Born and raised in New York City, podcaster Sammy Jaye got her start in journalism before she even made it to high school. After a family friend convinced her to do an interview at Z100, Jaye did so well that she quickly became iHeartRadio’s youngest-ever solo podcast host. Launched when she was only 17 years old, Let’s Be Real opens up the floor for honest conversations between Jaye and her guests that cut to the chase of mental health, politics, and all things “real.”
Soon after wrapping the fourth season of Let’s Be Real, which featured big-name guests like Meghan Trainor, Joel McHale, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, The Untitled Magazine sat down with Sammy to discuss her whirlwind rise, her favorite moments from the show, why she’s keeping mental health at the front of the conversation. Read the full interview with Sammy Jaye below.
What was life like before Let’s Be Real? Did you have a background in journalism?
My career started when I was writing for my school newspaper in the 7th grade and found out that I loved interviewing people and hearing their stories! Soon after, when I was 13 years old, I got an amazing opportunity with iHeart to interview celebrities from a young teenager’s point of view. My first interview was Jordan Fisher. He was so kind, and it was so much fun. Soon after, I was doing Facebook Lives for them and had all sorts of amazing opportunities. That led to working with Radio Disney, interviewing celebrities on the red carpet, hosting field pieces, and more!
How did growing up in New York City inspire you or help shape your career as a podcaster?
That’s a great question. I think that New Yorkers have a reputation of being direct, and while I wouldn’t consider myself aggressive at all in my interviewing style, I am super curious. I like to understand why people love what they’re doing, what drives them, what they’re passionate about, and more. I find being curious about people and their experiences and how they think can lead to some great conversations.
At 17, you were the youngest person ever to host an iHeartRadio podcast. How did Let’s Be Real happen for you?
When I has a sophomore in high school, my anxiety became really crippling and I started listening to podcasts as a distraction from my anxiety. I found that I couldn’t relate to the content out there. I just wanted to hear real and down-to-earth conversations about life from people that I looked up to in the public eye, so I came up with the idea for Let’s Be Real, which is about having honest and unfiltered conversations with celebrities, activists, athletes, and influencers in hopes that it can be a positive distraction for people to hopefully feel less alone.
Can you share some highlights from the show’s early days? Did being so young at the time come with a learning curve?
It was a huge learning curve! I really had no idea what to expect. The whole process was new – from booking guests, to interviewing them, then editing the episodes, and more – it was a lot, and at times very overwhelming. I mean, I was only 16 when we did the pilot and started recording episodes, but I loved sitting down with people I really admired and having these meaningful conversations. One thing I learned through these conversations is how we as a society put these celebrities and influencers on a pedestal. However, they are just like us in so many ways: They have hopes, dreams, fears, anxieties, etc., so one of the things I really wanted to lean into was humanizing my guests, and that led to some amazing, in-depth conversations.
Why was Let’s Be Real an appropriate title for your first podcast? In your own words, how would you describe the series?
The whole idea behind the show is to have honest and unfiltered conversations with celebrities, activists, athletes and influencers. The goal is to humanize my guests and discuss real-life issues, from mental health to social injustice, activism, and pop culture, as well as talk about their latest projects and creative endeavors.
Just months after the first episode aired, you were included on PopSugar’s 20 Under 20 alongside names like Millie Bobby Brown and Suni Lee. What was that like for you?
I was blown away. It was completely unexpected. I was honored and humbled and really couldn’t comprehend why I was on that list!
You recently wrapped Season 4, which included conversations with Meghan Trainor, Joel McHale, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, among others. What were some of your favorite moments from the season?
This season was a ton of fun for me. Meghan was my first repeat guest. I’ve interviewed her four or five times now at various places, so it was wonderful to catch up. Having Ashe on my podcast was also a highlight because I felt like I was connecting with someone I had known for years! Our season finale with Dulè Hill was incredible and meant so much to me as I’m a huge fan of the show Psych and I started taking tap dancing classes because of him! There were so many great moments, and I learned a lot.
How do you decide who to feature on the show? Do you have any dream guests for future seasons?
I love having conversations with people who want to have authentic and real conversations, not just the soundbites you’ve heard before. Dream guests… I have many! But let’s just say, on my vision board is Lin Manuel Miranda, Oprah and Michelle Obama.
You’re an outspoken political and mental health activist, both on and off of Let’s Be Real. Why is it important to you to encourage your listeners to be a part of those conversations and to be one yourself?
I think it’s essential to speak out about what is important to you. Anxiety is something I deal with, so it’s personal for me. Mental health has become such a huge issue today in society, and specifically for my generation. I want to help normalize the conversation so people don’t feel alone. I want to help make the situation better. As far as politics go, I’ve worked with Rock the Vote a couple of times now, and I think making your voice heard is so important. Whatever your viewpoint is, it’s important to exercise your vote and let your voice be heard.
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now? Any life goals you can share?
I don’t know where I see myself in 10 years from now but I hope I am happy, creating and continuing to make projects that will make a positive impact in society!
Do you have any advice for our readers who want to get into podcasting themselves?
I think the biggest advice I have is to be your biggest advocate. If you can google it, you can teach yourself how to do it. Always be yourself, find your voice, work hard, and follow your dreams!
What else can we look forward to from you in 2023?
Definitely some more projects that I am very excited about, and I hope people like them!
For more from Sammy Jaye, follow her on Instagram