Podcaster who tackles taboo topics appears on top UK show
From her base in London, England, Jessica Burns started a podcast about things that weren’t usually publicly discussed.
Child sex abuse, suicide, being a single mother – nothing was taboo.
Her hope was that I Can Relate. With Jessica Burns, would allow people living those experiences to feel “less alone”, and help others empathise with them.
“I think it’s been about a year and a bit now since I started the podcast,” she said.
“I was at a stage in my life where my mental health was quite low. I knew the key to feeling fulfilled laid in service to others and I had time during lockdown to get clear on what I’m good at and what I enjoy. This included having hard conversations and helping people.”
Adding to that, a friend had recently taken his life and the people he left behind were having a difficult time discussing how they felt.
“I realised I was in a unique position where I felt comfortable talking about it and I wanted to create a space for those people who couldn't have those tough conversations to talk about their feelings. So if [there is something] you can't speak about, you can turn on the podcast and relate to someone in that way without having to be open yourself.”
Interested in spreading the word she was thrilled when she and her friends were selected in a raffle for tickets to The Graham Norton Show, the eponymous UK talk show hosted by the award-winning comedian.
To her delight, she was also invited to submit a story for the infamous Big Red Chair, a segment where audience members share cringeworthy secrets. If Norton doesn’t think the story is interesting enough, he pulls a switch that flips the chair back, ending the conversation.
Ms Burns was “glad” she was flipped before having to share her embarrassing anecdote in front of celebrity guests Andrew Garfield, Dawn French, Channing Tatum, Johannes Radebe, Rob Beckett and Natalie Imbruglia.
“For me, the whole point was I got to promote my podcast,” she said.
Apart from that, the experience was “exciting”.
“It was just a really cool experience to be in the audience of these people who you've seen on TV, acting quite normal. It was just so much fun but also very surreal.”
Ms Burns admitted feeling a bit panicked when it came time for her to get in the Big Red Chair.
“But when I got up there it felt so normal when I was on camera, which I guess isn't that big of a surprise. My ultimate dream would be to turn this podcast into a talk show so it was really exhilarating and really fun.
“It's been quite funny because The Graham Norton Show is the number one talk show in the UK. So many people who know me or who have met me have been messaging me: ‘I was sitting there with my frozen dinner watching TV and was like: Oh my god, it's Jess!’”
Her short plug of I Can Relate. With Jessica Burns was heard by the millions of fans of The Graham Norton Show, which airs every Friday on BBC One.
“The episodes are a catalogue of experiences people have gone through that people can hopefully relate to,” said Ms Burns, who launched it having recently started a job with Social Super Market, an ethical version of Amazon with only social enterprises products on the website.
“These are normally topics that like are not spoken about. So we've got having a miscarriage on there; being a Black woman in a White male industry – it's really quite wide. The idea is if you're never going to go through those experiences, you can understand what it's like to walk in those shoes, to give the right support to the people who are going through that.”
A single parent shared about her experience and the impact it had on her “financially, mentally, emotionally and logistically”.
“And at the end she gave tips on how people could help support single moms. And that's the structure of every episode – how people can actually act on what they hopefully learnt from it.”
The stories come from people in the UK but, being Bermudian herself, “loads of people from Bermuda” have also been featured.
“The way I found them initially was through conversations that I've had and then Season 2 was people who had applied to be on the podcast. Season 3 has been my podcast assistant. I give her a list of topics and she goes out there and she finds speakers for them,” said Ms Burns, who emphasised she is not trained or educated as a counsellor.
“I think the entire intention is to help improve mental health through talking about the tough experiences we've gone through. I just really want to get that across, that people aren't alone in their tough experiences. And even if you can't talk about it, you can tune in and hear someone else speak about it that you can relate to.”
Jessica Burns’s podcast is on Apple and YouTube. Follow her on Instagram
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