Even if you are from the same neighborhood as someone else, you might still be coming from different places. Where you are from is a complicated question and it elicits complicated, but interesting and thought-provoking responses. We’ve shared some of those responses below.

Whitney Sippl, DPT, WCS | Mom of 2 & Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist

I’m originally from a small town in Wisconsin and my upbringing has had a huge impact on who I am today. One thing that’s pretty consistent about Midwesterners is we have very strong work ethic and we value kindness, respect, and helping others. I’ve always had a strong drive to work hard to achieve my goals. This started in school with putting in the hard work to get straight A’s all the way through my doctorate program. Once I started my career as a pelvic floor physical therapist I put in so much time before and after my workday to become an expert in my field and to learn everything I could to help as many moms, expecting moms, and kiddos with pelvic issues. After a few years many moms reached out to me to be able to see them in their homes, so I decided to take my career to the next level and start my own business being able to see patients for home visits. Now I’ve been a pelvic PT for 10 years, have had my own business for 6 years, and two kids of my own, and I continue to put in just as much effort to help every patient I see while also homeschooling my daughter and being a mom. Read more>>

Jeremie Riggleman | Artist + Art Professor

I’m from the Midwest. Born in Michigan but did a lot of growing up around Ohio, Illinois and Indiana. I didn’t entirely understand (not that I do now) what it meant to be from the Midwest until I move to Los Angeles. Midwest folks have a certain vibe (I’ll let you fill in the blank here), and I think I was drawn to people like myself. Eventually I became more appreciative of the diversity of thought and lifestyle. Perhaps now I’m able to take the best from both places and integrate it into my life and art. For example, I spent years driving around the Midwest photographing lawn ornaments in peoples’ yards (flamingos, frogs, gnomes, etc). I would knock on their door, introduce myself and talk with them about the creatures they had on display. It was neighborly and in all the years I did this, there was only one time when I was asked not to get my camera out. When I went to LA I was looked at side-eyed, like “what are you up to?”. There was a level of suspicion to the work, often was turned down, and the movie industry had trained people to want to get paid if pictures were going to be taken in their yard. Read more>>

Jonathan Butler | Founder and CEO of Renegade NX Clothing

Im From LOS ANGELES, SOUTH CENTRAL Area Right off of Crenshaw and Slauson. Just growing around different cultures, out looks, trends and opinions about what is hot what is not hot. growing up and not being able to have the lastest shoes or clothes to keep up with the “trend setters”. I didnt want to wear the off brand that we could afford at the time, so i just started to do my own thing from hats, t shirts, pants, i use to write on and print my shoes if they start to get old and bust it, just to keep them looking fresh or something different from what everyone was wearing. That mind set stuck with me to just stay out side the box and just do and wear with you want transform into a brand of if i like this someone well like it too. Since I been doing my own thing I might as well do what I like to do and share it with the world. Read more>>

Sarah Nsikak | Artist and Designer

My grandmother was a seamstress in her Nigerian village and she was a very skilled sewist. My parents immigrated to Oklahoma City in the 80s for university, and a few years after starting a family, my grandmother came to America to live with us. I used to watch her work with Ankara, which is a traditional Nigeria printed textile, and feel like what she was doing with her machine was magic. She saw my interest and taught me to sew when I was 9 or 10. We used paper, needle and thread to start, and I eventually worked up to using her machine. I remember foraging my own closet for old garments to transform into new ones, and doing so very badly. I was obsessed with the empowering feeling I got from making my own clothing, even if I was mostly too embarrassed to let them see daylight. Any first generation Nigerian american can attest to the fact that you aren’t supposed to tell your parents that you want to study textiles or fashion or art. They worked so hard to get to this “land of opportunity”, and the expectation is for you to become a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. Read more>>

Nathan Matthew David | Composer

I’m the son of two Filipino immigrants who came to this country with not a lot to their names except big dreams. My father sold scrap metal at nine years old to support his family in the rural province of Pampanga in the Philippines. He grew up on dusty streets, and had to scrap his way to the US to create a better life for himself and for his siblings. He and my mother tried hard to assimilate to this country despite discrimination against their thick accents. I was lucky to be raised in a situation different from theirs, but their experience and my connection to my culture have really shaped who I am today. I’ve met so many other Filipinx in the diaspora that are asking similar questions about the assimilation their families had to go through in this US, and how we can push the narrative forward so our generation and future generations can live under greater equality than our parents. Read more>>

Ivan Shapovalov | Piano Educator & Online Teaching Specialist

I was born in a Russian family in Kazakhstan. At the time, it was a part of the Soviet Union, but when I was 5 years old, it collapsed, and it was quite challenging to live in ruins. It was scary times – rampant criminals, incredible corruption in the government and the police, racism, no jobs, poverty, and insecurity. I remember the time when my mother and I were looking in the window at a robber who was trying to kill our dog and steal things from our yard in the middle of the night. I was about 11 years old. The dog didn’t let anything happen; she protected herself and all of us. No one was hurt, and nothing was stolen, but the experience was frightening. Add to that that we didn’t even have a phone to call the police, and you will get a pretty close picture. We had livestock, so there was a lot of hard work for all of us. Especially “fun” was to balance between school, music school, homework, and working in the garden, or taking care of the livestock and poultry. Read more>>

Priyanka Venkatesh | Violinist, Composer, and Music Educator

As the child of Indian immigrants to the US, I grew up in a multicultural environment, with various different customs, norms, modes of being, and philosophical outlooks. As many children of immigrants can relate to, due to my diverse cultural situation, at times enriching, yet at times also confusing, I felt a deep attraction to my roots from an early age; perhaps, in feeling the need to create my own solid identity which could emerge out of my unique cultural milieu, the exploration of my Indian origins became something very important to me. In essence, my exploration of my roots came out of an existential need. Much of my musical career is a natural manifestation of my cultural identity, which has taken shape after many years of this exploration and intuitive seeking of a Western and Indian cultural synthesis. While trained as a Western classical violinist, I have also studied Carnatic (South Indian classical) violin, and currently in my doctorate work and career I am at a place where I am composing and performing compositions which artfully blend Indian and Western classical music. Read more>>

Lynne-Anne McGrail | End-of-Life Doula

I am from a small town in Methuen Massachusetts. It is there in an old apple cider mill that was converted to a home, where my life changed forever. On November 5 1980, we had fire and my brother David, at the young age of 13, lost his life to smoke inhalation. My parents soon divorced and my mom, sister and I floundered about trying to find meaning in a very confusing world. Fast forward several years and my dear friend died of lung cancer. Then my aunt passed from a heart attack. Only to be followed by my dad who suffered for 7 years with dementia. The latest one is my dear and precious 32-year-old niece who became septic after complications to Crohn’s disease. It is from all these blessed experiences that have helped shape who I am. I say blessed because it was and is a gift to have had these beautiful people in my life. It is from the richness of life that I decided to work in the field of death as an End-of-Life Doula. Read more>>

Jillian Morris | Marine Biologist, Founder & President Sharks4kids

I am from a small town in Maine called Sebec Village. I spent a lot of time in the lake and visited the ocean frequently with my parents. I spent a lot of time crawling through tide pools on the coast of Maine from a very early age. I told my parents I wanted to be a marine biologist when I was five. I still have a letter I wrote at the age of 9 about being a marine biologist. My dad traveled to Florida each year for work, so my mom and I would spend a week down there with him. This is where I snorkeled for the first time. I was eight years old and absolutely fell in love with exploring the water. I saw my first nurse shark and this inspired a life long journey to learn more about these amazing animals. Having parents who also loved the water encouraged and inspired my own exploration. This curiosity only strengthened as I got older and pursed a degree and field experience. My encounters with sharks were very different than what I was being told about them. They were not man-eating monsters, but instead absolutely fascinating creatures. I knew I wanted to not only learn more about them, but also share my experience with others. Read more>>

Victoria Pierce | Producer

This is the question I dread the most…but it’s also a big part of who I am. I am what’s called a “Third Culture Kid”. This means that I spent part of my formative years growing up in cities and countries that my parents are not from. My dad is American from AZ, and my mom is French. I was born in Paris, and moved across the world: France, East & West Coast of the U.S, Senegal, Mexico, Hungary, etc… This had a huge impact on who I am today. As a teenager, I had a really hard time growing up this way. I was resentful, angry, and sad. I was forced to leave my friends and make new friends every two years, which I was struggling with. I also had this sense of being “rootless”. I’ve never been able to answer the question “where are you from” simply, and I was jealous of my peers when they could trace back years of memories from one place. However, I am able to see the positive impact this has had on me as a person, and on my career today. Not only am I very adaptable in new environments, but growing up around so many different cultures made me more empathetic and understanding. Read more>>

Denise Antoine | Denise Marie Antoine | Yoga & Dance Teacher | Humanitarian

I am from South Central Los Angeles, California. My environment and upbringing greatly influenced my character and each faucet of me in every way I can imagine. The seeds of creativity, insatiable drive for diversity in healing and performing arts, economic empowerment for women & minorities and advocacy for the marginalized were birthed in me on the streets of L.A.; my beloved place of origin and my current home. The landscape of my hometown was colored with depression and violence, due to lack of resources and educational tools for us. I remember the absurdity of not having books for various subjects of study throughout middle and high school courses. Growing up in the Crenshaw District in the 1990’s sharpened my awareness and taught me how to survive. A day in the life of a latch key kid, with hope for a brighter future was at times drowned in the constant soundtrack of sirens, and the eventual desensitization to those perpetual echoes. My faith, my mother and dance were my lifelines and my gateway to freedom. Freedom from a scarcity mentality. Read more>>

Meg Oliphant | Sports Photographer

I grew up in Coventry, Connecticut – a small, rural and historical town with a mighty spirit. Situated right near the University of Connecticut (UCONN), Coventry is a unique atmosphere that respects education, athletic achievement and neighborly community support. There is simultaneously grassroots organization and the constant drive to achieve greatness. Growing up in the late 90s and early 2000s, I saw UCONN women’s basketball make the news nearly every night as they continuously shattered records. The team was the talk of the town; people spoke as if they were close friends with Geno Auriemma and the big stars, sporting UCONN t-shirts at grocery stores and in school. Meanwhile, in Coventry, our greatest athletic pride was our high school girls’ volleyball team, who won seven state championships in eight years coached by local legend Matt Hurlock. The stands were filled at every game, and a sign was placed along the road as you entered town commemorating the success of the team. Read more>>

Peter Jacobson *Hellacello* | Cellist, Record Producer, Composer, Dad

It feels worthwhile to reflect on the trajectory life takes. After all, knowing what we really, truly want, what our goals are within this finite life, can be one quite hard to figure out. I think the key lies in noticing what enthuses us. The instinct won’t lie. It can clarify intentions of nature, versus intentions that have been nurtured or habituated. For me personally, I grew up in a family with parents who encouraged my brothers and me to play classical music. It was just the thing where, if I was practicing, I was a good boy. That was a big gift and especially useful at points when I felt my life was completely falling apart, or at risk of going off the rails, it gave me a thing to aim for. Of course that was not exactly a ‘map of where to go in life.’ Partly because, growing up in the suburbs and then moving near Pico Union in the late 90’s, I discovered I am ridiculously naive and sheltered! Nevertheless, the neighborhood kids showed some kind of love in the form or wanting to smoke weed and make music (mostly beats to rap over) and I was amazed they thought I had something useful to offer. Read more>>

Howard Rains | Howard Rains and Tricia Spencer, Artists and Musicians

Tricia was born and raised in Big Springs, Kansas and I was born in Houston, Texas but grew up in the small Texas town of Sherman. In many ways, we grew up in similar environments: small, conservative towns on the great plains, however, Texas and Kansas have distinct cultural differences that impacted us in different ways. Tricia was born into a family of farmers and old time musicians and learned the fiddle from her grandpa, Vernon Spencer, from an early age. She grew up in a way that is now nearly lost. Her family has been on the same piece of land in rural Kansas since the 1850s and their music was passed down from generation to generation. It was also a strict religious upbringing but not without the depth of old time music, card games around the family table, and folk art learned from both her grandma, Iona, and a local elder and mentor. I was brought up in small town Texas also to a musical family. Singing songs and playing instruments was a very important part of life in my family, as well. Read more>>

Naomi Ayende | Actress

I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. Growing up in Puerto Rico taught so many thing, to be resilient, to be strong, to never give up and to be independence, because unfortunately we will not be a kids all our life. An on my path to becoming a working actress those word come to my mind always, especially on an industry like Hollywood that is not and easy one. They impact me on every aspect, but I always look back to that girl running the house singing and dancing trying to entertain her family and if I have any doubt it just give me what I need to continue. Read more>>

Joella | Artist, Activist & Business Owner

I’m from New Jersey and I come from a family of givers, so this question is interesting to me even on my personal journey as a creative business owner. I am the literal descendant of William Still, the Father of the Underground Railroad. My grandparents will literally give you the clothes off their back if you need it. I’ve seen them give people cars, money for school, for food, or just for personal growth and development. Same with my mother. I’ve watched her give, even when she didn’t necessarily have it to give. This is what I grew up around – selfless people who believed in pouring into their communities. Multiple people in my family own businesses and have done so with integrity, and used profits to help build up the communities in which they live. So for me, it’s really important that I continue this legacy, especially because so many people have poured into me – my family, my friends, my community. I believe in reaching back and pulling people up with me. Read more>>

Kasey Lansdale | Singer/Songwriter & Author

I was born in Nacogdoches, Texas, which is East Texas. Anyone from there will tell you it’s not like the rest of Texas. It’s stocked with eccentric characters, it’s swampy and filled with trees, and I have no doubt that helped shape who I am, and how I am. For all intents and purposes, I grew up in a normal way. Whatever that means anymore. I had a mom, a dad, a brother and lots of critters around all the time. It was and still is an area of deep poverty, though I never understood to what extend until I got older. By the time I was born, my parents had settled into a rhythm in their careers and I was fortunate enough to be able to travel and explore the world from a young age. But that feeling of desperation always hung over me and those around me. That’s the feeling everyone has when they come from a small town in nowhere middle America. I think all of that encouraged me to always keep working. To be open to possibilities because you realize nothing is handed to you. Something might get you in the door, but you have to show up having done the work. Read more>>

Audrey Stimson | Journalist and Writer

I was really lucky as a child to have the opportunity to live in both the United States and Europe. Because my father was an American diplomat during the Cold War and my mother a survivor of Allied bombing attacks on Berlin in 1945 I was always interested in finding out how we can make peace a lasting idea. My work as a television journalist and now as a writer has been more about the how than the who, what, where, when. How can we come together to embrace diversity and live in harmony? How can we all express ourselves and celebrate our unique voices? How can we learn to live in communion with nature? I have always been excited to explore what I don’t know and sometimes do it the hard way? I have traveled by foot, by bicycle, by sailboat, by car, by train, and by plane to figure out what it feels like to be alive. It’s always been about a parallel journey of exploring the outside world while diving deeper inward. My challenge has been translating what I have experienced into my art. Read more>>

Sean Carney | Director Of The San Fernando Valley Youth Chorus

I am the director of the San Fernando Valley Youth Chorus. This is my fourth year directing and this has been a challenging one for all musicians, but we were made to overcome. I was born in Los Angeles, CA and grew up all over the west-side from Santa Monica to Venice. About half-way through middle school, my parents separated and one went to Okemos, Michigan, one went to Fairfax, Virginia. It was a tough time for me as a kid because I constantly had to make new friends. Due to this predicament, I found it very easy to approach new people and make connections with them. This trait has carried on with me throughout my whole life and has helped me shape my career so far. I am all about the power of collaboration and finding the best qualities in others to let them shine. Read more>>

Jennifer Buonantony | CEO of Press Pass LA and PPLA Social + PR

I was born in Brooklyn and grew up in New Jersey about 45 minutes from the city. We went into the city often during my youth to see Broadway plays, attend sporting events and enjoy the culture of the city while still having the peace of suburban life. The town I grew up in was pretty diverse. I think growing up around so many different people gave me a real interest in their stories and the art of storytelling. I also think the energy of New York City was something I really took to. I knew at a young age I wanted to be a story teller and live near a big city. I loved the New York area but always had my eyes set on Hollywood. Read more>>

Abi Nuguid | Filmmaker

I was born and raised in Manila, Philippines. I moved here in LA in 2013 to pursue a master’s degree in documentary filmmaking. Since then, my goal as a filmmaker was to really be able to tell stories I know best, which is my Filipino culture. I was very fortunate to be able to be in a group wherein my classmates were also from different parts of the world – I would always learn from each one of them, from the films they made that very much reflected their roots. As a storyteller, the films I share or bring out to the world are from my experiences and perspective – my identity as a Filipino. A part of my life is like a puzzle piece that helps complete a story, thinking that there is a part of me that I share to the audience. A very specific trait that Filipinos have is being resilient – and I very much highlight this in short documentary films that I made. My film that I’m most proud of is called “Lola Divas” (“Grandma” Divas”) – a story about the oldest drag queens in Manila and their life and love on stage. Read more>>

Eric Mancha | Painter

Paying homage to your lineage is important. I was born in a small town on the Texas-Mexico border. It was originally Native American land and coined Eagle Pass by the Coahuiltecan Tribe because there were eagles that would fly over the Rio Grande prior to Americans colonizing the land. The proximity to Mexico and the Native American Reservation is the DNA behind what inspires me and my work. I look at my culture like a dynasty that’s been lost in translation over the years. We live in an era of instant information, where cultural traditions are vanishing so having that strong link to my heritage continues to push me forward. Living in a city like LA is dope because you can expand and grow, you can take what you have and bring it outward. It’s a blessing living here. Read more>>

Harper | Artist

I was raised in Los Angeles, however, I never felt a huge connection to the “Hollywood” culture. I had a great career as a child actress but none of this ever really interested me. Nor did going out with friends. A social life only gave me a tremendous amount of anxiety. I just wanted to spend my time drawing and painting. I started by replicating every sketch of Brian Froud’s and when I had mastered his world I moved on to Egon Schiele and I honestly never really left. His work was always my greatest teacher. I had other great teachers, but nothing like Egon Schiele. I worked for Jeff Koons for a while. I worked in his studio building his sculptures. It was insanely difficult to be so far from my own work. Never having the time or energy to work on my process, however, it did give me some pretty wonderful tools and techniques which inform on my current work. All of this, coupled with a complete disinterest in popularity, celebrity or having many friends gave me the time and isolation that I needed (and very much wanted) to just work. Read more>>