For Black women in media, carving out a space where they can be their most authentic selves—especially when it comes to making branded content for mainstream outlets—can pose a special challenge. The women behind Refinery29’s sub-brand Unbothered, however, make it look easy by delivering vibrant stories that deeply resonate with an audience rarely catered to.
“We really felt like it was important and necessary to create a space for ourselves,” Unbothered’s vp of brand innovation and strategic partnerships Chelsea Sanders tells Adweek. “From the beginning, the intention of Unbothered was to build this safe space for Black women, where our audiences could feel like they had a space where they could go off.”
The all-encompassing and oftentimes communal act of going off—to vent, to educate, to celebrate—fuels the platform’s dedicated weekly podcast, Go Off, Sis, which Sanders hosts alongside senior editor Stephanie Long, Kathleen Newman-Bremang of Refinery29 Canada and former managing editor Danielle Cadet. Equal parts educational and conversational, Go Off, Sis distills the Black American woman experience into lively, segmented conversations that embrace hard truths as readily as community-wide triumphs.
Today, the show has a triumph of its own: It has been selected by a jury of podcast professionals as Adweek’s 2020 Podcast of the Year, the top honor in an annual awards program that recognizes shows and talent across a wide range of categories. (You can view all 2020 winners here.)
Now in its third season, the show’s far-reaching celebration of Black voices has grown to include high-profile guests like veteran TV screenwriter Mara Brock Akil and actress/producer Tracee Ellis Ross.
More important than its steadily growing star power are the ways that Go Off, Sis, which has partnered with Target, has thoughtfully shown how the Black experience largely fuels American culture—a tricky thing to navigate under a brand’s banner.
“What I loved about the Tracee Ellis Ross episode is that we talk Black consumerism as a form of activism and we talk about being intentional with our dollars,” Sanders says. “We also talk about what that means for us personally when it comes to salary and pay equity. These things feel very granular and specific to Black women, but when you ladder it commercially, what we’re talking about is something actually much broader. What I love about that episode is how we can tie something very individual to something that has actual national impact because Black culture is American culture.”
If we’ve learned anything in this pandemic, it’s that our experiences, challenges and issues are really universal.
Chelsea Sanders, vp of brand innovation and strategic partnerships, Unbothered
Among Refinery29’s growing slate of shows and as Adweek’s Podcast Of The Year, Go Off, Sis is a particularly necessary balm during a year that has not only been ravaged by sweeping pandemic, but also marked by a country’s hefty reckoning with racial injustice, prevailing as an informative and empathetic voice in an audio landscape that, on a mainstream scale, is slowly diversifying.
For those on the fence about whether to get into podcasting, Sanders encourages them to add their unique, inherently valuable perspectives to the audioverse.
“Really recognize that the value you hold is in your own experience and expression,” Sanders says. “If we’ve learned anything in this pandemic, it’s that our experiences, challenges and issues are really universal. I think it’s a great moment to express and share that, because the audience that needs you will come.”