Actor and heartthrob Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman has launched a podcast called JBC Presents: Conversations With Others. In partnering with the producer of the hit podcast RuPaul: What’s The Tee, the star explores the idea of “otherness” with guests like Jussie Smollett, Michelle Visage and Aubrey Plaza.
“I love listening to podcasts, first and foremost!” Bowyer-Chapman tells Billboard. “A couple of my favorite podcasts are Still Processing from The New York Times, Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations, RuPaul’s What’s the Tee?”
And it was a guest stint on RuPaul’s podcast that lead to the actor’s latest endeavor: “I came on and did an episode over a year ago, and I had such a lovely, thoughtful, deeply soulful and funny conversation. The producer took me aside afterward and asked if I ever was interested in starting my own project.”
Speaking of RuPaul, the star is a mega-fan of Drag Race (you may remember his guest stint as the lead actor on All Star 3’s “The Bitchelor” challenge). While he thinks it’s too early to pick a favorite, he says Monét X Change has his attention.
“I loved her sponge dress! And I actually understood the concept — I was like, ‘What is wrong with my brain and her brain that I completely saw the soap and the dirt and the sponge when no one else saw it? What is wrong with me?’ I also think we need some more queens of color dominating the drag scene and wearing that crown.”
With his podcast celebrating “otherness,” Billboard asked Bowyer-Chapman to create a playlist that celebrates LGBTQ talent. Read below to see his selections, ranging from the “maternal” RuPaul to the “badass” Beth Ditto.
RuPaul, “Call Me Mother”
Ru is such an extraordinary musician. His dance beats just fill me with joy and love, more so than anything. After the loss of so many queer heroes and gay icons during the AIDS epidemic in the ’80s and ’90s, we have so few people of Ru’s generation that are public figures for us to be able to look up to, and that serve as parental or maternal figures for us. So first and foremost, it’s the message of love and motherhood that I get every time I turn on that track.
Todrick Hall, “Dem Beats” (feat. RuPaul)
It’s an amazing dance track, and I think it’s so important to have an artist like Todrick, who is so extraordinarily multi-talented, and who doesn’t hide his sexuality at all. He’s so upfront about it, to the point where he’s gender-bending and gender-fucking in the music video for “Dem Beats,” dressed in drag from start to finish! It’s incredible, it’s something I’ve never seen done before, and it hopefully inspires others to step up and try something like Todrick was courageous enough to try.
Jussie Smollett, “Insecurities”
It’s the lead track off of his new album, Sum of My Music. It’s such a beautiful expression of vulnerability. He really just lays it all out, all of his insecurities; all of the nasty tweets he may get online; the rumors that run rampant through the entertainment industry; or people’s opinions of you who really don’t know you but feel they do, and so readily share those, uneducated and uninformed opinions. He’s saying, “I have to live with it, but I can live through it. I know who I am and I’m going to stand strong in that, and it may not be easy and it may not feel good to hear some of the things the general public has to say, but as long as I know who I am, you know, and embrace those insecurities, it’s only going to make me stronger.”
Janelle Monae, “Make Me Feel”
I think it’s a really sexy summer track! It’s only April, but it is my official song of the summer. I think it’s incredible, I think the lyrics can be read so many different ways, and maybe it’s an expression of love to females, to Tessa Thompson, to who knows who. But, the fact that it’s non-gender specific is what I love so much about it.
Frank Ocean, “Solo”
I love Frank Ocean so much, I think he’s such an incredibly talented lyricist and vocalist, and that track from the album Blonde was just something that really sits with me. I feel like I can listen to it day or night,. This song really is just a celebration of himself.
Bessie Smith, “I’m Wild About That Thing”
It’s so important to recognize that there have been fabulous queer artists all throughout our history. And [Smith] may not have been in a position to be able to proclaim that to the world, but just her existing was such an epic win. It’s important to be able to have representation for black queer women, because I feel like there’s not much representation for them in the mainstream. To be able to look back and see that we had Bessie there all along — it’s just magical, it really is.
The Gossip, “Heavy Cross”
I just think that Beth Ditto is just so badass. A big girl who doesn’t apologize for standing out or being an other or not fitting into the mold of the status quo of the entertainment industry — that alone is an act of activism. She really stands and lives in celebration of herself, and proclaims it to the world. Her unabashed self-love only gives me and hopefully everyone who listens to that track the permission to do the same.
Christine and the Queens, “iT”
This song actually gives me chills when I hear it, with the strings and the harmonies, and it’s so beautiful. I’ve never read the lyrics, I’ve never read into the meaning behind the song, but my interpretation of it is that of the story of a trans man and recognizing that this world values maleness and masculinity and really devalues femininity and females. And in order to express herself into her own power, she really had to quite literally transition into what the world demands. Claiming that, and claiming that unapologetically is just so cool.
4 Non Blondes, “What’s Up?”
This is my go-to karaoke song. I just feel powerful and strong and connected to everything when I hear it, or when I sing it myself. I think that Linda Perry is such a beautiful example of strong female representation in the industry. She is such a powerhouse, not only is she incredibly successful as an artist — whether it’s as a solo artist, or with the 4 Non Blondes, as a producer, as a lyricist and composer, she is the go to for every heavy-hitting pop ballad over the past 20 years that has really resonated with me. I think she’s incredible, and I don’t think she’s ever had to explain herself or her sexuality, as far as I know, and for that, I think that is revolutionary. She never made the choice to hide parts of herself and then have to navigate her way through the world that way, she just lives boldly in who she is.
Luther Vandross, “Never Too Much”
Now we all know — we know — that it was never something that was said out loud, but Luther Vandross has been and will always be a queer icon for me. I don’t know if it was my ten-year-old gaydar or what, but as soon as I started listening to Luther Vandross, I was like, “Oh! He a gay man!” I loved seeing somebody who was so full of light and life and effervescence and was so flamboyant and charming, and “Never Too Much” is one of my all-time favorite tracks. I actually sang a cover of it in a movie that I did with Meagan Good and Kelly Rowland called Love By the 10th Date.
Check out Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman’s playlist below. His podcast, JBC Presents: Conversations With Others, is available on iTunes.