Inspiration and empowerment are essential in these times. With a divided nation and many struggling to be heard, content mediums such as podcasts must have an impact as we enter into the 2020 election and beyond. Luckily, two activists, Debra Messing and Mandana Dayani, known from Will & Grace and The Rachel Zoe Project, teamed up to highlight everyday heroes who challenge the status quo on their new podcast from Dear Media, the largest podcast network focused on strong female voices and audiences, The Dissenters.
Launching this week and found anywhere you get your podcasts, The Dissenters has an incredible lineup of guests including Glennon Doyle, Hillary Clinton, Jane Fonda, Congressman Adam Schiff, and more. Messing and Dayani created this show to engage, inform and empower listeners to create a more passionate life.
I spoke with Messing and Dayani to learn more about their new adventure in podcasting and their passion for activism.
Kate Talbot: How did you guys meet and create the concept of your podcast, The Dissenters?
Debra Messing: Mandana and I met a couple of years through a mutual friend, and it was love at first sight. We are both activists and super, super curious nerds. We love to fangirl over people who are doing incredible things. People who woke up one day and said, "That's wrong. There has to be a better way, and I'm going to build it." We would send each other those stories each day to inspire each other. Then we realized how cool it would be to honor these people and to share their stories.
Mandana Dayani: As Debra and I would read about these heroes doing incredible things, we realized: none of them went to school to be activists, or had any formal training. They decided to dissent one day, and that is where the name came from.
Talbot: Can you expand on why you chose the name 'The Dissenters".
Messing: The last three years it's been very divisive and anxiety-provoking. We wanted to put something out there that would be fun to listen to, but also inspiring and give people hope.To know, even amid this pandemic, there are heroes everywhere. They're working every day for people who need representation and support.
Dayani: We spoke quite a bit about what this podcast should be about and how many
people to feature and what we wanted to call it. We kept coming back to Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and this iconic moment where she repeats, "I dissent."
We wanted to highlight who a dissenter truly is. Someone who speaks out to say, "I will not have what this is. There's a better way, and I'm here to advocate for it, or build it." All of the people we interview do such incredible work and left their communities much better than they found them. We had a major aha moment when we were together in New York in January, and that's where we came up with the name together.
Talbot: And why does RBG inspire you?
Messing: She's this tiny firecracker. She has been underestimated her entire life. And there she is on the Supreme Court, and she has no fear about saying what she believes is right. She always does it with grace, but also she's unapologetic about it.
Dayani: I am a lawyer, and in law school, I learned how she has always challenged the status quo. Many people accept what the norms are, and she is always willing to fight for the greater rights of everyone because she believed they deserved them.
Talbot: Glennon Doyle is your first guest, why did you choose her for your debut?
Messing: I honestly have never met anybody who has inspired me more. She's electric, and her story is extraordinary. Her book Untamed is the most dog eared book I have in my library. It felt good to have her start because she had this manifesto readily available, and we wanted to help highlight that as well.
Dayani: She has this superpower of saying the things that everyone thinks but doesn't know how to articulate. And that makes you feel very seen and validated, which gives you the courage to pursue the best version of yourself or the person that you want to or may be afraid to be. Her approach to activism is so beautiful, and it is all about community and bringing people together and showing small to massive profound ways of making a difference.
Talbot: As activists, what are three tips everyone can follow for this election year?
Messing: Make sure that they are registered and make sure that everyone in their family and all of their friends are registered to vote.
Dayani: They can text the word "voter" to 26797, and that will make sure that they are registered. On our website, I AM A VOTER, there is a footer on every page where there is a button to help you register to vote.
Messing: Canvassing: calling, or texting to get information out about all of the candidates. Helping people in your community come up with a plan for election day.
Dayani: Lastly, Debra and I also are huge fans of Jessica Yellin. We guide people to stay informed on topics and understand what's happening in the news. Following someone similar to her and having a greater understanding of what's happening around the world is helpful.
Talbot: What are the best ways for young women to kind of feel confident and comfortable bringing their voices to the masses?
Dayani: Debra and I respond to authenticity. When people have a real voice, opinion, and purpose behind what they're saying, people will naturally gravitate towards them. Additionally, having expertise and facts and data to support your positions is also really helpful. That's how you see a lot of these voices start to rise, because of their ability to articulate a vision and build a solution. The clearer the message is, the easier it is for people to engage.