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The Trailblazers: Rewriting the Narrative

The editorial team has a special attachment to our new series, The Trailblazers: Rewriting the Narrative, because so many of us feel that media portrayals of women have been too one dimensional. Today, women are doing incredible things in all fields – from science and technology to finance, law, business, athletics and more. With the Trailblazers series, we hope to highlight and celebrate female role models, encourage more equal and just representation in the media, and help foster a more tight-knit community locally helping women find mentors, business partners, friends and more.

WANDA STEPHANOW

As I look back over my life and ponder on how I became an influencer, I guess it was really always in the cards for me. One sweet memory comes to mind as my family and I just recently watched some old movies and I must have been around 12 years old, hogging the video camera and sharing “made up sponsored” videos while decorating our Christmas tree. I laughed so much thinking, wow this looks like something I am currently doing today. Ha! Truthfully, I have always been an entrepreneur since I was a young age. My parents have always worked full time, but also always had a side hustle that was filling their passion in life. When I was 18 years old, I would assist them with their side business, called Teamwork, which consisted of a ten-week workshop at the Bally’s fitness facility. Within this workshop we had competitors preparing for the Reebox aerobic National Championships. I was in high school about to graduate and was on the drill team and was asked to choreograph aerobic routines. Read More >>

TAELER BUCHANAN

I maneuvered my way through a few circles and found the perfect cast for my first pilot project, Hollywood (Invisible Ties) which just recently premiered on Amazon Prime and RokuTV. I actually wrote, directed and produced it solo so I’m majorly proud of my first baby! I’m currently writing, directing, and producing a mini-drama series with my production company called “The Things We Survive.” Ever since I made that first step in 2017, I’ve gotten a lot better, gained a lot more knowledge, and have met some AMAZING people in this industry. Read More >>

ALINA SMITH & ELLI MOORE

Luckily, we have actually had so much fun on our journey! I think the best piece of advice we could offer women/ anyone in the industry is to partner up with another creative! The reason we feel like we have had such a smooth ride is that we have each other. We are stronger in numbers, and a solid team will move quickly because members of a good team will all have different strengths. We find that we really compliment each other and feel very confident in what we do because we aren’t alone. This industry can be scary, but when you are certain someone has your back, you feel fearless. Read More >>

DALAL ALRASHED

I came to the United States of America in a full scholarship from the Ministry of Higher education in Kuwait to pursue my degree in Art in Journalism/PR, I started my journey at the California State University of Northridge majoring in Marketing, however, I realized how unhappy I was. For that reason I decided not to waste my scholarship in doing something I don’t like, I switched my major to journalism/PR and many people asked me why this major. Read More >>

KIMMIE JEPPSON

I’ve had extremely sensitive skin and suffered from terrible eczema for half my life. I tried almost everything on the market and spent thousands of dollars on dermatology appointments, prescriptions and beauty products that promised so much but delivered little results and comfort. Eczema is extremely painful and uncomfortable. After my 2nd child was born in the winter, my eczema flared up in the worst way. I had dry, dull skin that was accompanied by stretch marks, breakouts, and dimples on the back of my thighs and behind. I was MORTIFIED! Fast forward to Easter dinner where I saw my Aunt Jenifer, who has always had the most gorgeous skin. I asked her what she did to have beautiful, flawless skin. She said to make a Coffee Scrub. I went to the store the next day and picked up Coffee, coconut oil and sugar to make a natural scrub.  Read More >>

KATY ERIN

However, within my first two years of living here, I was hit quickly with the fact that writing for a living was just as much a pipedream as acting was. I realized if I was going to be a starving artist and follow my dreams in the big city, I might as well commit to a dream that was actually mine. But I was already “in it” as a writer – I’ve never been able to let go of one thing to commit fully to the other. And because of that, I’ve been lucky enough to work as a showrunner’s assistant through several pilots and four seasons of TV, which has given me access to an incredible support system as a writer, as well as skills in producing and directing I didn’t even realize I was learning. Read More >>

DEZIREE DUFRESNE

Just a few weeks after I sent over that business plan, we launched Acorns & Oaks on January 1, 2018. An educational business focused on teaching creative entrepreneurs how to grow their businesses by design, we offer everything from free articles and worksheets, to paid online courses and 1 on 1 mentoring. And the more I work on Acorns & Oaks, the more I realized just how truly passionate I am about the topics we teach on. Having my own business has been rewarding, but helping teaches other business owners how to succeed as been even more fulfilling to me. Read More >>

DANI BONDURANT

Oh, it’s been SUCH a fun journey! Since 2015, I have been designing products with the sole purpose of spreading kindness and positivity in the world! In 2014, I had decided to take a pause in my elementary teaching career and spend more time with my own kiddos, volunteering in their school and being present when they were home. During that time, I also found more space in my life to spend time on my passion for paper crafting, scrapbooking, and creating handmade greeting cards. I sent the cards to anyone and everyone, simply because it made me happy, and I knew it made the recipients happy, too! My friends eventually started encouraging me to try selling my cards, and my business was born! Read More >>

AMY O’CONNELL AND SARAH BRITTENHAM

We think every small business has its fair share of rocky roads! While ours has been fairly smooth, the struggles we have faced were really the result of things we could never have predicted – but these have also been important learning experiences for us. All of the challenges have given us the opportunity to pivot and move with the market. Our advice for other women who are just getting started? Don’t be afraid to pivot. Don’t be afraid to change your original plan or vision if it means greater success. These don’t have to be big changes – but little changes that could make all the difference. Keep your eyes open wide and be open to new ideas! Read More >>

BROOKE BREAZEALE

I started Briya after spending six months working at a chimpanzee sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo. After seeing, firsthand, the devastating impacts of poverty, I couldn’t just walk away and ignore what was happening. Briya is my way to actively support organizations implementing a holistic, sustainable, community-based approach. Read More >>

JESSICA MAHNKE

I think you can learn and train for any career, but some things are just so innately inside you, it would be impossible to not live them out. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an artist and a designer. As a kid, a blank pad of paper was a thrilling world of opportunity and any box or a found object got my mind swirling about what it could become: countless forts, funny gadgets, Barbie homes. I even remember being given a few small cardboard ring boxes and rigging them together with rubber bands and pencils as pillars to build this multi-level modern apartment complex…. ya know, like most kids do, when they’re nine. Read More >>

BRITTANY BOUSE

I purchased my first home in 2003 when I was just 22 years old, and it was then that I developed such a love for real estate. Shortly after, I went to school to be an appraiser. But before getting my license to sell real estate, I detoured into being a wedding planner and event manager after moving to Colorado from south Florida over ten years ago. After years of planning, managing, and executing one of the biggest days of peoples’ lives, I decided it was time to circle back to my original passion, and I have been rewriting my story ever since. Read More >>

ALLIE GILMORE

The path of an emerging artist is not set like any other career. Unlike many other professions, there is no “right way” to become a studio artist. Even if you do go to art school, once you are out there are a million different avenues that can be taken in order to make your art-making dreams a reality. If that means taking another job in order to sustain a studio practice and losing sleep to do both, then that is what has to be done. Having to pull late nights in the studio until 2 or 3 am (that’s when I get my best work done!) and then having to wake up for other obligations is not for the weak, but sacrifices have to be made for studio work to flourish. I have definitely had my fair share of missing out on quality time with friends and family in order to “get it all done”. When you are a sole creator, you are ultimately the one who has to push pass those walls to make it all happen. Read More >>

HOLLY FULLER

Thankfully, within a week of moving, I landed a job at Nickelodeon within their Digital Advertising Department. Working in media was always a goal of mine and I was so grateful to be in the midst of it. A little over a year later I moved into the tech startup world. I brought my background in Digital Advertising to a mobile based startup in Playa Vista. After working in tech for two years, I realized there were not many people who looked like me, an African-America Woman. African-Americans, in general, were far and few between. I thought to myself, we are the main consumers of technology, but we do not have a seat at so many tables. Read More >>

MK MCGEHEE

My hope is that it is getting better for women, my LGBTQ family and people of color, especially – that the opportunities will just keep growing and growing. I’ve been very candid about the physical and emotional abuse I’ve experienced as a woman at the hands of male colleagues and mentors, mainly during my theatre years. The worst was in 2010 and it was a doozy – I ended up in the hospital and then in therapy several times a week to try and regain my mental and emotional strength. I became a shell of my former self and almost dropped out of grad school as a result. I’m glad I didn’t let him have my graduate degree in addition to everything else he took from me. I’m thrilled I was able to push through because it landed me here – and I think now is a very exciting time to be a woman in this industry. Read More >>

KAYLA BERTAGNA AND LISA BALLSTAEDT

It all started when we had a Korean skincare night on a girls trip to Puerto Vallarta. We were excited to try the masks, but… well, they weren’t great. The masks didn’t have clear directions, they didn’t fit well, and we really didn’t know what we were putting on our faces.

We knew we could do better, so we set out to create something revolutionary. After hours of measuring each other’s faces, countless trips to Korea to meet with skincare chemists, and dozens of nights testing products, we’re proud to announce we’ve created the most innovative sheet masks on the market. Read More >>

JENNY BAEK

As we all know, nothing can be easy in life, and so is modeling. Fashion Photography/modeling industry is super competitive and they do not take every single one. It’s been a struggle for me too since I am petite (5’3) and the majority of model agencies still look for models who are tall enough who have more various options including runways and fashion show. Still, I wanted to try my best so I was applying for agencies and also been rejecting lots of time. Read More >>

MEL BROWN MCGINNIS

“I fell in love with poetry in Mrs. Tucker’s 9th grade English class,” and I’ve been writing poetry and prose ever since. I’ve always known that writing is my passion, and someday I hoped I would be able to share my gift with the world on pages. When I was in high school, I had two poems published in my school’s 10th grade honors English literary magazine and from that day to this one, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I was a member of the Speech and Drama Club in high school, and I was hit with the performing bug when I did my first silique in speech class and was cast for the chorus in Greece the musical.

So, you wonder how I ended up becoming an attorney, right? Well, I was born in a small town in Louisiana that Time magazine once called the “poorest town in America.” I came from humble beginnings but was raised with a strong sense of family, faith, purpose and the belief that your beginnings don’t have to dictate where you end up in life. I always had big thoughts and big dreams and the self-belief that I could be successful at whatever I chose to do in life. Read More >>

VALENCIA HOLLAND

It hasn’t been a smooth road but it’s been worth it. I can think back to my intern days and thought everything was going to be glamorous. Being in the business of fashion, beauty, and image can be tough. I remember catching subways from showroom to showroom, dragging suitcases for blocks to catch a subway, doing things that I never imagined. I got a million No’s before I got the one yes. And when you become the boss of your own company, it doesn’t get easier. You’re now responsible for so much more. My advice to women, no matter what you’re looking to do would be, don’t be afraid to start from the bottom and work your way up. Just because you are passionate about something doesn’t mean you know everything. There is a business side to everything and today, there’s so many more resource available so take advantage. Become a sponge and soak everything up. Never stop learning and growing.  Read More >>

YAZMIN CHERETY

Throughout my childhood, I grew up seeing my parents work for everything they provided to me and my 3 other siblings. Every day was a new challenge for them because they were in charge of their own business. I always looked up to them and was always inspired to strive to be like them one day. They shaped me into the woman I am now, to not take anything for granted because everything I want or have will come with hard work and dedication. People always ask young children “what do you want to be when you grow up”? I never had an exact answer because I felt there were many things I could be good at, but the key was what I really enjoyed doing for the rest of my life. Read More >>

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