ROBERT GARCIA, HOST:
Please be advised that the language that you're about to hear in this upcoming podcast may not be suitable for your little kiddies.
FRANCHESCA RAMSEY: I am not the girl who just thinks everything is racist. Like, I think people are like, she's a Debbie downer. Don't invite her anywhere. And I'm like, no, I sometimes say funny things. Like, I'm not just hating on people all the time.
(SOUNDBITE OF JAMES BROWN'S "THE CHASE")
ADRIAN BARTOS, HOST:
Yo, yo, yo. What's up, everybody? This is Stretch Armstrong.
GARCIA: And my name is Bobbito Garcia aka Kool Bob Love.
BARTOS: Welcome to WHAT'S GOOD WITH STRETCH & BOBBITO, your source for untold stories and uncovered truths from movers and shakers around the world.
GARCIA: Our guest today is Franchesca Ramsey. She got her start making natural hair tutorials. And now, she's a YouTube star with a Comedy Central pilot in the works. Well, Stretch, before we get to all that, let's talk about your hair when I first met you.
BARTOS: Can we not?
BARTOS: Oh, boy. Listen. Enough time has passed by where I'm totally fine talking about the ridiculous haircut I had when we met.
GARCIA: You had long, beautiful hair...
BARTOS: My hair was long.
GARCIA: ...Shining gleaming, steaming, flaxen, waxen.
BARTOS: Yo, I got a photograph of me. My hair is long and curly and it goes down to my shoulders. And I got a photo of me with that haircut rocking a shearling.
GARCIA: (Laughter) Oh.
BARTOS: Yo, it's so hectic. So yeah, so that's what I looked like when we became friends. And...
GARCIA: And then I boriquafied (ph) you.
BARTOS: Yeah. You were Bobbito the barber. I was like, yo, let me get - I was like all right, listen, I got a - listen, I'm officially hip-hop now.
GARCIA: That was like, you know, like if someone was starving and you offered them like a Thanksgiving feast or something. Like, I saw your hair and I was like, oh, my God, please let me cut your hair.
BARTOS: Yeah. And what did you do? What'd you give me? You gave me the Caesar.
GARCIA: I gave you the Caesars. I hooked you up. You know what? I...
BARTOS: Now, at the time, I didn't realize it, but in hindsight, the Caesar is - that's the standard haircut for white guys that are down in hip-hop.
BARTOS: I guess - I mean, they all have the same haircut.
GARCIA: Part two of me giving you the first haircut of our friendship was that (laughter) you fell asleep afterwards. I don't know if you remember this. You took a nap in your living room when you were living out on Hudson Street.
BARTOS: Yeah, I was so sad.
GARCIA: I swept up all your long hair and I put it in a salad bowl and then I placed it in your refrigerator (laughter). Do you remember that?
GARCIA: And then I left your house. And then five hours later, you were like, yo, Bob, WTF, man?
GARCIA: That was my homage to your hair.
GARCIA: Thanks, Bob.
GARCIA: Anyway, coming up next - Franchesca Ramsey.
(SOUNDBITE OF BETTY FORD BOYS' "THE SYMPHONY (JEEP VOLUME)")
BARTOS: Joining us now is the incredible Franchesca Ramsey.
GARCIA: Our guest today got her start making content for YouTube in 2012. She rocked the video world with "Shit White Girls Say To Black Girls," which now has close to 12 million views on YouTube. Since then, she went on to write for and contribute to "The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore." She hosts MTV News' "Decoded," a show where she talks race, stereotypes, media and pop culture. Recently, she's been working on a pilot for Comedy Central. (Speaking Spanish).
RAMSEY: Oh, yay.
BARTOS: Word up, up, up, up. Franchesca, welcome.
RAMSEY: Thank you for having me.
GARCIA: Oh, come on.
BARTOS: So before we get into all the video work you've done, let's talk about what we've got in common - podcasts.
BARTOS: It's called "Last Name Basis," which you do with your husband, Patrick.
RAMSEY: I sure do.
BARTOS: Now, Patrick happens to be white. And on this show...
RAMSEY: I know. I know.
BARTOS: ...You tackle...
RAMSEY: Are you like, get her off the show now? I've been lied to. You think of me differently. I knew it.
GARCIA: God help me. Good. We're good.
RAMSEY: God, I should have kept that on the DL.
BARTOS: Well, if you knew more about my personal life and Bob's, well, you'd know that we're all sort of in the same boat.
RAMSEY: Oh, OK. Cool.
GARCIA: Franchesca, you know Stretch is white, right?
RAMSEY: I mean, listen. There are some white people who are very unhappy that I am in an interracial relationship. Like, I don't know, you know what I mean? Like, this could be some sort of gotcha moment. So I don't know.
BARTOS: That's actually why we have you here.
GARCIA: All my Puerto Rican friends are very happy that I have a white partner on this podcast.
RAMSEY: Aw, that's sweet.
BARTOS: I thought you were going to say a white wife. I was like, what?
RAMSEY: Other kind of partner, not the romantic partner.
GARCIA: Right, right.
BARTOS: So in the podcast, you have complicated conversations around difficult issues including race. So can you share with us what you're trying to do with this podcast?
RAMSEY: I mean, for Pat and I, we have so many great conversations where we disagree on different topics and then we start to see eye to eye. You know, my husband is a lawyer. And he has always been someone who's been very analytical and fair-minded, whereas I am very emotional.
I'm always like, kill that bitch. And he's like, legally, she didn't do anything wrong. And I'm like, just agree with me. I hate her. So it's really fun for us to talk about all sorts of stuff. Like, we do talk about politics. And we talk about pop culture. But we also talk about science, you know. And sometimes, he sees things...
GARCIA: She blinded me with science.
RAMSEY: (Laughter) I'm, like, not a science person at all. So yeah, it's great. I mean, we don't necessarily go into every episode with a specific goal in mind other than to just talk about things that we think are interesting or things that - sometimes we'll have a disagreement and we'll just be like, save it for the podcast. We're not even going to have this argument right now. Let's do it on the show.
BARTOS: Wow. Amazing.
GARCIA: Wow. That's tough. That's really tough.
RAMSEY: And it's great because - it's - I love it. It's been...
GARCIA: Put that on pause, honey. We're going to talk about that tomorrow.
RAMSEY: Yes. Yes. Save it. But like, we do it real shaded. We're like, save it for the podcast, OK? Just save it.
BARTOS: With the hand, five fingers in the face.
RAMSEY: Yes. So yeah, it's really fun. And I think what our audience really enjoys about is that, you know, Patrick does bring a different perspective to some topics. And I enjoy hearing that just in the sense that, you know, I am very emotional. And I think that's because when we talk about race, for me, a lot of these things are things that I have dealt with, you know, personally or impact people that I know.
And so Pat's not the time to play devil's advocate, but he tries to come from a perspective of like, well, let me just tell you how I would see the situation or I can understand why someone might see it differently. And that's been really eye-opening for me.
BARTOS: Shoutout to Pat.
GARCIA: Well, I'm going to shout out my wife - right? - because I told her that I was interviewing you with Stretch on our podcast. And she said, what? Turns out, years ago, she was putting your videos on to her best friend...
RAMSEY: Oh, that's so cool.
GARCIA: ...On some natural hair tutorials.
RAMSEY: Oh, yeah.
GARCIA: So - yeah. No, real talk.
RAMSEY: That's awesome.
GARCIA: Yeah, it is. And so what lessons did you learn from those videos, in those early YouTube days, that you're applying today?
RAMSEY: I think just perseverance and really staying focused. There was a long stretch of time where I was making these videos and everyone just thought I was a weirdo because I was making videos in my apartment instead of like going out, you know. And so I, like, it's hilarious now because everyone gets YouTube now. But, you know, in 2006, when I started making videos, like no. That was not the thing, you know. And so it was not what it is
today. And so sometimes you have to be able to carve your own path and not worry if other people don't get it. If it's something that you love, stay focused and dedicated to it. And, you know, what happens for you will happen when it's supposed to.
GARCIA: So what was the spark for you to be like, you know what, I'll...
BARTOS: I'm going to be that weirdo at home making videos.
RAMSEY: Well, you know what's really funny with the - I started making - started out with hair videos. So I have locks. I've had locks for 14 years now. And when I started them, you know, the natural hair space was not what it is now. There was no team natural. Nobody knew what hair type they were. Like, you couldn't go - there was no natural hair section in the store. And so I turned to the Internet and I joined a hair forum called Get Up Dread Up, where I was one of like three black people. It was all white people.
BARTOS: Stop. Stop.
RAMSEY: And I was like, so how do I do - what are y'all are doing? And I was always - like, the girl who was like the moderator of the forum, she and I were always butting heads - always. So I'd be like...
BARTOS: So this is a forum where there are tutorials by white people to other white people on how to get dreads?
RAMSEY: Yeah. It was on LiveJournal, old-school Internet. I think it's still around. And a lot of those people are still my audience, which is so interesting to me. They've followed me from Get Up Dread Up to YouTube and wherever else. And so I was on this forum. And I was very frustrated by the fact that, you know, I was not getting the kind of advice that - I was doing a lot of trial and error. And I was not using the products that these people were using. I didn't have the same maintenance routines.
And so I was like, you know what? Screw this. I'm starting my own shit. And so I started making videos because I was trying stuff and people were liking it, and they wanted to know how I was doing it. So that's really what inspired me to start making videos. And then once I started getting into comedy, my channel expanded and kind of changed shape as I - as my interest kind of grew.
BARTOS: So what's your current advice for white people that want dreads?
RAMSEY: Oh, my God. Find a channel that's all about that 'cause it's not mine. That's not what I'm into. I totally understand why there are people - black people specifically - who really do not fuck with white people that have dreads. Like, I get it in the sense that there's a lot of stereotypes and misunderstandings of what locks are. And that's, for me, a big part of why I call them locks. I'm like, there's nothing dreadful about my hair. Y'all can keep that word.
And so a lot of times, people are projecting unfair stereotypes about our hair based on what white people are doing with their hair, that it's smelly and that we don't wash it. I mean, locks are, in many ways, the most natural state for black hair to be in, so I don't have to do backcombing and all this other shit in order to have my hair in this way. So personally, I'm not upset by it, but I get why other people are. And again, that's why I'm like, that's not what I'm doing. So I'm not bothered by whatever that is. Those are not locks (laughter).
BARTOS: Baboom (ph). So can you tell us a little bit about "Decoded"?
RAMSEY: Yeah. So it's a series about race, identity and the intersection of pop culture. And it's part sketch and then part me in the studio, straight to camera, literally decoding certain ideas and concepts around race and identity.
GARCIA: I watched an episode about the very long process one has to go through to receive a U.S. green card.
RAMSEY: Oh, my goodness.
GARCIA: Yeah. I was bugging. I mean, you know, I have friends who have come to the United States from outside and have mentioned like, yeah, I've been waiting, but they never really went through the A to Z in the way that you did.
RAMSEY: It's a long process. And the thing is, is like, we cut steps out of that just in the interest of time.
GARCIA: Couldn't fit it all in five minutes?
RAMSEY: No. We try to keep our episodes short but, I mean, you know, there's been so much conversation around undocumented immigrants. And, you know, there clearly, in my mind, needs to be a change in the process because it is really difficult for people who want to be citizens legally.
And it's also super expensive. You know, it's prohibitive to people who are coming from countries where they genuinely need to be here in order to have a life that is going to be productive and do the things that they want to do. And then we're like, OK, jump through all these hoops and spend all of this money in order to get here. So the system needs to be tweaked, and that's why we wanted to make that episode.
BARTOS: Moni (ph) lost her wallet last week - my lady.
BARTOS: And it costs $500 to replace a green card.
RAMSEY: I had no idea.
BARTOS: You didn't add that in - you didn't include that in this particular clip, but that's bananas.
RAMSEY: Yeah. That is ridiculous.
GARCIA: That's a costly loss of a wallet.
BARTOS: She found her wallet.
GARCIA: Oh, she did?
GARCIA: After paying the 500?
BARTOS: No, no, no, no.
RAMSEY: No. I'm sure she was like, no, it's $500? Oh, we're going to find this wallet.
BARTOS: Plus time.
RAMSEY: The wallet will be found.
BARTOS: Although you know found her wallet was a Mexican from a taco stand?
RAMSEY: Oh. Well, I'm sure there's somebody whose, like, brain is exploding hearing that. That's like the intro of a really bad joke, like...
GARCIA: So listen. I learned a ton from "Decoded." I'm wondering, what episode did you learn the most from?
RAMSEY: We've done...
GARCIA: Uh-oh. Wait. Stretch, I think we hit a good question.
RAMSEY: Yeah. I mean, we - to my credit, we have like over 65 episodes, so that's a lot to try and think back on. But we did a really great episode about the strange - well, no, my favorite one was like weird Asian sexual stereotypes about where the, like, small Asian penis stereotype comes from. Yeah, it was really eye-opening because it's one of those stereotypes that gets trotted out especially in comedy like so often.
But it was really interesting to learn about the laws in this country that actually prohibited Asians from marrying white women and that, like, the stereotype of them being like these sexual provocateurs.
And so basically, once they created these laws that they couldn't get married, then they were prohibited from taking certain jobs at the time. So they were relegated to more feminine roles like laundry and restaurants, which then, like, perpetuated this idea that they could not, like, satisfy a woman and they were, like, womanly. So it was just a strange history when you realize like, oh, this trope that is used to be funny has a serious history that is super racist and really hurtful.
RAMSEY: And so it's very eye-opening for me. And so those are the episodes that we're like, oh, damn, people are going to love this. I didn't know this thing, and this is really interesting and super shareable for that reason.
BARTOS: Do you think - as a woman of color, do you think that you would find yourself in the entertainment industry if it wasn't for YouTube and Twitter, if those didn't exist?
RAMSEY: I mean, there are a lot of really successful black women and women of color in entertainment that I look up to that did not use YouTube, but I do think the thing that's really cool about social media and YouTube specifically is that it's really removed a lot of the gatekeepers. Not everybody can move to New York. Not everyone can move to LA. Not everybody has the interest or the ability to do that, whether it's the financial ability or the physical ability.
You know, if you are a person with a disability but you still want to be in the entertainment industry, you know, you can make content at home from your bedroom on your own time, you know, and make it accessible to people around the world. And you don't need an agent. You don't need to go on auditions. And I think that that's really cool. And for me, that's why YouTube was just so awesome and exciting because I didn't see myself in the roles I was getting called in for. So I just started casting myself in my own work.
GARCIA: Boom. Is mainstream success a priority amongst all these other goals?
RAMSEY: I feel like the word mainstream is kind of weird in the sense that it's so relative. For me, like, my goal has never been, quote, unquote, "mainstream success." I've just always wanted to work in entertainment. And I knew that I had something that I wanted to say. I didn't always know what it was, but I was like, I have thoughts and someone needs to hear them. Which has not stopped anyone from being successful. So, you know, for me, I always wanted to just create things that could hopefully make people laugh and make them think. And so if I'm able to do that on a bigger scale, be that television or movies or, you know, of course with my book, that's awesome.
But YouTube has been so incredible to me, just the audience that I've built there, the friends that I've made, the relationship that I have with YouTube themselves has been really cool for me. And so as long as I'm able to continue making things that I feel proud of, I'm happy if millions of people are watching it. But I'm happy if like five people and my mom are watching it. So for me, I try to tell creators of all backgrounds that you should do it because you love it, not because you have some ultimate goal that you're going to be rich and famous because that is fleeting and doesn't always happen.
GARCIA: You're working on a new pilot. Let me rephrase that. You're executive producing a new pilot for late night on Comedy Central.
RAMSEY: I am. I am. You know, "MTV Decoded" has been such an incredible experience. And actually, the producers that I developed and sold the show to Comedy Central with are the same guys that produced "Decoded." So we work together really well. We've been working together for a long time, but we want to stretch ourselves and do something different because this is not "Decoded" and this is not MTV.
So, you know, Comedy Central is comedy first, so we're really excited to kind of push some boundaries and hopefully show people sides of me that they have not seen. You know, I've done a lot of characters. I've done standup. I am not the girl who just thinks everything is racist. Like, I I think people are like, she's a Debbie downer. Don't invite her anywhere. And I'm like, no, I sometimes say funny things. Like, I'm not just hating on people all the time.
So I'm excited in that respect. But yeah, also just the chance to do something different that people are not seeing on television. Like, I don't plan on being at a desk with a blazer on. You know, I have been lifting a lot of weights and I would like to show off my arms. So I do not plan on being all buttoned-up and doing, like, news satire. That's just not my style. And also, like, a lot of people are doing that right now and they're doing it very well. But I want to do something different, so I'm excited. We're going to try and push some boundaries and hopefully see what happens.
GARCIA: So you were a part of Women's Health Magazine September 2017 issue where you talk about how you had to learn to be nice to yourself and it inspired you to combat anxiety through fitness.
GARCIA: What would you say to younger Franchesca in those moments when you did struggle with body image?
RAMSEY: Oh, my goodness. I would say to younger Franchesca - every woman has lopsided boobies. It's not a big deal. I was like - I mean, I talked about this in Women's Health. I was so stressed out over the fact that one of my boobs is slightly bigger than the other. And real talk, it is something that every single woman - like no one is perfectly symmetrical in any part of their body.
GARCIA: Of course not. My left ear is way bigger than my right ear. It's bugging me for like decades.
BARTOS: How does Pat feel?
RAMSEY: Pat doesn't care. Pat is like, I love the little boob. Like, he has like an - he talks about both of them very positively. I would tell younger Franchesca - do not stress. You know, it's - a lot of the things that I thought were so important and, you know, made me so uncomfortable and I just cried hours and hours over are just not a big deal now. And I think that that's not just about our own bodies.
That's about, you know, our careers, our relationships, where we are financially. There are so many times in our lives where we just stress out about something. And then you need just like time and perspective to realize like, oh, that was really not as serious as I thought it was.
GARCIA: That's beautiful. Listen. Up next, it's time for the Impression Session.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
BARTOS: It's time for the Impression Session.
GARCIA: Stretch, we didn't give the trumpet (imitating trumpet).
BARTOS: Bong, bong. Symphony drums. Bong, bong, bong, bong, bong, bong.
RAMSEY: I'm excited for this because I don't know what's going to happen.
GARCIA: All right. So here's how it works. What we're going to do is we're each going to play you a song. We're not going to tell you what it is. You just - all you have to do is just listen, digest it, and whatever emotion it evokes out of you, share it.
BARTOS: Doesn't have to be an emotion, can be a thought.
RAMSEY: OK, great.
BARTOS: Anything, whatever you want to say about it.
GARCIA: It could be a memory. Maybe you recognize a song, doesn't matter if you know it or not.
GARCIA: It's not a test to see your musical knowledge. Yeah. Stretch, you want to go first or you want me to go first? I have no idea what you're playing, by the way, Stretch.
BARTOS: Yeah, I'll go first.
GARCIA: OK. Cool.
BARTOS: This is me going first.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHITE BOYS")
NELL CARTER: (Singing) White boys are so pretty, skin as smooth as milk. White boys are so pretty, hair like Chinese silk.
BARTOS: She's like, hold on.
RAMSEY: (Laughter) Oh, my gosh. I...
BARTOS: Do you know what this is?
RAMSEY: No, I don't.
BARTOS: Are you horrified?
RAMSEY: I am so horrified.
BARTOS: So that's a song from the musical "Hair."
RAMSEY: Oh, I...
GARCIA: Which was also a film, which was also a film.
BARTOS: That's right. Sorry. That's from the motion picture soundtrack from 1979.
RAMSEY: Oh, that's so funny.
GARCIA: But it was originally a Broadway musical.
RAMSEY: Yeah. No, I know "Hair" the musical, but I didn't - I don't - I have not seen it, so that's really interesting to me. I thought it was ironic because it was like this funk style.
BARTOS: Faux funk. That was not funky (laughter).
RAMSEY: But, I mean, it was like - yeah, it was like a watered-down version of funk but it was singing about white boys.
BARTOS: Elevator funk.
RAMSEY: I don't know. I have the - I have like this impression in my mind that like that's what goes through, like, white guys' heads when they, like, need to hype themselves up for like a meeting or something.
RAMSEY: They're like, I'm going to nail this presentation. And it's like (singing) white boys are so cool - in their mind, like, as they walk through the office. I don't know. I can't - I will check in with my husband and see if that plays in his mind because it's just so over the top and weird. I don't know. It was very...
BARTOS: Well, it is a Broadway musical.
RAMSEY: Right, but like, I had no context. This is my first impression. I feel like a bad theater student for not having watched "Hair," but I'm not a big musical theater person. But I definitely need to watch that.
BARTOS: Well, it's funny because that's a soundtrack that my sister and I knew by heart, the whole thing. And we'd actually...
GARCIA: Stretch, I never knew that about you.
BARTOS: Well you don't know everything about me, Bob, my partner.
GARCIA: I love that soundtrack.
BARTOS: I was saying to someone the other day, I said, someone needs to make a 2017 "Hair."
RAMSEY: Put it out there in the universe. Maybe someone will do it. Maybe it'll be you.
RAMSEY: Do it. Follow your dreams.
BARTOS: Bob, is that our next project?
GARCIA: I think so. All right. So we're going to play you another song, Franchesca. And thank you for being so wonderful and listening with us. Enjoy this. At any point, you can talk over it or you can listen to it and just let us know.
BARTOS: You can make a face of horror.
GARCIA: Yeah, you can let us know.
RAMSEY: I was so confused during that last one.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "1960 WHAT?")
GREGORY PORTER: (Singing) Ain't no need for streetlights 'cause it's burning real bright. Some folks say we're going to fight 'cause this here thing just ain't right. 1960, what? 1960, who? 1960, what? 1960, who?
RAMSEY: OK. Now you have to tell me who that is because now I need to listen to that.
GARCIA: Yes. It's - the artist is Gregory Porter. The title of the song is "1960 What?" - he's a phenomenal jazz singer. And it is chilling to listen to the entire song...
GARCIA: ...And hear the lyrics and just the - I mean, in light of Black Lives Matter, in particular, and the incidents that have sparked that movement and then to hear this song, it's just - I don't know.
RAMSEY: It's interesting because even in retrospect before I heard the lyrics, like, it is unfortunately, like, a soundtrack to just, like, daily life and what's going on in the world around us, you know. So the actual music and like the instrumentation was really powerful. So, I mean, it was - again, hearing those lyrics, they definitely matched the tone that was set by the instruments. So that was really, really cool. I can't wait to listen to that.
BARTOS: Bob, you put me up on that record and thank you. I love that. The remix is type hot.
GARCIA: Yeah (laughter).
RAMSEY: You dropped all types of gems of things that I need to watch and listen to. And I am ready to do some homework.
GARCIA: Oh, cool. Well, you can check out our podcast on npr.com/whatsgood.
BARTOS: Amazing. Well, Bob, you got anything else?
GARCIA: No, I think that's it.
BARTOS: That's Franchesca Ramsey - comedian, actress and online personality. Franchesca, thanks so much.
RAMSEY: Thank you so much for having me. It was really fun.
GARCIA: (Speaking Spanish). That means thanks for coming.
RAMSEY: I was like, what did you say about my mother?
RAMSEY: Thank you. Thank you. I was getting a little - didn't know if I was going to be happy about that. Thank you for translating.
GARCIA: All right.
(SOUNDBITE OF BETTY FORD BOYS' "THE SYMPHONY (JEEP VOLUME)")
BARTOS: That's it for us. This podcast was produced by Sami Yenigun, Jessica Diaz-Hurtado and Micaela Rodriguez. Our editors are Steve Nelson and N'Jeri Eaton. And our executive producer is Abby O'Neal.
GARCIA: Bong, bong. Special thanks to our VP of programming, Anya Grundmann.
BARTOS: If you like the show, you should listen to our interviews with Regina King and Run the Jewels. Listen on Apple Podcasts, NPR One or wherever you get your podcasts.
GARCIA: Boom. See you.
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