Every two weeks, Sylvia Obell and Deanii Scott get on Zoom from reverse coasts to document their podcast, “Okay, Now Listen,” which is produced by Netflix.
They sort out subjects that vary from breakups to parental abandonment to favourite TV reveals, heartbreak and memes in an upbeat, sisterly manner. In one episode, the hosts learn from the journals they stored as preteens.
But their most candid and honest conversations are about life as younger Black ladies pursuing their goals in white, male-dominated industries. (Ms. Obell, 31, is an leisure reporter who beforehand labored at BuzzFeed, and Ms. Scott, 30, is a radio host, identified professionally as Scottie Beam, who received her begin on Hot 97 in New York.)
Often these conversations lengthen to their company. On a February episode with the actress Zendaya, the hosts mentioned the significance of Black ladies giving themselves credit score and celebrating their successes, an act that doesn’t essentially come naturally for Black ladies. “I struggle with it a little bit because I’m one of those people that if I give myself credit, it’s going to be gone,” Zendaya mentioned.
The hosts additionally deliver the conversations again to the frustrations Black ladies face day by day — for instance, when Ms. Obell and Ms. Scott broke down Solange’s music “Mad” from her 2016 album, “A Seat at the Table.”
“She took the angry Black woman trope and flipped it on its head,” Ms. Obell mentioned, concerning the music. “She’s got a lot to be mad about, how about you figure out what you are doing to make her angry — what society has done to make her angry.”
In one other episode, Ms. Scott mentioned: “Having to rediscover joy and salvage something you never tried to lose can get exhausting.”
Their friendship predates the podcast, which can clarify why their heat is palpable. The two met at Essence Fest in 2017 and instantly hit it off.
“I wanted ‘Okay, Now Listen’ to be a direct reflection of our friendship,” Ms. Scott mentioned in an interview. “I wanted to showcase Black relationships, Black friendships, in any type of way.” For many listeners, the podcast, which premiered in 2020, has turn out to be a solution to really feel nearer to their very own mates in the course of the pandemic.
“My girls are the love of my life,” Ms. Obell mentioned brightly, talking about the way in which friendship guides the podcast.
“I have a tribe of women that hold me down,” Ms. Scott mentioned. “My auntie team is impeccable.”
It was a member of Ms. Obell’s tribe, Jasmyn Lawson, who requested the pair to start out “Okay, Now Listen” for Netflix. Ms. Lawson, 29, a tv government at Netflix, was on the group that in 2018 began Strong Black Lead, a content material vertical marketed to Black subscribers; certainly one of her obligations was creating the varieties of reveals and podcasts that she herself would need to see and listen to.
“They were really supportive of the work that I was doing and wanted me to just go, go, go and do more,” Ms. Lawson mentioned in a current interview, of her bosses at Netflix.
In addition to creating “Okay, Now Listen” Ms. Lawson additionally produced “Strong Black Legends,” a podcast the place celebrated and acclaimed Black actors, together with Cicely Tyson, Elise Neal and Blair Underwood, talk about their careers. (Both “Okay, Now Listen” and “Strong Black Legends” had been produced in partnership with Pineapple Street Studios.)
“It just came from my own selfishness of wanting to honor our legends in our community,” Ms. Lawson mentioned. “I know most of our aunties and uncles might not be on the internet every day to see how we talk about these actors. I wanted to make sure we had this archive of their stories, how they got into the industry.”
Of the “Okay, Now Listen” hosts, Ms. Lawson mentioned: “I really wanted them to have great cultural conversations about what’s happening within the realms of millennial Black people.”
In 2015, an estimated two million Black households subscribed to Netflix — a quantity that represented solely about 5 p.c of its whole subscribers. These figures got here from a 2015 memo, which was obtained by The New York Times, that was produced by Black employees at the company to make the case to Netflix executives that they were missing an opportunity with Black audiences.
The memo also said that Black households represented a market worth $1.4 billion. Netflix executives, perhaps hesitant to lose out on such revenue, started Strong Black Lead in 2018. The company also continued to improve its hiring of people of color and women in many different positions — including as directors, screenwriters and producers — according to a recent study by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative that was commissioned by Netflix.
Today, the media company has established a reputation as being the pre-eminent place for Black talent to go in Hollywood to produce their work.
Ms. Lawson recently took on a new role as a manager of original series at Netflix, a position in which she develops and produces live-action comedy series. But she has not deferred her goal of creating content that she would like to see personally. (Netflix would not share viewership numbers or audience demographics for this article.)
“I see myself as a reflection of the audience,” Ms. Lawson said. “There’s no way that you try to really have a space and culture and stay relevant and not try to talk to the Black audience.”
And the Black audience for podcasts seems to be growing. Forty-one percent of podcast listeners in the United States are not white, according to Nielsen. That figure, Nielsen also points out, means that podcast listeners are a more diverse population than that of the country.
For Ms. Scott and Ms. Obell, finding that audience has everything to do with staying true to their original vision and respecting each other, as they do their listeners.
“My purpose right now is to speak power into these Black women like myself, like Sylvia, and do the work,” Ms. Scott said.