by Danielle Grace
When Girl Davis and April Jackson started their individual journeys of teaching English in South Korea, they never expected to eventually start a podcast together. But that’s exactly what they did. Since leaving Korea, their friendship continues as they work together to run Jinjja Cha Podcast from their respective home bases of London and Chicago. Precisely how have they been able to keep their international podcast going? And what does it mean to be Black women who tackle “Korean pop culture and everything else in-between”? The co-hosts of Jinjja Cha told us all about it!
1. How did you two meet? When and why did you decide to start a podcast together?
Girl Davis: Before we were friends, I was a fan of April’s Pink Fashion Ninja channel (now April Jay) on YouTube. At the time, April was teaching in South Korea, a place I wanted to go to as well since I was also pursuing a career in teaching. I immediately fell in love with her content as she always had a great sense of humour and a genuine interest in Korean culture. So through her videos, I was able to learn a lot about what it was like to live overseas as a Black woman. We have very similar tastes in fashion, music, and especially food!
After a few years of watching April in Korea and following her various social media pages, I found her on Facebook and made a friend request—luckily she added me! It’s from there that everything really kicked off in terms of us getting to know each other over time, and recognising that we had similar values and a strong desire to get our opinions out into the world. In 2015, April asked me to write an opinion piece on her blog about a Korean reality show called ‘Unpretty Rapstar’, which was like a hip-hop version of American Idol. I had so much fun writing and discussing it with April that I suggested that we start a podcast to put our phone conversations out there for the world to hear. And then the show was born.
April Jay: People are surprised when they hear we’ve actually only met twice in person! Unfortunately, Girl Davis was leaving Korea around the same time that I was returning to Korea for school after working there as an English teacher previously, so we only had a short amount of time to see each other. But thank God for social media because it literally feels like we see each other every day.
2. What does “Jinjja Cha” mean, and how would you describe the show to someone who’s never heard of it? What do you think is most unique about the show, and about you two as hosts?
GD: Jinjja Cha is a Konglish word that April and I came up with by putting two Korean words together to make a cute word that translates to “Real Tea”. In Korean, Jinjja means “Really?” or “real” and Cha means “tea”. We use “tea” in this context as a term that originates from Black American LGBTQ ballroom culture. The tea is the truth, but also is used ironically like, “What’s the tea?” as in what’s the latest gossip or what’s the story behind something. I’m very influenced by Black ballroom culture, so phrases from that scene can be heard throughout the show.
The show is about “Korean pop culture and everything else in-between”, and it’s the “in-between” stuff that makes us unique. April and I have a lot to say and we express ourselves in very different ways due to the fact that I am Jamaican-British and she is African-American. Our common ground is Korean pop culture so that keeps us centered and focused, but we talk about anything we want. We do music, film, and book reviews alongside ridiculous games where we lovingly drag our favourite artists, but we also try to make a point of discussing social issues that affect the world at large. We can do everything!
3. What inspires you to create new content for Jinjja Cha?
AJ: Definitely what’s going on in the news. Sometimes we even discuss an article that resonated with us and use that as our main topic. We also go to many events so we’re always doing reviews of concerts or movies. We usually get to see our top favorite artists pretty frequently (Miyavi for me, Schoolboy Q for Girl Davis), which means we always have some tea to share! But our listener question segment called “Why You Gotta Be Anonymous?” really is a huge part of the show as well. So in a sense, our content is listener-driven.
You want something discussed? We’re here to share our opinions on it. A lot of times we get listeners who love K-pop music but feel conflicted about the anti-Black rhetoric that some fandoms can spew. So we share our own journeys as Black fans of K-pop, and how we’ve been able to still enjoy the culture and music while battling the hate.
GD: We’re definitely news-driven, as the structure of the show usually starts with us asking each other “What you sippin’ on?”. That question usually means: what’s going on and what are you literally drinking? After the news, I’d agree that we are driven by the listener feedback and letters we read on our “Anonymous” segment. We’ve had many episodes where the letter that was sent in was so good that we decided to dedicate the whole episode to it. Other influences would be our daily lives, as we’re both genuinely into Korean culture, so it’s not uncommon for us to be at a Korean event like a concert, restaurant, or some other cultural event. We are both intentional about consistently engaging with Korean culture because of how much we learned when we both lived there. It would be a shame to throw all those years of learning down the drain.
4. How do you manage a recording and release schedule with a transatlantic show such as yours? Does the difference in time zones make things more difficult?
AJ: Keeping the podcast going in a professional way is very challenging because we are literally on two different continents. We have to worry about internet connections, different time zones, noises in our houses, just a myriad of variables. But we make it work. The variables I can control—like me smacking my lips or saying “umm”—I make a conscious effort to change.
GD: We record using Skype, so I’d say that syncing up our time zones is the most difficult part of doing the podcast. Chicago is six hours behind London and April and I both have commitments that sometimes restrict our availability. Despite this year being a little inconsistent due to circumstances beyond our control, we do make the effort to link up and deliver engaging, quality content. Life just has its way of getting in the way sometimes.
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5. Jinjja Cha episodes tend to be longer in duration (more for your listeners to enjoy, of course). What is your editing process like for creating 2-3 hour episodes?
GD: I first realised that people would actually want to listen to a 3-hour podcast when I became a fan of The Black Guy Who Tips Podcast. It’s hosted by a married couple from Charlotte, North Carolina, and they discuss absolutely everything. I used to listen to their shows when I worked in a hardware store lifting boxes, and the time would pass incredibly quickly as they discussed the news, race, politics, music, film, nerd stuff, etc. They would go on tangents that were even more hilarious than the main topics, and that reminded me of the way I speak, so they were a huge inspiration in regards to giving me the confidence to put out 3+ hour episodes.
The editing process is literally me taking both stems of the conversation, putting them together and then editing the show—there’s a hell of a lot more that goes into it but that’s the gist of it. The longest part is listening through the show to edit it. The hardest part is when technology fails me, which is way more common these days as parts of South London are oversubscribed with certain internet providers, so sometimes that means no internet! No internet means no Jinjja Cha!
6. The scope of your show is incredibly international. Where is the majority of your audience based? How have you been able to grow your listenership over time?
GD: Checking our listener locations through SoundCloud has helped give us a clear view of who is listening. It’s mostly people in North America and the United Kingdom, and I believe that’s due to the fact that it’s an English-language podcast. However, we do have listeners from the West Indies, Latin America, South Africa, Ghana, Korea, the Philippines, and Japan. To be honest, I’m sure I’m missing a few countries, but these are the ones I always see come up on the list. Growing our listenership hasn’t been easy, but we try to collaborate with other shows and get the word out there. OmonaTheyDidn’t kindly let us post our episodes on their website in the early days, and we also have a very loyal group of listeners that always repost and share our stuff which we really appreciate.
7. You’ve collaborated with international brands for giveaways and sponsored posts. Can you share any tips for working with brands?
GD: April would definitely be the expert on this one as she’s been the one to get all the sponsorships for us.
AJ: I would say the number one tip would be to produce consistent content. Brands want active creators they can collaborate with; your consistency shows reliability and dedication to your craft. It also lets brands know you’re actively growing your follower/listener base. Thankfully, since we have such diverse backgrounds (Girl Davis being from the UK, me being from the States, and our content being centered on Korean culture) we’re able to work with various brands like Korean online webtoon company Spottoon or the European travel backpack brand Gaston Luga. So I would say, definitely be consistent and have an overall theme for your content so you can know the brands that’ll best fit with your work.
8. The friendship between you two comes through so clearly in every episode. How has your friendship evolved as a result of doing this show together?
AJ: Girl Davis is a little older than I am, so she’s like my Unnie (Korean title for an older sister)! We talk to each other for hours after we record. That definitely shows that we’re more than just co-hosts. We have our own safe space, and it’s pretty amazing. From sending long voice notes on WhatsApp or being on Skype as she walked me through my first Mac computer, we connect every day even though we’re so far from each other.
We’ve comforted and uplifted each other during the worst of times, and our virtual hugs are as good as the real ones. I honestly feel like God said we needed to live far from each other because if we lived in the same place we would SHUT EVERYTHING DOWN! We’d rule the city! I never had an older sibling so it’s so cool for me to have a friend I can ask about anything. She is my sister.
GD: Our friendship started off in a good place as it started with a sense of mutual admiration. Once I was finally able to meet April and spend time with her as a person, I just felt that there was something so special about her that I had to continue being her friend. To be honest, even if we didn’t do this podcast we’d still be friends on the Internet talking to each other for hours on end about life.
I am older than April so there’s this strange thing where I do admire her but also I feel like a proud older sister! Our friendship has evolved over time to become more like family members who live overseas. I love watching the both of us grow together and we’ve been each other’s rock in times of need. If the audience knew how much April has been there for me over the last 5 years… trust me, it’s a lot.
9. What has been the most impactful part of this podcasting journey? What lessons have you learned?
GD: I’ve learned about the power of rhetoric, as in the true power that words have. There are some things that I’ve said in the past or words that I’ve phrased badly that I’d love to go back and correct. I also learned that the podcast must be entertainment first. Despite how much I want to be angry or upset and rant until kingdom come—I gotta make it funny. Make it entertaining. Make the people laugh, dammit! But most importantly, I realised that as soon as I upload our show, it now belongs to the world. That’s something I really had to make peace with. Not everyone will like what we say and that’s absolutely fine. But we’re going to say it because our podcast is about delivering the real tea. It’s all in the name.
AJ: I definitely agree with Girl Davis about wishing we could take back some things we’ve said. I know I could never get into politics because I know they could make an entire political ad about a statement I made. “Candidate April Jackson once said she’d steal a married celebrity from his wife. Is a husband-stealer who you want running your city?” I swear it was just a fangirl joke! But in all seriousness, we do have to take accountability for the things we say.
10. What do you want for Jinjja Cha going forward? Do you have a specific vision or goals for the future of the show?
GD: We use our platform to raise up so many of our inspirations. In the future, I’d love to interview more artists and people who work in the Korean entertainment industry.
AJ: First and foremost, I want us to continue to be happy. This podcast gives us so much joy and really is an escape from the mundane and stressful things our lives can throw at us. Second, I want us to be known as two women who speak our minds. Going with the crowd or doing what’s popular just for likes has never been us. I feel that’s what keeps us grounded. Lastly is definitely growing our listener base so we are able to share The Real Tea (Jinjja Cha) with Korean culture lovers all over the world. We will continue to call out colorism, anti-Blackness, and cultural appropriation in K-pop all while fangirling to SuperM.
11. Where can people listen to Jinjja Cha and stay connected with you two?
AJ and GD: People can find us at Jinjjacha.com. We can be found on SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify, so there’s no excuse not to get into us! We’re also on Twitter and Instagram.
Danielle Grace is the creator and host of “Young, Gifted and Abroad“, a podcast that highlights the study abroad and international learning experiences of people of color. She wants to encourage people to explore the world in their own way. Danielle also writes book reviews on her blog, DeelaSees.com. As a reader, writer, singer-songwriter, and translator, Danielle is a lover of language and stories who is also incessantly curious about people and life.