How I Podcast: In conversation with “Growing Up Halal”

September 24, 2021
We’re talking with podcasters from all walks of life about their creative process and why audio is one of the coolest ways to tell a story.

There’s no recipe for starting a podcast, but for the creative team behind “Growing Up Halal,” six is the magic number. While Sulphia, Hanan, Amena, and Aisha rock the mics, Malak and Ashiyana work behind the scenes to handle art direction and social media. One peek at these creators’ busy schedules—from fencing, to bullet journaling, to helping foreign students with their English skills—and you’ll understand why strength in numbers is integral to the show. 

The podcast (which caught our eye in Spotify’s Next Wave Student Podcast competition) is dedicated to making space for young Muslim-American girls who feel unheard, underrepresented, and deprived of a relatable platform. “My Muslim identity has always been a vital part of my life,” says Amena of the podcast’s importance, “and I love getting to delve into that part of myself.” 

We caught up with the entire “GUH” crew about recording in closets, listening to podcasts on the school bus, and finding confidence.

What motivated you to start a podcast?

Sulphia: To be honest, this podcast started off as a fun little passion project at the beginning of quarantine. Then I realized that we could make a real impact on representing our community and giving a voice to young Muslimah like me. As a first generation Indian-American, I’ve wanted to change the narrative for Muslim American youth and creating this podcast became a way to do that.

What’s your show’s format and how did you decide on it?

Hanan and Sulphia: We’ve tried a lot of different styles and we’re still working it out. It started with just me and Sulphia as co-hosts, talking about life in quarantine. Eventually we tried interview-based episodes, chatting with guests about their own stories and experiences. Since Amena and Aisha joined as co-hosts, we’ve moved away from traditional interviews, and instead it’s more of a big discussion. In the new season, we’re planning more full-team episodes where we delve into relatable topics.

What’s your recording setup?

Hanan: It’s quite simple. I remember recording our first episode with absolutely no equipment except for a pair of AirPods and an iPhone 6. Now we record on Zoom using portable microphones, and we use our phones or laptops to upload to Anchor. To block out noise we either go into our basements or a closet in one of our rooms. 


How do you promote your podcast?

Sulphia: We use Instagram posts, stories, reels, IGTVs, and guides. Malak (our talented art manager) and I work together to create posts for our episode covers. But the biggest way we’ve been able to grow our audience is through our “Muslimah Monday'' series, where we feature an inspiring Muslimah and her story. These women vary in ages, careers, and backgrounds, which is exactly the point—Muslimah women are excelling in so many areas of life! It’s allowed us to create a vast network of young Muslimah across the country, and inspire Muslim girls to pursue fields we often don’t see Muslim women in.

What’s one thing you wish you knew about podcasting before you started?

Amena: I wish I knew beforehand that my opinion and experiences really do matter. At first, I was pretty quiet. I’d let the other co-hosts take the wheel during interviews and discussions. But I soon realized that one big purpose of podcasts is to let your personality shine. Nobody is judging me, so why not say what I’m thinking? I wish I understood the value of my words sooner. 


Why did you want to use audio to tell your story? 

Hanan: Growing Up Halal is a story of growing up Desi-American Muslim (or just Muslim) and the nuances that experience comes with. By using audio to tell that story, we felt it brought our audience closer to us. I think working on this podcast has been able to unite our listeners, helping them realize how much they had in common. It even helped bring our team closer, too. 


What’s a podcast that you look to for inspiration?

Sulphia: The first podcast I ever listened to was “Teenager Therapy” my sophomore year of high school. I remember listening to it on the bus and feeling comforted by their relatable conversations, especially because I was the same age as the hosts. These days, I’m inspired by “Get Real w/ Ashley, Peniel, and Junny” and “How Did I Get Here w/ Jae and AleXa”, which are both under Dive Studios. Aside from having some of the wittiest and authentic hosts ever, they have such creative promotional content. To whoever is editing Dive Studios’ YouTube videos and Instagram reels, I am your number one fan!

What’s your favorite Anchor feature?

Sulphia: Definitely platform distribution. Most listeners have a preferred platform, and so being able to distribute our podcast from one place helps us reach more people!

Aisha:
I love how easy it is to edit episodes on the fly! Wherever you are, if there’s an intro you want to add, or a comment you want to remove, the Anchor app makes it super easy to do so.


What’s your favorite thing about your podcast?

Malak: My favorite thing is helping people through experiences. Usually I work on the artistic side of the podcast, but whenever I’m able to join an episode, knowing that even one person is benefiting from my advice is so rewarding. It makes me feel like I’ve achieved what I wanted to through the podcast, which is to help Muslim women feel heard, and to give them what I wish I had when I was younger. 


What’s your best podcasting advice? 

Ashiyana: Podcasting is all about effective communication and forming an emotional connection to the audience. This happens in a few different ways, both behind the scenes and during episodes. When you have guests, it’s important to plan topics ahead of time, as well as the overall narrative you want to present. On the social media management side, it’s important to maintain consistency and find your theme, which allows you to build a brand. For Growing Up Halal, our focus is being the podcast we wish we had when we were younger. Find your focus and the rest will follow.


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The opinions expressed above are those of the interviewees and not Anchor or Spotify.


How do you podcast? Let us know on Twitter and Instagram. If you’re looking for more tips, check out the previous edition of How I Podcast, and if you want to start your own, try making something awesome with Anchor.

Learn more: Inspiration