“When other kids were playing imaginary games about princesses or cops and robbers, Lindsey and I were playing games about heading west in a covered wagon.”
Hello there Philly Geeks! March is National Women’s History Month, for our Philly Geek Spotlight, we have 2 women who know their history! The sister duo behind podcast, Historical Hotties; Lindsey & Whitney Nelsen. By day, Whitney (the eldest) is in online reputation management, by night she makes podcasts about history, video games, Keanu Reeves, and records sessions of a real-play RPG. She is in the middle of her first D&D campaign, but that’s not recorded for a podcast (yet). She likes her steak rare, her whiskey on the rocks, and her puppies ugly. Lindsey is a gelato chef and screenwriter by trade, she is also the co-creator of the history podcast and a player on the real-play podcast. She is a reformed goth whose alter ego is a glam rock vampire. She loves musical theater, getting lost in the woods, and cooks gourmet 8-course meals in her spare time for fun.
These sisters share with AGTM about their podcast, their love of history, the role of women in history, live podcasts, and working together.
Can you tell the readers the history of Historical Hotties?
Whitney: The initial seed came from me making fun of Lindsey for only having crushes on people who were dead or fictional. Then, when I moved across the country to Philly in January of 2009, we wanted an organized activity that would help keep us close and talking all the time even though we were living on different coasts. The series actually made its first appearance on our YouTube channel where we thought we’d be the next John and Hank Green, and that was all Lindsey’s idea.
Lindsey: People think of history as both a boring and intimidating subject, so we thought that if we introduced people to historical figures through the lens of hottness and crushes it would make them feel like real people and not just lists of names and dates. We talk about their personalities and weird human quirks so that you can see them as fully human and not just the person who invented radium or conquered Rome or what have you.
Were there any fears you had about doing the podcast?
Whitney: Definitely went through some anxiety about it early on. It’s always scary to put your ideas out there, and we had no idea if anyone would be interested in a history podcast that was more silly than serious. Also, we knew we wanted to treat the podcast like a job instead of a hobby, doing things like posting regularly and making sure our research was solid and editing for structure, and it’s intimidating to sign yourself up for hours of work every week for… you know… maybe forever?
Lindsey: It can feel really overwhelming sometimes, what we have signed ourselves up for. And we are making ourselves very vulnerable in a certain way, because to honestly talk about what draws you to a person and why is very revealing. But getting excited to talk about these amazing people and gush about why we love them with each other -and our guest- is the best part of recording the show.
What has been your favorite moment doing the podcast?
Whitney: We’ve had a lot of great moments and there’s been so much positivity around our podcast that it’s hard to pick, but my favorite moment actually just happened in January of 2019, when we went to PodCon in Seattle and met so many of our fans and podcasting friends and previous guest-hosts in person for the first time.
Lindsey: Also, reading some of the reviews our listeners have left has almost made me cry a couple of times. When we can make someone’s day a little bit more fun or introduce them someone from history they had never heard of -but now are obsessed with- that means a lot to me.
Was there always a love for history?
Whitney: For sure. When other kids were playing imaginary games about princesses or cops and robbers, Lindsey and I were playing games about heading west in a covered wagon.
Lindsey: As teenagers, we wrote a play about the Civil War, which turned into us becoming Civil War reenactors, which turned into us being professional living historians as one of our first real jobs.
March is Women’s History Month, who have been your favorite historical women you mentioned on the podcast?
Whitney: Honestly, we’ve talked about so many wild and wonderful women on the show it’s hard to choose, but I think Julie D’Aubigny is my dark horse favorite. I had never heard of her before researching our Divas episode, but when I found out about the 17th century French bisexual swordfighting opera singer who fought men to the death bare-breasted and robbed graves, burned down convents, and stole women away in the dark of night lived such a wild life that she had to be pardoned by the king of France. Twice.
Lindsey: There are some women we have talked about who I have a long standing love of, like Mary Shelley or Ada Lovelace, but like Whitney said: it’s some of the women who I have discovered through the show that spring to mind. Like Zitkala Sa, a Native American essayist who was taking on intersectional feminism way back in the 1920s or Audrey Munson, an artist model who posed for pretty much every goddess or nymph you see carved onto buildings in Manhattan.
Has the podcast helped you learn about how influential women have been in history?
Whitney: Absolutely. As biracial women who both identify as queer, it was super important to us that we focused on diversity, and digging up some of the people who might be a little forgotten or lost to time. It’s really helped to highlight just how much really does get left out of the classroom, and while we’ve talked about a lot of really great and very hot straight white cis men, there are just as many women, and people of color, and LGBTQA+ people, and people with no access to education or even literacy, and ex-cons, and people with disabilities, and non-neurotypical people from literally every corner of the world have made history right alongside those guys. They just don’t get talked about as much.
Lindsey: I love how often we get to introduce people to women they’ve never heard of before who made a big impact on the world. Like Maria Sibylla Merian, the 17th-century botanist who mounted the first documented expedition for solely scientific purposes or Rosalind Franklin, a chemist who was integral to understanding the structure of DNA or Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, who basically wrote the whole script for Thanksgiving.
Have you thought about doing a Historical Hotties: Philly Edition?
Whitney: We actually just had our first place-based episode suggested by a guest host from Texas who wanted to talk about Texans, and it went over so well that I’m excited at the possibilities of doing more regional themed episodes. And with Philly being the birthplace of the whole ding-dang nation, we’d have so much to work with we might have to do multiple episodes about Philly!
Lindsey: I think if we get to the point where we can start doing live shows it would be really fun to do location-based ones for the city we were recording the episode in.
What’s it like working with your sister?
Whitney: It’s definitely not always easy. Creative collaboration is always tough to navigate and a place where people are likely to butt heads, and then when you add in the layers of years of sibling rivalries or fights we’ve been having for years and years and years, there have totally been some hard moments.
Lindsey: But also it’s wonderful because we speak the same language so much of the time, share the same sense of humor, and complement each other’s strengths really well. And it did achieve our goal of making sure we talk regularly! No matter how busy our lives get we still talk every week about the show!
What’s next for Historical Hotties? Anything to look forward to in 2019?
Whitney: I’m dead-set on having a live show in 2019. It’s hard to coordinate schedules between work and personal lives and also living on separate coasts, but there’s so many great opportunities to do a live show in Philly. The Chemical Heritage Foundation always does such weird and wonderful programming and I think we could do a show that would fit there super well. And there’s TMoms and First Friday and the Philadelphia Podcast Festival… So many awesome places we could bring the show to life in front of an audience!
Lindsey: I also have my sights set on trying to get some dream guest hosts for the show, like Helen Zaltzman or Travis McElroy, some of the people in podcasting we really admire and would absolutely die to have as guests on our show.
Sure to checkout their Podcast, Historical Hotties on Itunes. You can also stay up to date with the podcast by following them on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook!