In the opening lines of their Las Doctoras podcast, Cristina Rose (Smith) and Renee Lemus invite listeners to join them at their kitchen table to question systems of power, sip on some tequila, and change the world.
It’s a premise rooted in the duo’s shared mission: to demystify academic discourse by taking it beyond the classroom, and into public spaces.
By chance, Rose and Lemus had met and hit it off at their children’s playgroup, where they discovered their mutual academic and personal backgrounds. Not only did they hail from the same area of Los Angeles and share similar family experiences, but they also both taught within the CSU system. Rose is a lecturer of Women’s Studies at CSUDH, while Lemus teaches Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at CSULA and History at Los Angeles Harbor College.
As their friendship grew and conversations deepened, they realized they also shared the desire to carve out creative space for themselves outside of traditional academia. That’s when Rose suggested a podcast.
“We work and communicate so well together,” Rose said. “We wanted to tap into the conversations we have at the university, and create this free, accessible platform for our community.”
The podcast, Las Doctoras, debuted in 2018. Topics are wide-ranging, from body politics and gender to parenting, social justice, race, and spirituality. Though Rose and Lemus discuss everything through an academic lens of decolonization and feminism, the chats are often informal and deeply personal.
“The joy, friendliness, and conversational way we raise issues deconstructs the fear that people have of the university,” Rose said.
“Our podcast gives us freedom to talk the way we talk over lunch,” Lemus added. “It was really just a matter of turning on the mic.”
Las Doctoras quickly started making waves. Less than a year after the premiere episode, Oprah’s Winfrey’s website, Oprah Daily, included the show on its list of “Best Spanish and Latino Podcasts.” Overnight, the podcast gained hundreds more listeners and national visibility.
“We were being compared to these podcasters that we idealize,” Rose said. “On a basic level, it said to us, ‘keep up the good work,’ but it also called us to be even more intentional.”
With three seasons of Las Doctoras under their belts, the pair have expanded their reach even further. In 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, they began a book club in order to foster an online community of support and camaraderie.
“We talk about dismantling these systems of oppression, but we’re looking for our own healing,” Lemus said. “The book club has done that in a way we couldn’t have imagined. Especially in a time where it felt like the world was literally falling apart, it kept us together.”
Apart from their podcast and book club, the pair also offer writing courses and recently announced the launch of a new online magazine, Saint Lunita, in which they will showcase creative works from within their communities. With every project and platform, Rose and Lemus hope to connect with others and create spaces for expression.
“We are meeting the need for catharsis,” Rose said. “We’ve been trying to reach different people and expand our modalities. It will be interesting to see where we grow.”