Today it’s all about celebrating the human spirit, and I’m truly honored to introduce you to Kathleen Day Gomez, the visionary driving force behind PEPPER Magazine, whom I deeply admire for her unapologetic authenticity.
She’s much more than an editor-in-chief; she’s a woman whose journey has been profoundly shaped by personal experiences, transforming her into the inspirational figure she is today. Kat is a staunch advocate for marginalized communities and individuals with different neurotypes.
She belongs to a rare breed of individuals who fear neither their own shadows nor the strengths and weaknesses they carry. These authentic souls grasp that every facet of their lives, whether radiant and serene or weighty and painful, forms a piece of the intricate puzzle called ‘Who am I?’
Embracing her autism diagnosis and navigating the complexities of life, Kat has illuminated the profound truth that our differences don’t define us. They empower us! Her journey stands as a testament to the boundless strength of the human spirit. Moreover, Kat has not only risen above challenges but has also used her experiences to light the way for others.
Echoes of Empowerment
Through PEPPER Magazine, she has fashioned a platform amplifying voices from all walks of life, a reflection of her unwavering belief that everyone deserves a seat at the table. And her commitment to inclusion and her dedication to humanitarian causes serve as wellsprings of inspiration for us all. Kat’s story serves as a powerful reminder that authenticity and resilience are transformative forces capable of shaping a better world.
Therefore, I invite you to an insightful and honest conversation that takes you into the heart and soul of PEPPER. Together, we’ll explore the incredible journey of the magazine’s mission to illuminate the human stories that shape our world.
Join us for an engaging discussion that goes beyond the pages as we explore the depths of PEPPER, the power of art, and the remarkable partnership between PEPPER and 4TinyHands. This is a tale of creativity, resilience, and the unifying language of art, shedding light on the very essence of our shared human experience.
Can you share the story of how your passion for art and photography first ignited, and what inspired you to pursue these creative paths?
K. Day Gomez: My obsession with photography stems back to a core memory when I was five or six, going through the antique family trunks my grandma kept. I was fascinated with all the photographs of our family members through different time periods. When I asked to see more, my grandma had to explain that these were the only photos that remain of those people who are now long passed away. Some of them were only photographed once in their life, and many others not at all.
I felt a shock at the impermanence of life— it was my first time really understanding mortality. Since then, I’ve been absolutely enthralled with capturing photos of everything and everyone. Journalism naturally came later as a result.
In regard to being an artist, I naturally took to art and creativity as a toddler and never stopped. I was fortunate enough to have a mother who taught me I could make anything I can imagine, with just about anything on hand. It’s served me well as a multidisciplinary mixed media artist my whole life.
Founding PEPPER Magazine is a remarkable achievement. Could you describe the journey from its inception to its current international status?
K. Day Gomez: It’s a long story but I’ll try to keep it trimmed. In 2017, two friends and myself began setting the groundwork for a magazine of our own making since there really wasn’t anything in our area or even within our state that represented the kind of art and artful storytelling we wanted to see. After putting together the first prototype, the endeavor fell flat due to the three of us being pulled in different directions by life distractions.
As an artist, photographer, journalist, graphic designer, writer and model, I’d cultivated experience in every aspect of publishing. I had just never created my own publication from the ground up before. When everyone else got too busy, I didn’t have the confidence in myself at the time to see it through on my own. Sadly, it sat on the shelf thereafter.
By 2022, five years after original conception, as I was turning 40 I told myself it’s time to do some clearing of pending projects. No more sitting on the shelf. So when I got to the magazine, I had to decide to scrap it entirely or to take the leap of faith and go forward creatively—completely on my own. It was then that I renamed, rebranded, reframed and redefined it from its former incarnation to something that was solely a reflection of myself as an artist. Thus, PEPPER Magazine was born.
The name “PEPPER Magazine” seems to hold a special significance. Can you tell us more about why you chose this name and how it aligns with your mission?
K. Day Gomez: This is a two-part explanation. My core aesthetic when deciding on brand colors were pastel pinks, creams, light tans and grays. Colors that have a soft feminine feel. Like cotton candy—and yet in juxtaposition to this softness, I knew we would be covering hard to talk about topics and saying the things mainstream media is usually afraid to say.
It was important to me that the thorns not be separated from the rose, so to speak. That we could talk about the hard things but we could do so compassionately, from a place of empathy and understanding. So for me, ‘PEPPER’ came to mean the spice, the ingredient that makes everything more interesting. I wanted PEPPER to be the thing no one saw coming. A bit of a surprise, a kick at the end of a sweet bite. If that makes sense.
Building PEPPER Magazine surely came with its share of challenges. Can you share some of the hurdles you faced and how you overcame them?
K. Day Gomez: There are so many it’s hard to know where to start! From the jump, I think the biggest thing was having to prove ourselves as contenders in multiple arenas at a time—the world of journalism, the fashion industry, the lifestyle and commercial sector, and philanthropy. We (and by we, I mean me) had to juggle many of these proverbial balls in the air at once from the beginning.
So instead of focusing on explaining it to others without any examples to pull from, I focused on doing the work, really curating the topics and leaning into my skills as a photographer, an artist and writer. I held submissions calls for my fellow artists and entrepreneurs, giving them a platform to share their work and tell their stories. People surprisingly flocked to the opportunity from all over the world; it was our own city that sort of stood back with hesitation initially.
But by our fifth month of existence, with more artists and businesses in our local community finally stepping in, we ended up winning Magazine of the Year at The Texas Fashion Industry Awards. Now, a year later, we have been nominated for the prestigious title once again. All of this is proof to me that perseverance pays off. When it feels like much, I lean into it, I focus even more, and I rest when I need to. But I don’t stop, and that’s the main takeaway.
Could you share a memorable story or moment from your journey with PEPPER Magazine that deeply touched your heart or reinforced your commitment to its mission?
K. Day Gomez: Really for me, it’s the emotional connections that turn into something like friendship with some of the founders of different nonprofits we have worked with to amplify their mission (particularly in Uganda and Afghanistan). Some of the refugees, some of the artists, the authors, and even some of the interview subjects have really meant so much to me and continue to stay in touch. These exceptional individuals have taught me more about our world, they’ve made me realize what’s really important, and in so many cases, they’ve reminded me who I am and why I am doing this.
Every day, even during stress or a little life chaos, I get up and I get back to work on this great big project, and these folks and the others I meet along the way are a giant motivation. These connections keep me going.
Your magazine actively supports humanitarian efforts and nonprofits. What drives your commitment to philanthropy, and how does PEPPER contribute to these causes? Can you tell us about a particular cause or nonprofit initiative that holds special significance for you?
K. Day Gomez: I come from a nomadic childhood. We moved around a lot because of my dad’s career as an airplane paint specialist, design artist and pilot in training. Learning early on that the relationships we built with friends and loved ones were temporary before moving on to somewhere new, where we’d have to begin the process all over again, taught me to cherish people in a deeper way.
As a young adult determined to make it on my own, I was homeless for a short time (living out of my car). I learned what it was to be poor, to have little to nothing and rely on the kindness of others to get back on my feet. Months later I was living on the side of a volcano in Hawaii, building my own jewelry company from scratch. I saw firsthand the difference between charity and philanthropy—that a helping hand meant more than money, and that no amount of aid makes a difference unless the individual receiving it has a will to learn and grow and do the work, and a heart to later help someone who is in the same situation they once were.
These life experiences became part of my general operating system. It was natural that I integrate that part of myself into my company’s model.
PEPPER Magazine operates from a humanitarian baseline.
With all the things we do and cover, we first ask, who does this serve? Is it helpful or uplifting or educational? Things have to actually check certain boxes from that humanitarian baseline before we move forward in covering the stories.
As for how, since we are currently unfunded and still entirely independent, we volunteer upwards of 80+ hours each month of our time to cover the stories of different nonprofits, community organizations and humanitarian efforts in the hopes of amplifying their mission by presenting their stories to the global market. From writing articles to promoting donation campaigns to placing advertisements in the magazine and online at no cost to the organizations, to speaking at different events, even engaging in outreach and presenting at schools… We pour ourselves into helping in whatever capacity we’re able and sponsoring when and where we can.
For me, one of the most special has been Kearing Foundation in Uganda for orphaned and displaced children, and subsequently Jungwe Animal Rescue & Shelter, both of which were founded by my now friend, Denis Ssewannyana. He founded and has overseen the children’s home, building the refuge from the ground up. Two years later, they began cultivating a garden and building the animal shelter on the same grounds. The animals have become emotional support dogs and cats to the children who love them dearly and help tend to them, creating this beautiful symbiotic relationship and fostering a level of well-being which is uncommon in the region. I love the children, and Denis. We all check in now and then. It’s become food for my soul.
Speaking openly about our limitations and struggles can inspire others to do the same. How has this openness influenced your journey and the work you do with PEPPER?
K. Day Gomez: Authenticity is like armor, I’ve come to learn. When you move from a place of complete transparency, no one can question what you’re doing. It frees you to focus on building and forward progress.
It was important for me to embrace my neurodivergence and be forthcoming about my special support needs and sensory issues for a few reasons. The obvious was so that others understand they must be patient with me as I struggle through my mental or social handicaps to produce such a large body of work each month. I also wanted the mainstream world to see by example that individuals on the autism / ADHD spectrum and with other intellectual diagnoses are capable of creating wonderful and important things that truly can make the world a better place.
And most important, I needed to build a company that could support and facilitate for my special support needs son, to hold meaningful employment for himself and others like him—like us. Something that could outlive me, and yet still carry meaning for the next torchbearers. I believe we are on our way to achieving that.
How have your personal experiences and challenges influenced your vision for PEPPER Magazine and your role as Editor-in-Chief, especially concerning your advocacy for marginalized communities and individuals with different neurotypes?
K. Day Gomez: Sadly, I have experienced bullying rooted in racism and prejudice firsthand from the time I was very young, partially from moving around and being the new kid so many times. I also witnessed bullying and prejudice enacted upon others around me and all of that ignorance-fueled hate and cruelty never made sense to me. I’m a multiple suicide-attempt survivor which began as early as age 11 (granted, being an undiagnosed autistic female was likely the root of the majority of my emotional, mental and social suffering).
I had a strong niche interest in psychology, sociology, anthropology, theology and history. I pursued these subjects while I was still in grade school and immediately enrolled in formal classes by high school. I was hungry to understand what made people tick, where these invisible feuds derived from, what we did wrong as a species, what we did right… And I documented and photographed everything I could. I still have stacks of composition notebooks on my self-initiated studies.
National Geographic, Time Magazine—these were great models for something to aspire to. The telling of stories from an educational standpoint, neutrality in presenting facts, the ability to bridge gaps and instill unspoken understanding through compelling photographs that really made you feel. I developed a deep desire to build something like this of my own one day.
PEPPER is like passing a really big megaphone.
Pulling for marginalized communities, underrepresented demographics, fringe society, the overlooked and the ignored—it’s all a symptom of my underdog complex. I was the underdog all my life. I was the fly on the wall. I witnessed valuable people be pushed to the side because of who they were or where they came from. I witnessed beautiful people passed over for opportunities because of the color of their skin or religious beliefs. I witnessed disabled individuals unable to even enter certain public buildings because they were an afterthought in the design process of entry spaces. In this learning, ACCESS became a key missing element. Representation, a seat at the table—these are things that would become part of PEPPER’s foundation.
I also learned in this time that these people from all walks of life don’t need others to speak for them—they just need people to LISTEN. Through PEPPER, I don’t have to speak for anyone outside of my own community base. Rather, I’ve created a platform to highlight everyone’s stories and present them on the world stage. PEPPER, in this way, is like passing a really big megaphone. And our readers are listening. Inclusion means sharing the spotlight. It means holding space for everyone to shine. And it means there’s a seat for everyone at the table.
Nurturing your son, who is also on the autistic spectrum, must have brought about unique experiences. Can you elaborate on how this journey has left its mark on both your personal and professional life?
K. Day Gomez: Aiden is so much like me in so many ways, and yet he is completely his own person. Raising a child with a cognitive disability and severe delays has been the best thing that could have ever happened to me. He’s taught me so much about myself and reignited in me the importance of human connection. In him, I know unequivocally what real love is, a Mother’s love. And in doing so, he’s opened my heart up to facilitate for all the big brave things I thought would be too much to take on in the sense of making a career out of helping others and lifting others up. I don’t think PEPPER would exist as it is without Aiden. It’s beautiful to be able to say that.
Could you provide further insights into the ways in which your role at PEPPER has enriched your son’s creativity and introduced him to the world of art?
K. Day Gomez: Honestly, Aiden’s art journey began when he was tiny. He sold his first painting at age 3, began learning animation at age 5, had his first TV segment at age 9 and was also published in an international magazine for the first time that year, had his first international exhibition at age 10 (which was also the year he became an author with his first children’s book).
By the time I founded and established PEPPER Magazine, he already had a name for himself as a child prodigy in the art world. If anything, Aiden influenced PEPPER. He’s the biggest reason I formatted the publication to have a children’s section. It was the connections we made with other children around the world during Aiden’s art journey that made me aware of how many amazing and talented kids there were out there, and I felt their work should be amplified.
I’ve explained to Aiden that he always has a place at PEPPER whenever he’s ready to start applying real design work. He’s learning everything he can for now and I’m confident he’ll have the skills to contribute in meaningful ways when he becomes an adult.
In your journey as an artist, writer, and editor, what role has art played in your own self-discovery and personal growth?
K. Day Gomez: I’ve always said art is like breathing for me. It’s always been part of my base operating system. I can’t imagine existing any other way.
From your perspective, how does art serve as a source of hope, both for the creators and the audience, in today’s world?
K. Day Gomez: Hope is a dicey subject sometimes. It implies there is something better on the other side of something else or somewhere else. I honestly believe there is nothing better waiting for us to arrive there—I know in my whole being that the only way to get to that better world is to actively create it.
I believe art is an integral part of the process in creating a real and tangible shift toward a more compassionate, inclusive, environmentally conscious and welcoming world. There’s also a matter of the hard work that artists put in being appreciated and properly received by the audience. When society builds a culture around not taking care of their artists, undervaluing their work and expecting beautiful meaningful art for free or very little, this disables the artists in so many ways. The starving artist trope is real—I’m living proof.
There needs to be a strong awakening to the very real symbiotic relationship between the arts and the flourishing civilization. I’ll continue to do my part to usher in this intellectual art evolution. The best any of us can do to bring it forth into reality is to stay focused and continue to put in the work.
What attracted you to partner with 4TinyHands for the “Celebrating the Animal Kingdom” drawing competition, and how does it align with PEPPER Magazine’s mission and values? What motivated you to support young artists?
K. Day Gomez: It caught my eye as I’m consistently looking for more ways PEPPER can be of help to other organizations who are doing great things or creating awareness around important issues. Animal welfare falls in line with our foundational mission to be of service to our world. The fact that the project enlisted children to engage and create and share their love of the animals we share this earth with was a huge bonus.
Children are commonly overlooked in the grand scheme of things. Like the older people, they typically hold very little say in things and what they produce is undervalued. We can learn a lot from them if we stop for a moment to observe, to listen and to appreciate their creations. I believe they should be respected the same way we respect seasoned artists, if not more, as their work is truly organic.
Where can readers find and purchase copies of PEPPER Magazine, and what can they expect to discover within its pages? Are there any upcoming issues or themes they should be on the lookout for?
K. Day Gomez: All of our links are found in our web directory, which can also take you to our print and digital issues : https://msha.ke/peppermagazine.
As for our content, PEPPER Magazine is more than just news—it’s an ongoing conversation with the world. With volumed edition format, we create a snapshot of many different places and voices at one point in time that can be chronicled and will continue to be relevant historically 50, 100 years from now. We’re telling the stories of our times. We place heavy emphasis upon the underlying human story in every subject we cover. A journalistic collection of intimate editorial biographies, rich with creative and documentary imagery.
We cover a wide range of topics and subtopics in the arts, culture and business. Highlighting individuals from every walk of life and at every age, unknown to the famous, barely starting to the pinnacle of their trade, mom & pops to industry moguls. We place a priority on marginalized communities, various neurotypes and differently-abled, survivors and responsible activism.
The issue I’m sure your readers will be most interested in is the one coming out next—Vol. 2, no. 4, in which they’ll find the World Animal Day article featuring the 4TinyHands project.
As you continue your journey with PEPPER, what are some of your future goals and dreams for the magazine?
K. Day Gomez: Ultimately I need it to become a strong, well-funded global publishing firm with base offices in various world cities, much like National Geographic. I’m hoping to build something that outlives me and even outlives my son. The goal is for PEPPER to become a household name and an iconic magazine that is known just as much for its humanitarian efforts and the ways it will give back.
What advice would you offer to aspiring artists, writers, or entrepreneurs who are pursuing their creative passions and building their own platforms, like you did with PEPPER?
K. Day Gomez: Buckle up! Entrepreneurism is not for the faint of heart. I can say as tough as it is and nerve-wrecking as it can get, anything you’re building will yield more and grow sooner the more focused you are and the more time you are willing to devote to it. Running your own business, including in the creative sector, is a huge commitment.
It’s less about wanting to make or do something and more about realizing you are unwilling or unable to live any other way. I went into all of this because of what I did not want my life to be, what I couldn’t stand to spend one more day doing. When you find yourself fed up, that’s the best fuel for designing the life and career you want. Implementing the necessary measures to getting there is the determining factor in making it real.
Could you share a memorable experience or achievement from your journey that stands out as a source of pride and inspiration?
K. Day Gomez: Oh gosh—there are several. But I think winning Magazine of the Year at the Texas Fashion Industry Awards in 2022 was one of our biggest milestones. When I delivered our acceptance speech, I remember it being so quiet in the crowd, at the end of which we received a standing ovation and applause. I wrote the speech as more of a love letter of sorts, to the community. I wanted them to know that it matters where they shine their light and encouraged them to really make it count. I still have different folks bring that speech up to me, telling me that it left a huge impression on them. That’s worth everything.
K. Day Gomez’s acceptance speech for winning Magazine of the Year at the Texas Fashion Industry Awards in 2022.
As you navigate the complexities of life and work, what keeps you motivated and passionate about what you do?
K. Day Gomez: I am innately engineered with this obsession for storytelling. It’s a passion that feeds itself.
In a more practical sense, my husband, Joe, is my ‘Jiminy Cricket’. Apart from being PEPPER Magazine’s CFO & Marketing Director, Joe stays on me to keep pushing, even when I hit a wall at times. He guides, directs and facilitates in so many ways. There isn’t room to list the ways he keeps me on track. Suffice it to say, there would be no PEPPER without him.
How does a typical day look for you as CEO, Editor-in-Chief, and creative force behind PEPPER Magazine?
K. Day Gomez: All my days run together. From the moment I wake up, I’m literally jumping right into answering emails, readying posts, formatting articles… The only time I’m not working is when I eat meals and when my son first gets home from school. I usually work almost up to bedtime. And then I wake up and do it all again. I have maybe three days off a month.
It’s not ideal to work double full time like this, but for startup businesses, this is generally your life for the first three to five years as you build and establish your brand. I’m ok with it because I know it has meaning for more people than myself alone.
In your view, what is the most important message or impact you hope PEPPER Magazine leaves on its readers and contributors?
K. Day Gomez: If I had to pinpoint one definitive takeaway, I hope it’s this : we all stand to make a real and lasting difference in the world around us when we put forth all of our effort into one mission we authentically care about. Whatever that means for you—there’s something to be said for laser focus. And when the goal of that focus is to help others, at the very least you’re walking in your purpose. There is in life little more satisfying.
Is there anything else you’d like to share or a message you’d like to convey to our readers and the world through this interview?
K. Day Gomez: Something not talked about enough is the importance of our mental health. It’s vital that we take our mental well-being seriously. Self care isn’t one size fits all. Whatever you need to feel safe, grounded, to experience joy…these things are essential.
Give yourself permission to rest. Create a system of self check-ins. Remember that laughter is indeed the best medicine and don’t take yourself or anyone else too seriously. The fundamental unavoidable truth is that in the end, we all die. It’s what we do with the time we have before that which defines our character and contributions to the beautiful fabric of humanity. Using that time wisely includes doing what makes you happy. Prioritize your livelihood. I promise it makes all the difference.
The partnership between 4TinyHands and PEPPER Magazine for the ‘Celebrating the Animal Kingdom’ drawing competition honors the animal kingdom while providing young artists a fantastic opportunity to showcase their talents and contribute to a meaningful cause. It’s a chance for their creative voices to be heard and their artwork to be shared with a global audience. This partnership is all about creativity and making a positive impact. We encourage all young artists and their supporters to join us on this creative journey, celebrating the beauty of humanity and the remarkable power of art.
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