Stepping up to a microphone can be a nerve-wracking experience, whether you’re a singer, comedian, politician or, like Kristina Lopez, a podcaster.
As the producer and co-host of ‘Plz Advise,’ an advice show makes with her best friend, comedy writer Molly McAleer, Lopez is one of the few Latinas working in the podcast world. That can make taking the mic feel like an even bigger responsibility.
Lopez and McAleer, a former writer for CBS’s “2 Broke Girls,” started the podcast three years ago when they were both between jobs. Their love of the sex advice podcast and longtime New York Times column ‘Modern Love’ as well as McAleer having an advice column of her own spurred them to pull themselves by the bootstraps and make the project happen. Luckily, Lopez is a self-proclaimed research nerd who likes learning about equipment. That came in handy when setting up those mics she’d be stepping up to.
While they went into the project looking to help people, Lopez found herself discovering a lot about herself throughout the process. Her Nuyorican background doesn’t often come up in her work, it definitely informs it. Especially when listeners call in with questions that touch on race or social justice.
For example, one caller asked the Plz Advise crew how to handle a conversation with his white roommate, who didn’t quite get the Black Lives Matter movement. As a black person, the caller was struggling to discuss the movement in a way that wouldn’t cause a rupture of their friendship. In the process of giving him advice, Lopez learned important things about herself.
“I told him ‘you’re the only person that can possibly explain it to him,'” she recalls. “I got a lot of feedback from listeners saying maybe that wasn’t the right way to go. They were like, ‘he doesn’t have to do that, and Kristina, you don’t have to either. You don’t have to do this emotional labor.'”
As a brown person that often finds herself in a lot of white circles, Lopez often felt the need to be the “ambassador,” explaining to white people the perspective of women of color. However, those conversations often came at the cost of her own comfort. Going through this with her callers helped her come to a better place of understanding self-care.
“I’m second generation American, so there’s a little distance. Some people would make me feel like I’m not real Puerto Rican because I wan’t born on the island. It would make me question if I’m an authority. But I am a Latina. Every part of me tells me I am,” she says. “Having these conversations on air solidified how I felt about my identity as a person of color. I don’t have to live up to other people’s experiences. I live up to my own.”
This has all helped her see first-hand the need for more brown voices in podcasting.
“Because we are so multi-faceted within the Latino umbrella, there’s so much opportunity to explore experience and identity that can teach people within our own culture and ethnicity what our life experiences are, how they’re different and how they’re the same,” says Lopez. “People need to hear those voices. Your voice matters. Latino means a lot of things and we need to show people that.”
CREDIT: Credit: Plz Advise/Soundcloud
Lopez was happy to impart the wisdom she’s gained in podcast at Werk It: A Women’s Podcast Festival, held earlier this week in Los Angeles.
“It’s a very white industry. I’ve had the most success in my life, whether in podcasting or in my professional life, when I’ve just been myself and speak how I am. That’s when people embrace me. Lean into who you are, because that’s when you shine the most. And if you don’t know, figure it out. We’re all just winging it. No one has it all figured out. Even Oprah is winging it.”
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