How Rachel Shelley and podDIVA Make Lyrical Audio for Queer Women

Author: Tracy E. Gilchrist

Queer women and nonbinary folks craving stories that reflect them now have podDIVA, the new podcast companion to the United Kingdom’s revered magazine DIVA. Weekly podcast episodes rotate between breaking down the magazine’s print issues with the “DIVA Debrief,” interviews with queer luminaries in “DIVA Dialogues,” and Q&A advice episodes on all things queer with “Dear DIVA.” PodDIVA is a work of love from the LGBTQ+ folks who make the magazine and podcast producer and cohost Rachel Shelley, who learned early in her acting career the importance of doing the work as an ally. Yes, it’s that Rachel Shelley, who starred as lesbian heiress Helena Peabody on The L Word seasons 2-6, then surprised podcast audiences in 2020 when she produced fellow L Word stars Leisha Hailey and Katherine Moennig’s podcast, PANTS.

DIVA would like to be and is at the moment the world’s leading brand for LGBTQI+ women and nonbinary people,” Shelley says. “What we’re hoping is that by being digital, we can reach people who can’t get hold of…DIVA magazine [or] any other publication. But they can listen in, and we can see the numbers. People are listening in…all these different countries.”

“One of the things that we’re very keen to do is, obviously, be hand in hand with the magazine. Every time you interview someone, you might get however much footage you have or recording that you have, and you have to squish that down,” she says. “There’s a lot that just gets left behind. A lot of the real beauty…is hearing the delivery, hearing them laugh. That’s how you get close to people.”

Podcasting has exploded recently, especially since the start of 2020 when listeners were stuck at home. What Shelley and her out cohost, actress Victoria Broom, bring to podDIVA is a diverse, thoughtful discussion that centers underserved (in media) queer women and nonbinary communities. The rapport between Shelley and Broom is infectious, as evidenced in the premiere episode when Broom coaxes Shelley into admitting she’s a lesbian icon.

That episode includes the international segment “Beyond Borders” with storyteller Krisha Gandhi recording in Alicante, Spain. The piece beautifully drops the listener into that queer community complete with the hum of the seaside getaway.

“Krisha sent me this raw footage of her talking about where she was. She recorded herself and then she recorded some wild tracks, and then I piece it together to try and make something that’s a bit lyrical and beautiful and evocative of Spain,” Shelley says.

Shelley is a gifted audio producer. Her journalism background includes work with The Guardian and Elle magazine; she followed her stint on the L Word by returning to school at Goldsmiths, University of London, receiving an MA in radio production.

“I’ve always been a radio head. I’ve always listened to the radio,” Shelley says, name-checking BBC Radio 4 as a go-to. “I find radio very pure and very personal.”

As a frequent and favorite subject for DIVA readers back when she starred as Helena, Shelley forged friendships with the magazine’s staff that carried over under current editor Roxy Bourdillon.

Shelley’s discussed adding audio to DIVA for a few years, offering her skills behind the scenes.

“I was quite conscious of I can’t really be the main voice, face, whatever…. I’m not a gay woman,” she shares. But Shelley and Broom complement one another well, bringing a cross-generational vibe to their discussions, with Broom a member of the queer community and Shelley a longtime ally.

Shelley hopes that building a space for global audiences to find as they explore various LGBTQ+ identities will set podDIVA apart.

“I hope that this is something that has an international interest. What we’re trying to aim for is an international feel. We would love actually to hear from LGBTQI, queer, nonbinary people who want to tell their story.”

“People can talk about a struggle, but it doesn’t have to be a political struggle,” she says. “It can be personal, whatever. We want to platform those stories, but I want to make them into beautiful audio pieces.”

Episodes of podDIVA are available now. 

Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Tracy E. Gilchrist


My name is David but my online nick almost everywhere is Altabear. I'm a web developer, graphic artist and outspoken human rights (and by extension, mens rights) advocate. Married to my gorgeous husband for 12 years, together for 25 and living with our partner of 4 years, in beautiful Edmonton, Canada.

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