In the Spotlight



BY JEN OLENICZAK BROWN

Nikki Miller-Ka

What makes you YOU?

My community makes me. I attribute a lot of that to my mother, who made sure I was exposed to every aspect of the community at a young age. Not only did we go to museums and parks, we volunteered at food banks and homeless shelters; we ate lunch at high-end restaurants, and sometimes we scraped together change to get discounted produce at the market. She made it possible to level the playing field, so I never believed I was above or below anyone I encountered in the world. I used to ride WSTA to school and I also was a Girl Scout, took dance classes, played tennis.

What are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of creating a job for myself when I couldn’t find a traditional job in the culinary world. I am proud of continually, consistently having a thriving career that keeps the lights on and helps keep my community fed. It’s wild to think that my entire career exists via the internet.

What keeps you going when things are tough?

I always think, “You’ve been in a worse position than this,” and it always turns out okay.

What keeps you up at night?

Food insecurity, economic insecurity, and government leadership getting into bed with corporations and lobbyists in order to line their personal coffers.

 

Chelsea Tart (photo credit, Jodie Brim please!)

What makes you YOU? 

I am unapologetically honest, hard-working, dedicated, loyal, sarcastic, pessimistically optimistic, and at the end of the day, a very, very pure enneagram 8. My goal is to create a life well-lived, a happy life with those that I love, and, most importantly, to always take the high road.

What are you most proud of? 

I am most proud of the bond that my mother, Lynn, has forged between herself, me, and my younger sister, Caroline. When we were little, Caroline and I fought ALL THE TIME – it was never-ending. Our mom would always tell us that, “One day you girls are going to love each other and want to be around each other,” and well, she was right. Just like moms usually are.

What keeps you going when things are tough? 

Grit. Hustle. Determination. Fear of embarrassment. My husband, Tyler, and our fur babies (Petrie, Clarence, and Macy).

What keeps you up at night? 

This is ridiculous, but here we go: pure honesty. Normally, it’s “What am I going to cook for dinner tomorrow night?” and “Do my fur babies actually love me, or do they only love me because I feed them?” and then… “Oh, maybe my husband only loves me because I feed him… wait, no, that’s just silly.” Stupid, absolutely mundane things – “Shoot, I forgot to clean the fridge out.” Or just awful anxiety that I can’t even pinpoint – mind is blank, but heart is racing and legs are twitching.

 

 Petra Salazar de Gallegos

What makes you YOU?

I am the youngest child from a very large multiracial, multigenerational family, but I lived alone with my father for the larger part of my childhood. He was 59 years old when I was born and he was completely blind. He was a beloved teacher and pianist with a soulful baritone voice. You couldn’t miss him with his booming laugh and love for talking with people. He imprinted on me, big time. Being devoted to him from the earliest age made me a vigilant observer of the world as well as a descriptive writer. I was his eyes.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of being New Mexican. I love where I’m from. Sitting in the open desert under the stars always sets my mind right.

What keeps you going when things are tough?

For the past 25 years, writing has over and over again saved me. Journal writing has kept me grounded, tethered to the past, present, and future. It is a practice that has attuned me to the particularities of my own internal voice, making it easier for me to distinguish it from the noise around me and, therefore, easier to follow its guidance. Journaling has connected me with my intuition, as has poetry. Poetry has helped me transform painful, traumatic experiences into moments of tender acceptance, wisdom, and epiphany.

What keeps you up at night?

The fact that there are over 2,500 solar systems in our galaxy and two trillion galaxies in the universe, and the closest Goldilocks (Earth-like) planet is four light-years (25 trillion miles) away. That impossible distance haunts me, but it also emboldens me to live my best life and overcome challenges that are ultimately, in the scheme of things, insignificant.

 


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