When it comes to terrestrial talk radio in Detroit, black women have been a dominating force on the airwaves for as long as I can remember, from the iconic Martha Jean "The Queen" Steinberg to the regal Frankie Darcell to Mildred Gaddis, the current drive-time gold standard.
But in the fast-growing world of Internet radio, it's a fairly new group of young Detroit women who are looking to leave the freshest broadcast imprint. Hosts of the show All Girl Talk, featured on the online DIY radio site BlogTalkRadio, this foursome of Detroit-raised businesswomen, wives and moms has steadily gathered steam in recent months as their hot topics and smart, sassy on-air personalities have reeled in thousands of listeners a week, some as nearby as W. 7 Mile Road and some as far away as the United Kingdom.
The All Girl Talk team is made up of Tamika Montgomery, 40, known to listeners as "The Conservative Ms. Tika"; Irresha Byrd, 35, a.k.a. "Ms. Muse"; 30-year-old Jessica Hence, dubbed "Ms. Jai"; and Angela Smith, 38, self-dubbed "Rambunctious Angie." Taken together, they're the masterminds behind a year-old show that sounds at times like a raucous, take-no-prisoners cross between "The View," the sitcom "Girlfriends" and the casual chatter of four homies under the hairdryers at a west-side salon.
"All Girl Talk Radio shares the same goals with our city," says Hence. "The goal is to grow beyond measure, to inspire everyone, to not only dream but to make dreams come true, to change negative situations to positive through the voice of reason and to live our motto of 'Keeping it real and coming where you live!' We are a reflection of our city."
Their shows do indeed underscore Detroiters' penchant for telling it like it is (or at least, how we see it) about any number of topics. The All Girl Talk hosts seem are especially adept at, and keenly fascinated by, relationship issues, exploring the full gamut of intimate interactions, from the dynamics of romance to the tenuousness of friendships to the thorniest aspects of parent-child ties. Recent episodes of All Girl Talk have included topics like "I'm Loved Sexually...But Not Emotionally," "What Do Women Really Want," "Church People: Are They Backstabbers?" and "What's Up With These Damn Kids?" They've also explored subjects like marital infidelity, romantic affairs inside church congregations and the appropriate age for young people to have sex.
As you might expect with topics like these, All Girl Talk can get pretty hot, with each of the women more than willing to speak frankly and, at times, unconventionally, about their feelings on the assorted issues. They are also more than willing to challenge each other on-air. But while the women's candor makes for a refreshing departure from the radio norm, each of them also possesses a wit, strength and sensitivity that makes their synergy positively crackle. And each brings key individual traits to the whole of the program, from Smith's unfiltered-but-charming straightforwardness and Byrd's worldly free-spirit to Montgomery's laid-back sensibility and Hence's infectious energy and willingness to dish.
"We work well together on the show because we all are family and are comfortable with each other being themselves," explains Byrd, who currently lives in Atlanta and joins the All Girl Talk broadcasts from there. "I think you generally have to mesh with people in order for situations to work."
Adds Montgomery: "I think we all work well together because not only we are all strong black women, but we are women who respect each other. This doesn't mean we always agree, but we know that each one of us has something to offer to AGT."
So far, they are doing fine. Smith, who is credited with pulling the team together with the idea of doing a radio show, says the show has garnered as many as 9,000 listeners per week worldwide since its January 2009 debut, not staggering numbers, but a darn good start. She concedes that, in the growing world of online radio, it's easy for newcomers to get lost in the mix, so she and her friends make sure to stay in front of their audience as much as possible. All Girl Talk airs three days a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, and listeners can also grab old episodes from the show's online archives.
Just as important as their consistency, insists Smith, is their insistence on staying true to their personalities, worldviews and experiences.
"This show is about being proud of who you are," she says. "It's live, it's real, it's uncensored! With us, what you see is what you get."
So is what you hear.