Amanda Grace Benitez is an actress, drummer, and an on-air radio personality from Los Angeles, CA. The talented actress is on the rise with a solid fan base and 11.1K Instagram followers. Amanda was born and raised in Los Angeles. Her parents worked as set decorators so she was surrounded by creativity from the beginning. There is a whimsical beauty about her and as she embodies a spirit of sensitivity and strength while having such a cool vibe. Benitez has great versatility and so much to five. Amanda is known for The Ranger, Emerson Heights, and School of Rock. While she was not busy drumming (Yes, she is a drummer) or auditioning, Gemma had the awesome opportunity to speak with the young and talented actress.
GM: Thank you for joining us to chat! Did you know you always wanted to act or be involved in the arts in some capacity?
Thank you for having me! No, I didn’t. I was the shyest kid growing up! My first love was dancing, which led to performing at my grammar school talent shows. Later on, I became the host of my 6th-grade talent show which is where I got the bug to act. Both of my parents are set decorators and I would fake being sick to ditch school and go to work with them because I loved the atmosphere on set. The actors really seemed like they enjoyed being there and I thought it would be a dream to play make believe for a living. I enjoy several aspects of performing, but I feel most fulfilled and in my element in front of the camera.
What was your first audition like?
Now that I look back, it was quite embarrassing! From what I can remember, an assistant brought me into the room where casting happened to be enjoying a ginormous lunch. My nine-year-old self-said to everyone, “I’ll wait till you’re all done
eating” in a matter-of-fact tone. Of course, everyone laughed, thought it was cute and my BARBIE audition continued. I was left feeling extremely confused because I thought it was rude to eat during my performance.
You play Amber in The Ranger. Can you please describe your character and the movie a bit?Also, what did you learn about the filmmaking process for a horror film?
AGB: Amber is the life of the party, complete with blue hair. She’s a free spirit who left her privileged background to try the punk scene on for size. At the end of the day, she’s just seeking acceptance and love, which happens to be all in the wrong places. Being a punk growing up, assuming the role of Amber was a natural fit. Amber meets the other punks at a warehouse party, high off of a hallucinogenic drug called “Echo.” Things get out of control and they all have to flee the area. The punks wind up traveling to the forest to start a whole new life; However, just when everything seems calm, they come into contact with an unhinged Park Ranger. An insane amount of detail is put into every frame. It’s more than just slash, gore, jump-scares, etc.
I can’t generalize all horror but in the case of our movie, there was an insane amount of detail put into the design of the film.
GM: How was the Newport Film Festival, which you recently attended for The Ranger?
AGB: It was incredible! Attending festivals are always interesting due to not knowing how the audience will receive your project. Newport had a punk energy and understood our film’s intention completely!
GM: You are always so fashionable with great style. Do you enjoy fashion?
AGB: Thank you so much! The only way I can express myself is through fashion. In my opinion, it’s the last art form left. Everything else has been done. Fashion is ever changing and you can become anything.
Tell me a bit about your experience in School of Rock.
It was an utter blast working with such an incredibly talented cast and crew. Being a trained drummer, it was awesome to take on the role of drummer girl, “Beth.” Not to mention, Pete Wentz from “Fall Out Boy” happened to be in one of the
episodes and being able to jam out with him was super cool!
You grew up in LA. I’m sure that you meet many young and aspiring actors from all over who have moved here. Do you give them advice about the industry?
Yes, I do! I tell them to always work on their craft, be true to yourself, stay humble and never give up.
Who are some of your favorite actresses?
I have been moved by many performances and this list could go on and on; However, Alicia Vikander, Natalie Portman, Emma Stone and Meryl Streep are my my favorite.
GM: Even though yougrew up here, what do you like to do for fun in LA?
AGB: I enjoy going out with my friends to hear live music, hit up swap meets, art shows and trying out new vegan spots.
Make sure to keep an eye out for Amanda Grace Benitez as she takes Hollywood by storm. You can follow Amanda on social media with the following links.
There is something admirable about a humble designer, and Michael Leyva (www.michaelleyva.com) fits the description. Humility is real, raw, and always keeps you grounded so that you are continually improving your craft. Therefore you learn not to take your talent for granted and an artist can keep growing. Welcome to the world of Fashion Designer Michael Leyva. Leyva has accomplished fusing an Eastern and Western aesthetic with his stunning designs. There are the classic Filipino characteristics combined with the contemporary and modern look from the American culture. His work is pure artistry and the definition of authenticity.
Michael’s rise to becoming one of Manila’s sought-after haute costume designers is a beautiful story of loss, fulfillment, hard work, and humility. The story continues with Michael Leyva bringing his embellished and elegant gowns to the Los Angeles fashion district as he continues to establish himself as the high fashion designer that he embodies. His work speaks for itself, but Michael also has a beautiful story.
For a touch of background, Michael Leyva did not always know he was destined to be a fashion designer. Leyva was a flight attendant and had spent many years training for this. However, he was not happy and felt that there was something more. During this time, he also went through the tragic event of losing his brother, famed fashion designer, Brian Leyva. Michael was Brian’s biggest fan, and they had a beautiful relationship. After much soul-searching, Leyva took this moment of loss and reinvented himself as a fashion designer, which brought great fulfillment.
Coming from the legacy of his brother, who was a renowned designer, Michael Leyva was able to pick up where Brian left off and continued the LEYVA brand. Ironically, an unfortunate and tragic event in the Leyva family turned out to be Michael’s defining moment of becoming a designer and began his journey in the world of fashion.
After years of training under Filipino Fashion Stewart, Mr. Jojie Lloren, Michael spent a few rapidly evolving years designing for the inner circles of celebrity clientele and created quite the buzz within the fashion industry. Embracing his philosophy of keen attention to detail and learning, Michael decided to refine his skills through his studies at the elite Central Saint Martins School in London. Michael also designs the most beautiful bridal gowns. They are romantic and dramatic.
Through his dedication and passion, Michael has established himself as one of the top couture designers throughout the Philippines and Asia, Michael has prepared himself to continue his immense and rapid growth by branching into and throughout the United States. After just one week after his arrival, his gowns were seen and applauded on the Daytime Emmys red carpet and stage between three presenters, winners, nominees, and producers. Leyva also made his LAFW debut in March of 2018. He featured on-trend couture designs and it was a successful show.
Michael never ceases to surprise both the local and global audiences with his design and craftsmanship. The story of Michael Leyva will continue to shine. His late brother Brian is always within his heart to guide, support and love.
Ava Justin is one motivated teen. She is a teenage actress but has been in front of the camera since the age of three. She’s beautiful — but more importantly, Ava is kind, grounded, and respects her craft. There is an immense amount of competition when it comes to teen actors, but Ava Justin takes it all in stride and has an incredible support system. She has 53.4K Instagram followers and a great fan base. Ava started young and is now growing into more mature roles. We cannot wait to see her shine!
Ava is based out of Minnesota but travels for booked gigs all over the country. “I’ve filmed a pilot in Florida and Chicago and filmed three projects out in Los Angeles.” “California is my second home,” says Justin.”I feel very blessed for the opportunities I’ve had so far and looking forward to what’s to come. God is good.” After speaking with Ava (as young as she is), I have deep respect for how she focuses upon the work instead of the “Hollywood game.” Ava is an authentic artist.
Recently, Ava has featured in several feature films currently playing on the National and International film festival circuit. You’ll spot her on the big screen side-by-side with Hollywood actors Brian White, Monica Calhoun, Loretta Devine and Sharon Leal on their feature film No Regrets which just premiered in New York. Ava just wrapped another excellent feature film playing a younger version of the very talented Hollywood actress Aurora Perrineau on the feature film Virginia Minnesota. Ava has a maturity and sense of composure beyond her years that is an asset on film sets while appreciating the priceless advice of prestigious talents.
In addition to the light that shines from within, Ava can memorize scripts quickly. She has had the opportunity to work with some of the most requested and sought-after directors and producers. Being bi-racial (Kenyan and American roots) has enhanced her unique range of looks. Her exotic looks combined with her extraordinary acting ability allows her to play multi-ethnic roles. Ava continues to excel in her academics as well. She’s also very athletic while participating in Fast Pitch Softball as a pitcher. Though she has a gorgeous look, she exhibits a unique Tom Boy trait as she tops her class in nearly every athletic event. Without a doubt, Ava Justin is busy but made time to talk with Gemma Magazine!
GM: Hi Ava! We are super excited to have you chat with Gemma Magazine. You have been acting from a very young age. How did this creative process start for you?
You are very welcome! I knew Acting was for me when after auditioning for many national commercials with many talented kids my age and I would get that call “Ava, you’re booked.” I started auditioning for bigger gigs around age 4. I believe because I started young, I got the feel of it and even though I still get nervous depending on the projects, I feel it helped me toughen up more. That helped me know I need to do my best, leave it all there and move on to the next.
GM: What was your first project?
I booked a pretty cool Halloween national project for Target, and that gave me hope and the confidence that I can do this, that I’m capable of booking great jobs. And yes, I started booking modeling gigs for different Toy catalogs than to commercial and films. I was booking many gigs before taking acting classes than when I started getting more into movies, that’s when I started doing acting classes, I say I was around the age 7.
GM: When are you not acting or auditioning how do you spend your time?
When I’m not acting, I’m busy taking photos for different photographers as a social media influencer and brand representative; I have been getting many cool opportunities to represent different brands which have been super fun. I also love sports, and I play softball. I’ve been the pitcher for my team now for the last three years.
GM: Who are some of your favorite actresses?
My favorite actress that I look up and Zendaya, Storm Reid and Lena Waithe. I love seeing people like me are represented on Television. It gives me a lot of hope, you know. Representation matters!
GM: You have a fantastic support system. Can you expand?
Both my Mom and Dad are such supportive people. There’s no way I’d be where I’m if I didn
GM: What is your current project?
I just wrapped up filming a very cool scene on the upcoming feature film Brother’s Keeper right opposite the Oscar-nominated and Emmy award-winning actor Laurence Fishburne. It was such a surreal moment that I’ll never forget. We got to talk after our scene, and the gave me amazingly inspirational wisdom. He’s a class act. I’m also in pre-production for a film that I’m incredibly excited about called Betta Fish where I’m playing one of the lead roles. I really can’t wait to get on set for this one.
Ava also has a business side to her. She recently created her brand of lip balms “Ava’s Luxury Cosmetics.” She sells the lip balms on Etsy! Make sure you check it out.
I would like to thank Ava Justin for chatting with Gemma Magazine. She has such an exciting future and we will be watching.To follow Ava on Social Media:
How would you like to Wear Art? Be Art? Then you must discover Mercedes Brunelli. Mercedes is an amazing up-and-coming clutch designer with pops of color and true artistry! Her clutches are strong statement makers and we are in love. Most importantly, Mercedes is has created an incredible niche and specifically within the fashion industry; this is important and smart. Most women adore accessories — especially couture cluthes.
Mercedes has always had a love for fashion and the Arts, even as a young girl growing up in Upstate New York. Her greatest inspiration came from her grandmother, whose love and enthusiasm to create influenced her own passion for design.Because of her long term battle with Multiple Myeloma, which never hindered her creativity, Mercedes donates a percentage of each bag sold to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation in her loving memory.
Her grandmother’s passion inspired Mercedes to create the exclusive “Jewel Collection.” Mercedes also created the Outre Collection, more of a nod to pop culture.
When Meredes had a a moment, we chatted and now Gemma Magazine is even more inspired.
GM: Thank you So much for joining Gemma Magazine! Firstly, your clutches are gorgeous! VDid you always know you wanted to be in the fashion industry?
MB: Thank you! I always had some type of idea that I would be involved in the Fashion industry. When I was younger I never wanted to look or dress like anyone else, so my grandmother bought me a sewing machine. I would go to thrift stores looking for unusual items and tear things apart and make my own designs and clothing. I eventually expanded to making clothes for my girlfriends and then word got out, and people would contact me to design garments for their special occasions. My ideal scenario was to design avant-garde runway looks. I always had a love for the idea of wearable art. Unfortunately the out of the box looks of the runway are not normal everyday attire, making it hard to make a living on those types of designs. When the opportunity to make wearable art clutches came about, I took it and ran with it!
GM: What inspires you as a designer?
MB: Really anything can inspire me, I thrive on coming up with unusual and never seen designs. I’m always looking to think outside the box and keep setting the bar h
GM: Tell me a bit about your realtionship with your grandmother
MB: My grandmother was an amazing woman who inspired and touched anyone who met her. She was my biggest source of inspiration in not only art but life in general. Everything that she touched and did she created something. Simple, everyday tasks like cooking, writing a letter, planting a garden, celebrating holidays, you name it, was done in such an amazing and artistic way. I was always encouraged to be creative and we were always making and “creating” together.
MB: I am currently working on a new collection, something very distinct and different from my other designs. You can expect very artistic and detail oriented designs, taking my favorite term “Wearable Art” to a new level.
GM: Do you want your brand to expand into other areas of fashion?
Absolutely! My ultimate goal is to have a matching “Wearable Art” Shoe line.
GM: I noticed so many actresses wear adorning your clutch at the Daytime Emmy Awards. What was this experience like?
It was such a fantastic experience, It’s so gratifying to see peoples reaction to my designs. Putting together an outfit for a red carpet event like the Emmy’s I think is every designers dream. Everyone has their own sense of style, and with so many different components its exciting to see the final finished product that walks down the red carpet.
GM: If you were not in fashion, what would you be doing?
Honestly I don’t think I would be doing anything else. This is who I am and what I Love to do.
I genuinely admire when a designer lives and beathes her brand and is always aspiring to grow. I cannot wait to see the new collection and what’s next! Mercedes is represented by Now PR LA and I thank her for joining us!
You can follow Mercedes through the following links: