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Portraits of St. Louis

It’s more important to understand someone than to judge them. We think the first step to understanding someone is asking them the fundamental questions about who they are and how they became the person they are today. Understanding and empathy are essential building blocks for a better, more compassionate world. We’re incredibly fortunate to be able to ask these questions each week through our interview series. Below you’ll find inspiring interviews from in and around St. Louis.

Kevin “DJ 7Duece” Hamilton

Well, it all started with myself and one of my business partners, Marvin. We used to take lunch breaks in the parking garage and just discuss how this company was moving business-wise and how they traveled. We were seeing how a Corporation moved and said, WE CAN DO THIS TOO! Our main focus was for DJs to be able to be a DJ and play what they wanted to play w/o being locked in a box with 15 songs to choose from and also independent artists. With our platform, we wanted to be able to give the independent artists a platform to have a VOICE and be heard! Read more>>

Thomas “Buzz” Moore

As an Air Force brat, I was basically born into the military and an attitude of service to others. We moved every few years as all military families do, only coming home to St. Louis on vacation. In the late ’60s, we had a short period living in St. Louis at my grandmother’s house on Marwenette near Carondelet Park while our father went ahead to our new station in Okinawa, Japan. During our four years in Okinawa, I was first introduced to the Asian culture including foods such as rice cakes, spring rolls, and soups. Read more>>

Kevin Howell

I am a lifelong Hoosier with a passion for our national pastime and history of baseball. From my youth and now into adulthood, my interest and love of the game continue through the research and restoration of vintage baseball/softball gloves. I have developed the skill and process of cleaning, replacing, and reconditioning gloves, bringing the history and story of these relics back to life. Whether it’s a youth glove reminding you of your playing days or grandpa’s old split-finger from WWII, I take pride in bringing that fine piece of leather back to period correct feel and look. Read more>>

Jamie Sanders

I started as a child. Drawing, painting, dancing, singing, entering art shows, and spending time with my grandma.
My mother died when I was young, so my grandmother was my biggest creative influence. I’ve had to put art on the back burner many times throughout the years but I still find ways to be creative, even in the least ideal places. I became a mom at 16 and raised my daughter by myself. Read more>>

Demee Scoggin

It all started back in 2013. A friend and I started an online boutique (PURED Boutique) to make some extra income. At PURED, we sold women’s clothing for all shapes and sizes. She actually gave me the push I needed because I was so nervous and afraid to give it a try. A few months in we opened a physical location and was doing pretty well for it to be our first business. We were there for a year and the owners hit us with a letter stating they were selling the building and we would have to vacate in 30 days. We found another location quickly and stayed there for almost 2 years. Read more>>

Kalima Shahid

My name is Kalima Shahid. I am professionally known as Kay, owner, and founder of Kay’s Kitchen LLC. I am 33, born and raised in St. Louis, MO. I have always had a huge passion for food and cooking. I am what you would call a skinny foodie. Having two growing boys, I would cook and make different dishes each day, so they wouldn’t eat any fast food. I attended Lindenwood University and received my bachelor’s in Business Administration. Read more>>

Melanie Monrose

I am a self-taught vegan and nonvegan chef, current holistic nutritionist student, women’s wellness leader, and beauty and fashion enthusiast My love for cooking started when I was only 3 years old. According to my mom, I used to always watch her cook and even helped out in the kitchen preparing meals for our family. But those tasks were little small things appropriate for a toddler or small child such as myself at the time. I vividly remember being in the 3rd grade, when my grandmother would come to our house after school to help us out with dinner since my parents were still at work. Read more>>

C.V. Moore

At the age of 18, I entered the music industry with a new wave of sound and a different sense of musical character. In 2017, I discovered my roots/heritage with the island of Bermuda and signed with Sony Music Entertainment. My single was entitled “Bermuda”, in hopes of connecting with my father and tracing back my lineage. The record was a success on radio, TV networks such as BET and Revolt. It was the stepping stone to my arrival in the music industry lifestyle. Read more>>

Joshua Johnson

So this crazy journey I’m on with the music. It’s an exciting, tiring, and beautiful thing. It has been a very long journey, so far and we still moving throughout the region. First, I started making beats in 2006, when I was 14 years old, still a boy pretty much. It’s been years and I’ve had major success. So far in 2019, was my big break when I started working with the well-known famous NBA Gang, I’ve produced records for all of them except a few, but the main artist I worked with was my guy OG_3THREE and Boss Mane I called them. Read more>>

Ashlee Cole

My interest in jewelry making started several years ago but between being a working single mom and a full-time student, I didn’t have much time to dedicate to this new interest. Last year, on our family trip, my niece expressed an interest in making charm bracelets, so spending time bonding with her sparked my interest in making jewelry again and it went from there. Read more>>

Braden Tewolde

I was born and raised in the South St. Louis neighborhood known as Dutchtown. It was a pretty rough neighborhood but helped shape me into the person I am today. As a kid, I wondered why we couldn’t have the same thing my friends in the county had and why there was so much violence in my neighborhood. I was the only person in my neighborhood to go away to college. Read more>>

Jesse Orleans

Happyfield was built and created by myself and my business partner, Chris Theodosi. We have both been in the hospitality industry for over 10 plus years each and after working together for a number of years decided to finally open something for ourselves. The brief was simple, we wanted to create a cafe/diner that would not only become a bit of a destination venue but a go-to spot for the locals as well. Focusing on “Good Food, Good Coffee, and Good Service.” Happyfield has been a dream come true for both of us. Read more>>

Veronica Schwab

Cool Touch Graphics was started in the garage of our first home in January of 2010 after Eric unexpectedly lost his dream job managing a vehicle customization shop. I was building my career as a hairstylist at night and on weekends while staying home with our son during the day. Eric also took a full-time position working for a local trucking company in the safety department. That October, just weeks before our wedding, we took a huge leap and opened a shop in St. Charles. At first, we were taking on a variety of jobs including tinting windows, installing audio and video equipment, and rims and tires. Read more>>

Nicole Cooper

My upbringing helped shape my path into art, climate advocacy, and solar. There was a dump in the woods next to my childhood home in rural Missouri. Probably just waste from the families who lived there before, but it seemed like artifacts from ancient civilization to my sister and my curious eyes. I guess without trash pickup, people used to throw things out of sight (we technically still do, it’s just more organized). We would adventure into the decaying ruins to dig up glass bottles, rusted cans, and old tires. This playground of sorts was dubbed the “smushy ground” for its most treasured attraction: An old decaying mattress whose springs still had some bounce. This unsteady ground made for wobbly play. Read more>>

KB Williams

As a kid, I never imagined that I’d one day be an artist; it was never even on my radar. I was an adopted farm kid who always felt deeply misunderstood by my friends and family, which eventually led to heavy depression. As an adult, I knew I needed to find a healthy coping mechanism to help me navigate this journey. As I’d dabbled in the not-so-healthy options, like using alcohol to numb the sting of day-to-day life, I knew it was time for something different. Read more>>

Zach Adams

I’ve always loved taking pictures. Whether it was with a Kodak disposable camera on a school trip or a professional camera. My high school art teacher asked me if I wanted to take his after-school photography class, so I did. He said when he saw all the other students standing up while taking photos vs. seeing me laying on the ground, he knew there was something different. That was 2004. Life happened and photography took a back seat for a while. Fast forward to 2016, where I had been taking pictures with just my phone for pure joy until my dad got me a camera for Father’s Day. At that point, my love for photography got reignited! I started with just flowers and bugs, then that slowly moved on to people. Lots of pictures of friends and their kids and stuff to get used to having a new camera. From there, every year, I did a little more and got a little better. Then Covid happened. Read more>>

Valeria Prieto

Hi! My name is Valeria Prieto and I am a Latin artist, I have been living in the US for nine years and counting. I was born and raised in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, in my city, there were no Art schools, so since I was a child, I was self-taught, I studied Graphic Design and took some Visual Arts classes. From a very young age, I realized one of my dreams was to be an Art Teacher, I taught Art to children and adults for 13 years and I was one of the youngest teachers in the city, I was just 19 years old. During that time, I also developed as an independent artist working with photography and short films, which were exhibited in various countries. Read more>>

Mandi Lee

I come from a small town in Southeast Missouri, with less than 500 people. I graduated high school and moved to STL to attend Missouri Baptist University. I got a job in the hospitality industry right out of college. I left St. Louis to manage a new hotel in Nashville, TN. I was feeling trapped inside a career wasn’t interested in for the long haul and decided to move back to STL and try something new. I got a job at a local cupcake shop as a cashier. Read more>>

Kristen Bergmann

I was kind of a late bloomer. I didn’t go to cosmetology school until I was 32. I went on to work at a nice salon in Ladue, but I soon realized that I wanted to work for myself. I didn’t like someone else telling me how and when I needed to work. I wanted to set my own rules. So, I did. I broke off and started doing hair for myself. When Covid hit I made the decision to put everything on hold and stay home with my children. Like so many other parents last year, I found myself teaching two elementary students. It wasn’t long before I started going stir crazy and took up painting as a stress reliever. Read more>>

Hailey Ross

When I was about 14, I was given my first digital camera by my grandpa. He was also a photographer, he would shoot film and develop his photos in his at-home darkroom back in the ’80s and ’90s. He was the one who gave me the tool to be able to take my first photos, he inspired my love for photography. I fell in and out of using a digital camera, mostly because being naive, I thought a phone was more convenient and I didn’t realize how amazing it was to be able to use a camera and create a photo that way. Read more>>

Scott Holifield

My curiosity about bees started with my parents telling a story from their childhood about a colony of bees living in a tree trunk and them taking honey from it. Then as an adult, I began learning about the decline of the honey bee which lead me to take a beginner beekeeping class. I was hooked. In 2015, I got the first two colonies of bees, and a little over a year later had my first successful honey harvest and immediately realized we had something amazing. The flowering plants and trees in the neighborhood gave our honey such an amazing depth of flavor like no other honey we had tasted. Read more>>

Amber Lewis

I’ve been dancing my whole life. My mom put me in dance at the age of three, and I never stopped. I thought I would be done with dance when I graduated from high school, but I found out that George Washington University had a dance club. Through the club, I was able to take classes and participate in full-scale productions twice a year. I had the opportunity to dance my dream role of Clara in The Nutcracker and also serve as president of the organization for a year. Read more>>

India Grimes McMillan

I grew up in a religious family. My father was a preacher, as was his father, my beloved pop poo, a name borrowed from my cousins for their granddad. My mother was a devoted, sweet, and quiet storm of a wife. Her grandpa was also a preacher and a missionary. Both parents were gifted and my mother was very entrepreneurial. However, she was always hindered because of my dad’s insecurities, which turned out to be rooted in his mental health conditions. Back then, we didn’t know as much about behavioral and mental health as we do now. We were a large family of eleven. Yep, that’s right, I had five additional sisters and three brothers between these parents. Dad had a daughter prior to them being married. Read more>>

Erika Ware

I am a product of North St. Louis City and was educated in the St. Louis City public school system. I love my hometown! It has helped shape my viewpoint of the world and people around me, which includes my view on mental health. Growing up in the city of St. Louis, I saw A LOT of homelessness, shootouts, deplorable neighborhoods and schools, and unemployment just to name a few. What does this have to do with my current career? EVERYTHING! Observing the above had me wondering how people ended up in those positions and behaved the way they did. Read more>>

Zayn Blitz

I’ve always had a passion for fashion. Growing up, family ways wanted me to help them out together looks always asked me what looked better, etc. Losing my bestfriend was the real reason I started my business because I made a promise to him. Government jobs, I just outgrew and I was completely over. Walked out of my last government job at the age of 20 with no master plan, nothing but hope, and a dream. Started seeing for myself before others. My “Play” sister is the reason I got my exposure. Allowing me to present my gift live. That night I gained a massive clientele base. I am where I am today due to social media outlets and also word of mouth. Read more>>

Kelly Hinman

My name is Kelly Adler Hinman. I am the daughter of God, wife of a good and kind man, and mother of four incredibly adorable little human beings. In addition to the three main roles of my life- I am a full-time newborn and family photographer. How did this all start??? I entered a contest at the age of eight years old when I was in the second grade. I won!! My first photo contest and won!! The prize was my first camera. I haven’t been without a camera since. I started my first business at eight years old. I would take images of the neighborhood kids, sometimes I would give them beauty makeovers first, and then I would take the film to the store have them develop and deliver the images to their parents the next day. (And get paid 1$). By the time I was a junior in high school, I was shooting weddings. Read more>>

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