She’s Trailblazing Radio… It’s Her Journey!
Houston’s Hottest Radio Personality ‘Sarah Pepper’ Bares Her Soul For The First Time Allowing A Rare Look Into Her Personal Life, Her Passions, And Her Happiness…
Millions of Houstonians have heard her voice for the past 8 years at Houston’s Hot 95.7FM or at one of the many non profit fundraisers she speaks at. She’s an inspiration to young women trailblazers, a savior too thousands of local charities, and an advocate for the voiceless. Her name is Sarah Pepper, and she is fashioning a trail in Houston that only legends have accomplished.
Sarah will be the first to tell you that her life is not a fairytale full of perfection. She admits she is human, makes mistakes at times, and doesn’t take life for granted! She’s a defender of children, a major market city radio personality star, and her heart is worn on her sleeve.
Arranging an interview took months in order to find the perfect date that would allow me a glimpse into understanding the full character of Sarah. (You have to ‘try’ and be Sarah. The key word is ‘try’!) Our day ‘together’ helped me understand her and allowed me to explore how she is who she is. It was an adventure of multiple espresso shots, at least 97 miles of driving, two different cities, and barely a cracker of food. This is her story…
Sarah grew up in Evansville; a small town in Indiana. She came from a small family; a mother that struggled as a single parent but managed to put her three children through private school by working long hours. Never once does Sarah recall hearing her mother complain. Her mother was a provider and providing is what she did best for her children.
People probably listen to the show and think I am happy all the time- Sarah Pepper
Living in a town with a population of estimated 80,000 people gave Sarah life lessons of hope, love, and faith. Qualities that Sarah practices daily. Her grandmother played an important role in her life. Sarah frequently refers to her granny often when she looks back at her childhood.
Sarah graduated from Ball Universities’ Letterman School of Communications in Muncie, Indiana. A school named after its famous alumni, David Letterman. Sarah worked several jobs to put herself through college. Upon return to her hometown, she quickly found that without experience a radio job wouldn’t be in her future, but she also found much more. It was just the beginning!
One evening while waiting tables, near closing time, a gentleman and his wife sat down. “You have got to be kidding me,” Sarah explains. The man was from New Orleans, Louisiana and was in town to re-launch an unknown radio station in town. “I am going to give you the best advice: Get back in your car and drive back to Louisiana, because this is not going to work,” she said to him and his wife. His name was Brad Booker. A week later she landed a job as producer of the ‘Booker and Diane Show’ on Hot 96 in Evansville. After several jobs in radio, Sarah received an offer from Houston. The intimidation of big city radio scared her, along with the thought of being alone, and not knowing anyone weighed heavy on her mind. With that, she packed her car and headed to Texas.
At 4:30am, Sarah, co/host ‘Ivan Trujillo’, and show producer ‘Lucio’ arrive at CBS studios in preparation for a 6am morning show. Upon their arrival to the studio they briefly chat and depart for their different sections of the studio.
They begin working on the next days show the evening before. “Each night about 8PM the entire station staff sends out an e-mail that briefly goes into details of ‘hot’ topics for the following days shows.” Sarah explains, as she is standing behind the control console. She’s just waking up, you can see it on her face. Keep in mind; Starbucks isn’t open when their crew arrives at work. Sadly they can look out the window of their 19th floor studio and see the Starbucks.
The CBS studios are like a theme park for music junkies, covered with autographs and music memorabilia on the walls. Everywhere you look there is a studio for a station CBS owns. They currently have Mix 96.5FM, The Bull 100.3FM, Mega 101.1FM, and many more… including Hot 95.7FM; which is where I landed.
At 6:00AM its show time and I notice that Sarah is not only taking calls and editing but, she is also updating the show’s website. “We like to have our topics up on the site before we do each segment.” She explains, “Because some people are visual, and we think its great.”
Dressed in a blue button down, Sarah commented that she didn’t normally dress like this but, because of the days agenda and public speaking she dressed up. She sneaks out of the studio and it’s like the calm before the storm. It’s so quiet. There are little blinking lights everywhere… (I just want to push them all.)
It wasn’t till I had everything taken away from me when my brother died, did I really understand what happiness was- Sarah Pepper
Ivan Trujillo is Sarah’s co/host in the mornings and his humor is captivating. Moving to Houston from San Francisco was a wake up call for him. He was shocked at the ‘issues’ Texan’s were having with Same-Sex Marriage. “I was like what’s the big deal?” Ivan and Sarah are among the moving trend to get away from labels in society and neither identifies as straight, gay, blue or tall … they are who they are.
Show producer Lucio is probably the one that levels both Sarah and Ivan out. Far from the outspoken or jokester, Lucio is quiet and soft-spoken. He is the father of a nine-year-old daughter and has a ‘better half’, (long time girlfriend) for the past ten years.
Lucio started off as an intern with Hot 95.7FM but, had the goal of becoming an employee. Raising his daughter was not easy. He worked a job as an overnight stocker at Target and after his late shift he would drop his daughter at school, then head to work. It was his dedication to achieve his goal that landed him as a producer, which requires him to coordinate all aspects of the live radio show every weekday. “He’s so shy…” Ivan explains. “When a girl walks into the room, he almost starts shaking.”
As these three different personalities merge in a radio studio, the collision creates radio magic.
“People probably listen to the show and think I am happy all the time,” Sarah explains. Someone must understand what happiness is to truly understand and appreciate it. “As I was growing up happiness to me was milestones in my life. Like graduating high school made me happy. Putting myself through college made me happy. Turning 21 made me, very, very, happy!”
“Moving to Houston made me happy. Buying my first house made me happy…” she continued. “It wasn’t till I had everything taken away from me when my brother died, did I really understand what happiness was”.
“Happiness for me is making others happy.” Sarah detailed how she spent her life filling her voids with things that did not make her happy. “What I realized was, you can have all those things, but if you don’t have special people around you to share it with, emptiness is there.”
“The fact that he’s not here leaves a void in me,” she shared with me, “But I’m honored to have that void, because when you loose something that great, you know that God put that person in your life, and it hurts so bad because he was so amazing. There are going to be some great days in your life and there will be some horrible ones.”
“Happiness is not something that just happens to you, happiness is your perspective of what you have in this world because, money will go, you will get fired, and you will have children that will love you one day and hate you the next. You may get married, you may get divorced. You may never get married, as my mom has almost given up on me.”
“I may not have children of my own, but I volunteer with thousands of non-profits across Houston and those children I think of as my kids. I become apart of their lives in the same way. It’s not about what you don’t have, but what you do have.”
“You have to take stock in your life every single day and not look at it as ‘what you didn’t do today,’ what you may not get to do tomorrow, but its what I have right now, its what people are going to say about me, when I may not be here tomorrow. Always think about that, cause you will never know the impact on someone’s life by what you say to them.”
“You may be a stranger’s happiness, you may be a co-worker’s smile that day. You may be their first laughter after the biggest tragedy of their life, and you may never know that. Keep that in your heart and know that you hold the power every single day.”
“I’ve meet with an adoption agency and a foster care provider,” Sarah excitedly says. “I’ve wanted to adopt kids for a long time. There are a lot of good kids that need good homes.” Looking at Sarah when she is speaking something this important, and with no humor, her face is stern and her eyes are wide filled with what I believe is ‘hope’ and ‘love.’ “They need a place to be, and it’s the worst feeling in the world feeling like you have no one or no place to go.”
A big inspiration to Sarah was her grandmother, who passed away this year at 95 years old. Sarah says her best advice ever came from her grandmother. “No 1. You can get glad the same day you were sad, you can turn that frown upside down, and get grandma another glass of ice tea.”