HUMANS WE HEART: WRITER/COMEDIAN/PODCASTER AKILAH HUGHES
Whether it’s keeping us informed (and laughing!) with her daily news podcast What A Day, sharing insightful, funny stories in her book Obviously or churning out cute puppy content on Instagram, there’s a million reasons to love Akilah Hughes. Reason #1,000,001? She was down to partner with us and the ACLU this International Women’s Day to support the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (!!). Get to know Akilah better below, plus see how you too can support the cause by calling Congress.
Hi Akilah! Mind if we start with a few getting-to-know-you Qs?
COFFEE ORDER: I’m pretty straightforward—I like an oat milk latte with a dash of cinnamon.
GO-TO OUTFIT: Definitely a matching sweatsuit. Nothing classier than someone who actually thought about their sweatpants.
PODCASTS/PLAYLISTS/ALBUMS IN YOUR EARBUDS: I made this playlist called Chill Times Bro that I’m super into. Also, my friend Alise Morales hosts a podcast called The Roast of Your Teenage Self, which is hilarious.
Speaking of podcasts, we love What A Day. Your dog Fauci meeting Dr. Fauci brought us lots of joy, so thank you for that.
Oh yeah, that basically made my life. The dog does not seem to know or care what happened [laughs].
Could you talk a little bit about how you ended up doing What A Day? Was reporting the news in your career plan?
Not directly, no. I always talked about pop culture and topical stuff in my comedy and YouTube videos, so it became this skill set that I was building inadvertently. Then I started working in TV because of those videos, which lead to writing more, and all the while I was doing the blog. But I think the news just became the biggest topic in pop culture, so it was a natural progression.
Do you have any advice for other creative people who are just figuring things out and trying to find their own path?
Jeez, what would I tell them? I think the biggest thing is to figure out what you actually want to say, because having an audience is great, but you don’t want to end up repeating empty phrases just to be #inspirational. I'm constantly scrolling quicker and quicker, like, “No, no. This isn’t authentic. This is clearly a cash grab. You’ve never thought deeply about this subject.” I think the people who are thriving in these new media careers are the ones saying what they truly believe and who have a really strong point of view. So, my advice is, work on yourself before you try to build an audience.
Absolutely. Let’s talk a little about the state of the world—over the past few years, people have become more and more engaged with current events and politics, which is great! Any thoughts on how we can keep that momentum going or everyday ways that people can get involved?
Paying attention to what’s happening locally in your area is the most beneficial thing you can do. We’ve focused a lot on national politics, just because it’s been so intense. But, even with the crisis in Texas, it shows there are organizations working hard to fix what the country should be focused on—things like infrastructure and simply making sure people have what they need. The more you pay attention to your local politics, the more likely you are to stay involved and engaged in the grander scheme.
Yes! That’s a great point. And finally, since this is our Humans We Heart series, is there someone you admire that you’d like to shout out here?
I want to go with Michaela Coel. She’s a groundbreaking genius. Everything she does is gold.
Thanks so much, Akilah. In honor of International Women’s Day and as ongoing partners with the ACLU, we will donate $25,000 to the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. We also want to spread the word about important legislation the ACLU is advocating for: the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. Want to support it too? Call your reps and ask them to back it. Akilah even wrote a script that makes it extra easy—see below.
Here's how to to call:
1) Check out house.gov and senate.gov to find your rep and senators.
2) Dial 202 224 3121
3) Ask to connect to your representative or senator’s office.
Here’s what to say:
Hi, my name is [YOUR NAME].
I’m calling about the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. When pregnant workers are denied job accommodations or forced out of their jobs by employers, it puts their health and livelihoods at risk. Will you commit to supporting the PWFA?