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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.

Kelsey Herschel

Back in January of 2021, I was laid off from yet another corporate sales job due to COVID. I called my mom in tears, as I had numerous times before, and expressed my continued feelings of being lost. I’d struggled to pinpoint a fulfilling profession post-grad, and couldn’t shake the immense generational pressure of finding instant success in a corporate career, along with a high salary. If I was expected to spend a great majority of my week, every week, for the next 30-45 years working, it only made sense to me that I do something I’m passionate about. I just can’t live my life any other way. My mom understood that and always gave me grace as I rode the rollercoaster that is “figuring it out.” Read more>>

Russell Harris

I started music at a young age as my father always kept music in my ears From Tupac to The Temptations the list goes on and on. As a child I was In Church Choir and School Choir till I was in college. I started actually doing music in high school recording my own music out of closet. Till i found myself a actual studio to go too. From there i was in a group called New Money man when i say this group was so talented and full of energy we had the biggest following as a local group I’ve ever seen in my life went on my first tour with them opened up from some of the biggest names in music. Read more>>

Halley Moore

On paper, my story seems to jump around quite a lot. I’ve had several major career chapters, with some colorful departures in between. I’ve been a bartender, a server, a massage therapist, a magician, a violin cleaner, a photographer, an actor, a writer, a director, and I even spent some time training to run away and join the circus. When it all comes together, however, there are consistent threads woven throughout: hospitality, creativity, adaptability. Read more>>

Bethany Ferguson

I suffered a miscarriage Mother’s Day weekend in 2013. Last year, I was finally able to get to a point in my healing/greiving process where I wanted to do something to commemorate my unborn child. Balloon decor has always been an interest of mine ever since I was a little girl and I thought it would be a great idea to create a few balloon bouquets. When I posted on my social medias that I was selling my balloon bouquets for Mother’s Day, I sold out within 24 hours! I couldn’t believe it. From that point on, I figured I could sale these for all occasions–Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, birthdays, etc. In July of 2021 I got my LLC and have been slowly but surely perfecting my craft! Read more>>

Carson Cook

I started recording music for fun in highschool until I developed a passion for it, and realized that I want to be apart of the music industry for the rest of my life. I unleashed talent in me I had no clue I had, but was in me all along. I began making music and actually releasing it starting in 2021. It’s almost like it was meant to be all along. Ever since 2021 I have been all go with music. I am more determined than ever. My mom has always told me I’m not average. There’s a reason why. I’m built for this. Read more>>

Deborah Shields

A group of eight local Christian schools started Ditto Family Resale in 2012 as an alternative revenue source to fund scholarships for students who could otherwise not afford to attend. School volunteers partner with Ditto’s staff to run the store, with earnings shared equally among our eight schools for scholarship purposes. Ten years in, we’ve distributed almost $2 million to our schools in tuition assistance. Ditto also shares a portion of annual earnings to support educational programs and initiatives at other St. Louis area academic institutions through our Ditto Education Grant (DEG) Program – an aim inspired by our desire to share God’s love with our community (Hebrews 13:15).,” and championed by our member school leaders since the store’s inception. Read more>>

Darryl Frierson

I mean my life was interesting one growing up on the Northside of St. Louis that but was blessed enough to go to Catholic and private schools (except for that one semester at Yeatman) that was given to opportunity to matriculate through Saint Louis University High and on to Iowa State University. I always and still wonder to this day what keep me from the pitfalls of my environment when I had every opportunity to mess up the things set before me Read more>>

Colleen Fitzsimmons-Wiviott

I was born and raised in St. Louis and always had a passion for art as a kid. I was lucky enough to be exposed at a young age to the many arts organizations we have in St. Louis like the St. Louis Symphony, COCA, and the Saint Louis Art Museum to name a few. I wasn’t sure what a career in the arts looked like for me until I landed a summer job when I was 17 as a Teen Assistant at the Saint Louis Art Museum. There, I worked in the education department leading tours and art making workshops for their summer Youth smART program. Read more>>

Katelynn Griffey

I grew up having music as my safe haven, but wasn’t serious about songwriting until high school. A friend and I started a band our sophomore year of high school, and we cowrote songs together where she would write the lyrics, and I would compose the music. At the time, I had compared my style of lyric writing to hers, and because I didn’t feel like my writing was as well written, I gave up on lyric writing out of fear of not being “good enough”, and fear of failure. 4 years later, when I was in my junior year of college, I was going through a rough time, and songwriting was my best outlet to process my emotions. Read more>>

Jasmine D. Evans

My name is Jasmine D. Evans, and I am a strategic communications and branding consultant supporting consultants, executive coaches, and nonprofit organizations. I am a graduate of Southeast Missouri State, where I received my Bachelors’s in Communications with an emphasis in Public Relations and a minor in marketing. Following graduation, I immediately began working a phenomenal internship with Forest Park Forever (Shoutout to them!), who offered me my first full-time position as Marketing & Communications Specialist after less than six months. Read more>>

Vickie Burnett

am a woman who loves her Maker, husband, family and helping people. Staying at home with my boys as they grew up was probably the hardest job I’ve had. After the 3 boys were all in school, I finished college and started teaching. That lasted 10 years and then I was burnt out and praying for something else I could do. I never thought I could be successful working my business, much less an at home business. I had many great mentors and stuck to it and now have been working at home for over 2 decades. I love helping people, so I guess that’s why I love network marketing and the health and wellness industry. “If you help enough people get what they want… you will get what you want.” Helping people is what keeps me going. Read more>>

Shelby Vaught

I started my small business journey in the spring of 2020 as a simple hobby while navigating my way through nursing school. You may think- “Wow, if you were in nursing school, why would you add more to your plate?” For me, thrift shopping was a way to escape for awhile. A way to put aside all the tests, work, stress, etc. I have enjoyed thrift shopping as long as I can remember….going with my family on the weekends or finding a small piece of someones “trash” on the side of the road that was a TREASURE to me. There is something super exciting about finding a simple gem that kept me going back for more until random thrift trips turned into weekly occurrences. Read more>>

Steve Akley

My journey started with a tragedy. On December 12, 2012 (12/12/12), I lost my father. I actually had lunch with him that day, and that afternoon, just a few hours later, he had a heart attack and passed away. Gone in an instant. No goodbyes, no chance to tell him I loved him… he was having living his life and then it was over. Facing the difficulty of the delicate balance of life, I almost immediately started pursuing a passion, something I wanted to do since I was a child but never could figure out the path to navigate and that was to become a writer. In 2012, things were so different than when I explored the idea of writing as a young man. Read more>>

Cjay Hunter

I am currently a professional Mixed Martial Arts Fighter, known as The Groundshark. My martial arts journey began with high school wrestling at Pattonville High School. Read more>>

Jessica Thornton

I launched my business in May of 2020 just shortly after Covid hit. It’s been quite a journey from then to now. At first it started off as a hobby but I’ve grown to love what I do and I became serious about it. Life happened and I had to put a hold on dress with Jess. I made the decision to step back into dress with Jess and did a relaunch in October 2021/ rebrand with a new logo and everything. Since I’ve started my business back in 2020 I’ve definitely grown much more in my business. Read more>>

Cyrriah Lampkin

To start off I believe my story began back when I was in 8th grade, when I started writing/journaling. At first I used to write just to escape from things but then it became something that I loved and wanted to spend the first of my life doing. I began writing what I wanted for myself and then i notice down the line as I would go back and read what had wrote, literally everything that I had wrote had came true in some way. I say that to say when I started my first because back in 2019 “abundleofriaah” which was retail selling lashes & fashion accessories. Read more>>

Omar & Lisa Bush

Our mission started after learning we both had a passion to bring back some of the things we had as children. We wanted to offer the youth a place where they can learn life skills such as problem solving, team building & leadership . My husband became a basketball coach of middle school boys and, it confirmed that mentorship was his passion. The pandemic occurred and everything shut down. Being quarantined in the house together, we discovered podcasting. We felt like it was a way for some people to hear our voices, so the mission and our mindset can be heard. ” What’s Shakin with the Bushes ” was created in 2020 and we are still creating today. Read more>>

Tre Casanova

I grew up in the church choir; this gave me thrill of performing. I’ve been writing songs since I was 7. Once I was high school age I started recording in home studios. Read more>>

Vernon “Longhorn” Davis

I’m just your average guy next door. Old Country Boy born in Texas, lived all over the country and has made St Louis his home for almost 30 years. Husband, Father, Grandfather, Son of Shirley (that’s my Momma) and Man of God. As far as what do I do, I tell people it depends on the day of the week or time of the day. My Professional Career is in the Automotive Industry, currently I am an Automotive Service Management Consultant for an Automotive Manufacturer. Yet, I have been in the Automotive Industry for almost 30 years. Read more>>

Ethan Healey

Growing up I’ve always been really into music, the way chords would make me feel and how certain songs would make me feel certain ways always fascinated me ever since I can remember. I was raised around a lot of different kinds of music but that early 50’s rock n roll era really was my favorite When I was around 15 or so, I got really into hip-hop music and the art of production. Read more>>

Stephanie Pohlman

I went to Mizzou from 2008-2012 and graduated with my degree in pre-architectural studies, emphasis in Interior Design. My first job was working for a commercial office furniture dealer, called POE, from 2012-2014. After realizing there wasn’t as much room for creativity in commercial design, I began my journey as a residential designer. For a few years, I worked for another designer as her assistant and a custom home builder, which helped me learn all the ins and outs of design and the details that go into it. Read more>>

Galen Pierre

I’ve always had a love for music, but I started listening to solid gold oldies before I ever got into the music in my age range. I remember going to this record store called “Pop Tunes” in my hometown Memphis, Tennessee with my mom and grandma, and we’d be there for about an hour. By the time we left, I think I was the only kid that’ll pick out Micheal Jackson, The Temptations, Jackson 5, and Walter Beasley’s greatest hit albums. Listening to that type of music, playing alto and tenor saxophone, and writing poetry helped me hone my musical skills growing up. Read more>>

McKenzie Dohm

I have always had a love for photography! Whether it be a disposable camera or my mom’s smart phone as a child, I was always taking pictures! I worked for a family friend helping out with some landscaping over the summer when I was in middle school, and saved up my money for my first DSLR camera. From there, I fell in love with nature photography! I would spend my afternoons after school outside in a field near our home, taking pictures of every flower I could find. Read more>>

Amanda Spencer

I love reading to my sons at night before they go to bed, and I wanted to be intentional about introducing them to a diverse array of main characters. I started going through the childrens’ biographies section of our library and I was learning right along with them. At the same time, our local school district was fighting over which parts of history to include in curriculum, and I wanted to find a way to highlight the stories of Americans who weren’t being highlighted. Read more>>

Ariel Storm

I’m a self-professed bookworm, Netflix junkie, and all around story geek. I started writing as an adolescent and haven’t looked back. In my late teens I picked up a paperback romance and my entire world changed. After that one story, I was hooked! I didn’t write my first book until a few years later, but since I started writing romance, I’ve come to realize my obsession with love stories stems from my desire to shine light and positivity into what can be a negative, dark world. I’ve dabbled in a few different romance subgenres: historical, sweet, and even some ‘Fifty Shades’ type stuff. Read more>>

Gray (G.F.) Fuller

I’ve always been drawn to politics. From watching CBS This Morning with my grandmother before school, to visiting the Missouri Capitol with Senator Brian Williams, the science has always been on my mind. I’ve also always had a knack for writing, so the two interests were bound to meet sometime. In my junior year of highschool, I started thinking about colleges and careers and what I wanted to with my life, and as a highschool student, I soon began to appreciate my own freedom to get started, to make things happen, to do what I truly wanted to do. I am so grateful to have such a privilege to be able to share my voice with the world around me, Read more>>

Nynelives (IMJUSTB)

My clothing line started back in 2009, I was originally supporting and working with another clothing line until my passion for making clothing with a story and greater purpose grew. I later ventured off and started Nyne Lives Clothing. The vision I had was to express the different type of feelings that we as mostly marginalized minority people may go through. For example when someone loses someone through death or the jail system they make an ‘RIP’ t-shirt or a ‘free’ him/her t-shirt. Nyne Lives itself represents anyone who has lost a friend or loved one to health problems, gang violence, prison, drugs, or just the daily struggles of life. Each piece is a reminder that life has it’s ups and downs and encourages supporters to live it to the fullest, without regret as if you have NYNE LIVES but you only have one. Read more>>

Brent Feldman

Cullen Whitmore, my business partner, and I met through our girlfriends at the time when I was going to Webster University. We had shared talents in web design and development and started chatting about a project I was working on called Easy College Meals. I graduated from Webster and started working in a marketing job when he and I started talking about starting an agency. Cullen was working in the architecture field and had some freelance clients that we did some work for. About 10 months into my first professional job, I left to run Matchbox full time. Read more>>

Steven Simmons

I’ve been in the food industry in some capacity for 20 years I’ve been a chef for about 15 years…different restaurants different positions till finding a solid spot at 4 seasons hotel untill covid hit. Read more>>

LaKeisha Stringer

As a young child I knew I was different. I was into fashions, politics, and wanting to have my own business. I had no clue that it would start at the age of 11 when I became obsessed with doing hair. My mother was a hairstylist and she had books from school so I read her book and taught myself how to use the hair equipment and style hair. I practiced a lot on myself and my friends from the neighborhood and school. From there I did hair until 2013 when I was diagnosed with Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis. I thought to myself that everything was over. Read more>>

Christopher J Foxworth

As a kid I always wanted to be seen on the big screen from watching other kids on different networks like Disney Channel. However growing up in East Saint Louis and thinking of being a star was just a dream. The city is full of talent but Hollywood was on the other side of the country. As I got older I was encouraged by family members and friends who where in the industry to keep pursuing my goals and move forward regardless of the outcome. Read more>>

Theresa Allen

I have always been interested in clothes and after working in the fashion industry with other St. Louis businesses I loved the idea of having a store that holds clothing I love. I found that I kept wanting to start an online store for a long time so I eventually just jumped head first and started one. It hasn’t been a perfect journey but I will never have that what if! Read more>>

Alexandria Butler

I’ve always been an expressive person, taking cues on how to behave and believe from the women I deeply admire in my life. It wasn’t a surprise that I ended up as a very vocal advocate of the growth and development of Black women in the workplace. But, while I haven’t made it to Broadway (yet!), I love to infuse performance and entertain when I’m delivering keynotes because most people are terrified to discuss equity in the workplace. But before I became a fierce, outspoken freedom fighter, I was a young new college graduate just navigating adulting in Silicon Valley. So, after encountering roadblock after roadblock, I intentionally created a group with to connect with other Black women who were experiencing some of the same issues I identified with. Read more>>

Proud Larry

Jeff Nations: Proud Larry started in 2016. Our drummer, Brian Schaeffer, and I went to high school together and played in an original band called Essence Of Logic together from ’02-’07. At that time in late 2016, Brian and I had already talked about the idea of starting a cover band at some point so we decided the timing was right and we’d pursue this idea. Our mutual friend, Josh Rodewald (who had previously played in an original band called Arythma with Brian), had just moved back to town and was looking for a project and we both knew he was a phenomenal bass player so he was a natural fit. Read more>>

STLVSHIPHO

STLVSHIPHOP was Created in 2020 during quarantine to shine light on St. Louis artist & culture. I would go on Instagram and see my friends and artist not get any support because they weren’t as big as the other artist or famous. From then I created the page posting every artist I could find from the city. It came to a point where I have been getting so many DM’s I was able to charge $2 for a Story and $3 for a Post. As the followers and DM’s grew those prices grew as well. After a while my brother/business partner (co ceo) joined the team helping rebrand the page with new logos, templates an new ways to generate revenue. We will soon be the biggest St. Louis outlet in the world. Read more>>

Shaun Swearengen

Shaun attributes his success, determination and hard work to his mother Venita Swearenegen-Butler. She instilled in him that anything is possible regardless of your circumstances handed at an early age. Shaun holds on to that belief wholeheartedly still to this day! Thank You for this opportunity to share my story. Typically I never grant interviews nor do I speak on any of my Philanthropic work. With that being said I wanted to give my first interview to VoyageSTL In hoped that my Story willl propell someone else into Greatness. Read more>>

Imani Robinson

From a challenging childhood, teen mom, abusive relationships, scarce & tainted resources birthed a beautiful love story… A love story with God’s healing and a strong passion to help provide solutions to those who suffer loudly and in slience. It was the hurt & hate I experienced that created a heart of healing & love for others. I’ve spent most of my adult life pouring love into others through every God given gift, skill, talent & academic experience I have. Being a creative at heart has allowed me to take what could of made me bitter, and turn into sweet love. Read more>>

Ciera L Simril, MA

I began volunteering in my community at a young age with my parents attending meetings. I’ve held various titles over the years based on my contributions to my community. I’m currently the vice chairwoman of the Civilian Oversight Board and also the youngest member serving. I’ve participated in peaceful protest, meetings, and events to unite our city. I’m the youngest member appointed to her second term on the Civilian Oversight Board by Mayor Lyda Krewson. She serves as the Vice Chairwoman of the board and represents District One which include Wards 2, 3, 21 & 27. Read more>>

Alexander Jones

What started as a way to get a little extra life out of my sneakers evolved into a passion for restoring the rarest Nikes on the planet. I started hunting for and fixing up old sneakers as a kid. About 6-7 years ago I began posting before and after pictures of my projects on Reddit and the response was amazing. I developed a little following and everyone kept asking me to video what I was doing. At that time I was purchasing a lot of old really rare stuff from the Japanese auction sites and most of these pairs looked like they belonged in the garbage. Read more>>

Aaron Marmon

I was part of a search and rescue team in Oregon and got 2 dogs to use for our group. In the process of training them I found a help wanted ad for a dog training and started working with a dog training company. 2 years later I opened a boarding kennel on a farm and not long after that I started my own training business. We did that for about 5 years and then me and my family decided to move back home this year to St.Louis and bring our dog training philosophy with us. Read more>>

Jenna Holtschulte

During my childhood, I would play “school” on a vintage blackboard that hung in my Grandmother’s basement. It came out of a one room schoolhouse in her hometown. I became obsessed with doodling and leaving silly quotes on it for her to see. She always would comment how much she loved it the next time I would see her. It just became something so signature to visiting her house. That’s really where my initial love for hand lettering started, I remember spending hours down there just writing names and finding that therapeutic. Read more>>

Mick Lite

It started in 2011 when I had a small fan page for the St. Louis Cardinals… I started another fan page for a local independent minor league baseball team and started messing around with photography and taking photos at their games. I then got hired by the team as an official scorer and running their social media. This would lead to working for an indoor football team and then becoming the team photographer for a minor league hockey team and team photographer for a womens tackle football team. During that time I saw how local media would only cover these teams at the start of the season, at a big event like a celebrity game, and/or if they made the playoffs. Read more>>

Blake Fontinel

Being surrounded by music my whole life, I knew from a young age that this is what I wanted to do. I played in bands throughout high school, I wrote songs and found a deep love for performing and communicating with people about topics we all can relate to. After much reflection and advice from people I trust, I decided not to go to college and instead pursue a career in music. While a decision like that isn’t for everyone, it was the right one for me. I dove headfirst into setting goals, practicing, writing, singing, playing and sharing online. It was and is difficult and sometimes lonely work. Read more>>

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