티he trio behind The Receipts podcast never imagined they would reach such heights. But surely no one starts a new venture without some small glimmer of hope? “I mean,” Tolani Shoneye replies, “I personally don’t do anything I think will be a flop.”
Covering pop culture, sex, relationships, friendship and gossip with absolutely no filter, The Receipts is a podcast like no other. Its hosts Shoneye, Audrey Indome and Milena Sanchez have amassed tens of thousands of listeners, won awards, sold out live shows, had their faces plastered on billboards, and are now publishing a book. They are the new voices of British podcasting – and agony-aunting, 너무.
“Often, when you see people become successful from certain things, it’s a certain type of someone,” Shoneye says over Zoom, right after logging off from a therapy session. “It’s not often women that look like us or that talk like us.”
The trio, who first embarked upon the project in 2016, had all worked in completely different industries before The Receipts: Shoneye a journalist, Sanchez a singer, and Indome a personal assistant at an entertainment company. The sudden decision to jump ship came when Tazer Black – one of the frontmen for the British podcast 3 Shots of Tequila – posted a tweet declaring that a podcast like theirs wouldn’t work with women at the helm. The girls took it as a challenge, deciding to join forces and make a groupchat. The Receipts (which takes its name from a slang word for “evidence”) was born.
The show that exists today has a varied format: there are straightforward discussion episodes, where the hosts may chat about new releases, personal ponderings, celebrity gossip, or play a drinking game; guest episodes, featuring names such as Little Simz and Ray BLK; and a segment called Your Receipts, where the hosts advise listeners on their personal dilemmas. Shoneye, Sanchez and Indome – who are of Nigerian, Colombian and Ghanaian descent, respectively – have created something more raucous and representative than anything you’ll hear on Woman’s Hour. While research on podcasting specifically is scant, ethnic minorities make up just 7% of the UK radio workforce (versus 12% of the wider population) – and so, for many women of colour, The Receipts fills that void in the world of audio content.
For its many fans, the podcast is an opportunity to hear from women of colour and what their life experiences are. 하나, they have also been surprised by how universal the show has proven to be. They have listeners in the US, Kazakhstan and Kuwait. In the UK, they are regularly approached by people from LGBTQ+ communities, sex workers, and men who want to “get behind enemy lines”, as Sanchez puts it. Indome chimes in: “One guy asked me: ‘Why’d you keep on giving my girlfriend self-esteem?’”
“I think [the audience that] shocks me most is still middle-aged white women,” Indome says. The trio say they don’t quite understand why such a different demographic might relate to their antics, but that they have done live shows across the UK where there isn’t a Black woman in the room.
The podcast has also become notorious for its revitalisation of the agony aunt format. After episodes where the hosts answer listeners’ painstakingly detailed “dilemmas”, the most outrageous stories often blaze across Twitter for days. In-law stories are among the favourites – with entries ranging from “my mother-in law walked in on us … but it was ‘too late’” to “should I give my girl’s dad a talking to?” Sanchez chimes in – “What about ‘I’m in love with my boyfriend’s dad!’” – calling back to an infamous dilemma where a woman kissed her boyfriend’s father at Christmas dinner. “While the mum was taking the roast out from the kitchen … that was disrespectful.”
It is this unbridled honesty that The Receipts hosts are now known for. If they see the situation as clear cut, the girls are going to tell you the truth, no matter how hard it is to swallow (they’re not afraid to tell listeners to break up with someone, sometimes “immediately”). “Usually we come from a place of tough love,” Indome says. “I don’t think they write in thinking that we’re going to coddle them.”
They are not always singing from the same hymn sheet, Indome adds: “You’re [often] going to get three different variations. So it’s not like when you write into an agony aunt, and you’re just hearing back from aunt Deirdre. You’ve got three aunties … well, big sisters.”
So what are their top tips for other budding agony aunties or sisters? Indome says: “First and foremost I think we do it from the perspective of: ‘What would we do?’” And their own experiences – no matter how exposing – often serve as useful case studies for approaching the stickier dilemmas. For example, in a recent episode, one listener finds herself concerned after discovering that her supposedly straight boyfriend watches gay porn. The hosts’ reply: well, so do we.
Shoneye, Sanchez and Indome all discuss sex openly: from the things men have said to them in bed to the feasibility of certain glorified sexual positions (in one episode, the girls try to demonstrate said position in the studio, with audio descriptions for the benefit of listeners). “You know what you’re getting,” Indome says. “It’s not terrestrial TV; this is not channels one to five. If you don’t want to hear it, you don’t have to be here.”
Sanchez, who is the most candid of the three, says she never worried too much about friends, family or potential partners listening in to the show. “We all talked about sex straight off the bat, but I was a bit more raw and savage with it. And I actually didn’t think about any form of repercussions until after the episode had aired.” At this point, Sanchez says, she would sometimes start to worry about slut-shaming; had she said too much?
“But, eventually, I just got to a point where it was like: these are my truths, and I’m not upset at myself for having these beliefs, or being the way that I am," 그녀는 말한다. “I also know that there are other women out there that are like me, and why should they be shamed for that? So some days I’ll feel shit. And other days I’ll be like: 아니, there’s someone out there that relates to my ass.”
Despite this surface flippancy, in their upcoming book, Keep the Receipts, Sanchez explains in more depth how her openness around sex is related to her own traumatic experiences in earlier life. It makes for heavy reading – best reserved for her own words rather than being paraphrased here – but is also emblematic of some of the differences between the podcast and the book.
Keep the Receipts was a revealing new exercise for each of the hosts. They each undertook chapters on their own. At the time of writing, none of the women have read one another’s chapters, and they say they won’t until the book is released.
Shoneye also took on new, difficult territory in the writing process. “My chapter on family was very personal: it was like the first time I’d spoken about losing my dad. I hadn’t mentioned it on the podcast at all," 그녀는 말한다. The chapter also discusses her family’s experience of migration; Shoneye’s mum worked in London before bringing daughters over to the UK, and Shoneye recounts her first memory of meeting her. 그 동안에, Indome’s formative memories circle around the estate she grew up on, the difficulties she encountered at the predominantly white school she attended, and the more recent breakdown of her engagement – which also happened during her time on The Receipts. Its memoir style also gives fans an even clearer through-line for how its hosts came to be the seasoned advice-givers they are today.
“It’s nice that people who do look like us and sound like us [now know] success in podcasting is not limited to white old men,” says Shoneye. “It’s actually something a bunch of other people can do.”