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Portraits of Raleigh

It’s more important to understand someone than to judge them. We think the first step to understanding someone is asking them the fundamental questions about who they are and how they became the person they are today. Understanding and empathy are essential building blocks for a better, more compassionate world. We’re incredibly fortunate to be able to ask these questions each week through our interview series. Below you’ll find inspiring interviews from in and around Raleigh.

Mackenzie Sottini

I started as an elementary school teacher. When we moved to North Carolina in 2006, I returned to teaching when my children were school-aged. I loved every minute of teaching, growing, and mentoring young adults to be the best version of themselves. I loved being a part of families’ stories and creating opportunities to help in the community and beyond. I didn’t love the feeling that there was “more.” That my time and talents were ready for the next step. That my servant heart had more to give. And at the same time, I wanted to change the trajectory of my family. Read more>>

Tiffany Parker

I started performing as a singer and professional dancer in my early teens. And once I began, I never wanted to stop! It was such an outlet for me and a place where I could put the challenges of life. My journey took me from performing all over as a teen to recording my first professional demo in NYC when I was 17 to flying from my then home in Seattle to Los Angeles every weekend for music videos, recording sessions, and meetings. I began songwriting and recording songs for TV shows, films, and video games in 2010, and soon after, I relocated to LA to continue working in the music industry full time. Read more>>

Linda Seaman

We are Art and Linda Seaman. I (Linda) first became interested in natural healing and nutrition when my son Ryan was born. I wanted to give him only the best and made his baby food from scratch. My health journey began many years ago. I went back to work; unfortunately, life became busy and stressful. I fell into the trap of convenience and junk foods. It wasn’t uncommon for me to have lunch daily at McDonald’s and drink multiple sodas daily! Sadly, Cheetos and Chips Ahoy became my favorite binge foods. I’m convinced the stress and poor diet created a lot of health issues for me. In 2013 my mother was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer. This was a reawakening for me. It brought me to my knees and back to my roots, and back to my commitment to live well. Read more>>

Lecandra Edwards

Hi, My Name is Lecandra Edwards. My family and friends have called me Candy since I was one year old. I was raised in Selma, NC, and stayed there most of my life. I spent most of my time at my Nanny Kay’s house, even on school nights. My Uncle Doug had Diabetes as a young child, and I watched my grandmother care for him. He was blind in both eyes, so he would ask me to give him his insulin dosage with meals. I would Click the Insulin pin to how many times he would say. I developed a love for helping people, even strangers. During my senior year of High School, I had my son. I knew at that moment I wanted more for him and me, even my future children and their children. Today I have a 13-year-old daughter as well, who wants to start a body care line. I’m honored to be able to help her on that journey! Read more>>

Erin Boone

I started photography when I was 14. My grandfather had given me a camera he wasn’t using, and I quickly became fascinated with finding new perspectives of objects around the house. Later that year, I took my brother’s high school graduation photos, and soon friends started asking me to take their portraits (shout out to everyone who took a chance on little Erin!). That’s when I realized I might be able to do a business out of my passion. Read more>>

Anna Jordan and McAllister Stowe

We (Anna and McAllister) became friends during our first year of college when we were in the same business class at UNC. As soon as we joined the same sorority sophomore year (Phi Mu), we became best friends! We loved eating meals at the Phi Mu house together and trying new restaurants on Franklin Street. Anna had a private food Instagram at the time that she only shared with her close friends. We started brainstorming an idea for a public food Instagram to share all of our foodie adventures with the world. While sipping iced lattes at The Coffee Mill in Lewisville over winter break our sophomore year, Anna and I created the food Instagram sweet-salty. Sisters. Between the two of us, we have tried numerous restaurants in RTP and beyond through our travels. The rest is history! The support and excitement in the foodie community have been truly unmatched. Read more>>

Kelly Schrader

I was born and raised in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Art was always there – I was always drawn to visual expression, especially as a shy child hiding behind my parents’ legs, unable to voice my order at McDonald’s, or running in absolute fear from the sound of a ringing phone. As a kid, I spent most of my free time drawing and, at one point, even created a self-published comic series to a circulation of all 4 family members. The validation of someone seeing a drawing, understanding that content, and even laughing at the ideas I was trying to represent was thrilling. Read more>>

Tamika Harris

I started my business last May in the year 2021. When I first started, I barely had any clients, and I had worked in the comfort of my home for about 9 months. Taking different classes to help expand my clientele and my experience in the industry. My business is considered the financial industry by specializing in credit repair, business credit, life insurance & investment broker. By being as young as I am, not many young people care about their credit, as in building it up so they could potentially buy a home or their dream car with little as no money. Read more>>

Angelica McDonald

Since high school, I knew I wanted to work in the sports industry and be my boss. My dreams transitioned from aspiring to be a college basketball recruiter to a sports agent. While in college, I was dating a guy who encouraged me to attend law school, so I attended law school at North Carolina Central University School of Law and received my JD in 2014. I took it a step further because I’m a nerd and got an LL.M (Master of Laws) and an advanced law degree in Entertainment and Media Law. Read more>>

Anthony Sorbellini

I started sports photojournalism as a hobby while earning my bachelor’s in journalism, enrolled in grad school at Iona College, and covered all sports at Iona while also covering sports around the New York City area. After grad school, I was hired by the NBA while I was a freelance sports photographer on the side. I was let go from the NBA due to Covid, leading me to freelance full time and becoming a freelancer for Iona College, then Minor League Baseball and the Hudson Valley Renegades. After completing my contract with the Renegades, I saw a job application for a staff photographer position with the University of North Carolina Tar Heels and applied for the hell of it. I was hired by UNC in October and moved from New York to North Carolina, and it’s the best thing I have ever done. Read more>>

David Emerick

I suppose it’s always best to start with your foundation. I grew up in a lower-middle-class family. I was born in Fayetteville, NC. My father did three tours in Vietnam, one in the Army as a helicopter door gunner and two with the Marines as a scout sniper. After that, he went into law enforcement. He didn’t have such a sense of humor; he wasn’t the kind, cuddly dad, but he was a good father. People would often hear about my dad’s military service and say he was a hero. I LEARNED WHAT A HERO WAS when I was old enough to understand that he would work two or three extra jobs starting in September or October just so my older brother and I would have a good Christmas.  Read more>>

Dr. Chelsea Mancuso, PT, DPT, CIDN and Dr. Amanda Brewer, PT, DPT

We met while working at a corporate physical therapy office. What we’ve seen in our profession that has gradually increased over the last several years is that corporate PT offices aim to get as many patient visits per day as possible. Larger corporations do this because insurance companies are reimbursing less and less for physical therapy services. This means each physical therapist was treating 2-3 patients per hour, which unfortunately means patients weren’t getting the direct attention from the physical therapist they deserve. As you can imagine, this was exhausting, left us feeling helpless and did not make us excited to go to work each day. Read more>>

Sarah DeStefano

I began making my original product, a salad dressing, 10 years ago for several family members with health challenges that mandated minimal salt and sugar use. Through the years, we started using it as a dip for fruits, crackers, bread, and veggies, as well as a marinade for most proteins. When we decided in 2021 to complete the process of bringing our product to market, we spent several months perfecting (and making healthier) the recipe. We completed our labeling and initial inspection in early 2020. During the pandemic, we were able to sell our product at the Holly Springs and Pittsboro Farmers Markets and have grown through word of mouth and selling at additional specialty food events.  Read more>>

Destini Richlin

I went to school in Pennsylvania for graphic design, and my now-extinct for-profit college offered me a job in a Staples copy center as my post-grad placement. Having worked in retail part-time while going to college full-time, more retail wasn’t the step I wanted to make. So I left my retail job and started visual.destini, a design studio (primarily virtual), and started using freelance sites to find projects, gigs, jobs – anything that would let me turn a profit and hone my skills.  Read more>>

Shalon Burruss

Shador Studio was established by two sisters who have a love for beauty. For years, Dior Davenport and Shalon Burruss were regular clients of some of the most popular lash spas in the Seattle metropolitan area. Dior and Shalon realized at one of their appointments how lucrative the beauty industry was. After both were laid off from their jobs on the same day, they realized it was a sign from God that something new was coming. That is when they both decided to return to school to become licensed estheticians. Read more>>

LaTeesha Hollis

Our History Charlotte native and East-Sider Starts Nonprofit. Touching Lives Totally, Inc. may be a new official nonprofit in 2020, but the Touching Lives team and who they have impacted have been over 20 years in the making. TLT seeks to provide experiences that positively impact the lives of black girls of all economic backgrounds, emphasizing five pillars — service, leadership, enlightenment, mental health, and the arts (performing and literary). It began as an informal organization when founder LaTeesha Hollis of East Charlotte, Read more>>

Lacrisha Holcomb

I have been fascinated with the human condition and mind since I was a child delving into books to psychoanalyze and vicariously connect with characters. Although I was not sure of my career destination at first, there was never a doubt that my goal would entail engendering meaningful, transformative change by providing service to people in need. As a student at Howard University, I volunteered in numerous community service organizations, which confirmed my desire to uplift and emotionally empower people. Upon graduation, I was recruited as a teacher in Teach for America to serve underprivileged communities. I gained immeasurable life and career experience in understanding the psychological impact of tribulations in home environments that manifested within the students and, inevitably, the classroom. Read more>>

Raven Robinson

Posh Elite Society: I created NC pink and white fest & NC elite greek cookout.1st annual Pink & white fest sold out within 5 mins in 2021.NC Elite Greek Cookout is all Celebrations of black excellence. While we network and promote support for small businesses. You all have opportunities right in your hands by building connections. Read more>>

Andrew Camilo Tayaca

Part of Gifted and talented in middle school 2006-2010 In high school top set for maths and English and science 2011- 2015 2007-2011 dancing and acting school “center stage.” Performed in multiple plays and dance shows.
Competing in swimming, soccer, and athletics. Represented Enfield swim squad SC from 2007 to 2013. Borough 50m individual breaststroke champion multiple years. Enfield borough schools athletics 800m and cross country champion from 2011- 2015 Read more>>

Darren Atkins

I was born in Australia, moved to NYC when I was 21, and landed a fashion business job. I was working with Italians who inspired me to learn the Italian language and delve into regional Italian cooking. I went to culinary school ( International Culinary Center-formerly FCI) in 2000. I staged at Beppe, Chef Cesare Casella’s first New York City restaurant, during culinary school. I went on to work at another of Cesare’s restaurants, Salumeria Rosi, where I learned about the world of Salumi! I traveled extensively throughout Italy, getting inspired someday to open my little Alimentari/Salumeria/Pasta shop. I worked at several other restaurants while in NYC, Felidia, Ciano, and Storico, to name a few, where I explored my other culinary passion-pasta making. Read more>>

Rachel Lawrence

My photography interest budded when I would see other photographers take such spectacular pictures, and I wanted to recreate them! At first, I only had a dog and a husband who were reluctant to model for dozens of photo shoots, so I put photography on the back burner and focused more on teaching. It wasn’t until I left teaching and became a stay-at-home mom that I was able to dive back into photography. I posed my daughter every month for each holiday and milestone, and it wasn’t until my friends and family started telling me how adorable the pictures were that I realized I could do this for other families. Read more>>

Sophia Taylor

After 2 years of providing breastfeeding advice in the office, I am branching beyond the clinical setting of Lactation Counseling and reaching families in their familiar atmospheres. I started my career in healthcare in 2012 when I became a CNA, which led me to go back to school to become a Nurse. Working in pediatrics, I have access to families that genuinely want and need to breastfeed their children and offer a healthier and natural alternative to their baby. I breastfed my 4 daughters for 8 years, with many tears, trials, errors, and successes. So to provide my clients with the tools and advice I wished I was offered when breastfeeding my daughters, I enrolled in a course to become a Certified Lactation Counselor. I believe this was one of the best decisions I have made. Read more>>

Sara MacDonald

Hi! I’m Sara, a Boudoir/Luxury Intimate Photographer in the Clayton/Raleigh area; I own and operate Blooming Magnolia Photography. I am a wife to my hubby of 10 years and a mommy to my 3 beautiful girls (ages 7, 4, and 3). As a child, I was enamored by the arts. I loved to sing & write songs, dance, perform, draw, paint, and take pictures with disposable cameras that my mom and grandma would buy me; you name it, I wanted to do it. Music and Art are two of my biggest passions. Read more>>

Christy Wood

I am a California native who came to North Carolina in 2004 on a wing and prayer. After a long career in the sales and marketing arena, I moved to North Carolina to create a different life for my family. I worked in retail development for Nascar’s corporate office in downtown Charlotte for the first two years in the State. I was eager to create a business where I would have the flexibility while my children were young and still in school. I longed to make a difference in my life and others. Read more>>

Santa Bill Himes

In November 2015, the PTA president volunteered me to be the Santa Claus for our high school winter craft festival, welcoming guests and sitting for pictures with children. Until that time, portraying Santa had never even crossed my mind. They rented a suit for me and created a small set for us to take pictures. I was pretty nervous, as I had no idea how to portray Santa, except for what I had seen on TV shows and movies. Read more>>

Evan Jenkins

After singing everywhere I walked when I was a toddler, I began learning blues piano from my grandfather around 8. I grew up on Ray Charles, the Beatles & Steely Dan. All influenced my writing, production, and sound, most importantly, feeling. Writing great stories but delivering them was just as important, if not more. I graduated from music school and moved to Nashville with a recording project. That turned into me wanting to live permanently in Nashville and begin my artist career! Read more>>

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