2009 Harker Heights High School graduate Kelsey Pribilski already hosts her own online television show, “BBQuest.” She has a long list of acting credits to her name. And she now also hosts her very own podcast, “Gawkward.”
The podcast began because Kelsey had a question: How does what happens during puberty, specifically the experiences in the middle- and high school years, affect people in adulthood?
“I know a big part of my experiences are from middle- and high school,” she said. “I wanted to do something creative ... My favorite part of BBQuest is talking to people ... so I thought maybe a podcast would be a good idea.”
She got the idea one day several months ago while driving home after shooting the last episode of season two’s “BBQuest.” She said that she thought to herself, “This is going to be challenging, but the best way to have a podcast is to jump in head first.” The podcast launched about a month ago.
“I like to talk about what group they hung out with in high school, embarrassing moments, their first kiss — that first love, there’s always a good story in that,” Kelsey said. “(Also) Family life — birth order and things like that — (and) if they’re (from) a military family, how did they cope with moving to a new place.”
They also talk about females and the issues specific to their gender. “Girls (in middle and high school) choose who want to be, either pretty or smart or athletic. (They tend to believe) It can’t be all of it.”
Unlike many other podcasts, Kelsey’s don’t have seasons. “I enjoy doing an ongoing one, and every Wednesday I release the new episode. They can be watched on YouTube, iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, wherever you get your podcasts.”
There is a variety of guests on the podcast, including three-time James Beard “Best Southwest Chef” semifinalist and Top Chef contestant John Tesar,professional comedian Doug Mellard, and actress and voice-over artist Elizabeth Maxwell. Kelsey has also interviewed three people she went to middle- and high school with, giving her listeners a diverse range of guests to whom everyone can relate.
“These are people I want to talk to and find interesting, and some people I just find talented and want to get to know them better,” Kelsey said. Next week’s guest is Jason Vines, a special effects artist with the hit show “Fear the Walking Dead.”
“It’s fun to hear different people’s stories — three or four have been people I went to school with,” said Alex Devine of Austin, who listens to the podcast commuting back and forth to work. “It’s cool to hear from the different people that she’s met through working.” Devine was also a guest just this week.
“Everybody has a common ground,” Kelsey said.
“She’s got the perfect personality to do this,” said Christiana Yebra, a CEO of a major company in Dallas and a friend of Kelsey’s, the featured guest on episode one. “She’s got a method of approach to conversation.” Yebra should know — she’s got more than two dozen podcast appearances under her belt and said that Kelsey’s was her favorite.
“It was a fun experience telling my story,” Yebra said. “It allowed me to reflect on my life now, and I learned a lot about myself and a lot about her. It was a learning experience, (and) somewhat therapeutic.”
Emily Hunter of Austin is an avid “Gawkward” listener.
“I typically don’t listen to podcasts, but the first person she interviewed was someone I went to high school with. It was captivating, how personal and vulnerable people are. Everyone is willing to tell their stories, and Kelsey makes them comfortable (enough to do that).”
Hunter said she loves the fact that while the episodes have a seriousness to them in many places, there is also laughter.
She said of the podcast that it’s, “Pure joy. There’s a lot of serious parts, but also lots of laughter. It’s always filled with honesty and advice. It’s refreshing.” She said she listens to the podcasts every day commuting to and from work. “It gives me an opportunity to disconnect from all the stressors in my life, (and) it keeps me going at work ... I am invested in this podcast!”
Like everything else, podcast production has been affected by the coronavirus outbreak, but Kelsey isn’t deterred.
“It’s definitely slowed things down, but while everybody’s locked away, they can still watch the podcast,” Kelsey said.
She said that while production itself will be suspended, episodes will still be released. They may simply be of her talking about a random topic, she said, or even interviewing people by Skype, but every Wednesday will still have a new episode.
To a person, everyone interviewed said that they would recommend Kelsey’s “Gawkward” podcast to anyone, of almost any age.
“It’s really special for everybody,” Yebra said. “I hope people will tune in for a really fun listening experience that is fun to relate to.”
“Everybody has a story from that time,” Kelsey said. “My goal is just to have common ground and getting to know people on a deeper level while helping me process through my own high school experience.”