A Conversation With the Hosts of #BlackGirlsTexting and almostchill
By Editor Joyce Chen
When it comes to jostling for a seat at the table, the women behind the podcasts #BlackGirlsTexting and almostchill aren’t concerned about whether or not they’ll make the cut — as a matter of fact, they’ve opted to build their own table instead. For these hosts, realizing that the raw, honest, heated, hilarious conversations that they were already having with each other about navigating life as women of color was the impetus for their respective podcasts, born on opposite coasts: #BlackGirlsTexting in Bedstuy, Brooklyn, and almostchill in Seattle, Washington.
Glynn Pogue, Chelsea Rojas and Sade Parham make up #BlackGirlsTexting, a weekly podcast and event series that uses texts from their group chat as kindling for each episode, be it sex positivity or transitioning or traveling-while-Black. Kieryn Wang and Geraldine Mae Cueva (aka Gigi) are the two co-hosts at the helm of almostchill, a podcast (primarily) for Asian American women, by Asian American women, tackling topics ranging from appropriation to haters to white people. In both podcasts, the hosts speak truth to power by giving voice to the topics and issues that are often experienced, less often discussed.
Their hopes are simple: create a space for unfiltered conversation amongst themselves, and with their listeners. Provide a platform for other marginalized voices to speak out about their own experiences. Inspire dialogue about previously taboo topics and shatter stereotypes and misconceptions. Oh, and make sure to have fun along the way.
Here, The Seventh Wave spoke with these five women via the trusty conduit of the Internet, recreating, in a way, the faceless, voice-first experience of listening to a podcast. But make no mistake, each of these women has a voice distinctly her own, and a story she’s telling on her own terms.
The Seventh Wave: Hey y’all. Thanks so much again for taking the time to chat. To kick things off, I just wanted to say that it’s so great to get you all in the same space together, to be talking to each other. I’ll be throwing out questions here and there and moderating a bit, but I would mostly just love to hear all of your guys’ thoughts about being strong women of color in the podcast space. I’ve been listening to both your podcasts these last few weeks so I can familiarize myself with your voices. So #BlackGirlsTexting or almostchill, whoever wants to start, tell me a little bit about how your podcast began, and why podcasts?
Glynn Pogue: So the concept for #BlackGirlsTexting actually started when I was taking a class at The New School on race, class and ethnicity, and we had to do these final projects on media. I wanted to explore unfiltered conversations between black women and my professor said, “Oh, you should go to a hair salon and set up a camera and record women talking,” and I thought that felt kind of cliche and antiquated. I was trying to explore where black women, millennial black women, were having conversations, so I just ended up taking screenshots of our group chat and kind of doing a study around that, and that’s a chat that I’m in with Sade and Chelsea. And once we started thinking about it, we realized that, wow, we really are having interesting conversations within this forum. Chelsea has always been interested in podcasting as a medium and kind of pushed us toward expanding on those conversations that we have within podcasting.
Geraldine Mae Cueva: That’s awesome.
TSW: And Ger and Kieryn?
GMC: Well, Kieryn and I had met a couple years ago in cannabis and never really worked with each other directly, but we met up earlier this year in Seattle and we just decided after having a conversation with each other that it would be interesting to explore creating a podcast, because there were a lot of things that I felt like we had to unpack. There was just a lot to say, basically. So we chose podcasting because it’s such a great form of focusing, truly, on the art of conversation. From there, we developed what topics we cared about that we wanted to speak to, and it made the most sense for it to be a podcast. And so I went up to Seattle to record it with Kieryn, and we did the whole mini-season in a week, basically, after concepting for a month and a half about the topics that we wanted to speak about, which essentially were about being Asian women, growing up Asian, white people, and being Asian women in business. That’s pretty much how that came about. Kieryn, unless, you have anything to add.
Kieryn Wang: No, that was really comprehensive.
TSW: And so what I’m hearing from both of you in terms of why podcasts is that there’s just so much to talk about, so it felt like a natural medium to go toward. Was there ever any talk of, “Oh, what about a visual component?” Like having YouTube or something like that? I ask this because I’m so curious these days about podcasts being really empowering for people to say things unfiltered.
Chelsea Rojas: I think for us, the idea of having a conversation was super important. It felt super therapeutic to just talk with your girls, to talk through things, share all your different perspectives, and that’s why we chose podcasting. And just, like, logistically, it’s something that we didn’t have to be in analysis paralysis for too long — we just kind of get together and do it. There’s no excuse not to start a podcast if you want to. You just need the audio. In terms of wanting to do video, we definitely want to get into the visual space because I think that’s where things are moving toward, so I think that’s the next step for us, is having maybe a YouTube channel that goes along with the podcast.
KW: Yeah, I think on our end, same thing. There’s a lot less barrier to entry when it comes to a podcast versus video production. I know nothing about video production, and it was just a matter of resources, right? And podcasts are, in terms of resources, easier to organize. And of course, that would be awesome for us to be able to do some sort of video content. We do kind of incorporate that with our Instagram Lives that we do between episode releases so we can recap the episode and interact with our community and get feedback that way, which is really nice.
GMC: We really leveraged the livestream element where it’s the both of us talking and having this live, unfiltered conversation that we’re sharing with our community or whoever decides to jump in. We just go in telling people, “If you have questions, come on,” and we’ll just read through the comments as it goes, so it’s been really fun at least to explore that, which I think could easily develop into a livestream taping or a potential audience taping where we would film a real talk, or do an actual topic or episode on livestream and then record it. Who knows? But I really love that easy entryway we have into engaging our audience into a new kind of conversation that adds value to our existing podcast episodes.
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It’s hard to talk about issues, but we encourage you to continue the conversation! It takes all of us talking to each other to understand each other. Tune in on Monday at 4:20pm Pacific for our next Instagram live! Ask us your questions and learn more about us and maybe even about yourself ✌🏽⚡️#almostchill #twocents
TSW: And just curious, for both podcasts — walk me through what your process is like. You pick a topic and then what happens? Say you’re recording an episode. What does that look like? What does prep look like and then what does the actual recording look like?
Sade Parham: So we usually will have a discussion in our group chat — we talk on our phones every day — and who knows what comes up, but it’ll be times when we’ll be texting forever and ever and ever, and it’s like, “This should be an episode!”
GP: And then we’re like, “Stop talking! Don’t say anything else!”SP: Right, and Chelsea will literally be like, “Okay, everyone stop talking so we can save it for the episode.” But it’ll literally just be things that we’re talking about, from pop culture to things that we’re experiencing in our lives, and we’ll decide we want to record. And over time with the conversations we’ve had, we’ve kind of made a list of topics that are like, we should definitely touch on this, people want to hear about this. Then we’ll do our prep, because we like to do a little bit of research, especially if we’re talking about politics or something specific that would require a little bit more background information. And then we’re all in charge of our own segments, so everybody knows their responsibilities. Like, we have a segment called “Black Girls Doing Shit” where we’ll give props to black women or black girls or women of color, or we also have a segment that Chelsea loves called “Shit I Saw On the Train,” where she talks about crazy shit that she sees on the MTA. She always sees something very out of control.
CR: On my way here, I saw some shit-filled underwear on the blue train.
GMC: On the ACE? Oh lord, girl.
TSW: No thanks.
CR: And then we also have a segment called “What Would You Do?”
GP: Which is like our advice segment, which is like crazy stories that friends text us, but also reckless things that we’re going through in that moment.
TSW: So when you guys sit down to actually record, are there any pre-episode rituals or do you just press record and start talking?
CR: Well, we always have a doc, like a Googledoc, that we share with each other and as the week is going, we add things to it. We might add some articles to it that we ask for each other to look at, or videos, but we come to each recording with our own unique perspectives. It’s a pretty organic conversation that we’re sharing with the public. So it’s like we let other people into our group chat. That’s kind of our tagline: We let you into our world. It’sa natural, organic conversation.
SP: And you were like pre-prep rituals — we always have a cocktail if that’s what you mean.
TSW: [laughs] That was what I meant.
SP: And you guys, I heard that you guys are smokers, so …
GMC: Yeah, as far as what we do, since it was our first season, like you guys, we created a list of topics that we wanted to talk about and from there, we just segmented them into subtopics within that to create the basis of our conversation. Then we free-flow the conversation between us when we record it. There were definitely elements that we knew we wanted to call out and there were other elements that Kieryn added, like research, and our pre-show ritual is definitely smoking prior.
KW: I mean, the only difference is that we don’t meet on a regular basis, so we have to plan everything ahead of time, and we recorded the mini-season in two days. But it was five episodes, so not incredibly packed in. But on the first day we did three episodes, and it was pretty draining to do three episodes in a day.
TSW: Oh yeah, I imagine. Because just having a chat with your girls is different from knowing that it’s going to get broadcast out there, even if it’s edited and whatnot. Now that you guys have at least a mini-season if not a full season’s worth of experience, are there things that — either with yourself or with each other — that you catch yourself saying, “Ooh, okay. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that”?
CR: Yes. [laughs] I feel like at first, and it still happens to me, I feel like I kept saying offensive things. And I am a nice, good person — I sound like a white girl — I’m a good person, but you know, sometimes when you’re so comfortable, you don’t always check yourself and think through everything that you’re saying. And knowing that this is a podcast and knowing that what I’m saying, what we’re saying, will go out there into the world — I think it’s teaching me to be a more thoughtful speaker. [all murmur in agreement] Which is good. I think it’s a really self reflective exercise, but I will say that the first episode, I said that I wouldn’t sleep with someone if they’re from a third-world country, and one of our friends, who’s from a third-world country, said, “Hey, that really affected me.” and I was like, wow. Perspective. I’m just saying it because I’m talking to my girls and just saying it, I wasn’t saying it to mean any harm. But you know, your words matter.
GP: I’m struggling with how not to overly censor myself, I think, especially in this PC era that we’re in, and that’s the beauty of this group chat is that it’s so unfiltered. But then once you open it up to people, you’re subjecting yourself to their opinion and their criticism.
SP: Yeah, as we’ve gotten more popular, I definitely will say that I have found that I’m trying to be more aware of what I’m saying and my words and I sometimes have to take a step back and say, “Oh my god, is this going to be interesting?” But then I tell myself, “Fuck that, you’re interesting, that’s the whole point of this show. The show’s dope, so don’t try to change it now just because there are more eyes on it.” We’re going to continue to try to be authentic, because that’s what people who support you and have been supporting you are looking for, and what people are going to enjoy. People aren’t going to like things you say, people are going to debate you. People have emailed us saying things like, “I didn’t like that you said that one thing,” and I’ll reply and be like, “Oh, okay, well, we can talk about it.”
GP: You turn it into a discourse. And they still come back.
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GMC: It’s interesting that you guys said that unfiltered thing, because I think one thing that I loved about working with Kieryn on this is that it pushed me through the discomfort around topics that I wanted to remain unfiltered about, like when we were talking about stereotypes or comments around white people. I’m always trying to find a balance between sharing what I really feel, but also being mindful about things that I’ve said and backing them up with something meaningful at the same time. One thing I love about listening back to our season is that yeah, we pretty much said everything I felt we needed to say. I can only speak for myself, but I tried to be as unfiltered as possible and it made me feel a little more confident in how I express myself moving forward. We haven’t been out long enough for us to get feedback from our audience telling us, “I didn’t like what you said,” but we definitely received feedback from people that we just have to take. We’ve had people say, “I don’t know, that was too intense,” or whatever the case may be. But I feel like it’s only made me realize how valuable and important the conversation is to just women in general and Asians specifically.
TSW: Tell me a little bit more about that, about trying to be unfiltered but finding a balance, because Glynn, you mentioned it too. How do you gauge that? Is it a gut reaction, like, “Ooh, I shouldn’t say that,” or do you guys keep each other in check?
GP: I don’t know. I mean, I’ve been even thinking about this in my writing and in my work, I’m trying to challenge people’s thinking, I guess, so sometimes, I almost feel like, “Man, I’m ready to take the criticism for this if it means that it’s going to spark conversation.” That’s kind of the point. But I don’t know. I’m thinking about this one episode that we did with a guest who came on who’s a host for a podcast called “Horrible Decisions,” and oh god. We talked about all kinds of stuff.
SP: And they were fucked up.
GP: That’s right. [laughs] So when you ask about our gauge or how we control it, it depends on how much we drank that day. And we also recorded three episodes in a block, because Sade is on the west coast now. So we’ll start out real cute on episode one and by the third one, we were browning out.
SP: Okay, wait. We always say we have to record the more serious episodes before we get too drunk.
GP: Right, right. But for the “Horrible Decisions” one, I just let it all out there and I still kind of cringe for that, even though I think about it now as being an important episode about sex positivity and being able to hear black women be so unfiltered about these types of subjects around sex.
SP: I’m just so ready for my mom to be like, “Oh, I listened to that one.”
GP: Oh god, that would be the worst. I’m afraid that’s the one my mom’s going to listen to too. I’m thinking about making that one password protected. [everyone laughs]
GMC: That’s so funny because I don’t even know if my mom gets what I’m doing. She’s like, “What are you even doing? What’s a podcast?” And I’m like, “Ugh, girl. Never mind.”
GP: [laughs] Don’t worry yourself with that.
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TSW: And Kieryn, what about you, in terms of censoring or laying it all out there. What’s your comfort level?
KW: I think episode three was the one that most people will have an issue with, just because it’s fully about white people, and I think I kind of went the opposite direction. I think I had not enough weed, so I got really intense in that episode versus being, like, chill about it. And honestly, I’m frustrated that we don’t have haters yet. [everyone laughs] I want haters, I want them to feel my passion for having these conversations. I want more white people to listen to this and tell me that they hate me. Please.
GP: Ugh, we need to get into that.
KW: It’s definitely this weird thing where — I mean, Gigi, we always say this — we appreciate communication and we appreciate the constructive feedback that we get, but I also just kind of really want some white dude in some basement to be mad at me about saying the things that I’m saying. [everyone laughs again]
GP: I just want to jump in here with a thought, because a lot of white people love our podcast, and it makes me concerned sometimes.
CR: Yeah, we did our very first live show and the entire audience was white, and here we are talking about topics that I don’t even know if they understood. And I was making it very clear to them that I didn’t know if they understood it, and they were loving it. They were like, yes, shit on us some more!
GMC: Oh my lord, really?
SP: It’s like masochism. So weird.
TSW: So did anyone come up afterwards? I mean, it was a live show. And what did they say?
CR: They loved it. They loved it. They were like, “Where can we find this?” because I mean, I don’t know why. I don’t know why they loved it so much because we were shitting on them the whole time.
SP: Yeah, whenever my white friends listen, I’m like, “Disclaimer: I’m not racist.” And they’re like, no, it’s fine, we get it.
CR: I think it helps with some of their white guilt.
GMC: Yeah, you’re right.
TSW: I like that there’s this collective sigh, like, “Oh yeah, that.”
SP: [laughs] Yeah, that thing.
TSW: So that’s a nice segue for me to ask all of you guys about feedback and haters and criticism. Kieryn, you mentioned that you haven’t gotten the haters that you might have been hoping for.
KW: We’ll get there.
TSW: Do you think that’s just a matter of putting more stuff out there, or what’s your hope?
KW: Yeah, obviously, I think that it’s a matter of researching those parts of the Internet where you’ve gotta put more content out there to reach those people. And maybe say more controversial shit, I don’t know. The part that I really appreciate about Gigi and I working together is none of it is planned in a way where we have some ulterior motive. We’re just trying to say how we feel and feel how we say. So that just leads to emotion, especially on my end, but we also have a disclaimer that says, like, “The things that Kieryn says are not the feelings that Gigi has and vice versa.” So we definitely differentiate how we approach things, because I’m more confrontational than Gigi is.
TSW: Gotcha. And I think that’s one thing too, with having different perspectives on one podcast. How does that add more flavor to the mix, more texture to your podcast? Asking both #BlackGirlsTexting and almostchill.
SP: That’s a great question. I think that’s what makes us work and I think we could never have a Beyoncé moment. We’re all our own Beyoncé’s, but if we tried to go solo or do a Kelly/Beyoncé thing, it just wouldn’t work, because that’s what makes the show so interesting. That’s the point, right? We’re all black women, we’re all from Brooklyn, we’re all millennials, but we have very different upbringings. And even though in some ways we had similar upbringings, we have all these different outlooks on life and topics, and the whole point is to show that black women are multi-faceted. We can be so many different things, and that’s why #BlackGirlsTexting is about: showing this mundane thing, like, “Oh look, here’s black girls texting.” Someone asked me once, “Why is it Black Girls Texting?” and it’s because we’re black and we text. We take showers. We drive. We go to the store. We do everything just like you. We’re human beings, and while we are black women first, we are also just young women figuring out life like everybody else.
TSW: That’s really well-put.
GP: I think, like, culturally too, we’re so different even though we’re all first generation. So when we talk about all these nuances within our identity sets as black women, as black American women, as African American women, our outlooks are so different. We did a conversation recently about “black privilege” and each of us had different outlooks on it based on our lineage and heritage or our socioeconomic status. We each bring different things to the table, so that makes our conversations really rich in that way too.
GMC: I think in terms of how our dynamic is, I think we both compliment each other. I don’t know who had mentioned it, if it was Glynn or Sade, but we both have had similar and different upbringings. I think in our first two episodes, we show that growing up Asian, there were some real similarities between how we were raised, but then some clear differences. Kieryn is born and raised in Washington, and I was from the east coast — in Brooklyn, also, actually, and in Jersey — so it’s really interesting to use the podcast as a channel to figure out how we’re both Asian. I think our conversation opens up an opportunity for all kinds of Asians and Asian women to relate. And I think that’s what adds texture and something interesting to our conversations and to what we have to say. …but I also forgot the question because I was way too busy listening to what you guys were saying.
KW: Gigi, are you high?
GMC: No! [laughs] I don’t even know. I was lighting up this Palo Santo thing that someone gave me when they were visiting my house and it’s really fucking with my brain. I just can’t think correctly.
KW: I mean, I definitely agree with what everyone was saying, and I also forgot the question. [laughs]
TSW: I was just asking about what different voices bring to the table.
KW: Gotcha. Yeah, so we like to say that Gigi is the “almost angry” part and I’m the “almost chill” part of the podcast, because I’m usually angry, and she’s usually chill. And I think we really bring that out in each other and encourage each other to push through those conversations. Like, Gigii really encourages me through the process to be a little more considerate. And I’m like, “Oh, yeah. Okay.” And I definitely say to Gigi, “Get angry. It’s okay to be angry.” Gigi talks a lot about “protecting your positivity,” which I totally am trying to embrace more and more, and in doing that, I’m learning to be more empathetic and approach white people with kindness. [everyone laughs]
GMC: That was really well-said, Kieryn. Sometimes I think protecting my positivity creates this bubble where I’m like, “I want to be unaffected by people’s fucking bullshit,” but the reality is, there’s bullshit everywhere. Sometimes I feel like I’m so engrossed in my work and my work is me dealing with white people all the time, or white males, where they’re just not listening to me. I feel like if I didn’t have someone like Kieryn to say that it’s okay for me to be mad sometimes, sometimes I just try to move along from it. It’s almost like a PTSD thing, like I’ve suppressed it for so long that I just want to ignore it. But I don’t think that’s beneficial to my personal development or how I evolve as a woman. I think what people don’t see that I see and experience from our relationship and this conversation that we’ve developed through our podcast is that it’s actually made me want to be confrontational. And I don’t say confrontational in a negative way, because I feel like people think that people think that word is negative, but I think confrontation just means calling out and being honest about certain shitty things, whether it’s white people or it’s about race or stereotypes. Maybe it’s part of being Filipino or Asian or whatever, but I grew up just accepting things and putting my head down and just moving forward, and trying to be the best that I can be. But I don’t think I realized that I can’t be the best unless I see all spectrums of topics or the situation. I think that’s what I feel has brought texture even to my voice and to the conversation that we have through almost chill.
Kieryn might say that she brings out the angry part of me, but I actually feel like she brings out the honest part of me. I’m a Libra, and so innately, I just wanna be as balanced or as kind as I can be. So I struggle with that, because yeah, there are situations that are ugly, and I want to understand them and move them in the right direction if I can, but I can’t get there unless I am honest about how I feel about situations or dissecting whatever topic it is we’re on, this podcast or not. I’ve kind of leaned into that discomfort and anger and assessed my anger and then found a happy ending in the end or moved on. We’ve created this podcast where I feel other people can feel or embrace or understand and find comfort in knowing that we’re also dealing with the same thing. And in terms of being “almost angry” and “almost chill” — in trying to create that open space where both those sides of the conversation can exist is fascinating.
SP: Yeah, girl!
TSW: That’s really well-put.
SP: Y’all have to listen to this Solange song called “Mad.”
GMC: I love that song.
GMC: When I listen to that song, I feel — you know, that album came out at a really great time, personally, in my life, where I was like, this is how I feel all the time, and I would just, like, crank it up to remind myself that you have — you know that Master P interlude, where he’s like, “The magic is in you. The glory is in you.” And I feel like I totally take that all the time. I love that album.
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A reminder to all our listeners, especially our white listeners. We aren’t here to tell you who to be, but rather give you the tools to be a better you. Even if you’ve made mistakes in the past, forgive yourself and work hard not to repeat your mistakes. Growing is difficult, but we challenge you to power through. #almostchill
TSW: I love what you said about how being mad is actually about being honest. That’s pretty impactful. #BlackGirlsTexting, you guys were mentioning before that someone had emailed in and said, “Hey, I didn’t like it when you say such and such,” and it turned into a discourse versus just turning into an angry back-and-forth. I’m curious about the power of having a space like this, where you can be honest, and that invites other people to be honest with you in a way, versus just having people shouting at each other all the time. Tell me about the power of holding a space for each other where you can just be honest, or angry, or both.
SP: I’d say the podcast is honestly very therapeutic in a way. Like, that feeling when you go in and you’re like, “Okay, we’re about to do this,” but as you get into it, you’re really just talking, and you might find that you’re saying things that you might not have said out loud in some situations. Like, we had episodes on transitioning and dating and we’re very raw about what’s going on in our lives, and I think Gigi said something similar to this, that there are people that are going through very similar things, and it’s great to be able to just open up and provide that safe space. Because it’s just your girls. And then to do an episode and to have people reach out and say, “I so felt that episode” is something else. We did an episode on Father’s Day, and we talked about our dads and a lot of people were very emotional about that one. It’s really nice to connect with people and realize that we’re all going through similar things. It’s also nice to have discourse with people, because it kind of opens up your perspective.
GP: Yeah, and I would just add on top of what you’re saying that the vulnerability that we bring to the podcast opens up our listeners to be vulnerable as well. #BlackGirlsTexting is a thing that’s based on conversation, and it lends itself to continuing the conversation. We’re so open to having this conversation that feels inclusive of our listeners so that it’s very easy for them to join in with us. It’s even a thing that we do on our Instagram: we’ll take screenshots of questions that people will send us or screenshots from our group chat or a text that someone sent us, and we really engage with our followers. It’s all about communication, really, because that’s the foundation and basis of our whole growth as a brand.
SP: My favorite thing is — and this has happened quite a few times, and not only to myself but I think also to Chelsea or Glynn, is people will DM us or text us and say, “I feel like I’m just hanging out with my friends.” And we’re like, “Yes, that’s the point!” Or the point is if you’re commuting on whatever train you’re on, or in your car or doing whatever you’re doing in that moment, you’ll feel like you’re just shooting the shit with your friends.
TSW: Right, and I love that idea that it’s a conversation starter, not, “Okay, this was the conversation that was had, record it, done”. It’s like fodder for people to give you feedback or for you to get the topic out there. I love that.
GP: We really want to know who’s on the other side, like, who’s listening.
TSW: Yeah, that’s one thing I was wondering too, is as you guys are recording, do you have somebody in mind who you’re speaking to, or are you hoping that it just reaches broadly? All kinds of people, all walks of life.
CR: I’m hoping that it reaches all people, all walks of life. I mean, I feel like initially, my thoughts were that this is for the black women, but I also feel like I’m happy that white people are listening to it at the same time, because it’s like, maybe you’re too afraid to talk about your racist thoughts to black friends, or maybe you are too afraid to ask a question. So I feel like the more people the better, the more people that can understand that we are people, the better. In the media, I feel like we are either portrayed as super woman or nothing. So I feel like if you can see us as just regular people, that’s a positive thing.
SP: We had an episode on interracial dating, and it might have been the second or third episode, and a lot of people who were reaching out to me at least were actually not — and it was about black women and white men, but also black women dating outside their race in general — but a lot of Asian women and Latina women reached out to me being like, “Oh my gosh, I totally vibe with this episode.” They talked about being treated like a fetish, and it was cool to be connected with other PoC women on that.
TSW: Yeah, for sure. And Ger and Kieryn?
KW: I think on our end, we talk about it being for the masses, but really, we hope that Asian women listen to it and get to say, “Oh, here’s some content that we can relate to,” just because I think the more stories we have out there, the more we can start to understand each other on a “this is what my life is like on a daily basis” rather than “here’s a big event that happened and let’s all represent all Asians the same,” or this one group this one way.
GMC: I really liked what everyone was saying. You know, I noticed that there’s not a lot of Asian/Asian American conversations like ours. I’ve seen some other podcasts and listened to a few of them. I don’t know what else is out there, but I feel like ours feels a little more honest, and I think it’s because we’re a little more blunt or vulgar, I’m not sure. But I think when people think of Asian women, they don’t see that side of us, whereas Kieryn and I have very strong personalities and are vocal, and the stereotypical Asian woman is more quiet and meek. I mean, you see it all in the movies. I always reference the Pitch Perfect girl who was just quiet the whole fucking time. And it was like, “Speak up!” And I feel like that’s what people think, even in the business setting. You don’t always hear about Asian women in business. So already I feel like that is a place that we differ, and whether you’re like us, where you’re a more vocal Asian, or not, I would hope that people — all women of color or even just the masses in general — can listen and rethink what they assume about our culture.
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TSW: You’ve all spoken about what you’re hoping that listeners can walk away from with the podcast. With #BlackGirlsTexting, recognizing that, hey, black girls can text, black girls take showers — just normal everyday things. And then on the almostchill side, that Asians aren’t just meek and quiet and not able to take charge. So I’m curious, on the flip side of things, what do you guys hope to walk away with from the podcast — each of you personally? What do you hope to get out of the podcast for yourself?
GP: That’s a good question.
CR: Yeah, that’s a good question.
GP: I find that I sometimes use it as a sounding board for things I want to explore in my writing. It helps me — and that’s a thing that I do anyway when I’m thinking about a topic. I’m bouncing it off of my friends, and using it as a space to unpack things. So a lot of times, after leaving the studio, I’m like, “Oh, that was an essay. That was an essay.” And it fires me up in a lot of ways, and just talking to Sade and Chelsea helps get me thinking. I think what I’m getting out of it, and what I hope to continue getting out of it, is just connecting with my girlfriends and building something with them that’s really cool and powerful.
SP: I think it’s interesting because at one point we were like, “Let’s just do this, right?” Because you can say you want to do something forever and then never really do it. And then we did it, and we kept doing it, and then it became like, “Okay, so we’re doing this. What are we doing with this?” And in a way, I would love to see major success with this, but regardless of what it becomes, say if we get a Grammy for podcasting, I don’t know if that exists, let’s just say it did. If we got the biggest accolade for our podcast, would I love to have that? Absolutely. But at the same time, just that pride in setting a goal for myself and accomplishing it is enough. Even if it was just like “That was fun, and now it’s over,” it’s also like, “I fucking did that!”
CR: Eventually, I mean, obviously I love this time as a form of therapy because I don’t have a psychologist on my insurance yet, but in the future, I want us to blow the fuck up. I want us to have some sort of influence on other people. I wish we were poppin’ in 2016, where I could say, “Don’t vote for that motherfucker. He doesn’t care about you.” I want to keep talking about really important issues and for my words to matter. I want it to matter on a bigger scale.
GMC: I felt similarly. After we were done, after we had recorded our fifth episode, I remember walking away from it thinking, “Wow. We literally put all this intention into creating this thing in such a short period of time.” It felt so good knowing that we had done it. I don’t know who said it earlier, but just being able to start and finish something, and having it out in the world, I felt like it was freeing and celebratory for me. I feel like there’s a million things that I’ve wanted to do and this felt like such a creative project with thinking and challenging my comfort level and at the end of the day, owning my own voice. And working with Kieryn. I would hope a million things for this podcast. There are so many things that we can take and grow from it, but personally, I think I would love to take it on the road and do listening parties with people and engage in conversations in that way. I think there’s just still a lack of Asian women being able to speak up and share their voices and their platforms, and I think that if this creates that for us, why shouldn’t we share that? And give people an opportunity to come to us.
KW: I mean, first of all, Chelsea, I definitely think that by 2020 you guys will be at a place where you guys can say, “Don’t vote for that fucker. Again.” [everyone laughs] So definitely rooting for you and want to support you guys in getting there. And then for me, I think there’s always something I’ve found so valuable in — as much as I value my friends who don’t smoke — the ones who I can smoke with and have real conversations with. They always go somewhere different. And I really appreciate being able to have that conversation with Gigi. We started talking about the podcast over weed at Joyce’s house. [laughs] And we were just talking and I was probably complaining about white people and we were just laughing and that really in itself was such a powerful thing to have in my life, and I just hope that more women especially get to have those conversations. Not just hush hush with themselves, but really get to voice those opinions and anger and thoughts and positivity, all of it, out loud.
GMC: Yeah, out loud.
CR: And just really fast, I want to say that I also hope to be a platform for others. I just know my experience. For instance, I’m a heterosexual woman. I want to be a platform for other people to come on and talk about their experiences. Like all this trans shit that’s happening right now. I want to be a place where people can come on and broadcast their thoughts, their feelings to millions of other people, you know? Like a safe space.
GP: And we also want to be extending into the IRL arena. Have more live shows and meet with people face-to-face. And adding on to what Chelsea said, highlighting other people. We just did a show in Brooklyn, which was a big accomplishment to us, because we did two shows in a weekend, and we just kind of reached out to our network and people were willing to work with us and were really generous with their space and time. We had Tiffany Reid, who’s the fashion editor at Cosmo and Seventeen, and another woman named Nicole Chapoteau, who’s a former stylist and editor at Allure, two black women who are really successful in their fields, and to be able to have a conversation with them and to bring on other young black women who are interested in those same industries, to have them come and attend and hear and be able to network with one another, was really powerful. So we want to keep creating spaces where women can connect with each other and build and take over.
TSW: Just as a last question, I’m curious to know — in asking what you guys are hoping for for yourselves and for the podcast, or what you’re hoping to get out of it, I heard the word “success” come up a lot. And so I’m curious, for each of you, what does success look like?
GMC: Ooh, damn.
TSW: [laughs] It’s a big question but I mention this because for women especially, success is oftentimes defined by someone else’s terms, but a really cool thing about what all of you are doing, I think, is that you get to set your own terms, and you get to talk about what you want to talk about. So to me, to hear “success” come up at least two or three times, just in this last question, makes me curious about what that means to each of you.
SP: Success to me means making a living doing something I love every day.
GMC: I like that. It’s funny, because I was talking to someone about this the other day over dinner, and I used the word success, and I said, “I’m not there yet. When I’m successful.” And they just stopped me and they were like, “You are, though.” And I just felt like that couldn’t be further from the truth and we dissected how I felt, which was really uncomfortable, because they were like, “Why don’t you feel successful?” And I was like, “I’m nowhere near where I think I could be,” and then I started thinking, “Okay, maybe I’m too hard on myself. What is success?” And then I scaled back a little bit and I thought, well, success comes in waves. There’s immediate success and long-term success, and this year I think the big success was getting this even created and done. It was concepted in May and it went out at the end of August. I’ve only pursued stuff that I feel like I care about, and I don’t want that to ever change — I think that’s the one thing I value the most is my flexibility and my freedom, and freedom comes from being able to be free in my movements, whether I’m east or west coast or up and down California, or in Hawaii navigating my day-to-day with the businesses that I’m a part of. And I think that that’s success for me. I guess I can always put monetary value to all that and live comfortably, but I think for the sake of the question, I think success would just be to continue doing what I care about doing, and have it be everywhere. I don’t want to be blocked into, “I’m just a podcaster” or “I’m only a business consultant” or “I’m only in cannabis,” it’s like, bish I do it all! I feel like if I can do it all and take a step back and feel proud of it, and then look at the communities that I’ve cultivated and the relationships I have, and they feel proud and happy to be in a relationship with me, whatever it is, business or personal, I feel like that’s success.
KW: Really quickly for me, I would just say that success on my terms? Two things. One thing would be for Asian women and women of color in general to have their voices heard and to have especially men listen rather than let it be said but not have any action behind it or any progress made. And the second thing would be for me to have white people start checking themselves more. And if that’s through the podcast facilitating that or encouraging people in my everyday life to start doing that, those two things would be my version of success. More for women of color and more checks for white people.
TSW: Not checks, but checks. [laughs]
KW: Not money! No, no no no no. Like, more, yeah, you get it.
CR: I feel like my brain is super literal, so success for me would be having so much influence and money that I could open up a school. That’s random but I want to be able to have influence to do things that I care about. For me, that’s opening up a great place in Brooklyn. I also feel like for me personally, I probably won’t ever feel successful, it’s probably that I’ll always be chasing something. [everyone murmurs in agreement]
GP: That’s a great point, Chelsea. I was just thinking about that with what Gigi is saying, that maybe success is about perspective, right? Where we are right now, we’re successful for the goals that we’ve set for ourselves. We’re doing it. So it’s just about what you’ve set out for yourself. I’m thinking about what do I want to achieve in 2019 and will how much I achieve determine how successful I’ll feel about myself by the end of that year? I think success for me is definitely related to influence because a lot of the work that I do is about sharing my thoughts and continuing to have conversations with people and getting people to think. So I think influence is important. And like everyone said, to be able to do the things that I want to do and get paid for it. To make a living. And also, to be happy and fulfilled every day. I would feel successful if I woke up every day and was like, really excited about what I was about to do, even if I knew it was going to be hard. [everyone agrees]
TSW: I don’t think anyone on this call would dispute that you guys all work really hard, because putting on a podcast or not, it’s not easy. It’s not for nothin’. So being fulfilled and not being afraid of hard work, I hear that.
GMC: You know, it’s interesting because with #BlackGirlsTexting, all of you guys have mentioned the word influence, and I feel like I’m so averse to that word for some reason. But I get what you guys are saying. You want to change thought and be heard, and in that respect, that is having influence. I think that over the years, I felt really frustrated with the word influencer because of social media, and …
SP: You mean like Kim Kar-ho-shian? [everyone laughs]
GMC: Someone had once mentioned to me, “Oh, you’re an influencer,” and I just barked at them and I was like, “Please don’t call me an influencer. I’m a thought leader.” You know? I was very adamant about not using that word around me, but maybe that’s because like Joyce said, success is defined on other people’s terms, and maybe it’s that I need to not be afraid of that word and create a different meaning for “influence” and “influencer.” So that I feel I can be one. I feel like even hearing you guys, I’m like, “Damn, I don’t know if I feel that way.” But I also totally agree. I want to be heard and this podcast is a platform to be heard in that way.
TSW: I feel like we just started, but I also just want to be conscious of time. Are there any last thoughts that anyone wants to throw out there? I’m happy to wrap up but I also want to make sure that you guys are able to express whatever you need to.
CR: I just wanna say that I feel like that term “influencer” is annoying and stupid, because you put up a nice makeup tutorial and all of a sudden you’re an influencer. But I feel like, what it comes to for me personally is thinking about my college experience and how I would be in a room and I would be the only black person. And I know that I’m smarter than most of, at least half of, the people in the room, but because I’m a black female, no one was necessarily listening. So I feel like that, those experiences that I’ve had, almost makes me yearn for that loud voice. Like, do you hear what I’m saying? I’m smarter than you. I’m bringing a lot more to the table, so you need to listen, and just because you’re a white, rich man doesn’t mean you get to ignore what I’m saying.
GP: Yeah, exactly. What are you going to do with your platform, right? You’re given a platform, use it in a smart way, not just promoting Flat Tummy Tea and Fashion Nova. But also, like, I think the word “influencer” gets me fucked up thinking about social media because it’s like, if I get a lot of likes on a photo of myself, it makes me highly uncomfortable because it’s like, “Oh, you’re liking me because of my face or outfit, that’s fucking weird.” Like my pictures or my shit because of what I said. I want my influence to be about my thoughts. I want to earn it. Because what I’m bringing people is something of value and substance.
GMC: Wow, love that. And that’s the thing: I like that you said you want to earn it. I feel like as women, we are constantly pushing ourselves to earn it, you know what I mean? Going in different routes and using different platforms where we can actually be loud and be heard. And I think, maybe all of us as women, as podcasters, can inspire that and make it a real movement and dialogue and conversation.
Sade Parham is a 26-year-old Brooklyn native now residing in the Bay area. With a background in fashion merchandising and marketing, she lives the corporate life, but fully believes in a work-hard play-hard mantra. Driven in her current career in the world of fashion, Sade aspires to take her skill set oversees, expanding to international brand management and consulting. Known for her strong opinions, she will debate you on everything from foreign policy to who the best rapper alive is (Jay-Z). An alumna of Trinity College, the budding business-woman is launching a branding agency in the new year.
Glynn Pogue is a 26-year-old writer with wanderlust from Bed Stuy, Brooklyn. BedStuyBrat was her AOL Instant Messenger name back in the T-Mobile Sidekick days, and the moniker still applies; much of her works centers around her community of brown people and brownstones. Her prose has been featured in Guernica, Vogue, Essence, National Geographic Traveler, and Jezebel, among others. A graduate of The New School’s MFA in Creative Writing program, the do-or-die dreamer is currently at work on a collection of essays on race, class, identity and her beloved Bed-Stuy.
Born of Trinidadian and Venezuelan decent, 25-year-old Chelsea Sadé Rojas is making a major shift. After quitting her job as the lead teacher at a prestigious private school in NYC, she is now hyper focused on pursuing her calling to act, host and continue to educate. Chelsea, Aka @chelspinky, is obsessed with traveling, film, tv and politics. As a sociology and Spanish lit double major she is constantly looking for the message, ready to dissect the world on a deeper level. She is currently filming a web series, set to debut later this Fall.
Born in Brooklyn and raised in Jersey, Geraldine Mae Cueva aka Gigi is the product of two first-generation Filipino immigrants. After dropping out of nursing school to pursue fashion, Gigi built a career doing exactly what no one told her to do. With a relevant mix of experience from major retailer, small biz operation, and fashion-tech start-up, Gigi has worked with brands like ideeli, Bonobos, Apple, and SoulCycle. Today, Gigi resides on the west coast, building her non-agency agency committed to growing brands and reaching their communities. From dance music artist, Kaskade to LEVO, the kitchen countertop device that infuses any type of herb with oil and butter (hello, edibles!)–Gigi is focused on honest story-telling, connecting consumers to premium products, and creating engaging experiences. Also, as one half of the podcast, almostchill, Gigi celebrates being Asian-American and a woman of color through raw, unfiltered, conversation and moments of chill.
Kieryn Wang grew up in Seattle and went to school in Chicago. Upon returning to Seattle, she finally came to realize the whiteness that had (always) permeated the city. Kieryn has since started her own digital marketing consultancy as she continues to explore her city with fresh eyes. She is certainly the almost chill part of the equation, as you’ll soon discover while listening to the episodes.
Featured image courtesy of Cindy Funk.