On July 31st, I got naked in the house of a woman I had met only 5 minutes earlier. This was not some sordid impromptu encounter arranged for me to explore my pansexuality, nor was it a sterile medical affair. No, this was an opportunity for me to lay much more than my body bare; a wholesome, ecstatic cleansing experience for the mind as I stripped off and spoke candidly on some of the most difficult times of my life.
The Naked Podcast is the creation of Jenny Eells and Kat Harbourne of BBC Radio Sheffield, two best friends who first became close when they worked for BBC Radio York 7 years ago. Jen told me that the idea for the podcast came about last year when the two were chatting about how wonderful it would be if they could capture the kind of conversations they as friends had down “down the pub”. First of all, they recorded episodes in secret and wanted to produce the show independently of their jobs for the Beeb due to it's slightly risque subject content, but after conversations with their first few contributors they knew it needed to be something bigger. Their boss in Sheffield loved the idea and fought their corner for it to be broadcast under BBC branding without losing any of their vision for it's structure and content.
When I asked the girls if they had always been in interested in body positivity and broadcasting the stories of women through their journalism, it was Jen who repiled, saying: "I had a very difficult relationship with my own body in my teenage years and early twenties. I used to binge and purge food quite often but didn’t (in my view) have full blown bulimia so never got any help/treatment. If I am brutally honest body positivity wasn’t something I really truthfully grasped until I did this podcast. I was more interested in the naked side of things – whether we speak/act differently when everyone is unclothed. Also, I wanted to question WHY people are so weird about nudity and the taboos that surround it. Since doing the podcast I’ve realised there’s no one answer to this. There are multitudes of reasons all dependent on the person. My understanding of body positivity and my own journey of self-acceptance has only really become apparent through talking the incredible women who’ve been involved. I have always however, been passionate about spreading the stories of strong women though – more so now than ever."
In the future, Jen and Kat hope to take the podcast further afield around the UK, to give them the opportunity to record with the scores of women from outside Sheffield and Yorkshire who have expressed an interest in appearing as guests.
For now, Jen says that the podcast has definitely strengthened their friendship, calling the podcast their "labour of love". Her final answer to my question was: "When we take a step back from what we’ve achieved – I still think there’s an element of disbelief in how well it has been received. I think part of its success is down to Kat’s and my relationship which is at the core of the podcast. It’s our ability to share, be honest and bounce off each other that makes it what it is. Without our friendship as the foundation – there would be no Naked Podcast."
Upon first discovering and listening to the podcast, I was bowled over by how at home, candid, and comfortable all three women on it - Jen, Kat, and their guest - always sounded, and knew straight away that it was something I wanted to get involved with some way or another. I sent a tweet to @TheNakedPodcast thinking it was a long-shot that I would even get a reply, but to my astonishment Jen replied at lightning speed saying that they would love to have me on the show, and that we should organise a date within the next three weeks. I was over the moon that they deemed me important and inspirational for the broadcast, and my imposter-sydrome anxiety set in straight away. Over the next few weeks, as I swapped texts and emails back and forth, it sank in that this was real as was going to happen, and my excitement only continued to grow.
Leading up to recording, the two questions I was asked the most by friends who I told I was doing this, where "why?" and "aren't you nervous?"
My answer to this first question was exactly the same as my answer to why I run my blog etc - I want to share my story. For me, sharing the story of what I have been through not only helps me come to terms with it, but also offers me a unique way of being able to help others through their own experiences too.
As for the nerves, up until it was time for me to leave to meet Jen and accompany her to Kat's place, I was always 100% not-at-all-phased. I'm often the most positive about my body when I'm naked, and I knew that I would be in a completely safe and non-judgmental space. However, as I hopped in the Uber, I found myself worrying much more again about whether I would be interesting enough, open enough, or funny enough.
Thankfully, all of these fears completely melted away when Jen literally bounced towards me on a Sheffield street corner, lifting her arms to the sky and exclaiming "Gabby!" in perhaps the most enthusiastic and welcoming greeting I've ever had. I was instantly put at ease as we walked together, chatting and laughing as if we'd known each other much longer than a minute.
Upon arriving at her house, Kat gave me a welcome just as lovely as Jen's, and it wasn't long before we were sat in her cosy living room surrounded by relaxing candles, mics on, making radio magic.
Click here to listen to that radio magic on the BBC website, or search for and download the podcast from your favourite podcast app (apple podcasts, spotify etc).
Listening back to the podcast, I am incredibly proud of the result, but what I am most proud of is the feeling of absolute peace with my body that I achieved at home that night. I lay naked on my bed truly appreciating the magic of my own body for the first time, feeling nothing but love for my form. I felt able to finally practice the self-love that I preach, and saw my body for the miracle it really is.
Speaking openly about anorexia, sexual violence, sex positivity and womens issues is something I will never let go, and this will definitely go down as one of my top ten experiences of the year, probably a close second to being elected Sheffield Hallam University's women's rep.
In the coming months, I will be organising and taking part in many more of these exciting things, some which I already know of, and some which I'm sure will pop up along the way.
The biggest bit of feedback that I've had from friends who've listened to the podcast is how far I've come in the last few years with my confidence - and now I'm here to say that this is still just the beginning.
The podcast is 50 minutes long and contains material that some listeners may find triggering, but there's also a lot to giggle along to and be uplifted by too. If you give it a go, please let me know what you think via message or tweet me @gabriellekeziah.