At the beginning of this year, the studio decided to embark on a new journey— we chose to venture off into Podcast Land. Grow Room began as a self-started venture that would serve as a creative outlet for our director and editor, Ariel Hairston.
Now, six episodes in and just over halfway through with season 1, we sat down with Grow Room’s host, Ariel, to chat about the show.
Tell us about the name. Why Grow Room?
Grow Room’s meaning is in its name: room to grow. It’s a space where listeners can find opportunities to improve their lives in meaningful ways. Sometimes we want to make changes to aspects of our lives but don’t know how. Whatever area could use some tending to, there’s an episode for it that may help. Grow Room aims to provide some of the foundation needed to get started.
Where did the inspiration for the series come from?
Like the beginning of many podcasts, it started with my own personal experiences. I’d been in therapy for two years and felt like my life had been completely turned upside down. It felt like I was becoming a new person, but I couldn’t quite figure out who she was. Grow Room was born out of a desire to discover who exactly this new, self-confident, self-aware person is, and to share it with listeners who are on a similar journey.
How is making a podcast different from your experience as an editor and director?
Good question. I think the reason creating Grow Room came so naturally to me is because I approached it from a storytelling standpoint, the same way I approach film. I didn’t want to simply interview experts and present the content. I wanted to share it in a way that tells a story. Where it flows and has a beginning, middle, and end. There are takeaways and it evokes an emotional response. I use music to drive the story home. It feels kind of like an experimental film with no visuals. I am speaking and my voice is calming, essentially telling the listener that everything will be okay. We are in this together. At least, I hope that’s how it feels. In this sense, I am directing. I am editing. It’s not much different.
How has your professional or personal experience so far prepared you for Grow Room?
Therapy has prepared me for Grow Room. Sure, I am a learner just like the listener, but my growth thus far helps me to ask the right questions and comment in the right ways. I can nudge the podcast in a meaningful direction because I have learned what’s truly meaningful. As one of my guests Rosalyn Davis mentioned, we first have to deconstruct ourselves in order to rebuild. I’ve done the deconstruction, and that part takes a great level of self-awareness. I think you must go through that first before you can do this work.
I wasn’t comfortable interviewing people until I began recording interviews for two of our campaigns at Straight To Tell. It was not something I volunteered to do. I didn’t know I would actually be good at it, and I never imagined myself being a host. But after we wrapped a show called The Morning After Show, where I interviewed Black women influencers about sexual health, I realized I had officially discovered a new passion of mine. I liked facilitating interviews and it suddenly wasn’t so scary anymore. Entering this new territory was something I was down to grow in. I also began doing voiceover work for the first time for another campaign, Stronger, and people complimented my voice. So I thought, why not take my voice and love for hosting to another platform? Thus, Grow Room was born.
Tell us about your team.
What’s cool about my team is that they’re all women, and they’re all creative. Our Producer and Executive Producer, Kaila Mignon and Naomi Ergun respectively, are two amazing women who truly believe in our work and strive to see it succeed. They are also people I can call friends, which is pretty cool. And they’re exceptionally smart. Lauren Bowers and Neka King are the designer and illustrator of all promotional materials and make our branding so fun and badass. It’s because of them that you know how great the podcast will sound before you ever take a listen. They are extremely talented. Without these four women, Grow Room would not be possible.
What should listeners expect to find in Grow Room?
I hope they find themselves. Okay, that’s pretty pretentious. But I hope it points them in the right direction. I want our listeners to understand that they have all the tools necessary to make intentional strides to improve their lives. And if they already know that, I hope Grow Room can serve as a healthy reminder.
What has been your biggest takeaway from any Grow Room episode?
My biggest takeaway comes from an episode I did on aging with Joy Vandervort-Cobb. She had recently reached the age of 60 and was so full of life and love. I thought, “Man, I want to be like this woman in 30 years.” Her episode taught me that we are constantly learning and growing at every stage of life. It gave me something to look forward to. I will forever cherish that episode.
Who are dream guests to have on the show?
Dream guests? I have no clue. Let’s see. Ilana Glazer would be awesome. Cleo Wade would be even awesomer. Is Michelle Obama too ambitious? I honestly don’t know.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned so far is that I have the power to change my life. I recognize that it’s a privilege to be able to say that, but it’s also true for most of us. We are not powerless, and we certainly don’t have to settle for what we currently have if we seek more. But at the same time, this moment right here is good. In fact, relatively speaking, it’s great. I can revel in that, and I can also strive for more. And all of this starts with me: how I feel about myself, how I feel about others, and how I feel about the world. It starts with me and will end with me. I’m my only constant. Therefore, everything I need to change my life is inside of me. Everything you need to change yours is inside of you. I hope Grow Room will help you see that.