Listening to Tracy Clayton at the end of a bubbly accent of the south, tall as a telephone, she seems to be a friend with whom I had not spoken for a while. It's been over a year since Clayton and Heben Nigatu hosted the much-loved BuzzFeed podcast Another round-The conversation-based program that has blessed ears with alcohol powered exchanges with Ta-Nehisi Coates, Roxane Gay and Hillary Clinton among others.
Since a fuss that included a departure from BuzzFeed and a possible interruption of the podcast, there was a void; one that Clayton himself understood for the benefit of his self-care.
"We could be trying to get back to it, but we were just tired, not just physically but spiritually tired nigga," he says with a laugh.
Fans of the core understand this. For years, Tracy has dedicated her voice and time to the digital world at exhausting levels. What began as an ascent through the ranks of journalistic writers – thanks to brand intelligence and unrepentant obscurity – continued with digital fame and a new phase approved by Netflix.
Thanks to the streaming giant, you will be in charge of Strong black lead Podcast debut tomorrow, with ten black TV / FILM legends from John Witherspoon to Lynn Whitfield who will get all their flowers (literally). Each segment will be one on one in nature and will dive deep into personal journeys within Hollywood from a millenarian perspective of the world.
I had the unique opportunity to talk to Tracy Clayton about the return to the microphone and why somehow terrifies her.
VICE: I've been a big fan of Another round , but it was a passage. How excited are you about this next chapter?
Tracy Clayton: You know what, I'm just starting to go from terror to excitement. This is my first official podcasting job since last year when Another round he went upstairs and I was nervous to the point of asking myself if I remembered how to do it. Can I still read the words aloud? It turns out … not very well and this is taking a bit of practice, but I'm starting to feel the tingling in my bones, and muscle memory is coming back. I'm very excited when I think of the people I'm talking to and I think how ridiculous this is. I'm sitting at the table of people I've practically grown up with. In this sense, I'm happy to work again. Money is good, and it's nice to feel good enough to do it again.
Was it difficult to get back to the microphone?
It was and it was not. It was difficult because I did not know if I could face a project of this magnitude. I wondered if I needed to undertake smaller projects with smaller steps before really jumping into the saddle. But when will I be able to talk to Garrett Morris as always? When will I be able to talk to any of these people? To add this, it's exciting to work with Netflix and be out in LA and not in New York, where it's all rainy, dark and depressing right now. My emotions were like, hold on, wait a minute … but my brain was saying no, we do it, let's go, let's go.
I think many people are still facing the end of Another round . When you think back, what lessons are you taking with you from that moment on?
The most important thing that passes through my mind is the importance of putting yourself first, because basically it's what Heben Nigatu and I did Another round. Once we took possession of the podcast, we could be trying to get back on it, but we were just tired. Not just physically but spiritually tired negro (laughs). At the beginning it was difficult because I had not foreseen what the answer would be. People have really lost the show and some of them have listened for the third time, I'm thinking … there are other things to listen to, you know. It seems strange to me because I had to get used to people who were missing a show that I was part of. I knew people liked it, but it really meant something to some people.
It was not easy being in the position to take away this thing that you all love and gave birth to for a while. But we were tired and had to rest and lie down because invisible diseases like anxiety and depression are things that even the human resources departments do not always recognize. We knew that not everyone in our listening audience would understand and I'm not a person who likes to disappoint people. One of my favorite differences between Heben and I is that while I'm interested in being liked (laughs), she wants to be right.
Tracy Clayton and Heben Nigatu, courtesy of Buzzfeed / Another Round.
Is it strange to do all this without your accomplice, Heben Nigatu?
IS! It's strange when I'm in the cabin and I do not talk to anyone. Usually during the retreat, at least my conductor was there to look her in the eye, and I could pretend to talk to her. But here, I was alone in the studio talking to myself. I feel like something is missing. I'm also wondering how people will receive it. Will people want me without my twin attached to their side? I want to go out there without my twin? It was scary and that's why I knew I had to do it. Do things that scares you. I'm sure someone famous said that … Eleanor Roosevelt? Yes, something like that.
But you have this opportunity to work under the Strong black lead arm with your unique lens. How does it feel in this mix?
For me, it's like working with BuzzFeed PodSquad because it meant working with a group of very different women. We had this in common, and there was so much that there was no need to explain anymore. When someone was excited that week for X-Y-Z reasons, we talked about it. It's nice to be around people who do not have to explain things. This is really what Strong black lead team feels like. I do not have to worry about explaining who Mekhi Phifer is. When I throw ideas, I do not have to break down everything and explain who I am or explain the culture. It's just them who say yes, we have it, we know who it is. It is a relief to be able to relax and not have to teach anyone about your culture or explain yourself before asking a question. It's only 20 pounds on your shoulders when you work on content to send to the masses of the world. You'd better work this way.
We talk about the guests. Do you have a great opinion on how they are chosen?
My only individual experiences with the help of thinking about subjects to be interviewed are literally me in a make-up chair, shouting the names of my favorite actors and actresses (laughs). At the moment we are studying some of my suggestions and I am excited, because most of my suggestions are people on whom I have a crisis. See how I did it? (Laughs). And it also happens to work well for the show.
But I will also say that I had the chance to talk to Garrett Morris that I mentioned earlier. It is a legend, of course. We've had a lot of airships and diversity blunders, so we've had a lot of things to talk about. I'm completely obsessed with the show martin. I could not tell you how many times I saw and I memorized almost every episode and every season except the sixth, because you already know it. (laughs) But I remember having fun talking to him. We are like a family. For example, he has been at my house in a strange way since I was younger, and I combined him with the relationship, and he felt like someone I already knew. Both me and Morris went deep, flirting a lot (laughs). And it was all fun. There are many such moments.
I have always been c hideous for the process. Your previous podcast was so conversational. How do you prepare yourself at ground level with the legends that make most people stop.
This was interesting because I'm so used to making podcasts with a very special theme and a particular process. The documents seemed the same and the process of preparation was the way I would know and remember. But I was able to draw from things that I know helped me relax more and get into someone's head. When I think of the questions I want to ask, it is about how I can encourage them to open up. A lot of times, shares parts of myself and personal stories. It's also … you know what, I feel like you're selling all my secrets here. I need to tighten a little (laughs).
But I will say that I also return to my favorite interviews and I see the questions I have been asked so that I can rely on them and find out how I can deepen a question. As for teamwork, now and always Another roundI had the absolute blessing and the privilege of working with the people I love and who can pretend to love me. I'm kidding, we all love each other very well. Much of what works is reduced to collaboration. Just because I am the face does not mean there are not so many other moving parts. I'm only half good of my producers. So they are almost balls on the walls. I assume I will never speak to these celebrities again. I ask for what I want You can only hope that they fall in love with you, so you can be friends later. It's practically what I'm doing.
Courtesy of Shamayim / Netflix.
You've always been a champion of podcasting. I see you podcaster on big on Twitter. What is the strength in the form of art that you would like everyone to see?
There are a couple For one, it's such a suitable forum for POCs, women and other marginalized groups because we do not need anyone's permission to say what we want to say. With any podcast, you're just yourself. You do not have to ask to use the word N. You do not have to go through another publisher and you wonder if you can talk about a person. You set the standards in saying what you want to say. You have the microphone, and the fact that it's passed so many times to be silenced is a relief. You can breathe more easily and tell honest and true stories. One other thing that I would like people to really know is how much work is going to make a really exceptional podcast.
This is something that has irritated us Another round. You had people saying that the show was really great, but you were wondering why it was just a podcast … low production value or low something that they called us. I was like listening, you did not interview a single person who put this show together. You do not know if it's low. If it seems easy, it's because the effort has been made to make it look like that. This is a huge thing that I want people to know. People think it's easy, but I had four anxiety attacks on the way to the study (laughs). It's a lot of work. If it were that easy, I would not be so stressed.
I can imagine.
With podcasts, you also get accents and many of them. I have an accent too, I do not know if you can hear it.
I listened to you for three years. Sure I can.
Thank you, thank you, I will take it as a compliment. But it is the diversity of voices that can increase representation. I was at Wake Forest University (North Carolina) as their training media expert if I could make a small name fall, and there was a girl I met who had the most bushy, sloppy stream, country accent . She was not sure she could start a podcast with her voice. I told her that's exactly why she needed to do it, because there are so many of us who feel that way, that they would not feel that way if they heard us. If we could turn on a newscast and see someone in a country accent telling us the weather, that would change things. Do they still have a right degree? Come on.
I want to talk about the anxiety you mentioned. Personally I feel anxious every time I do one of these interviews. How do you manage this constant?
Are you nervous now?
Haha, yes they are.
Aww (laughs). I'm nervous only if I have time to be. With Another round, it was not like a limited series podcast. We had time to consider planning each episode. But when I had time to sit down and think about it, it was like … oh my God, how can I speak to this person when I can not say the words right now. The nerves and nervousness still happen, but I find that I work better in high pressure situations because I can not stop and think about how nervous I am. It goes from the interview that starts in X-quantity of minutes. Then I have a thirty minute break. So I have to prepare for the next one. It's stressful because … oh my God, back-to-back interviews are emptying. But with a quick turnaround with a project like this, I do not ignore my nerves, I wake up and recognize that this will suck until it does not. It will be terrible until it's over. But it will be over. Nothing lasts forever. I am at a point where I can remind myself to look ahead and see the projects I have successfully completed. I told myself everything from that morning. Commit yourself to being anxious sometimes when you do not have other options.
Courtesy of Netflix.
Knowing this, what do you want to bring to the podcast that is uniquely yours?
Hmm … this is the most difficult question so far. It's fun and irreverence. I want to create a space where listeners can take a break from everything else. The world can be horrible and terrible right now, but here's a show of an hour when you can hear me flirting with your favorite grandfather or talking to these people that you and I both love. Personally I love listening to people talking about things that they like and enjoy, even if I'm not interested in the subject. It's nice to see the joy of something small, and that's what seems most organic. That's what I do best. Because of my anxiety, the moment I can become a bit empty. I have my questions there, but I think I'm still good at following the thread and the energy of the conversation. I also have a lack of attention, and many times I will feel something lucid, I will follow him. I do not know, I'm just a big old ball. I want to share it and let people relax a little bit.
That's why people love you. You are known to be fun, authentic and frank. How important is it for you to succeed without compromising who you are?
Ahhh. The older, the more important it becomes for me. When you're younger, it's easy to stay dazzled and impress everything you've never had before. You are working on a brilliant new start and it has advantages. Young people are very excited about the benefits, so it's very important for me to be fun, but also to be myself because I'm a bad actress. If I acted, I would not listen and would not expect anyone else to listen to me. The more genuine and open you can be with yourself when you produce content like this for other people, the more opportunities people have to tie with you to the experiences and thoughts of life. If you see me raising arguments about how to be kind to yourself, yes it's a difficult speech for everyone else, but initially, it was a difficult speech for me. I need to hear these things. By the way, what was the question again? (laughs) See what I mean?
The question was to be yourself and not to compromise yourself.
Mmhmm, right. I think it also remains voiceless against having a voice. This is very well illustrated in one of my favorite people, Ms. Beyoncé Knowles Carter. I do not know if you've heard of her. But the other day I was talking to my therapist and she was like "What do you think about Beyoncé?" And I asked if he knew we had only one hour to answer that question. The Beyoncé trajectory from "Bootylicious", which releases interviews and talks to everyone, to run the imitation of what a celebrity is a quote – a quote should do for so long is crazy next to her that she lays on police car in New Orleans. What? He got on the Coachella stage and cursed Coachella because she was the first black woman on the Coachella stage … while she was the first black woman on a Coachella stage. This is crazy. It's important why not? Why can not we? There is no good reason why we should not be able to be ourselves.
You are about to interview many black artists. When color artists are usually interviewed, there is a lot of emphasis on the issues of diversity compared to talent. What is your opinion on this?
It's wack. Go talk to the whites of diversity. I'm already brown, so this is your job (laughs). I will help you if you want to pay me, but I mean. It's wild for me. Every time something racist happens, they want to come and talk to us browns. You are asking the wrong questions and you are worrying about the wrong things. That's why with Rachel Dolezal, bless her heart, she showed a clear difference between the way the whites interviewed her and the way a black woman did the same. The important answers are what I want to hear. There were no basic questions because we did not have to establish an operational definition of racism before having a conversation about it. You already know what it is. Let's go to the important part. Otherwise, I'm sitting like a black person listening to race 101 and I've already passed this course. It is a waste of money and time. When whites do things that are pioneering or are confusing, it's still the same … at least we started a conversation thing. We talked about it, you did not listen because you did not do anything.
One other thing I have to say. I'm tired of listening to the real podcast of crime and having to give my racial analysis to everything. It's like, OK, this is what happened, but all the victims are black and nobody cares about the victims of color … let's face it. I left again because I heard a lot of real crime this morning (laughs). In any case, that's why it's important that we tell our stories and we do not have to go through white editors to get approvals. Companies must actively go out, pursue and find color writers. You can not say we do not have brown people in this group because they do not exist anymore. Nah, you do not have brown people because you did not look for them. If you are satisfied with this, be satisfied with how white you are.
What do you hope people bring more out of this podcast?
I just want people to have fun, learn more about their favors. I want them to remember their favorite movies and TV shows they forgot. I want them to relax and take it easy even if it's just for an hour. Stay with me because I miss everyone. I'm actually starting to remember why I started doing this in the first place. But unless you listen to it, it's just me in a room alone yelling at my producers (laughs). I'm doing it for you and I'm doing it for culture. It will be a good time.
Guests of the future season 1 include Lynn Whitfield (Nappily Ever After, A Thin Line between Love and Hate, Greenleaf), Oscar candidate Ruth E. Carter (Black Panther, Do The Right Thing, Dolemite is my name), Garrett Morris (first black actor on SNL, Martin, The Jamie Foxx Show), Loretta Devine (Family reunion, Waiting to exhale), John Witherspoon (Friday, The Wayans Bros.), Bill Duke (High Flying Bird, Sister Act 2) with others on the way.
Follow Noel Ransome on Twitter.
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