SoCal Spotlight: Ivana De Maria’s StoryPlace

SoCal Spotlight: Ivana De Maria’s StoryPlace

Contributing Editors: Anthony Stafford and Joshua Pinkay

In Los Angeles, it’s no secret that millions of people move into the city to pursue their dreams of entering the world of entertainment. Little does everyone know, those who reach their success still have other dreams like the rest of us! Ivana De Maria is one of those successful individuals who grew up with an attraction to the entertainment industry, moved to Los Angeles to pursue that dream, and continued dreaming — pursuing an uncommon endeavor: an entry into the tech world using parts of what she already learned. Ivana saw an opportunity in something that each of us has – our stories. We sat down with her to find out more about her background, and to learn about her new dream to take the entertainment world by storm in the way aspiring dreamers will find new projects. Here’s a peak into how your stories, our stories, and the world’s stories will be revealed.

Q: What inspired you to enter the entertainment industry?

A: Since I was a little girl I was always very attracted to the entertainment industry. My great grandfather founded the first Radio and TV station in Mexico and my two oldest brothers have a production company as well. One of them is a producer and the other one a director. Growing up, I spent a lot of time on set with them, helping them in any way I could. I was always very enchanted by the magic behind creating a film.  I always knew I wanted to eventually work in the entertainment industry, specifically as an actress. However, I also had many intellectual curiosities, which I wanted to explore before focusing on my long-term career. I studied high school in Switzerland and after graduating I moved to Boston for College. I attended Boston University where I completed a bachelor’s degree in Business and Law, always knowing that upon graduating I would focus on acting full time. Over the course of those four years, during summers while all my classmates would look for finance internships, I would attend acting school in NY and LA, and then during the school year I would enjoy learning the theoretical aspects of business and law, skills I felt would come in handy no matter what I did. Upon graduating I immediately moved to LA to pursue acting full time.

Q: What has been the biggest challenge you face working as an actor and producer in Los Angeles?

As soon as I got to LA, I starting the casting/rejection/waiting process, and the more I learned about it the more frustrated I got by the system. I hated the idea that my results would depend on so many factors that were not in my hands. I called my brothers and asked for advice. Their answer was “make your own short film”. I had no clue how to do this, but my frustration with the industry was bigger than my fear of the unknown. I began writing my own characters, which then turned into my own stories, then my own projects and finally my own productions. I wrote, produced and acted in two short films, which to my surprise had great success in the festival circuit.

As an actor you accept a life of instability and this is the hardest part of it. Financial instability, physical instability and emotional instability. Because it is so volatile, one day you have a job and the next its back to square one. You have to be available at all times which makes planning anything very difficult. I found that my personality required a bit more structure that what acting offered, and so I decided to find other ways to make a living that would let me be selective with my acting jobs.

Q: You recently took on the tech world with the upcoming launch of your app StoryPlace? How did your background in entertainment influence your decision to start this business?

When I began creating my own content I learned everything about the process of telling a story. From writing, to producing, acting, editing, the business… and I fell in love with all of it. I realized that my generation had an opportunity: the industry was changing and the power was now in the hands of the creative. There was a new currency going around: STORIES. If you had a good story and knew how to tell it, you had a big opportunity. By looking closer at the story culture around the world, I realized that this demand for stories was not exclusive to the entertainment industry. Every industry, product or brand is founded on a story.

A couple of years ago I started developing projects based on real life stories and quickly became enchanted by the idea of finding these stories and bringing them to life, giving them a voice. I found a beautiful combination in social responsibility and film, and decided I would create entertainment content based on true stories, specifically those with messages, stories and voices that needed to be heard today. As I embarked on this journey to find extraordinary stories, I found that everyone’s story had a lesson for me in some way. This led to a thought and an actual dream that that kept me up at night: “How many stories go unheard in the world?” I could not stop thinking of all the lost learning opportunities and decided I would do something about it. I wanted to create a place for these stories. Taking into account technology and generation trends, I decided to create a platform that would inspire people to connect through story sharing, to realize the importance of sharing and listening to stories. That is why I created StoryPlace, an egoless social platform that promotes empathy by connecting people through sharing and reading real life stories.

Q: Why is Southern California the perfect place to launch and grow your business?

Southern California is the hub of startups! It is a place that promotes entrepreneurship and Los Angeles is a city that is truly designed for the self-employed. Every street has cute café’s and working spaces that help young entrepreneurs have a working environment without the need for a formal office. In terms of StoryPlace specifically, SoCal culture is very open and friendly, everyone is always open and excited to share his or her story!

Q: What advice do you have for someone looking to break into the entertainment or tech industries — two highly competitive fields?

I am a true believer that as an artist, it all starts with creating your own content, and therefore you own opportunities, so believe in your vision and don’t be afraid to tell your own stories. Don’t be afraid to fail and don’t try to please anyone but yourself.Let your goal be making your own self proud, and then things will start happening. Furthermore, when they start happening don’t question your “luck”.Many times I would feel insecure or question myself when something went right and I got “lucky”, but luck is where preparation and opportunity meet. So give yourself the credit for being prepared when that opportunity comes along. And most importantly, enjoy the path! 

Q: Where do you see StoryPlace going in the next few years?

Hopefully many places! I’ve learned that in the app world you never know what you’re going to get. It can have 1 user for the first week or a billion users in one day. The entire team has been working hard on making sure that do everything we can in order to get those billion users, and most importantly we are ready to scale at any given moment.

My hopes with StoryPlace are that it becomes a leader of empathy in the world. Hopefully other industries will follow and people will be able to appreciate the power of empathy and storytelling. I would love for StoryPlace to eventually expand into more than just an app, a community, a festival, a book, a non-profit… who knows! The possibilities are endless.

Q: Do you have any local LA or SoCal spots that inspire you in your work?

I like to explore SoCal any chance I get and every time I do so I find new places that inspire me. What inspires me the most is meeting someone with a great story, and there are many of those in California!

I recently stumbled upon a small hotel called Moonlight Inn, which is in Moonlight beach. My boyfriend and I were driving and started getting tired so we decided to find a place to spend the night. Never did we imagine that this place would be an absolute oasis. It is a “WELL” hotel, which we learned meant that everything about it, from the design to the service, was tailored to promote wellbeing. This is just one example of all the incredible places I have found in SoCal. Every place you go has a story as well, its just a matter of listening.

Q: Anything else you want Angelenos to know about you or your company?

I’m always happy to hear stories and eager to discover new places! Contact me through my social media @ivanamaria and tell me your stories. More importantly, if you have a story to tell (which I know you do), download our app and StoryPlaceIT!

Taste of sbe Makes Its Debut in Los Angeles

Taste of sbe Makes Its Debut in Los Angeles

Story Contributions by Anthony C. Stafford

What could be one of the most coveted events in the culinary world is headed to Los Angeles for the first time! Widely known for their elevated restaurants with stunning atmospheres and cuisine, the food group known as sbe will launch their spectacular Taste of sbe 2018 event in L.A. on October 20th and 21st. sbe’s award winning celebrity chefs from across the globe will join forces in Los Angeles, Miami, and The Bahamas for three epic weekends of culinary celebrations in partnership with Rolling Stone Magazine. Buckle up for all the details on how you can join in on the fun, and what you can look forward to when you attend!

Jam-Packed Weekends Featuring Food, Shopping, And More

sbe will kick off their exclusive event by bringing a star-studded chef line-up to Los Angeles, Miami, and The Bahamas for three weekends of world-class collaborations from numerous chefs. Who exactly can attendees expect to be present? Chefs Danny Elmaleh, Martin Heierling, James Beard Award Winner, Michael Schwartz; Katsuya Uechi, Jose Icardi, Makoto Okuwa, and Dario Cecchini will join forces to present unique and custom tastings, extravagant cuisine, interactive demonstrations and the finest spirit and cuisine pairings.

As can be expected, sbe is going all out this year, and the exceptional culinary experience will be elevated further with extravagant parties, celebrity DJs, and late-night celebrations with music tailored by Allison Hegendorf. Guests have numerous options of accommodations to book with in each destination city, under the “Taste of sbe” room package at: Mondrian, in Los Angeles; SLS South Beach, Mondrian South Beach, Delano South Beach, Shore Club, SLS Brickell, Hyde Midtown or SLS LUX Brickell, in Miami; or SLS Baha Mar, in the Bahamas. Each of these accommodations include complimentary bites and sips at all participating sbe restaurant and lounges in their respective regions.

Sam Nazarian, Founder and CEO of sbe says, “sbe is a global lifestyle hospitality company with a 360-degree lifestyle experience. Taste of sbe is born out of our desire to bring unique experiences to our guests and offer an exclusive opportunity in three of our hottest locales: Miami, LA and The Bahamas.” He continues, “We pride ourselves on being able to curate a lineup of all-star chefs to collaborate across our brands, all united under the sbe umbrella.”

“I’m so excited to be part of this incredible line up of sbe celebrity chefs and be part of this revolutionaryprogram,” said Chef Makoto Okuwa. “The collective talent within sbe is second to none, and the diversity of experience and expertise that they bring to the table as a whole is unparalleled. I’m looking forward to adding my style and experience to the mix and working alongside these celebrated chefs.”

Wishes Get Granted Too

In addition to all of the exciting activity throughout the three-weekend event, a percentage of proceeds from all ticket sales will benefit the local Make-A-Wish Chapters. Not only to attendees get to feel like they’re on a mini-vacation, but sbe will also grant the wish of a vacation to a child and his or her family to The Bahamas for a two-night experience at SLS Baha Mar.

Wake Up On The West Coast

The first Grand Weekend takes place in Los Angeles, October 20-21, and will kick off with (drumroll…) a Veuve Clicquot Rose and Whispering Angel Brunch at Cleo Third Street! The party is just getting started as a weekend of activities and events await. Those events include private shopping experiences on Rodeo Drive, cooking classes, a Grand Dinner at Skybar at Mondrian Los Angeles, a Farewell Brunch at Doheny Room, and more!

Party On The East Coast

Heading across the country to Miami, the second Grand Weekend runs October 25-28, starting with Celebrity Taste at SLS South Beach on Thursday evening. Guests can expect participation from The Bazaar by José Andrés, Leynia, Katsuya, Fi’lia by Michael Schwartz, Makoto, and K Ramen.Burger.Beer. Saturday’s temptations include an interactive Sushi Making Class and lunch at Katsuya South Beach followed by a Grand Dinner inDelano’s iconic lobby complete with special live performances. The weekend concludes in style with a Farewell Brunch at Diez y Seis.

Sunset in The Caribbean

The final Grand Weekend takes place on the private beaches of SLS Baha Mar resort in The Bahamas, from November 15-18, where the coveted ticket on Friday night provides access to a one-of-a-kind tasting event at Bungalow Pool. Chefs in attendance will include Dario Cecchini, Michael Schwartz and Danny Elmaleh — topping off
with an after-party at Bond Nightclub and a special guest performance. On Saturday, guests will experience a Grand Dinner White Party, held on the private Baha Mar Pier. A Farewell Brunch at Cleo Mediterráneo on Sunday brings the memorable weekend, and three-weekend event to a close.

Join The Festivities

Individual tickets are available for each event throughout all three weekends, ranging from $55 to $500, as well as all-access packages. The weekends are presented by Rolling Stone, Heineken, Lincoln, Fever Tree, Diageo, Moet Hennessy, The Patron Company (Bahamas only), Pepsi and Red Bull.

For further information visit www.sbe.com/tasteofsbe and follow #tasteofsbe, #worldofsbe and #thisisbeyond to unlock your passport for the finest experiences that sbe has to offer.

About sbe

Established in 2002 by Founder and CEO Sam Nazarian, sbe is a privately-held, leading lifestyle hospitality company that develops, manages and operates award-winning hotels, residences, restaurants and nightclubs. Through exclusive partnerships with cultural visionaries, sbe is devoted to creating extraordinary experiences throughout its proprietary brands with a commitment to authenticity, sophistication, mastery and innovation.

Following the acquisition of Morgans Hotel Group, the pioneer of boutique lifestyle hotels, in partnership with The Yucaipa Companies and Cain International (formerly Cain Hoy),sbe has an unparalleled global portfolio which will see 25 hotels and over 170 global world-renowned culinary, nightlife and entertainment venues by the end of 2018. The company is uniquely positioned to offer a complete lifestyle experience – from nightlife, food & beverage and entertainment to hotels and residences, and through its innovative customer loyalty and rewards program, The Code, as well as its award-winning international real estate development subsidiary, Dakota Development – all of which solidify sbe as the preeminent leader across hospitality.

The company’s established and upcoming hotel brands include SLSHotel & Residences, Delano, Mondrian, The Redbury, Hyde Hotel & Residences, and The Originals. In addition, sbe has the following internationally acclaimed restaurants and lounges under subsidiary DisruptiveRestaurant Group: Katsuya by Chef Katsuya Uechi, Umami Burger, Cleo by Chef Danny Elmaleh, Fi’lia byMichael Schwartz, Leynia and Diez & Seis by Chef José Icardi, Hyde Lounge, S Bar, Doheny Room Skybar, Bond, and Privilege. To learn more, watch sbe’s #thisisbeyond video and visit sbe.com.
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Camp No Counselors:  Redefining the Rules of Camping

Camp No Counselors: Redefining the Rules of Camping

This is not your average campfire!  Welcome to Camp No Counselors, a unique camp experience specifically created for adults who want to have a positive, booze-filled fun fest with a nod to their childhood.  Sound crazy?  That’s because it is… Crazy fun.  I was able to experience Camp No Counselors this past May when they hosted the Los Angeles edition of the camp.  If I could describe the experience in three words, they would have to be adventurous, daring, and exceptional!

The experience overall was unlike any camping trip I’ve been on, noted, most of my camp experiences were limited to childhood, church-based field trips.  This was the complete opposite. The CNC team really put in the effort to create an atmosphere that gives campers the opportunity to tap into a fun childhood memory, but as adults.  Imagine, rope courses, themed-parties, relay races, sports, and camp activities, all mixed with a completely open bar included in your reservation.  The result is nothing short of a grand old party in the woods that lasts for three days.

I attended with a completely open mind, willing to experience something new and meet all kinds of new people.  The beginning of camp starts with a happy hour mixer and fire-side party as a means to break the ice and to get everyone excited to have a stress-free, good time.  My highlight moment was the “Color Wars”, which divided the entire camp into four teams, each representing a different color.  Throughout the various activities, your team participates in a number of challenges leading up to an ultimate relay race that crowns your team the camp champions upon completion.  I was on the green team, and we were seen as the underdogs in the beginning, but in the end were victorious when we beat out everyone in the collective drinking game, flip-cup, where each member of our team had to slide down a water slide and successfully drink a cup of beer and flip the cup right-side up from the edge of a table.

Additionally, the camp-grounds offered three deliciously prepared meals everyday paired with a mimosa bar for breakfast, endless beer at lunch, and full bar complete with an added selections of wines at dinner.  To note, the camp grounds are typically secluded away from metropolitan areas of the designated city, in turn offering limited to almost no cell-phone service while camping.  At first, I was concerned about not being able to have service to check emails and messages, but in turn, I ended up loving the notion of completely disconnecting from my everyday world and truly submerging myself into the camping experience.  Camp No Counselors proved to be something not only completely positive but an event that was almost therapeutic in its own right.

  

The camp is continuing its tour throughout the summer, but is returning to Los Angeles for three dates in the Fall, including the introduction to their first LGBTQ geared camp in October.  To signup, click on the dates below.  Also, make sure to follow Camp No Counselors on all social media channels.

IG:  @campnocounselors

Twitter: @CampNoCounselor

Facebook:  Camp No Counselors

Mexico’s Blue Lagoon

Mexico’s Blue Lagoon

 

By Zuke Oshiro

The Mexican Rivera, which lies to the far west and dips into the majestic blue seas of the Caribbean is a famous tourist destination for Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel and many smaller islands that dot the landscape. We can soon add the quieter destination of Holbox (pronounced Hol-bosh) to that list as the dusty little seaside town starts to get noticed.
A mere three-hour bus drive from the hustle of touristy Cancun, this is a ride through the countryside of Mexico replete with small food stands, school children and people commuting from town to town. If you are not on the express bus, it can seem like a long journey, but once deposited in Chiquila, the short boat ride to Holbox is worth the wait.
This is the northern tip of Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula, far removed from the large tourist ships and a journey back to a time when tourism hadn’t consumed the population with Starbucks and McDonald’s. They are not here, yet. And hopefully, it will take a long while  for the tourist trade to discover this gem. What you will find is an island with few cars, the main transportation is a golf cart, rusted by years of sea salt exposure, and a driver, with some English experience—it is of no consequence, the island is so small there is little hope of getting lost.
The main attraction to Hotbox is its lagoon—which seems to go miles into the sunset and is walkable and is rich with flamingoes, pelicans, and other birdlife.
Once in town, which is a series of dirt roads that all meet in the center. This is a 26 square mile island (same size as New York City!) so the ocean is never far off. For the adventurous traveler, there are so many walkable treks that lead to sudden lagoons, singular piers that stretch to the sunset and of course, there is always the seashore. But let’s get back to the bars. There is the Bar Arena Isla Hotbox which is a rooftop bar complete with a hot tub. The new kid on the block Básico is an open shell bar with a mixologist who conjures up spices and liquors, and if so inclined the occasional grasshopper delicacy is to be found here.
Side streets offer some great eating experiences, in particular, Milpa. Which a family run vanguard restaurant with Mexico-City-born-and-trained chef, Adrian Barajas. Reservations are converted into name tags as you come to the restaurant and the entire affair is treated as an experience, which it is. The menu offers such interesting dishes as Drunk Octopus Roaming Valladolid, which translates to roasted Octopus with bacon bits, bell p[pepper caviar, cacahuazintle corn and courgette filled with beer salsa with Valladolid chorizo.
By day, the beach, tourist cruises to see fish, whales, and lounge in the many hotels with their beachside bars and restaurants. Casa Las Tortugas, situated on the shoreline is stunning at night. Amber lights and reveal walkways and bridges. The hotel offers twenty-four romantic rooms and suites with a variety of views.

As we all know, the world is becoming fabulous—every distant corner is suddenly recognized as social media, the camera-phone and other recording devices take note of the splendor and beauty of places we have rarely visited. Holbox is such a destination: not quite touched by commercial hotels, restaurants or tourist attractions and yet accesible, compelling and a perfect place to experience Mexico in a new and different way.

Mexico

Take a trip to Mexico. Rejuvenate and celebrate! Story to follow 🙂

 

Carmel by the Sea

Beautiful CarmelVisiting Carmel is like stepping into a fairytale land. This quaint village is neatly tucked on a wooded hillside overlooking the ocean, and populated with adorable hobbit-like cottages. Accordingly, the town center is comprised of curlicue-roofed shops and stone-paved alleyways that open into surprise courtyards. With outdoor malls, family-owned boutiques, coffee shops galore and wine tasting everywhere, give yourself ample time, because shopping in Carmel is a delight.

For those with eclectic taste, the “Heart Beat Boutique” (Ocean & Monte Verde), carries Bohemian apparel along with a bit of everything, from skulls to disco balls. Once you meet the owner, Teresa Bradford, the unconventional store makes perfect sense. Teresa is a little bit of everything herself – dabbling in photography, jewelry design and curating her store with items from people she feels a connection to. Heart Beat is the place to go treasure hunting – you never know what you’ll find.

For designer furs and luxury leathers, try Augustina’s. Priding themselves as a one-stop-shopping place, store owner Tracy Delaney Odle claims: “If you lost your suitcase we could replace everything for you; we custom design to fit anyone.” Augustina’s has designed for many celebrities, including Barbra Streisand, and they’re the only boutique in the USA that carries Paula Lishman hand knitted beaver fur. Boasting world-renowned artisans, Augustina’s is also the only certified dealer in CA that specializes in making belt buckles for the stars. They’ve made buckles for Roy Rogers, Clint Eastwood, and Gene Autry, to name a few.

Burns Cowboy ShopIf country western is your style, stop in at “Burns Cowboy Shop”, a family owned business since 1876. This store has all things cowboy: boots, rhinestones, tassels, leather jackets, Stetsons, and surprisingly pink shirts – who knew Cowboys wore pink? The Wild West experience is complete with country music. playing and animal hides decorating the walls.

Meander down the alley alongside Pat Areias Jewelers, and tucked behind you’ll find the Thomas Kinkade Garden Studio that resembles an actual Thomas Kinkade portrait. Around the corner is the Galante Vineyard wine tasting studio – stop in for a quick sip. Then peruse the art gallery of George Rodrigue. Here you’ll find paintings of the famous blue dog (whose real name was Tiffany). A large painting of this abstract pop art (which is based on a Cajun legend) sells for a whopping $220k.
Need a festive raincoat? Try Fashion Street Boutique. Want Frida Kala socks? Try the Sock Shop (they also have magic socks that need to be dipped in water to “grow” to full size).

For food lovers, step into Kurtz Culinary to sample award-winning gourmet foods, including farm-fresh jams, artisanal tapenades, wine jellies, and other specialty foods. And for those with children, try “Starchild” – a nicely displayed high-end store for kids ages 0 to 14.

Of course, Carmel also offers the fashion staples of Coach, J. Crew, Anthropologie, Tommy Bahama, Tiffany & Co, and plenty of luxurious shops and gourmet dining. Plus, romantic places to stay.

Mission RanchThe Mission Ranch comes highly recommended. An 1800’s ranch preserved and restored by former Carmel Mayor (and longtime Carmel resident), Clint Eastwood. Eastwood rescued this landmark resort from condo developers, and renovated the entire property to provide a unique resort experience. The historic Mission Ranch sits on 22 acres with spectacular views and sheep grazing in the fields – it’s like being a painting.

Photos by Peter Novak