It would be rude to talk about nipple hairs in the company of a lady right? Wrong. For any podcast lovers and girl-gang fanatics, nipple hairs are but one of the many incredulous and hilarious topics covered by the LadyGang. Launched in 2015, the podcast has seen its fair share of female faux pas and triumphs. Viewed through the lens of its three hosts, Entertainment Tonight's Keltie Knight, former Glee star Becca Tobin and fashion designer Jac Vanek, you get honest and hilarious views on the daily life of women.
The program, which has amassed a whopping 25M downloads, fuses self-deprecating stories from the trio themselves, and allows lots of audience interaction, whether that's in the form of questions or conversation prompts. And while that number seems massive, the ladies were quick to point out that the devoted listeners don't necessarily, and interestingly, translate to social media followers. “If all the millions of people that listen to our podcast would follow me on insta I would be so happy," noted Knight laughingly. “I had a girl come up to me this week and said, 'I am the biggest LadyGang fan, I listen every week,' she was an actress, [I said] 'Oh I'll follow you on Instagram, what's your Instagram?' and she was like 'I don't think I even follow you.' I'm like 'how do you listen to the podcast every week and don't follow me on Instagram, what the hell?'"
SWAAY chatted with two of the three ladies, Vanek and Knight about the podcast's trajectory and some inspirational collaborations in their near future.
On LadyGang origins
The three ladies, all in entertainment and fashion, knew each other through friends of friends, with Vanek and Knight ironically united by a mutual ex-boyfriend. And while they may come together twice weekly to record the show, it's certainly not something that gets in the way of three very hectic schedules. "That's the really cool thing about the three of us together," says Knight. "We're certainly friends and have certainly become closer through LadyGang, but we all have our own lives, we all have our own careers, and we sort of come together, very different women, every week, to make the show."
Originally intended to be a celebrity-focused show, data then found their listeners were equally devoted to the shows with just the three of them on the mic, than with some A-Lister (the self-deprecating and overly humble trio refer to themselves as D-listers, but not so say their legion of cult fans). “As we kind of went along over the past couple of years, all of our listeners and our fans became really invested in our own lives and our own personal anecdotes and stories that that has been kind of the driving force through the podcast," says Vanek. “We'll get just as many downloads of a show that's just the three of us versus if we have some A-list celebrity."
“I think what makes the show cool is our motivation to always make all of our women feel less alone and feel more normal by opening up and telling our stories." Keltie Knight
On giving back to the LadyGang community
We've encountered a lot of phoney "women's empowerment" in the last few months who've rode on the coattails of #metoo and #timesup, and have come to recognize that many are in fact doing lip service to further women's societal position. These three are doing the opposite.
"I think what makes the show cool is our motivation to always make all of our women feel less alone and feel more normal by opening up and telling our stories."
Recently they partnered with Claremont Lincoln University to give out $100k in student scholarships to women. The non-profit, which reached out to the ladies via Vanek, will benefit the women who haven't the time or money to commit to an onsite University degree. "We have so many questions coming from girls that want to go back to school, that are working full time jobs, are stay at home moms, or don't have the funds to actually pay for a master's degrees," says Vanek. "So this was a way for us to make that happen for women who wouldn't get the chance otherwise."
The competition is an easy application and only requires the submission of a one-minute video, through which you might end up with a master's degree. "It's not some bullshit degree that won't be able to help you," advises Vanek. "These women are able to take power and become as confident as they can in whatever jobs that they're in."
On LadyGang TV
In May of this year it was announced that the LadyGang will no longer be beholden to a single microphone in a recording studio, they're about to hit the small screen. And not only will they be featured in their new show, but they'll be producing, because who knows how to put on a good show better than these three?
“Wait, if you think Kim Kardashian is crazy, you wait till you see Becca Tobin."
- Keltie Knight
"The E! Network was always our top choice, it just felt like our realm really fit so well with what they were doing and so we pitched to them," notes Knight, who's no stranger to television herself. The show, which will launch in the fall is sure to ensue in hilarity, and the real talk that really come to connote the LagyGang brand. What you see is really what you get with these three, and we're sure that's what has landed them this major career move.
Gang's all here! (L-R) Becca Tobin, Keltie Knight, Jac Vanek
And what's more, they promise that even with the advent of their TV adventure, the podcast will never go away. Vanek was adamant about this, commenting, "we would never get rid of the podcast. The podcast is everything and it's so great for us to be a part of." So there you have it ladies, come fall, you will get your fill of this trio three times a week. Is that even enough? We're entirely unsure.
I walk into a room full of men and I know exactly what they're thinking: "What does she know about whisky?"
I know this because many men have asked me that same question from the moment I started my career in spirits a decade ago.
In a male-dominated industry, I realized early on that I would always have to work harder than my male counterparts to prove my credibility, ability and knowledge in order to earn the trust of leadership stakeholders, coworkers, vendors and even consumers of our products. I am no stranger to hard work and appreciate that everyone needs to prove their worth when starting any career or role. What struck me however, was how the recognition and opportunities seemed to differ between genders. Women usually had to prove themselves before they were accepted and promoted ("do the work first and earn it"), whereas men often were more easily accepted and promoted on future potential. It seemed like their credibility was automatically and immediately assumed. Regardless of the challenges and adversity I faced, my focus was on proving my worth within the industry, and I know many other women were doing the same.
Thankfully, the industry has advanced in the last few years since those first uncomfortable meetings. The rooms I walk into are no longer filled with just men, and perceptions are starting to change significantly. There are more women than ever before making, educating, selling, marketing and conceptualizing whiskies and spirits of all kinds. Times are changing for the better and it's benefitting the industry overall, which is exciting to see.
For me, starting a career in the spirits business was a happy accident. Before spirits, I had worked in the hospitality industry and on the creative agency side. That background just happened to be what a spirits company was looking for at the time and thus began my journey in the industry. I was lucky that my gender did not play a deciding role in the hiring process, as I know that might not have been the case for everyone at that time.
Now, ten plus years later, I am fortunate to work for and lead one of the most renowned and prestigious Whisky brands in the world.. What was once an accident now feels like my destiny. The talent and skill that goes into the whisky-making process is what inspired me to come back and live and breathe those brands as if they were my own. It gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of an industry that although quite large, still has an incredible amount of handmade qualities and a specific and meticulous craft I have not seen in any other industry before. Of course, my journey has not been without challenges, but those obstacles have only continued to light my passion for the industry.
The good news is, we're on the right track. When you look at how many females hold roles in the spirits industry today compared to what it looked like 15 years ago, there has been a significant increase in both the number of women working and the types of roles women are hired for. From whisky makers and distillers to brand ambassadors and brand marketers, we're seeing more women in positions of influence and more spirits companies willing to stand up and provide a platform for women to make an impact. Many would likely be surprised to learn that one of our team's Whisky Makers is a woman. They might even be more surprised to learn that women, with a heightened sense of smell compared to our male counterparts, might actually be a better fit for the role! We're nowhere near equality, but the numbers are certainly improving.
It was recently reported by the Distilled Spirits Council that women today represent a large percentage of whisky drinkers and that has helped drive U.S. sales of distilled spirits to a record high in 2017. Today, women represent about 37% of the whisky drinkers in the United States, which is a large increase compared to the 1990s when a mere 15% of whisky drinkers were women. As for what's causing this change? I believe it's a mix of the acceptance of women to hold roles within the spirits industry partnered with thoughtful programs and initiatives to engage with female consumers.
While whisky was previously known for being a man's drink, reserved for after-dinner cigars behind closed doors, it is now out in the open and accessible for women to learn about and enjoy too.
What was once subculture is now becoming the norm and women are really breaking through and grabbing coveted roles in the spirits business. That said, it's up to the industry as a whole to continue to push it forward. When you work for a company that values diversity, you're afforded the opportunity to be who you are and let that benefit your business. Working under the model that the best brand initiatives come from passionate groups of people with diverse backgrounds, we are able to offer different points of view and challenge our full team to bring their best work forward, which in turn creates better experiences for our audience. We must continue to diversify the industry and break against the status quo if we really want to continue evolving.
While we've made great strides as an industry, there is still a lot of work to be done. To make a change and finally achieve gender equality in the workplace, both men and women need to stand behind the cause as we are better collectively as a balanced industry. We have proved that we have the ability to not only meet the bar, but to also raise it - now we just need everyone else to catch up.