Series 21: For the Love of Podcasts | Episode 01
Behind the Scenes with Podcast Queens: The Secret Lives of Black Women
Calling all podcast nerds: today we’re launching a brand-new series celebrating the shows and hosts we love—that’s right, it’s time to kick off For the Love of Podcasts! And today we’re thrilled to bring you two fresh voices who started a new in the summer of 2019 and are just killing it: Charla Lauriston and Lauren Domino from The Secret Lives of Black Women! Charla and Lauren have created a space where they’re inviting all listeners to join, but they’re carving a space where black women can especially relate and be celebrated. Charla and Lauren have been friends for nearly a decade after meeting in a not-so-great workspace. Being in the trenches brought them closer together, and now they bring hilarious and poignant observations to their listeners with episodes each Thursday. Lauren and Charla share the unique challenges of being a black woman, their favorite role models—including their dream guests for their podcast (some of which mirror our own—psst, Oprah and Michelle Obama, call us!). Through podcasting, Charla and Laura have been able to confidently (and vulnerably) show who they are, where they’ve come from and share that sense of self with others as we all blaze a trail into the future.
Narrator: Hi everybody, my name is Remy. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast, with your host Jen Hatmaker, my mom. She writes books and speaks to crowds. But she mostly loves talking to amazing people every week on this podcast. Thanks for listening! We hope you enjoy the show.
Jen: Hey, everybody. Jen Hatmaker here, your host of the For the Love Podcast. Welcome to the show today.
Oh, man. We’ve just got some good stuff for you. You’re going to be glad you listened today.
We’re starting a brand new series that me and my team are pumped about. We’ve been geeking out over it for months as we’ve been getting it ready, because it’s very near and dear to us, obviously, and because you listen to this podcast, we think you are going to love it, also. We think you’re going to love hearing from other people who are bringing us information and news and humor and drama and conversation through this medium that we have all come to know and love so well.
Welcome, as we begin a new series called For the Love of Podcasts. Yay! We. are. doing. it. So many great podcasts out there, so many great podcasters that we are going to be talking to.
You know why I got into podcasting? Because I love them, so there. Mystery solved. For me, and we’re going to talk about this today with my guests, there’s something very magical about popping in your headphones while you do the most boring and mundane things—while you are driving, while you are walking, while you’re folding laundry, whatever it is you’re doing—because after a minute, voilà. Suddenly, you are transported into a new space, into a new conversation. You are inventing chores. You’re driving around the block so you can keep listening to your show. Been there, done that, love it.
I cannot tell you what it means to me that you come back and you listen to this show every single week, and that you tell your friends and family about it, and that you say such kind things in your reviews. I can’t tell you how much it matters. As a creator who is also a podcast nerd, in this series, I want to share other shows you should absolutely know about. Some of them you will, some of them I’ll probably introduce you to—both awesome. We are going to talk to some of the creative minds behind what we think are some truly amazing podcasts out there. I think you’re going to love it as much as I am loving talking to them.
Speaking of amazing: up first, I’m really excited for you to meet our first guests in this series. I’m welcoming to the show today Charla Lauriston and Lauren Domino. These are the two amazing brains behind the pretty new podcast called The Secret Lives of Black Women.
If you have not heard about this, I need you to go subscribe right now. These women are having smart and nuanced conversations about what it means to be black and a woman in America right now. I mean, they’re going all into these spaces: sex, body, fear, courage, identity. It’s really, really full of important and fascinating content. So engaging.
Charla is a stand-up comic and TV writer, and Lauren is a producer and writer. I’m already into the way their minds are working and the work they’ve chosen. They’re longtime friends. Well, they’ve been friends, I think they said, about seven years. They’re incredibly talented and creative, and we’re going to hear all about what makes them tick, because this is a really great podcast they’re putting out into the world.
The mission of their show is to sniff out the secrets that, in their words, have helped black women flourish through the BS. In every episode, they host an expert, and they have very real, very raw conversations about very big topics like I mentioned earlier: power, fear, and sex, and being black in a room full of white people. They talk about depression, rage, anxiety, self-care, all these really important things, and they’re really funny, obviously.
I look up to these women, and I’m impressed with the way that they are stepping out right now with their powerful voices. They’re true leaders in this area. And if you’re new to them, I can’t wait for you to meet them. We really go in today in our discussion. I mean, at one point, I had goosebumps all the way down to my toes. Charla is crying, and I feel like I want to stand on my seat and cheer. Just some really, really great stuff in here today. Glad you’re here. Welcome to this new series.
Jen: I’m very pleased to share my conversation with the brilliant and talented ladies behind The Secret Lives of Black Women Podcast, Charla Larston and Lauren Domino. I am so happy to meet you. Welcome to the show.
Lauren: Thank you for having us.
Charla: Thank you so much for having us.
Jen: Yeah, you guys, we really like you in like Jen Hatmaker team world. I love what you do and how you do it. I’ve already told my listeners a little bit about who you are. First, can you introduce yourself, so my listeners can figure out what voice goes with who? Then, would you just roll to when you guys first met and take us back to that day?
Charla: Go ahead, Lauren.
Lauren: I love that you’re just tossing it to me.
Lauren: My name is Lauren, and I am a writer and producer based in New Orleans. And Charla, do you want to introduce yourself and then I will go into how we met?
Charla: Yeah. You can tell Lauren and I are really trying to get used to not talking over each other. This is what we’ve learned from doing a podcast. I’m Charla. I’m based in LA, and I’m a television writer and comedian.
Jen: Yeah, right on. Okay, and so how is it that you are connected? How did you meet?
Lauren: Yeah, so we met many, many, many moons ago. Maybe like seven years? Time? Time is a question mark. But we both worked at the same office, and it wasn’t love at first sight.
Jen: Tell me more.
Lauren: I think it was just busyness. I really wanted to be Charla’s friend, because we were two of three black women in our office. It was a gradual process of getting to know one another. We worked in the same space and were colleagues and we would be like, “Hi, hello. How are you?” Pleasantries [were exchanged], but not a friendship. Then one day, we had to do a work event, and we left at the same time and we both looked at each other and we were like, “We hate this job. I hate, hate—” I think that was the moment that I can say our friendship really started.
Jen: Yes, a common enemy.
Lauren: It was just this beautiful moment, I felt like I had had this deep, dark secret. I felt bad about not liking that job. And when Charla admitted that she didn’t [either, we realized] we were both doing a good job of masking our disdain, our dissatisfaction. So that was the moment.
And then after that, every day, we would get falafel for lunch and sit outside and just talk about everything we were going to do when we left. [Things] that we have done, actually.
Jen: That’s amazing. There is just nothing like a shared hatred of your career and falafel to bring the world together. That’s what we need.
We’re going to get into it, but I really like your show. I like you guys together so much. I am so happy that you discovered that you were friends, and should be friends because your chemistry is really great.
Tell us a little bit about the moment that you decided, “You know what? Let’s start a podcast. This is the thing we’re doing next.” Whose idea was that? And were you both immediately on board, or did you have to wrestle it around a little bit?
Charla: I had wanted to start a podcast for, I think, two years. In particular, after the last election, I felt really compelled to f speak up. I just felt like I didn’t have a mechanism to speak up in the way that I wanted. Even though I’m a stand up comedian, and that was something I was doing, I didn’t want to make jokes. I thought we were in a time that wasn’t particularly funny.
Charla: It really made me want to speak seriously and speak honestly about the fears that I was having and to connect with other black women.
I started a podcast with another comedy friend of mine and she was great, but, frankly, she wasn’t black. I want to say that specifically, because I felt that I was doing a lot of explaining to her about the fears that I was having. I was having to do a lot of, “But it’s not you, but it’s okay, but it’s not your fault.” And I was having to comfort her in a time when I know a lot of people are scared. There was a little bit of an unconscious bias. There’s a little bit of an unseen. It’s hard to talk about privilege. It’s hard to unpack that. And it’s even harder to do it with your close friends, and this was a really close and good friend of mine, and it still didn’t feel right.
We tried that podcast. I did a few test episodes, but I didn’t like where it was going, and I didn’t like how I was feeling about it. I’m the kind of person that always goes with how I feel, you know? I put it away for a year or two. And then, Lauren and I reconnected, because she was doing some stuff out in LA, and she didn’t tell me about it, and I was very upset. I heard about it through other people.
Charla: She talked about us being friends.
Lauren: Terrible, but a byproduct of anxiety, but continue.
Jen: She is, but do carry on.
Charla: Yes, which we both share, so I totally understood. We ended up having dinner at an Indian restaurant in Culver City that I really loved when Lauren was out here. And I poured my heart out to her. I told her I was mad at her for not telling me what she was up to, and having to hear about her project from another source.
Charla: I told her that I was in a place in my life where I was feeling very uninspired and unfulfilled. I wanted to do something and I wanted to make something and I wanted to make it with people that I think have the same kind of goals as I do. I felt like I wanted to make something with black women, frankly. And not even with black women, but with Lauren specifically, because Lauren is really sharp and she’s really smart and she’s a really hard worker. She brings so much to anything that she’s a part of.
So I asked her if she would develop [the podcast] with me. We started working on it. At the time, I was writing on another podcast. I didn’t even know that narrative podcasts existed, and I had written on one. I’m also the kind of person who not only goes with my feelings, but who always makes opportunities out of opportunities. I was just like, If I’m writing on a podcast, then that means it’s possible to pitch a podcast. I’m a TV writer and I’ve pitched TV shows. So I was like, That means we can sell a podcast and I want to have one ready for when I’m done working on this.
Lauren and I got to work. And of course, she did exactly what I knew she would do, which was to bring so much [to the table]. We very much created the show together. We really wanted it to be like we’re children of Oprah.
Jen: Yeah, same. That’s our mom.
Charla: Yeah, we were very much brought up by Oprah. I’m a fan of Brené Brown. Lauren and I are both fans, we both watched Brené’s new Netflix special. We wanted to be very intentional about what we brought to this podcast. We wanted it to be a special place. We feel like people dismiss podcasts as if they’re nothing. But I’m like, This is a platform for people. This is something, we can connect with this. We can be vulnerable here with each other. We can create a space for each other and for other people. We can help ourselves and help people with this thing. That’s really what I wanted to do, and I’m really glad that I’m proud of what we’ve made. I’m really happy with where we are, and I really want to get even deeper.
Jen: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more with you on the powerful potential of podcasts.
Jen: Maybe at the genesis of the podcast movement, it was just entertainment or whatever. They were kind of gaining traction. At this point, podcasts are moving the needle forward in a lot of important conversations. And it’s exciting to be a part of it. It’s a medium that I really believe in, obviously, and I’m so happy you guys do, too.
One thing I love is you’ve called the show, “That five o’clock call to your friend to go, ‘What just happened today? Can you affirm I’m not losing it? Tell me I’m not crazy.’” I like this. Can you talk a little bit more about that, and what it is that you want your show to be for your audience, specifically?
Lauren: Yeah. I think we really wanted the podcast to be conversations that we are having with each other. So when we reconnected in LA, it was a lot of talk about fears, a lot of talk about our futures and perceived thoughts of success versus non-success. We got really real and deep with each other, and we walked away from that conversation feeling seen and heard, and that our experiences were validated. That makes you feel good, and you can walk with a greater sense of purpose and understanding that you’re not alone in the world.
I experienced that with my other black female friends. We were like, “We want our audience to step into, or listen to, these conversations and just feel like they’re in the room, and their friends are talking, and they’re like, Whoa, I’m not the only person that’s going through this experience. Or, that affirmation that you’re not alone. You’re not going crazy. Being a black woman in this world is filled with so much joy, but it’s also very hard. And it’s, like, how you navigate all of those spaces can be challenging. [We wanted] to create a space for black women specifically. Of course, other people can listen and enjoy, but [we want] black women to see themselves and see their experiences reflected.
Jen: I really appreciate what you just said, and in my opinion—of course I’ve listened to your show—I think the reason that your vision is coming to life, and that you are accomplishing your goal for your podcast, is because the two of you are so vulnerable. I detect no façade in anything that you’re saying, and was really impressed and moved by how genuinely you talk about difficult things in your personal lives. I’ve always felt like vulnerability is contagious, in a good way.
Charla: I just want to say we were very intentional about that, and I think it’s because it’s a really important time. We’re in a really important time right now where it doesn’t benefit us to hide. It doesn’t benefit us to not be completely transparent. I’m doing this as much for me as I am for the people that are listening. I don’t want to hide anymore. I want to say how I feel. I want to be vocal about how I’m feeling.
This is as much of a, “Hey, here I am. I’m alive, and this is how I want to live in the world. This is the kind of world I would like. This is what it’s like for me to be out in the world.” I feel like I go about it in a way that is not just for people. I think it is very important, in this time that we’re facing, to be vocal and to be honest—as honest as possible.
Jen: I agree. I couldn’t agree more.
Lauren: Be your full self, but I also want to say that vulnerability is actually really scary. I don’t want to project that it’s easy to go out there and be like, “We’re sharing all these deep, dark things, and it’s an easy thing to do.” I want to be honest and transparent, but a lot of times we are vulnerable and open and honest. Then, we will get in Charla’s car after taping, and cry with each other and be like, “My God!”
Charla: Even more honestly, Jen, sometimes we’ll listen back and we’ll be like, “Oh no, that’s coming out. I do not want listeners to hear this. I’m not ready for this.” We’re very much playing it by ear. We’re being vulnerable in the studio, because we’re there with each other. But then, when we listen back, we’re just like, “Are we ready for that? Are we ready for the consequences of honesty? Of vulnerability? Are we ready for the consequences of letting other people fully see us?” And you know, we’re trusting it more and more, but we’ve definitely taken stuff out.
Lauren: It’s been a process to figure out what to share, but ultimately deciding, “Okay, well this is too personal, and not an important and vital part of the conversation in our vulnerability, right? There’s certain things that should be kept private.”
Jen: Yeah, exactly. I appreciate you saying that. There’s a difference between secrecy and privacy. Those are not the same things, and we still are afforded privacy in some places. To me, that just shows maturity and discretion, sometimes.
Charla: Yeah, absolutely.
Jen: But thanks for talking about the cost of that, because there is one. You’re not lying. Some of it’s a personal cost to have said some things into the world that are now going to be heard and that feel so raw. Some of it’s real. You guys talk about some really challenging things. I have no doubt that at some point, you get pushback or critique, or were challenged at some point. That goes with [the job]. It’s a package deal, but there is a cost to it. And I appreciate you paying it, because I think the results are powerful in the community of black women. Even broader is the community of women who are all trying to find their voices and be heard and be strong. We are in desperate need of leaders like you, and I wish there was a hundred more.
Charla: Thank you for saying that. All these compliments are really making my morning. I appreciate that.
Lauren: Seriously, I so needed them. You mentioned the word strong, and I think that there is also strength in being vulnerable, and in admitting that you’re not strong all the time. That’s something that was a learning process for me. Sometimes it’s okay to take a step back and be like, Oh, I’m really sad about this thing and am not strong all the time. I think that that is a greater strength that we are finding within ourselves and have the ability to share.
Jen: One thing that I love about your show is the way you want to know how the black women that you admire stay, as you say, incredibly phenomenal. Love that phrase. I’m curious—and of course it’s a super long list so you can just select whatever you want—but who are some of the black women that you really admire right now? Who are the ones that you are paying deep attention to and following in their wake and really glad to be learning from?
Charla: I mean, I love everyone we’ve had on our show so far, but there are so many people we haven’t even talked to yet that I’m dying to talk to. I don’t even know if a lot of them would be okay with it.
Jen: Sure, of course.
Charla: I’m really paying attention to Letitia James right now. She’s the New York Attorney General.
Leticia James is probably my favorite. [She is] more widely known. There are a lot of people that people don’t really know. They’re not popular people. They’re not celebrities. It’s the people doing the day-to-day grind of making this place better for everybody.
Jen: Have you asked her? Have you pitched it yet?
Lauren: I have tried.
Charla: I actually wonder if, with her job [being what it is], she would even be able to be on a podcast, because I would want to talk about things that are a little bit more personal. We’re trying. We’re trying to get all these people.
Lauren: Yeah. For me, my dream guest is Adrienne Maree Brown, who is an author and an activist. She has a book, Emergent Strategy and Pleasure Activism. Both have rocked my world in such a deep sense and changed the way in which I see myself and pleasure. I just want to pick her brain, because she’s doing it and living her authentic truth.
It’s great to see someone you admire and their whole ethos. They’re in the process of questioning and unfolding, and that is where I feel like I’m at in my life, so she’s a dream guest. And then, of course, there’s Oprah.
Charla: Michelle Obama.
Jen: When I throw out to my community, “Guys, who do we want?” 100% of the time, “You’ve got to get Michelle Obama.” I’m like, “Well, let me just call her. Let me just email her.”
Charla: We all want to talk to her. She has quite an incredible life. What an incredible story.
Lauren: Those two are like the dream, but I feel like if we were to get Michelle Obama and Oprah, it would maybe be five minutes off-air of me crying and hyperventilating and just being like, “Oh. My. God.”
Jen: I’d probably have to have a strong drink before I started that interview, just to calm my nerves.
Lauren: I would just tell Oprah, “I manifested this.”
Jen: Yeah, I like your list.
Charla: I want to talk to Chimamanda Ngozi. She’s talked a lot, but I feel like I want to have a personal conversation with her. I feel like those are the more bigger-named people, but there are tons of people doing God’s work.
Jen: Yeah, down on the ground.
Jen: That’s exactly right. I’ve learned just as much from the lay people, if you will, in my life as the headliners, but it doesn’t mean we don’t want to talk to Oprah. Let’s get serious. So—
Jen: Why not?
Charla: Absolutely, Venus and Serena. I feel like the dynamic of famous sisters is really important, right? We live in a culture that can easily pit us against each other. We live in a very capitalist, competitive culture, and you see sisters that really build each other up, the ones that encourage each other. It’s good competition, not the kind of competition that breaks someone down.
Jen: I like that idea. I like the sisters idea. You guys should push into that.
You’re a young podcast, but you came out of the gate pretty hardcore. Your first episode is titled “Being a Black Face in a White Space.” You just go ham just right away. I’m sure you discussed at length how to start, how to roll this out to our community. Why was it important for you to start there?
Charla: I actually would give a little bit of credit to our producer. Not a little bit, a lot of credit to our producer, Stephanie Kariuki, who immediately understood what we were trying to do.
It’s important to say that Stephanie is a black woman, as well. Because we had intentionality about the kind of project we wanted to do, and why we wanted to do it. Why do we want to do a podcast with black women, for black women particularly, right now? I felt a sense of urgency, and I feel like Stephanie felt it, as well. She’s the one who picked Bari [A. Williams]. I didn’t know Bari before this podcast. She’s the one that thought it would be a good interview to have, and it turned out to be an excellent interview, and it was our very first interview. We did a test episode that we ended up not using, but Bari was officially our first interview.
Lauren: I think that it was so important for us because it is our origin story. It’s the genesis of how we met. We worked in a predominantly white work space, and that’s how we connected, by being like, Oh s***, is this racism? Am I crazy? Am I just not doing my job doing well enough? Those are questions that a lot of black women face in the workplace. It really made sense to be like, “This is who we are, this is how we met, and we know that this is a subject that a lot of people face.”
Jen: Totally. I’m sure you’re hearing this from your community.
Charla: We are, oh my God.
Jen: Yeah, this, “Me too,” response. “Yeah, us too.”
I’m going backwards a step, but I’m curious. Obviously, as you’ve mentioned, you’ve both written and produced other really smart and engaging projects. I’d love to hear a little bit about how some of that creative work that you’ve done informed the way that you created this podcast—or did it? What did you pull from some of the stuff you’ve done to say, “We don’t want it like this.” Whichever way it went.
Charla: I think it was definitely what I don’t want.
Jen: Yeah, that’s fair.
Charla: Television can be a very frustrating place, particularly when you’re trying to create television shows, because ultimately, you’re an employee of your own show. You don’t really own it. It’s somebody else’s money. It can easily become somebody else’s vision. I think television is filled with dinosaurs sometimes. A lot of the people at the top, a lot of the people that are deciding, they’re making fear-based decisions. They don’t really know what’s going to work. The shows that have been the most successful over the last twenty years have been shows that were declined at certain networks, and they went to a different network, and then they really worked at that network. I found that TV is just so slow. It takes over a year, sometimes two years, to develop a project. Even after that, it might not go.
Jen: That’s right.
Charla: There’s no immediacy to it. There’s no sense of real ownership. I feel like it gets taken away. And frankly, I was attracted to podcasts because I’m always attracted to the things that people think aren’t important. TV still has not caught on to the idea that podcasts are important. Even my representatives at the time acted like a podcast was no big deal. I was like, “There’s huge potential here! The fact that you guys don’t see potential makes me want to do it even more.” That means that I get to do whatever I want. I don’t have to ask anyone for notes. I don’t have to wait for notes from anybody. Nobody else owns it. I own it, and we own it.
I feel like I came at it from a little bit of a different place than Lauren, because I’m really tired of having to wait for other people to tell me what I can and can’t do. It just drives me crazy. It makes me want to do more of that, of this. I love this. It’s my favorite thing I’m doing. I want to make more of this feeling of me getting to do what I want to do. Getting to own my project for real. Getting to really push the envelope, and not having to get sign off from anyone but myself and from Lauren and from our producer. I absolutely love this project, I absolutely love the team that we’ve built. I’m obsessed with it. I want more of this and less of the other stuff.
Jen: Hear, hear! That’s a manifesto right there.
Charla: It is, girl. I have written it.
Jen: I think creative control over your content is underestimated. That is really powerful, and it’s also quick. That’s one thing I love about podcasts, is they can zig and zag with whatever is going on. You don’t have to wait. You’re not a cog in somebody else’s wheel. By the time you get to the finished product, so many people have touched it, who even knows where it began and what it ended up as.
I’m with you. My assistant and my producer and I, we just have this running, constant communication. In the phone, it’s just “podcast queens.” We’re just the queens of our kingdom, and it’s amazing. We’ve had a handful of things on the docket before and we’re like, “Well, this is kind of out of our routines, and kind of out of our rhythms.” We’re like, “So? It’s ours. We own it. We can do what we want. We are in charge of ourselves.”
Jen: I know, I love it. Did you have anything to add to that, Lauren?
Lauren: Yes, for me, I came to [the podcast] from the standpoint of being a documentary producer. It was really amazing to work on something, to get in front and be the talent, when I’m very, very, very behind the scenes where I am the most comfortable.
Jen: Oh wow. Taking a leap.
Lauren: Yeah, to have something that turned around so quickly [was great]. Because making films, especially documentary films, can take a really long time. I predominantly work with black women directors. I come from a place of knowing your audience, and being very specific about who your audience is, and then making the personal universal. So having the opportunity to do that, in something that has a really quick turnaround, is really exciting for me. To unabashedly say, “Our audience is black women, this is who the show is for,” and really project these ideas on a project that I could see come to fruition quickly was really exciting.
Jen: Totally. I agree on all points. I’m a writer, and a book takes somewhere around 7,000 years from the first word to publication. It’s the slowest thing I do. I could not agree with you more that the pace of podcasting is so exciting and so flexible.
Jen: You guys have both touched on this, but I’d love to peel it back just a hint more. Identity and empowerment, obviously, play a huge, central role in the conversations you are having and hosting. Just this idea of taking power over your own life and saying, “This is who I am.” It’s so important for our growth, and this is something you have stepped into in your own lives. You’re living it in real time.
I just would love to hear both of you talk about that a little bit more in two ways: what it’s like to host that conversation as leaders and facilitators, and then also what it’s like to live it as women.
Lauren: I think it’s two-fold. A lot of times we get in this space, and we really gas each other up and are like, “Girl, you are so beautiful and so intelligent.” It’s really good to be affirmed by one of your closest friends. We feed off each other’s energy, and feel really good about the work that we’re doing in this space.
In my life, I do think that I’m faking it until I make it, and some days, I have really strong, powerful days, where I’m just like, I am so amazing. I’m doing the things that I want to do in the world. Then some days, I have the exact opposite, where I just feel confused and lost and in a struggle to figure out who I am. In my personal life, I’m recognizing that both are just signs of my growth and my understanding of self. It’s okay to have that balance. You can’t have good days all the time.
It’s really funny that when one of the episodes came out, [in which] we were talking about confidence and how great we feel about each other, I was literally in bed, in a deep depression. Actually, I wasn’t in bed, I was in my closet, because I didn’t want to be around the sun. I was listening to this episode, and I was like, This is hilarious.
Jen: Yes, so real. I really appreciate your honesty.
Lauren: This was me a month ago.
Charla: I would say that I have had less and less bad days in terms of feeling confident. I do. This podcast has really confirmed and affirmed a lot of me. No one validated this for us, you know? They bought it, but what validated it was people listening and connecting to it. I feel like what has happened is I’ve spent so much of my life feeling small, and feeling like I’m not worth anything, and feeling like I’m not smart enough. Even when I’ve gotten myself to enormous heights, frankly.
I keep thinking back to something Lauren said to me when we met in that restaurant for dinner, when she totally did not tell me she was in LA. When I was crying to her about where I was in my life, and not feeling good about it, she told me to remember the ancestors, which I kind of laughed at in the moment. Because ancestors sounds really funny. What I took from it was the power of my narrative. The power of where I come from. I was born in Haiti to a 17-year-old mom. She had twins, I have a twin sister. She was 17, having twins, in Haiti. We came to America, we’re immigrants, we’re black, she doesn’t speak English. My dad was there, but they were young, so it is what it is. It’s combative and it’s unsettled.
I’m a television writer, and I’ve worked with fricking amazing people. I’ve gone through college, and I’ve paid off my own student debt. I got to a place where I was having these achievements, but I was still never happy, and I was still never proud of myself. I really had to face that self-hatred that I’ve nurtured over the years. That’s from watching other people act like that, so I act like that. I’m just like, This isn’t serving me anymore. I’m genuinely exhausted. Can I live a kind of life where I show that I am grateful for where I am? Is [it worth] living a life in which I’m not confident, where I don’t love myself, where nothing is ever enough. Showing the Universe my life, my self, how grateful I am for how much I’ve fought, where I’ve come from . . .
I’m crying right now because I’m so emotional, and I don’t know why.
Jen: That’s just so powerful.
Jen: I have goosebumps.
Charla: Yes, but that’s how Lauren made me feel. She was like, “Remember your ancestors, remember where you came from.” I’m just like, “I’m a powerful woman. I do not have to live this life where I hate myself and I’m never confident and I never acknowledge what I’ve accomplished. I’m sick of it, I’m literally exhausted, and it’s literally killing me.
Charla: It’s been little by little. It has not happened over night. I’m not there yet. But every day, I’m a little bit more grateful. Every day, I’m a little bit more present and in the moment, and can enjoy the things that I’ve done and where I’ve come from. Every day, I get a little bit more validation from the inside, and not from the outside.
I want my life in five years to be filled with things like the podcast, with friends like Lauren, with people that build you up, and not experiences that take me down. It’s a small, gradual process. I do feel like it’s coming from the inside out. You’re watching me really be intentional about my life. If I’m going to be here, I’m going to enjoy it, I’m going to have to do it the way I want to do it, you know?
Jen: That’s so good. Thank you so much for saying that. That was really strong. I’ve just learned from that. That was instructive for me. We need to choose that.
Lauren: I needed to hear that.
Jen: Yes, right? That’s your girl.
Charla: Can you guys tell how mad I am? I’m like, super over it. I’m really over it. I’m done. I want to live a good life, now.
Jen: That matters that you’re saying that. That’s a powerful understanding and recognition that we choose it. Like, we literally choose to hate ourselves or not. We literally choose to be proud and stand up strong and create the life and the world that we want to live in.
I lead women, too, and this is a refrain I hear all the time, that so many women feel like life is just happening to them. And that’s a lie.
Lauren: I want to caution to say it’s a choice. Because when society also reflects that back on you—
Charla: Oooh, yes.
Lauren: It’s so hard to beat that. It’s not a choice, it doesn’t feel like a choice.
Charla: You’re being gaslit.
Lauren: You’re being gaslit to think that you’re less than, or you’re not worthy, or you’re not deserving, and it is much easier to subscribe to that narrative than to find the strength. I always say that racism is so powerful because it’ll have you believe that you are less than, [rather] than analyze the system.
I remember constantly not getting the right job titles, in which I was doing the same job as the person before me. I would always blame it on my age, or my lack of experience, or the way that I dressed. It was always a self-critique instead of being like, No, this is the system. I am doing the exact same job at the exact same level as the person who was here before me. There’s nothing that has changed about this job description except they were a director and I was a manager.
It takes a lot to be like, I am more powerful, I have more value, and I’ve got to find that value inside of myself [rather] than thinking that I’m going to be affirmed from a system whose whole structure is to keep me down.
Jen: That’s right.
Charla: They have no incentive not to. Right now, the way that the system is, there’s less and less incentive because you have things like #MeToo, you have things like people being called out for being criminals. I think more and more, we’re building a culture of respect, but either way, we’re doing it very slowly. It takes people speaking up to make it so that we all don’t feel gaslit, so that we all don’t feel like we’re crazy for wanting to be treated like people.
Jen: Yeah, and going back to what you said earlier, which is a lot of the heavy lifting that your show is doing for not just yourselves, but for your listeners, which is that honest and truthful reflection like, No, that was a lie. Or, No, that was not you, that is a corrupted, corroded system that has just operated like this since its inception.
I want to acknowledge that that is some heavy work that you’re doing, and not without taking a toll. It’s a daily fight for you and I see it, I really respect it, and I realize that in order for you to choose joy, happiness, and contentment in who you are and in the lives you’re building, it’s double the work. It’s double the work to overcome the other external messages.
Charla: Yes, it is.
Jen: It is.
Charla: I do feel like we’re all doing it, though. I feel like Lauren and I are doing it. We’re glad to throw our hats in the ring. I feel like other people are doing it, and I feel like more and more, people are understanding how important and urgent the work is because I feel like the thing that’s crazy about racist systems is how blind the people that benefit from it are to how it destroys them, too.
Charla: I’m just like, “We’re destroying a whole country.”
Jen: That’s right.
Charla: “We’re destroying a democracy. You’re not just making it hard for somebody to, you know, get a job, or feel safe in the world. You’re “othering” these people, these immigrants that you’re saying are the enemy, these black people that you say are the enemy, these Muslims that you say are the enemy. But what you’re really doing is being the actual enemy. What you’re doing is destroying a culture of respect, a culture of safety. You’re destroying possibility for people.”
One of the reasons I’m so passionate about it is I’m a literal American dream.
Jen: Yeah, you really are. A poster girl.
Charla: I came from Haiti. I’m the poster girl. I know the potential of this country and it’s just like, you’re ruining it.
Lauren: You’re removing yourself from connection to humanity, and I don’t think that people realize how essential it is to have other people, to have other experiences of life within your world. It only enriches you.
Jen: That’s exactly right.
Charla: Culture scarcity instead of generosity. Instead of abundance, you have plenty. There’s enough to be crazy about. There’s plenty for all of us.
Jen: That’s right. I mean, you’re telling the truth. White supremacy is such a scourge, and it’s so rooted and it’s so stubborn and it operates for white people so invisibly, of course. Pulling up that thorn by its root will never happen organically. It takes work. It has to be intentional, there has to be admission, and then ultimately repentance for it, and repair. What you’re saying is just the truest thing in the world. It’s not just a scourge on people of color, it’s on all of us. I mean, we all lose. We are silencing innovation. We are silencing possibility and potential and collaboration. What can we be doing it if everybody was operating at full capacity?
Jen: Totally. I’m banging the drum with you and I appreciate your clarity and your direct conversation about this. I know that your podcast is for black women, but I am hoping to bring a ton of white women to your listening room, so don’t be mad about it if all of a sudden, y’all’s feed is filled with—
Charla: The secret is, Jen, it’s for everybody.
Lauren: This is the thing: it’s for everyone, but black women will be able to listen to this and have a deeper sense of recognition, and know that it was made with them in mind.
I love the book and the movie The Outsiders. I’m not a little white boy greaser, but I love this story and learn from their experiences. I feel that a lot of times with media, we’ve been forced to look at the world through a white male gaze instead of other points of view that are just as specific and just as, you know, beautiful and nourishing. It’s something for everyone to enjoy, but another audience can take something more out of it.
Jen: That’s great.
Charla: Men have messaged us saying, “I know I’m not supposed to listen to this, but I’m listening to it and I’m learning a lot.” White people are messaging us like, “I know I’m not supposed to listen to this,” and it’s just like, “Secret, secret, everyone can listen to this!”
Jen: Cute, that’s so cute.
Let’s see, what’s next for you guys? Do you have any secrets you can share? What are you building? What are you dreaming up right now?
Charla: Ooooh. Lauren knows this. I’ve released a comedy album. It’s my first standup album. It’s on Spotify and iTunes, and literally everywhere. I’m very excited and proud of that.
Jen: Good for you. What’s it called?
Charla: It’s called Karate.
Lauren: It’s so good!
Jen: Oh my gosh, that’s really exciting. Okay, how about you, Lauren?
Lauren: We’re gearing up for Season 2 of the podcast, which we will start recording soon. That’s a really big thing in my life that I’m really excited about.
Jen: That’s great. Thanks for letting us know that. I’ll make sure that we’ve got all the links to that.
Jen: Okay, we’re just going to wrap this up. These are questions that we’re asking all of our guests in the podcast series. How about this? I’d like to hear each of you answer it. What’s your favorite—or maybe the most profound or meaningful or personal—thing that you’ve learned from doing your show?
Charla: I’ve never worked this collaboratively with people. I usually tend to be very on my own, you know? I’ve really learned to trust people. I’ve learned that other people sometimes have better ideas than I do. It’s been an ego check that I didn’t know I needed. I didn’t know I had an ego, then I was like, Oh God, I should chill and listen and trust that people have good ideas and that they’re smart and that they care about this as much as I do.
I’ve learned to not be too much of a perfectionist about this, to let people see the imperfect. There have been some episodes that I was like, “I want to re-record this,” and we can’t. We don’t have time. I’m like, “Our audience is just going to have to trust that this is the best thing we did at the time.” I mean, I feel like it’s going to be an ongoing process of learning, of self reflection.
I’ve also learned that I like this a lot. That I like working this way, that I like being my own boss to a certain extent. That I like not having all these people note this. Only the people that work on it note it. It’s not a bunch of executives and people who aren’t doing the day-to-day work who get a say. I love that, and I want to do more of that.
Jen: Yeah, love it. How about you, Lauren?
Lauren: Yeah, I’ve learned that it’s a process and to trust the process. I’m also a perfectionist, so to come out of the gate wanting to be perfect but recognizing that we’re learning [is hard]. Like, we’ve never hosted a podcast before, so there are going to be stumbles in the road, [and I had to learn] to not beat myself up about that and to be like, This is a process and I’m learning and I just need to sit back and chill and watch it unfold and just be part of the process. That’s one of the biggest take-aways for me.
Jen: That’s hard for me too.
Lauren: It’s okay to be in process and to not be at an end result. Even just yesterday, I was like, Oh, we often compare ourselves to where someone is right now, instead of where they started in the beginning. Recognize that we’re in the beginning and it’s a process of growth.
Jen: That’s so good. Honestly, when I go back, I can not even hardly listen to my first handful of episodes. I’m so wound up, I’m like, Jen Hatmaker, take it down about five notches.
You’re just learning. You don’t know what you don’t know. You don’t know it until you try it on. What I have discovered, and I bet you have, too, is that when you are committed to bringing quality content—in whatever direction you’re going—to your audience, they’re pretty forgiving on some of the minutiae. They’re pretty generous when it comes to, Well that sound was a disaster. Or, You’re weird today. Or, whatever. As long as what they’re coming to you for is this consistent, steady diet of nourishing material and inspiring guests and important conversations, it doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter and I think some of the imperfections make it more accessible, not less.
Okay, you guys. Here’s our very last question. We actually ask every guest in every series this question. This is also from an author that I love. Her name is Barbara Brown Taylor. You can answer this however you want. It can be serious or not. She always asks, “What’s saving your life right now?”
Charla: A couple of things are saving my life right now. I started journaling. Again, a Lauren recommendation that I didn’t listen to [right away] and later found [to be] great release and catharsis. I started doing a lot of yoga, and meditating more. I started exercising more. I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection. [I’ve started] saying no when I don’t want to do something.
Jen: Yes, amen.
Charla: Yeah, a lot of thinking with an abundance mindset instead of a scarcity one. A lot less fear-based decision making. A lot more trusting myself. All those things have been really, really saving me.
Jen: Those are great practices. That made me feel calm just listening to you list them. And Lauren?
Lauren: Like Charla, a couple of things are saving my life. Journaling has been saving my life for the last two years. I journal every day, sometimes multiple times a day, just to get thoughts out of my head on the page. Journaling has been saving my life. Also, being in water. I’ve been going to lakes and swimming. I’ve been finding it very cleansing, even just to take a bath at night. Being submerged in water and taking the time to not think and be present in my body has really been saving me.
Jen: Have you guys read the book Blue Mind?
Jen: Okay, just jot it down. It’s literally the power of water on our minds, our mental health, and on our emotional health. It’s profoundly interesting. They said to pick your water. It could be a lake, river, it could be a bathtub. Water is really, really powerful on our well being. You’re onto something.
Charla: That’s crazy.
Jen: Okay, will you guys just quickly tell my listeners where to find you?
Charla: Okay, I’m Charla and you can find me @CharlaLauraston across all platforms.
Lauren: I’m Lauren, and you can just find me on all of The Secret Lives of Black Women platforms. So you can listen to the podcast, we’re out every Thursday wherever you listen to podcasts. So Stitcher, iTunes, Spotify—wherever you listen to podcasts, you can listen to us. A new episode drops every Thursday. And you can find us on social media @TheSLBW.
Jen: Awesome, and if you guys want to just drop straight into the deep end with these girls, just go listen to their sex episode. They went for it, you guys. They went for it.
Hey, I just want to say that I’m really proud to have met you and proud of what you’re putting out into the world. I’m learning from you and I really acknowledge what it is that you are creating. It’s amazing potential for freedom, and for flourishing, and I’m really, really glad to introduce you to my audience. And so just know that I’m cheering you on from my corner of the world, and anything I can ever do to support your work or advance your work or elevate your work I’d love to do it. Thanks for being on my show today. Really appreciate it.
Lauren: Thanks so much.
Charla: Thank you so much, Jen. We really appreciate it. Thank you.
Lauren: Yeah, this is great.
Charla: It’s great.
Jen: You guys, thanks.
Lauren: All right, have a good one.
Jen: Okay, so I tried to tell you that we weren’t messing around today. We were just going to go all in. Right? These are just the kind of leaders that we need right now, and I’m so happy to introduce you to them.
Do go over immediately and subscribe to their podcast, and be prepared to hear some really powerful stuff from their community, from their perspective. I’m thrilled to know them and so happy that you know them, too.
So we’ve got a lot of really great guests in this series, you guys. We are interviewing podcasters that are, in my opinion, putting out some of the most relevant creative content right now. Both these women do not buy into the lie of scarcity at all. Somebody asked me recently, “Um, why are you going to do a series on podcasts? Like, don’t you just want people to love your podcast?”
I’m like, “That is crazy! I don’t operate in the world like that.” I am proud to work in a field alongside other very smart and capable and talented people and there’s enough to go around. There always has been. I do not operate off a scarcity mentality, so the answer is no. Of course I am not scared to put new leaders in front of you. I hope that you learn from them and love them as much as I do.
It’s just a great time to be alive, to be able to be led by people who maybe twenty years ago wouldn’t have had this mechanism to get their wisdom into our ears. Hear, hear for the era of podcasting! It’s just opened up so much for so many of us: what we are exposed to in conversations, we now have access to. It’s exciting, I love it.
So guys, thanks for being with us today. We are going to have more great podcast people heading your way next week. And my own amazing podcast team and I are thrilled to do this work for you. So on behalf of Laura, our producer, and Amanda, my assistant, and all the teams that bring this to your eardrums every single week, we love you, we’re grateful for you, and [we’re] happy, happy, happy to do this work.
All right, guys, see you next week.
Narrator: That’s it for today’s show. Hope you enjoyed this chat. Be sure to subscribe to my mom’s podcast and give it a “thumbs up” rating if you like it. From the whole Hatmaker family, hope you have a great week and see you next time!