One of podcasting’s youngest hosts is gaining notice for sounding older than her years.
At 17, Sammy Jaye is the youngest person at audio entertainment giant iHeartMedia to have a podcast , where she has interviewed Kesha, Meghan Trainor and Julia Michaels, among others, hoping to get behind their celebrity and ask them how they deal with some of the unique issues facing Gen Z listeners. Her “Let’s Be Real with Sammy Jaye” debuted last month on more than 100 IHeartRadio stations.
“I listened to podcasts as a form of distraction, and I always wanted to hear someone talking about real things, from people I enjoyed, to make me feel less anxious and humanize people you see being written about on social media,’ says the new host. “There’s nothing out there” like that.
She isn’t just any teen who might like to start her own show. She has, through some family connections, been able to work steadily in recent years as a teen host for Radio Disney and struck up some relationships with executives at IHeart. Sammy Jaye and her guests talk about pop culture and music but also more serious issues of particular interest to younger people.
“There is an explosion of interest in the podcasting medium, but an actual pretty notable lack of podcasts by Gen Z-ers for Gen Z-ers. We have been really interested in trying to help fill that gap,” says Conal Byrne, president of iHeartMedia’s podcasting division. “There are obvious challenges to being a Gen Z-er today in the United States that I don’ think an older person can really speak to directly and authentically.”
Alissa Pollack met Sammy Jaye through her father, who works as chief content officer for WPP’s Mindshare, one of the nation’s largest media buying firms., Pollack, executive vice president of global marketing and strategy, came upon her when she was only 13, and found out she had a level of maturity beyond her years, even when discussing an article she had written for her school paper. “She has this disarming charm about her that I think, because of her age, allows her to get away with asking questions that if an adult interviewer did it, it would get a different reaction,” Pollack says.
Pollack was able to connect Sammy Jaye with executives at Radio Disney, who were on the lookout for people on the U.S. east coast who could help do interviews at concerts in cities like New York. Sammy Jaye fit the bill, says Phil Guerini, general manager of the Radio Disney Network and vice president of music strategy for Disney Channels Worldwide. “I became tremendously taken by this young lady who was slightly younger than my daughter but extremely articulate, very charismatic and very thoughtful in her choice of words,” he recalls.
Now that her show has stated, Sammy Jaye hopes to give listeners deeper insight into some of the nation’s most popular celebrities. “Kesha didn’t know what to expect,” she recalls. “But once we started talking, it wasn’t just about her music. We talked about her philosophy on life, on things she’s been gong through, hard times, persevering.”
Sometimes, Sammy Jaye has to pause and remind herself how lucky she is to have gotten such an opportunity. “After every interview, I always give myself a pat on the back, because I know how far I’ve come.”