It’s 3 a.m.
I am awake in a cold sweat. A disembodied voice spins a tale of murder, scandal, and intrigue in old Hollywood. I should go to bed. I have a spin class in five hours. Just a few more minutes, and then I’ll turn off the podcast.
Podcasts have become a nightly addiction. I am tired of watching superhero movies, reboots, franchises, and “scam artist” documentaries on television. I miss storytelling, the kind that lit up the neurons in my brain. I’m still old enough to want to use my imagination, to let it conjure images and spark feelings. Besides books, podcasts are one medium where I can find that kind of entertainment.
I’m not alone.
There’s been a resurgence in recent years of podcasts listeners. An estimated 197 million Americans, or 70 percent, are aware of podcasts. According to Edison Research, thirty-two percent of Americans listen to podcasts every month. Additionally, an article by Variety reports that there are two million podcasts are registered by Google.
Celebrities increasingly lent their voices to podcasts during the pandemic. Unfortunately, COVID limited the avenues where celebrities are seen. Are you famous if no one sees you? Also, it’s no small coincidence that Carrie Bradshaw’s primary media career shifts from newspaper columnist to podcast host in And Just Like That.
I love podcasts because, like audiobooks, they are portable. I can listen while getting ready in the morning, doing the dishes, or going for a walk. But, unlike audiobooks, their episodic format allows me to easily enter and exit the story quickly, even if it’s been a while since I listened.
Below is a list of my top five favorite podcasts in no particular order. They reflect my interests – film, fashion, and social justice. What are your favorite podcasts?
You Must Remember This was the podcast of old Hollywood mystery and murder that I alluded to in the introduction. Hosted, written, and narrated by Karina Longsworth, You Must Remember This is dedicated to exploring Hollywood’s first century’s “secret and forgotten histories.” Longsworth is a former film critic. Her expertise and research shows in finely tuned episodes that delve behind the headlines to give the listener a feel of what might have happened behind Hollywood’s bright lights.
Even the Rich podcast details the inner workings of modern celebrity dynasties such as the Murdochs, Kardashians, Guccis, and the Royals. It is skillfully researched, written, and sound-produced. Co-hosts Brooke Siffrinn and Arcia Skidmore-Williams make listeners feel like they are insiders in an exclusive world. In addition, the co-hosts interview a journalist, author, or expert to put each episode arc into cultural context.
Writing Black Joy is a “virtual space centering, celebrating, and promoting the voices of Black writers with joyful and uplifting stories.” Safiya Robinson, a writer, author, and “storylistener,” hosts and produces the podcast. The show features Black creators, their projects, and their creative process. It’s a great podcast to listen to when you need inspiration and motivation as a creator. For example, I was a guest earlier this year to talk about my film, Return of the Black Madonna.
Inclusive Life is for anyone interested in “transforming their lives to be more inclusive, equitable, and just.” Nicole Lee, a human rights attorney, activist, and mom hosts the podcast. Nicole, also a dear friend, is brave for many reasons. However, in the podcast, Nicole doesn’t shy away from “messy conversations” about race, social change, radical rest, vulnerability, and the power of belonging. On the contrary, she welcomes the messiness, which is one reason why it’s a must-listen podcast for me.
The Gilded Age is a new, guilty pleasure. The HBO series was a slow burn for me. There was an episode where nothing happened. Alicia Malone and Tom Myers host the “official podcast,” a companion to the television series. Written by Julian Fellows, who gave us Downton Abbey, the show follows several high-society families in 1880s New York. After each episode, Malone and Myers go behind the scenes and discuss its events and the real people, places, and events that inspired the show. Cast and crew members also talk about their experiences bringing the show to life.