew how to structure a wall and roof a building better than most. I’d say my upbringing gave me a work ethic and a willingness to wait for results that is pretty rare for growing up during a time when instant gratification is the new expectation. You definitely become different people as you grow and learn but the core of who I am will always be from my experiences in Flint. Read more>>

Ariana Malik | DGA Director / Creative Producer

Born and raised in the cement jungle of Brooklyn, NY I want to draw attention to the raw primordial instincts often suppressed by societal norms or our own deep seated insecurities. Read more>>

Moni Ritchie Hadley | Children’s Author and Educator

The daughter of a US Marine and a Japanese mom, we moved around when I was young. By the time I turned twelve, my dad’s job had taken us to California, North and South Carolina, Texas, Arizona, two stays in Japan, and back to California again. Leaving people and places behind became a way of life and prepared me for the challenges of being a writer in ways that I couldn’t have predicted. I learned to leave the past behind and look forward with a mixture of dread and excitement. As a picture book writer, rejection is the norm. Dwelling on the last failure could leave me wallowing, but I believe it’s the transitory nature of my upbringing that propels me forward. The sting of rejection hurts for a time, but I don’t stay there for too long. Read more>>

Pato Banton | Grammy Nominated Reggae Legend

I was born in London, UK and grew up in Birmingham UK. My stepdad was a Jamaican DJ and I grew up helping him with his late night Caribbean Parties. Eventually, I started spinning the records and performing on the microphone. What was once a hobby became my wife of life and I am still touring the world and playing music for the masses. Read more>>

Paul Moomjean | Comic and Comedy Teacher

I was born in a middle class Los Angeles home in Van Nuys. At twelve years old my mom moved my brother and I to Simi Valley, where I spent my adolescence and young adult life, coaching wrestling, teaching high school and college English courses, writing for a local paper, and volunteering at my church. Today, at 39 years old, I’m a professional stand up comedian with multiple TV credits ranging from Nickelodeon to Laughs on Fox to an upcoming Dry Bar Special. I started stand up comedy at 32 years old as a bucket list item, and now I run the Flappers Comedy Club comedy school Flappers University. We’ve doubled our offerings of classes through the pandemic. It’s been an exciting time. My background in coaching and teaching young adults is the cornerstone to any success I’ve had as a performer and comedy teacher. Most of the comics I work with are starting out, just as most of my athletes and students were learning concepts for the first time. Read more>>

Janine Dennis | Chief Innovations Officer & Founder of Talent Think Power Circle and The Aristocracy of HR, Alchemist & Shaman

I was born and raised in New York. I lived a short time in Queens before my family moved to Lakeview, Long Island in 1987. From an origin and ancestry perspective, I am a first-generation American. My family hails from Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago respectively within the last 100 years or so. My ancestry is a colorful mosaic of race, nationality, and culture. My grandparents on both sides came to the U.S. between 61-69. My culture is very important to me. From the food to our dialect and everything in between, my family and I are still very connected to it all. I’m proud to be a child of Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago by way of my parents. My grandparents on both sides didn’t have much when they came to the U.S. Two generations later, I am happy to say that is no longer the case. My family as a whole are hard-working ( often to a fault), educated and superbly intelligent, we are healers, caring people who are a mixed bag of creatives, builders, healthcare workers, innovators, and civil service professionals. Read more>>

David Sheinkopf | Builder & Designer

I was born and raised in New York City. I grew about around artists and my mentor from the time I was 16 was a 65 year old designer from Austria named Mikel Carvin. He taught me my love for creating. In New York our clients were his for decades, we would do their 8 room apartment then, when they moved we would break it down and or recreate it for them as far as France. We did their children’s houses as well. We knew what to expect and to counter with extraordinary design. I brought that with me when I moved to California and started my own business. Satisfying my client was of utmost priority and getting to know them and what to expect was extremely important. In my twenties, I met an exceptional woodworker that taught me how to build furniture and that gave me another language. I was able to not just draw what I wanted but to build it as well. I believe the knowledge that was passed on to me created who I am today. I feel it is easier to speak to a subcontractor when you know enough about their trade to speak their language. Read more>>

Diana Bonilla | Content Creator & Creator of Valley Gems

I was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley by two Salvadoran immigrants who worked hard to provide for my sisters and I. Through my parents’ sacrifices, love and upbringing I learned the value of appreciating life and the little things, servicing others and celebrating community. Growing up as a Salvadoran Valley girl, I have an immense love and appreciation for the Valley and the people in the Valley. The Valley and the people of The Valley have inspired me in many ways and have impacted in the person I am today. Read more>>

Trae Rojo | Recording Artist

Coming up in the Las Vegas music scene is a very unique experience. When i first started to gain a little traction and booked some shows I realized nobody in vegas really supports each other. It got a little bit better but everyone is pretty much sectioned off in their own lanes. This made me realize the only person that really has my back is me. None of the support out here is real, so I knew I just had to do my own thing. Read more>>

Marina Selverian | Nail Technician, Businesswoman and Entrepreneur

I am lucky to have truly lived the American Dream. I came to the United States from a small, but mighty country called Armenia, over 30 years ago. Armenia, at the time, was still under the control of the Soviet Union, and my upbringing was very much influenced by that. Having grown up in a communist country as a little girl I never thought I would be able to build and run my own business. The environment I grew up in limited those dreams, but when I came to America I discovered I had freedom. Freedom to work where I wanted, freedom to be a successful female businessowner. This freedom I was given motivated me to take risks and try different things from working in a chewing gum factory to running a luncheonette, and to finally going to beauty school and discovering my true passion: working with people and making them look and feel good about themselves. Read more>>

Alec Santamaria | Violist, violinist and multi-instrumentalist

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! At the age of six I picked up the violin at the fledgling South Pasadena Strings Program – now LA Children’s Orchestra. Hypnotized by the sounds a string instrument could make, and after playing at Carnegie Hall, which amounted to a 5th grade pilgrimage, my individual taste started to form. When I switched my main instrument to viola at age 12, thanks to its rich, deep tone and understated connective role in the orchestra, I also got an iPod and found this strange new site called YouTube – I’ve lived on the intersection of Bach and The Beatles ever since. Read more>>

Miriam Kuhlmann | Sci-fi Director and Artist

I am from a small town in Germany, which was a very safe country to grow up in. The German public generally follows very tight structures and rules to provide that safety for their people, which definitely has great advantages and helps with overall stability. There are strict guidelines, of how things are supposed to be and you get taught to function in this societal order and strict hierarchy. As a women in a patriarchal society and with my artistic, rebellious, emotional brain, I could not fathom, why I had to change to fit into a society that does not have a network that provides for and encourages my specific art. I was always curious to learn techniques and workflows, but did not accept to hide my intuitive, playful approach to projects. I had seen my parents work really hard and struggle my whole life and I was always curious, if I was able to follow my intuition as a tool. I decided to make money in order to get a private education – to see, if there are other options than to spend my life working for a corporate company, to live by my own rules. I understood, that technology is a powerful tool to distinguish myself from lots of other people’s work. Read more>>

Megan, Danielle Symes, Symes | CoFounder of Pauli & Sisters, CoFounder of Pauli & Sisters

We are a family originally from the city of Johannesburg, South Africa. We moved here together in the early months of the year 2000 and have been lucky to be able to call Southern California our home ever since. In various ways, this has been one of the biggest impacts on who we are today. For one, being first generation immigrants has brought us a unique perspective to the world we live in because of the obstacles we watched our parents endure and the sacrifices we witnessed them make. Their risk taking attitudes and perseverance through daunting challenges have instilled in us an entrepreneurial mindset that pushes us to take leaps of faith and motivates to push through times of uncertainty. Additionally, I think because our parents were focused on just trying to make it in America, we may have had different pressures than that of some of our peers. We were not pressured to go down a specific path or to follow certain societal standards, but were supported to choose our own journeys and venture into anything we were passionate about – which helped us in taking the leap with Pauli & Sisters. Read more>>

Paula Lauzon | Mother to Jacob; Actor | Director | Producer | Casting Director | Acting Coach

I was born Maria Paula Lauzon, in Fall River, Massachusetts, USA. My mother is the late Maria A. Lauzon, born in Relva, Sao Miguel Island (a homemaker and seamstress) and my father is the late Paul M. Lauzon, born in Fall River MA (a former U.S. Postal Worker). In its heyday, Fall River was a thriving cotton mill city rich in history for the region. It is also the former birthplace and former home to many people in the Entertainment Industry that have made their way here. Actors such as Nancy Sorel, Wendy Moniz-Grillo, Glen Vernon, myself and Pamela Jayne Morgan; Writer, George Higgins; Director, George Holt; Jerry Remy, former second baseman with the AL’s California Angels and Boston Red Sox, now Broadcaster for The Boston Red Sox; Sesame Street Composer, Joe Raposo; World-Renowned Chef, Emeril Lagasse and George Stephanopoulos. Read more>>

Alexya Garcia | Singer and Songwriter | Product of LA

I’m from one of the greatest ciudades del mundo, Los Angeles. Both of my parents are native to this Angeleño land, from East Los all the way to the SFvalley. The industry and Chicanoism is my home and where my passion for music and life take roots. This place is alive with a colorful spectrum of people. LA invites all types. Intense amounts of ambiguity and possibility reside here. You can literally be anything, and you can feel it in every part of the city and it’s county. That freedom has given me a lot of courage to pursue an industry I didn’t have any roots in, and has given me enough space for my passions in performing to grow. This land has been of great resource to my love to learn and craving to explore every interest that calls to me. I think that is why I love making music and creating something to share or perform it. I have this “bag” of cool-ass trinkets from all my chicano roots here and the positive and negative experiences that shaped me as an artist/musician in this industry. Read more>>

Hana Tanaka | Dancer, Digital Marketer, Blogger

I was adopted from China when I was just 6 months old because of the one-child policy. My Parents brought me to Colorado where I was raised. Because I was Chinese in a Japanese/ Spanish household, growing up I learned about many cultural traditions that have formed me into the person that I am today. I went to Columbine Highschool which gave me a true sense of community. I have never met a tighter-knit community than Columbine. It has taught me that tragedy is terrible but there will always be people around to help and support. I value having a community of people and believe that everyone deserves to feel like they belong and that they are loved. Read more>>


Grace Isaacs | Co-host of Back To The Best Podcast

I am from a small town in Pennsylvania called Hatboro which got its name after a man who manufactured a line of hats. Clever right?! My high school mascot was also a hat…hats are a pretty big deal there! I grew up in a very family oriented household. I am the youngest of 3 and the only girl! I have 2 older brothers who are simply the best and I could not love them more! I have a big, loving and crazy extended family full of cousins who are more like siblings, Aunts + Uncles who feed us way too much and the best Grandparents who’s doors are always open. Then there’s my parents who are the reason I am the person I am today. Obviously I am biased but I have been so unbelievably blessed with 2 parents who are kind, loving, supportive and the true definition of being selfless. They would rush home from work to make sure I got to dance on time, never miss a sporting event or performance, tuck us in at night before bed and always encourage us to follow our dreams knowing that they would be with us every step of the way. Read more>>

Ya Xian Feng | Fashion Designer

I was born in Fujian, China and when I was 9 years old, I moved to Europe with my family. Currently I live in Budapest, Hungary. I remember when my parents told me, that we are going to move to a whole different continent, as a little girl, it didn’t even occur to me, that there are other languages and cultures that would make my everyday life challenging. When I was little, the language was not so important, because children understand each other without words when it comes to playing. When I got into Highschool this problem became more apparent, so I had to focus on learning the language, which I eventually did and now I speak Hungarian on a native level. Growing up in Europe gave me a different perspective on things, I learned how to think with a western mind too. It was hard to navigate at first, because my parents raised me the eastern way, while the school and my friends treated me the western way. Read more>>

Hao Zheng | Film Director & Writer

I make films in different genres just like how I’ve been traveling among worlds in my entire life. Moving from place to place, I found that the more I travel, the harder it is for me to answer the question “where are you from”. I was born in the Gobi Desert area in the north west of China; but at the age of 5, my family moved to Guangzhou, a city on the south east coast and right by the Pacific Ocean. As if haven’t traveled far enough, I then moved to Long Island, NY for high school, Boston for college and LA for graduate school. And now, in 2021, I’ve been in the US for 11 years. Every time I moved to a place, it would be a new beginning filled with anxiety of the unknown future. It’s scary, tiring and extremely lonely. It’s like living so many lives and yet always felt lost about who you are. That’s probably why even though my films vary in genres (sci-fi, war, fantasy…), the theme of my works is always about “searching for identity”. I hope by exploring this theme in my work, I can also find answers to where my place is in the world. Read more>>

Daniella Joy | Self Love & Personal Development Advocate/Motivator

I was raised by a single mother who immigrated to Canada from the Caribbean. Growing up I remember being very happy but there were a lot of dark times in my life. I had a few traumatic events during my childhood and my mother struggled a lot financially and mentally. When we were younger Christmas was awesome due to the donations, we had received from various community charities. Around 8 or 9 things got difficult, I remember crying one Christmas because my mother could not afford to get my sister and I any gifts. I remember going to school and having to lie to my peers about what I got for Christmas because I was too embarrassed to let anyone know our financial hardships. As I went through puberty, that is when I noticed my own mental health struggles. I remember having these horrible feelings of anxiety and depression. I had suicidal thoughts from a young age, and I blamed myself for having these feelings. I did not know I was suffering from a mental illness brought on by childhood trauma. Nonetheless, I was resilient. When I was around people, I was the life of the party. No one would ever think that I struggled every night with deep despair or sadness. Read more>>

susan tresser chodakiewitz | Author, Composer, Entrepreneur, Founder of Booksicals: Books,Theater & Arts Education Content

My background and upbringing has SO much to do with who I am, what moves me, what motivates me and my passions in general. I was born in Havana, Cuba.. and raised in Queens, New York… so imagine, a cubana mom with a “Brooklyn- American” dad… being raised in a home speaking Spanish, English, Russian and Yiddish, because my grandparents from Cuba who were Russian Jewish immigrants, lived with us as well. So in my house music, theater, food, family and jewish tradition were the centrifugal forces that kept us going. The music of Edie Gourmet and Los Panchos played a lot in our home especially in summer time at family barbecues. Classical piano lessons were a requirement as well and we studied piano from age 5 till graduating highschool. Being a New Yorker theater runs in your blood stream. We listened to cast albums all the time at home but also broadway show tunes rang from our vocal cords as my sister and I would sing all the show tunes from records we listened to as well as the latest Sondheim plays we had just seen on Broadway. Read more>>

CeeCee&Voodoo | Sex positive black podcasters

I am originally from Northern California but I spent about 8 years of my life in Spokane WA. Up in Spokane I was often one of the only black children in a class and never felt like I fit in or had a community until about high school. I was brought up by a single mother who left her family-oriented life to move to Spokane alone. Growing up with a single mother really helped me become very resilient. Being the only black kid in a class taught me how to stand on my own and be a chameleon in different situations. As much as it sucks to be one of the only black kids in a class, I am grateful to have the experience because as an adult I know how to adapt to different situations. Finding my community at a later stage in life was a blessing because I truly knew who I was and in a place where I felt comfortable in my own skin, which meant I didn’t fall for too much peer pressure. That has transferred to my adult life pretty well, as I don’t often fall for things or folks who want me to be anything other than who I am. So I am grateful for this experience. -CeeCee. Read more>>

Jai Pellerin | Creator, Producer and Host of Beer Run The Show; CEO of Nu Dymensionz, LLC

I would not be who I am today without the women in my life. I was born in Texas and was a military brat so I’ve lived around the world. But what feels like home is San Antonio, Texas. I was raised by lesbian women in the 1980’s through the 90’s, the age of “don’t ask don’t tell”.. They were all active military. My mother Margie Faye Pellerin passed away when I was 10 while serving active duty in the US army. This was a life changing event because up until that moment, it was just us, a single mother and her son.. She was ahead of her time, a vibrant spirit, truly living her own, despite the circumstances of the time. She showed me what love is, and inspired me to be there greatest version of myself. After her funeral I was able to choose to move in with my godmother, Mildred Cintron She accepted me as her son since the day I was born. Ultimately, my godmother instilled in me a work ethic that coincided with my mother’s free spirit and creativity. Read more>>

Rebekah Robeck | Founder and CEO of Let’s Be Kind

I was originaly born in California but I lived in El Salvador for three years, there my life was impacted greatly. I met people who were constantly living their lives with kindness and were excepting to everyone. The school I went to was an international school and so there were people from all over the world, this made it so that our community was built around inclusion. Everything I experienced in El Salvador impacted my life greatly and has made me who I am today. Moving back to Califoria the culture of kindness and inclusivity was not present on my school campus, having all these experiences in El Salvador caused me to want to change this. All of this has changed my life imensly and has given me Let’s Be KInd day, my non-profit that stemed from all of this. Read more>>

Carolyn | Fine Artist; Abstract Artist

I’m from the suburbs of Chicago and the youngest of six children. Having grown up in an Italian / Catholic home…our house was the house that everyone came to, everyday …aunts, uncles, cousins and such. Since I was the youngest I was the only one who had their own bedroom. To escape the fun chaos in our household, I would escape to my bedroom where I would draw and color and color some more. I believe this allowed me to grow and develop as an artist as for me color was a way of expressing myself and I enjoyed how I could be in my own little world. I loved creating and exploring with lines and color. Read more>>

Alisha Agrellas | Founder & Principal Designer, Honné Studio

I was raised in Newport Beach, CA, which is a little epicenter in itself when it comes to the interior design industry. So growing up there was certainly no shortage of inspiration all around. I’m continuously so amazed and inspired by all of the great design talent that Orange County seems to breed. My early years, though, were actually spent just outside of Seattle, which is where I was born. And as I’ve gotten older I’ve definitely noticed those Pacific Northwest undertones subtly influencing and a playing a part in various elements of my design work. The use of natural, authentic materials (like old-growth and live edge wood), merging that feeling of indoor-to-outdoor living, enhancing natural light, and utilizing wood as a layer of dimension, with, for example, elements like tongue-and-groove, shiplap, and exposed beams. Read more>>

Oracle Jayne Doe aka Kawanna Lewis | Fitness Curator/Podcaster/Renaissance Woman

I’m from Pacoima, Ca. I was raised in North Hollywood, Ca. I spent my weekends in Los Angeles. My Father is a member of the Funk Band, Lakeside. That’s where I get my Musical Background, My mother is a creative entrepreneur in the Beauty industry and she gave me so much to work with! My background influenced me to be a hard working creative that never gives up. Fitness gives me the energy to pursue my passion for helping my community. I love what I do, and I love my clients!. Read more>>

Shannon Kim | Board Certified Hypnotherapist

I was adopted by an American family from an orphanage in Seoul, Korea. My childhood was filled with emotional instability, which led me to develop my natural gift of intuition at an young age in order to stay safe. I moved to Los Angeles from Michigan in my early 20’s and worked as a freelance hairstylist for 20 years. Over the course of my career my natural ability to read energy that I honed as a child allowed me to connect authentically with clients and build a successful business. I’m now a Board Certified Hypnotherapist, using the skills developed over my life to help women discover and activate their natural gifts. Read more>>

Abdi Manavi | Partner and Gm at Dive Palm Springs

As my father would say, I am not for anywhere I am a citizen of the world. That is true, but also my international upbringing and extensive travel, impacted who I am today. My parents emphasized travel as early as I can remember, always taking me with them wherever they went. I am Persian, raised in London and then moved to the states when I was nine. Half of my personality is very European and the other half very Los Angeles. During middle school and some high school, this actually became a bit of an issue as I did not know how to act sometimes. When I went to university in Boston, that was no longer an issue as the diversity of students was a perfect place for me to become who I am. A little bit LA, and a little bit London. Read more>>

Serge Martinenko | Motion Picture Editor and Post-Production Professional

I am born in province of small Eastern European country called Latvia. It was a part of Soviet block before it got it’s independence about 30 years ago. Growing up in society that was recovering from “brick and mortar” regime taught me appreciation for simple things and as a personal memory it is a good reminder of where it all started. Going back to this in my mind reflects on the path I’ve made so far. It makes me humble, thankful and gives me more energy to grow as a person and professional. Read more>>

Ken Sparks | Farmer & Owner of The Farmer Ken

I am from a suburban city in Northeastern Ohio called Twinsburg. My garden/farm journey started at age 5 with my Grandmother and Great-Grandmother. I continued exploring and incorporating gardens in Undergraduate and Graduate school. I have implemented community gardens and have been able to help under-resourced communities and families in Ohio, Illinois and now Los Angeles. Here in Los Angeles, I continued my work directly in communities. I helped revitalize a community garden in Watts and provided resources for several gardens across Los Angeles. I also secured partnerships to provide healthy cooking and fitness opportunities for youth and families. Read more>>

Don Balanay | Chef/Creative Lokels Only & Chef/Owner BUNSO

I am born and raised in Pico Rivera, California spending much of my time in Los Angeles in Historic Filipinotown off Rampart and 2nd. I was fortunate enough to grow up around a loving set of parents and a large family that always got together every weekend – sometimes my brother and I would get picked up from school on Fridays and end up staying at Lolo and Lola’s to the wee hours of the morning surrounded by cousins all pranking each other, the adults playing cards on the patio ‘watching’ over us, and walking over to the liquor store to purchase some dollar nachos or hug barrel fruit juices. As the older cousins got older and began getting their permits, the younger ones like myself were able to explore more of the City and other places they’d treat us to. We’d all hop in my Uncle’s four runner and we’d all go to the movies, eat out somewhere – it was always an adventure! Then, when Summer would come around we’d all go to the beaches and spend our mornings there just hitting the waves and enjoying come what may. Read more>>

Nirali Thakker | Visual artist, filmmaker, writer

I was brought up by my very strong-willed and amazing single mother- Bindu Shukla. She instilled values of hard work, being self-driven, and self-respect. She believed in never taking no for an answer. Even when we were struggling, my mother always inspired us to think big, think ambitiously, and never mentioned finances as a limitation to anything we wanted to achieve in life. Her open-mindedness helped us think big. She did not really sit us down and lecture- she just showed us by example. In terms of my education, I studied for my BFA in painting at M.S.University, in India. I came to study painting at the Parsons School of Design, New York. I learned more from my peers than my professors at M.S.University. We constantly challenged each other to do better, to do more. When I came to study painting at Parsons School of Design, New York, my life turned upside down. Studying painting in the United States was so different than studying in India. Read more>>

Kristine Locker | Founder & CEO of Locker 🛍

I’m from California. I grew up in a smaller town called La Canada, but I usually tell people I am from Pasadena because more people know where that is. I grew up in an extremely supportive household with parents who instilled values of work ethic, integrity and generosity towards others. I have always marched to the beat of my own drum. I am the youngest of two and have always been the more talkative and outgoing one between me and my sister. Growing up, my mom called me “Imelda” after Imelda Marcos. For anyone not familiar with Imelda Marcos, Imelda was the First Lady of the Philippines for over 20 years. In 1986, her husband, Ferdinand Marcos, was forced from office and he and Imelda fled the country. Protestors stormed their palace and in Imelda’s closet, they found over 2,700 pairs of shoes. The moral of that story is that I have always loved fashion and I have always been the go-to for fashion advice for my friends and family. I have styled many a friends for their birthday outfits, college formals, engagement photos and parties, and many other occasions. Read more>>