There are so many factors that affect how our lives turn out, but one of the most interesting is how our backgrounds give us unique strengths and perspectives that affect who we are as adults. We asked rising stars from the community to tell us about their background and upbringing and how they feel it’s impacted who they are today

Rasika Parab | Reiki Master Practitioner and Teacher

About 10 years ago, I came to the United States from India. When I arrived here, I was barely speaking English. To improve my English, I started reading English books, watching English movies and TV series. A great thing in my life is that I never gave up! I am a licensed Cosmetologist, Esthetician and Laser Technician. While working with clients I get to know that my energy makes them very relaxed and peaceful. At that time, I heard about “Reiki”. I did not pay much attention in it but somehow this word was coming back to me. After a year of waiting, I decided to learn Reiki Healing energy. With this I found my passion of helping others. Everything on this earth has healing energy within us including all living or non-living things. We are so busy that we do not even spend time to discover ourselves and our energy. Some people do not even seem to believe in it. I am always passionate of helping others and assisting them to move through the barriers that they may be facing throughout their lives. Read more>>

Audie Pope | Freelance Artist

I’m from Fort Worth, Texas. Been raised here all my life but have always been encouraged while growing up to look beyond my backyard and into the larger world and the cultures that bind it together. This idea of expanding my horizons and remaining openminded has molded me into the person I am today. Read more>>

Itoro Daniel | Speaker, Entrepreneur, & Activist

Whenever I am proposed this question I always get excited to answer. Though I was raised in the Dallas, Texas area I am the daughter of Nigerian immigrant parents. My background stems from Southern Nigerian roots in the beautiful state of Akwa Ibom. I grew up in a very cultural, yet hardworking environment being that I was able to witness my parents come from a foreign nation and make it in the USA. Growing up I was groomed to be very future focused and ambitious in nature because the very people I looked up to I was fortunate to call mom and dad. My Nigerian heritage impacted my values of faith, family, and achievement. I was always told a great saying by my mother, “You can have anything you put your mind to.” This was a saying I later found out drove her to her success as a wife, mother, businesswoman, and leader in her community. These particular words made me forever driven when it came to my God-given purpose and the work I would later establish. Read more>>

Jacqueline Love-Worline | Texas Certified Shorthand Reporter

I was born in Oakland, California and raised in Los Angeles. I like to call myself a real Cali Girl for Life. Although I love living and working in Texas now, I am extremely proud to hail from California because I believe it is a city rich in culture and spirit and I have many fond memories of my life while in California from the 80s and 90s.. My parents were both from Louisiana and my father was a pastor, so we moved several times as he pastored various churches throughout the country, but by the time I was born, we had settled in California. My upbringing was rooted in the church, and there is where I learned that I loved God, I loved to sing, and that I had the gift of administration, which is a spiritual gift that transcends over into the secular world in many ways. I assisted my father with all of the church administration, type all his sermons for him, and make the church announcements on Sunday. Read more>>

Shealene Chaithon | Entrepreneur, Licensed Esthetician and Certified Lash & Ombre Brow Artist

I’m born & raised from Derby, KS. Moved to Garden Grove, CA for a few years before settling here in the DFW area. I’m from a small town near Wichita. My parents both worked at one of the largest aircraft companies and took on many side hustles. Naturally, I became the same. I started working at 16, picked up a lot of skills and trades until I figured out what I loved most. I have always had this motivated mindset. My parents gave me everything they could but I knew deep down, I know I should be the one to give myself everything. I’m so grateful for my upbringing, my parents led and showed me the foundation of independence and without it I don’t think I’ll be where I’m at. Read more>>

Michelle Hammond | Founder and CEO of Ruahh

I am the founder and CEO of Ruahh. We provide chic and unique accessories for the versatile woman and her adventures. I was born and raised in Ghana but moved to the United States to complete my Bachelor’s. Today, my business and brand, Ruahh, is focused on fusing my Ghanaian culture with modern design to create chic accessories for women that are symbolic and unique. My cultural influences have provided a rich source of inspiration and symbolism that I am rightly proud of. Read more>>

Ashera & Courtney Westbrook | CEO’s & Chef’s

We were born and raised in Dallas, Texas. Our Christian and family oriented background impacted who we are today. Read more>>

Jeremy C. Park | CEO of CityCURRENT, producer and Host of Tv/Radio Shows, Podcaster, Author, and Speaker

I grew up in Weatherford, Texas, which is just west of Fort Worth. I didn’t realize how much it shaped me and my younger brother at the time, but looking back years later as an adult, our lives and careers were both greatly impacted by our parents’ open door policy. At all hours of the day or night, individuals who were facing challenges and needed support would come over to our house. Our door was open 24/7, and it was commonplace for people to pop in and join us for dinner needing something to eat, sit with us on the couch watching tv needing to decompress, or talk with my parents for hours in my father’s home office needing counsel. In almost all cases, their challenges had nothing to do with my father’s career in the insurance industry or my mother’s background in education, but it was their genuine desire to help others that created so many new relationships and friendships, which enriched our family in countless ways. So, my brother and I saw firsthand, at an early age, the power of giving. Read more>>

Jessica Ramirez | Brand Building, Events, Marketing & PR

I grew up in Kalamazoo, MI and my great-great grandparents migrated to Breckenridge, MI as field workers from Juarez. Eventually able to buy the farm my grandpa and dad were raised on. As children we spent our summers playing on the farm, we were able to enjoy the work of 4 generations before us. So organically hard work was a tradition that continued to get passed on. When I was in the 8th grade we heard about a summer job through a local farm near by corn detasseling. It was something my father insisted we do to gain experience in the workforce. My brother and I did it for one summer and my next real job outside babysitting was when I was 16. At our local Mexican Restaurant as a hostess. I begged to become a waiter and eventually they allowed it! As long as someone ran my drinks because I was not old enough to server alcohol for 2 more years. I loved the community I had at work, the family owned company. Read more>>

Stoney Kidd | Fashion Stylist/Consultant

I am from Dallas, Texas. I grew up in Oak Cliff. Was often back and forth between my grandmother’s and mother’s home. My mom was a 20 year old college student when she had me and it definitely had an impact on y upbringing. I have an old soul but I’m definitely a millennial. 🙂 I am very goal oriented and look to accomplish something new every year. My background was different than most but also the stereotypical African American girl cliché. I just want to make sure that my baby girl has a life that I did not. Essentially, that it’s better… in EVERY way. Read more>

Rijaa Nadeem | Artist

I have been told before that my paintings feel like they breathe. Upon reflecting on this comment I now realize it’s because all my work has a deeper meaning to it. I feel a certain emotion first, and the visuals form themselves after. I was born and raised in Karachi, which is the largest city in Pakistan. It is a country full of beauty which has a magnificent culture, but parallel to that, it is also a country where freedom of speech and expression is not as celebrated. Growing up here, I did not always feel like I could express myself fully on my own terms. Hence I turned to art as my main source of self expression. It was the safest way I could really express how I was feeling. I did not realize how big of an impact it had on who I was until recently. With painting, I could say whatever I was feeling in a discreet way. I could use dark colors when I was sad and use brighter colors when I wanted to represent my happiness. Read more>>

Austin Ray | Audio Engineer/Mix Engineer/Producer

I’m from a small family, from a small suburb of Oklahoma City called Piedmont. It use to be a pretty rural town when i was growing up there, but it’s grown quite tremendously over the last ten years. My background is pretty boring actually. I did things most kids did at that age in a small country town. It really wasn’t until i got a little older and moved away that i actually thought about how that little town affected how i grew up and the way i perceived the world. I’ve heard some people call it the “small town mentality.” Some people are just afraid to understand how big and beautiful the world is, and that’s okay. I just knew that could never be me. I know that i was lucky to be raised in a safe community, but i would definitely say that the small town i grew up in fueled my wanderlust. Read more>>

Cali Mesa | Pop Artist

I’m from Phoenix, Arizona. Or rather, I’m from a smaller suburb of Phoenix called Peoria. When I was growing up, I always knew I wanted to sing. I would write songs in my room and sing along to every word watching Hannah Montana. When I got my first guitar, I started performing at open mic nights in my hometown and booking gigs at coffee shops, restaurants, and local events. I have always known that music was what I was put here to do. Read more>>

Ayah Sayyed | Advocate & Children’s Book Author

It really is a tale of man and woman who were neighbors, that fell in love, that did not realize they had the same work ethics, and their story is the story to tell. My dad was born in Al Lid, Palestine and my mom were born in Al Salt, Jordan. Both come from Palestinian families that were refugees that had to build themselves from the ground up. My dad, may God rest his soul, was hard worker that did not know how to rest. He traveled Europe at a young age in order to send money back to his family. From Lyon, France to Amsterdam, Netherlands to Zurich, Switzerland, to London, England and so on. Wherever he would go he would get a job, work, send the money back home. That was his purpose, to take care of his family from such a young age but also to explore the world and educate himself with the history of city and the country his was in. He would learn the language and be able to have conversations with whoever he would meet. Read more>>

Kylie Luong | Artist and Owner of The Good Toaster Creative

I grew up in a military household and so as a kid I was uprooted and moved across the country regularly. My parents instilled independence and adaptability as early values; my mother always encouraging us to “Bloom where we’re planted.’’ Because of these constant transitions to new spaces I have always felt that I exist in a world of in-between: floating right on the outskirts of friend groups and communities, always able to interact but never truly belonging in any one group or experience. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I latched on to art and music as a way to escape from or explore these complex feelings and this in-between world that I inhabited. My parents recognized and nurtured this love of art. They supported me despite it being vastly different from their own experiences. Looking back, the deep love and support of my family and the constant change in my surroundings gave me the priceless gift of resiliency and allowed me to truly find my place in the world: in my work as an artist. Read more>>