By WBEZ Chicago

WBEZ's critically-acclaimed bio-podcast series explores how an icon is made.


RuPaul: ‘Empress of Drag’

Since November, dozens of states have introduced legislation that could criminalize drag performances, including Florida, Tennessee and North Carolina. This week on Making, we look at the life of an iconic Black TV creator whose art is at the center of this new political hot button. RuPaul Andre Charles brought drag to America’s main stage and opened doors for queerness. But before his Emmys and Tonys, he was a go-go dancing young person determined to be a star. Host Brandon Pope chats with RuPaul’s close friends, collaborators and mentees, including drag queen Lady Bunny, DJ and songwriter Larry Tee, drag historian Simon Doonan and RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars winner Shea Coulee. This episode was originally published on Nov 17, 2022. This season of Making covers a different, iconic figure every episode. Subscribe and don’t miss an episode.
06/07/2338m 28s

Making Shonda

Shonda Rhimes has been called TV’s greatest. With groundbreaking shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder, she became one of the most powerful showrunners in Hollywood history. But, the battle to Hollywood’s highest echelons wasn’t a joyride for a Black woman from Chicagoland. Hear from mentors, colleagues and cultural commentators on how the queen of television came to be.
01/06/2339m 3s

Making Jordan Peele

Jordan Peele is responsible for modern classics in the horror genre, including the films Us, Nope and the Oscar-winning Get Out. Before all that, he was a self-described nerd. He majored in puppetry in college before dropping out with his friend Rebecca Drysdale to pursue a career in comedy. Hear from Drysdale, Peele’s early collaborator Brendan Hunt and cultural critic Aisha Harris about Jordan Peele’s rise to comedic and horror genius.
18/05/2339m 27s

Unmaking Kanye

Part 2: It all falls down. Ye becomes a mouthpiece for the more sinister parts of American society. In the second episode of our two-part podcast series, hear from friends, journalists, activists, fans (and former fans) on Ye’s second act, from superstar status to cultural pariah. Making tells the story of a different, iconic figure every episode. Subscribe and don’t miss an episode.
04/05/2338m 3s

Making Kanye

Part 1: Touch the sky. Before becoming a cultural lightning rod, Kanye West was a self-confident teenager, handing out mixtapes on the South and West sides of Chicago. In the first episode of our two-part podcast series, we track Kanye’s meteoric rise from uncredited producer to headlining star. Making tells the story of a different, iconic figure every episode. Subscribe and don’t miss an episode.
04/05/2338m 52s

The life-changing moments that make an icon

Robyn Rihanna Fenty was just a 15 year-old student in Barbados when she showed up late for her audition with record producer Evan Rogers. Fortunately, her tardiness didn’t matter. She crushed it. “I just heard something really unique and special in her vocals, even though they were raw,” Rogers said on Making. “It was just one of those moments where I think I have something really special here.” This was just one of many critical moments we’ve dissected in this season of Making – the make-or-break moments that change the course of a life and often the course of history. In this week’s season finale, host Brandon Pope takes a look back at some of the key put-up-or-shut-up moments from this season, from Serena Williams to Frederick Douglass to RuPaul and more.
15/12/2225m 25s

Making Ida B. Wells

When Ida B. Wells was just 21 years old, authorities kicked her off a train for sitting in the all-white “ladies’ car.” She sued. She wrote about the experience in her local church newspaper. “I felt that one had better die fighting against injustice than to die like a dog or a rat in a trap,” she said later. Wells would soon become one of America’s greatest journalism pioneers. After the lynching of her close friend, she investigated the prevalence of lynchings across the American South. She collected data, interviewed sources on the ground and wrote fiery articles that dispelled racist myths. By the end of the campaign, she was one of the most famous Black women in America. While her force can be felt over a century later, in her time Wells faced backlash from the white and Black community alike. She co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People – or NAACP – in 1909, but was temporarily ousted for being too radical. “Doing good journalism actually means that you're not making any friends,” said journalist Caitlin Dickerson, who wrote Wells’ obituary for The New York Times series Overlooked. “It’s a bad sign if there's one group of people who think of you as ‘on their side.’” On the latest episode of Making, host Brandon Pope leads a conversation with Dickerson, Wells’ great-granddaughter Michelle Duster and acclaimed scholar Paula Giddings, author of Ida: A Sword Among Lions, on the life and legacy of this journalism and civil rights hero.
08/12/2232m 42s

Making Jesse Owens

Jesse Owens’ four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin is the stuff of legend. “A man who's a second class citizen at home, son of a sharecropper, grandson of slaves, going over to Hitler's Germany,” explained ESPN reporter Jeremy Schaap on Making. “And he rose to the occasion in a way that embodies true greatness.” But Owens’ journey from Alabama to Ohio to Germany and back again was filled with many highs and lows. His mother used a hot knife to excise a tumor from his chest when he was 5. He tied the world record in the 100 yard dash as a senior in high school. His college years at Ohio State were marked by both racial segregation and unparalleled athletic achievement. And after his return to America following the Berlin Olympics, Owens and other African-American medalists did not receive the same invitation to the White House that their white counterparts did. “It was one of the things that really hurt him,” said Marlene Rankin, Owens’ daughter and the co-founder of the Jesse Owens Foundation. “Not everything got to him, but I think that did.” On this week’s Making, host Brandon Pope leads a conversation on the years that defined Jesse Owens’ life, featuring Rankin, contributor Cecil Harris, Owens’ son-in-law and former business partner Stuart Rankin, and Schaap, author of Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics.
01/12/2235m 5s

Making Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass’ journey out of slavery and into the most powerful rooms in the country is a story of tenacity, luck and self-liberation. Hear the story of his improbable rise with Douglass’ great-great-great-grandson, Ken Morris; Douglass’ Pulitzer-prize-winning biographer, David Blight, and Emmy-award winning actor Jeffrey Wright, who’s lent his voice to Douglass for HBO and Apple Books. "He's a founding father of the American conscious.” Wright says of Douglass on Making. “That’s how I view him.”
24/11/2243m 13s

Making RuPaul

When RuPaul’s mother was pregnant, she went to a psychic who said RuPaul would be famous. That psychic was right. With Emmys, Tonys and 14 studio albums, RuPaul Andre Charles has become the world’s most famous drag queen. But before superstardom, Ru was just a kid in the big city, go-go dancing to make ends meet. “None of us had any money back then. We were all shopping at thrift stores,” said friend and legendary drag queen Lady Bunny. “We were all kind of artsy-fartsy bums.” Joining Lady Bunny are DJ and songwriter Larry Tee, author and drag historian Simon Doonan and RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars winner Shea Couleé in conversation with host Brandon Pope. A dive into the critical years that turned RuPaul into a supernova.
17/11/2243m 36s

Making Maya Angelou

Perhaps best known for her seminal autobiography I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou is one of the most celebrated literary minds in history, whose poetry and prose has touched generations of readers. But before Caged Bird, Angelou danced and sang on and off Broadway, earned the moniker “Miss Calypso” in the 1950s, called dozens of American cities and African nations home, and even became the first Black woman to work as a cable car conductor in San Francisco. On this episode of Making, host Brandon Pope leads a conversation on Maya Angelou’s early days and what made her who she was. Joining him is Rita Coburn, co-director of the Peabody-Award-winning PBS documentary Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise; Randal Jelks, professor of African and African American studies and American studies at the University of Kansas; and a legend in her own right, Dr. Maxine Mimms, the founder of the Tacoma Campus of Evergreen State College and a longtime friend of Angelou.
10/11/2243m 0s

Making Kobe

Hear the story of how a legendary athlete climbed the NBA's mountaintop of greats. It's a story that takes asymmetrical turns before ending tragically and prematurely. On this episode of Making, we look at the whole picture of Kobe Bean Bryant. Join Making host Brandon Pope for a conversation about Bryant’s origin story with his high school basketball coach, Gregg Downer, and Bryant biographer Mike Sielski. Then, Pope leads a conversation on the complex second half of Bryant’s life, with ESPN senior writer David Dennis Jr. and former sports radio host, attorney and author Julie DiCaro.
03/11/2247m 39s

Making Jesse Jackson

Before there was Barack Obama on the ballot, there was Jesse Jackson. Preacher, civil rights soldier and activist, Jackson ran two memorable campaigns for the American presidency. “Our time has come,” Jackson declared during his famous ‘David and Goliath’ speech while he was running for the Democratic nomination in 1984. “Red, yellow, black and white, we’re all precious in God’s sight! Our time has come.” But what ingredients create a civil rights legend? Join biographer Barbara Ann Reynolds, long-time friend and collaborator Frank Watkins and Jackson’s son, Jonathan Jackson, in conversation with host Brandon Pope. They dissect Jackson’s decades-long career – as a mentee of Martin Luther King Jr., as the leader of Rainbow PUSH and as a renowned orator – on the latest episode of Making.
27/10/2241m 20s

Making Rihanna

Robyn Rihanna Fenty was just 16 when she signed a record deal with Jay-Z. She was 19 when her smash hit “Umbrella” took the world by storm. Now at 34, she is not only known as a popstar but also a fashion mogul and billionaire. But how did she get here? On this week’s episode of Making, host Brandon Pope explores Rihanna’s origin story with music journalist Bill Werde, editor Chioma Nnadi and record producer Evan Rogers, who discovered Rihanna in Barbados in 2003. “I warned her it's a roller coaster, you're gonna get kicked in the gut. Are you sure?” Rogers recalls asking the then-15-year old. “And I'll never forget, with no hesitation it was like, ‘It's all I've ever wanted.’” Featuring exclusive archival tape of Rihanna’s early rehearsals, learn how Rihanna became a global icon.
20/10/2241m 55s

Making Serena

Serena Williams is a household name. The recently retired tennis legend has won 23 Grand Slam titles – more than any player in the Open era. But before becoming one of the most dominant athletes of all-time, Serena was a girl from Compton with a dream. In the Season 4 premiere of WBEZ’s Making podcast, host Brandon Pope revisits the years before anyone knew Serena’s name. Hear from the people in the room and on the court during her evolution to tennis prodigy, including her sister Isha Price, former tennis pro Chanda Rubin, and childhood coach Rick Macci.
13/10/2238m 51s

Trailer: WBEZ’s Making podcast is back

From the creators of Making Oprah, Obama and Beyoncé, WBEZ brings you a new season of its hit bio-podcast series, Making. With new host Brandon Pope, each episode tells the origin story of a different iconic Black figure. Through inner circle interviews and exclusive archival tape, this series looks at Serena Williams, Kanye West, Maya Angelou and many more. The years before they skyrocketed to success – the making years.
06/10/221m 45s

Obama BONUS: Redefining Masculinity

Former President Barack Obama recently spoke with Aarti Shahani, host of WBEZ's Art of Power podcast, about masculinity in the post-Donald Trump era. Obama said society has made progress in recognizing the most toxic elements of bad behavior by men. But now he wants to flip the focus. “What are the positive values that we're trying to instill in our boys?” he said. “Showing compassion is not weakness. Listening is as important as talking.” We're bringing you this exclusive interview with the former president as a bonus to the Making Obama podcast series. Hear the former president explain his experience balancing ambition with family obligations and how he wants to expand the definition of what it means to be a man. And if you like what you hear, subscribe to WBEZ's Art of Power podcast for more conversations with people who have changed the world.
14/05/2149m 37s

Beyoncé BONUS: Fearlessly Herself

In the lead up to Beyoncé's solo album debut, Dangerously in Love, a lot was at stake. She was hoping to break out not only as a solo artist, but as a star on multiple levels — music, endorsements and film. Along the way she’d find love, but she’d also have to battle doubt, even within the record label.
06/03/2032m 36s

Beyoncé 3: Destiny Begins

After Girls Tyme dissolves, Beyoncé and the other girls begin building their new group, Destiny’s Child. Finally, things start to click.
27/11/1933m 41s

Beyoncé 2: Star Search

After failing to secure a record deal, Beyoncé and the members of Girls Tyme try another avenue to success: a TV talent competition. The girls are poised and ready for the national spotlight, but tensions in the group are rising behind the scenes.
22/11/1937m 10s

Beyoncé 1: Girls Tyme

Before the Grammys, before the platinum records, before Destiny’s Child, there was just a shy girl growing up in Houston. We follow Beyoncé Knowles from the stages of local talent shows to her first crack at a record deal with the group Girls Tyme.
15/11/1947m 6s

Trailer: Making Beyoncé

From the makers of Making Obama, WBEZ Chicago presents Making Beyoncé, a new three-part bio-podcast series that explores Beyoncé Knowles’ rise from local talent shows to global musical icon. Find episodes of Making Beyoncé right here beginning Friday, Nov. 15, 2019.
01/11/191m 30s

Obama BONUS: The Decision

Just two and a half years after his 2004 Democratic National Convention speech, Barack Obama announced he was running for president. <!--EndFragment-->
10/04/1821m 42s

Obama 6: Yes We Can!

Barack Obama burst onto the national stage during his U.S. Senate run. Hear how ambition and luck propelled him to Washington. <!--EndFragment--><!--StartFragment-->
15/03/1858m 50s

Obama 5: Up Or Out

Former president Barack Obama has only lost one election in his life. It was in 2000, and that defeat set him on the course for his eventual U.S. Senate run. Making Obama is a production of listener-supported WBEZ Chicago. Support WBEZ and the future of podcasts like this at<!--EndFragment-->
08/03/1855m 39s

Obama 4: Wait Your Turn

In 2000, Barack Obama ran for Congress against a Chicago political legend. It became a contest about race and identity.
01/03/1856m 15s

Obama 3: You Don’t Say No To Barack

Former President Barack Obama won his first political seat in 1996. Hear what he had to learn, and the conflicts he faced, to get there.
22/02/1856m 46s

Obama 2: Chicago Politics Ain’t Beanbag

When Barack Obama first came to Chicago, a political transformation was happening in the city. Hear how that change inspired him. <!--EndFragment-->
15/02/1842m 26s

Obama 1: The Man In The Background

Before he was the 44th President, Barack Obama worked as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago. Hear how the city shaped his political ambitions.
08/02/1845m 36s

Obama: Preview of Making Obama

Former President Barack Obama — along with friends, mentors, and rivals — tells the story of his climb from Chicago to the national stage. Subscribe now and don’t miss the first episode on February 8.
19/01/183m 48s

Oprah BONUS: Making Donahue

In our final bonus installment, the Making Oprah production team revisits an extended interview with daytime talk show legend Phil Donahue. His pioneering show, Donahue, aired from 1967 to 1996 and laid the groundwork for Oprah’s program. It tackled heady, controversial issues - and landed frothy exclusives with A-list celebrities. Donahue also used his studio audience and callers in ways that were both innovative and intimate. Join host Jenn White, producer Colin McNulty, and executive producer Joel Meyer as they listen back to one of their favorite non-Oprah interview from the dozens of interviews conducted for Making Oprah. 
30/12/1640m 0s

Oprah BONUS: Oprah Gets Political

For more than 10 years after the launch of the Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah deliberately avoided having politicians on her show, particularly during election seasons. In this bonus episode of Making Oprah, host Jenn White talks to Oprah about the role politics played - and didn’t play - in the history of the Oprah Winfrey show.
23/12/1621m 38s

Oprah BONUS: Let's Talk About Oprah's Hair

If you look at any image from the Oprah Winfrey Show, you can pretty much figure out what decade it’s from by looking at Oprah’s hairstyle. In this short bonus episode, host Jenn White talks to Oprah’s longtime stylist Andre Walker about the high stakes of doing the hair of the most watched woman on television.
16/12/1613m 41s

Oprah 3: YOU GET A CAR!

In the show’s final decade, Oprah and her team staged massive spectacles of increasing grandiosity, from the infamous car giveaway to a 21,000-person flash mob that shut down part of Chicago. “It had become increasingly more difficult to top what you’d done the year before,” Oprah told WBEZ’s Jenn White. “I mean, to the point where we literally sat in a room saying ‘What about outer space?’ ” That’s what we look at now: Oprah living her life at the top, pushing the boundaries of what could be done with the world’s most powerful talk show, and why it all had to end after 25 years.<!--EndFragment-->
22/11/161h 2m

Oprah 2: Skinheads And Scented Candles

In the second episode of Making Oprah, we explore how The Oprah Winfrey Show elevated itself out of the heap of trash TV and into a show that intentionally embraced spirituality and positivity. The early years of Oprah’s show often relied on sensational, tabloidy topics – cheating husbands, sexy clothes, and murderers. It was not yet the ‘Live Your Best Life’ Oprah we would come to know and love.  “It was during those shows where I just thought, ‘What are we doing?’ ” Oprah tells WBEZ’s Jenn White. “This is a platform that is speaking to people, and what are we saying?”  As the Oprah Winfrey Show reached maturity -- or at least, its college years -- the program conducted the on-air experiments that would allow this talk show to become something more than a talk show

Oprah 1: No Strategy, No Plan, No Formula

It was 30 years ago this fall that Oprah Winfrey first said “hellooooo” to a national audience. By the show’s finale in 2011, it was aired in 145 countries and watched by more than 40 million viewers a week in the U.S. alone. Today’s daytime hosts like Ellen and Dr. Oz? They now average only about a tenth of that. If Oprah mentioned a book title, it became a best-seller. She landed the interviews that no one else could get. Her message of spirituality and empowerment influenced millions. With an hourlong daytime TV show, Oprah built a powerful brand. She made billions. And, as CNN, USA Today, Forbes and Time Magazine all proclaimed, she became the most powerful woman in America. In the first of a three-part podcast series, Oprah and former producers talk with WBEZ's Jenn White about the early, scrappy days of the program. Phil Donahue reflects on Oprah's entry into the daytime talk landscape that he once dominated. Plus, the podcast revisits milestones from the 1980s, like the show's national debut, and some mixed feelings over the show's highest-rated episode ever.
10/11/1657m 33s

Oprah: Preview of Making Oprah

Making Oprah: The Inside Story of a TV Revolution is a public radio podcast -- about a daytime talk show. This fall marks 30 years since the national debut of The Oprah Winfrey Show. Be the first to hear a sneak peek of WBEZ’s three-part series featuring interviews with Winfrey, her onetime ratings rival Phil Donahue, former producers and staffers, and TV executives.
03/11/164m 42s
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