An Interview with Black Girls Talking

In the very crowded world of podcasts, one deserves your attention and subscription. Black Girls Talking is a pop culture podcast wherein four Black women discuss representations of people of color in various forms of media.

When listening to the podcast, you sometimes feel like you’re eavesdropping on four girlfriends out to dinner, laughing and talking about whatever is on their minds – which is interesting, since the four women have never actually met in person. They ‘met’ on tumblr, which is where the podcast originated via a post.

Fatima, Aurelia, Alesia and HelloGiggles’ own Ramou relate topics such as racism, feminism, sexism and cultural appropriation to their everyday lives and experiences. Whether they are talking about HBO’s Girls and Lena Dunham, Django Unchained or “What’s Hot in the Streets”, you hear the passion in what they’re saying – this passion is infectious, as is their laughter.

I sat in on the recording of one of their latest episodes and then talked to the four women about the podcast.

Why did you start the podcast?

Fatima: I wanted to be able to share some of the great conversations I’ve had online and in real life with women of color about representation in media and thought a podcast would be the ideal format for that.

Ramou: Fatima really started it. She posted on tumblr about wanting to start a podcast about representation of women of color in the media. It’s a subject that I’m interested in and the idea of a podcast just sounded fun, so I sent her a message letting her know that I was interested. I can’t say why she wanted to start it, but the reason why I wanted to do it was because it seemed like such an underrepresented type of podcast and I wanted to be a part of bringing that discussion to the world of podcasting.

Alesia: Representation. The podcast was Fatima’s idea of presumably creating an outlet for Black feminist voices. I’d interacted with everyone through tumblr and thought it would be fun to discuss the things that interest me with like-minded Black women. The discussions we have do not happen in my everyday life – and unfortunately, we’re so underrepresented in the media we’re interested in, these conversations rarely take place – so I was really excited to be a part of it.

Aurelia: Fatima first approached me with the idea and I thought it was great. There wasn’t really a space in the podcast world for something like what we’re doing, at least not that I see.

What are you hoping to achieve with the podcast?

Fatima: I hope that we have been able to create a small space in which issues relating to race, identity, culture and representation can be discussed frankly and openly, but have it still be entertaining for us and our listeners.

Ramou: One of the best parts of the podcast is the discussion that follows through Asks on our tumblr, emails or @ replies on Twitter. It’s always great when people relate to anything that we’ve said, or a particular topic or viewpoint. My hope is that BGT is a starting point for these larger discussions about race, gender, media and pop culture, because I think that these are important discussions to have, but are often difficult to have. And I hope that we make them a little less difficult by being icebreakers, in a sense.

And a TV deal. I want that, too.

Alesia: Talking about the issues we cover – whether it be racism within feminism, dating woes or Beyoncé – with the ladies has been very cathartic for me. Just knowing other people are just as affected by these things as I am has done wonders for my mental health. Turns out I’m not crazy! Navigating through the world while Black and female is tough! So if our listeners can walk away with the slightest bit of comfort from knowing they’re not alone, I think that’s wonderful. It’s the most I could ask for.

Aurelia: I just want to reach as many people as we possibly can. Create constructive dialogues. Making people laugh is a great bonus.

Who comes up with the theme/topics/questions for each podcast?

Fatima: We all take part in pitching topics and have a pretty informal planning process, because we prefer the episodes to be loosely conversational in nature rather than rigidly structured.

Alesia: We all do. We’re constantly emailing and tweeting each other about pop culture and political news. Before recording each show, we usually have a list and we’ll decide which topics make the cut. Sometimes a topic has been gutted by time we start recording and we simply don’t have the energy to discuss it “on air.” But we absolutely had opinions on the mistreatment of Quvenzhané Wallis and the various Beyoncegates. I am pro-Beyoncé. Always.

Why do you think your podcast should be listened to?

Fatima: Some of my favorite podcasts are ones that leave me saying, ‘Man, I’d love to hang out with those guys’ and I feel like BGT captures that, because we have a lot of fun making it and it comes across in the episodes. I also think we’re a podcast that is equally entertaining and educational (I feel really cheesy saying that).

Ramou: I’m sure this sounds pretentious, but I think we have a lot to say and I think that what we have to say is important. Essentially, what we’re doing is talking about these really big issues on a smaller, more personal scale. We are just friends having a conversation. But it’s a conversation that’s often glanced over or ignored or one that’s only paid attention to when the people talking about it are straight white guys. Yes, Louis CK has said great things about race, racism and oppression. He doesn’t necessarily have first hand knowledge about this, but you see gifs and quotes of him talking about race all over the damn Internet like he’s the authority on this. Don’t worry, everyone! Louis CK figured it out! And you’re talking to someone who is in love with Louis CK. Like, I would marry him right now. But in terms of BGT, we’re talking about a very specific community, mainly women of color in the media, and we are also a part of that community. We have a perspective that’s unique, but also shared by so many other women of color. You should listen to us for that perspective.

Where would you like to see your podcast going in the future?

Fatima: Moscato sponsorship. (I’m sorry, I had to). I’d like to keep the current tone, but move into building a bigger and more interactive audience relationship.

Ramou: I would love to see the BGT audience grow. What we have now is great, and our relationship with our listeners feels very personal, and I love that. But I would love for BGT to reach more people and spark bigger discussions.

And that TV deal.

Alesia: We’re still finding our footing, but eventually we’d like to build a community where can discuss anything and everything. I’d love to eventually record a live show in a room full of our listeners. It would be a beautiful mess.

Aurelia: Everywhere! The more people we can reach, the better. The casual structure is working well for us, so I don’t see us deviating from that. I’m sure we’ll continue to have great guests, and I doubt we’ll ever run out of things to talk about.

What would you like listeners to take away from your podcast after listening?

Ramou: I would love for our listeners to continue our discussions in their own lives. I keep saying that it’s all about this bigger conversation, and I mean that. I want other women of color listeners to think of BGT as a “safe space,” where they can come and feel validated, commiserate, laugh. And for listeners who aren’t women of color, I want them to gain a new perspective on some things.

Alesia: That Black womanhood is varied, nuanced, difficult, beautiful and fun. So much fun.

Aurelia: That women of color are valuable members of all our communities and we deserve a voice, every member of society deserves equal representation in media outlets, it really does make a difference.

Who would you love to have as a guest?

Fatima: I’d love to have Retta come on and do a regular Scandal recap segment, because her tweets about TV are really entertaining. But I also hear that Oprah has some free time these days.

Ramou: Aisha Tyler is my number one dream guest. She is f**king amazing and my podcast fairy godmother.

Alesia: Definitely more of our friends! We had Danielle Henderson, the creator of Feminist Ryan Gosling, as a guest and I’m still really geeked about that. People still say geeked, right? I’d also like to speak to more feminists of color, from all walks of life.  As for celebs, I love Retta aka Donna from Parks and Recreation. The live tweeting of her favorite shows and her no nonsense attitude towards people who come at her sideways on twitter tells me we’d have a real connection. Aisha Tyler, our podcast idol. And last but not least, Jean Grae because she’s one of my favorite emcees and hilariously rude.

Aurelia: Retta. I could probably give you a mile long list, but Retta is definitely at the top.

Check out the official Black Girls Talking website. Subscribe to their podcast on iTunes or listen on Soundcloud. Follow them on Twitter and Tumblr. Like them on Facebook.

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