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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.

Katie Baize

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always dreamed of being a model when I was older, especially when I would spend hours a day watching America’s Next Top Model. I’ve always been very photogenic and want to take my picture with friends, but one day one of my friends, who has a small photography business, reached out to do a little shoot in the park. I loved it so much and posted it on my social media when a friend of my boyfriend at the time reached out to me. She let me know she did some modeling in STL and would love to set me up with her photographer to get started on actual modeling. Read more>>

Jenna Muscarella

I have always been involved with art. I took drawing classes at a young age. I am constantly creating, making, doing, and exploring. Art has never stopped. I obsessively used my family camcorder. I often followed my dog and sister around pretending to be The Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, with my 9-year-old pitiful impression of an Australian accent. My creativity consistently flowed into more movie productions, magazine publications (only read by my sister and mother), filling countless pages of sketchbooks, and a trip to the principal’s office in 2nd grade to run a bookmark-making business out of my crayon box. My name is Jenna Muscarella, and I am an artist. Read more>>

Sara Wilson

Born to a multicultural family, I felt out of place in my predominantly white suburb of St. Louis. I expected nothing less than the best of myself and defined success as following a lucrative, professional career path. After moving to Seattle and deciding that neither engineering nor medicine was my passion, I found that spark in public health and epidemiology. Soon after that, I launched myself to various places abroad, working in public health as well as education and language/linguistic services. Read more>>

Janel Raihl

From a young age, I have always had art expression encouraged in my life. I didn’t come forward with my art until I began partnering with local organizations for events. Gradually, I received more requests for participation in events and projects. More organizations contacted me for more events. Then, I started organizing events and projects myself, and they evolved into public contribution projects: interactive murals. Read more>>

Kelly Telfer

My name is Kelly Telfer, and I am an artist specializing in Motorsports original paintings, posters, and fine art prints. I have always drawn and painted cars- from an early age. I have always loved drawing cars and racing cars. My brother and I started a race team in California in our teens, and I drew and printed our race team t-shirts. Soon, I was drawing, designing, and printing t-shirts for other race teams. Read more>>

Terrie Falls

I’ve always had a sense for fashion, stood out from everyone else, and never wanted to rock whatever one else was rocking; I always wanted to be that diamond. The name speaks for itself in the 5th born, so I took the initials F.B. and ran with it. Wanting a clothing brand was just a dream. I never put too much thought into it, but you would always catch me sketching or putting different color schemes & helping others pick out clothing for any event.  Read more>>

Ashley Armstrong

I fell in love with Photography in High School. I took a photography class where we used a film camera, and this is where I realized that capturing memories is a true passion for me. Photography became a strong hobby because I never thought that making it a career was an option. I started by just taking photos for friends and family, which morphed into other people seeing my work and contacting me for their sessions. I started building my portfolio and learning as much as possible in all forms of photography, leading me to start Coco’s Lens Photography in 2016. Read more>>

Kate Willming

Believe it or not, my story starts in high school – I fell in love with my sweetheart. He has always dared to say and do what’s on his mind. Throughout our time together, we’ve made sacrifices and decisions that we know would set us up for big opportunities later in life. We spent our time listening to people that’s been-there-done-that and learning from podcasts, seminars, books, and other classes. From there, we started our own construction company from scratch. Read more>>

Nate Larson, Hannah Larson

Our Dad, Barry, began roasting coffee to sell at farmers’ markets to help provide jobs to a couple of supported living clients at his social work agency. Their customer base grew quickly to include wholesale customers, and Barry decided to rent a small space to roast and package coffees. After an abrupt career shift, Nate found himself helping grow the business, then called “arthouse coffees,” named for the art studio the roasting operation shared space with. A more lovely space became available, and Nate decided it was too nice a spot to just roast and wholesale coffee. Read more>>

Linda Schust

Our founder overheard this exchange in a fifth-grade classroom in Columbia: One student, distracted by a noisy neighbor, directed, “Be quiet. I’m trying to learn to get into a good college.” His classmate retorted, “It don’t make no difference to me. I’m going to jail.” This conversation occurred between two boys who had been seated next to each other in the same class for months, yet they inhabited completely different worlds. Read more>>

Chela Mancuso

My name is Chela Mancuso, and I founded the rock band Crystal Lady in December of 2014. Crystal Lady has changed quite a bit over the last 8 years. In the early days of Crystal Lady, I was a jazz major at Webster University and formed this band with classmates. And the music sounded much different then than it does today. Today, Crystal Lady is an original rock band, and our music is very influenced by 90s alternative and hard rock. Read more>>

Vince Royale

I’m originally from Jersey, but I started stand-up comedy in Los Angeles in 2008. I was depressed due to a breakup, so I started drinking at local dive bars, where I discovered open comedy mics. I planned to be a professional alcoholic since I thought my life was over. So for weeks, I would drink and watch live comedy until I decided to try it out. When I got on stage, I got on a drunken rant about how miserable my life was, and the crowd laughed so hard at my pain. Read more>>

Thomas Kauffman

Absolutely. It may sound a little cliche. Mine wasn’t that much different. It seems that most chiropractor journeys’ always begin with an injury, finding help from a local chiropractor, and choosing to follow their steps. In 2011, during one of my tumbling practices for cheerleading, I landed straight on my head while performing a back flip. That was the first time I heard my bones pop. It was not as satisfying as when you get adjusted. It was a little scary. I wasn’t rushed to the hospital, but oh boy, did I have a headache. Read more>>


I have been singing since I was 8 years old (I was a shower singer). I began singing in church at the age of 10. I sang in front of my first crowd (My entire family) when I was 13 years old and began recording songs with a few of my cousins. As a family man, I stopped making music for a while and started back trying to get in the swing of things in 2016. During that time, my brother (one of my biggest music supporters) got murdered, and I stopped making music for 4 years. Read more>>

Nichole Jeans

I have been an LMT since 2009. I worked for a few chains and small companies and didn’t like how the employees or clients were treated. I moved back to MO from NY in 2020 in the middle of the Pandemic. I wanted to continue being an LMT, but it was hard. I started as a mobile service, but with the Pandemic, I didn’t feel as safe as if they came to me. I looked around and found the perfect place in Kirkwood, MO. I knew what I wanted my suite to look like, the feel, and the vibe. I know how I want to feel when I go into certain places, and that’s what I did. Read more>>

Sarah Vondracek

At the age of 7 I knew I wanted to be a hairdresser when I grew up. I grew up going to the salon weekly for my grandma’s hair appointments, and I always loved being in a salon environment. I saw and experienced firsthand at a young age how something as simple as a haircut or color could completely boost someone’s self-esteem and confidence. I knew when I was old enough that I wanted to be able to do that for people, so that’s why I became a hairdresser; immediately after Graduating high school, I enrolled in cosmetology school and started in the fall of 2009. Read more>>

Matt Weber

I got my start with my dad when I was 11. he took me to work with him during the summer between school years. I started sweeping floors and picking up after everyone. I was introduced to framing and millwork installation year by year. Once graduating high school, my father and I started remodeling and additions to homes in 2002. we did it all as the general contractor, from excavation, pouring foundations, framing, finishing carpentry, and scheduling subcontractors. Read more>>

Michael Mund

I have always drawn this since childhood without knowing I would someday become an artist. As a teenager, after going to different schools, artistic studies finally caught my attention; it was what I loved. After my studies, I did different jobs to become an educator for adults with intellectual disabilities. By chance, I had exposure opportunities during this period of my life. First in my region, then over the years, my art has crossed borders. So I exhibited in Belgium, France, Washington DC, Toronto, Osaka, Bratislava, etc. And here soon, I will exhibit in Salt Lake City in a collective exhibition. Read more>>

Julie Rausch

My journey started in 2004 when I decided to make a career change and signed up for school to become an esthetician. I didn’t like sitting at a desk, and I always loved skincare and helping people, so I thought aesthetics would be an awesome fit. I fell in love with it immediately, and the passion never died. I started at one of the top med spas in the area and worked there for 17 years until finally going out on my own. I specialize in lash extensions and facials and am excited to offer the only FDA-approved permanent hair removal, electrolysis, very shortly. Read more>>

Elizabeth Stallone-Lowder

As a trained trauma therapist, I knew how to help women in crisis. I’d worked closely with women affected by intimate partner violence and sexual assault since the mid-90, and I witnessed hundreds of women heal and feel more empowered due to talk therapy. During this time in my career, I became pregnant for the first time, a pregnancy my husband and I were very excited about. Elation quickly became a debilitating illness as I was diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) around the 8-week mark. Read more>>

Fatir Muhammad

At the age of 13 I started recording music. Heavily influenced by Chicago artists Lil Durk and Chief Keef, I felt like I had to find a way to get my voice out there to the world. I had no studio equipment just a computer. At the time I couldn’t pay for studio time so I taught myself everything there is to know through research. For about 6 years I recorded at least one song a day and fell in love with the creative process of song making. Read more>>

David Lipe

Hmm. I wear several hats. I’m an English teacher, the boys and girls tennis coach, a podcast host, a tennis academy founder and director, and a tournament director for several tournaments including a Men’s Pro Circuit 25K Futures, The Edwardsville Futures. How I started? Well, I played tennis all my life basically, so after a 2-year stint as a teaching pro after college, I decided that I wanted to coach a high school team and teach English, my collegiate major. Read more>>

Alex Gambill

Although originally from Kansas City, MO, I moved at a young age to the small town of Troy, MO – NW of St. Louis. Growing up in a small town, I often found myself passing the time by discovering new hobbies, exploring, and occasionally quite literally watching paint dry. Through this Odyssey-like quest to find my niche, I eventually discovered home movie making. My passion for filmmaking and photography began when I was 11-12 years old when I made my first black and white home video on a family vacation. My brothers and dad staring as the malicious cowboy outlaws trying to rob my sister, the damsel in distress. This western-thriller kickstarted my interest in the movie making process. Read more>>

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