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Portraits of Baltimore

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 Baltimore.

Atarah Styles

My journey into Styling was a POWERFULL PIVOT birthed from PAIN. But, plus size fashion and lifestyle has always been a part of my identity. I was raised by strong plus size women who despite the lack of options in plus clothing in the 90s/00s made sure I always looked my absolute best! And before I officially became a Plus Size Stylist, other plus women would often come to me for fashion advice. But let’s go back… Read more>>

Cidra Alabrash

My road to the entrepreneur life came pretty unexpected. I am a 20 year old Photographer and Real Estate Agent as well. If I went back and told my 16 year old self I was going to have a photography business and also be a Real Estate Agent, I would be so surprised. My photography business came a little unexpectedly. I bought a camera when I was a sophomore in high school just to capture moments with my friends. Then, I started getting requests from my peers to take their photos as well. Read more>>

Gil Rios

I originally wanted to be a comedian, so that’s what I started doing. Me and my friends wanted to do comedy sketches so that’s what we did, we were on Manhattan neighborhood Network doing comedy sketches trying to get some type of deal. You see Manhattan neighborhood Netwerk is a local channel in Manhattan and it’s a real good way to get your name out. There was one day that we all agreed that we needed better equipment in order to film professional comedies, so we tried hiring someone but that didn’t work they were charging too much and we didn’t have the budget to pay them. Read more>>

Ezra Taylor

My journey started when I was sixteen years old in a restaurant called Severna Park Taphouse, which was conveniently just a five minute walk from the house I grew up in. I wanted to get into the restaurant business because my older brother was a line cook there and I really wanted to be around him since I very much looked up to him. Plus, I was in a hurry to grow up at that time and thought if I had a job, I would become more of an adult. Once I went off to college, I shared the same story as many college students; I found myself hungry and in need of money. I decided to go back into the restaurant industry, but this time as a cook. Read more>>

Kiara M.P.

I’ve always been a storyteller. When I was a kid, I used to make up stories about things I would see on car rides with my mom or I would perform them in front of her when we would have sleepovers on the weekends. As I got older, I would fill up notebooks of stories in my head or I would spend hours and hours reading. In high school, I was a part of a specialty program specific to mass communications and although I was voted class clown, I was always known for bringing in a new book every other day and spending the majority of my time engrossed in it. Read more>>

Tyronda McDermott

I was born and raised in Baltimore City, attended and graduated from Baltimore City Public Schools. I obtained my Bachelors degree in Social Work from Coppin State University and my Masters degree In Social Work from Morgan State University and am currently a licensed social worker. I have experienced and observed inequity in the City of Baltimore and wanted to be apart of the change. I have held several positions in the community-based and private sector servicing children, adolescents, adults and families but was limited due to corporate and company policies. Read more>>

Tysheira Maddox

I decided back in 2017 that I wanted to use my life as an inspiration for others. I knew I always wanted to be a life coach, but felt that I was too young. Before I started my Master’s program in Social Work, I took a leap of faith and completed a certificate program to become a life coach. I wanted to help Black women in their 20s gain clarity on their goals, build confidence to help them face adversity, and to create a system where they can execute their goals consistently. My mother was a teenage single mom, and I watched her not only become a mother but navigate the 20s on her own. Because of this lived experience, I have been in position to be a couple of steps ahead of my peers. I felt that it was my mission in life to help others along the way, so that’s why I created Leave Inspired, Inc. Read more>>

Kevin Spears

I started My modeling journey about 2 years ago at The University of Maryland Eastern Shore. I joined a campus Modeling troupe called Haus of Legacy. There I was taught Runway etiquette and to be more comfortable with who I was. Growing up I had always wanted to model but I didn’t have the necessary connections and my lack of confidence got in the way during that time. From joining this modeling troupe I was introduced to something called the “Competitive Modeling Federation “ a place where people with likewise talents put together fashion shows, performances and competitions for the next wave of fashion models in the DMV Area. The “CMF scene” is what we call it for short. Read more>>

Xavier Allen

I used to be a music artists, living paycheck to paycheck funding my music career. After a while I got tired of getting scammed or my money not being enough to get me any further with my music, I decided to learn how to do marketing. I then ran across a few marketing courses by Billy Gene, Tai Lopez, and Gary Vee. I took the courses and then started working for a music marketing agency that is a competitor now. After a year I left the agency and went to start my own digital marketing firm. The first year was rough and I had many obstacles.  Read more>>

Danni Benton

well i was always the kid in grade school who got A’s on any visual project we had to do but i never thought it would really be anything more than a dream to “be” an artist so i lived my life worrying about going to college, then when i decided my senior year in high school i knew college wasn’t the thing for me so i’m like “okay, i have to find a job that pays good i don’t care what it is” so i had my ins and outs with maybe one or two jobs before landing a pretty good job, where im basically stocking a popular hardware store from 5am-10am or sometimes until 2pm. bummer job to have at 19 years old but the pay was good so i thought i was set! Read more>>

Robbie Arias

Robbie was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. In my free time, I spend time with my grand mother, play soccer, go to the gym, and model. Despite being in college pursuing a degree in Business Management, Robbie passion was into modeling. On his creative journey, he ventured into Modeling which led him to sign with an Agency (Proof Modeling Agency). He had his first fashion show which was called The Garage in Baltimore. I had got this offer by signing with my awesome agency Proof Modeling Agency.  Read more>>

Ms. Brooke Parker Higgins

I was born in Baltimore, MD and I grew up with my parents in Towson, MD until I was almost 10 years old. Both of my parents were actively involved in the Baltimore and Towson community. My Mother graduated from Goucher College and U of Maryland for her master’s degree. My Dad was hired as the youngest Hospital Administrator at Johns Hopkins Hospital and co-founded The Johns Hopkins Children Center. I have amazing memories and huge love and fondness for Baltimore. Read more>>

Karen Larochelle

I turned my science background into a creative business I am passionate about As a candle lover, I was shocked to find out how many toxins were in many candles on the market. I immediately threw out all the candles in my house and began my journey to create a safer option. A love of science and math, unrelenting persistence, and a desire to create a safer, better candle fueled two years of researching non-toxic ingredients and then testing and re-testing candles to ensure an even burn, optimal fragrance release, and negligible amounts of non-toxic soot after burning. Read more>>

Arnelle N. Quashie

Growing up as a first-generation Haitian-American, I wasn’t exposed to playing sports. I took dance classes at the local studio in my Hyde Park, Boston neighborhood, nothing more than that. Because of my 5’10” frame, as a teen folks assumed I played basketball or volleyball. I did neither. My high school was small and didn’t have much for sports. I didn’t have the desire to dabble in sports. Read more>>

Angel Wilson

I attended the University of Baltimore and received my MFA in Creative Writing and Publishing Arts in 2019. While in grad school, I learned the basics of self-publishing and was able to self-publish my first book, Am I Doing This Right? I knew I wanted to start my own company since I had acquired skills and knowledge about the publishing field. I also had a passion to help other create and sell their own stories. Read more>>

Hassallen Korkoya

Ever since I was a young girl I was always interested in Fashion. I remember growing up, my mom bought me a sewing machine and I would always do little sketches here and there. I always told myself I would either become a Fashion Designer or a Model. As I grew older my interests changed, however my love for fashion still remained. I told myself that though I no longer had any interest in becoming a model, that I would start an online boutique. Though it took me many years to scratch this off my list, and it came with many sleepless nights, I’m glad I started and can’t wait to see what the future holds for me. Read more>>

Nichelle Olivier

My name is Nichelle Olivier, 28 years old & I currently reside in Hyattsville, MD. I decided to stay in the DMV area after attending Howard University. My full time occupation is as an Emergency Medicine Physician Assistant at various hospitals in the area, but I have always dreamed of modeling as long as I can remember and now I am making that dream a reality. My first inspiration for modeling would have to be watching America’s Next Top Model as a young child. I am currently signed to JAGCO Mother Modeling Agency, where I am not only working as a model but learning and growing as one, Read more>>

Coniece Washington

Washington, D.C. based vocalist and producer Coniece Washington sings with heart and soul, captivating audiences with her distinctive, sultry and sweet stylings. In her ascending career, she has uniquely reinterpreted many standards while honoring the legacy of the vocalists who influence and inspire her: Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson, Shirley Horn, Billie Holiday, and Carmen McRae. Read more>>

Brandon Matthews

Basically I always taking pictures at a young age started with a flip phone, then my first iPhone, and then my first camera. I always put in the best effort to make sure the picture come out the clearest as it can. I was always requested to take other people pictures for them. That motivated me to start my photography business. Read more>>

Michelle Giordano

During the pandemic, I was making my cookies by request for local friends and family since we were home. Eventually I started experimenting with stuffing cookies (infusing the centers with something fun like frosting, jam, or chocolate), and when I perfected our first stuffed cookie, a white chocolate raspberry with cream cheese frosting center, suddenly the joke “you should really sell these,” seemed less like a joke and more like a reality. Read more>>


Peace & Love! I am Kierrah Flipping and I have been in the field of mental health for over nine years. During my time in the field, I have taken the mental health field by storm by incorporating energy healing modalities into mental health work with clients. After a short time in practicing Reiki, I soon discovered the healing benefits Reiki had with those suffering from mental health issues and quickly incorporated Reiki into the work we do at CORE Empowerment. This soon grew to us incorporating work with crystals, essential oils, yoga, and sound healing. I have helped MANY clients become “un-stuck”, uncover the root cause of their mental and physical illnesses, and gain balance and clarity in their life. Read more>>

Shannon Johnson

Growing up I always had an interest in very large or unique earrings. I felt like they were the perfect way to express myself and my personality. At the height of the pandemic, I conceived an idea to curate an affordable collection of bold statement jewelry and accessories. I created B. Marie Accessories named after my late mother who greatly influenced my taste in distinctive jewelry. I aim to encourage women to proudly be themselves through style, as audacious and confident as they want to be. Read more>>

Alain Nu

When I was a boy, I wanted to become a great magician. My parents were both librarians, and when my dad got a job at the Library Of Congress in Washington, DC, he asked me what kind of books I would like for him to bring back for me to read. So naturally I asked him what maybe any eight year old would ask if their Dad worked at the Library of Congress at that time. I asked him to bring me home books about magic. It was only decades later, that I realized that only a true magician could have read those books as I was able to devour them… Read more>>

Jordan Riles

From a young age, I’ve always operated in my entrepreneurial calling beginning with fundraising for various scholarships which allowed me to complete college debt free. Taking opportunities which required me to raise funds really nurtured my business savvy and encouraged the launch of my LLC in mid-2012, J. Enterprises, LLC. Through this, I began my work in what was originally created for public relations which quickly turned to pageantry directorship, women’s conference facilitation, etiquette school operation, and now resume writing and other professional services. Since 2013, I’ve successfully facilitated three statewide pageants- awarding up to a total of $4500 over three years of directorship. I continue to navigate the PR world through my career journey from university career services employee to law firm culture & communications to school district marketing coordinator. Read more>>

Shurland Cooper

My name is Shurland (shur – land) Cooper, I’m originally from Brooklyn, NY by way of Trinidad & Tobago. I am a partner, mother, and a creative. I am a first generation college graduate, and I am from a family of entrepreneurs. I’m a graduate of Thee Morgan State University. I moved back to Baltimore from NY to have a fresh start, in this new chapter of my life. Motherhood. I’ve always wanted to own a business, so when I came up with the idea I initially started it with a friend. As with some things in life, it did not work out and we went out separate ways.  Read more>>

Kidar Twine

I started my personal training journey as a means to initially help my friends and family. A large number of my family members struggle with high blood pressure, diabetes, alcoholism and poor eating habits that inevitably lead to preventable health issues. So, initially, I started exercising and following an eating regimen that was the opposite of the poor health choices that I observed within my family. Read more>>

Sherkia Smith

I was a DC police officer for 13 yrs. I resigned in May 2017, after having my 3rd child. I wanted to explore entrepreneurship. I opened a home based daycare May 2017. I also received my lash artist certification. April 2019, I closed the daycare. I ran the daycare alone, and became very stressed. I started Esthetician school Oct 2019. I returned to Law Enforcement March 2020. My goal was to fund my business, while working at the State Dept. While working full time, I was taking clients on my off days. I was booked immediately, and became overwhelmed with clients.  Read more>>

Nik Sweeney

It was a setback that proved to be a set up for my entrepreneur journey in April 2019. I was broke, unemployed, and recovering from colorectal surgery due to a colon cancer scare. Certainly not the ideal circumstances to make the dream of working for myself a reality. But honestly, I felt like what did have to lose. If not now, then when would it be. Borrowed funds from family and friends, a motivating support system, and a vision that looked more like a spin-off from my days of teaching Zumba and health coaching was the formula for birthing Amani Nicol Wellness as a Spa. Read more>>

Jenn Dorsey

My mom has always told me, ever since I could walk, I’ve had a camera in my hand. It’s been my favorite hobby I can take everywhere! I have found through local Open Mic Nights that I mainly love live music photography. The music community in Southern Maryland is nothing you have ever seen before. The friendly feel it has keeps me coming back multiple times a week to practice my photos. People started sharing my work and asking me if I could shoot for them. Anything from their show coming up, a wedding, a newborn, dogs, horses, abandoned buildings, and even fire breathing! Read more>>

Monyae Smalls

My name is Monyae Smalls and I am a 19-year-old male, currently attending Loyola University Maryland. My vision of Smalltalk The Brand started as an Instagram motivational page and has branched in the last year to a podcast, motivational Instagram, Facebook, and a Twitter page. Now we’re reaching several hundreds of people through motivational videos, posts, podcast episodes, and merchandise that we sell. Read more>>

Katoriae Brown

My journey to Entrepreneurship started as a teenager. I wanted to make money but I didn’t want to be dependent on anyone else signing off on me making it. I always saw employment as a middle man to my success. I’ve always wanted my own but I didn’t know how to aggregate enough money to thrive. I obtained a degree in Communications from Morgan State University which eventually landed me in a media director position at a noteworthy mega church. While there, the pandemic hit and my duties tripled but my paycheck did not. In addition to having full time employment, I freelanced in the same field which allowed me to set my own rates. Read more>>

Shakura Miller

About 10 years ago, I started working for a large beauty retailer. That’s where I found my love for brows. During that time, the super snatched brow was hot (lol). Showing clients how to fill in and shape their brows with makeup quickly became my “thing” . In 2015, I agreed to accompany a friend to a threading class. Five years later, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and put those skills to use. My family and friends are extremely encouraging. In just two years, I’ve grown so much. Read more>>

KeSean Johnson

Vetrepreneur Visions, started as a creative collaboration between brands [Day Off Films (Andrew Brooks), Binary Stars (Sean Galloway) and Lil Buddy Entertainment (KeSean Johnson)]. I met Drew when I was stationed in Hawaii and we began to do music together as Grind Time Administration. After we both separated service we stayed in touch as we had become like family. After my retirement from the US Army and receiving my degree in cinematography from Full Sail University in 2014, I moved back to America to pursue film as a career. I was hired by a government agency where Sean was my supervisor. Read more>>

Miriam Moran

Started from being a little girl with a wish growing up in the Stapleton projects of Staten Island, New York. Even with the gun violence, on going drug influence on the streets environment, I saw the beauty with the love of my family, my love of the graffiti art on the walls around our community and the hopes I would become an artist one day myself. After another young one murdered in my neighborhood at age 14 my parents move me and my family to the Eastern Shore of Maryland to be raised in our new home in a country setting environment. An environment I felt so out of place with at first. Going to a new school in St. Michaels Maryland was a non existence diverse culture for me and my older brothers of Puertorican decent but my wish as a little girl was still at heart and one day I was so excited to share with my new guidance counselor all about the future wish of mine. Read more>>

Marquis Revlon Clanton

Hello I’m Marquis Clanton a professional Dancer, Choreographer, International Vogue icon apart of the Ballroom scene and public figure born and raised in Baltimore Maryland. I been dancing since I can remember. Self taught. But I discovered my talents and creativity at a young age going to recreation center’s and after school programs where they allowed me to be myself and unlock my potential that I had inside. Read more>>


Hello, my name is Shine. I started making music at age 9. My older brother and cousins inspired me to rap and get into expressing myself through music. I was born and raised in Raleigh, NC where my mother would play a bunch of 90’s hip-hop and early neo-soul throughout my childhood. I was definitely inspired by Biggie, erykah badu, maxwell, tupac just to name a few. Writing and rapping was my first love, but quickly realized I was more intrigued with a producer and behind the scenes approach. I’ve been making beats since 12 and still growing everyday. Read more>>

Kisha Bowles

About seven years ago I met some black cowboys called The Rough Riders. Initially i was just supporting them by going to their different events. One day one of the cowboys father, Bruce Foote, told me him, and another cowboy Ray Charles Lockamy, had an idea to start an all women’s riding group. They wanted to train a group of women that had never ridden before, train them in six months, then put them in a rodeo. I was simply up for the challenge and joined the group. For the first two years of me riding I didn’t own a horse. Now I own two. One mare named Tissy, which I named after my mother, she is 12. years old and I also have a gelding named Dillyn and he is 6 years old. Read more>>

Adrian Ferguson

I am originally from the DMV. Northern Virginia was a good place to grow up. I took my talents to Atlanta to Morehouse College and came back with a degree. It was relatively early in my career when I realized what I didn’t want to do for the rest of my adult life. I finally got fed up to the point to jump out on faith and start turning my dream into a reality. Juggling a full-time job, a young family and a dream could be an Olympic sport. With late nights, working during my lunch breaks and in between toddler nap times, Art Of Noize came into fruition. Read more>>

Rich James

Rich James is a native of New Yorker and a firm believer that people can change and improve their lives for themselves and others. As the host of Living a Rich Life talk show and a network concierge on the east coast he provides both professional and personal services to Inform, Inspire and Encourage others to believe in change in all aspects of life. His talk show discusses various topics on what living a Rich life means based on 6 elements: Good Health, Strong Relationships, Financial Freedom, Goals & Achievements, Extraordinary Experiences, and Philanthropy. Rich has interviewed and featured many DMV hometown heroes as well as well known celebrities to get their perspective on what does “Living a Rich Life” mean and what inspires them. Read more>>

Christina Renée

I am a Christian who is a creative individual who loves to write, speak and sing. I love encouraging others to be their best selves and my faith is very important to me. I also love traveling and I have travelled all over the world in places including Iceland, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, Italy, Greece and more. Read more>>

Starr Montout

The Tastery was established in the Spring of 2017 after years of cooking for my family and friends. I considered my self a a passionate foodie. I have always had a love for different foods, flavors and cultures. We started out by attending Pop Up Vendor events in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. The Pop Events provided exposure for my business and allowed us to build our clientele. In 2019 I decided to attended The Hotel, Culinary Arts and Tourism Institute (HCAT) at Anne Arundel Community College to hone my craft and passionate for food, I will graduate in May 2022. Read more>>

Caroline Evans

I apprenticed under Steve Ferguson of the Ink Spot in Greenbrook, NJ in 1998. Over the next 9 years I worked in 3 locations of the Ink Spot; Elizabeth, Linden and Greenbrook. I started working the tattoo convention network in 2000, determined to get better and more connected to the trade I love. Read more>>

Tawanda Thomas

I knew that I loved and would be in some form of real estate or fashion or both from a young age. I used to build buildings with lincoln logs and legos in elementary school. I would then make clothes for my paper dolls and they would run a business out of the lego buildings and live in the lincoln log houses. Fun times… When I got to high school, I attended Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. It was a dream come true to be able to actually use equipment to build things. Wood shop and the sheet metal classes were my favorite. Those classes made me think that I really could work in construction as a woman. Although my dreams were squashed there, I went on to seek other another way to get into real estate. My mother told me I always have a rebuttal or a defense for an argument, so I turned to law. Read more>>

Leslie Archila

Born in Los Angeles and growing up in Guatemala, I earned a degree in Interior Design from the University of Istmo I started having clients even before I graduated. After college, I opened my own brick and mortar design studio in Guatemala City where my successes grew my client base and added projects to my portfolio. Read more>>

Hope and Faith ♡

Our story truly begins during our childhood, as twins we’ve been sharing ideas, space, and time since we were born. We have been creating for over 12 years now. Our first form of collaboration began in the kitchen; we’ve been teaming up on dinners, special meals, and large catered spreads for events since we were eight years old! We lived in a single parent household where our mother was disabled, however she didn’t waste any time passing down her magical expertise when it came to culinary arts, we owe all our current skills to her! We eventually branched our creativity out into visual and performing arts, acting in theater in elementary school and joining visual art programs in middle and high school. Read more>>

Amanda Arbogast

In 2013 I had my first daughter Haylee not long after I started my career path in the HVAC industry. I was a single mom trying to do the best I could. Honestly when I took the HVAC office Manager position in 2014 I never expected it to be my career path. Fast forward to 2016 I re kindled with my husband Denny and we welcome my 2nd daughter “Harleigh” into the world in 2017. October 2019 we got married! All during this time I stayed in the HVAC industry I had went from office manager to general manager. Read more>>

Thunder Club

Thunder Club is a close knit group of lifelong brothers and friends from Baltimore who share the same passion for writing catchy, high-energy rock music. Consisting of guitarist Pete Burkhardt, guitarist/vocalist Dennis Chen, bassist Conor Johnston and drummer John Burkhardt, Thunder Club’s large and unique sound stems from the chemistry between the musicians and and the desire to push boundaries. Coupled with their lively stage presence, Thunder Club burst onto the Baltimore music scene and quickly gained a following, and has never left. Read more>>

Sera McCandless

I’ll try to make this as short as I can! I was born (and raised) in Jerusalem to an American father and a South African mother. When I was three, my parents split up and my dad came back to the states. When I was about 11 years old, I was finally got to an age I can travel and see him, and that’s when I started traveling back and forth each summer to the US. I have 6 siblings, 3 from my mom’s side (who I grew up with) and 3 from my dad’s side. Read more>>

Megan Ewing

My full-time entrepreneurial journey started in 2014 when I left my job in Corporate America. I was trying to find family and work balance and commuting to a job, working 9 hours, commuting back, missing school events, having to ask permission to stay home to take care of my kids when they got sick, etc. just became way too much. I knew there had to be a better way. The freedom to be there for my kids, my husband, my parents, and other family has always been my biggest motivation. Read more>>

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