In eighth grade, Katherine DeBerry knew a boy with a knack for disappearing during class. She decided to poke fun at him in a creative writing assignment, and when she read the story to her peers, everyone — including the boy and her teacher — laughed. That’s when she knew she wanted to become a writer.
“Everyone thought (the story) was so funny, and I realized, ‘Well, I could (write) for a living,’” english freshman DeBerry said. “It wouldn’t bring me a lot of money, but it would make me so happy and bring people together.”
When DeBerry’s childhood friends, Vivian Chambers, a University of Southern California freshman, and Columbia University freshman Savanna Chada invited her to help start a weekly essay blog their freshman year of high school, DeBerry jumped on board. By their junior year, the trio had transformed their blog into Uniquely Aligned, a magazine with a mission to share young people’s voices and celebrate diversity.
“(The magazine is) definitely a passion project for me,” said DeBerry, a copy editor for Uniquely Aligned. “It allowed me to have time to intentionally be creative while also getting to gel in my friendships with people. I think it’s so powerful.”
Each month, DeBerry, Chambers and Chada choose a theme for the next issue and announce it via Instagram and their website. The past issues center around themes such as “Forever Young” and “Enigmas,” and throughout the month, the team publishes writings, photography and art.
Over the summer, they produced their first print issue, “Don’t Be A Stranger,” which is available on the website.
“(“Don’t Be A Stranger”) was our big turning point,” DeBerry said. “We’re reminding people that if you just like to make art, (you) have an impact on the world.”
Studio art freshman Leah Blom has been contributing to Uniquely Aligned since 2018, and Chambers chose her to photograph the cover for “Don’t Be A Stranger.” At the cover shoot in early June, Blom took over 100 photos in film, and she spent the next two months editing the photos in Adobe Lightroom.
“We wanted a youthful, summer look,” Blom said. “People together being themselves without it looking too posed. We got it down to around 10 photos, and then from there, we just went with our gut feeling.”
DeBerry, Chambers and Chada are from Fort Worth, Texas, but their 44 contributing writers are from all over the world — from Boston, to Saudi Arabia, to Memphis, to Sydney, Australia.
“I’ve made lifelong internet and ‘IRL’ friends through this little magazine we made, and I feel so, so lucky to have built those relationships,” said Chambers, Uniquely Aligned editor-in-chief.
Now, the magazine’s Instagram account has over 3,800 followers, and they receive over 50 submissions per month.
“Every single day is an accomplishment,” Chambers said. “Every instagram DM, every email, every amazing submission — I count it all (as) success. I feel really lucky that people enjoy the content we put out.”
DeBerry said she wants to encourage more people to be confident in their writing and art through the expansion of Uniquely Aligned.
“I just hope that we can continue to grow and get an even broader range of voices and topics,” DeBerry said. “No harm can come from taking creative risks.”