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Forever35’s Self-Care Revolution

In these really rough times — and things sure do seem to get rougher by the day — it’s important to take care of yourself. However, the concept of “self-care” has become an increasingly complicated one in recent years, as it’s drifted further into the territory of rampant consumerism and corporate branding. Sometimes, what's needed is a really good guide that helps you find the right balance with retail therapy; to engage with it in a way that actually feels good to you. Forever35 happens to be one of those really good guides. Created in 2018 by the writers Doree Shafrir and Kate Spencer, the podcast quickly grew a strong following for its comfy, thoughtful approach to self-care. This week, Nick talks to the Forever35 hosts about starting the show, watching its community grow, and what's bringing them peace right now.

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Servant of Pod Forever35’s Self-Care Revolution Episode 17

Sun, 11/8 2:13PM • 27:22

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

laughter, people, podcast, listeners, kate, care, feel, women, talking, shows, thought, practices, hosts, fun, shampoo, topics, unquote, interview, produce, aoc

SPEAKERS

Doree Shafrir, Nick Quah, Madeleine Albright, Kate Spencer

Doree Shafrir 00:01

Okay, people have been asking for months why we haven't tried Briogeo.

Kate Spencer 00:08

I use their shampoo.

Doree Shafrir 00:10

Okay, we haven't talked about it.

Kate Spencer 00:12

Sorry. I like it, I use it.

Doree Shafrir 00:14

It's fine.

Kate Spencer 00:15

At first blush, Forever35 may seem like any other light-hearted product driven chat cast.

Doree Shafrir 00:20

I haven't used the scalp treatment yet, so I cannot weigh in on that, but I have used the shampoo, the conditioner, and the massager.

Kate Spencer 00:28

Ooh, ooh.

Doree Shafrir 00:28

I really like all of them, and I'm alternating using that stuff with the shampoo and conditioner from their "Blossom and Bloom" line which is supposed to be volumizing, and I also got this volumizing powder.

Nick Quah 00:41

But at its core, the show and its hosts are going way beyond their passion for haircare. It's retail therapy of the highest order, with the emphasis on therapy. From LAist Studios, This is Servant of Pod. I'm Nick Quah. This week: Forever35's self-care revolution. Back in 2018, writer Kate Spencer was on a book tour promoting her memoir, The Dead Moms Club. She was stressed, and overwhelmed, and looking for an outlet.

Kate Spencer 01:27

Ultimately, it just stemmed out of an idea of something that would be fun to do that I pitched to Doree. Because Doree and I are good friends, and I enjoy all my interactions with her, and I thought it was just... it was kind of a fluke, I just texted her and said, "Do you want to start a podcast about skincare but also, like, about more than skincare?" And it really went from there. And I guess my podcast listening at the time was either like, political podcasts or true crime. And while I enjoy both those genres, a podcast--or comedy, you know, the comedy world, which I kind of come from--I didn't feel like there was a space talking about the things that I was texting my friends about.

Nick Quah 02:09

One of those friends was fellow writer Doree Shafrir. She was working on her own podcast, Matt and Doree's Excellent Adventure, where she and her husband talked about their struggles with infertility. But Kate's idea about the skincare podcast stuck with Doree. So she said yes.

Doree Shafrir 02:27

I don't think Kate--and Kate has said this, so I'm not projecting--I don't think Kate actually expected me to take her up on it. [Laughter] Or at least not kind of mobilize.

Kate Spencer 02:40

Well, that's what I think makes us a good team, Doree, is that I like to just spout off ideas, and you actually can take all ideas that you have, or that I have, or we both have and, and see them into action.

Doree Shafrir 02:52

Aw, thank you, that's so kind.

Kate Spencer 02:53

It's true, though. Like, if I had said this to someone else, and they had been like, "Yeah," I would have never gotten it off the ground. But I feel like you really have the drive, and the wherewithal, and the knowledge to get it going. That's...

Doree Shafrir 03:07

Well, I think when I see a good idea, I'll run with it. It's not just any idea that I'm gonna run with Kate, it's got to be a good one. You had a good one.

Nick Quah 03:17

That good idea became Forever35. In 2018, Kate and Doree released their first episode.

Kate Spencer 03:24

These are the things that are good distractions from the other challenges in life.

Doree Shafrir 03:30

Yes.

Kate Spencer 03:30

This is how I...

Doree Shafrir 03:31

What would you describe as the other challenges in life?

Kate Spencer 03:34

I mean, just our current political and social climate, Doree.

Doree Shafrir 03:36

Sure, yeah.

Kate Spencer 03:37

And, you know, work.

Doree Shafrir 03:40

Yeah.

Kate Spencer 03:40

Career.

Doree Shafrir 03:41

Yeah.

Kate Spencer 03:41

Like, work and career are the same thing.

Doree Shafrir 03:43

Yeah. Uh huh.

Kate Spencer 03:43

Sometimes.

Doree Shafrir 03:44

Yeah. sometimes not.

Kate Spencer 03:46

Parenting, for me.

Doree Shafrir 03:47

Yeah. Trying to be a parent, for me.

Kate Spencer 03:49

Yeah. There's a lot of crap going on.

Doree Shafrir 03:51

There's a lot. Also, just like, getting older.

Kate Spencer 03:55

Yes. Getting older...

Doree Shafrir 03:57

I mean, it's a lot. It's all a lot.

Kate Spencer 04:00

It is. This is gonna be therapeutic.

Nick Quah 04:04

Forever35 embraces all aspects of self-care. Even the kinds that might make some people feel guilty.

Kate Spencer 04:13

Our audience is predominantly women-identified people. And as with anything that goes along with something that women enjoy, we're often made to feel badly about it. Or there's an association that it doesn't have value, or it's not worth our time, or we could... "Why are you wasting your time on this thing?" When I actually think there is deep value in self-care practices and what it can provide people on all sorts of levels. So I don't particularly feel guilt when it... I think what we're trying to avoid is feelings of guilt for taking time for ourselves and taking care of ourselves.

Nick Quah 04:52

I gotta say, and I think this may be largely me projecting, but I have an extremely hard time being at peace with the notion of caring for one's self. Part of it is maybe cultural, and part of it feels like the way my brain is wired. Having made the show for a few years now, has talking about self-care made it easier to actually do it?

Doree Shafrir 05:15

You know, I think it's helped me expand my definition of self-care. It's not just about buying an expensive serum, or getting a massage. Like, it doesn't have to be something that costs money. Maybe it's meditating for five minutes every day, maybe it's taking a walk, maybe it's calling a friend. Those are all... to me, those all fall under the rubric of self-care, and I think doing the podcast has really helped me understand that.

Nick Quah 05:45

Hmm.

Kate Spencer 05:45

I think too, I think of self-care, on a larger cultural scale, in which self-care is not something we have ever really been granted or allowed to treat as important. We haven't ever really been, I think, permitted culturally to explore these ideas. I think of it now on on that scale, as well, as well as a serum scale. You know, you gotta love a serum, it feels good to put something on your face. But like Doree said, I think there's a lot more to it than just that.

Nick Quah 06:14

Yeah, so like, a little bit of consumerism, but mostly plugging the gaps of capitalism, really.

Kate Spencer 06:19

Yeah, it's tricky, because there is a pleasure to be found in engaging in consumerism. And, you know, that is something that we've kind of run up against, as we've explored this topic.

Nick Quah 06:31

Yeah. So I feel like that's how I tend to get a lot of my sort of personal self-care going, is in making purchases. So a big part of Forever35, as I understand, is that it is sort of talking about certain products and certain experiences that that require purchasing, and things like that. How do you balance that out, routing it through a certain sense of consumerism and something that's beyond it?

Kate Spencer 06:54

I think we try to be really conscious of accessibility, in terms of cost. And that the cost is not something that gets in the way. I think with Amazon, it's tricky, right? Because, on the one hand, Amazon does allow for many people to buy things that they might not be able to buy locally. But on the other hand, you're feeding... you're feeding a beast, for lack of a better word. And, you know, we both consciously, really try to reconsider where we purchase things from, and neither of us are perfect in any means. And it also... also part of it, for example, I love being able to purchase a small-batch skincare product that is cruelty-free, and vegan, and sustainably made, and I know who's making it, and I'm supporting a small woman-owned company, but there's a cost involved in that and an inherent privilege involved in being able to make that kind of purchase. But I think these are all considerations that we think about, and we grapple with, and we are certainly not perfect with any of it. And it's an ongoing learning process in being more thoughtful consumers.

Nick Quah 08:06

Hmm.

Doree Shafrir 08:07

I would also say that our listeners are actually really great about checking us, and letting us know when they feel like our privilege is showing, and we aren't thinking about people who might not be able to afford the small-batch, women-owned, etc., etc., products. And this also comes into play with clothing, thinking about size inclusivity, and balancing that with sustainably and ethically made clothing. That's just not always possible. So these are all things that our listeners have really opened our eyes to, and I think... I mean, I know... I don't wanna speak for you, Kate, but I think we are both grateful to them for that.

Kate Spencer 08:53

Oh my gosh. It's... I feel like we've learned so much from the people we are lucky to have listening to this podcast. It's been amazing. And they've helped shift our practices. Like, you know, we would... we did a lot of linking to Amazon for things in the beginning, especially books, and now we use Bookshop, and just different choices like that, that I feel like our listeners have been really helpful in guiding us.

Nick Quah 09:15

Kate and Doree's relationship with their listeners was practically a back-and-forth from their first episodes. They started a Facebook group just a couple weeks after launching the show. That allowed listeners to interact with topics on the show, but also with the hosts themselves and with fellow listeners. Now the group has more than 20,000 members and around 100 subgroups. It's so big that Kate and Doree had to hire two people to manage it.

Doree Shafrir 09:40

Another aspect of self-care is boundaries, and setting boundaries, and we've been pretty vocal about that on the podcast. And so that is a boundary that we both set, that we are not going to be super active in the Facebook groups. We do pop in every once in a while. If someone tags me in a post, I will usually respond, but I almost never start posts unless it's a kind of announcement that I need to make. And I think, actually, our listeners kind of like that we have set up this mechanism for them to talk amongst themselves. And we're kind of... we're there if they need us, but we're not micromanaging the Facebook group or any of the communities.

Nick Quah 10:24

Okay, so to what extent do the listeners shape what you talk about on the show?

Kate Spencer 10:29

They've certainly raised topics that I don't think I ever envisioned us even talking about, which has been amazing. And it's always really fascinating, what will spark a conversation. You know, I think that's what makes this experience of creating this podcast very two-sided. It's not just Doree and I driving all the conversations, it really... it's actively involving ourselves with what our listeners want to talk about. And that has been really fun, and really satisfying, and that's what, personally, continues to blow my mind about the podcasting experience, is the relationship with the people who listen to your show.

Nick Quah 11:09

Hmm. So, you alluded to this a little bit earlier, that the show kind of took off in a way that you didn't quite expect. At what point did you realize that you had something special here?

Kate Spencer 11:24

I think it was when we almost immediately started hearing from people over email, like, with questions or comments, or wanting to contribute or add to the conversation in some way, and that was really amazing, just people writing in. And about three months into doing the podcast, we decided to add doing this mini-episode once a week where we reply to these emails in a podcast, because we are getting so many, and they were interesting. And then also, there's people seeking advice, which was kind of mind-blowing. And so that was... I mean, obviously, you know, we're able to see our numbers go up, and we're able to see when we are written up on a really cool website, or, you know, featured in some sort of podcasting list, but I think that was when the kind of like... the relationship establishing between the people listening and ourselves was really what sealed it for me, personally.

Nick Quah 12:19

And now, about two years into it, you decided to launch a spinoff show, thereby expanding the Forever35 platform, or brand. Do you see Forever35 as a quote-unquote "brand," or something like that?

Doree Shafrir 12:34

Well, here's some news that we can break on the show, Nick:

Nick Quah 12:40

[Laughter] Please!

Doree Shafrir 12:41

We just reupped our deal with acast for two more years, and, as part of the deal, they are going to help us produce some more shows. So we are actively starting to look into producing more shows. I think we're both just really excited to take what we've learned from doing Forever35, including creating these intensely engaged communities, and doing that for other shows that we believe in.

Kate Spencer 13:14

I agree.

Doree Shafrir 13:15

Great. [Laughter] Phew! Thank God

Kate Spencer 13:17

In agreement.

Nick Quah 13:18

What's the vision with this new slate of shows? Like, what do you want this to be?

Doree Shafrir 13:23

You know, I think that we still feel that, despite the success of our show, that the audience for shows targeted to women in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond, that are not true crime, there's still a big audience for those shows. I mean, you look at... we are not going to start producing the next Serial, that's just not our label.

Nick Quah 13:48

So no true crime for either of you. [Laughter]

Doree Shafrir 13:49

No true crime. As much as I enjoy listening to true crime, it's just... it's not the type of show that we want to produce, nor do we feel equipped to produce it. We feel like we've done really well with these conversational shows that really kind of welcome the listener in, we get a lot of feedback that people say we sound like their best friends, we sound like their big sisters, and that's the kind of cozy vibe that we want to create. And so the shows that--and we can't really talk about what we are potentially developing yet, because everything's in the very early stages--but the types of shows that we are discussing are conversational shows, hosted by women-identified people, on topics that we feel are sort of within the Forever35 universe. You know, we're probably not going to launch the female Ben Shapiro.

Kate Spencer 13:56

[Laughter] Oh, God. "Probably?"

Nick Quah 14:15

So, can self-care topple the patriarchy? More in a minute.

Kate Spencer 15:14

What's fascinating is we have listeners that are in their early teens. And we were like, "What are you... you're here?" and they were like, "We're here!" So, you know, the intention is definitely creating content with an older bent because that's where we are in life, but I think it appeals to a broader range of people than just the kind of target demographic that one sets out with.

Nick Quah 15:38

Forever35's core audience is women in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond. But Kate and Doree are here for their younger listeners too.

Doree Shafrir 15:47

But it's kind of in like... the same way that fashion magazines tend to be targeted to women in their 20s, and maybe 30s, women of all ages read them. It's just that the focus is on younger women, and youth is kind of venerated. We're saying, like, "Come along for the ride," like, "If you're 13? Great, we welcome you," but like, these are the things that we're going to be talking about, these are the topics that we're gonna be talking about, and this is our perspective, and kind of take it or leave it.

Nick Quah 16:19

So why do you think there is a lack of media, in podcast creation specifically, for women over the age of 40?

Doree Shafrir 16:27

I think if you look at who's in charge of greenlighting shows, you'll get your answer.

Nick Quah 16:31

Hmm. Well, they seem to be like older men, right? Like the...

Kate Spencer 16:34

Older white men.

Doree Shafrir 16:35

White men.

Nick Quah 16:35

Older white men, yeah, who place bets on younger people. It's just... even that itself is an arrangement that doesn't quite make sense to me.

Doree Shafrir 16:41

Totally. Totally. So, you know, I think that was one of the things that we liked about signing with acast, is they had women in positions of power, to greenlight shows, to set budgets, to make decisions. And a lot of the other networks that we spoke to did not have women in those positions.

Nick Quah 17:04

This might be more of a broader historical note, but I'm curious as to how self-care became so... I'm not so sure this word is used pejoratively, but just in the sense that there's this sort of discourse around it, that it became sort of feminized, that it's very located in this... defined in gender, and I'm curious as to your perspective on why that is. Because it seems like a notion that should be applied universally, in some respects.

Kate Spencer 17:30

I mean, because women are trying to survive in the patriarchy, and so we've got to come up with a bunch of tools to make... [Laughter] to somehow get through. I mean, honestly, you know, I mean, we're... household labor falls on women, emotional labor falls on women, the pay gap is real, and the disparity is more real for Black women than it is for white women, And, you know... So it's like... I don't know, I'm not an anthropologist, or a sociologist, or anything, I'm literally just a writer and a podcaster, but you know. And I think ultimately, it's unfair. It's like, we don't have systems in place that actually take care of these groups of people. And so, in many ways, people have had to figure out things for themselves, in order to exist in our systems of society. That might be a very dark way of looking at it.

Doree Shafrir 18:26

I also think that men do practice self-care. They just don't call it that.

Kate Spencer 18:30

Yes, Doree. Yes, totally.

Doree Shafrir 18:33

They get together to watch football, they play golf, they... You know, there are things that are coded male...

Nick Quah 18:43

Hmm.

Doree Shafrir 18:44

...that, to me, fall under the rubric of self-care, but because--and this is sort of a chicken-and-egg issue--but because self-care has been, quote-unquote, "feminized," they are reluctant to call it that.

Nick Quah 19:00

Hmm. What is a better way to articulate this moving forward, then?

Doree Shafrir 19:05

I think self-care is a good way to articulate it! I think men need to get over this, personally. [Laughter] Like this... that question kind of reminds me of all the discussion around "lean in," right? Like the whole premise of "lean in" is that women should be leaning in so we can better be accommodated by the patriarchy, I guess? But like, why aren't we just changing the whole system? And I think that's fundamentally the question that we are trying to answer is like, let's change this whole system. Like, we don't need another term for self-care, we men to not be afraid of being quote-unquote "girly."

Nick Quah 19:52

Yeah, I guess it's it's also kind of tough to justify a stereotypical definition of self-care when the world feels like it's falling apart.

Kate Spencer 20:00

I think certainly there are times, where things are really challenging in the world, and then you're like, "How are we going to do a podcast where we're talking about, you know, like facewash?" [Laughter] Like, certain topics can feel trivial, but at the end of the day, I really think we think of self-care as this really large umbrella term, and so much of it is mental healthcare, and that is so crucial--right now, especially. So, I think ultimately, in many ways, it's gotten more relevant, and more important, and more necessary. Just different. You know?

Doree Shafrir 20:37

I think it is something that you are actively doing, to bring peace to yourself, and comfort to yourself. Nick, I don't know what is going to bring peace and comfort to you. It's probably not what brings peace and comfort to me. But we can both be mindful of that definition as we go about our lives.

Nick Quah 21:03

So what's bringing you peace right now?

Doree Shafrir 21:06

One that I'm really into right now is The Nap Ministry.

Kate Spencer 21:09

Doree, I knew you were gonna say that! [Laughter] Oh, my God, I love it!

Doree Shafrir 21:13

Well, you just know me so well. [Laughter]

Nick Quah 21:15

I'm afraid I have no idea what that is. [Laughter] Could you explain, please?

Doree Shafrir 21:19

So well, their bio is, "We examine the liberating power of naps. We believe rest is a form of resistance and reparations." And they have really reframed my thinking around rest and, quote-unquote, "productivity," why we do the things we do, and what our priorities are, and normalizing rest, normalizing naps. And I just... I've just really kind of learned a lot from this account, and I feel like it's influenced what I talk about on the show and how I think about my own priorities.

Nick Quah 22:00

Self-care practices as a priority are a hot topic these days, even for people you wouldn't expect.

Kate Spencer 22:08

I mean, we had Madeleine Albright on this year.

Nick Quah 22:09

Yeah, I was gonna bring up that that was probably the most... [Laughter] Yeah.

Doree Shafrir 22:14

That was iconic.

Kate Spencer 22:15

[Laughter] That was surreal. That was surreal. She was so amazing.

Madeleine Albright 22:20

So, at a cocktail party, she looked at me and said, "You're really brave not to have had a facelift." And I thought, "Hmm." I actually didn't know what to say right off the bat. And it was only later that I thought of rhetorical ways of answering it, because I was so taken aback that somebody would say that. I do think that we do put an awful lot of emphasis on how people look, and looking young, when you're way past that.

Kate Spencer 22:53

It was like... It was also just crazy. Like, we... It was during the pandemic, so I was in my closet. Like, I'm just sitting in my closet talking to Madeleine Albright and started... You know, it was... You get very emotional because you you're talking to... I mean, she's just an... Like, a prolific icon, and she was so cool, too. She was so open and generous with her time and her... the conversation that she had.

Nick Quah 23:20

So, who's on your dream guest list? I remember reading somewhere that AOC's on the list?

Kate Spencer 23:26

Oh, yeah, we've like, literally begged on podcast episodes for someone to connect us to AOC. [Laughter]

Doree Shafrir 23:30

I mean, she's always posting about her skincare routine, her lipstick, like...

Kate Spencer 23:36

Like, "Oh, come on!" [Laughter]

Doree Shafrir 23:38

And she talks about self-care in a really brilliant way, and she's so fun. She has a fun sense of humor.

Nick Quah 23:43

And she's advocating for policies that would support self-care.

Doree Shafrir 23:45

Yes!

Kate Spencer 23:46

Exactly, she's the dream. I mean, so... Actually, there are so many politicians--Ayanna Pressley, I would love to talk to; I mean, obviously, Michelle Obama; Kamala Harris, listen. I mean, it would be fun. Who else is a dream?

Doree Shafrir 24:01

Tracee Ellis Ross, we would love to interview.

Kate Spencer 24:05

Oh, you know who we talked about, Doree, like jokingly, but also kind of serious? Jennifer Aniston.

Doree Shafrir 24:10

Oh, yeah! [Laughter]

Kate Spencer 24:11

Like kind of an icon of our youth.

Doree Shafrir 24:12

We would love to interview Jennifer Aniston!

Nick Quah 24:15

So what would be an ideal guest that's not alive right now? Like, historically, if you could interview somebody who has long passed? Who would that person be?

Doree Shafrir 24:25

Oh, interesting.

Kate Spencer 24:28

Oh, my gosh, can I be really dark? Is that fine?

Doree Shafrir 24:30

Yeah.

Nick Quah 24:30

Please.

Kate Spencer 24:30

Okay. I mean, for me, I would love to interview my mom, because my mom died 13 years ago. And this was never something... Like, I want to pick her brain about all the weird routines that I saw her do, and how she felt about all these things, and all I have are bits and pieces of stuff that I've like, thrown together. Like I've talked about her face cream that she was using and things like that, but I would love, now that I am older, to get to really sit down with my mom and learn about her self-care practices. Because I truly don't have much of a context for them, she died when I was 27. So I know she's not famous, but like she did...

Nick Quah 25:07

No, no, that would be such a fascinating continuation of your memoir.

Kate Spencer 25:10

Yeah, I mean, I know. I know. But I just like... That stuff that I actually really would love to get her thoughts on. And maybe she would, generationally, she would have a very different take on things. I don't know.

Doree Shafrir 25:20

I'd love to have Dorothy Parker on. She'd be so keen on me. [Laughter] I mean, all these people in the past, like...

Kate Spencer 25:28

There's so many interesting women who I think practiced self-care, but also really carved their own paths in the world.

Doree Shafrir 25:36

Princess Diana.

Kate Spencer 25:38

Oh, come on! [Laughter] Princess Di! Doree, you know, no disrespect to my mom, but Princess Di over my mom. Then my mom. [Laughter]

Nick Quah 25:49

I feel like this is a spin-off situation, hopefully. [Laughter]

Kate Spencer 25:52

I could do this for days. I love dreaming up guests.

Doree Shafrir 25:55

Interviewing historical characters. [Laughter]

Nick Quah 25:59

Kate and Doree, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.

Doree Shafrir 26:02

Thank you for having us.

Kate Spencer 26:03

This was really fun. Thank you so much.

Nick Quah 26:26

Servant of Pod is written and hosted by me, Nick Quah. You can check out more episodes at laist.com/servantofpod. The show is produced by Andrea Asuaje, Jessica Alpert, and John Perotti at Rococo Punch. Web design by Andy Cheatwood and the digital and marketing teams at Southern California Public Radio. Logo and branding by Leo G. Thanks to the team at LAist Studios, including Kristen Hayford, Taylor Coffman, Kristen Muller, and Leo G. Servant of Pod is a production of LAist Studios.

This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.