The fierce females behind the nation’s most audacious podcast talk race, mates and dates
You might not recognise their faces, but we bet you’ve heard their dish-it-out-with-a-side-serving-of-sass show. Haven’t? Well, get yourself a Spotify subscription, stat. A top-of-the-charts success story, The Receipts Podcast – an all-female truth-telling trio, fronted by writer Tolani ‘Tolly’ Shoneye, 30 (far left), singer Milena Sanchez, 28 (centre) and PA Audrey Akande, 33 (right) – is shattering the podcast scene. Going to town on the topics that shape and sculpt our society – think everything from colourism
and cultural appropriation to coupledom and cheating – the show is as unapologetic as it is necessary.
Moonlighting as modern-day agony aunts, slash social commentators, slash your straight-talking besties, these are the kind of women you’d meet in a club toilet, who’d soothe you with their ‘you’re better off without them’ words, before wiping your mascara-stained face and sending you off on your merry dump-him-or-her way. Only via the airwaves. ‘The show is like a girls’ group chat – it’s quite intimate,’ Tolly says when asked to sum up the podcast for those who haven’t tuned in. ‘It’s what you’d actually talk about with your closest friends – no holds barred.’
One of the first of its kind, the show came to life after Tolly took to Twitter and sent a shout-out calling for women, who wouldn’t shy away from discussing things in an honest, unabashed way, to join her in recording a podcast.
‘About 20 girls replied to the tweet saying, “I’m down, I’m down”, so I was, like, let’s meet. There were five of us who went for a drink and we were, like, let’s do this, this can work. We ended up being there until midnight!’ she adds.
‘One girl decided that night to focus on her music – she still supports us – and then Phoebe, who was in the original line-up, left two years ago. We’ve done the typical girl band thing. Destiny’s Child has done it. The Sugababes have done it. All of the best have lost a member or two, but then you have the magic trio that goes on forever,’ she laughs.
‘We came up with so many names when we started. We had an awful one called Can’t Deal and then we had Pre-drinks, but nothing was sticking,’ Tolly explains. ‘There’s an interview with Whitney Houston – R.I.P. – where ABC News’ Diane Sawyer asks her about her alleged drug abuse and Whitney is, like, “Where are the receipts, show me the receipts. Where is the evidence that I’m doing this?” And we thought, well, we’re giving our evidence, we’re giving our side of the story, these shows
are our receipts.’ Indeed, so frank are they that the trio seem like sisters rather than a social media assemblage, their got-each-others’-backs bond palpable as soon as they step into the studio. They twerk between takes, expand on the others’ stories and finish each other’s sentences.
‘We clicked immediately,’ says Audrey, the oldest and self-described ‘Mama Bear’ of the group. ‘It felt natural as soon as we met up. We started sharing our business straight away.’
‘We were talking about the guys we were dating,’ adds Tolly. ‘It was quite funny because at the time, me and Phoebe were seeing the same guy, but we didn’t know. She mentioned this guy and I was, like, oh, he sounds familiar…’ Before we can delve deeper, Milena, the self-confessed ‘sauce’ of the group, quips, ‘Oh damn, what a way to bond!’ and laughter erupts.
With episodes entitled ‘I’m Carrying My Man’s Friend’s Baby’ and ‘My Family Are Racists’, their show is neither fluff nor filler. Instead, the discussions result from lives that have been well and truly lived. But does the tell-all element of the show ever cause earthquakes in their own lives?
‘I’ve lived a really colourful life and I just like passing on my knowledge and my experience,’ says Audrey. ‘We won’t mention friends’ names, but I’ve realised that I go into more depth when I tell stories about people I know don’t listen because they’re not going to hear it,’ she laughs.
‘I’ve found because we’re so honest, the show kills my love life,’ adds Tolly. ‘Guys are, like, “You’re going to talk about me”. I met this guy on holiday recently and he was, like, “I proper like you, but are you going to put me on the podcast?”’
‘Some emails come in and it’s, like, babe, take this to the police. That is above our paygrade. I also think people have just got too honest! There was one recently saying that their mum’s vagina smells!’ says Audrey.
Jokes and questionable-smelling body parts aside, the podcast has become a safe space for the discussion of more serious issues, including the daily micro-aggressions the girls experience. When I ask why the show resonates with so many women, particularly women of colour, Tolly is quick to answer. ‘I think it’s because black and brown women are finally hearing their own voices. You’re hearing what you go through and you think, oh yeah, me too.
‘There’s comfort that comes not just from seeing yourself in the media, but also from hearing someone say, “Yeah, when I’m at work, I go to the toilet and I take my wig off and sit there to get
some respite. And you’re, like, oh my God, I didn’t realise other people did that. It’s like, yeah, these are my black experiences!
‘There are certain topics that women of colour haven’t been given the free will or space to talk about – like sex, for example – so that’s what probably appeals to people. The openness.’
‘These conversations have always been happening, but they’re just not happening in public,’ adds Milena. ‘So, we’re taking what young women talk about with their friends and making it normal. We’re not afraid to talk about cultural appropriation or racial microaggressions because these things are happening daily.’
‘I’m never not conscious that I’m a black woman,’ explains Tolly. ‘It’s a big part of me, so why would I not talk about it? As black and brown people, you don’t talk about these things because you don’t want to make white people feel uncomfortable. But it’s, like, it’s not fine, here’s why I didn’t like that. I have to live this life, and I can’t live it pandering to you.’
‘People are talking about it more now,’ adds Audrey. ‘We get a few DMs where it’s, like, “You’ve taught me so much – there are so many things I just didn’t think about,” from a middle-class white man. When you have diversity or inclusion meetings at work, everybody there tends to be black or brown because they know. But the people who need to hear it are the ones who aren’t in that room,’ she adds.
And it isn’t just big-bullet prejudice that the girls don’t shy away from talking about, they also feel a responsibility to extend their brand of honesty to the issues that young women face, particularly the insecurities social media can perpetuate. ‘I think comparison is the worst part about social media,’ says Audrey. ‘When you’re young, you’re insecure, and sometimes social media magnifies it because you’re seeing these perfectly curated Instagram pages, which might make you feel inferior.
‘I always compare it to when I was growing up and we had Mizz and Sugar magazines, but that was once a week or once a month, so you read it and threw it away. Now you’ve got it on your feed all the time, and it’s hard to escape,’ she adds.
‘When we post stuff and we get comments like “Your life is so perfect,” it’s like, hun, you have no idea!’ adds Milena. ‘It’s not perfect, I go through a lot. But just because I’m not posting it doesn’t mean it’s not happening.’
‘I’m very honest about things. I post a lot with no makeup on, at home, doing random things because that’s my authentic self,’ adds Tolly. ‘But then there’s a line because at the same time, I don’t believe in humbling myself for other people’s comfort.’
Milena agrees that women should take the pressure off themselves. ‘Don’t try and please everybody. Just make sure you’re happy, and if somebody else isn’t, well, if they’re not OK with what you’re doing, that’s on them. As long as you’re not hurting anyone. Well, even if you are…’ she laughs.
Honest, brave and with just the right levels of brash, The Receipts Podcast – in all of its unfiltered, won’t-shy-away-from-tricky-conversations glory – should be on the TLT (to listen to) list of all young people.
Tune in to The Receipts Podcast every Wednesday on Spotify