Spit has come a long way. It used to just be the gross thing your brother would occasionally launch in your direction. Now, it’s that, plus the basis for things like bone marrow matches and genetic testing–hence the name of a new podcast presented by 23andMe.
The show, which launches today as an iHeartRadio podcast, looks at some of the issues that arise when you send your spit to a lab and they unlock the secrets of your DNA, your family, your race, and your heritage. Instead of taking a deep dive into the genetic science, host Baratunde Thurston is joined by musicians who get their DNA tested and then talk through the results.
First up: John Legend, who found out that he is not only two-thirds West African and one-third western and northern European, but also fully American. “I learned a lot about the stories of my ancestors, some of whom were slaves in America, and some of the courage that they displayed,” he tells Thurston in the first episode. “One group in my family history literally fought in court for their freedom, and the state of Ohio defended them.”
In the second episode, Wyclef Jean explores what it means to be Haitian and growing up in America. “My dad always told me, ‘Don’t forget, you’re a descendant of Toussaint L’Ouverture,'” he said. “So, this was how I was brought up, with a very fearless attitude. At times I think it was stupid because you’d be like, ‘Yo, get off the block.’ ‘I am not getting off the block, I am a descendant of Toussaint L’Ouverture. You can shoot if you want, but I will not get shot.'”
Jean’s and Legend’s stories, while unique to their heritage and genetic code, are also becoming universal as more and more people get their DNA tested and start to question what the geography spelled out in their DNA means for their identity. That’s why 23andMe wanted to explore these stories through a podcast.
“We hope this podcast sparks conversations around the impact of DNA on culture,” says Gayle Troberman, the CMO of iHeartMedia. “Topics like family, identity, race, and how we’re connected with the rest of the world are all influenced by DNA,” adds Tracy Keim, the vice president of consumer marketing and brand at 23andMe. “We have just scratched the surface and hopefully this podcast will allow listeners to experience the journey together. It’s not about teaching–it’s about exploring opinions and real experiences together.”