Women in Podcasting: Interview with Fariha Roisin and Zeba Blay



Two Brown Girls logo Podcaster NewsTwo Brown Girls is a pop culture, film, and television podcast. It is hosted by writers and critics Fariha Roisin and Zeba Blay. They cover topics ranging from race, feminism, and politics to current movies and newly released albums, from the point of view of women of color.

You can follow the Two Brown Girls podcast on Twitter @TwoBrwnGirls. So far, my interviews with women in podcasting have focused on one woman at a time. However, since this podcast is called Two Brown Girls, it seemed appropriate to interview both hosts.

When did the Two Brown Girls podcast begin? Have either of you been involved in podcasting outside of this show?

Fariha: It began in 2012. We formed an idea of doing something as a duo mid-year then in November 2012 we finally decided on a podcast. It was a new medium for both of us and I think I’m just beginning to get a handle on it—two years later—but I still feel like my speech is profuse with ums and ahs which are things that are so natural and organic in normal day-to-day conversation but not so endearing when you’re doing it professionally. When you’re listening to yourself every “like” begins to burn a hole in the ozone layer—and your ego—it’s horrible! After a while, though, you learn to forgive yourself. What’s the point if it’s no fun? Besides, I think part of our appeal is that we’re relatable. I’ve always thought of Two Brown Girls as a podcast that sounds like you’re in a conversation with two mates, and it makes it easy to create that atmosphere when you are creating something with one of your closest friends.

Zeba: I’d never been involved with podcasting outside of the show, although for a long time my go-to form of entertainment was podcasts and radio shows. The idea of taking the conversations Fariha and I have and sharing them with other people was nerve-wracking at first, but has ultimately been super gratifying – it’s cool to see how many people out there relate to the things we talk about.

What inspired each of you to become a podcaster?

Fariha: Nothing really in particular. We just wanted to get our voices out there. There was a serious lack of voices like ours and we were sick of it. We’re both smart, insightful women and we felt like we needed to contribute in a positive way.

Your website describes the Two Brown Girls podcast as a pop culture podcast. What kinds of topics do you discuss?

Fariha: Always race. Always feminism. Mainly an intersection of those two things. We also talk a lot about politics/social inequality as a result of immoral governance/racist social structures. 2014 was a year of one horrific thing after another so we had one episode dedicated to Ferguson, or one where we talked a lot about Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, etc. Both Zeba and my interests are wide and varied—so although we can talk about who’s hot (or rather not) in Hollywood—we also oscillate from topic-to-topic and can just as quickly talk about what’s going on with the drone strikes in Pakistan; or Islamaphobia in the media; or even the devastating news of Leelah Alcorn’s suicide (and her parents disregard for her, and continuation of misgendering her even after her death). It’s important for us to be able to be light—but serious when we need to be. I’ve cried many times on 2BG, as has Zeba. It’s been a really cathartic experience—I’ve also learnt a lot about life. Our listeners don’t shy away from calling us out, which I’m open to because I’m in no ways an infallible being. I’ve said things that I’ve had to rethink and I’ve had to question a lot of things that I was taught as a kid that I’m not impressed by. There were a lot of things I didn’t know before I started 2BG, and I’m constantly learning and evolving and trying to be a better person.

Zeba: I think what’s really important about defining our podcast as “pop culture” focused is that it highlights the fact that pop culture can be both low and highbrow. We do talk about more serious subjects regarding race and gender as Fariha points out, but even if we’re discussing Beyonce’s new album or the latest Marvel movie, we’re able to put it in a context that’s both fun and irreverent while also being critical on many levels. Pop culture is fun, but it’s also super important because it dictates so much of how we relate to each other and to the world we live in.

What advice would you give to women who are thinking about starting their own podcast?

Fariha: Do it! We need to carve spaces that don’t make room for us, which is exactly why Zeba and I created this podcast. I’m proud that in the few years that we’ve had 2BG there are terminologies that people say with fluency—whether it trans or women of color, etc—and that just didn’t exist when we started this. I’d like to think that we helped make these ideas more mainstream and so I encourage more women to create more spaces for themselves. Nobody is ever going to give you the space that you deserve—so you need to go out there and take it.

Zeba: I would say the biggest thing is to be original and have a point of view. Even if you’re flailing and don’t know exactly what you’re doing or supposed to do, having a keen and clear idea of the messages you want to convey and the type of audience you want to attract is vital. Now that we’ve been doing this for a few years, we’ve built a really nice community of followers, and I think that’s partly thanks to the fact that we’ve never tried to do or be anything else other than ourselves.