The INTO Interview

Josie Totah, Alycia Pascual-Peña, and Yasmine Hamady Dish on Their Deeply Necessary, Radically Hilarious New Podcast

We’ve already spoken at length about our love of actress, icon, and influencer Josie Totah. So when we got the news that Totah, along with fellow Gen Z actresses, changemakers, and roommates Yasmine Hamady (“Go Off Izzy”) and Alycia Pascual-Peña (“Saved By the Bell,” “The Neighborhood”) were starting a podcast, we leapt for joy. “Dare We Say”, the trio’s new podcast from Crooked Media, is the rare space where Gen Z gets to speak its mind rather than being spoken to. And between Totah, Pascual-Peña, and Hamady, no subject is too big or small for in-depth discussion. Each week, the three artists dish on everything from squats, birthdays and hookup culture to TikTok gems, creating lively, hilarious conversations that encourage a hopeful outlook without glossing over some of the harsh real-world problems Gen Z is facing.

INTO spoke to Totah, Hamady and Pascual-Peña about taking their friendship to the studio to create the podcast of the season. 

INTO: So how soon into living together did y’all realize that your dynamic was a podcast? 

JOSIE TOTAH: I think from the moment we first met, starting with Yasmine and I, we always thought that was something that could be fun for us, because we just never stopped talking from the second we laid eyes on each other. Then when the pandemic came and we all moved in together, we found ourselves having these like, 8-hour-long conversations in the car, in our bedrooms, in our living room that range from varying levels of importance. Obviously, the summer of 2020 was such a turbulent time and so many things were happening. So we were obviously talking about that, but also things like hookup culture and our favorite TikTok trends that we love doing, or like, what type of squat will make your ass fatter in less than eight hours. Really important things like that. And we were just like, “this is a podcast.” 

YASMINE HAMADY: We’re both Leos (me and Josie) and then we have a Pisces (Alycia.) So it’s like, the automatic balance. It’s kind of like the judicial system, the executive and the legislative branch all at once.

INTO: When are the Leo birthdays happening? It’s Leo season. 

JOSIE TOTAH: I’m still in the midst of recovering from my birthday. 

ALYCIA PASCUAL-PEÑA: Josie just turned 21.

YASMINE HAMADY: So Josie’s birthday is on the fifth of August and mine’s on the fourth. So it was like a plan from the universe for us to be together. 

I loved the part of the first episode where you’re talking about birthday culture and making it whatever it needs to be. I feel like I’m definitely at an age where birthdays are more depressing so it was nice to hear that.

ALYCIA PASCUAL-PEÑA: The absurdity that it’s become, yeah.

YASMINE HAMADY: It can feel very surface level on the show and then all of a sudden we’re like talking about like, age and like, is climate change gonna end us? What’s the point of aging at this rate? And I feel like that’s exactly the nuance of our relationship. And I feel like people can relate to that.

“Our opinions on how we approach things, or our opinions on the world sometimes are a bit different. But that’s life, and that’s an honest friendship.”

It just perfectly reflects the moment we’re living in. Because the pandemic was both like, people freaking out and feeling like we’re all gonna die and then also like, just like sharing TikTok with people because like, what else you’re gonna do?

JOSIE TOTAH: 100%.

Who are some of y’all’s favorite TikTok creators?

YASMINE HAMADY: Quinn Blackwell. She’s so freakin funny. Brittany Bronski. Drew Afualo.

ALYCIA PASCUAL-PEÑA: I feel like I can always be continuously scrolling down TikTok and going down in a new hole. And every week I with a new person that I’m in love with so that’s kind of hard to answer. But we love TikTok. I really live on that app. 

YASMINE HAMADY: I also love like the TikToks from like, a random family in the middle of North Dakota that just film someone like tripping and falling, they have no other famous TikToks, just that one. 

Left to Right: Alycia Pascual-Peña, Josie Totah, and Yasmine Hamady. Photos by Krissy Saleh.

Yes, I love those. My favorite genre is like, the queer person who’s just like, serving in a small town. Like walking down here like some random town street just serving the full lewk.

ALYCIA PASCUAL-PEÑA: To, like, “Break My Soul,” yes. The shots down the crosswalk. I’m like, Yes. Give me more! Like I want to see every single one. 

YASMINE HAMADY: There’s also this one creator, she’s perfect. She like, always has the selfie stick and she’s always serving.

 I feel like TikTok is just like a window into a world where like people are actually like having fun with their lives.

ALYCIA PASCUAL-PEÑA: It’s an escape but it’s also like—not to be that old, nerdy person—I love that like I’ve actually learned a lot from TikTok, whether it’s like, “oh my god I’m using this appliance wrong” to like, oh my gosh, this sub-genre or culture. For example,  I’ve fallen into Hawaiian TikTok. Am I Hawaiian? No, but I love hearing these different Indigenous people say like, “Americans, stop coming onto my land.” And all these different protests going on over there. I love how multi-dimensional TikTok is and honestly, like, that’s something that we try to celebrate in our own podcast. Because we’re young, and we do care about those things, but we also care about so much more. I feel like a constant conversation that we’re having, and one of the reasons that we created this podcast, a catalyst of it, was that we don’t always feel respected in our fullness. We care about what’s happening internationally and domestically. But yeah, we also care about trends and the new cool lip mask, and why isn’t there one place that respects us and allows us to like have those expansive, multi-dimensional conversations, right? So yeah, TikTok is part of the show.

YASMINE HAMADY: Alycia that was so perfectly said, because you can spread awareness and send messages but also bring levity into it. Yeah. And like adding your own little twist in terms of something while getting your message across is important, because I feel like, at least in our generation, there’s almost a lack of hope. Which is another reason why we’re doing this, because we want to remember that we’re the future, period and point blank. So if we constantly have darkness and negativity—which a lot of this sh*t is—we might not get anywhere, so bringing some light into it and hope at the end of the tunnel and adding a little flair kind of brings everything together.

“I love how multi-dimensional TikTok is and honestly, like, that’s something that we try to celebrate in our own podcast. Because we’re young, and we do care about those things, but we also care about so much more.”

And that’s really important because you’re all actresses in Hollywood, you’re in this industry that is both still really f*cked up in a lot of ways, but also embracing change with some small, important baby steps. And like I feel like it’s not often that you hear conversations about the industry and how it needs to change from the inside, but there’s real stuff to be said about it.

YASMINE HAMADY: I think that’s a great point. And also—I’ll speak for myself—I think I’ve gotten really tired and frankly frustrated at the fact that I think that our generation is spoken about so much and it’s like—hey, please point out how absurd we can be sometimes—but at the same time, I feel like we’re spoken about, especially when you’re from minority groups, whether you’re a person of color or queer, but we’re never given the mic. We’re never asked how we truly feel and our genuine opinions about things. So in a way, we wanted this to be a space where people feel empowered and liberated, but also a place where you can be inquisitive and ask questions that you’re not supposed to, but for us to say how we really feel. Because whether it’s politicians or the older generations constantly talking about us, they never really speak to us. They’re speaking at us. So this can be a space where we get to speak for once and really dive into big questions and say, you know, maybe we don’t know how we feel about this yet, but let’s explore that and let’s learn something and laugh about dumb shit as well. 

Yes, because everybody wants to market to Gen Z but there is like very little effort to like, create an actual space where like, people in your generation can actually speak and be heard. I’m wondering if there are any conversations you’ve had that are particularly tough or controversial on the show so far. 

JOSIE TOTAH: I feel like that’s almost every topic. We’re not making this show so that we can speak in a vacuum and an echo chamber of our own thoughts that we already all agree on. We’re making it so that we can cover topics that allow people to digest and unpack them for themselves and to find their own opinions and thoughts. And I think that means choosing subjects that aren’t easy to discuss, and that sometimes we don’t always see eye to eye on. I think that’ll be really interesting for people, to see us in our fullness and that side of us and our complexity, because we contradict sometimes our own opinions as well as each others’.

YASMINE HAMADY: Honestly adding onto that, Josie, literally echoing all of that, is that I feel like people, or at least me, don’t want to hear three women having the same opinion about the same thing. Because that’s not life, that’s not a reality. I mean, obviously our morals are all aligned. That is not something that’s going to waver whatsoever. But our opinions on how we approach things, or our opinions on the world sometimes are a bit different. But that’s life, and that’s an honest friendship. And we were friends before all of this, so it’s just like, having these hard conversations with people you love, having these hard conversations with people you don’t love. Like. I’m going to talk about my crazy uncle in Tennessee who’s like, a conservative anti-immigration guy, but he’s an immigrant.

I’m wondering if there’s ever is a time where a producer steps in and sort of steers the conversation or if it’s all just like the three of you just like doing it, because it sounds so natural. 

ALYCIA PASCUAL-PEÑA: Honestly, I think it’s because we have like a foundation of friendship and all three of us are really adamant about wanting to speak transparently and from the heart. It’s a privilege that it goes well in the studio and that it feels like natural conversation where we’re challenging each other, but also listening to each other. But also, so much respect and love and admiration for the Crooked Media family, who has really helped guide us through this journey. Our producers do a great job of collaborating with us in regards to conversations and things like that. But it goes pretty seamlessly in the studio, like, they’re just natural conversations where we’re excited for people to listen, and I hope that they feel the sincerity. But we would not be able to do this show without our phenomenal producers. They help us ask questions that allow us to look at things from new ways and stuff, because a lot of the conversations we have on the podcast are things that we’re naturally very passionate about. So it is super helpful to have just such a phenomenal team in post and pre-production that’s as invested in creating a show that we hope empowers people and allows people to walk away with new perspectives. Even us, like I think I can speak for the  girls that certain conversations we’ve had before, whether it’s about cancel culture or pretty privilege or hookup culture, we leave after filming a podcast and we’re like, “wow I learned something new from you.”

YASMINE HAMADY: You’ll also hear in some of the episodes, like, some of our opinions change, literally within the hour. I know that’s happened to me, where I’m just like, “You know what, I stand firmly on this” and then after the conversation I’m like, “I want to come back to this another day, because I actually don’t think I think that way anymore.”

ALYCIA PASCUAL-PEÑA: And that’s what makes change,  that’s how we make progress. That’s how we make a lasting positive impact on this world. ♦

Read More