No, we’re not talking about guided meditations or celebrity gossip. Rather, shows that delve into meaty (or better yet, tofu-y) topics in an optimistic and empowering way.
If you’re keen to go on a lighter listening journey the next time you pop a podcast on, we’ve pulled together a list of the best shows on our radar, from climate conversations to pop culture history. Enjoy.
Standout episode: Let the Activist Hunger Games Begin
This podcast feels like a Tuesday night at home with your besties discussing the pop culture news of the day. The fun, light-hearted show is MC’d by self-described “media-slashies” Jasmine Wallis and Maggie Zhou. The pair’s shrewd, hilarious and highly relatable take on the world is a great way to catch up on current affairs without having to doomscroll through news headlines.
We love the show for its deep cut pop culture references and thoughtful analysis of important topics like Selena Gomez’s digital hiatus and what it means to be “woman’d” online. With regular references to TikTok, it’s the perfect pod for getting you caught up with what younger generations are up to these days. Make sure you stay on all the way to the end for Jasmine and Maggie’s always on-point pop culture recommendations.
Standout episode: Creating a Sustainable Fashion Week With Cecilie Thorsmark
You know at RIISE we love anything that offers positive dialogue around changes we can make for a better future, so this one sits high up on our list. From fashion and beauty to intimate hedonism (we also had to look that up), WGSN uses expert trend forecasting combined with data science to help us understand our lifestyles. From Y2K denims and the skinny vs baggy jean debate, to unwrapping the future of sustainable packaging, Create Tomorrow unpacks the changing world and how industries need to adapt.
Standout episode: The Misconception of Ambition with Serena Williams
Meghan Markle’s new Archetypes podcast grew to number one spot in its first 24 hours. The recently created series is a new approach to female empowerment, with the first episode featuring one of the best tennis players of all time, Serena Williams. The hour-long podcast is witty and captivating, with both women speaking about embracing ambition and dissecting the many ways society tries to limit females. Next up on the powerhouse guest list is Mariah Carey, but, according to The Cut’s cover story on Meghan, there’s even more star power to come: Constance Wu, Issa Rae, Lisa Ling, Margaret Cho and Ziwe to name a few. This is definitely one to keep an ear out for.
Standout episode: Stella McCartney is Choosing a Fashionable Future
After a week of scrolling through depressing climate news, this podcast will make you feel like it’s the most exciting time to be alive again. Outrage + Optimism describes itself as “a podcast about solving the climate crisis and reshaping the world” and uses optimism to frame those conversations. Friends and co-hosts, former UN chief Christiana Figueres, Tom Rivett-Carnac and Paul Dickinson bring humour, information and inspiration to each episode so you won’t fall asleep on your train ride home.
Standout episode: Tom Cruise on Oprah’s Couch w. Willa Paskin
This pod takes iconic moments from pop culture history and turns them upside down and inside out. It’s incredibly well researched, is genuinely funny and will change the way you think about the world. We recommend diving into the archives where current host Sarah Marshall and her former co-host Michael Hobbes unpack events that changed our culture forever, such as the OJ Simpson trial and the legacy of Princess Diana. There are also deep dives on more recent phenomena like political correctness and cancel culture. And, of course, serious, speculative examinations of all the weird stuff celebrities do.
Standout episode: How to Fail: Jane Goodall
If you’re currently having a really shitty day (month, year, decade), How to Fail with Elizabeth Day is a gentle reminder that everything will be OK – but you have to fail first. Created and hosted by award-winning journalist and author Elizabeth Day, the podcast features a mind-blowing list of guests who talk about their three biggest failures in life and how they overcame them. While the thought of failure might be depressing, the fun and inspiring conversations will end up leaving you feeling like you’ll be able to embrace, rather than anguish over, the shortcomings in your life. We recommend listening to Elizabeth’s recent interview with scientist, conservationist and humanitarian Jane Goodall, who talks about the resilience of hope and her belief in the next generation.
Standout episode: The Storytelling Craze
What’s the deal with mullets? Why does every marketing person now describe themselves as a “storyteller” on LinkedIn? Who invented gender reveal parties and, more importantly, why? This podcast finds the answers that you need. Blending cultural analysis with personal anecdotes and expert interviews, it’s equal parts thought-provoking and human. The comforting listen will get your brain ticking about all the weird and wonderful things that make the world such a cool place to live in.
Standout episode: Feminism: Jameela Jamil – Mysogyny, Media and Mistakes
Florence Given, illustrator and best-selling author of Women Don’t Owe You Pretty, has released her first podcast and it’s just what the doctor ordered. Talking sex, social media, feminism, relationships and body image, each conversation features a list of fascinating guests and is filled with nuanced conversation and a shit ton of laughs.
We were hooked right from the first episode with Erica Storm – a dominatrix running sexual self-empowerment classes – who tells us she once replied to a work colleague with “I’ll have to ask my pussy and get back to you”. The pair together are funny, loud and relentlessly positive – it’s a feel-good listen to start your day.