Podcast hosts return to talk traveling


Susie Meister (left) and Sarah Rice — hosts of the ‘Brain Candy’ podcast — spoke to a crowd of more than 70 people Monday as guests of Pitt’s International Week. (Photo by Issi Glatts | Staff Photographer)

By Zoe Pawliczek | Staff Writer

Reality TV stars and podcast hosts Susie Meister and Sarah Rice think they might be qualified for Donald Trump’s current job — given that he also has a reality TV background.

“This is just the beginning. Podcast at Pitt, next thing you know I’m running for president,” Meister said.

Brought in a second time for Pitt’s International Week, Meister and Rice took to the stage of the William Pitt Union assembly room Monday night to record a live podcast and share their worldly experiences with a crowd of about 100 people.

A Pittsburgh native and Pitt alum with a doctorate in religious studies, Meister funded her education by competing on eight MTV reality shows, including “Road Rules Down Under” and “The Challenge.”

Meister met Rice — who competed on MTV’s “The Challenge” and “Real World” — during their time on TV. Their instant chemistry and international experiences inspired them to start the “Brain Candy” podcast, which they host twice weekly.

“We’re just always so happy to be a part of something where people come together to celebrate the things we love, like travel and silliness,” Meister, who also works as a diversity trainer to combat prejudice, said.

Each biweekly 45-minute episode centers on discussing everyday topics with an intellectual twist, drawing on the women’s experiences on TV and traveling the world, as well as whatever interests — or aggravates  — them.

Meister and Rice kicked off the night by collaborating with the Pittsburgh chapter of the Organization of Chinese Americans youth program to share a traditional Chinese lion dance with fans and passersby outside the Union before returning to the assembly room to record the night’s podcast.

“We are going to go outside and wake up a lion,” cochair of the international week committee Jeff Whitehead told the audience before escorting them outside.

While introducing Meister and Rice back inside the Union, Whitehead related their reality TV experiences to this year’s international week theme — displacement.

“They voluntarily became displaced persons and felt all types of cultural oddities while on the road,” Whitehead said.

Rather than talking about their time on-screen, Meister and Rice took turns reviewing tourist attractions — including Stonehenge and Mount Rushmore — with the crowd. They also discussed other light topics, such as the consequences of supporting a football team because you like their uniform colors.

“I know I am in a football-heavy city, so please God don’t beat me up after this,” Rice said.

Pitt alum Elizabeth Adler was present at the event and said she became a fan of “Brain Candy” because the pair addresses both scholarly and emotional issues.

“I love how they talk about academic subjects because it appeals to the scholar in me, but I love the other parts, like how open and vulnerable they are, too,” she said. “Listening to them feels like a conversation I would have with my friends, and I get to laugh with them when they tell silly stories.”

After the hosts performed a segment where they got “crabby” about travel pillows and getting their names changed on airline tickets, Rice lightened the tone by sharing several articles about millennials who have run for office.

“I feel like so often college students get brushed aside, but a lot of these guys came up with what they wanted to do in college,” Rice said.

Meister and Rice recognized their “brainiacs” — fans of the podcast — with prizes and raffles, including free tickets to see George Takei Tuesday night and an opportunity for three Pitt students in attendance to win a $1,000 study abroad scholarship.

Abigael Siecinski, a sophomore studying supply chain management, had never heard of the “Brain Candy” podcast when she accompanied her roommate to the event and won one of the scholarships.

“Not only did I get this scholarship for my trip to France next summer, but I found an interest in podcasts too,” Siecinski said. “I’m definitely going to listen to ‘Brain Candy’ now.”

Several long-term fans of Meister and Rice were also in attendance, including Dani Becker, from Chicago, who drove all the way to Pittsburgh to meet her idols for the first time.

“I’ve been a fan of them since ‘Real World,’” Becker said. “Susie and Sarah have gotten to travel the whole world so I think they will share a lot of good experiences tonight.”

Meister and Rice concluded the international week event by telling each other what they’ve learned from unexpected role models. Their list included Meister’s 5-year old son as well as Pittsburgh native Fred Rogers — creator and host of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

“We want to promote that you can learn from other cultures and people who don’t look like you or act like you,” Meister said. “That could be as simple as the person down the hall or on the other end of the phone.”

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