Hosts Of Shameless Talk Rejection And Risk

“We had nothing to lose. There was no reason for us not to put the hours in.”

The following is an exclusive excerpt from Cult Status, a new book from Junkee Media co-founder Tim Duggan. The book explores the new generation of entrepreneurs who are building businesses that are purposeful, principled and creative.


In 2018, Michelle Andrews and Zara McDonald were both 23 years old, living in Melbourne and working as journalists for one of Australia’s leading women’s lifestyle websites, Mamamia. They worked independently but each week their writing shifts would overlap for a few hours on Sunday morning, giving them a chance to bounce stories off each other, swap ideas and laugh until they realised they both viewed the world in a similar way.  

They were, in their own words, ‘smart women who loved dumb stuff’. They loved talking about Instagram, influencers, YouTube stars, reality TV, Love Island and all of the associated drama and miniature news cycles each of those media create. And they knew that if they enjoyed dissecting it so passionately, other people would as well.  

They had an idea to create a podcast that, instead of focusing on traditional TV and movie celebrities like so much of the media, talked about breakout personalities who were rising on social media and who not many other outlets were taking too seriously. They wanted to unite a community of young women who all felt the same way as them.

They took their idea to their bosses at Mamamia, who ran the largest women’s podcast network in Australia. They were enthusiastic, and together they workshopped the idea and took it to some key advertisers to try to sell show sponsorship of it. Just before the show was about to launch, Mamamia decided it wasn’t the right fit and pulled out.  

Zara and Michelle were devastated. They were certain that being a part of one of the major podcast networks was what they needed to get mainstream success. They knew their idea would work and were terrified that someone would get there before them. However, instead of retreating to writing, they asked their bosses if they could start their podcast on their own, outside of work hours. Mamamia gave them written permission and six weeks later the first episode of Shameless launched.

“I think it was the best thing to ever to happen to us to have the podcast rejected by them,” says Michelle now, “because it’s been right to do it on our own and learn all the things that we have and be able to actually reap the rewards.”

Work Smart, Work Hard

From the start, everyone underestimated them.

“We were obsessed with making the podcast as successful as it could be,” says Michelle.

Basically from day one, it became our number one priority.”

They took it extremely seriously, focusing on what they wanted to say, how many people they wanted to reach, and how to build a community around themselves and the podcast.

“From episode one, we had spreadsheets to…


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