A Conversation with Mallorie Greene, Creator of the Black Girl Basics Podcast
April 26, 2021
Mallorie Greene’s podcast may be called Black Girl Basics however she is anything but that. In an age revolving around digital media, Greene found that she couldn’t find content tailored directly towards Black girls. With the media’s steady steps to become more diverse, Greene asked herself a simple question: “If I don’t know any young Black women doing podcasts. I don’t hear about it or see any of them. Why can’t I?” In an interview with Greene, she gives us some insight into Black Girl Basics’ important placement in the growing world of podcasting.
Q: What inspired you to start a podcast in particular when there are so many other digital mediums today?
A: In high school, around my junior or senior year, I started getting into podcasts and there was one podcast that I really loved called The Read. It’s two people: Kid Fury and Crissle. They were absolutely hilarious and they’re Black and they’re comedians. They both work for MTV and they made me laugh. It was interesting because when I would listen to a podcast, I could be on the bus. I could be on a walk and I wouldn’t have to watch anything. I could just listen to it. I think that sparked my interest in podcasts. I always knew that there was some type of content that I wanted to create toward young Black girls, young adult Black girls, and young teenage Black girls, because I always felt like there was something for young Black boys, and there was something for young Black kids, but nothing specifically for young Black women. When COVID first hit and we all were dispersed and sent home, I knew there was something that I wanted to create for young Black women. I sat on the idea literally until December of 2020, because I had absolutely no confidence in it. I was thinking about doing YouTube, but I honestly thought that at this point, there are so many girls who look like me. I’m happy about it, but I don’t know any young Black women doing podcasts. I don’t hear about it or see any of them. And I was like, why can’t I? So I decided to do it a couple of days before New Year’s, literally the very end of 2020. I was about to go to sleep and I thought of Black Girl Basics. The name just came to me, and I was like, ‘that has a ring to it, I think I like that.’ So, I wrote it down in my journal and it started from there.
Q: How has your MMC experience (and/or education) impacted your role as a podcaster today?
A: Even though my time at Marymount was cut short by the pandemic, I will say that it allowed me to know that there wasn’t just me. Even though there weren’t a ton of girls that looked like me at Marymount, the few that I knew, there was something about that sisterhood, the moments that we would have together. It was so special and they were so sweet. I mean, when I did Rayiah’s hair, it was like a little moment where I felt like I was listening to my mom’s conversations with her girls, like when we would go out for lunch and we would just have girl chat. Those little moments of Black sisterhood are so special, and they’re so necessary for us to survive in this climate.Q: In your first episode you shared a lot of beauty product recommendations, how can these products empower Black women in their 20’s today? How have they empowered you?
A: My mom was very strong about me not wearing makeup until I was like 16, but I watched YouTube videos all the time. I couldn’t put on a stitch of makeup because I wasn’t allowed, but I watched it. So then when I started, I knew what I was doing. At first, it made me very self-conscious. I looked at my face with a very critical eye. And then I found Jackie Aina. I don’t know where I would be, beauty-wise, without her. She changed the way I thought about makeup. She changed what I thought about beauty. She changed what I thought about desirability and how things are in the beauty industry, like makeup and getting your hair done. It’s up to you to decide what looks good and what doesn’t, nobody else. And being a Black girl, a lot of beauty is not catered to us. I want my podcast to be a space where it’s like, no, I’m talking to you. Like, this is what does great on my hair. If you have a similar texture, you could try this too. Things that are for us, because I think so many things are not advertised to us. A lot of beauty products laugh at our skin tones and especially skin tones darker than mine. Beauty has shaped me in a lot of ways, but it also made me a lot more aware of beauty as a social construct.
Q: How do you think that podcasting specifically can serve as an accessible avenue for young Black listeners? What makes it a better platform or more of a safe space compared to YouTube, Tik Tok, etc?
A: I think visuals are very important and because we’re in a digital era, visuals have a means of exploiting certain things, like beauty and desirable traits. Obviously, in the tech world, they talk about how racism plays a huge role in visual algorithms, how skin tones and who’s making the content and their beauty/desirability can really decide whether their content is pushed by an algorithm or not. Being on the YouTube space, especially when I was 15 or 16, I developed a lot of self-issues with my image. I looked at myself a lot differently because I didn’t look like girls on videos. I’m not a big Tik Toker, but from what I see on Tik Tok, there are a lot of body checks and visual things, and it pushes a form of dysmorphia that I personally deal with. With podcasting, it’s just your voice. There’s no visual. You’re just listening to my idea. You don’t know what I look like. I choose to not put my face as a part of the cover art for my podcast for that reason. Because unless you follow me, unless you want to know what I look like, you don’t need to know.
You just need to know what I have to say. And then, that also means I don’t feel like I’m perpetuating anything that can make someone feel less-than visually, because I know what that feels like to receive it.
Q: What are future topics you’d love to cover on your podcast, and how are those topics and conversations crucial to have in 2021?
A: An episode that will be coming out soon is about Black girls and hip hop. I grew up listening to a lot of hip hop and a lot of rap. There was an age where I realized that I didn’t like it because of the blatant misogyny and the violent sexism toward women, but I loved hip hop as a culture. It caused a conflict within me, because I knew so many other Black girls felt the same way. It was songs that you liked, and then one time you actually heard the lyrics and you were like, ‘I don’t think I like this.’ So that’s a conversation that I have on the podcast because I think it’s very current. Another conversation that I will have is about Black sisterhood and it’s probably going to be my favorite podcast because I’m going to do it with my closest friends. We’ll basically talk about relationships: romantic relationships, our interpersonal relationships, and how, as a society, we’re taught to place our romantic relationships above our interpersonal friendships, when really, the interpersonal friendships should be number one, because that’s what holds you together. Another topic that I’ll talk about is Black motherhood. I sat with my mom and we talked together about what it was like to become a Black mother and what her relationship was with her mother.Like, what was that like? How did you understand Black motherhood as being something that was going to be a lifelong journey and not a road stop at 18 years? Those are some things that we talk about on the podcast. I’m really excited because I feel like they’re conversations that young Black women don’t really get to have on a platform like a podcast.
Q: What has been the most exciting thing about your podcasting experience so far?
A: Hearing back from my friends about how they felt about it. That’s just been the most rewarding thing ever. One of my closest friends called me the day I dropped the podcast, just a couple hours into the day, and she was crying, and she was like: ‘Mallorie, thank you.’
What I said apparently really struck her and she needed to hear it, and this is someone that I’m super close with and talk to almost every day. And she’s like: ‘I’ve been going through some things, and this podcast really helped me understand what I need to do next in my life.’ That’s the most exciting thing, hearing that people that I care about the most really enjoy my work.
It just makes you want to make more.
Q: What is the greatest barrier you’ve faced, if any, in your podcasting experience so far?
A: I love listening to podcasts, but I don’t know anything about making them, so it can be difficult with tech. The tech was the thing that almost made me not want to do it because I’m not a huge tech person, but I’m a quick learner. I’m very big on if things sonically sound good, you know what I mean? The aesthetics of sound. And so I was like: ‘I’m not going to release a podcast unless I could listen to it 10 times.’ When you listen to your voice over and over again, you’re like, ‘my voice sounds so ugly and super deep and raspy.’ I think that was the most difficult part, to be able to sit down and change things.
Q: What podcasts did you listen to that inspired you and your style? Any other podcasters that you look up to?
A: Like I mentioned before, Crissle and Kid Fury are probably the best two podcasts in the game. Their podcast is really centered around pop culture, but they discuss topics in a way that is so well-crafted, and they’re very on point with their takes and they know how to make you laugh, but they also know how to be serious and make you listen. And I feel like, if your podcast isn’t really saying anything, what are you doing? You know what I mean? So, those are two people that I really look up to. I also look up to Desus and Mero. This is very niche, but they’re two comedians from the Bronx in New York, and they are so funny.
Their style of podcasting is very similar to mine in the sense that it’s very conversational. They just riff off of each other, going back and forth. It doesn’t sound very staged. That’s kind of how I want mine to sound like: having an intro, having an outro, but having a nice conversational inside, that is just good. It makes it sound like you’re in the room with them. Those are like four people that I really looked up to. And I was like: ‘I think I want to take that for myself.’
Q: What does your do to influence Black podcasters that will come after you? How does your podcast follow through with its mission?
A: The reason why I would consider it a safe space is because I don’t think that anyone’s perspective or experience is invalid. I think in a lot of spaces Black women can feel like the things that they feel are not true. They can feel gaslit in so many conversations and made to feel like we’re making things up or that we’re too angry or that we’re too sensitive. I don’t want the idea of being too sensitive or too soft to ever be a thought on my podcast. Growing up as a Black woman, how many times I’ve not said something because I didn’t want anyone to take offense, or how many times I didn’t voice my opinion because I didn’t want someone to think I was being too sensitive is countless, and I never want to create a space where I perpetuate that for someone else. I think I can inspire other podcasters with my honesty. Sometimes when you create something for the public, you think you have to put on a persona, but I think it’s okay to air your dirty laundry. I really do. I think it’s okay to say, ‘hey guys, I had a really crappy week and I didn’t feel like making this episode, but I did it.’ Being really honest, being tasteful, but being honest about what you feel. Authenticity is something that you cannot buy.
Q: If your podcast shares the “basics” for young Black women, where and how did you learn the basics before podcasts were around? What resources and role models were there for you growing up?
A: My mom, my aunts and my cousins. I grew up listening to my mom have phone conversations with my aunts, and there were just things that were common understanding for Black women, and those ideas and those feelings just felt very basic. They felt like the standard, like the guideline. So, I learned a lot from them. A lot of my ideas of womanhood came from them and I wouldn’t say I relied too much on one person because I really do feel that I’m a collection of like all my aunts and grandmothers, because they all taught me something. So I would say really the women in my family taught me every Black girl, basic things I know. Also my friends, I have the best friends in the world and I learn things from them all the time about Black womanhood. And it’s really cool, because we’re all just now getting into Black womanhood.
Q: What kinds of podcasts do you wish were offered or popularized that you have not seen in mainstream podcasting?
A: I would like to see more podcasts created by artists. I don’t mean just music artists.
I mean visual artists, all types of artists, I wish I heard more podcasts created by writers, by literary scholars. I know that may sound super boring, but one of my biggest pet peeves is listening to a podcast with people talking about a topic that they know nothing about. A lot of people do that on big platforms, talking about scholarly topics. Bring in the scholar, you know what I mean? Bring in the person who actually studied this for like decades. So, I would love to hear more from people who study things for a living, and specifically literary arts, because I love the literary arts. I could hear writers talk for hours. I also would love to see more activists of other generations have podcasts because I think their stories need to be told. Stories do not die if you keep telling them. I really hope that more activists that are of older generations get online. I know Angela Davis has a pretty solid platform online now, but there are so many others that I wish would just pick up a mic and tell their stories so that it never dies.
Q: What is the greatest piece of advice you’ve ever received that has motivated you throughout your ambitions?
A: There’s a pastor named Sarah Jakes Roberts, and she’s probably one of the only pastors that I’ve listened to on a regular basis. She did a sermon about confidence. One of the things that she said hit me like a ton of bricks: ‘stop wanting to get into the room, and make every room you’re in the room.’ Make every room that you walk into the room where people want to be. I think that means a lot to me because I grew up in the arts, I grew up in musical theater, and everyone always talks about meeting the right person and networking and meeting the right director. What if you become the person that they want to meet so badly instead of you chasing them? That piece of advice just stuck with me because it’s like, why not you? Why do you have to chase after meeting that right person or finding the right opportunity when you can be the right opportunity.
Q: What advice or words of wisdom do you have for college students wanting to host a podcast, especially those with underrepresented or marginalized voices?
A: Just do it. I think there are a lot of things that go through your mind when you want to create something, and one of them is the idea that a sector is too saturated with things like you. That’s so far from the truth. I mean, go into any hair store, or a Walmart, or a Target, and go to the shampoo and conditioner section. There is a wall of shampoos and conditioners that probably do the exact same thing, but all of them are made by different businesses and different people. They all have a spot in that industry. There’s no idea that it is too saturated. There is no idea that is too common. Nobody is you. Nobody is you, and that’s your power.
A new episode of Black Girl Basics is released every Sunday on all streaming platforms. You can follow the Black Girl Basics Instagram account, @blackgirlbasicspodcast, and Greene’s Instagram account, @theblackhottiee.