They say that great dancers are not great solely because of their technique, they are great because of their passion. For Tristian Griffin, dancing is not only his passion, it is a way of life, it is a way in which he is able to express himself; the hidden language of his soul. Griffin was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, where he began his path to dancing. At a very young age, he always knew he was meant to pursue a career in dance. He started dancing at 11 years old alongside his brother. When Griffin was in highschool, he decided to become a ballet dancer.
While in highschool, he danced with the Kansas City youth ballet for 4 years. From there, he received a scholarship from the dance department at Texas Christian University (TCU), which allowed him to be able to attend the school, having little to no financial burden. Griffin was fortunate enough to have been able to dance at TCU for 4 years. The times spent at the university provided him with opportunities that impacted his future in dance forever; opportunities such as having one of his choreographed pieces chosen at ACFA (a national college conference). Not long after graduating from TCU, Griffin joined Garth Fagan Dance Company; Garth Fagan is the choreographer for Lion King the Musical. Fagan’s work is influenced by a lot of Afro-Caribbean music and styles. Griffin danced for Fagan for about 3 years. In those 3 years, he grew immensely in his skills and technique as a ballet dancer, which only fueled his passion all the more. After dancing with Garth Fagan Dance Company, Griffin decided it was time to step out on his own by becoming his own boss.
This new journey of stepping out on his own afforded him more opportunities, such as dancing at the Kennedy Center, Jacob’s Pillow, as well as at the Metropolitan Opera House. Griffin decided to make his way back home to Kansas City, where he quickly noticed that the arts, specifically dance, was now more accepted and growing in the community. He is now recognized as a full time company member with Williams Henry. He has been a Charlotte Street Studio resident for about 2 years now. Griffin was also awarded an Inspirational grant in 2019 by Arts KC, and by InterUrban ArtHouse earlier in 2020. All of these opportunities and more, was a force in driving Griffin to officially start his company, Tristan Griffin Dance Company.
Although Griffin has been successful in his dance career thus far, he was not exempted from the challenges and obstacles one faces when working toward a goal. Griffin dealt with discrimination against the color of his skin and was often judged based on his decision to be a professional dancer. He expresses that when he first started sharing with people that he was a dancer, he received a lot of eyebrow raises because oftentimes, society views dancing as a hobby rather than a talent one can make a living from. Griffin goes on to share that it was very challenging being a black, male ballet dancer. He dealt with not being accepted at first simply because he was black. When it came to overcoming all of these challenges, he shares that he learned to stand up for himself. When he felt that he was being judged or being discriminated against, he would speak up by letting that person(s) know that what they are doing or saying is not okay. His biggest motivator to keep going is his faith in God and the support of his family.
Yahzmine Jackson is the founder of PhenomenalKC, an organization dedicated to providing networking opportunities as well as business and professional development to women. Jackson provides this network opportunity by hosting different events based on various topics that aid in the growth of the women that attend. Speakers are invited to give their advice and testimonies to the ladies. PhenomenalKC strives to cultivate sisterhood through organized events in the hopes of forming new personal and professional relationships. Branding services are also provided which include graphic design for male and female clients. Jackson found her purpose through this work of providing business and professional education to uplift those in her community.
Jackson always found herself in a position of teaching girls & women. Her journey began at 12 years old when she became a junior dance assistant at her dance studio. From junior dance assistant, she later became captain of her highschool dance team, leading up to coaching upon graduating and becoming a mentor to the girls she coached on the team. Through this leadership mentor position she took on, she began to realize she had a natural gift to impact the lives of other women around her whether it be on a personal level or by finding the proper resources to help on a professional level.
Jackson believes the work she does with her organization is a necessity simply because there are so many women who have great potential for greatness and success but lack the guidance to get them to the next steps on the journey. Jackson believes her life experience, perspective and will to teach can help support women who struggle with building relationships, professionalism and etiquette that just need to be taught.
Jackson reveals that it isn't easy building a business and it comes with the constant need to validate the importance and positive impact one's company can have on the lives of others. There have been plenty of times when she’s questioned whether she was doing everything she needed to do.
Throughout her journey, Covid-19 has been the biggest obstacle thus far for Jackson because without the network events and social gatherings to connect professionals, a lot of the business has been put on hold. However, Jackson was able to keep her brand’s momentum through graphic design which aided in staying relevant and allowed her to continue to pursue her passion of uplifting women. When there are obstacles to overcome, Jackson reminds herself that what she has to offer as far as mentorship, guidance in professionalism, and means of connections will draw people who are seeking for the opportunity to learn. She continues to think outside the box to figure out new methods to reach people and resumes to have faith.
Jackson’s faith keeps her going despite the obstacles that seem too difficult. She believes that if she continues to walk boldly in her purpose, her goals will be met with success.
Jackson plans for PhenomenalKC to be known across the country and internationally. In the future, she hopes that PhenomenalKC will be able to hold annual conferences where hundreds of women show up to gain knowledge and keys to success. Also bring more accessibility to those who are hungry for the information, stations set in communities across the U.S. so that this information and events are always accessible to the public and their members.
We asked Yahzmine Jackson what Valiance means to her,
“To me, Valiance means to be courageous. It means doing what others can’t do or are unable to do. Being able to take the risk for others that will benefit us all.”
Follow Yahzmine Jackson’s journey via her social media platform @Yahzmine @PhenomenalKC
Evan Brown is a Kansas City based painter and illustrator with an immense passion for what he does. After graduating from the University of Kansas with a degree in Illustration, Brown formed Doodle Dood LLC, a business that centers around his desire to use creativity to promote positivity, growth and change in the minds of kids and adults alike. Brown always draws and paints his work traditionally out of his love for the fine arts and desire to bring the art and illustration worlds together. With a deep passion for incorporating nature’s optical intricacies and vibrant color pallet into his imagery, Brown aims to take his viewers on a whimsical journey through the unknown, working to visually stimulate non-visual sensations such as thought, sound, and consciousness. Most importantly, Brown enjoys all things out of the ordinary and wants nothing more than to create art that makes people smile!
Doodle Dood LLC was established in the summer of 2016; Brown was sitting alone in his dorm room at George Washington University while fulfilling a summer internship in Washington D.C. At the time Brown was unhappy with the direction that his work was going, and in an effort to completely rebrand his style, he decided to open up an Instagram account and begin a daily drawing project. After hundreds of drawings and an overwhelmingly positive reception for his new body of work, Brown concluded that it was time to bring his product to market.
The first product brought to market was the release of a coloring book line. Brown’s curiosity quickly led him to begin pushing the boundaries of traditional art and design in just about every way possible. Since 2016, Brown has built a prolific body of drawings and paintings that now serve as the framework for the line of products that he distributes through Doodle Dood LLC. Whether it be repurposed 3 dimensional objects, canvas paintings, public murals, apparel, merchandise, accessories, and most recently, the development of his own children’s book.
“There is certainly no shortage of what you will find coming out of the studio of the Doodle Dood."
Being an up and coming musician oftentimes means wearing all the hats to ensure success. Ivy is a singer, songwriter, producer, and the owner of Ivy Roots Music publishing LLC. She has played many roles in her artistry, from writing and playing instruments, to executively producing my own music and shows. Ivy started her journey in being a musician at a very young age. As a child she created through writing stories, then her stories became songs. Musicals became an influence in her singing. Ivy watched a lot of musicals, as well as playing in a lot of musicals. She sang in the church and school choir. She then began piano lessons in highschool and later picked up guitar. Ivy believes that teaching herself guitar really pushed her to become a serious writer. While in college, Ivy studied audio engineering which helped her hone her skills as a producer. She would go to dirty basement jam sessions that helped shape her into a fearless performer. Although she hasn’t completely gotten the business of music all figured out yet, she’s further along today than she was yesterday.
“The business of music is so intricate because everyone has a unique journey but I'm very grateful for mine.”
Music has always been an escape for Ivy. For as long as she could remember, she was always creating stories and songs. Music is a place to be free, and a form of expression that she has a deep appreciation for. Music is a way for her to stay sane and inspire others. She does it because she believes she has a voice and a gift to share with the world and will not be silenced. Ivy is consistently pursuing her dreams because it’s simply who she is. She believes that not having music would be slow and painful for her spirit. Ivy continues to do what she does to transform her pain into something beautiful that she can share with the world. She does it to become a living breathing embodiment of the alchemy that is possible when you believe in yourself.
Throughout her journey, Ivy shares some of the obstacles that she had to overcome. She had her fair share of struggles. She struggled financially. She took the bus to gigs, walked miles with a guitar on her back, being told negative things by people who are close to her, has had her equipment stolen from her, been stranded on tour, and has taken some cold shoulders from casting directors and industry professionals. She survived an abusive relationship that taught her much more than she could imagine. She has struggled with her mental health, her sexuality and her spirituality. Learning to take care of herself first, loving herself first and realizing her health and spirit are the most important assets were ways in which Ivy was able to start overcoming her obstacles. An immense part of overcoming is walking into the realization that everyone understands from their own perception.
“Imagine waking from a layered dream to find yourself in another dream then waking from that into real life. Dreams are clues from your subconscious on how to navigate the next waking state. To be present in life (the dream) is to receive all we need for the next waking state.”
In this day-in-age, the limit is beyond the sky in what you can and cannot do. We are no longer bound to having one job or focusing solely on one skill. This millennial is one that puts her skills and abilities to use in all aspects of life. Dulcinea Herrera is a New Mexico native and Kansas City based artist, model, and social media marketer. Herrera is of Argentinian and Native American descent. At the age of fourteen, she started painting after the death of her grandfather who was her caregiver growing up. Hererra engages in the visual rhetoric of the heroic, powerful, and majestic women of color. She also ranges from representation of minority peoples to abstract paintings and still lives.
Herrera is a print, commercial, and runway model representing Latina beauty. She has been modeling for over 3 years now and has made appearances with celebrities and in international commercials and shows.
Herrera also does social media marketing for various businesses in Kansas City with the goal of growing local POC business. Along with the social media company, Herrera and her parents also own a Latin coffee shop in Kansas City called Café Corazón. The café has been a bigger success than imagined and they are currently working on a new location.
Herrera has faced many hardships in her life; one being that she had many family deaths which was a reason for moving to Kansas City. Herrera grew up very poor in a rural part of New Mexico. When she and her family made the decision to move to Kansas City, it was a hard one because they had to adapt to new life. Since the move, she has been thriving in all parts of her life.
To Dulcinea Herrera, Valiance is an everyday part of life. She takes every opportunity she gets because she knows what it is like to not have any. She will continue pursuing her passion and skills because she knows she will see only better things to come within 2021.
Follow her journey on her social media platform @dulcinea_bh
Esteban Leal is an audio engineer and music producer in the Kansas City area. Leal has been producing music for about 3 years now. Within that time he got his degree in audio engineering and has worked with several artists in Kansas City and around the country. He has also met with great creators and entrepreneurs along the way.
Leal has a passion for music in all aspects of what music is. For Leal, it started from listening to a lot of music while he was growing up, and wondering how so many cool sounds were made and put together. His curiosity led him to buying a laptop and downloading his first music software, FL studio, which led him to diving into the endless world of music.
The driving force for Leal’s passion for music is that he simply loves to create. For him, It doesn't matter whether it’s getting together with another producer and making beats or making a full song with an artist. His enjoyment lies in every minute he is able to let his creativity flow and manifest into something new.
Leal expresses that he is fortunate enough that he has yet to be faced with any obstacles that would determine his future and pursuit towards music. His biggest support system has been his family. Being able to lean on them when in need of encouragement and a boost of confidence has allowed him to maintain his courage to pursue being a music producer. With his talent, in the future, Leal hopes he can make a full time living out of music, as well as bringing more unity and opportunities in the local Kansas City music scene.
We asked Esteban Leal what Valiance means to him,
“To me, Valiance means opportunity and a chance to be heard, something I one day wish to offer others in my community.”
Check out more of Esteban Leal, A.K.A Andres Beats on Instagram @andresmoneyhowndz and music platforms.