By: Emma B.

Just a...Podcast is a podcast run by local high school seniors, Amara Rangwala, Kennedy Turner, and Ma’Lon Lane. It is incredibly funny, earnest, and a treat to listen to. It’s also one of the most diverse and femine podcasts that I have had the privilege of listening to online. The podcast was created to start a discussion, particularly among young women of color, about various social and political issues. The podcast presents these often serious topics through the casual lens of teenagers but most importantly, teenagers of color. Amara, a Girl Scout Ambassador, is Indian American. Kennedy Turner and Ma'Lon Lane are both African American. Just a...Podcast not only has a sense of honesty, but it gives me a feeling of warmth that I can embrace. However, what set it over the edge for me was their mission of compromise and diversity. Just a...Podcast encourages an environment where women can have differing opinions and still be friends. The environment they create is overwhelmingly positive. When I got the opportunity to interview them, I was thrilled because I wanted to know all the details about this wonderful podcast.   

Emma B: Does it feel different running a podcast as a group of women of color?

Amara: It’s a really big deal to me, coming out of the school that we go to. I know at your school, Emma, conversations like that are more normalized. Where I’m at now, it’s not that way at all. People usually avoid talking about politics or anything controversial because it makes them feel uncomfortable. The three of us feel it’s necessary to get this conversation started in our own community. We’re trying to normalize having these tough conversations, because it’s necessary. 

EB: I totally agree. 

Kennedy: Going off that, it may seem easier to people when they hear a podcast. We want to show that if all three of us can have different opinions on things, and still be cool aftward and we respect each other’s opinions, then so can you. [We hope] that people can see that “Okay, they’re talking about crucial arguments, and they may have different opinions, but they can still be friends afterward. It doesn’t have to end in a huge disagreement.” [We hope] they feel they can do the same. 

Ma’Lon: I don’t (personally) see a-lot of podcasts that have a lifestyle focus while also having these tough conversations, and putting an emphasis on different viewpoints. I think our podcast is unique in that way, especially since we’re still in high school. 

EB: Do you feel like your age has affected the way you view this podcast? 

Kennedy: For me, and we’ve seen this with the Black Lives Matter movement as well, but our generation is the one that is capable of making a change. Our generation is the one that’s realizing we need to fix some things. It can be a little awkward, because we are still young. At the same time, I do feel that people will be able to relate to us. They can say, “if they’re bold enough to speak about these [issues], hopefully I can do the same,”. It doesn’t have to be with a podcast, but we hope that other people can have their voices heard and stand up for what’s right. 

Amara: On top of that, I think having this platform at the age we’re at shows adults that young people are capable of making a change. We are capable of educating ourselves, staying informed about current events, and knowing how to speak to each other in a non-antagonistic way. I think it’s great that at such a young age, we’re showing adults and our peers that you don’t have to be in college to be educated. You don’t have to have a-lot of life experience to have opinions. I feel like a-lot of the podcasts I listen to are college age and up, and I really haven’t seen any podcasts with teenagers living in a suburb. Because of this, we’re able to provide a more relatable point of view. 

Ma’Lon: I completely agree. It can be inevitable for the younger generation to gain the respect of our elders. By us doing this, and feeling effective at doing it, we’re showing the maturity of ourselves and our peers. 

EB: You try to build a non-confrontational environment on your podcast. What advice do you have for girls who want to have tough conversations with their peers, without losing friendships?

Ma’Lon: Being vulnerable is a huge part of it. Being honest with yourself and those who you’re talking to, and also coming from a place of love and understanding. You not only want to get your point across, but want to see what they may think. Make sure you’re quick to listen and slow to speak. 

Amara: I agree. I think that I can get super riled up about things. I’ll send a text, or make a comment that I know I’ll regret in two seconds. I think it boils down to what Ma’lon said. Think before you speak, and what you’re going to say. Form in your brain what you want to say so you don’t come off in a mean way. I don’t want to ever invalidate one of my friend’s opinions, as long as they’re not harming myself, themselves, or others. I need to make sure everything is articulate and clear [in my head], because I don’t want there to be an issue. 

Kennedy: Agreed. I think the word of the year is listening. We have to listen to each other. When I first had this idea, I wanted to have co-hosts who didn’t always agree with me on everything. I knew Ma’lon and Amara came from a place of love, so even if we do disagree, it’s okay. It’s not like we’re going to get into an argument. I want it to be like “Okay, that’s what you think, I’m going to say what I think.” I definitely think being respectful of everyone you are talking to, and respecting their opinion is crucial. 

EB: In the media, we often don’t see girls as the face of real change. Do you think girls are sheltered from tough (often political) conversations, and do you think the podcast can be used to highlight that. 

Ma’Lon: I think women and girls in society are trained to be sheltered and take a backseat on these issues. Then when it’s their time to shine and be the leader, it’s for just a random women’s rights issue or a tiny issue about education rather than major political issues or running a country. I think we are (hopefully) showing people that are younger or older than us, that it’s okay for you to stand up and make a change regardless of what you look like, who you are, who old you are, etc. 

Amara: A note on that, you never see [people] praising a man for getting a senior position. You never saw people being so proud of Donald Trump winning the election because he was a man. However, when women run for things, people are like “Yes! The first women to do [x].” The reason she’s so amazing is because she’s a woman. We’ve all been trained for so long that men deserve to have these positions, and when women achieve them that it’s some type of unique circumstance. I think that’s still how a lot of people in my community think. When a girl is doing better than a guy at something, it is very obvious that there is resentment. I feel that due to the affluence of the area we live in, girls especially are not hearing what they need to hear. It is slowly starting to change, but it’s still very slow. As women, we are able to make a stronger impact. 

Kennedy: We hope that this podcast can really cause people to realize that their voice is valid. Like Ma’Lon said, it doesn’t matter what your demographic or gender is. Your voice matters. I feel with our podcast, people are realizing that “Hey, if these teenage girls can educate themselves on things that are happening in the world and talk about it, so can I.” 

Amara: It’s definitely normalization. I feel right now that education is a very large word, when I feel it’s something you should have been doing from the start. Now it’s becoming “everyone needs to be educated, everyone needs to know what’s happening,”. In the past, you used to think of politics as only a man’s job, only a man’s conversation. It was never a women’s conversation. Now it’s becoming a women’s conversation, or at least including women, and it’s starting to get destigmatized but it’s still slow. With Kamala Harris, everyone was like “Yes! The first women.” Being a woman was the first thing to come out of their mouth. Not POC, not AAPI, it should be destigmatized. I hope that makes sense. 

EB: This podcast launched during the COVID-19 pandemic. How has COVID-19 affected the way you record and think of episode topics?

Amara: We have been recording in person, but we literally do not go anywhere except for our homes. I haven’t left my house and gone outside in a long time. We have all been tested, and none of us have shown symptoms. We’ve all been self-isolated. Kennedy is going to California soon [at the time of interview] and we’ll be recording virtually once she returns. I take COVID-19 extremely seriously, and Ma’Lon and Kennedy take it very seriously as well. We all see our grandparents on the regular. 

Ma’Lon: I live with [mine]. 

Amara: We know it’s not going to affect us, but it will affect the people in our lives. We have all been doing school online too. None of us are going back to school, and we’re trying to be as careful as possible. When we record, we sit six feet apart. It’s a huge issue to us, and it’s necessary to realize that things aren’t normal. Things can’t go about like they are normal. They have to be changed to accommodate the situation. You can’t just act as though everything is normal for everything to go back to normal. You have to put in the effort, and that’s what we’ve been doing. 

Kennedy: I feel that doing the most simple things can make a difference. During this pandemic, wearing a mask isn’t just about you. We may not be affected as much, but it’s about everyone else. It’s about respecting my parents, and my grandparents because I am around them. I feel like we’ve been very responsible about wearing our masks and social distancing. I know I’m going to California, and I plan to be safe, but I feel it’s important that I get tested before I see Amara and Ma’Lon again. At the end of the day, we’re still going through this. 

Ma’Lon: The pandemic has also influenced some of our topics and the things that we discuss while we’re recording episodes. Not only is it, in itself, such a huge topic but so many things have happened during quarantine. People have been really encouraged to educate themselves and learn more about people who may not look the same as them or have the same views as them. We took that, and ran with it. 

Kennedy: I want to add one more thing before we move on. I think it’s important for other people to see that it’s never too late to stand up for something and do it. I was a little hesitant about starting a podcast in high school. I was worried if people would judge me off this. I really appreciate how Amara and Ma’Lon are like “Nope. Let’s just do it”. Now that I have done it, I realize there’s so many other people who feel the same as I do, but are too scared to do it. If you have an idea, try it. There’s nothing you can lose from it. 

EB: What has been your favorite episode so far?

Ma’Lon: My favorite (so far) has been the episode about body image. I had the most fun recording it, and I enjoyed listening back to it as well. I really think we talked about something important and that so many people can relate to. 

Amara: My favorite was definitely the relationships episode. That one was really fun for me, because I very much enjoy talking about my love life even though I don’t have one. I remember I was laughing the whole time. Even when we got to some of the more serious stuff, it felt nice to know I wasn’t the only one. I received messages after saying “I feel the same way as you,”. 

Kennedy: I definitely agree with them on those. However, mine is a little more silly. I loved recording our Pet Peeves episode. That one was just funny. I love to laugh, and it was so fun to talk about the most random things. I’m a storytime type of girl, and we were just cracking up. I laughed a-lot, and I hope our listeners laugh too. 

Ma’Lon: I definitely burned calories laughing in that episode. 

EB: On the podcast, you talk about the influence that the media has on people. On that note, what can the media do to be better? How can we be better influencers?

Kennedy: I love that question. As an example, body image. I think diversifying what we see in the media is so important. Whether it be skin tone or size variation. I think it is so important for everyone to see that everyone can go to the store, instead of just a mold. I feel that the media should start having more people that are different and not the same. 

Ma’Lon: That’s one of my biggest points as well. I was reading an article the other day, and it was saying that somewhere they’re trying to get influencers to mark filtered and unfiltered posts. They’re trying to encourage honesty, and I think it’s so important. Life is not all peaches and cream, and it’s not all the time what you see in those pictures. 

Amara: For me, I would say that the biggest tip is to normalize seeing normal people. If I’m shopping on a website or watching TV, I see all of these really pretty (really caucasian) people and that isn’t what the world is. It’s people like me, and not these tall models. If a brand started to incorporate what normal people actually look like in their marketing, they’re going to have a wider audience. People like relatability. How many times have you bought something and said it looks so much better on the model than it does on me?

Ma’Lon: I really feel like those standards for everyone to look the same (to be six feet tall, and very skinny) are created by the people who built the modeling and fashion industry. It’s built by the people who are still there. I think the response is so much better internally and externally when people are just displaying what the world actually looks like. Break the standard even when it’s built into the foundation. 

EB: Is there anything additional you’d like people to know?

Amara: We’re so happy to have this opportunity to talk and just be ourselves. I found that once I moved schools, it was so hard to be authentic. I felt like I had to be this other person to fit in. Finding Ma’Lon and Kennedy who accept me and the beliefs I have is so relieving. I can be who I am and not care about what other people think of me. I’m so happy I have a platform to inspire other people to do that as well. 

Ma’Lon: I think all of us hope to inspire people to go out there do their own thing, but also be okay with being themselves. We are also so thankful for the support we’ve received. It’s been crazy. 

Kennedy: The biggest thing I want to tell my audience is to be you. Once you eventually find yourself, you’ll start gravitating toward things that are similar to you. If you’re you, you’ll actually find that there are so many people who relate to you. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. 

Just a...Podcast updates Mondays and Fridays. They can be listened to over Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and numerous other platforms. They also have an Instagram, and love speaking with their audience. Give them a listen and support this beautifully diverse and feminist podcast. 

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