July 25-27, 2018 / Vancouver, BC

An Interview with Tracy Clayton

Written by Shannon Fisher

January 30, 2017

Tracy Clayton of the BuzzFeed Podcast: Another Round

Tracy joined Steve for a chat about Another Round, good things on the horizon, animal interviews, and finding your voice.

Tracy is, as always, hilarious and insightful. If you've yet to catch an episode of Another Round, this interview will compel you to make things right.

We won the everything lottery when Tracy said yes to speaking at DCC17. Don't miss your chance to hear her on our stage in Vancouver this July.

Get your tickets now!


Video Transcript

Steve
Hi, well we're here for the second interview for the 2017 Design and Content Conference. And I am super excited because we're talking with Tracy Clayton from Another Round. Hey Tracy.

Tracy
Hello, hi how are you?

Steve
Could you introduce yourself to the DCC crowd and tell us a little bit about yourself.

Tracy
Sure, well my name is Tracy Clayton. I'm originally from Louisville, Kentucky, but I moved to New York to work at BuzzFeed where I am currently employed, as technically a staff writer but mostly a podcast host. I've been writing since I was eight years old, because I was very shy and very introverted and I didn't like speaking to people. So it's kind of weird that now my full-time job is to speak to people, it's very, very strange. My podcast is one that I host with my colleague and friend, Heben Nigatu, and we basically drink adult beverages and we talk about pop culture, race, class, gender and just whatever is on our minds on our hearts, whatever we're into that particular week. And the goal is really to just replicate the kind of easy conversation that women of color and people in the margins have when they're by themselves in the comfort of their own homes, or their favorite happy hour bar. And we just wanted to do that in a public space.

Steve
Well, it's a fantastic podcast and I know that my whole family, we really love it. In fact, I didn't tell you this before, but we take off for a month or two every year and work and live from a travel trailer and try to go somewhere we haven't been before.

Tracy
Oh wow.

Steve
So this last year we went all the way down to San Diego and then to Palm Desert. And we were in Palm Desert when the Election happened.

Tracy
Oh.

Steve
And I should say we're recording this on the 20th.

Tracy
Yes.

Steve
And so we've just watched the inauguration and had lots of tears saying goodbye to the Obamas. But anyways, so we were in Palm Desert and this happened and we just felt crushed. And as we drove back to Canada, 'cause we just kinda wanted to come home, it was your podcast that we were listening to.

Tracy
Aw.

Steve
That really, some of the discussions, different perspectives that we just don't always hear in our own lives too. We've really appreciated it as a family, it's helped myself, my daughter and my wife really grow.

Tracy
This makes me so, so happy. Thank you I'm so glad it's been able to be something good to somebody somewhere.

Steve
Yeah, I would love to hear what you're currently thinking, what you're, maybe some projects you're working on, what's going on with Another Round? You could tell the DCC crowd about that?

Tracy
Uh-huh, I feel like 2017's gonna be a really good year and a pretty big year for Another Round. We've got a bunch of live shows lined up, some both in New York, some out of New York, maybe some out of the United States. I can't say too much about that just yet. So we've got that going on. My Co-host Heben, just announced today, as of the 20th, that she is leaving her job at CBS, she was working on the, I still call it the Colbert Report, it's not what it's called. At the Late Show with Stephan Colbert. So she's gonna have a lot more time to be more involved with the podcast and also to get into some other projects of her own. And we're basically looking to do more of what we did last year which is continue to introduce our readers, readers, I'm still a writer at heart, to introduce our listeners to amazing movers and thinkers that people may not know about just because people of color, especially women of color, just don't get the same promotion and shine that other people do. And we're looking forward to continuing public conversations about mental health and self-care. Which are both two things that I don't think minority crowds are well versed in because we, we never consider that we're allowed to stop and take care of ourselves. So I think we talk about a lot on the show is just that, stopping and taking care of yourself. And the importance of your own physical and mental health as we're fighting as a people to get the rights that we deserve and should have gotten a long time ago. We still want to keep having tons and tons of fun on the show. We're thinking of ways to get out of the studio more and kind of like be more in the field. Like maybe we'll go to a museum. I'm trying to go to a zoo and interview some animals. Not too much headway with that.

Steve
Wait what?

Tracy
I want to go to an actual zoo and just like interview some animals. I would love to talk to a penguin, of course. A baby elephant would be great. Pretty much anything except, owls, don't want to talk to an owl.

Steve
How 'bout squirrels?

Tracy
No, I was just going to say none of those. But I don't think they have those in zoos? I hope not.

Steve
If they did they broke in.

Tracy
Probably, and probably just like ruined everything. Just for the heck of it. So that's what's going on with the show. In my personal life, I am currently working on a book proposal.

Steve
Ooh.

Tracy
I know, I know. Even though I don't know if I'm allowed to say I'm working on it? Since I've not done as much work on it as I should. I am writing a book and I'm trying to be better at saying it that way because it still doesn't feel real, because this is the thing that I've always wanted to do; is to write a book and actually publish it. So that's going to take up a lot of my time this year. I am still very, very proud to be the media, what is the title, the media expert in residence for the Anna Julia Cooper Center at Wake Forrest University.

Steve
Oh yeah, yeah

Tracy
That's in conjunction with Melissa Harris Perry and the amazing ELLE Scholars that are there. And overall, I'm just passionate about continuing to increase the representation of black women, in particular, and people of color in general as much as I can and as much as we can via the show.

Steve
That's fantastic, and so thinking about that, I know that someone else on our speaker team here, was asking, "What's it like to find your voice "within spaces that don't look like you, "that aren't used to hearing from you." I don't know if you'd want to talk to that a little bit right now?

Tracy
Yeah, I can do that. It's really empowering, and it's also sort of disorienting when you're used to not having a voice, or at least used to nobody is listening to you when you do speak. And I think that a great example of that is an essay that I wrote about my experience in school. I went to this school, very private, very, very white school, called Transylvania University. It's a real school, it's located in Lexington, Kentucky.

Steve
I was like, Transylvania?

Tracy
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Somehow, in Kentucky of all places, you have a Transylvania there. When I was a student there, I was one of a handful of brown people period, let alone black people, out of a student body, total student body of eleven hundred students. So it's a really small school. We had maybe 20 black people at any given time. It was, it was hard. Because the school had it's own interests to protect and it's located in Kentucky. The city that it's in, in particular, is sort of, it's run by a lot of old money. And a lot of that old money, is kind of in the pockets of Confederate sympathizers. So when I was there, there were a lot of like, Confederate flags and busts of Jefferson Davis and just a lot of crazy stuff. We spent, I spent my whole four years there, me and my friends, literally yelling into what felt like a void, and saying, "You know what we're uncomfortable here, "like listen to us." And just a feeling of being left out and shut out it was hopeless but was also something that I think that we all got used to by virtue of being black people with voices that nobody wanted to listen to. But then I get a job at BuzzFeed and I get a bigger platform and I write this essay about my time there. And all of the sudden I found that I, not only had their attention, but I was sort of more powerful than even the institution was, being that I work at a media conglomerate, right? So it's not necessarily that I just have all this influence, you know the name BuzzFeed carried a lot of weight. And that was crazy because I literally went from having no voice and no say to having lunch with the president of the University because he wanted to have a conversation. And it was good, it's good to be listened to finally, but it's also, it was also sort of, I just had to get used to it. I had to be more careful of what I said and the way that I said things because people were actually listening to me now. So it's, it's sort of like being taken out of a hot tub and dropped into a vat of ice water. And it's like a very, "Oh my gosh." You know, but, I think eventually you sort of get used to it and you don't have to remind yourself so often that, you know, people are listening to you so be careful of what you say. You learn how to speak and carry yourself. Always being knowledgeable of that responsibility that you have now that you actually have a voice. I'm still getting used to it, hopefully I'll continue to get used to it so I can get better at it. It's a lot, it's a lot.

Steve
Yeah, yeah, and that, it must feel so strange to have been in that experience at the school, and then it's once you have a platform, like, "Oh we'll listen to you now."

Tracy
Yeah, yeah.

Steve
But nobody listened to you before.

Tracy
Right, right. And it was so strange just to hear them so blindsided by everything that I said in the article, when I had been saying it when I was on campus.

Steve
Well, we're really excited about having you come to the event this summer. And from what I hear this is your first time to Canada, so not even just your first time to Vancouver, but Canada. So all of Canada welcomes you.

Tracy
Thanks Canada.

Steve
You get to get away from whatever may be happening in the United States at that time.

Tracy
Oh, I can't wait, how nice to say honestly.

Steve
Yeah, well you can stay for as long as you want.

Tracy
Yay!

Steve
We'll make you nice and comfortable. But tell us a little bit about maybe what you're excited about coming to Canada and Vancouver.

Tracy
So I'm really a baby when it comes to any kind of international travel. I didn't have a passport until maybe a year ago, when I went to Cancun, just like as a little get away. Which kind of counts but also doesn't really 'cause it's Cancun and everybody goes to Cancun. But this past summer I went overseas for the first time and I went to Paris for a week and then I went to Le Donna for a week. It was just amazing. I know what culture shock is but I have only experienced like the negative parts of culture shock so far like going from a brown space to a white space, and being like how do I function? But going from my little American space, to like a completely different culture, it was so much fun and I saw so much and I felt like I was learning again. You know when you're in elementary school and everything is new.

Steve
Uh-huh.

Tracy
That's how I felt, you know I had to figure out how to get around in a city where I couldn't speak the language at all. I speak a bit of French Not even a bit. And then going to Africa was just fantastic. What I learned so much or what I enjoyed so much is that I found so much stuff to be surprised at and I found so much that stuff that I didn't know that I didn't know, you know? So I'm really excited to see what I learn about myself being in Canada, because Canada is, even though it's so close, in my head it's like it's like up near Alaska, right? And it just seems--

Steve
We do touch Alaska.

Tracy
It sounds very interesting. Do you really, cool that makes sense then. But it simultaneously seems like a place where we'll have plenty of time in but also plenty of stuff for me to discover and explore. Also I hear that everybody is so nice and I really like nice people. I like maple syrup, so I want some of that.

Steve
All right.

Tracy
I just assume there are like vats all over every part of Canada. I'm just interested to see what it's like compared to the places and spaces that I'm used to. And, I've also always wanted to go to Canada.

Steve
Oh great, well we're thrilled you're coming.

Tracy
Yay.

Steve
We'll make sure that you get to see some things while you're here and experience a little Canadianna.

Tracy
Okay.

Steve
You can dip a spoon into the vats of maple syrup that are at the side of every street.

Tracy
I can't wait, can't wait

Steve
We are very excited and thanks so much for taking time to talk to us today Tracy. And we'll see you in July.

Tracy
Can't wait.