by Dana Cooper | photos courtesy of Chellie Bowman
Over the years, I’ve participated in plenty of projects that have brought me a sense of joy and fulfillment, but none of those projects has meant as much to me as my time producing the five-star rated Re:Focus podcast, which is now celebrating its third birthday. Even though I haven’t been the one hitting ‘record’ since 2019, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed keeping up with Allysun Wunderland, Goldie Dee and current producer Chellie Bowman from afar. Naturally, when I was asked to put together a Q&A for this issue of the magazine, I jumped at the opportunity.
DA: Tell me about what’s been going on with the show since Chellie’s been at the helm!
Goldie: I think it’s developed into more of a three-host situation. Every episode is more like a panel now. It also seems like the subject matter has gotten dirtier. As Allysun and I talk more, we get a little bit more real. It also feels like sometimes we’re interviewing Chellie to get that lesbian perspective that we don’t possess, and a lot of our conversations revert to us saying, “Chellie, you tell us: what does this mean?”
Allysun: I’ve known Chellie for a while, so it’s almost like hanging out and chatting. But it’s been a little challenging. We had a good break [in recording] because of COVID. We did record one episode back in November for the election, and it was so funny recording six feet apart. And we’ve recorded episodes virtually since then, but it’s a challenge to get it all to come together because we don’t have separate microphones. If someone coughs, you lose the whole thing.
DA: Speaking of the pandemic, what was it like moving the podcast to a virtual format?
Chellie: Part of the charm of the show is the interactions we have in person, the energy we share. It feels like friends getting together to chat. We were worried that doing something totally virtual would lax that, or that it wouldn’t feel as natural. But I think it ended up being a lot better than we anticipated. With video chatting, I could still see and interact with them, and it also ended up being a really easy way for us to incorporate guests.
DA: What have been some of your favorite moments or aspects thus far of putting the podcast together?
Allysun: I’ve really enjoyed just the whole learning process. Truly, when I said in that first episode, “What’s a podcast?” I really had no idea what one was. I had heard about them, but I didn’t know people actually listened to them. We’ve gotten messages from people here in Memphis that say, “Oh, I love it! Keep doing it!” It’s amazing to me that we can get together and chit-chat and talk to people, and all of a sudden, everyone hears what we’re doing.
Goldie: There’s an episode we recorded just before the shutdown, “Goldie Gets Tinder,” and I cried in the middle of it. Though I don’t necessarily want to be known for being a crier, I liked how honest it was, and I got a lot of responses from people who said they liked how honest that [emotional] response was, too. In fact, I think that’s the most responded-to episode I’ve ever done.
Chellie: Obviously, the show is hosted by gay men, and I like to give my perspective as a lesbian. It’s very tongue-in-cheek, like, “Ah, this is your experience, but this has been my experience.” It highlights the differences between gay women and gay men, but it also shows where we come together, in sort of a fun, light way.
DA: Envision your dream episode. If you could have anyone on the show, who would it be?
Allysun: I think I would love to talk to Vice President [Kamala] Harris. I would just want to say, “Honey, you did it! You broke that glass ceiling!” I think she’s amazing.
Goldie: I would really like for us to interview more political candidates. The big-time players that queer people in Shelby County would like to hear from, I think there’s no reason they can’t be on our podcast.
Chellie: I would love to have more [gay] writers and poets to come on to talk about their creative process. A lot of our episodes have been really topical, and we haven’t had much about gay creative life. I think it would also be nice to talk to people who aren’t at the bars, who aren’t at the shows, and may be a little more introverted.
DA: What has it meant to you to be part of Re:Focus?
Allysun: You know, I love to talk to people. With this, I don’t even have to be there with them, but they’re listening, and that’s pretty darned exciting for me. I’m excited to know that people want to hear what we have to say. I’m honored to be a part of something like this, actually.
Goldie: I’ve always been such an avid fan of people who present the news or podcasts, and it’s almost been like a dream of mine [to co-host Re:Focus]. If you ask me what my dream job is, I’d say being some kind of radio personality, but it’s not really feasible for my opinions that are just so freely out there. You have to be almost apolitical to do that, so this is the closest I’ll probably ever get to that, but in a lot of ways, this is better, because I get to connect with an audience I really relate to.
Chellie: Personally, I’ve really enjoyed learning how to do something like this. There’s been a lot of self-teaching. But I had never really thought too much in a meta way about my place within gay culture or the community, so this has been a way for me to reflect on that and my history and what I want to do as a part of that, and in my own life.
Re:Focus is still gracing your computers and handheld devices with its refreshingly honest blend of comedy and tenderness, with many episodes tackling serious issues that affect the LGBTQ+ community and beyond. Though the pandemic has slowed down production, new episodes are currently in the works to usher in the podcast’s fourth phenomenal year.
Listen to episodes on all platforms or right here: https://focuslgbt.com/focus-mid-south/refocus-podcast/