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Hidden Gems: Local Businesses & Creatives You Should Know

Every day we have a choice. We can support an up and coming podcaster, try a new family-run restaurant, join a boutique gym started by a local fitness champ or we could keep giving away our money to the handful of giants who already control so much of our commerce. Our daily decisions impact the kind world we live in; if we want a world where small businesses are growing and artists and creatives are thriving then we should support them with our time, money and attention. We’re proud to highlight inspiring creatives and entrepreneurs each week in Hidden Gems series. Check out some of our latest local gem features below.

Bonnie Esslinger

Back in 1991, just before I graduated from college, I told my husband that I didn’t think I was supposed to be a teacher, I was supposed to have an antique store. He gently reminded me that my parents had just spent a lot of money on tuition, and we currently had about $24 in our joint bank account, so that might not be the most practical career choice at that point in our lives. So a teacher I became, then a stay at home mom, followed by many entrepreneurial pursuits, including a bed and breakfast. In 2012, we moved to Columbia and I was shocked at the lack of vintage shopping opportunities in such a historic town. When the perfect little cottage became available in 2015, I took the plunge and opened Bleu 32. I filled the 1100 square foot space with my inventory, and it was very well received. So much so that a year later when a 7000 square foot space became available on the square downtown, I had plenty of quality vendors ready to sign up to be a part of our Vintage Marketplace. Read more>>

Cam Williamson

Cam Williamson is the founder of the #Shatterit Movement & host of The Road 2 Redemption Podcast. Cam was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio where he left in 2010 to peruse the military after a difficult upbringing. Cam ended his U.S. Army career in 2018 after a trying deployment to Guantanamo Bay. The Shatter it Movement / R2R Podcast was started circa 2016 after Cam fought for his life in a 10 year alcoholism/mental health battle. In October of 2016, Cam walked out of his terrible situation and made a promise that he would SHATTER the labels & stigmas surrounding, Mental Health and Substance Abuse. Now, with years of sobriety under his belt and the tools that were used to achieve it, it’s time to keep that promise! Cam is an influential Internet personality sharing his stories and life lessons for anyone hurting and searching!. Read more>>

Clayton Mann

Hi, I’m Clayton Mann from Nashville. It was my Papaw Doc who really got me into music when I was just 3 years old. He’d sit with me and sing Elvis and Tom Jones. I was just born loud and enjoyed singing with him. I played a little bit of piano and the cello in the school orchestra. I started playing guitar when I was 10 years old and my twin brothers and I started a classic rock band.  Read more>>

Israel Garcia

I started back in 2004 working for a tv network back in Ecuador, my Country. I started as a Production Assistant and since then. My career developed in ways I never expected. I became a producer of numerous commercials and a couple Movies in Ecuador. In 2012 I came to the USA with my wife Martha, and I went to MTSU to get my degree in film production. After graduating, we opened our own Video Production Company, Bad Iguana Productions. Read more>>

Michael Taylor

A few years ago in 2018, I was suicidal. Finding motivation for anything was extremely hard, it sucked to go out of my house and do anything honestly. I ended up finding Christ through the help of a few friends, however, and since then I was exposed to a lot of random hobbies and talents that I wasn’t aware that I had until then. I began writing music and poems while also doing an insane amount of photography because I just found that it was just a fun little side thing to show people the world through my eyes. It wasn’t until I went to Europe in 2019 that I started to take it a bit more seriously, as the group that I went with designated me as the photographer for everyone (keep in mind that it was about 30 people that I had to shoot for). Since then, off and on, I’ll go out and explore and just take tons and tons of photos as a release for built-up stress and other negative emotions. It is really one of my biggest bailouts from the surrounding world. Read more>>

Ben Garrett

I’ve been making music, touring, and producing records since I was 15 or so. I grew up in Iowa and toured with my band every weekend. I was playing festivals, opening up for Hanson, Relient K, and playing regional indie rock shows as much as possible. In 2011, I relocated to the amazing music city of, Minneapolis, where I started to play shows and make records on another level, with the help of an incredibly creative indie scene. In 2015, I moved to Nashville, TN to start side-guying as a guitarist, keyboardist, and singer in a touring and recording capacity. I quickly was reminded of my first love – and that was writing and playing shows with my own music. I quickly started putting together, Iron Range, my indie rock band, that features dear friends from the midwest. We released our first record last fall and have a follow up single and album this fall. Read more>>

Molly Reed

Pyroglyphics was formed by a group of five young, passionate women, enamored with fire dancing and eager to share our love of performance and create a career out of our passion. After coming together to create a featured act for Solasta festival, it was evident we were embarking on a journey that would take us beyond where any of us imagined. As our interests grew beyond just fire dancing, our members began to pursue aerial arts as well as diving deep into exploring different styles of dance. We also became invested in producing and shooting video projects, which has allowed us to share our story telling and show our ability to curate visions. Each of us bring something different to the table, and outside of being performers, we have talented graphic designers, video editors, metal workers, and seamstresses on our team, which has all contributed greatly to our success. Read more>>

Mitch Santos

I always felt like I stumbled into graphic design. While I had a natural aptitude for art growing up, I saw myself going into a different creative direction. I thought I was destined to work behind the camera in the film industry or that I would dabble in the culinary arts. You know, something’ fun.’ Needless to say, life had a different idea in mind. I went to university chasing a girl. Classic right? The problem with chasing a girl to school meant that it catered to her professional future and not mine. And so, with all the intentions of following a different path, I ended up in a place with no film or culinary program. As a happy accident, the guy that lived across the hall from me my freshman year was a graphic design student. I would talk to him about his projects and process and just watch him work sometimes. And so, on a whim, I took a few design classes as a way of picking up some digital skills. I started with InDesign and found I had a natural aptitude for it. From my first poster design, I was hooked. And just like that, I knew design was my future. Read more>>

Celeste Parker

My story begins as an only child with no one to entertain me but myself. Having so much freedom and space, I was constantly imagining and creating, always bringing my latest art project to my parents. Growing older, I was blessed with three younger siblings who would take art lessons, or go to art camp with me, and I was always encouraged to take all of the art classes at school. Even though I loved having a creative outlet, I never thought of art or design as a career path. My family is full of entrepreneurs, so I thought that I wanted to do marketing and eventually open my own business in the future, whatever that was. I took a digital design class senior year of high school just for fun, thinking it might be useful to know some software, but to my surprise, I found a way to combine my love of art and my passion for business. I looked into graphic design as a career and realized that it was the perfect middle ground of all my interests, while still giving me the freedom that I desired. Read more>>

Elizabeth Nord

While in college at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville (and taking photography courses at night) getting my economics degree, I began my photography business part time. I was encouraged by my professors to start the business and one of them ended up being a long time mentor and friend. I photographed my first wedding in 2011 and was immediately hooked! I loved everything about it. A few years later, after much success, I decided to take my photography business full time and moved to Chicago with my husband. I spent 6 years there building my business and photographing the most amazing people and weddings. In 2020, we moved back (although I still go back to Chicago often for weddings and sessions) and am so excited to call Tennessee our home once again!. Read more>>

Morgan Scheel

BIZKIDZ Talent Coaching is a boutique performing & creative arts studio. We offer private coaching, artist development, artist management, unique workshops, small group classes and training programs. BIZKIDZ is what I like to refer to as my “encore career”. BIZKIDZ was Inspired by my daughter and my love for the arts and coaching passionate and talented children. The creative and performing arts have been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. I am excited to pass on my knowledge and experience to my BIZKIDZ. I love to help them with the “good & the “really hard stuff”! My main goal each day is to help them build confidence, self-esteem. and inner strength. Teaching them performance skills is definitely fun but at the end of the day for me, it is all about teaching them how to make smart choices, overcome obstacles, have stellar work ethic, and how to allow their light to shine as only they can are the best parts of my day. Read more>>

Jam Stewart

I’ve been doing events since I was a six-year-old kid helping plan the arrival of my little sister. While kids my age were playing Legos and with the Easy Bake Oven, I was creating elaborately themed parties for my stuffed animals. And really, not much has changed as I moved into adulthood. I’ve always gotten my creative juices flowing when planning party. Professionally, events have always been a part of my remit and now I get to stretch my creativity even further with Picnic PopUp. We came up with the idea in early 2020 and wrote a business plan. And then the pandemic hit and we had to hit pause to deal with the many challenges we were all facing as life suddenly changed overnight. But as early summer sprung, we realized that the pandemic actually provided a unique opportunity for us and we went to work again on bringing the idea to life. People were starting to feel cooped up at home and hadn’t been able to get out to see friends. Everything was shut down and so many people were looking at socially distanced ways to reconnect. Read more>>

Tristan Duplichain

As a young child, I always loved taking disposable cameras on vacations and getting them back in the mail. I grew up doing beauty pageants and always loved seeing my before and after images when my parents would send off my images to be edited. Social media was slowly starting with MySpace and Xanga at age 11, where I loved coding my backgrounds and doing graphic design for my photos and home pages. When I turned 15, I started my first job at a local ice cream shop. I saved for a year and bought my first camera, a canon t1i as well as my first car. Once I started driving I would go out and take photographs of myself and my best friends. I forgot to mention I was homeschooled so I took a vocational class in “digital media technology” at a local community college when I was 15 and finished my second year at 17.” When I left I had a lot of amazing knowledge in Adobe software and even had certifications coming out of the class which led me to test out of college courses and shorten my time in college. I was graduated from Antonelli community college a month before my 19th birthday. Read more>>

Maliyah Bass

Rolled 4 Ever Ice Cream was found in June of 2018 by Maliyah Bass and Bariangela Segovia. It all begin with a spring break trip their junior year of college to New York City. The two graduates of Middle Tennessee State University and Belmont University believed the idea of Rolled Ice Cream was such a cool concept, they imagined making it mobile, via food truck, would add a unique twist. Since, Rolled 4 Ever Ice Cream has grown tremendously. In October of 2020, Rolled 4 Ever Ice Cream opened there first storefront location in Germantown (Greater Nashville). The store also expanded there menu and now sale JoJos (Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches, Milkshakes and Pints). Non-dairy and Gluten-Free option are available as well!. Read more>>

Esther Greene

I’ve been traveling solo for over 20 years and one of the quirks about traveling on your own is that something always goes wrong and there’s nobody else with you to lend perspective or help you fix it! I prosthelytize about solo travel all the time because I think it’s incredibly empowering and surprisingly fun, but a couple of years ago I did a solo trip to Tulum for my birthday and encountered, by far, the most complications I’d ever experienced on a trip. Work had been really busy during the planning stage so I just printed out a ton of info and planned to figure my activities out on the flight… but then I was running late for the airport and forgot my trip folder, so the complications started at step one! I then proceeded to lose my debit card on the first day, and then just hit issue after issue like trip providers not accepting bookings for groups smaller than four, dealing with analysis paralysis because I didn’t know which of the activities around me were worth the effort & cost, and logistics like there not being any Ubers but the cab drivers would only accept cash. Read more>>

Amanda Howard

My story begins as a young dancer at The School of Nashville Ballet where we were required to take Pilates every Saturday and I absolutely hated it because it was HARD! Fast forward to college, where I received my BA in dance from Columbia College Chicago and then began dancing in NYC and then professionally for 10 years in Chicago with The Seldoms. Throughout this time I worked at the front desk and then trained to become a Pilates instructor at Frog Temple Pilates. in Chicago. I absolutely fell in love with Pilates and all that it helped me with as a professional dancer and all other aspects of my life at the time. My husband and I decided to move back to Nashville after 12 years in Chicago and have a family. The journey has been more than we ever expected, Two pregnancies- One daughter and twin boys two years apart. I knew that I loved Pilates, but I truly did not understand how much this methodology would help me during and especially after pregnancy. Read more>>

Tiffany Anton

As a former high school teacher, I have always had a passion for helping others. I decided to “retire” from teaching in 2011 to take some time with my daughter at home. Fast forward to 2015, now a mom to two beautiful girls, I decided it was time to get back into the workforce. I dabbled with social media a bit for some local businesses and got connected to The Biz Foundry, the regional Entrepreneur Center for the Upper Cumberland. I was hired on as a marketing manager and my passion took off. I had no idea that helping small businesses would fill my heart so much. After a year or two with the job, I saw a need for support and connection within the women’s entrepreneurial community. In 2018, Powered By Her was born! We started with a podcast on a local radio station telling women’s inspirational stories of starting their businesses. We also launched a monthly lunch where we have brought in speakers on topics ranging from LinkedIn and how to grow your network to intuitive healing. At the start of 2021, we were able to bring Powered By Her to video format and take it to another level. Read more>>

Destiney Powell

I became interested in art as a child. My father taught me to draw at 2 years old and I never stopped. I graduated from Mississippi State University with a BFA concentrations in drawing and painting. After college, I moved to Arizona and kept creating while working many different jobs to support my family. In 2015 I was given the chance to move closer to my family in Mississippi by taking a position in Nashville. Once I moved here I felt the calling to paint again and in 2016 I left my corporate job and began my company Poetically Illustrated. Read more>>

Amia’ Butler

I have heard people say that “your purpose always finds you”, but I believe most times your purpose is something that you have been doing all along in one capacity or another. For as long as I can remember I have always loved people and not only that, but I have always loved encouraging people. I did not really grasp the fullness of my gift of encouragement and natural way with people until I began college at Austin Peay State University. People would always say “Amia’ has never met a stranger” and “Amia’ knows how to push you to accomplish something.” I did not know it then, but my mind kept record of every time someone told me that. It was not until after I obtained my Master’s degree in Marketing Communications did I think that my love for marketing, people, and encouragement could somehow work together. Read more>>

Clayton Mann

It was my Papaw Doc who really got me into music when I was just 3 years old. He’d sit with me and sing Elvis and Tom Jones. I was just born loud and enjoyed singing with him. I played a little bit of piano and the cello in the school orchestra. I started playing guitar when I was 10 years old and my twin brothers and I started a classic rock band. By the time I was 11, we were playing 4 hour rock shows in the dive bars of Chicago. We were too young to sit at the bar, so they paid us in chicken fingers and fries. We got tips sometimes too. We all took weekly music lessons for years and progressed quickly on the rock scene. Soon we were playing the Whiskey-A-Go-Go on Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, The Hard Rock Chicago and even the Moulin Rouge at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. We ended up winning the Chicago Music Award for Most Talented Teens and were admitted into The Recording Academy for writing and playing our own music. Read more>>

Gabriella Tanner

I started this business in the middle of a Pandemic. Valley Girls Vintage is a product of over 10 years in other sister industries that built the know-how to be a one women show. Let’s go back to the beginning and I’ll give you a brief background on myself. I started out over 10 years ago when I just turned 18 interning for a photographer in the LA Fashion Industry. I maintained doing photography over the years as a creative side hustle. A few years later I moved to St. Louis and worked for Build-a-Bear Headquarter styling Bears for international Catalogs. To quickly move back to Southern California to go to Paul Mitchell School of Cosmetology. After I graduated I moved back to LA and began working doing hair and make-up for Various Clothing Catalogs. I maintained a close relationship with the photographer and began juggling the styling, booking models and eventually photographing the Catalogs. In 2017 I booked Ricky Martins Las Vegas Residency. Read more>>

Carlyn Perez

I was born and raised on a crawfish farm in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana which is located 15 miles south of New Orleans and nestled on the fertile east bank of the Mississippi River. In the sixth grade I began working for the family business “running” crawfish traps while my father would pay me $0.10 for every pound of crawfish I caught. 10 cents may not sound like a lot but when you’re harvesting 2000 pounds a day the hard work can certainly payoff. And make no mistake, it was hard work. 90 degrees on a cool day, working in the direct sun, often pulling up traps that held water moccasins who wanted a crawfish snack, while trying to avoid the big gators and shooing away the smaller ones with the end of a wooden paddle. My father’s goal to build a strong work ethic in me may have backfired as I sometimes would attempt to skip school for work when I hadn’t met my desired weekly quota. When he received a call from my teacher about my increased absences he quickly threatened to fire me and ended my dreams of buying myself a car for my 16th birthday. I was stuck with the rusty old work truck for the remainder of my high school career. Read more>>

Olivia Brown

I started Not So Cookie Cutter on a whim in the year 2018 (with a tad bit of positive peer pressure). The year prior, I had completed a rigorous three-year master’s program in Guidance and School Counseling at California State University, San Bernardino. During that time all I did was eat, sleep, and breathe college course work and a part-time job as an academic interventionist. I had no time for hobbies (or decent sleep – let’s be real here). Once graduated, I suddenly had less to do, which was a real culture shock for me, and, admittedly, sent me into a downward spiral. I was no longer a student. I had been in school for 21 years straight! What was I supposed to do with the time I once spent studying, writing papers, and completing fieldwork? I decided to commit some time to something I neglected while in college, which was baking. I had experimented with baking different types of cookies for a holiday get together. Read more>>

Dawn Burns

I had the opportunity to take on The Nashville Mom when the original owner, Lindsey McPherson started a new business, Sitting Made Simple. I wanted to continue to share about the best places in Nashville for families and to support all the small businesses and unique places in our town! The Nashville Mom is a place to share my love for Music City and to connect with families that live here and those visiting!. Read more>>

John Michael Morgan

I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was a teenager. I began selling things on eBay. When I was out of school I started in real estate. During that time, I began consulting for businesses that needed help with their branding and marketing. I fell in love with working with entrepreneurs and leaders. Eventually, I sold the real estate business and went full-time into consulting. That journey lead me to become a best-selling author, speaking at events across the world, and working with brands like Disney, Google, Twitter, and BMW. Over the course of the last 13 years, I discovered something about entrepreneurs. It didn’t matter how good the strategies or ideas were…if their mindset was full of self-doubt, nothing would work. Mindset was THE difference between those who were experiencing incredible success and those who kept falling short. At this point, my journey came full circle. I had been a devoted student of personal development and mindset work since I was a teenager. I got into it because I massively struggled with depression. I needed to work on my mindset to save my life. I had no idea that years later it would become my career. Read more>>

Mary-Catherine LaBossiere

Growing up, I was a competitive athlete. In fact, I started competing at the age of 8. At that time, I was considered obese for my age. I channeled it as being the stronger of the girls, but in reality, my weight resulted in bullying and being told I was too slow, too fat to be a competitive athlete. I started paying attention to what I was putting into my body in middle school, but then took it too far and struggled with an eating disorder during my high school years. While battling my own self-image issues, I lost a family member to a missed cancer diagnosis. She previously was told things like, “Well, if you just lose weight, XYZ symptoms will go away.” When the doctors finally found malignant tumors throughout her body, the oncologist identified that they had been growing for 1.5 to 3 years. This family member was my mom, and she was eating everything I did. How was it possible that while I was at my lowest, unhealthiest weight, my mom – who was following the same diet and exercise regimen – could be dismissed as just too fat, just eating too much, and as a result, growing sicker by the day without anyone noticing? At that point, I decided I wanted a career on the prevention side of health. I used the unexpected loss of my mom to propel me forward. Read more>>

Kendra Black

Many people know me around town as “The Popcorn Lady”. I am the proud Owner and Chief Popcorn Artisan of Kendra’s Gourmet Popcorn. A native of Nashville, TN, my love for popcorn began when I was just a little girl in my mother’s kitchen. One of my fondest childhood memories is when my mother “Johnnie Black Jones”, would call my sister (Mary) and I in the kitchen to show us her secret to making her delicious popcorn, in a silver cast iron pot on the stovetop. While my sister and I stood in the kitchen in amazement at the magic of seeing each kernel pop, our father Harry was picking out the night’s selection for their weekly family “Movie Night”. Fast-forward, In the Summer of 2016 while talking with one of my good friends, I found the conversation shift to the idea of becoming an entrepreneur. The timing of the conversation seemed to be divine as I had recently witnessed several of my friends and colleagues at that time follow their dreams of starting their own business.  Read more>>

Ryan Kanaly

I grew up playing soccer and had aspirations to go pro. Never really had an interest in anything “creative”. As life happened, I couldn’t continue down that path due to some financial reasons, so I finished out high school just focusing on studies. When I started college, I purchased my first smartphone (an iPhone 4s). I had not really ever played around with taking pictures, but for the first time, I had a tool that could do it! I started taking photos of anything I found on hikes, around campus or just about anywhere else I went. I would throw edit on top of edit on them, having so much fun just messing around. I finally saved up enough to purchase a little canon rebel camera- and from then on out, I was hooked. Read more>>

Chris Hollacheck

I was born and raised in New Bern, NC. I started playing music and acting at a very early age, however I didn’t start writing songs until my freshman year of college at UNC Wilmington and didn’t start performing country songs until after I graduated. After a year of performing and doing a solo acoustic tour around the southeast with a friend post college, I realized I needed to make the move to Nashville. I took that leap of faith and moved in 2014. I spent two years in Nashville with not too much luck before landing a job that ended up taking me all over the US before sending me to Texas. It was there where my music really flourished. I quit that job and played the San Antonio and Central Texas scene for 2 years. However I didn’t quite make enough money from it to support living expenses, so I had to go back to that job that I quit 2 years prior. Read more>>

Emily Isom

When we became moms, we quickly realized that we had another passion— being moms! So we wanted to create a program that allows for flexibility for families while encompassing students in an environment that is loving, engaging, creative, and emotionally supportive to allow children to blossom to their greatest potential. Read more>>

Kris D’Amico

I’ve been shooting photos since late in high school, but I actually went to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, for graphic design. After realizing that was not my path, I switched to film, fell in love with photography. For several years, I shot music, art, and really whatever came along, but in the spring of 2007, I was invited to join the dream team of insanely talented creatives at These guys were building $50,000 websites when people were not even sure what the internet was for! Needless to say, a year as their director of photography took my career in a whole different direction. After that experience, I started focusing on products, durable goods, and things that could be bought and sold primarily online. 13 years later, I’m truly humbled to continue to work with some of the largest brands and biggest names there are. Read more>>

Caitlin Shirock

I’ve always been fascinated by what people choose to put inside their homes. What they decide to display tells a story of who they are, what they believe, and what they feel — and it makes me so happy to imagine my artwork in their homes and becoming a part of their “décor story”. After earning a degree in fine art and working for large brands that included Abercrombie & Fitch, Betsey Johnson, and Oscar de la Renta, I began searching for a way to create art in a way where I could actually SEE the customer engage with the final product once it was completed. It was these experiences that inspired me to start my own company. Cash Color Studios officially launched in 2017, with a collection of products that featured a combination of hand-painted messages mixed with love for expressive, bright and colorful art. Read more>>

Michele Callahan

As a teenager and adult, I always loved needlework and similar crafts but never thought about jewelry making. I loved jewelry but making my own never entered my mind. About 10 years ago, I started dating a man who made and sold jewelry as a business (Raymond Scott Jewelry) and I was instantly drawn to it! Some of you may remember him from Graces Ladies Shop in Greenhills. He worked there for many years in management, doing their windows and repairing jewelry for customers. One day, I decided to take the leap and I bought beads at a local craft store. I kept it to myself because I was embarrassed by my simple and very basic creations! Even though I had watched him, I didn’t understand that there was some technique and finesse involved! When I told him I wanted to make jewelry like he did, he became my biggest cheerleader and supporter! He always gives me advice, helps me with techniques and encourages me to grow and branch out. He now owns another business and doesn’t make much jewelry these days but we have just recently purchased a home with a great jewelry studio and I hope this will change!. Read more>>

Mark Burke

I grew up in Stuart Florida, it was and still is a small town. I played the circuit around South Florida for a few years, tried to play as many places that I could and that would let me, from dive bars all the way to the Outback Steakhouse patio. I made the move to Nashville in 2012 and I’ve loved it ever since. Nashville has been great to me and I have thankfully made a living writing and playing music.  Read more>>

Lara Howell

I’ve been doing photography for roughly a decade. It started in High School when I would take senior pictures of friends and family photos. At the time, I didn’t think it was something that was eventually going to be my career. It was my passion but I thought I had to do something else to make a living. So, when it was time to go to college, I decided to attend a local University and pursue a degree in Graphic Design. Well, after two years of studying at the university and two changes in my major, I decided that something didn’t feel right. I wasn’t happy in anything I was doing and knew it was time for a change. I wanted to take a year off and really think about what it was that I was missing in my life. I dropped out of the University and really began to think about what I wanted. It didn’t take me long to realize what I wanted to do.  Read more>>

Pascal Auburtin

My wife Michèle and I have been part of the Huntsville community for over 17 now. She has a passion for French cuisine and in particular French pastries. She had been working also for Madison City school district as a substitute teacher for many years. Loving cars, I used to work in the automotive industry where I spent most of my career. I am passionate about tennis and also love French food and French pastries.  Read more>>

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