Mary Perez is already achieving so much at just the young age of 20, if that’s not enough inspiration for you to go out and chase your dreams I don’t know what is! Mainly studying psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia, she also splits her time between being the Editor-In-Chief of Kinda Cool Magazine, being a DJ at Temple’s radio station (WHIP), while also doing photography for their sports department, and being an intern for Whoa, That’s Fresh Publicity as a Publicity Coordinator. Any free time that she gets is spent enjoying watching the NBA (go Warriors!), reading, and working with children.
Mary has a lot of talent in a lot of different areas which is why we are super excited to be able to feature her this year for Women’s History Month. You can check out the interview below!
Can you tell us how you got into music journalism and what inspired you to pursue it?
I started out doing journalism in middle school as a reporter for my school newspaper. I had always been a rather strong writer, and I continued working on the school newspaper as I entered high school. In my freshman year of high school, I attended my very first concert, 5 Seconds of Summer’s “Rock Out With Your Socks Out” tour. It was the start of my love for live music. In 2017, I remember reading an interview that my favorite band, Broadside, was tagged in, and I just admired how there were people out there who could just talk to the artists like that. I had been doing journalism for a while by then, and I just remember thinking, “Hey, I could do that!”
From there, I reached out to their editor, and I began working as a writer and interviewer for Unfazed Magazine. My first article was an opinion piece on artists who abused their power to manipulate fans, and my first interview was with the bassist of my favorite band. At the time, they didn’t have a copy editor, and after a few weeks, I asked if I could handle the position. I really enjoyed reading over writing and looking for ways to correct and improve the work before we shared it with the world, and I found that becoming a copy editor also helped me to progress within the music journalism world.
During my time at Unfazed, I also began doing concert photography, which was my first time doing any sort of photography. It was definitely a challenge, and I still am learning with every show I cover, but it has been so rewarding and fun. I soon began working for several publications, and I eventually made my way up to becoming Editor-in-Chief of Kinda Cool Magazine. I currently still work as Editor-in-Chief, where I lead a team of over 40 women in creating new content.
What do you think everyone can do to advocate for women and people of different backgrounds in the music industry?
One of the easiest places to start is by simply listening to those underrepresented voices and what challenges they experience to determine what we can do to help. We know and understand our own challenges, but it’s important to also listen to others who may have obstacles that we may not even think of. For example, accessibility is still a major problem within the music industry, despite being a prominent issue for so long. There are many organizations that are helping to make music a safe place for all, such as L.E.A.D. DIY and their mission to make concert lighting more accessible.
Additionally, advocating for underrepresented backgrounds within the music industry can be as simple as ensuring that lineups are not primarily cis white men all the time. This doesn’t mean that we should reduce this representation to simply checking off a box that a woman or POC is on a tour; this should mean uplifting voices and recognizing the power in seeing diversity in music. I love Meet Me @ The Altar, and in an interview they did with us, I remember them saying how important it was for them to provide fans with the chance to see themselves represented onstage. Even seeing people like beabadoobee and Alex Magnan of Young Culture, both of whom are Filipino like me, has made the difference to me, and it really is more meaningful than you’d think. Just the small reminder that someone who looks like you or comes from a similar background can inspire someone to pursue their passion for music, so imagine how much greater that impact would be if we constantly were seeing diversity in the industry.
Who are some of the women that inspire you in the music industry?
There are so many! In terms of artists, I absolutely love Taylor Swift and Halsey—they’re two of my favorite artists of all time, and I admire their ability to speak out on tough subjects. Rina Sawayama and beabadoobee are two amazing Asian artists that I adore. Meet Me @ The Altar and MUNA are phenomenal bands with great stage presences. Brond from Just Friends and Kehlani are both from the Bay Area, and they are so talented. Phoebe Bridgers is also spectacular, and I really do love Megan Thee Stallion.
Outside of artists, I think that every woman within the music industry is incredible in their own right. It’s tough being a woman in music because the industry still is male-dominated, and women still have to face so many challenges to achieve their goals. However, I really admire everyone who works hard to make sure that the music industry is more accepting and diverse because it’s not easy to undo the years of inequality and injustice, but every little thing helps to create a better future.
In the world of music journalism, I honestly am so honored to work with my team on Kinda Cool Magazine. Our art director, Rebekah Witt, is one of the most talented people I know, and her spreads are always so stunning and innovative. Each and every single member of our team has something to contribute, and I love seeing what they’re able to achieve, whether that be writing an insightful review, taking amazing photos, or creating exciting interviews.
You are the editor-in-chief of Kinda Cool Magazine, what inspired you to create your own publication and how did you go about that?
So Kinda Cool Magazine is not entirely my creation, but it’s actually the brainchild of Meg Clemmensen, one of my closest friends. I definitely cannot take credit for the foundational work that Meg put into building the magazine, but I do remember when she initially sent me a message about creating it in 2019. We met through Unfazed Magazine, and we eventually became really good friends—I even went up to Canada back in early 2020 to meet up with her and watch a concert together. I’ve been a part of Kinda Cool since its creation, so when Meg needed to step down from her position, I felt confident that I could take over once she was away and offered to do so. I know that I’m not technically the founder of KCM, but I have been there since it was just an idea, which has been such a fun experience. I know that it’s not exactly the story of how the magazine came to be, but I definitely don’t think I would have been able to make this all happen, so props to Meg!
I can probably talk more about my two years as EiC because I have been able to continue on the path that Meg started. It does take a lot of work to constantly be putting out new content, especially our issues, but it’s always worth it in the end. It’s been very daunting to shoot for some of the opportunities we’ve aimed for, and I can’t believe that we get approved for some of these things. Even when it seems impossible, I’ve learned that simply sending that email out into the world can put us on the right path. Aside from that, we constantly are planning the next move, which is crucial in an industry that is so unpredictable. Learning to adapt and create something new is so important to our growth, and we dedicate a lot of time to determining ways to be innovative and stand out. I think it’s been really fun to see how much we’ve evolved over these past few years because we have such a distinctive style, and our team is always thinking of ways to build on our skillset.
Speaking about publications, how do you balance writing, running a publication, and being a full time student?
That’s definitely a challenge, but it’s one that I’m grateful to have. I sometimes forget that I am still so young because it feels like I’ve done so many things already, but getting to see all of my work and achievements is definitely a rewarding feeling. Over time, I’ve learned to balance my responsibilities by prioritizing and not overextending myself. I guess that’s the easy answer, but it really has become a priority of mine to make sure I’m caring for myself. Mental health is incredibly important to me, and I’ve definitely struggled to take care of everything in the past. Learning to take a step back and decide what to focus my energy on sometimes can be a challenge, especially when everything feels important. However, I’ve found that I have to make sure that I’m doing well, mentally and physically, before taking on everything. This is definitely something that I stress for my team, and I don’t ever want someone to sacrifice their own health over small things, like getting an article turned in by a deadline.
Can you tell us about being a radio show host for WHIP and how you got into that?
College radio is the best! I started out as a DJ at WVAU, American University’s radio station, in my freshman year. I cohosted a show with one of my best friends, Lia Patentas, where we played pop punk and emo songs that we loved (shoutout Catch Me Crowdsurfing). I don’t think enough people recognize how fun radio is because it’s like having a platform where you can control the music and talk about whatever you want for an hour or two. I even made some of my closest friends through WVAU, and it really gave me something to look forward to.
WHIP is Temple University’s radio station, and I’m also enjoying my time with them. It’s not really difficult to get into college radio; you fill out an application, attend a quick orientation, and shadow other DJs before you get on the air. Last semester, I was able to host two radio shows, which was sick. It’s weird being on the opposite side of the country from most of my family and friends, but having these shows allowed them to hear what I’ve been up to and what I’ve been listening to lately, even when we don’t have a chance to catch up. I can’t recommend joining college radio enough!
What advice would you give to women who wanna get started and involved in the music industry?
Don’t be afraid to try. I came into this industry with zero clue about what I was doing, and I’ve ended up working with some of the greatest people I’ve ever met. I’ve applied for numerous opportunities and gotten rejected, but that never stopped me from still trying. Even if you don’t have a background in music or aren’t sure where to start, there are so many awesome people out there who are willing to help you succeed. As I mentioned, it’s not an easy path, and I still experience so many challenges to this day, but by simply putting your name out there, you’re already taking a step in the right direction. The music industry has so many options for everyone, and just putting yourself out there is sometimes the hardest part.
Additionally, don’t let people discourage you from being passionate about music. Our society has attached a stigma against fangirls, even though passionate fans are the reason why our music industry can thrive! My love of 5SOS is one of the biggest reasons why I work in this industry, and I still love that band so much. So many of the people I work with began their journeys as fans of certain artists, which really speaks to the power of those connections. There has never been a time when I’ve expressed how much an artist means to me and gotten a negative reaction; if anything, artists are so grateful that you support them and are willing to work with them because it proves that they’re reaching fans and making a difference. On another note, there are quite a few people in music who aren’t exactly the best. Trust me: I’ve had plenty of artists break my heart by being exposed for a lot of different things, and it never gets easier. Those instances always crush me a little because it makes me feel like this industry is plagued with evil, but then I remember I can make the difference. By speaking out and preventing these artists from getting any more opportunities, we can make the music industry a better and safer place for all.
I am so very proud of the work that Mary is doing. At this young age, she has accomplished so much! Besides that, she is thoughtful, kind, and funny! Her future is only getting brighter!