It’s not every day a group of teenagers gets to sit down for an interview with royalty. But that's exactly what happened when the group behind the podcast "Teenager Therapy" were approached to have a discussion on mental health with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
“I still feel the adrenaline,” said Kayla Suarez, 17, of not only meeting Meghan Markle and Prince Harry but having them be guests on her group’s podcast, “Teenager Therapy.”
“We were just in a lot of shock and surprised, because they reached out to us [ to be on it],” said Thomas Pham, 17.
It all happened in the span of about five days. And since their interview was published, teens Gael Aitor, Thomas Pham, Isaac Hurtado, Mark Hugo and Kayla Suarez were catapulted into the national spotlight -- something they dreamed of in order to get more eyeballs on the important work of their podcast. This week, they'll also be a part of Meghan and Harry's Time100 Talks on Oct. 20.
An email from someone on Meghan and Harry’s team showed up in their inbox on Oct. 3.
“They kind of just emailed us on the weekend and then we planned a podcast for a Wednesday,” Pham said of the turnaround to tape on Oct. 7.
There were logistics to sort out, including where the interview would take place. Normally the teens record out of their homes in Anaheim, California, but since Meghan and Harry couldn’t come to the area, they all met at a beach house in Montecito.
“It was very casual and they kind of just walked in, and we all just said hi, introduced ourselves, and then they recorded the podcast,” Pham said. “We took a few photos after and then it was done. It was very quick.”
“We couldn't necessarily hand shake or give them a little hug because we're trying to be safe and not [come into] contact [with] them physically,” Suarez said. "So we just sort of waved at each other. It was definitely a hectic day, I remember. But in the end it paid off, it really did.”
The “Teenager Therapy” podcast was formed in 2018 by Gael Aitor after he listened to the podcast “Couples Therapy.” He wanted to start one that focuses on navigating high school, adolescence and all the pressures that come with being a teenager. That’s when Pham, Hurtado, Hugo and Suarez joined in to round out the group. It's described as "a podcast that's a coming of age story portrayed in real time. A culmination of mistakes and growth and a reminder you're not alone." Some of the episodes already recorded include: “Instagram & Unrealistic Body Standards”, “Acne/Skincare Routines” and “Insecurities & Not Being Good Enough.”
They’ve had some celebrity guests, like Loren Gray and Maggie Lindemann, but the hosts said having Meghan and Harry on the podcast brought it to another level. So far, their episode has 1.38 million views on YouTube and countless more downloads on iTunes. It highlighted the importance of mental health for World Mental Health Day.
“The work you are doing here is so important,” Markle said to the group on the podcast. “To know there is someone to talk to -- you are not alone. We are all figuring it out.”
“It honestly just made me feel really happy because with the start of this podcast, that was our goal,” Suarez said. “To make sure that people know that there's other people going through the same experiences as you. So to hear that confirmation from her, it really just made me feel happy that she knows what we're doing, and she has faith in us, that we'll continue to pursue that goal.”
The conversation was certainly a high point in a year that saw the hosts have to adapt to virtual learning for their senior year of school.
“When quarantine first started, it was definitely a little bit harder,” explained Suarez. “Just because we had to transition from being out all the time, to not having to see our friends. Now I think it's definitely better. Adapting to online school -- that's been a pretty difficult challenge, but it's all good now.”
“The lack of physical contact was pretty hard,” added Pham. “But it is easier now, it just gets boring from time to time.”
Receiving glowing praise from their teachers also made them feel accomplished.
“A lot of teachers knew, but I guess some were in the dark about it,” said Hurtado. “So they were really surprised to see that we had this podcast.”
“It was teachers from two, three years ago too,” added Hugo. “So we didn't really talk since we didn't have their classes anymore. So it was a really nice surprise when they reached out to us.”
When asked how they push forward after such a feat, their response was simple.
“We're just doing the same thing that we've been doing. Just keep going at it, keep consistent and committed. The formula has been working,” said Hugo.
Harry agreed. “Keep this up. Don't ever stop,” he said.
It's a mantra the entire group has taken to heart, as they set their sights on the next big get for their podcast.
“I know Gael really wants Michelle Obama to be on the podcast, actually,” Hugo said.
"That would be crazy," Hurtado said.
Hugo replied: "That's the plan."