Jenna Wortham: First Guest Ever on Our New Podcast, The Call!

Meet Erica Williams Simon. She’s a writer, former political strategist and now, the host of a brand-new podcast for Man Repeller named The Call. You can listen to a teaser here as well as the first full episode.

The focus of The Call is simple: Sit down with a bunch of wildly inspiring women and ask them about how they’ve answered their own “call,” whether that relates to activism, career or something else. The conversations go beyond cliches like “work hard” or “try your best” or “don’t be afraid” to talk about real challenges, struggles and surprises along the way.

“When I intro myself to people and they ask what I do for a living, the central theme is that I like to create conversations that help change the world and I like authenticity. This sounds super cheesy, but it’s true,” says Erica. “I’ve had a career that has taken me through politics, media, faith and entrepreneurship. I hope that listeners hear something that makes them take a step they otherwise wouldn’t have taken, maybe that they’ve been afraid to take, that they push themselves one step beyond their comfort zone.”

Below, check out an excerpt of the first conversation with Jenna Wortham, staff writer for The New York Times and host of the podcast Still Processing. Go here to listen and subscribe. We’re so excited and hope you are, too. Oh! Please also rate us on iTunes!


Erica: You cover culture and tech, and it feels like those two things converge on Twitter.

Jenna: The streams have become so clogged and so overflowing that it’s almost impossible to extract the same kind of information from them. You can always take a temperature. You can always understand how people are feeling about a thing, a concept, an awards show, an idea. And truthfully, the stuff that’s most interesting to me now on Twitter is the way culture evolves on Twitter. It’s not necessarily about breaking news, it’s more about observing how something like the optimistic challenge works, or the mannequin challenge works, or things like the mannequin challenge play into mainstream music trends. News used to break on Twitter, on Facebook, and it just doesn’t anymore. So it’s easier to take a step back…

Erica: When you explain your job and what you do to your family and to your childhood friends, how many of them understand it? I feel like this…When I go back home, and my family — smart people, great jobs — it’s still this foreign concept: “Wait what? You talk a lot all day, you travel, you sit on panels, you write about things?” It’s this kind of abstract world that many of us live and travel and work in now. Is this what you thought you’d be doing when you were, let’s say, 18?

Jenna: Oh god, no. When I was 18, I felt glad I had gotten into college; no one in my family went away to college. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve made it, I’m done. I was having this conversation with a friend last night who’s from Baltimore. He’s a stylist, he works in fashion, he’s a photographer, he makes scenes… Especially in brown and black communities, there’s no sense of how to make a living just by being yourself and how to make a living in a creative field. When I went to college, my experience was, well if you don’t study economics, law, medicine or business, you’re not going to have a job. Those are the paths you walk down. And I was miserable…I was good at science, so I thought, “I’ll study medicine.” And it was just a disaster. I hated the rigidity, I hated how much work it was, I didn’t feel like my true self. And so, I almost flunked out of college; I barely graduated as it is. It was just not for me. I’m grateful for that time; I feel like the whole process of life is figuring out what you don’t want to do, like failures are just data. They just teach you what you don’t want to do, or things you want to do differently. So no, when I was 18 I had no idea that people could make a living writing…I didn’t even understand that there were all these other ways to make a living, and no one in my world could show me that.

Logo design by Maria Jia Ling Pitt; photo by Jabari Jacobs.

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