*photo credit: Tarik Carroll
Everyone deserves to live their life unapologetically. Dr. Jon Paul Higgins and Jordan “Joho” Daniels are using their voices to ensure everyone understands that on the BFF: Black, Fat, Femme podcast. Think of BFF as that one friend who has your back, but will also “tell it like it is” – with empathy, but always straight shooting.
The two hosts, Higgins and Daniels, are bringing Blackness, fatness, and queerness to the forefront of podcasting with BFF. Higgins, who identifies as Black, queer, fat, and nonbinary, is an educator, journalist, producer, and screenwriter. Daniels, who identifies as Black, Jewish, fat, and queer, is a storyteller, photographer, and journalist.
These two combined their powers in 2022 to bring Black queer joy to podcast listeners everywhere. But ultimately, Higgins and Daniels are simply living unapologetically as Black, fat, queer changemakers and showing others how to live their truth as well.
INTO had the pleasure of speaking with Higgins and Daniels about their brilliant iHeartRadio podcast. We discussed the importance of incorporating queer history into conversations about contemporary issues, their dream podcast guests, interrogating our relationship with capitalism, and what they’ve learned from their community along the way.
INTO: The authentic representation of queer conversation in your podcast gives hope to so many people who need a window into the community, acceptance, and education they are isolated from. Who do you picture on the other side of the mic when you’re recording, and what are you most hoping to convey to them?
Jordan Daniels: Well, first of all, thank you for that! It’s an honor to hear that our show is giving hope. I think you, and anyone who looks like us and feels like us are the ones I picture. I think of BFFs, and everyone in between, who navigate life feeling there isn’t space to just exist and release. I’m not saying we’re like Beyoncé, but I am saying that I want to convey the feeling of release with our show. Release your anger, release your mind, release the trade, release the stress! I want people to take away that they have the keys to their own freedom. As [Toni Morrison] said, “Our crowns have been bought and paid for.”
Dr. Jon Paul: I think I am mostly thinking about all the people/spaces that I never saw myself when I was coming up/before I had this platform. I always kinda felt people talked past me, and never to me. If that makes sense. So, this show is me and Jordan talking directly to the Black, fat, femme girl who is always looked over. To the person who is questioning their existence and if who they are is valuable. We are speaking directly to them to let them know they are seen, valued, loved, and affirmed.
What are your thoughts on the importance of making sure we keep queer history in the conversation, especially when talking to young people about advocacy?
DJP: I think of this podcast as sort of a time capsule. Something that other queer Black people can go back to in their time of need. We are documenting the voices, the work, [and] the importance of each of these voices. Rarely is that or has that been done. My point: The world is watching, and that, in itself, is history.
JD: The past is what helps build and shape the present, whether it’s with joy or to learn from the mistakes. It’s so important to us that we infuse history into our discussions of present and future because it informs our conversation. When talking with young people about advocacy, it’s a reminder for them, and for us, that liberation hasn’t only been our mission. It’s work that’s been passed on to us that we get the opportunity to fight for now, and if I’m being quite honest, the current young people are the ones that I really believe can make the things we’re fighting for actually happen.
Are there moments at the intersection of Black/Fat/Femme culture that you wish more people knew about?
DJP: Well, I just wish people didn’t stop at our identity. We are creative. We have made so much out of nothing. We continue to show up, even if the world doesn’t give us the tools or the resources. That to me is the history. It’s iconic. We are continuing to manifest and speak abundance into the lives of those who think they have nothing to offer the world. That, for me, is history. We are the ones that folks are giving attention to.
JD: I mean, looking at some of our guests is something that I wish people knew more about or shared more. Like Ryan Mitchell in fashion and entertainment, Aurielle Marie and their poetry and activism, Dominique Morgan and abolition, even TS Madison in their activism and representation for Black trans women. These are people currently making history and I don’t think they fully get the recognition they deserve for what they do, beyond just what they are as incredible Black fat femme folx.
Have you heard any particularly encouraging feedback from your listeners?
DJP: We often get folks who aren’t queer chiming in about how our takes have helped them with their children, friends, and other family members. It can be a lot to take in sometimes when folks reach out and say something really good, so I am always thankful that folks reach out. I think the hardest responses are when folks make a comment about needing support and you feeling like you don’t have the immediate resources. That has always been a challenge. But more than anything, I think “seen” is the thing that inspires me. Knowing that our listeners feel heard/seen in our conversations and taking it back to family and friends.
JD: Whenever someone says they feel like the show makes them feel like they’re at brunch with their friends or on the couch with their family, that means the most. It means that people feel safe and comfortable with us to just talk and release.
That is exactly the vibe I get listening to your show! You discuss allyship often, too. What’s the most important takeaway you hope allies learn from the BFF Podcast?
DJP: That we need less “love is love” and need more action. We need them ready to fight for us. Ready to give us jobs. Ready to fight network execs to keep us on the air. Ready to march for us when laws get passed that hurt/erase us. Yes, love us – but fight for us too.
JD: Our show is as much of a celebration of our identities and how we help build a more thriving world, as it is a cry for help. Like truly, our existence is in danger by the policies and people around us. Show up for us, stand up for us, and fight with us.
How has the landscape for Blackness, fatness, and queerness changed in the period since you first started the podcast and where do you hope your podcast can help take it?
DJP: Honestly, I don’t think anything has changed. That’s the problem. There are too many resources and folks like us that are telling people how to be better, [yet] things seem to be stagnant. I think that is what this show is. We are giving folks tools and resources to never feel like they are in the struggle to do better alone. Especially those who really want to do something and feel that they can’t. I think what I really want is folks to see us, hear us, and believe us. We aren’t just sharing the joy; we are sharing the hard parts too and we want folks to take our words and our experiences and say, “I heard Jon and Joho talk about this. Let me use my privilege to either make a change or challenge someone else to join in the fight, too.”
JD: Part of my 9 to 5 job is in field building, helping resource leaders who are emerging in a field of work to grow the baseline of marginalized folx who exist in their work, so that there’s no longer just a handful of people doing the work, but a full community. I say all that because I think our show is field building in this landscape of Blackness, fatness, and queerness. The landscape is still barren, and we’re working diligently alongside other growers to help a whole garden bloom for all of our BFFs. I hope that years from now —while the show is still going on, but doing more live work— people talk about the show as one of the leaders of this field.
Has the state of politics in the U.S. right now influenced the way you prepare the topics and perspective of your show?
JD: The personal is political, so yes, it absolutely influences the way we take on topics and prepare perspectives. Whether it’s explicitly our subject matter of an episode, or in the back of our mind during other conversations.
DJP: Yes. I feel like politics come up almost every episode because the personal will always be political. Also, being Black, Fat, and femme is a radical political act. I have always said: I am three things the world hates, that is why I have to be my own happiness. I feel like while the world is using politics to reinforce what I should hate about myself, this podcast is what I come back to every week to remind myself that I am the light and joy and that no one will ever be able to erase or ban that.
You regularly remind listeners how living under capitalism affects everything we do. What do you wish more queer people understood about how they could navigate life differently under capitalism?
DJP: Well, I think so many of us get stuck in believing that we have to conform to find support and success. I want folks seeing me and Joho living out loud and in color and go, “If they can do it, so can I.” That’s the thing I want everyone to take from BFF. Yeah, we talk a lot of cash shit on the show, but we also talk a lot about resilience and relentlessness. We want to remind listeners that they control the power of their will and their destiny and even in the moments they don’t think they do, they still have it. I also want folks to understand that the mistakes they make —especially as an ally— isn’t who they are, and that we are all on a path to growth and becoming better people. In all: It’s not what you have, it’s what you do with it.
JD: There is powerful conversation about resisting capitalism and its effects on us, and interrogating our complicity in capitalism too. And I struggle in how I show up in the conversation myself, to be honest. To that end, I’m not the person to say what I wish more queer folx understand, nor am I interested in being that person because I really don’t have the answers, Maybe what I wish we talked about more in this discourse is how to survive when we exist in a capitalist society, and what’s the viability of de-constructing our relationship with capitalism? What’s the roadmap to something better? I have more questions than answers.
Have you learned lessons from each other or from podcast guests that shifted your world in a way that you’re still thinking about?
DJP: I think I made a comment in one episode about “bad food” or something to that avail and Joho checked me. Like, “there is no such thing as bad food” or “guilty snacks”. I was like, you know what!? I think a lot of my “aha” moments come from talking and hearing myself or hearing Joho respond to something I say and being like, “OMG – that’s it.” Like, it really is me learning from myself or hearing my sister talk and it being the thing I need to hear without me knowing it. Joho is deep and literally has made me a much more thoughtful person, especially when it comes to how I talk to myself about myself.
JD: Doctor Jon Paul brings a scholar perspective to our conversations, so I get to witness critical analysis in real time and that’s incredible. I get to learn so much [from] them! I appreciate Jon saying I’m deep, and I am! I approach everything with a lens of deep empathy, but I don’t always have the tools for analysis the way Jon does and so hearing them helps me get a fuller picture of what we discuss. I learn from Jon truly every time we talk!
You’ve hinted on the podcast about some “legendary” upcoming guests. Are you able to tell us any more about what’s coming?
JD: Ooohh, you tryna get us canceled for spilling the beans! I defer all my answers to this question to Jon.
DJP: HA! Well, I know that Raquel Willis is one of the upcoming legendary guests. We are pulling for some other big names, but we don’t wanna give too much sauce away without y’all listening.
Who are your dream collaborations or interviews for the future?
DJP: I’ve been saying that I want to sit down and chat with Alex Newell for ages. Someone please make that happen already!? But honestly, I would love to talk to Lizzo about her active allyship. Would love to connect with Big Freedia about her work in NOLA around Black, queer visibility.
JD: Literally everyone Jon said. Like, we have the same top three people we want to come on the show and just celebrate themselves with us.
“Why would I not create a safe space in Tennessee where we can celebrate drag entertainers and celebrate our differences?”
Are there other podcasts, creators, or educators that inspire you?
DJP: YES! I am always inspired by Jimanekia Eborn, Jarrett Hill and Tre’vell Anderson (FANTI). I am thankful for the love and support of Jade and Xavier D’Leau (Jade & X.D.). I have always said and will always say that there wouldn’t be a Doctor Jon Paul (or podcast) with[out] Franchesca Ramsey, Hey Fran Hey, Assanté or Dustin over at The Friend Zone. They helped me believe in me when I didn’t have “it” or know where to start. Fran said, “Just start somewhere” and that is exactly what I did.
JD: Well don’t forget that Doctor Jon Paul is a writer outside of this, so make sure you stay up to date with their work. I would definitely get into the amazing work of Michael Twitty, who was a guest on our show. Shoutout to my play cousin Kelsey Daniels who just got an art grant in San Diego as well for their incredible work.
How can listeners best support you and your work?
DJP: Listen, subscribe, and bring us to your schools. Tell your jobs about the work we are doing and bring us in to consult. I am a full-time freelancer so it is always nice to know I have something coming up to do. Also, we want to do a tour with the show: sponsor us lol! But seriously, keep listening and tell iHeartPodcast that you love us.
JD: +1 that we want to do a tour! Schools, jobs, bars, festivals, places where queer folx congregate, and such. And to the point of consulting, we have that experience to help build programs or lead discussions about intersectionality, DEI, and justice. Talk with us. Interview us more, share our work, give us opportunities to share our stories more. Also, write to us! We want to read your thoughts and stories. Above all, please keep listening and sharing with iHeartPodcast that you love us! We truly would not be here without our communities raising us up.♦
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can listen to the BFF: Black, Fat, Femme podcast here.
“I am comfortable and happy with who I am and how I show up in the world, the world be damned.”