From sexual wellness to gender identity: Nicole Lim is changing the way women approach taboo topics with her podcast

PHOTO: Phyllicia Wang

Feel like you've seen Nicole Lim somewhere before? It might be because you've caught an episode of Something Private, which started out in 2019 as a podcast on female sexual health and wellness, but now includes videos of the discussions and covers a variety of other topics.

The 25-year-old is not only its host and producer, but also its brains - upon graduating from NTU's Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, she pitched the launch of a podcast to media production company Our Grandfather Story (OGS). An exchange of ideas ensued and OGS added it to its offerings.

At present, the channel has some 7,000 followers on Instagram, over 100,000 downloads across all its podcasting platforms including Spotify, Apple, Google and Anchor, and over 100,000 combined views on Youtube.

Nicole opens up about what inspired her to embark on this endeavour, how her upbringing shaped the way she approaches sensitive subjects, and her plans for expansion in the near future.

Masturbation, the most popular episode

Something Private was started because Nicole and the team felt like there just wasn't enough ready information on certain topics.

"We felt that conversations around women had not yet been explored in depth. It felt natural to begin by talking about sexual health, which is typically shied away from in our society, but has become an acceptable topic of discussion in recent years," she explains.

Some of the related topics she has covered include vulva care and "making masturbation mainstream", the latter of which is the most popular podcast episode thus far.

"I think the popularity of that episode can be attributed to how brazen the title is. But the content itself was not in any way risque or explicit - we had a doctor who specialises in sexual medicine break down the importance of getting to 'know yourself', and the health risks and relationship issues one might experience if they aren't able to have honest conversations about self- love."

She adds that it was then "very natural" that the channel branched out to topics like mental health, love and relationships, workplace politics, and identity and gender.

"All these are interconnected. You can't have one without considering the others," she muses.

An authentic connection

Something Private regularly hosts guests for discussions, and this has included a cosplayer sharing how she thrives in a highly sexualised environment, and women with disabilities revealing what they need to consider when it comes to love and sex.

"I've always been naturally curious and chatty, which I think allows people to feel comfortable opening up to me about personal aspects of their lives. Plus, I've always had the need to be very emotionally close to the people in my life, which means I seek out depth in conversation and vulnerability in all my interactions with them.

"I can't begin to express how important it is to lean into your vulnerability and open up about your values and thoughts with people," she says.

PHOTO: Phyllicia Wang

But just how did she learn to connect authentically with others? The Gen Zer credits a lot of it to having been raised by "very cool parents" in a "safe and non- judgemental environment".

"They have always been very supportive, and because of how open they've been with me, it makes it easy to broach difficult conversations with them. I was also always allowed to be myself, and I think that's what enabled me to be comfortable with the way I am."

In fact, her mother was a guest for an episode on human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection.

"We spoke with a gynaecologist about HPV prevention and education. It can be quite tricky for parents and their children to talk about getting vaccinated, since it's something that involves sexual activity, so I brought my mum on for her to share how she felt about having the conversation with me - she was the one who encouraged me to get the jab way before I started this series. It wasn't awkward at all. I think she was quite proud and happy to be part of the podcast!"

While she doesn't get hate mail, she is occasionally on the receiving end of personal attacks, but that doesn't bother her as much as when her guests are also inappropriately criticised.

Thankfully, even though most of them are aware that they might be subjected to unwarranted or even nasty comments, they are still willing to "share their story as honestly as possible, because they know that the potential benefits outweigh the negativity that might come with it".

As for progression, Nicole is also the host of a new talk show series by OGS titled Agree to Disagree, which was launched in December last year and that "explores some of the most pressing issues that concern our generation, and evaluates all sides of the argument". And she has plans to take Something Private overseas.

"We're definitely hoping to become a platform not just for Singapore women, but for South- east Asian women as well, and that means telling the stories of women beyond just our shores.

"We hope to normalise talking about these topics in some of the countries that have a different threshold for such conversations," she lets on.

"We look forward to shaping what feminism, gender and identity politics can look like in our part of the world, because existing narratives have been predominantly Westernised, so figuring out what that looks like in this region is really exciting. We're always looking for good stories to tell, and anyone can just send us a DM on Instagram."

Below are Nicole's three tips for getting people to open up.

Be genuinely interested

"This starts with humbling yourself. Remember that everyone has a unique perspective to share, even if you may not agree with their opinions."

Listen actively

"It really helps when you remind yourself that the person you're speaking to has a valid opinion that you should respect. Also, it's putting out the right body language, like maintaining eye contact."

Cultivate curiosity

"Even if someone is talking about something you don't have any knowledge or interest in, you can still learn a thing or two from them that might be useful, or that might help you become closer to them.

"People embody a wealth of information and experiences, and it'd be a shame not to tap into that."

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This article was first published in Her World Online.