Meet Julia, editor and content manager for SoulGrown! Julia Sayers Gokhale plans out all the content for the website, so she always has her ear to the ground for the best stories to come out of Alabama, as well as editing and managing a creative team of freelance writers. Have a story idea in mind? Email it to Julia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I’m a born-and-raised Southerner who just recently moved to the Midwest. I grew up in North Carolina and moved to Alabama in 2013 to pursue a career in magazine journalism. I worked for Paula Deen’s magazine for a couple of years before taking a role at Birmingham Magazine. I was there for 5 years and became Editor in Chief of the magazine in 2017. I loved sharing my passion for the city through my role there. Unfortunately, the magazine met an untimely end during the 2020 pandemic, but it led to new opportunities: I was part of the team that launched SoulGrown! It’s been great to still have a platform to tell all the rich stories found in Alabama.
- Where do you call home base?
Currently Des Moines, Iowa! But Birmingham (and Alabama in general) will always have my heart.
- What is a favorite memory from your career so far?
So tough to choose just one! I’d say all the unique experiences I had while working for Birmingham Magazine, including sharing Spotify playlists with Mayor Woodfin, learning to fly a plane with the Birmingham Flight School, cooking in the kitchen with several of our James Beard-nominated chefs, and just meeting the incredible people who made our city a better place every day. Oh and winning “Magazine of the Year” by the Alabama Press Association in 2020—that was a really emotional and career-defining moment for me.
- What are some things you like to do for fun?
Eat and travel! I’m always scoping out fun places to eat, whether it’s the hottest new place or a hole-in-the-wall serving amazing international food. I also love to travel both domestically and internationally. I’ve been to 24 countries so far and I’m on a mission to visit all 50 states (only 4 left!). My husband and I also really enjoy hiking together.
- What motivates and/or inspires you?
My passion for sharing interesting stories and giving a platform to those who don’t have one. I absolutely love sharing the stories of people making a difference or small businesses doing amazing things and hearing how it impacted them. I also really just love to serve people through writing, so I think that’s why I love travel writing so much—it allows me to share expert tips and recommendations that can help others.
- Do you have a secret talent?
I’m really good with directions—does that count?
- Do you have a goal you are working toward outside of work? If so, what is it and/or how do plan to achieve it?
My husband and I have a goal to visit every national park in the U.S. We try to visit at least one a year, but we’re going to need to start doubling up soon—there are 63 total! I think we’ve been to about 15 now.
- What is your favorite thing (or things) about Alabama?
The food! Birmingham has one of the best and most surprising food scenes for a city of its size. I love the diversity of cuisine we have, the fresh produce the state can offer, and the access to just-caught Gulf seafood. But I also love Alabama’s geographic diversity—it really is a beautiful state. Oh and I LOVE the Alabama beaches! Gulf Shores/Orange Beach is my happy place. My mind drifted there quite often during our first Midwestern winter! So really, I love everything about Alabama.
- Who have been your strongest influences?
I would say my dad. He instilled a love of travel and an adventurous spirit in me. I think I also got my work ethic from him—he pursued his passions and learned how to hone his talent to build a life and career that was completely self-made, while keeping a strong dedication to family.
- What are you most passionate about?
New experiences. Travel plays into a lot of that, but you don’t have to travel to have new experiences. I love finding new experiences in places I’ve lived for years. I fully believe that you should try anything once (within reason, of course). It can be as small as trying a new food or as big as going skydiving or visiting a different country. I thrive on getting to experience things I typically wouldn’t in my everyday life. Going out of your comfort zone is what helps you to grow. Plus, it often makes for really good stories!