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!
Photos / Story Contributions by Anthony C. Stafford & Joshua Pinkay
Let the Festivities Begin
The Grand Weekend of Taste of sbe kicked off on Saturday, with a Veuve Clicquot Rose and Whispering Angel Brunch at Cleo Third Street — a first for Los Angeles! Brunch at Cleo was followed by one-of-a-kind activities and events that included a private shopping experience with Harry Winston on Rodeo Drive, a cooking class and a Farewell Brunch at Doheny Room. A percentage of proceeds from all ticket sales benefited the local Make-A-Wish Chapter where sbe will grant the wish of a vacation for a few winning families to the Bahamas for an incredible experience at the new SLS Baha Mar resort. Lincoln also escorted VIPS all weekend in their luxury fleet of vehicles.
Our Taste of Cleo Third Street
Brunch at Cleo’s is arguably a treat that everyone needs! Often times, many are faced with the question of “what to eat?” and are seemingly forced to choose from “the usuals”. However, Cleo achieves what many restaurants have a hard time mastering, and that achievement is American favorites with a Mediterranean twist. Brunch began with a choice of numerous cocktails and Pure Leaf teas. If there was one word to describe the featured cocktails from Ketel One, that word would be “impeccable”. Ketel One offers a special type of spirit: made using the natural oils of the fruits listed in the ingredients, sugar-free (and no artificial sweeteners or flavors), no carbs, and extremely light — at just 73 calories per cocktail!
Light and refreshing are the go-to words at one sip, and the flavors of the Cucumber and Mint; Peach and Orange Blossom; and Grapefruit and Rose cocktails are comparable to drinking an icy, crisp Badoit with a hint bitters, and fruity, herbal flavors. Simply put, these cocktails taste just as good as they look, and are not your everyday spirit!
After our variety of palate-awakening beverages, an assortment of mezzes were presented, including a “masabacha” style hummus made with chickpeas, cumin and lemon; babaganoush, containing smoked eggplant, sumac, and pepper; a delicious lebaneh of feta, za’atar, and extra virgin olive oil; and finally a beautifully plated watermelon and feta salad decorated with mint leaves and shaved cucumber. This appetizing assortment brought vinegary bitterness, blended smoothness, and natural sweetness all into quick succession as one taste was followed by another. For us, the authenticity of these dishes brought on vibrant memories of Italy’s countryside, just outside of Venice, where life is slower and like the dishes before us, prominent in flavor and culture.
As we were pulled deeper into the ever-boldening tastes of our entrees, it was also time to welcome some familiarities. At a glance, an easily identifiable plate: 3 eggs and bacon — but with a twist. Soft, scrambled eggs and thick-cut bacon had a new happy family of twice cooked potatoes, roasted green tomatoes, and tzatziki and toast. And the Wagyu Cali Burger sounding all too familiar, yet presenting a new look and taste, topped with cheddar, thick-cut bacon, avocado, tzatziki, sauerkraut, a fried egg, and a side of fries. Cleo served heaven on plates, and the menu went on to include other amazing entrees, like Red Shakshouka, Smoked Salmon Benedict, Avocado Toast Benedict, and a Quinoa Breakfast Bowl. Finally, the Chef’s Selection for dessert surprised us with baklava, panacotta, sticky taffy pudding, mandeleine cookies, pâte de fruit, crescent cookies, and melt-in-your-mouth sour cream-glazed donuts.
Dinner and a… Show
Taste of sbe: Grand Dinner at Skybar at Mondrian Los Angeles with Rolling Stone
to benefit Make A Wish
Rudy Mancuso, Maia Mitchell, Trey Songz, Emile Hirsch, Sara Sampaio, James Kennedy, and his girlfriend, Raquel Viss — just a few big names who partied with sbe this past weekend at the Mondrian Los Angeles. Other attendees of this special weekend event included, but was not limited to, Fred Durst, Lady Victoria Harvey, Emmy nominees Kelly Jenrette and Melvin Jackson Jr.; Bianca Blanco and John Savage — along with sbe nightlife leaders Frankie Delgado, Dean May, Nick Montealegre, Josh Richmond; and sbe’s Disruptive Group COO Sebastien Silvestri.
This long list of names, and more, celebrated Taste of sbe’s Grand Dinner at Skybar at Mondrian Los Angeles — one of sbe’s international award-winning venues and mainstay destinations. The evening served a purpose beyond partying, and benefitted the Make A Wish Foundation, in partnership with Rolling Stone Magazine, Lincoln Motors, Evian, Fever-Tree, and Diageo.
With 100 guests in attendance at the epicurean showcase, each enjoyed 7 delicious courses courtesy of sbe’s incredible restaurant roster, including Cleo, Katsuya, Carna, Umami Burger, Diez y Seis, Makoto, SLS, and Fi’lia. With sbe’s renowned chefs on hand from all over the world, bellies were bound to be full. Chefs Martin Heierling, Katsuya Uechi, Danny Elmaleh, Makoto Okuwa, Jose Icardi, Yoshi Migita, Diego di Lao, Renata Ferraro, all were in attendance, and brought down the house with their featured courses. The extravagant plates included Otoro Tuna Tartar with Imperial Caviar & 24 Karat Gold, Hand Folded Tortelloni with Celery Root And Black Truffle, Wagyu Gyoza, and ‘The Frenchie’ burger by Chef Daniel Boulud. Guests at the Grand Dinner sipped on a bevy of signature cocktails courtesy of Diageo, as well as Dauo Vineyards. Chief Operating Officer of sbe’s Disruptive Group, Sebastien Silvestri; and Mike Kallhoff, President of Make-A-Wish, completed the evening with a toast for the group at the end of dinner. Following the Grand Dinner, New York Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton joined the guests and headed to HYDE Sunset for an epic after party hosted by Trey Songz.
The Party Continues
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.
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.
MADE IN + BY + FOR LA
Streetwear as a whole resonates so easily with the city of Los Angeles, so much that it’s a staple part of L.A. culture. Streetwear loves L.A., and L.A. loves streetwear, so it’s no mystery as to why this city is a booming hub of creative brands and designers tapping into the category that has skyrocketed to mainstream fashion. Los Angeles is saturated with streetwear brands, but few create with the position of a reaching out to a greater cause. The young founders of WHERE thought about what it means to be a streetwear brand and really wanted to reflect a celebration of this amazing city through their clothing. They even took it further to expand the brand’s platform in a positive direction by partnering with the Time’s Up Organization and Legal Fund to combat sexual assault and inequality. See what WHERE’s co-founders, Natasha Hunt Lee & Tyler Makhani, have to say about their brand and the overall message they want to deliver.
What separates WHERE Clothing from other streetwear brands?
Something that we always notice with other streetwear brands is this nonchalant sense of coolness. You can see it in the model’s expressions and body language. Then, you add the intimidating nature of both influence and luxury and these brands are almost so ‘cool’ that they’re untouchable. We want to redefine that. We want to align “cool” with excitement and warmth and the sincerity that comes with those feelings. When we take photos, we make sure most of them are candid. We want everyone smiling.
The Times Up movement is making some serious waves in today’s social climate. What compelled you to contribute to this initiative via your clothing brand?
This is important to us for so many reasons. The work that the Time’s Up Organization and Legal Fund is doing to end sexual assault, harassment and inequality is imperative. Their platform is massive, and it’s so important to support their ability to fund legal representation for the victims of these crimes.
Natasha: As a woman, specifically in the entertainment business, I am appalled by the way various powerful figures have taken advantage of their position by asserting themselves over so many, a majority being (but not limited to) women. In addition, there is a discrepancy in women’s pay, authority in the work place and our opportunities, benefits and representation. As a woman who has been given the privilege of an education, I think it’s only right to use my own, smaller platform to promote causes like Time’s Up. I am excited by and grateful for their work towards creating a safer and more honorable community.
What message do you want WHERE Clothing to give its fans?
Celebration. We want ours to transfer. We love what these clothes represent, and we want our customers to join us in celebrating when they buy something— whether it be Los Angeles artisanship, a special graphic, or the Time’s Up Legal Fund.
What can we expect from the brand in future collections?
This is just the beginning for us and we can’t wait to keep going. We will continue to perfect our fit and feel while bringing new ideas and inspirations to the table. We have so many designs ready and we’re so excited to share— from more creative capsules like REPOSE, to new city specific collections like our New York Series set to launch next year. Additionally, we are working on some collaborations and partnerships with other brands that uphold similar values and aesthetics. With every collection, we learn so much. It’s so fun for us to take that knowledge and invest it into our future.
Make sure to follow WHERE on Instagram at @whereyouatbaby
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