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Portraits of KC

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 KC.

Shannon Kearney

I grew up on a Dairy farm in Stewartsville, MO with my mother and my brother. We milked over 80 head of dairy cattle. Once I turned 18, I moved out and began working full-time as a Sales Representative for the St. Joseph AD-Venture. In 2004, I had a job opportunity in Lenexa, KS. So, I moved to the Kansas City area and began working as a graphic designer. I began helping my father, Chris, will his farm and his cattle herd. After several years of learning about how he managed his herd, I decided to purchase a herd of my own. In 2015, I purchased 18 Black Angus and Black Baldy Cows. Each year I sold the calves at the sale barn once they were weaned. In 2020, once the Covid pandemic started, I realized there was a need for locally raised beef that could be processed locally. So, I started with 5 steers that I raised on grass and finished them out for the last 90 days with grain. I then offered them as beef shares to the public. Beef Shares are a portion of the beef that you buy to put in your freezer. For instance, you can buy 1/8th of a steer or 1/2 of a steer or the whole thing. Just recently, I got my Beef License so I can sell Individual Cuts of Beef from a retail space out of my house and that is USDA processed Grass Fed and Grain Finished beef from my herd as well. Read more>>

Gabe Spurgeon

When I was 13, I started working summers in a peach orchard. I did that for 7 summers until I had my first engineering internship. I was an engineer for 7 years and did enjoy my work, but I was very restless working at a computer much of the day. My father-in-law, Dave Miles, had a large farm. He and I both had an interest in fruit trees. I asked if I could plant a couple hundred peach trees to get started and the snowball began rolling. Dave owns the farm and I am a highly invested employee. We started planting in 2015. I started farming full-time in spring of 2016. Read more>>

Zanny Ex

My name is Zanny Ex, but my government job calls me Zach. I grew up in Biloxi, MS right outside of New Orleans, La and moved to Kansas City in early 2014 with my ex for a few years, but moved back south after we split.  The night we split up was shortly after my 21st birthday and I decided to go out with some friends at Missie B’s to celebrate the new beginnings of my life. My ex and I had frequently watched Rupaul’s Drag Race together, but when it came to the art itself, he was pretty against it. I had just come from a pretty conservative southern environment so that type of mentality seemed normal to me and I never questioned his feelings. That being said, that night was the first night I truly felt connected to something, that night was so magical to me because it was the first time, I felt something besides the pain I was feeling internally. Read more>>

Angela & Aqueelah Habeebullah

We are a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationship coaching and podcasting duo. Prior to meeting, we both had an extensive background, professionally and personally, helping families, individuals, and couples work through their relationship issues. Angela, the mother-in-law, has over 3 decades of experience working with families in the family courts; and Aqueelah, the daughter-in-law has over 10 years of experience in relationship coaching and matchmaking. She is a certified Life & Relationship Coach working with individuals in that capacity. Read more>>

Nichole Collins

At a young age, I began to explore various mediums of visual art, specifically painting and clay. It wasn’t until I took a Metalsmithing class at the University of Kansas that I discovered my real passion. During my last semester at KU, I had the honor of studying at Lahti Polytechnic Institute of Design and Fine Arts in Lahti, Finland. I had the experience of a lifetime in Finland, that continues to influence my work to this day. I would go on to receive my BFA in Metalsmithing and Jewelry Design from KU in 2006. Since graduating, I have had the privilege to gain inspiration from continued travel abroad and am happy to call Lawrence, Kansas my home. Read more>>

Audrey Richardson

I started modeling in 2017. My first gig was mannequin modeling in Kansas City Fashion Week for Judy Bales, although I wanted to be on the runway, I knew I had to start somewhere and this was a perfect opportunity to get my foot in the door into the modeling industry. It was a tremendous experience and I loved every bit of it. I auditioned again for Kansas City Fashion Week for the next season and was chosen to walk by yours truly Travis Cal styles. He’s such an amazing designer and I was so honored he chose me. My first time on the runway I stumbled a little lol but I got my stuff together and finished my walk scared, embarrassed a little, nervous and all but after it was over, I was filled with so much excitement because as a child I’ve always wanted to model, I would sit in front of the tv watching American next top model and Victoria Secret model shows all day wishing I was up there. Read more>>

Aarav & Arsh Parekh

We began our podcast in April 2020. We have loved sports from a very young age. Listening to sports shows and podcasts at night really made us believe we could share our own opinions. As kids, we wanted to share that perspective. The podcast arose from an idea to provide an outlet and inspiration to kids. We talk about sports headlines each week and interview sports greats, including NBA Player Mason Plumlee, the #1 College Basketball Analyst Jay Bilas, Philadelphia Eagles All-Time great Seth Joyner, Yankees pitcher Mitch Spence, UNC Basketball Player Armando Bacot, USWNT Player Jessica McDonald, and so many others. Read more>>

Matthew White

I didn’t really ever see myself being a photographer/videographer. I came from a small town and had very little experience holding a camera. One of my close friends asked me to help film a video for a wedding and it sparked my creativity! I started my business in college on top of my degree and it really took off after the first video I put together. From there I have tried to improve my skills and better the quality of my videos to grow my business. I truly enjoy capturing the love and joy that goes into a wedding day. It’s a special feeling being a part of such an important life event and being able to capture every moment. Read more>>

Lee Rhoades

I’ve always been driven by the need to create. While I started an electrical contracting company in St. Louis then transitioned to COO of North America for global company based in Germany I kept being drawn back to art as a way of living. And four years ago, I made the plunge into full-time woodworking. For many years, I satisfied the creative urge as a freelance landscape photographer focusing on the national parks, sunsets, waterfalls, and mountain vistas. It was in those mountains that my appreciation for the beauty of trees, inside and out, began to develop. I was especially drawn to how Mother Nature would shape slabs of wood as they traveled the streams, down the mountainside, pummeled by rocks, arriving in the lakes and rivers sculpted and sanded. Read more>>

Christopher and Terri Burnett

We met about 45 years ago while working as professional musicians performing and touring around Europe with the Army band that was based at Ansbach, Germany during the Cold War Era. We have been married for over 40 years. Music and the arts have been the constant focus, along with our family, for our entire adult lives. Among the interesting aspects, we’ve found about working as professional musicians with military bands from that era was the sheer number of performances we played. We played 250 to 400 musical commitments each year. Those performances ranged from ceremonies and parades to formal concerts and tours. Often with two and three or more gigs a day during some stretches. (Terri served for 5 years and Christopher served over 22 continuous years.) Both of us served on Active Duty Regular Army status. Read more>>

Haley Wooten

I originally had gone to college for psychology and was intending to be a marriage/family therapist. After my second year there, I was noticing a lack of creativity and stimulation and felt like change was coming. When this feeling came up, so did a new opportunity: a new friend/coworker at the time I’d just met told me she was going to Paul Mitchell to be a hairdresser and something lit up inside me saying, “YES PLEASE!” I’d grown up being the person who did people’s hair for prom or doing a braid train on the bus for volleyball – I used to stay up until 3-4 am watching videos all about hairstyling on YouTube. It seems silly now that I never considered it before that moment, but in the same day that I met this new friend, I dropped out of college and enrolled in PMTSOP with every ounce of support from friends & family. Read more>>

Katrina Combs

Fountain City Roller Derby started over ten years ago with a few friends looking to get active while having some fun. Few rules were in place and lots of lessons were learned, but now we’re over 80 league members strong. We’re diverse, gender-inclusive, and love to have fun on the track. Read more>>

Alexx Medusa

I grew up with many talents. And after so long of practicing each and every one of them, I felt lost. I wasn’t sure where I stood or what I for sure wanted to do with my life. I was an acrobat and dancer for the first 10 years of my life. Unfortunately, that came to an end when my parents got too bad off on drugs and couldn’t afford for me to go anymore. Not long after, I started singing in the school choir. And I loved that, I did it for 4 years. Until that came to an end to for the same reasons. After that, I started teaching myself to hula hoop dance and took that serious for a year until I got bored. And then around April of 2021… a friend of mine messaged me asking me to model for her, as she had just took on photography. After doing my first shoot with her, I knew immediately that that’s what I wanted to do. Read more>>

Dwan Miller

I officially started as a photographer in February 2019. I began as a freelance photographer doing natural light and lifestyle photos. My vision and motivation stemmed from watching my daughter pursue her degree in graphics and design in college with a minor in photography. This is a connection between us and it planted a seed for where I am today. I now do on-site and off-site sessions. Outdoor and Indoor off-camera photography ranging from business, lifestyle, and editorial sessions. I officially open an indoor studio downtown Manhattan, KS in April of this year. Read more>>

Keenan Smith

I have always been interested in creating and trying new things as far back as I can remember. I first tried my hand in music production and writing at a young age. While taking a break from music earlier this summer I began looking for other ways to creatively express myself. I came across a few people that tufted rugs online and grew interested. After a couple of months of research, I began planning to gather what I needed to make my own custom rugs. I started making rugs at the beginning of August 2021 and I feel like it might have come naturally to me after studying so many others. I made my beginner mistakes as everyone does, but now my work has gotten much better and I plan to only enhance my skills at tutfing. Read more>>

Jeff Shafer

I’ve always appreciated music with a message. Musicians and lyricists that understand the power of storytelling, introspection, and that art should reflect reality. Some may hear that and think the only music I enjoy is somber but it’s the exact opposite. I love music that evokes powerful emotion. Sometimes that emotion is a strong desire to dance and party, other times its motivation for self-improvement or to make a stand against those in the world who hold you down. Fueled by an eclectic and cross-genre taste – and I can thank my family for that – I was motivated to make music that could make a difference and at an early age. Hip-Hop being my first love, my friend and I formed the hip-hop duo Anti-Crew at Lincoln College Prep High School in Kansas City, MO. Read more>>

Jontay Jordan

Jontay has always had a passion for streetwear and music. He has followed and found inspiration from Virgil Abloh (OFF WHITE) and James Jebbia (SUPREME). From his love of streetwear came his love for vintage tee’s which is when he discovered Sean Wotherspoon. Jontay had constantly thrown around his dream of one day having his own brand and having a storefront that sells vintage and streetwear. Jontay has been the creative soul behind Splash Vintage from designing the website and our brand tees to designing our logo, stickers, and thank yous. With Splash Vintage we wanted to share a vibe that mixes our love for culture and music. We personally handpick all of the vintage pieces that we have to offer from all over the U.S. Read more>>

Heidi Johnson

I began my own company in 2019 when I discovered planning weddings was officially the way I wanted to spend my life. Charles Bukowski said, “Find what you love and let it kill you”. I plan to make wedding and event planning that thing. I graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in film and digital media. I actually discovered my love for event planning within the film school as I was often slotted into the position of Producer. The job of the producer is to wrangle people, paperwork, time schedules, equipment, special permits, and make sure everyone gets fed. Not only am I good at those tasks, but I found that I loved coordinating the chaos. My business partner is my cousin and best friend Megan. It was a childhood dream to run a business together and we are over the moon to be doing it together today. Read more>>

Courtney Hill

I grew up in Joplin and Webb City, MO, then moved to Kansas City in my adult years. I learned most of what I know about cooking from my mother, who learned from her mother. I didn’t grow up on the farm, but I have relatives who are farmers and, well, let’s just say we know a thing or two about good food! I learned the rest of my cooking knowledge from my formal education.  I have a master’s degree in family and consumer sciences (FCS) in 2014 and I taught high school FCS for four years. I decided to stay home when my twins were born in 2012, and I loved being home with them. I still love teaching and the FCS umbrella of subjects. I think they are essential and teach us how to become functioning adults and members of society. I approach my recipes with an educator’s mindset. Hopefully, you find them easy to follow and easy to prepare. Read more>>

Sarah Komer

I started Kansas City Artist Community because I felt like there was a lack of a platform that recognized local artists that maybe didn’t have as large of a following. I wanted to support not just one art medium but all kinds ranging from ceramics to illustration to printmaking. I love to curate, but I wanted to make sure I was also as inclusive as possible. I have struggled with making connections in the art world, so by creating this community it allows a space to do that. I’ve only had one meetup so far, due to the pandemic and other personal reasons, but it was very successful. We shared our portfolios and what we had recently been working on. I’m excited to collaborate with other local businesses and hopefully start making meetups a monthly event. Read more>>

Tara Branham

Eat Sleep Train Pray Take Action Repeat… Care. I’ve cared for animals and humans for over 20 years. I’ve been through it all. Depression, childhood trauma, abuse, abandonment, divorce, and death. I was put here on this earth to help beautiful humans all over the world. Born 1981, Loved 2008&2013 and awakened in 2019. I really found out why my name is Tara. *Star-Goddess who helps from birth to death. A mother to all. I hold space for all to come as they are. I will help you with no judgment in whatever life has to throw you. Through my healthcare training, and living the lifestyle for the last 8 years, I can help you find your balance. Every situation, job, journey is different. I am here to help you navigate a balanced path. Through all my experiences I’ve learned one thing, TIMING… Timing is everything. Focusing on every moment. I’m a proud 40-year-old mom! All my mistakes wins, and everything in between has brought me here to the happiest time in my life. I’m happy, healthy, and very blessed. But, most of all I’m always here for anyone who is open to receive my light and energy! Read more>>

Daniel Miyares

I studied at Ringling College of Art & Design in Sarasota, FL. After graduating with a BFA in illustration in 2002, I was offered a job at Hallmark Cards, Inc. as an artist. So off I went to Kansas City! While working as an artist at Hallmark I also began taking on a variety of freelance illustration jobs. One of those jobs was with The Kansas City Star. I got to illustrate a series of serial stories that were published one chapter at a time in the Sunday paper. I did that for four years while learning and growing as an artist and product designer at Hallmark. In 2008 my daughter was born six weeks early. She was in the NICU for a bit. I sat by her isolette at night. Read more>>

Jay Lockett

So, I got my start with JayFabWerks with learning the industry standards with taking on various jobs that taught me what was acceptable with welding and how to take on jobs. From that point on I decided to better my learning and get cerium structural welding which then opened another Avenue of welding and introduced me to mobile welding. From big jobs to small jobs, I have focused on utilizing customer service and also using my young age and social media skills to give me the edge over my competitors. With doing JayFabWerks I also had a backside of work that I did which was Metal Art. From public Metal Floral art to Cryptocurrency Art sculptures, I’m striving to leave my work behind once I’m gone as an impression left on this world. Read more>>

Kater Tot

I studied theater, dance, and photography at Southeast MO Conservatory. In 2013, I moved to Kansas City. I then began taking clown and burlesque classes here which led me to begin creating my first solo performance act around that time. It quickly took off for me, and I started getting asked to perform at various venues in Kansas City, as well as around the country. Read more>>

Malorie Walker

I had always wanted to start taking pictures but never really had the courage to get out there and talk to people (ask them if I could take their pictures) I really worried about what people would think of them… Were they good or bad? I just had a ton of self-doubt until the pandemic hit. I was so bored stuck in the house. At the time I was a college student that was sent home due to COVID and I didn’t have a job so I spent most of my time doing NOTHING. I started following a ton of different Instagram accounts and decided to make a new one of my own. I tried to only follow local Kansas City stores and entrepreneurs. I finally mustered up enough courage to purchase a cheap camera to start. I practiced taking pictures of my little brother’s baseball team. Those photos ended up being pretty good, so I saved up some money and invested in a nicer camera and a super awesome zoom lens. I cleaned up my Instagram and found what style/vibe I wanted to give to my photos. I think posting frequently and using hashtags has really helped me get the exposure I was hoping for! This little hobby turned into a passion for me. Read more>>

Nadou Lawson

I have always been into scents; I can remember how you smelled when I first meet you better than I can remember your face. I thought that was weird, but turns out it’s pretty normal. Candles is one way I enjoy different scents and figured how different scents can affect my mood. Lavender or eucalyptus for example can help me go to sleep and breathe better. I have always wanted to be a business owner since watching my mom raise my 5 siblings and I all on her own while owning a construction materials business. Last year was when I decided to go from making candles as a hobby to wanting to build a business out of it. Different scents remind people of different memories, events, people, and more. I want to make home good that smell good, put you in a specific mood, and overall make people feel good. I also wanted my business to relate to my personality, so I incorporated that into my product names and hope other introverts and homebodies can enjoy them too. Read more>>

MacKenzie Fulmer

I grew up in Charleston, SC surrounded by landscape and wildlife painting, so the decision to pursue art was an easy one. I started with sketch-diaries that I used to document my family trips, pets, or everyday life. At sixteen I was selected to join the SC Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, a boarding school with an arts focus. After the initial shock of moving away for home, I was happy to be surrounded by a creative community for the first time. Following that desire for an arts community, I moved to Kansas City and enrolled at the Kansas City Art Institute where I earned my B.F.A. in Illustration. I’ve worked for the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, creative agency C3, fabric design company PBS Fabrics, and I currently freelance and work in digital marketing. Read more>>

Madison and Susan Hess

Mom and Mad Read Instagram Account  Three years ago in September, we decided to create a joint Instagram account called @momandmadread to begin reviewing books on Instagram and meet other book lovers. We are both avid readers and thought it would be a fun creative outlet for both of us. Over the last three years, we’ve connected with many other readers, interviewed numerous authors, and reviewed hundreds of books! It is so rewarding to help promote great books to other readers and help out authors who are trying to promote their books during a pandemic. Our account is unique in the community because the two of us bring two different perspectives and thoughts to the same books. This is something we both truly love doing and it’s a lot of fun to do it together! Read more>>

Jeremy Wood

Cinematic Visions’ beginnings go back to 1995, when I was a sports radio talk show host in Kansas City at KCXL 1140AM, KCTE 1510AM, and KMBZ 980AM. While performing that job, I learned that I loved to be able to create something out of nothing more than an idea or vision. At the same time, I was co-hosting the show, with my great friend, Kurtis Seaboldt (now working at WHB 810AM), I was finishing up college and taking classes that involved photography and video production services. Out of those classes and the experience at the radio stations, along with working a job at AT&T (where I was able to utilize some of my abilities in all of these worlds), I knew I needed to work for myself and that video and media production was where it was all headed. So, in 2003, Cinematic Visions was founded, and in 2005, I left everything I had been doing to that point behind and created Cinematic Visions – where I’ve been ever since. Read more>>

Katlyn Howard

My name is Katlyn Howard and I am the creator of Knots x Tangles – hand-crocheted goods.  My love for crochet started when I was 15.  I grew up working alongside my grandma on our grandparent’s alpaca farm in Hiawatha, Kansas. Once a year the alpacas would be sheared and fiber would be sent off to a mill and boxes and boxes of freshly spun yarn would return. With an abundance of yarn and rovings laying around all that was left to do was to learn how to turn this fiber into product. When we weren’t caring for the herd, my grandma and I would spend hours and hours learning new crafts – hand dying, weaving, felting, & trying out every fiber arts technique. Read more>>

Jenny Wheat

I’ve had an unusual career path! I had a rewarding 17-year career in marketing, promotions, and PR but in my late 30’s I bought a little Canon camera and started taking photos for fun, of things like flowers and my own baby. I really developed such a crush on photography as a hobby and lots of friends started asking me to take photos of their babies and kids. Those early photos were taken on a wrinkled sheet in my living room and although I had a lot of fun, I cannot say too much about the quality of the photography! Over time, I kept getting better gear and watched a lot of YouTube videos on how to use my cameras, how to light and how to pose people. I ended up – somehow – with a booming family portrait business for and all with no formal training. I’m a huge believer in STARTING – just go, just try – from wherever you are. Do not let expertise or funds stop you. You have to just DO. I owe a lot to my sister-in-law, Ruth, who worked alongside of me for all those early years to help me build my business and we really learned as we went. Read more>>

Stacey Siegert

Stacey Siegert, Owner, has been working since 2000 in the entertainment world. Starting out as an actor, she earned a Theatre and Film degree from The University of Kansas and then made New York City her home for almost 5 years. While in NYC, she found she had a passion for the business side of the industry. She worked in the marketing department at The Blue Man Group, assisted actors as a Business Consultant at TVI Actors Studio, assisted in casting for Law & Order: SVU, and worked as a Manager in the Creative Division at Wilhelmina Models. Stacey’s career has spanned all aspects of the entertainment business. Read more>>

Carlos R. Mortera

I was born in Querétaro, Mexico, migrated to the United States when I was around 12 years of age. Growing up with two cultures hasn’t always been the easiest. I never felt Mexican entro be Mexican or American enough to be American, I feel that most children of immigrants go thru this trying to find an identity. I started in the restaurant business because it was something that I liked to do, after dropping out of college, I went back to work in restaurants it was easy and fast money. I worked my way up from washing dishes to serving tables, to eventually I was chef de cuisine, that’s when the opportunity to open a restaurant was offered to me. Me and my business partner at that time opened The Bite, a small sandwich shop restaurant in the city market. Read more>>

Antonio Chevere

After leaving the military and working in a career field that gave me no artistic outlet, I decided to move to Kansas City and focus on creative work that I had passion for. I began photography as a hobby and developed a deep love for the artistry and philosophy I found while photographing. I started taking my camera everywhere and taking pictures of things and people that I are often overlooked. I wanted to show the everyday beauty in the ignored. Read more>>

Christy Marsh

I started my Reiki and Holistic Studies back in 2002, in San Diego, and have been in practice since 2006–after I received my Reiki Master Certification. I moved back to my hometown of Kansas City, about 10 years ago, to share the practices and techniques that alchemized my own healing. I am deeply passionate in sharing and reminding us how we can heal ourselves. Read more>>

Erin Butler

I got started knitting several years ago now. My knitting journey began with a trip to an arts and crafts store where my Husband pointed out some pretty yarn. He stated, “I wish you could knit so you could make me a scarf.” I thought, “Huh? Maybe that is something I could learn… I could use a hobby!” So, at that point, I went and purchased some second-hand yarn and needles (I didn’t want to spend too much money on this venture until I knew if I was going to be able to do it.) I went to work watching videos and teaching myself how to knit. Read more>>

Ramonda Scales

I started modeling about 5 years ago. Modeling has been a passion since I was a little girl. I grew up watching Tyra banks on her show America’s Next top. I remember I use to sit in front of the tv studying her and watching the models. I use to wish it was me on there but my insecurities made me doubt a lot. I was super young and wasn’t sure of myself at the time. As I grew older, I realized that in Oder to make it in life you have to just GO FOR IT. 5 years ago I did just that and it has gotten me into so many doors. Read more>>

Mikala Marlin

I was put into foster care right before I turned 5 and wasn’t adopted till 2004. We moved a couple times during that time period, but while living in Minnesota I was introduced to video cameras in a technology class I was in. I used to go on the family vacations with a point-and-shoot camera and beg to take the pictures for everyone. When we moved to Missouri, we moved to a small town that didn’t offer many extracurricular activities so I ended up not doing much with cameras after that. I ended up joining the Army right after I graduated High School, meeting my now husband, and having two kids. Once I was officially out of the military, I was a full-time stay-at-home mother. Read more>>

Morgan Schimke

I have always been interested in photography from a young age. In middle school, I took a film photography class and fell in love with the whole process of being able to capture and create images distinctly from your point of view. College, work, marriage, and life happened and I didn’t pick up a camera again until I had my first son. There is just something so special about being able to freeze these fleeting moments in time. I slowly started to take photos of my family and friends until I realized I could parlay my passion for photography into a profession. That is where morgan jane photography was born. Read more>>

Jess Johnson

I have always had an interest in graphic design. I began working with Photoshop in 2005 and have since continued learning and working with it and other similar programs. I’ve never been very good at drawing things, but I was able to make my art come to life on the computer screen. I am mostly self-taught, but with a little help from some online tutorials. I recently took a big leap of faith, quit my job, and am working as my own boss! I do social media management and content creation for a few different podcasts currently, as well as working with friends who have businesses but need help with their social media. Read more>>

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