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AlmostChill: Podcasts and Progress

Listen to Season Two of almostchill podcast here.

Looking at the army of blinking gizmos required to record the first podcast in the 80’s, it can seem difficult to comprehend how widespread the medium has become today. A recent boom in listeners has invited podcasters to a seat at the table of contemporary media, fostering spaces for communities to convene, to share, and to grow.

Kieryn and Gigi of almostchill know this to be true. The pair met while working alongside each other in the cannabis industry, and quickly realized their need to discuss and share their experiences through a podcast. With the simple intention of offering other Asian and Asian-american women a hand to hold while navigating the racism and discomfort of their everyday lives, they have since united a community that spans across state lines.

Here to speak with us about how it all came to be and the work which remains to be done, Kieryn discusses the joys and challenges of starting her podcast. Read on to delve into our conversation about audio, labor, activism, and allyship.

 

You and your co-host Gigi created almostchill with “the goal…to live and learn through the discomfort. This goal struck me as emblematic of what it means to be in your 20s. How do you feel that working on your podcast has done just that – encouraged you to live and learn?

I feel like many people in their 20s, myself included, want to be further ahead than we actually areor even need to be. We want to come off like we know what we’re talking about, but we’re all just extremely emotional beings who are still trying to understand the world.

A big thing to consider when talking about comfort is that people of color have been living and learning through their discomfort their whole lives. We’ve been forced to think in different ways, behave in certain ways, and adapt— some of us in order to assimilate, and others in order to stay alive.

I think when we [almostchill] encourage people to feel and grow through the discomfort, experience it rather than avoid it, we are also really addressing our white audience. We’re hoping to tap into that you’re feeling a little uncomfortable right now, but know that we’ve been feeling this way our whole lives as people of color. Or even as minorities— I feel like women feel very similarly in how they think around men. Learn to grow, and then be okay with it.

The feedback we’ve gotten from our audience has really taught me to live and learn through the discomfort because some people aren’t very happy with the way I present things. I do get very angry and passionate about certain things, so sometimes we get feedback like “I don’t like this girl.”

Despite this, I think that negative feedback pushes me to light that internal fire a little bit more. On an external level, the criticism drives me to do more because it’s taught me that not all people receive information the same way that I do. For example, some people shut down when they hear the phrase “everybody’s racist,” but are open to conversation in response to a gentler approach or a different way of framing the issue. I still get angry, don’t get me wrong, but with some people I now approach topics differently because of the feedback that I’ve gotten.

I’ve also found that inflammatory rhetoric around social justice issues can be the reason why many people pull away. If you start out with a simpler concept and slowly build up their understanding, the conversation can be much more effective. However, I find this responsibility you put on yourself to cater to others, to sacrifice a bit of your emotion and space for a ‘greater good,’ is emblematic of the state of POC labor – universally and within the sphere of social justice education.

It’s bad, but it’s necessary sometimes because there’s really no other way to get through to some people. It takes a little bit more than just “I’m angry” to get them to listen.

And this is so crucial because your audience can’t see you – listeners are only capable of perceiving all of your emotions exclusively through your voice. What do you feel is the effect of discussing these topics— which are heavily rooted in visual representation—  via a strictly auditory medium? How do feel this lack of visual self-representation in podcasts impacts your message and how it’s received?

I think having a visual component can be both enhancing and restricting. Visuals add a dynamic component to the audio – it’s more of an experience. When you take the visual component away, however, there’s a lot more that’s left up to the imagination. It creates room for the listeners to imagine themselves within the scenario and apply what they’re hearing to relevant scenarios in their own lives. With a visual component, I feel as though that almost gets taken away a bit.

That said, we definitely want to develop into visual content eventually because we want to be able to provide more resources for people to learn from through different mediums.

While not the central purpose of the platform, you’ve mentioned that almostchill also serves as a crucial resource for white people to examine their privilege through a different lens. This in mind, how do you keep almostchill a community resource for Asians and Asian Americans, free of the pressure to educate others which is unjustly thrust upon people of color in the media?

We don’t want any people of color to do more labor than they want to. There are people who do want to expend that emotional energy and time on educating others, and we want to be able to give those people a way to reach those they want to educate.

This question motivated me to go back to Gigi and say, “Let’s really think about how we’re going to really make this a safe haven for Asians and Asian-Americans, especially Asian women.”

For white people who want to become allies, this is obviously a great place for them to learn, but we don’t have the emotional energy to do that 24/7. So we were thinking of initiating “White People Wednesdays” where we say, “Hey, ask your questions. There are no stupid questions well, there are, but feel free to ask them anyways and we’ll do our best to answer them.”

We’re thinking of different ways for us to be able to protect our own energy while still providing a space for people to learn. We love people who want to learn and grow and help because the more we get of that, the more progress we can make.

Aside from that, I think providing space for Asians and Asian women to share their stories and experiences with each other and connect over these mutual lived experiences is crucial.

Sometimes we’ll post something and a lot of people DM us saying “I totally connected with this, here’s what I experienced last week,” or they’ll comment saying “I experienced this twenty years ago.”

There will be different stories from different times and places, but the common thread is the fact that we are all still experiencing it. To me, this is the power of digital platforms: the ability to connect with people and say “you’re not alone, a lot of other people feel the same was as you do.”

 

On that note of feeling alone, you’ve expressed that, being from Seattle, you often find it difficult to find resources for diversity and inclusion because they actually prioritize the voices of white women. How do you feel podcasts such as almostchill work as a countermeasure to this phenomenon?

In terms of having a platform to amplify your voice, it’s easier for people to get their thoughts out there via digital. There’s less barrier to access in comparison to platforms such as physical events, so digital is a really good way to not only make contact, but also make information available to as many people as possible.

The point is, let’s connect in as many ways as possible. Whether it’s physically or digitally, all of us— not only people of color, but people in general— need to talk to each other and make an effort to understand as many different experiences as possible.

In terms of continuing to create space for people who traditionally have been restricted in terms of having their voice suppressed and not having a platform, allies that can help amplify our voices are crucial to this process.

 

It’s clear that in this context, social media plays a large role in bringing minority groups together; I also recall that you and Gigi met on instagram through your mutual involvement in the cannabis industry. Would you like to speak to your experiences there?

I think that’s a great question. There’s this article which talks about how minority-owned cannabis businesses are still not growing because minorities— especially women of color— don’t get funding. Women get 2.2% of VC funding, and they’re mostly white.

A good chunk of the cannabis industry has this intention of: “We’re gonna lift people of color out of the harm that the war on drugs has done.” Cannabis equity is very much a concept, but in practice it’s been a shitshow. In many legalized states, there’s this intention to give back, to give a certain number of licenses to minorities. Then legislation gets rewritten. Or white legislators say “oh, this isn’t good for our community” and it all begins to play into stigmas and change never happens.

Money is also a barrier to entry because it bars access to the resources necessary to be able to grow and scale your business. There are amazing organizations such as the San Francisco Equity Group which are doing great work in terms of saying “here are current problems with equity programs, and here’s what we need to start doing.” There are people out there that are working on this, but once again we need more allies.

What is the most difficult challenge you faced while launching almostchill? Is there any advice you would offer to 20s considering launching their own podcasts?

I don’t think I could have launched this on my own; I think having someone to feed off of and get energy from is very helpful. One of my favorite quotes is “start before you’re ready,” and we very much did that. We were like “let’s just do it, let’s just get the content out there” and there came a moment where we had to regroup and ask ourselves “okay, wait, what is our end goal?” I think it’s good to hone in on that before you start, but I also think that you’ll never fully have all the components figured out at the very beginning. There’s a lot of learning to be done along the way.

I think we had this passion to talk about being Asian women and sharing what that’s like for us as two very different Asian women. That passion is really what gave us the momentum to put it all together, but understanding if you want to take this to a really lofty place, you’re gonna have to put in the work behind it continues to be one of our greatest challenges. We’re still learning that there’s a lot of work to be done.

In terms of advice: start before you’re ready. Get as prepared as possible, you know— 60%, 80%— and then just go.

 

Considering the prevalence of ageism against women in media, how does the age difference between you (24) and your co-host Gigi (33) play into your discussions for almostchill, if at all? What is the value of having women of different ages working together on such a pursuit, what does it bring to the podcast?

The main thing about our dynamic in terms of the podcast is that we’re showing people that Asian women are not all the same. Stereotypes in media and american culture as a whole has taught people that Asian women can all be bucketed into this one category. And while a lot of people understand that’s not true, we want to keep playing off of that.

Even in the context of our Asian-American identities, Gigi and I are completely different. In addition to growing up a decade apart, we grew up on different coasts and in completely different Asian communities (Chinese and Filipino). Despite the fact that we look at the world differently and see ourselves as very different people, the world has treated us similarly because of a blanket narrative that exists for Asian women. For example, the idea that Asian women are all meek, quiet, obedient—neither of us are any of those things.

In general, Gigi asks me to look at things from a different perspective, and I do the same for her. I get her amped up and passionate about certain things and she keeps me grounded.

It’s a complementary dynamic and I really think it helps us establish this space for Asian women to share resources, advice, and information. Almostchill shows us that despite how different our experiences may be, there are so many things that we as Asian women can relate on and form bonds over.

Any parting thoughts?

We just want to say to all Asian and Asian-American women: we are here for you. You are all valid. The world makes all kinds of Asian women, and we want to show that they’re all out there; we’re going to stress this even more as we go into Season 2 of the podcast. This is a space for you to be comfortable being yourself, where you don’t have to put this mask on for the world, act a certain way, or worry about adapting and assimilating.

 

Listen to Season Two of almostchill podcast here.

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