Spontaneity With ALOK
Spontaneity With ALOK
In this episode of The Antidote, Amy and Grace connect with internationally acclaimed author, public speaker, and comedian, ALOK, about spontaneity as self-care, getting through writer’s block, and a love for fashion.
Amy and Grace share their bummer news of the week: The battle over student loan forgiveness, and cheese-scented manicures (does anyone really need that?)
Amy and Grace also share their antidotes for the week, which include getting pedicures, and having champagne for no reason.
This week’s Creative Tap-In:
“Creativity comes from a conflict of ideas.” - Donatella Versace
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Amy The world is a dumpster fire. I'm Amy.
Grace And I'm Grace.
Amy And we want to help. And fair warning. Our help comes with some strong language attached. Super strong. So, you know, hide your kids because we about to say some things.
Grace As a reflex to the f---ing madness on the news for keeping it positive, uplifting, but opinionated.
Amy We talk about cultural moments we love.
Grace Talk to people we adore.
Amy Crushes we have.
Grace And self-care we stand.
Amy During these trying times we all need to show that focuses on joy.
Grace This is The Antidote. Hi, everyone. Welcome to another week.
Amy Hi. Every time I think about "This is The Antidote." I like, want to like high five you or start doing, like, little kid, like patty cake. That's why- I don't know, guys, we're on like a zoom together, but every time after Grace says "this is the antidote," I start, like, high fiving my hands like a little kid. That's what's happening.
Grace High fiving a thousand angels. Yeah. It's. I mean, I guess every week in 2022, we' re going to be like, it's been a week. So it's like, this is not a new thing. But, you know, on those days when I feel a little bummed out, my often antidote is little Kaavia James. Oh, my goodness.
Amy Oh, my God. Uh, Queen Kaav.
Grace She's so cute and smart and, you know, has a little personality, her own little attitude. I started to say sassy, but I was just like, Ooh, that word is weaponized against us. No, let's-
Amy No, sassy, sassy's canceled.
Grace Yeah. She's just a beautiful little girl living her best life with her very rich parents, having all types of experiences around the world.
Amy And also I'm just saying that Kaavia gave the tour of their new house.
Grace Ha ha ha. Oh, my God. Well, I have to watch that. But I've been watching some very cute things of her this week where she was kind of falling asleep in her car seat. Like a little dance party with her mom.
Amy Yes, the dancing.
Grace I just love her little black girl magic that she seems to be so joyful and happy and taken care of. And, you know, in this world where we adults have to know so many things in order to remain informed and vote and take action and donate towards whatever causes that you feel passionately about. It's just nice to see the innocence of a little girl enjoying her little life, and it's just gorgeous to see this young black girl who already has her own, like, fashion line and book and everything. It just makes me so happy.
Amy I will say one of the videos that literally brought me to tears was her going to the store to see her fashion line for the first time. And they're like, Who's that? And she points at a poster of herself and goes, Kaavia. Like I was like as a little Black girl to go to a store and literally, not figuratively, but literally see yourself in that store. Like I am here for all of these Black millionaire actors and and models like Naomi Campbell and singers like Beyonce and Cardi B and icons like Beyonce, I should say I'm here for all of them giving their little Black daughters the world. It is fantastic to see them growing up and being fully surrounded by love.
Grace Yes. And then also I follow this account called Boogie Babies. It's literally about little Black children like joyful moments. And there was this one video this little girl, like, was eating some chicken that I guess her dad cooked. And she was just like. She like tried it and then she was just like. It's not good. And it's so funny. I was just like, your daddy can't cook. It's okay. But she really gave it a try. She gave it a college try. She took two bites, and she was just like, okay, the first bite, not good. But then the second bite, she just had to put that chicken down. And she was just like. It's not good.
Amy That reminds me of the little girl I saw who was doing her own makeup and her mom's, like, laughing at her, and she's like, so confused why her mom is laughing, but she has, like, eyeliner, like on her forehead. Like, she looks crazy and she sees herself in the mirror and goes, What did I? What did I do? Impossible. She was surprised, but she doesn't look good.
Grace That's so cute. That's what I'm saying. Like, you know, it's an argument to almost have a child. I don't know if I will, but children sort of remind you of the innocence that can exist in this world, which is beautiful.
Amy You got that right.
Grace Well, thank you, babies, for making us smile this week, but we got to get into the show. So, as you know, we can't have an antidote if we don't have something to have an antidote from.
Amy Starting now, up top with our bummer news of the week. First up, guys, the battle over student loans continues. Debt hangs over millions of people's heads and delays their chances of financial freedom. In a couple of extreme cases, people have even fled the U.S. to get away from their student loans. Like, I can't believe this. Apparently the average student loan debt in America is around $33,000. People are waiting to hear what President Joe Biden has to say on the status of student loan debt forgiveness ahead of the ending of the student loan pause on August 31st, 2022. If people don't know, the pause was due to the COVID 19 relief. And I'm like, I'm at the point of about to be asking, what does a president do? Because he has not been able to do anything that we need. I think people should get their debt forgiven. I paid my debt, but I still think people should get their debt forgiven. Like, why not? Other countries, this doesn't exist. Yeah.
Grace I mean, there's this whole thought that, oh, I paid off my loan, so everybody should pay off theirs. Like, why are you being a hater? Like, if we can make things better for the future generation. Like, why shouldn't we? And like, why does it cost so much to go to college? And why are these loans not at 0% interest if it's just to like help people get the education that you genuinely need to help succeed in this country? Like, why aren't the loans at least like very low interest? I would be willing to just pay back the principal if you want the money back. But like these companies have added like thousands upon thousands of dollars of interest onto things, so people just can't get ahead of them. So I really hope he does something and I hope it's not just $10,000 like people have been proposing. I hope it is the $50,000 that the Democrats are pushing for.
Amy Yeah, I hope so too. But that isn't the only bummer news this week. Also, I found out something that is angering me that Velveeta and British nail Polish brand Nails Inc have paired up in a collaboration with Kraft Heinz called the La Dolce Velveeta Campaign, which is all about stepping out in a confident, unapologetic way to show the world that you're living a life filled with outrageous pleasure. That's their quote, not mine. And one of the first things they're doing as part of this campaign is introducing a $15 Velveeta manicure. Wait, what? Now your nails can smell like Velveeta cheese. That's right. That's what I said. A limited edition set of two cheese scented polishes will cost cheese fanatics $15 on the Nails Inc website. It includes two shades, finger food, a bright red and la dolce Velveeta, a creamy yellow color. I can't.
Grace That is disgusting. I mean, why would you like that? Cheese is known for smelling bad. Like that's the whole thing. It's delicious, but nope. Who wants to smell like cheese? Who wants their fingers to constantly smell like cheese? And then also it feels like this can't even really be a thing. Because wouldn't the top coat that you put on top of the Velveeta thing take down some of that cheese smell? Or do they have a cheese smelling topcoat as well?
Amy Cheesy topcoat. I mean, I don't see anything about that. But they do say that the cheesy scent appears once the nails are dry. So maybe it's just like burning through that top coat. Maybe it's cheese as f---.
Grace GROSS. Like, why would anybody do this? There's so many things that we need to innovate in this world, like cancer is still a thing. Like, maybe, maybe we should spend some technology money on creating things that are really helpful for the world.
Amy Fixing spectrum internet.
Grace Yeah. So I don't know, I guess everybody maybe Velveeta wants to be relevant again, I guess because I guess Velveeta was a big thing when I was like a little kid. Yeah, but I haven't heard the name Velveeta in quite some time, so maybe there. This is just like a marketing ploy to, like, get people to, I don't know, smell their nails and be like, you know what? I'm going to go get the supermarket. I'll go get a block of Velveeta.
Amy Oh, well, I'll tell you what, Velveeta. It ain't working on me.
Grace No thank you. I'm good.
Amy Well, how do you feel after hearing all this, Grace?
Grace I feel weird, to be honest. How about you?
Amy Yeah, I kind of disgusted. We're in debt and our fingers smell like cheese. I'm not into it.
Grace Weird combination of things. Okay, then let's get into the antidote.
Amy So this is the segment where we tell you about the culture we consumed and things we did this week to make us feel better about the bummer news. What was your antidote this week, Lady Grace?
Grace Well, as I've talked about before, I'm going on a trip soon. So when I go on a trip, girl, as you know, I'm getting my hair braided tomorrow, you know, and I get everything. I get new outfits. Like I often buy, like, a new bag or a new dress or something like that to go on vacation because, you know, I want my Instagram photos to be lit and such and so forth. That's part of the whole vacation experience, right? Part of the whole thing. So what I did for my vacation that's coming up very shortly is that I went and got a mani-pedi. Not a mani-pedi smelling of Velveeta.
Amy Okay. I guess I was. That was going to be my question. What did it smell like?
Grace But just a mani-pedi. And, you know, it's a moment like I go to this place that I really love that's not too far away. And it has like these beautiful, like, chairs, and you get like a little thing of champagne when you go in. And then, you know, this time I tried a brand new technique where my nails are Korean glass nails.
Amy Sounds fancy.
Grace So I did that on my nails like my and, you know, did a very lovely, you know, manicure. And then probably my favorite part actually is the pedicure where I love.
Amy I love that you called it a "pet-ti-cure."
Grace Yeah. I always do a little bit of an elevated pedicure. I don't do just the basic one. I try to, you know, get a couple of little extra services to make it, you know? Yes, we're trying to beautify our feet, but we are also trying to make it a self-care moment. So I always get like one of the ones where they like put some sh-- on your leg and they wrap it in Saran. Wrap and like, yes.
Amy Yes, that's my favorite. That's the paraffin treatment. I love that sh-- because I'm like, Yeah, I want to go home and have my feet feeling real soft.
Grace Yeah. So the scrub and it was just so delightful and I had my little glass of champagne and you know, I was listening to a podcast and it just feels really luxurious. It's a simple pleasure, but it's just a moment to take care of myself and feel good in that moment, get a little foot massage. And also, just like when I look down at my feet, either when I wake up in the morning or when I'm walking outside in sandals, I'm just like, Oh, look how pretty my toes are. You know? It's just one of the simple pleasures of life that I don't always.
Amy Wiki Feet is asking how pretty are they? Post the pics.
Grace Oh I, I mean I wanted to pullthat feet website for sure.
Amy How pretty are they? Wiki Feet wants to know. How pretty are they?
Grace They pretty cute. They pretty cute. So yeah it was it's fun. So I'm you know, beginning my preparations for my vacay so that, you know, everything is right, you know, for the pictures when I'm overseas. So, Amy, that was mine. What was yours this week?
Amy Well, this is so funny because you mentioned that when you go and get a pedicure, they give you champagne. That's fancy. And my antidote this week is champagne for no reason.
Grace Why you need a reason?
Amy I didn't know you were going to say that. And I'm obsessed with the fact that you had champagne when you had your pedicure. But literally, you know, there are times where I am anticipating like good news or something and I want to, like, get myself a champagne so I can do a toast, like with my coworkers or with my friends, you know, or like your birthday or someone has given you champagne. You're like, Let me save this for an important occasion. And I want to say it was after the holidays. I happen to have a couple bottles of Veuve Clicquot and I was like, Ooh, I got to save these for something special. I know that's not even the fanciest one. I'm going to give you a rundown of the champagnes I like. But like, literally, I was like, I should save this for a special occasion. And then there was a day this week where I was like, being alive in America in 2022 is a f---ing special occasion.
Grace You better preach.
Amy And I popped a bottle, poured myself a little flute and just like, had champagne by myself. And I watched TV. I made myself a little dinner. Actually, I think the night I had it was the night that I ordered myself some sushi. So I had sushi and champagne and I was like, I felt celebratory because I was drinking this bottle of champagne or, you know, a couple of glasses. I didn't finish the bottle. I would have been sideways, but I kind of treated myself and I've done this before and I realize, Oh, this is like a mini antidote for myself. Instead of waiting for the world to tell you when you are allowed to celebrate yourself, every now and then, you can just be like, I'm a Black woman alive in America, thriving. Let me have myself a glass of bubbly. So I really like Veuve Clicquot. I like Pierre jouet. There's also a beautiful Belle Époque bottle that Pierre jouet does that has flowers on it that's so pretty. And then I also like there's a rosé champagne I love called I don't actually know how to pronounce it it's Billecart-Salmon. I think is how you say it. Look at me with my French isms, but I think it's Billecart-Salmon and it's a rosé champagne and it's mad fancy. But there was a day where I went on drizly.com. And I was like, Hook me up. And they did. And they did. So every now and then, don't wait for the world to tell you you're allowed to celebrate who you are. What you are. What you do. What you care about. And what you've accomplished. Every day you are here, you can celebrate. So that was my antidote this week was a little glass of champagne. I did feel guilty the next morning because I was like, I didn't finish this and it's going flat now. And I had to pour some of it away. Like two days later I was like, I got to pour this way and I feel bad because I kind of wasted the champagne. But at the end of that, who cares? I want to celebrate me.
Grace Yeah, yeah. I love that because I think it is important to find those little moments of celebration. Because I know you work so hard and you know, so it's good. Anything that will bring a little sparkle into your day, including sparkling rosé. I think that that's a beautiful thing. And yeah, we don't need to wait. Like I always say, like, you know, I'm from an immigrant family and sometimes people are like, we're saving it for special. And I'm always telling my mom, I was just like, wear the purse, like, do the thing, you have the time because, you know, life is short. And, you know, I know that that's a cliche to say. But let me tell you, once I got into my thirties, like life started flying. Like it started going real fast. I feel like life is real slow when you're in your teens and even in your twenties, you're like, it's forever. But it it starts going real fast as soon as you hit that big three oh, and so, you know, 2022, I can't even believe that we're more than halfway through at this point. So yeah, you know, if you want to have champagne on a Tuesday, girl, you know what I'm saying? Okay, you better do it. Okay.
Amy Thank you. I appreciate that support sis we'll be back right after this break.
Grace Okay. Welcome back to the Antidote. We have a very special guest today. Who is it, Amy?
Amy Grace. Are you ready to get your mind upgraded?
Grace Oh, yeah.
Amy Because that's what's about to happen. Our guest is an internationally acclaimed writer, comedian, poet and public speaker whose work explores themes of belonging, the human condition and trauma. They've headlined the New York Comedy Festival and will be headlining Just for Laughs Festival in late June. They're the author of Beyond the Gender Binary and have appeared in HBO's Random Acts of Flyness, the documentary The Trans List, as well as the Netflix docu series Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness. They're also a fellow Stanford grad right along with me. And, you know, I was going to mention that, so stop rolling your eyes. Now it's time for us to get curious with them. Please welcome, Alok.
Amy This is a treat.
Grace We're so excited to have you here. You were the very first guest that Amy mentioned that she wanted to have on this podcast. So. So. Yeah. Finally dream realized you're here.
Amy I'm sweating. I'm fine.
Grace She truly is. So they're very impressive, aren't they? But we aren't here to talk about your many, many accomplishments, Alok. We are here to get deep.
Amy Let's check in first. How are you feeling today? Like, for real, not small talk. Is there anything weighing on you in life?
Alok So much. Yeah. I'm a cancer, darling. Oh, my God.
Alok I really appreciate that instead of asking, how are you? You have the follow up to Is there anything weighing you in life that made me feel seen as a cancerian sign? Of course there is. I'm feeling a lot of grief right now. I just lost my aunt to cancer a few weeks ago and she was very close to me emotionally and physically, 7 minutes away. So it feels like haunting to be in New York and feel her presence and her absence at the same time. I'm feeling a lot of pain and sadness. The rise of anti-trans discrimination and violence and legislation in this country. And it just feels kind of off putting to me because on the one hand, I want to I want to celebrate pride and I want to be happy. And I also. It's that awkward moment where you can also cry at the party because you're like, there's so much suffering in it, and we have to find a way to braid it both. And then at the same time, I'm also feeling so much gratitude and so much joy to be here with you both. So I'm taking and holding a lot.
Amy Yeah. And is that not what it is to be human? I mean. Yeah, taking it and holding a lot at all times.
Grace Yeah. And it's and it's so interesting. Like, you know, the laws that have been put on in the last like six months have been so disgusting and sad. So I totally get why there would be such a conflict of emotions around pride, like you want to celebrate, but at the same time, like, you know, Florida. Oklahoma. Yeah. It's a really troubling time to be in America right now. So I feel that. But we have to somehow lift ourselves up. Then that's that's the reason why Amy and I wanted to do this podcast to, like, find the space to both acknowledge the sadness and and try to find a little piece of joy. And so you're our joy today.
Alok And I really appreciate that, because I think for me, there's been a profound shift in my life where I thought that I had to sacrifice my joy or compromise my happiness in order to draw attention to the severity of what I and my community was going through. And then I realized that's an extension of the very oppression that I'm trying to combat, is when I'm not able to access my laughter or my levity or my pleasure or my stillness. And so I'm new to this journey. But in the past few years, I've really been trying to move joy first and to actually recognize that like there's something sacred and precious for those of us who are not supposed to be able to claim space for celebration and euphoria to do that.
Grace Yes, I love that.
Amy Yeah. Well, as you know, this show is called The Antidote because life is hard and we all need different antidotes to deal with all the bullsh--. So we want to know, Alok. What is your antidote? In other words, what is something non-work-related that is bringing you joy this week? Or this month or this year?
Alok Yeah. Spontaneity.
Amy Tell me more. I'm a Virgo. I don't that.
Grace No. Please talk to my friend.
Amy Please explain.
Grace You were on a podcast recently, and they were just like, What would you change about the angel Amy? And it took me a while to to to think about it, because I think she's pretty perfect. But the one thing I would change is I would love her to be more spontaneous, so please talk to my friend.
Alok So you're catching me. I'm in the middle of a really big tour that I just kicked off about a week ago, and I'm doing like 40 cities all across the country, which means I'm deeply sleep deprived. I'm catching both flights and feelings at the same time. This is non-binary magic happening right now, and one of my favorite parts of touring in the world is I go to these places where I don't know anyone. I don't really know anything. I have no idea what's going to happen. And I end up having the most thrilling experiences after my shows because I'm just constantly surprised and full of wonder of how my expectations. Of what could be just disintegrate around me. And I really relish in that feeling, that sensation of being like the world exceeds any ability for me to try to contain it or encapsulated and in a K.O. battle between me and the world, the world is always going to win. And there's something just like so humbling and so gratifying about that certainty of knowing that any extent that I try to create control in my life and know what's going to happen, it's just never going to work.
Grace Oh, a word.
Alok Amy's freaking out right now.
Amy Yeah, I'm like, I don't know how to crawl inside that feeling like I'd like to be like hmm.
Grace But, you know what-
Amy That's okay. Like, I hear you, but. I'm like, ha, I need control.
Grace You know what? I you know what you just said. Alok. Reminded me of my twenties in New York, and I've lost that magic being a grown up, number one. And number two, moving to L.A., where I feel like there's so much that kind of has to be planned. But I just remember in my twenties in New York, I would just like decide to go to like a comedy show, and then it would just lead to the most magical night end up like at a hookah bar in the East Village and meeting people from all over the world. Yeah. I need to find a way to get back to that.
Alok What I like about spontaneity is it reminds me that there's so much beauty in the world. If I just take the time to notice it that there's, like, so many everyday miracles, but we don't ever elevate them to that. And I think the way that I have been sort of coping in my grief process and because I just feel this like acute and pervasive sense of loss in my life right now is I've been really trying to notice all of the reminders of beautiful things around me. And so it's so easy for my brain to go to like despair. But instead what I did, especially in this trip to Milwaukee, is I just I really noticed. Wow, I really love what people are wearing. I love how people gesture their hands. Have I ever taken the time to admire how people blink and how many times they blink? I just love that we're alive. It's so cool and gnarly that we get to do that. I love I love the sound of a voice on a microphone. I love what I can do with my voice. I love getting ready. I love like getting my hair done and my makeup done and like looking at my face and being like, Oh, my gosh, I'm alive. That's really cool. And I just am really realizing that that's the key to I don't know if I would say happiness. That's a lot of pressure. But the key to like making it is really developing a practice of noticing and get and receiving the reminders from the universe that it's going to be okay. Yeah.
Amy Yeah. Even just that the practice of noticing because I think that's so much of what it is to be an artist in any form and honestly, to be inside your humanity is to have that practice of noticing. And I think sometimes when we're rushed, frustrated, harried and also so regimented like I have become, I think the pandemic has helped them with that like me, just kind of like being like, there's an order. Follow the rules, wear the mask that I just in some ways, I have found myself having to remind myself that I should be in the practice of noticing or what I call observing or just like like Grace. And I had a conversation on the podcast a few weeks back about what I miss most about my early writing days, when I didn't have so many deadlines and meetings and things and calls and zooms was getting to go to a café and sit and just be and notice. Mm hmm. And it made me feel more creative to just be. And the more we do that, and the more we notice people and things and places and experiences that are familiar and yet foreign, that are new and yet and yet, like intrinsically who we are, the more connected we are. And yet it's so hard to do that for, you know, just because of how we live these days and we have to find the ways to do it.
Grace I'm Aries, so that is the energy I bring. I am a person who rebels against structure. I don't like it and I had been taught ever since I was a little kid that my spontaneity or my not adherence to structure was a bad thing and it was something that I had to beat out of myself that I that I needed to wake up every day at 7 a.m. to get my workout on before work. And I needed to schedule my day. And whenever I do do that, I feel like in jail. So it's so for me it's been like how much can I adult while still allowing my natural spontaneity that I want to have in my day. I hate like waking up in a day and knowing what's going to happen. You know, I just have to now because I'm an adult. But there was a time, like I said, in my twenties in New York, I would just wake up and I'm just like, I don't know, there's an audition today. I might go I might not go.
Alok Right. The I might.
Grace Yeah, exactly.
Alok I might. It's such a mighty phrase, you know?
Grace Yeah, but I've been taught, like, ever since a child. No, Grace, you have to have more structure. You have to do this. So it's funny to.
Alok And we judge those people, we judge the might people, because we're like, Oh, you don't have clarity, you don't have focus.
Alok What are you trying to do? But actually, there is such a precise clarity to being able to ask yourself, What do I feel like I want to do in this moment? I might feel like I want to go out and I might feel like I want to stay in. I'm only going to know in that moment. But so much of like the structures of capitalism, an age make us have to have this kind of permanent narrative. This is who I am. Not this is what I'm feeling moment to moment.
Grace Yeah. And I feel like, you know, so me and my co-host are going through opposite struggles as far as spontaneity is concerned because we like. Yeah, I just I. I have been beaten by adulting into having more structure than I would actually really like.
Amy I'm so sorry, Grace. It also might be my friendship.
Grace No, it's okay. No. I think-.
Amy I'm like I have a hard out. I have a hard out.
Grace No. It's okay.
Alok Oh, my God, hard outs. Yes.
Grace But I also. You made me-
Alok What was life like before hard outs?
Grace I know it's such an industry term. You don't ever hear it any other place, but. But now you've also made me really excited because I have a trip coming up and I'm just like, Oh my God. I want to do what Alok does. I will do spontaneity.
Grace Yes. I'm very excited.
Alok I mean, I shouldn't have to explain why spontaneity is, like, beneficial for us under capitalism, and it can actually give us more creative ideas. But to the cynics in the audience who are probably hearing this being like, I don't have the luxury of spontaneity and sort of defense coping mechanism. I truly believe to your point about observation being an integral part of being an artist, that what good artistry is, is an elaborate mirror that is actually saying, here is what I see. And, and reflecting back what I see in you to the world, how are we supposed to accurately do that? Unless we are doing the research and the research is living. And so I, I once had a therapist tell me she was like, of course you have writer's block because you're working all the time and you're not spending any time living and you have to live in order to actually have content that you want to create. And so what I started to do is just keeping like a daily diary of what I, what I'm thinking, feeling, doing in the day. And so that now whenever I need to write or create, I go back to my own life and my own memories. And that gives me such an amazing repository of encounters or ideas or provocations that I can elaborate on in a more formal art piece.
Amy Yeah, I fully agree. I'm looking kind of like huh because I am realizing I don't really. I've historically been like, I don't believe in writer's block. It's just a version of fear or it's just like, you know, nerves. But I have been experiencing writer's block and every time, literally every time I've told someone I've had it, I'm like, I don't really believe in it. It's just fear. I just haven't had the time. But some people might call it writer's block, but I don't get that. And I'm like, Oh, it's this lack of living. It's that I've been in the house, it's that I'm not going out. It's that I'm not doing my, like, vacation to me. Like, I'm very type-A, very Virgo, very child of immigrants, Nigerian. But like when I go on vacation, I'm not the planner. I'm just like, I show up and I do top ten cafes of where I'm at and just be like, Oh, let's just see what where the day takes us. That's how I am. And so vacation replenishes me because it's the only time in my life that I'm spontaneous, structured within this ten day window. I will be spontaneous.
Grace I can I can say that that's true because we've vacationed.
Amy Yeah, she knows we vacation together. I'm like, I don't know what I want to do today.
Alok You're like, who are you?
Grace Who's this bitch on this vacation? You body snatch my friend?
Amy And I'm like, it's the best feeling ever. And I'm realizing I have writer's block because I haven't taken a real ass vacation in a long time. I haven't been spontaneous.
Alok And I don't I want to say it's like not your fault, too. It's like we glorify a culture of being on all the time. Yeah. And what that actually does is it depletes us. And I've, I've been really, really thinking about depletion because people continue to ask me, how do you keep going when there's so much there's so much, so many reasons not to. The people keep asking me, what is your replenishing ritual? And it genuinely, I sound like a freaking Hallmark card here saying it, but it's genuinely because I love us more than they could ever hate us. And I spent so much time focusing on how much they hated and forgetting how much I loved. And what I noticed about spontaneity is it allows me to remember why I love the things that I love. Because when you see people not as just like coworker or identity or label, but just like human spirit, human spirit, and you're kind of navigating a new scenario together. That's why I freaking loved, like, camp when I was younger. Like, you're just all in this stuff together. And I think that's my camp friend. We go way back, girl, you just spent a day together, but you just act like your best friends. You know.
Amy We've done a potato sack race..
Grace But you made something out of popsicle sticks, so you're bonded forever.
Alok And I guess I just want to bring that kind of camp trust fall. We're all in the woods for a weekend together to every conversation where it's like that kind of that kind of urgency and experimentation and awkwardness actually is what creates a kind of long lasting and enduring love that I can return to when I'm feeling depleted. And so the case then becomes vacationing is not actually about leisure, it's about survival. And that reframe, I think, is really important because I notice that I can always make the things that are essential for me seem like luxury goods, like rest. I'm like, oh, if I get 8 hours. That's a reward. Are you kidding me?
Alok Why am I doing that to myself?
Amy Yeah, it is essential. And we're calling it luxury. You're right.
Grace So let me ask you a question. So you have obviously traveled so many places, you know, in your career. But what would you say is your your favorite place? And it it can even be at home. But like what? What is your favorite place that you've been?
Alok Hmm. There have been so many favorite places. Every time I'm touring my manager, the agents get so confused. I'm like, Yeah, let's go to the Dakotas. Let's go. Let's go to the. And they're like, Are you sure? And I'm like, Absolutely. Because I promise you, there's someone who feels the same pain as me there. They may not be able to look like me or wear what I'm wearing, but I promise you, they feel that same sense of loneliness. And I don't think that people should have to flee in order to not feel lonely. Yeah, I think that people should be able to be wherever they are and not feel lonely. And I want art to be that which makes people feel less lonely.
Amy Yeah. I mean, yeah. And it's like a path towards healing trauma as well, like thinking of how beauty can be that path for so many people. I mean, you have such an incredible and noteworthy sense of style right here on this podcast. I want I wish I could even I can't conceptualize in words how fantastic you look. So how does fashion and beauty factor into your self-expression and into identity for you?
Alok You know, I really believe that fashion saved my life and that it's such a strange statement to say, but I mean it because before I could control my body as a young person, clothing was the first place that I could actually, on my own terms, say, this is who I am. And so styling myself was a way to interrupt other people's expectations of what I should be and to insist, like, okay, this is who I am on my own terms. And that sense of practicing autonomy of appearance I had just because of so much racism and transphobia, I had been dispossessed of autonomy of my body. And so fashion kind of gave me permission to be like, you get to choose who you are and you get to design your own life. And that sense of possibility, I think, is, is what I love so much about style and beauty. It's about actually like I'm in control of this ship, I'm in control of my life. And with that control actually looks like is surrendering. That's the paradox of beauty. And fashion is surrendering to the fact that even though I'm wearing this amazing stiletto heel, New York will put out a rainstorm and will lie to me and gaslight me by saying that it's not going to be raining and you just have to surrender in that moment. Ala Carrie Bradshaw just getting rained on and you're cute, glamorous look. And then you're just like, Wow. That's also the part that I love about fashion. Precisely. It's impracticality.
Grace Yeah, yeah.
Alok People will be like fashion is impractical but I'll be like that's what I love about it.
Amy Yeah, yeah. It's here for beauty's sake.
Grace Yeah. And I've been like, I had sort of always loved fashion as like a little kid. Like I used to wait for, you know, the InStyle magazine for the Oscars to come all the time. And I used to do so, like, dream about, like, being able to wear I think I used to be obsessed with like Dolce and Gabbana back in the day. And so I kind of gave that up because I didn't have the money or the resources. And about two years ago, I really started like getting into luxury and getting into fashion more. And it's been so fun to rediscover what I actually do like because I had made everything practical for so long because I was living in New York. And right now I am currently in the process of learning how to walk in heels again because I kind of forgot. Because I didn't do it for so long, you know, probably since my twenties in New York, because, you know, in New York you just get used to being like flats. And then also the feminist to me was just like, if you gonna want to holler at me in those heels, he gonna want to holler me on the ground. Okay?
Grace But I do love the look of them. So now I'm learning how to walk in them for me, you know? And it's like a completely different experience.
Alok Yeah, I think beauty is for you and it's so wrong and egregious to me that so much of the beauty conversations about looking beautiful to other people, I actually really believe in self intimacy as the highest and most elevated form of romance. Because when all these partners leave us and you're left with yourself, if you're looking at yourself being like, I'm nothing that's going to cut deeper than what anything anyone else can say or do to you. And so the self-compassion work that I've been really trying to work on has brought me to beauty and fashion as a place and as a location to return to my body. The rituals of like getting in makeup, of doing my skincare routine, of planning my outfit, I mean, and once again, people inherit that conversation as luxury. That's it feels like a recurring theme that the things that are perhaps most vital and essential are seen as superfluous and excessive, but that they're seen as such because the very criteria they're being evaluated through are the people who don't want us to be joyous and free. So, of course, the things that give us joy in free they're going to say are redundant and the things that are killing us and poisoning us, they're going to say areessential. So we have to do that inversion.
Amy I wanted to say I listened to your interview on the Man Enough podcast and you said something that made me almost swerve into traffic as I tried to write it down. You said the antidote to trauma is compassion. That's obviously so relevant to our show. And we're wondering if you could expand on that or tell us how you practice compassion and self-compassion in your life?
Alok Yes, great question. Thank you. I'm sorry you almost swerved into traffic. That's- like you're reminding me of Gen Z being like, run me over, I love you that much. Like, okay, well, there's this like kind of a macabre sense.
Grace Amy. It's a podcast. You can listen to it later again. Amy.
Grace No, I must capture it right now.
Alok Right. I mean, but I here's the thing. I lived in L.A. for six months. I understand sometimes you really have to pee so bad and you're not going to be able to get to the toilet for about 20 minutes. And so you have to intentionally listen because you're trying to distract yourself from that other need. So that podcast you like, if you would, if you had lost that attention, who knows what would have happened?
Amy Yeah. Yeah.
Alok I think that's actually my career is to keep. It's to keep- be so compelling. I can give relief to people who really need to sh-- if they're stuck in traffic. I want to be that kind of urgency. Um. Yeah. When I'm talking about antidotes, like, here's the bigger secret and why I'm so excited about what you're all doing. I actually do think that we can heal, and I do think that we can get free. And I know that's like not in vogue right now where people are like so committed to cynicism as like, yeah, like I'm radical because I'm critical. I actually think hope is the radical practice. Like, hello, I agree. And when I'm talking about antidotes, it's actually coming from a deeply hopeful place in me that's like, yes and. Yes, there's all these things here, but there are things that we can do that can actually bring us peace. And what I really champion for compassion about is not that it's actually just even about helping other people because it's often framed as being the better person, but actually compassion for others as the ultimate act of self-love. Because I love myself enough to not be perturbed by you and your lower frequency, I don't want to invite that negative energy into me because that's going to increase my cortisol production and stress me out and manifest this physical pain that I don't want to deal with. So I relinquish myself from even your ability to contaminate my energy.
Grace And then like what I've been thinking about in my life with all this stuff that's been going on, you know, against trans and gay and Black people and brown people in this country. Sometimes when I think about like the way that people vote and they think about us, it affects me being in the world. I find myself looking around at people not with compassion, but I'm just like, Are you one of those? Are you one of those? So I feel like you're so right. Like, if I were to be able to get to a place where I realize it's just a lower vibration, I can stay at my vibration without being dragged down by other people's vibrations. Sorry. Please continue.
Alok It's weird because Alok has been out here sounding like Jesus recently. All these Christians keep messaging me like talking a lot like a Christian and I'm like, okay man and address Jesus or Alok. What's good.
Grace What's good. What's actually good.
Alok And I just really this word mercy keeps coming up to me is that now I'm able to see people are operating from a low frequency because they've been taught a malnourished definition of love. They've not had access to care and intimacy. I feel mercy. I'm so sorry that you are wasting your precious time on earth oppressing me when you could be playing Mario Kart. What the hell are you doing?
Grace Yes, yes, yes, yes. Could be watching Drag Race. You could be-.
Amy Getting all the Korok seeds.
Grace You could be having sex. Okay, I will I will ask one last question, because I think this is a quick answer. So what would you say is your proudest non career accomplishment?
Alok Mm hmm. Being alive. Winning is living. Living is winning. And I just really do not take it for granted that I'm here. A lot of things that try to make it so that I'm not here and I just have to return to that basic and fundamental fact that even if I don't produce anything, or even if I don't do anything, I'm producing a breath. And that is an elaborate love poem.
Amy You're here.
Grace We are our ancestors wildest dreams. That's what I always have to bring it back to. Because, like, even when I'm having a terrible time, I'm just like, oh, my God, a hundred years ago, I could never be this.
Amy Mm hmm.
Grace Well, thank you.
Amy Wow. I feel so much better now that we've talked to you.
Alok I just can't wait for you to vacation, Amy. That's what I really want.
Amy I want it for me, too.
Alok I want, like, wild Instagram stories of you on vacations. Like,.
Amy I will.
Alok Amy gone wild. Like, I want, like, people like who even is she?
Amy Just wig askew. The front of the wig is at the back.
Grace I mean, I've seen it. She's able to do it, like when-.
Alok Like who even is she truly?
Amy I am ready for my vacation. And Alok, this world sucks, but it sucks a little less because you're in it and because we've had this conversation. Thank you so, so much.
Grace Do you have anything coming up that you want to tell us about? Anything you'd like to plug? It could be just something you love, not something you created.
Alok I mean, I'm like kind of touring the world right now, so hopefully, like, come, like come and, like, experience it.
Grace Yes. We'll be there later this month.
Amy We're really excited. And where can people find you on the Internets?
Alok Every time people ask me that question, I'm like, so I'm addicted to Instagram. It feels like inappropriate just being following my handle because it's actually a really dark thing that I'm on there all the time. Hey, come and see the product of me displacing all of the other things I need to do with my life on Instagram.
Amy Exactly. Yeah.
Amy At A-L-O-K-V-M-E-N-O-N
Amy Well, thank you so much, Alok. This has been incredible.
Grace Thank you so much, Alok.
Alok Thank you.
Grace So to close this out, we are doing our creative tap in, which is our segment about creativity, as is the name. Amy, are you ready for this week's quote?
Amy Yeah, I'm ready.
Grace "Creativity comes from a conflict of ideas." That is by Donatella Versace. Say it one more time. "Creativity comes from a conflict of ideas." Donatella Versace.
Amy I had to laugh a little bit when I heard it because it made me think at first, like how Versace has so many, like, mixed patterns. Like, so many of their fabrics are like loud.
Grace Yeah, they do have very loud fabrics.
Amy The Versace brand is beautiful, but what it really makes me think of in terms of what we do, I think being in the writers room and how there will be times where you pitch something and then someone else will pitch something like, Yes, and what if it was a little like this? And then, in fact, it's coming from a conflict. Like, it's like I. I don't see it your way or I see it your way, but it's not clear enough for me or I hadn't gotten to your way yet, or I've already thought beyond that. And so that conflict of people seeing a different point of view leads to creativity. I remember in the Insecure Writers room, Prentice used to always say, like, we live in the gray and we would choose story based on when there were two opposing points of view that we would argue about in the room or discuss in the room at random, like who Issa should end up with. Like because we had conflict over it. We wrote that into the story. You know, it's like she had to have tension over it, too. And we did that every season. Like, whose fault is this fight? Is it Molly's? Or Issa's?Every season, we had a few storylines that were bred from a conflict of ideas and it led to creative ways to show story. So that's what it makes me think of fashion and writing. What about you, Grace?
Grace Actually, this is the first time that it made us think of the same thing. Yeah, it made me think about the writers room and how, you know, at certain times and I still struggle with this right now, I'll be like. No, that's what I think. And you guys, if you don't see why it needs to be this way, then I'm going to be mad. No. But honestly, the best stuff comes when your idea interacts with another idea. So it's not even always like that. Sometimes the writer's room will get into a real big flow. So it's like, yes and yes and yes and. And you're sort of on the same track and you're getting excited about that. You're always that. You're all heading in the same direction. But no, sometimes it's something that comes from an opposite idea or something that comes all the way left. Or you might say something that has a dress in it, for example, and you're like, Oh, addressing this. And somebody will come up with a pitch about addressing a problem. And you're like, No, no, I'm in a physical piece of clothing. But no, they're brain turned it into a addressing something.
Amy Oh, yes.
Grace Sometimes that's like one of those happy accidents that makes the work kind of come alive. Also, I kind of think about that right now. I do get a good number of notes in my life right now because I'm developing, yeah, several projects. And, you know, writers always sometimes say that, oh, this person at the network didn't know what they were talking about. Duhduhduh but sometimes and oftentimes, frankly, they are putting a finger on something that even though even if you don't address the note exactly like how they want you to do it, they are pinpointing something that's bumping. And sometimes that note will actually activate your creativity to like, okay, I have to give this person what they want because they are financing this thing. They are my boss. So I have to try to to satisfy myself and satisfy them. And the challenge of that sometimes makes something even better than what you originally conceived or that you were holding on to. So, yes, this quote feels like the essence of being a TV writer. Really. Okay. Thank you for listening to The Antidote. We hope that this injected a little bit of joy into your week. I know it did mine. Alok had bars. How about you, Amy?
Amy Um, Alok changed my whole damn life. I'm spontaneous now, so I feel great, girl. We should do this again sometime. Oh, we'll be here next week.
Grace And in the meantime-.
Amy Oh, not spontaneous.
Grace And in the meantime, if you like to follow us on social, follow me. Grace. At Gracyact. That's G-R-A-C-Y-A-C-T.
Amy And follow me. Amy at AmyAniobi. That's A-M-Y-A-N-I-O-B-I. And follow the show at theeantidotepod.
Grace That's thee with two e's.
Amy If you like feeling good about yourself, please subscribe and rate his five stars at Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.
Amy And Celebrate Being Alive. The Antidote is hosted by us, Amy Aniobi and Grace Edwards is produced by Jenna Hanchard and our associate producer is Taylor Polydore.
Grace Executive producer is Erica Kraus and our editor is Erika Janik. Sound Mixing by Derek Ramirez.
Amy Digital Production by Mijoe Sahiouni. Talent Booking by Marianne Ways. Our theme music was composed and produced by TT the Artist and Cosmo the Truth.
Grace APM Studio executives in charge are Chandra Kavati, Alex Schaffert and Joanne Griffith. Concept created by Amy Aniobi and Grace Edwards.
Amy Send us your antidotes and antidoteshow.org please and remember to follow us on social media at theeantidotepod. That's thee way two E's.
Grace The Antidote is a production of American Public Media.