Flex Mami isn’t your anti-racism teacher: ‘It’s super exhausting’

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·Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
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You may know Lillian Ahenkan, aka Flex Mami, through her presenting, her social media presence, maybe you've played her self-development game Reflex, or maybe you're a fan of her podcasts Bobo and Flex and Whatever I Want?

If so, you're in serious luck, because Flex has decided not to stop at two podcasts and her latest project, a Spotify Original podcast called Flex’s Semi-Factual History Lessons is out now and here to teach you all the things you didn't learn at school.

Flex Mami may already have two podcasts, but she's now released a third with Spotify called Flex’s Semi-Factual History Lessons which teaches you all the things you didn't learn at school. Photo: Getty
Flex Mami may already have two podcasts, but she's now released a third with Spotify called Flex’s Semi-Factual History Lessons which teaches you all the things you didn't learn at school. Photo: Getty

Speaking with Yahoo Lifestyle, Flex shared her love of podcasts and revealed why she decided to add another one to her already very full plate.

"The three of them exist for very separate reasons and there will be a fourth, fifth and sixth in the future with distinct purposes," she said.

"I look at having multiple podcasts as just different content ideas that have to live on different channels, only because podcasts aren't known as that space where you can talk about a breadth of different things.

"So, I have Bobo and Flex, particularly with Bobo, so we can have almost like a critical discussion and debate about things that are impacting us, or things that we find quite topical and misinformed that we want to shed some light on and then Whatever I Want is a place to talk about whatever I want, whenever I want with whoever I want," she said.

"I would say with Flex's Semi-Factual History Lessons, I started that one, particularly because I find with the idea or concept of having critical discussion based on personal experience, it can be alienating for people who don't share that same personal experience. So you're not having a discussion, you're having a one-way education session, that isn't necessarily conducive to everyone feeling as though they can have a say or are interested to get involved."

Flex has invited a number of different personalities to share the discussions with including people like Joyride and Linda Marigliano, who appear in the first two episodes.

Flex's Semi-Factual History Lessons is out now on Spotify. Photo: Supplied
Flex's Semi-Factual History Lessons is out now on Spotify. Photo: Supplied

The presenter explained she made the considered decision to choose guests who she believed would have interesting takes on certain topics, but hadn't really been given the opportunity to speak about that specific topic or idea, "Whether it be the activist who only can talk about race, or the musician who can only talk about their music. I was like no, no let's break that up and let's have you talk about stuff that gives us more of an insight into who you are, what you think and why you think it."

The range of topics being discussed in Flex’s Semi-Factual History Lessons is incredibly diverse and includes things like crime and class, the link between masturbation and Corn Flakes and even a story on the ‘fat farms’ of Mauritania and exploring how the perception of beauty changes in different cultures.

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The first episode is about blackface and comedy, specifically about how the first standup comedian Charley Case was a mixed-race man who wore blackface.

"I love talking about race, especially from an Australian/African lens, because it's one that's not covered very often in media. As we know, the discussion on Africans and race is always from a very American lens, which doesn't resonate even a little bit," she explained.

"So, I knew I wanted to discuss something that a lot of people had experience with, if not, they've seen it on their phones or on TV and then I wanted to actually understand, if it's offensive to most people now, was it always that way? Where did we come from with that? And to figure out that yeah, I guess it is and was always offensive, but we have different motivations for why we do the things we do.

The topics covered in Flex's Semi-Factual History Lessons is incredibly diverse and includes things like crime and class, the link between masturbation and Corn Flakes and even a story on the ‘fat farms’ of Mauritania. Photo: Getty
The topics covered in Flex's Semi-Factual History Lessons is incredibly diverse and includes things like crime and class, the link between masturbation and Corn Flakes and even a story on the ‘fat farms’ of Mauritania. Photo: Getty

"And not everybody has the agency to say, 'Oh this is morally offensive,' or, 'This makes me uncomfortable, therefore I can't or I won't' that's a certain level of privilege and agency that people only recently adopted."

"I just like the perspective we were able to take on that, it was a little bit less, 'blackface bad,' and more like 'what is motivation for blackface?'"

While Flex does love talking about race, there is one topic she isn't so keen on being asked to educate people about: blackfishing.

"I just reckon blackfishing is one of those conversations to become really redundant really quickly, because if people don't have the range to understand why racism is bad, why slavery happened, why we can't say the N word, then I'm not sure they're going to understand the nuance of what it means to be presenting as someone of a different ethnicity – of a historically marginalised ethnicity."

"So, on the list of things that I feel is my calling to discuss and berate people about, blackfishing is at the very bottom," she revealed.

Earlier this year, following the death of George Floyd in police custody and when the Black Lives Matter movement was especially powerful worldwide, one of Flex's followers questioned why she had yet to speak about it, adding they'd "love to hear" her thoughts on the matter.

Flex posted the question on her Instagram account and responded, "I don’t just talk about race when it’s trendy."

A follower asked Flex why she hadn't said anything on the Black Lives Matter movement, to which she responded, "I don’t just talk about race when it’s trendy." Photo: Instagram/Flex.Mami
A follower asked Flex why she hadn't said anything on the Black Lives Matter movement, to which she responded, "I don’t just talk about race when it’s trendy." Photo: Instagram/Flex.Mami

Many other followers asked her to educate them on why the BLM movement was important.

When asked how she felt about this during our chat, she responded, "I guess it was kind of indicative of most people's approach to the topic, it's kind of like, 'Well, I don't understand it, therefore, it needs to be taught, otherwise I won't get it and it's your fault.'

"I guess, around that time I was having an epiphany and I was reflecting on all the very intense and educational conversations Bobo and I had had about race in an open way purely so people who didn't relate could understand or at least feel as though they weren't being blocked out of the conversation or it wasn't for them.

"And that process can be super cathartic, super exhausting, it's the kind of stuff you pay a therapist to do, you know – provide you insight. So to do all that and to feel as though, 'Yep, we are touching all bases, we're providing all the information.' And at the end of the day, people are kind of like, 'Well, I don't want to listen to eight hours of education about race, I just want you to tell me what to feel about this in this moment.'

"And I was like, 'Oh, ok, I thought I was really saving myself from future spoon-feeding, I don't want to do this.'"

She continued, "I feel as though, if people of colour could find the right phrasing to make race or racism make sense to those it doesn't affect, then we would.

"I feel at this point it's having the same conversation a thousand times over, we're not really getting to a point. So, in that instance, I was frustrated, because I'm like this is where the work comes in, like all this, 'I'm an ally', I'm like this is where it happens, you look at this and say, 'Is this above board, does this make sense, is this something that I feel proud to stand by?' And if it does, good, and if it doesn't that's also OK.

Flex told Yahoo Lifestyle it was 'exhausting' when people tell her to educate them, yet they won't listen to the many hours of information she already has. Photo: Instagram/Flex.Mami
Flex told Yahoo Lifestyle it was 'exhausting' when people tell her to educate them, yet they won't listen to the many hours of information she already has. Photo: Instagram/Flex.Mami

"But I was like f**k, why is everyone defaulting to me? I'm just trying to watch Love Island, I'm just trying to record a podcast, I'm trying to vibe, I don't have time to be educating, while also feeling sad! Like, I don't want to have to step outside of my emotion and be like, 'Hey everyone, I'm going to repress my feelings today, to be your educational teacher.'"

When it comes to the most meaningful discussions Flex feels like she has with her followers, she shared, "I think any discussion that calls into context our own lack of self-awareness, I think with every kind of topical or popular conversation, there's a little bit of ignorance and blind-spotting that happens, especially if you regard yourself as someone who's socially conscious or woke."

"I like that we can talk about consumerism, but also acknowledge that we are vehicles for that. I love that we can talk about the patriarchy, but also acknowledge that by stepping into certain beauty standards, we perpetuate the patriarchy.

"These things are really fun to me, because it makes the conversation really productive and it stops us vying for like first place of who's most woke. And we kind of settle in to who can do the most learning and the most sharing and the most being vulnerable."

You can listen to Flex's Semi-Factual History Lessons on Spotify now.

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