Where you grew up and your background can often have surprising effects on our lives and careers. We’ve asked folks from the community to tell us about how their background has affected them.

John Ilory | Truck Driver, Entrepreneur, Fashion Designer, Rap Artist

I’m from Fort Pierce, FL. Born and raised to Haitian immigrant partners. As I mentioned, my parents both came from Haiti to start a new life. I’m the youngest of my moms 4 children. Growing up we were always a close family. My parents were stable for the most part until my parents separated when I was 5. Soon after that we bounced around a few places until we settled in the projects. Growing up in that neighborhood built a lot of character. A lot of the things in America my parents weren’t used to and accustomed to coming from Haiti but they managed to raise up right and respectful no matter the circumstances. Me and my siblings are first generation kids so a lot of things, we had to learn on the fly or from our friends that we were around. My upbringing impacted my life in a major way because my mom passed away when I was 12. It was just me and my siblings and my dad after that. Read more>>

Lucianothelegend | Rap Artist & Creative Director

I was born In Jamaica Queens, NY Which impacted my perspective on music. I’ve always been a huge fan of 50 cent who is actually from the same area that im from. I was raised in Florida, so my sound gives you the wordplay and creativity of a NY artist as well as the tempo and effortless melodies of a southern artist. So my background and upbringing is what made my sound. Read more>>

Giancarlo Ruiz | Creative Director / Model

I’m from Miami, FL; born and raised, but all my family is dominican. My heritage and my upbringing instilled a high morality and holding myself to a higher standard. Hispanic families are huge on manners and respect and that plays a big part in who I am today. Read more>>

Adamary Fernandez | Calligrapher & Teacher

I’m from Hialeah,FL and I am a first generation Cuban American. I am grateful for my grandmother seeking a better opportunity for my mother here in the United States when she fled Cuba. Speaking on better opportunity, I strongly believe being a first generation Cuban American has huge impact in who I am today because I was raised to constantly be resilient. I was taught that I could do literally anything I put my mind to. One trait I was taught by my grandmother was fear has no place in a place of growth. This upbringing allowed me to constantly persevere. Read more>>

Marie-France Noel | Founder & Creative Designer of KADOKÉLÉ

I’m born and raised in Haiti. I’m from a large talented family that gave me a Joie de vivre. My late uncle kélé, an extraordinary painter who loved to show the beauty of Caribbean living and the resiliency of its people had a profound impact on my life. His zest for life is at the foundation of my company: KADOKÉLÉ. I initially started a t-shirt collection with his original paintings in 2012 to honor his spirit. Today, the brand offers handcrafted jewelry, apparel and clothing stimulated by that same beauty. Read more>>

Tobi Salver | Boutique Owner

I am and the business ventures that I under took. I was lucky to have supportive parents at a young age you always encourage me to be creative and practice my creative skills whether that be art playing dress up or even video making. But the person who most impacted me in my upbringing and who helped shape the person I became was my maternal grandmother Joanne Alterman. In her younger days she was a very well respected fashion designer who had a line that was carried an Henri Bendel boutique in New York City. She was an innovative entrepreneur who was the first person to make a trade agreement with a seminal Indians to purchase their indigenous fabrics to use for her creations. One of her noteworthy projects was designing ballroom style skirts made from Native American fabrics specifically the seminal Indians and saw them as high end fashion statement pieces. Read more>>

Jill Hotchkiss | Visual Artist

Being from South Florida is my “nature” and has instilled an appreciation for coastal city, life. The ocean, sand, tides, shells and salt will always be part of my basic “genetic make up”. However I feel very fortunate to have been able to offset that environment with a different experience which has influenced my “nurture”. Growing up, our family had a remote residence nestled deep in the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina (which, at the time, seemed so far away). That’s really where my love and appreciation of nature crystallized. I had two older brothers who would go off and do their thing, so often times my dog and I would roam the mountainside on our own. We discovered trickling streams teaming with microcosmic life underneath every overturned boulder. After the underground investigation concluded, those heavy rocks would get stacked up to create a dam, otherwise know as a “crystal pool” for us to swim in. Read more>>

Jeyhan | Musician (Singer/Songwriter, Performer, and Producer)

I was born in Rochester, New York, but both of my parents were born in Turkey and immigrated to the US. I use to shy away from embracing my Turkish culture growing up because I felt as if I wouldn’t fit in with the rest of the kids at the school I went to. As I’ve gotten older, I have reconnected with my upbringing and culture and appreciate it so much now. I have even started to incorporate Turkish/Middle Eastern influences in my music, which I am so excited about because it is a fresh new sound that’s not too common in pop music right now. I really think that the importance of music and dance in Turkish culture is what made me fall in love with music and entertainment so much because a big part of my childhood was spent dancing with family members and singing with each other!. Read more>>

Krista Svalbonas | Artist

I was born in the US in a small suburb outside of Philadelphia to parents who came to this country as refugees. That family history has made a significant impact on my life and my career as an artist. In 1941 under Soviet occupation, Stalin gave the order for an initial 132,000 mass deportations of the Baltic countries citizens to be sent to Siberia. These deportations were planned to continue, but they were halted when the German army gained control of the Baltic countries in 1942. Once in Siberia there was little food, little shelter and extreme climate conditions that in most cases lead to death. In 1944, The Soviet army was at the doorstep once more of the Baltic countries, forcing the German army to retreat. Knowing that the Soviet army would soon take over, and having lived through the mass deportations of 1941, thousands of Baltic citizens decided to flee their homeland amidst the falling bombs. Read more>>

Vincent Herrmann | Entrepreneur’s DNA

I’m originally from France and moved in Miami 11 years ago. I’m a self made man and i have never been an employee! Started my first company at 18 years old, I’m 45 now… I have been building my experience as an entrepreneur over the course of the time and throughout all the mistakes and success I have made. Being an entrepreneur is a mindset, accepting rough situation, enjoying small and big success is part of the path. Sometimes you have to jump in and take fast decisions and on the other side, stepping back, sleeping on things to take other decisions. It’s part of the balance to run your own businesses. I consider myself as a brand builder, leading and listening my team in order to get the best of them and serve the company’s goal and purpose. My background is more about communication and marketing in general, but I have acquired a general vision about a business whatever the field is. ICE DREAMS is a new experience, focus on building the brand and its voice, production and distribution until the store shelves. A very learning project with a large scope of work. Pretty exciting. Read more>>

Erin Cohen | Content Creator & Travel

My friends always say I’m full of surprises which happens to be really fitting because I was a surprise baby, or oopsie baby as I’ve heard it been called. My siblings are 12 and 14 years older than me so it was quite the dynamic between the 3 of us growing up in Pittsburgh. I was extremely outgoing as a little kid, singing, dancing, acting you name it, I was all about the stage. I was actually in a film when I was 9 years old with James Gardner and Joann Woodward. It’s interesting how things work out though. My dad passed away when I was 10 and overnight, I lost not only my father, but also a part of myself. After that I became quiet and reserved and never went back to the stage. Eventually I picked up tennis as a distraction. When I dedicate myself to something, I give it 120% so throwing myself into tennis was a great release for me and I became a top 20 ranked player in my age range and division. Read more>>