Anita Rao

Managing Editor, "The State of Things"/ Host, "Embodied"

Anita Rao is the host and creator of "Embodied," a live, weekly radio show and seasonal podcast about sex, relationships & health. She's also the managing editor of WUNC's on-demand content. She has traveled the country recording interviews for the Peabody Award-winning StoryCorps production department, founded and launched a podcast about millennial feminism in the South, and served as the managing editor and regular host of "The State of Things," North Carolina Public Radio's flagship daily, live talk show. Anita was born in a small coal-mining town in Northeast England but spent most of her life growing up in Iowa and has a fond affection for the Midwest.

Ways to Connect

Abundant psilocybin mushrooms growing in a tupperware inside a tidy home
Dana Saxon

The world of psychedelics is painted with neon colors and smiling, white hippies with long hair who use hallucinogenic substances for wild, recreational trips. But psychedelics like LSD, MDMA (also known as molly or ecstasy) and psilocybin (also known as magic mushrooms) have a much richer history in their use as therapeutic medicines, which existed in Indigenous communities long before Western culture and medicine discovered them. 

Anita says all the time "what's personal is political." So, she's interested to see how a new presidential administration will affect the ability of transgender Americans to serve in the U.S. military, which has long suffered from barriers to equity for troops and veterans from marginalized communities.


Anita Rao  00:00

Marc van der Chijs, Flickr, CC

If you’ve ever heard that nursing a baby comes “naturally,” we want to welcome you to the messy, painful, awkward truth: You sit so long to feed your child that your butt starts hurting. You feel like you need eight hands to keep everything together. You feel like you’re struggling. But you’re not alone.

Two glitched out photos paced together of an Afro-wearing person holding their hands around and on the mouth and nose.
Daniel Gaudard Varotto Couto

Back in November, WUNC chose to discontinue “The State of Things,” North Carolina’s only live public radio program heard in the mountains, on the coast and in the Piedmont. Those of us who make the daily talk show were surprised and saddened by the decision — however, we are thrilled to continue offering the Embodied series into 2021 as a live weekly program from noon to one on Fridays. Listeners can also look forward to season two of the podcast adaptation.

Anna Luisa Daigneault, known as Quilla, is the audio muse that makes the Embodied podcast sparkle. WUNC collaborated with Quilla to craft the theme for Embodied and other background music for the recurring series, which approaches taboo topics through a feminist lens.
 

A black pen lying on a piece of paper with handwritten words.
Pixabay

  The letters begin with various greetings. “Dear 50 year of age self.” “To my future children.” “Dear future me, It’s me, I mean you, but circa 2020.” These are the words of a group of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill undergraduates who processed the reality of a pandemic-dominated year through letters to the future as a class assignment this spring.

An old postcard photo of the Gastonia community center, which includes the Women's Club Building, Memorial Hall and Public Library.
Boston Public Library

This March, our world turned digital. Zoom meetings, virtual school and video chats dominated work, school and home life. To ease this transition to computer-based life, the state’s public libraries stepped up for their communities.

A white rectangular sign with the words 'THE OTHER AMERICA MOVEMENT BRIGHTWOOD PERMACULTURE FARM' written in bold red, green, and black font. The sign is in the woods, there are brown trees and branches behind it
Laura Pellicer / For WUNC

Activist Skip Gibbs was in the midst of leading a protest in Durham this summer when he felt that something wasn’t right. In the crowd, which had gathered to demand that the city council redirect the police department budget into social services, he saw mostly white faces.

Courtesy of Blair Publishing


Twenty-five years ago, renowned poet Lenard D. Moore invited a group of his peers into his basement for a session of writing critique. That monthly gathering evolved into the Carolina African American Writers’ Collective, which has supported over 60 writers across a variety of styles through their careers. 

A man wearing a brown jacket and holding a guitar standing in front of a microphone. The man is looking forward.
Ben Phantom

Asheville-based singer-songwriter Ben Phantom’s father never talked about his time in Vietnam. So when he finally decided to go back for a visit after 42 years in the United States, Phantom brought a video camera.

(AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)


When former schoolteacher Jane Whaley and her husband, Sam, founded Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale, NC in 1979, no one could have imagined all that the institution would become: a religious movement with global impact; a community that provides housing and job opportunities to its congregation; and a cult dogged with allegations of physical, psychological and spiritual abuse

Kane Realty/Gensler


This week the Raleigh City Council approved rezoning for Downtown South, a $2.2 billion development project that will bring shops, housing and a soccer stadium to southeast Raleigh. The space was previously zoned as an industrial district. Downtown South’s mixed-use zoning clearance is just an early step in the project’s progress.

A group of Black people in the middle of the street, walking. The people are holding various signs and there is one large black banner with the words 'Black Panther Movement Black Opressed People All Over The World' in bold, gold letters
Courtesy of Amazon Prime

Academy Award-winning director Steve McQueen took over a decade to fully realize his vision of a collection of stories about the West Indian community in London in the '60s, ‘70s and '80s. That idea came to life last month with the release of a five-part film anthology called "Small Axe." The films explore the joy and pain of life in this immigrant community — and its important contributions to London's history.

A glass store front with the words 'Black Owned Business' in silver, bold letters. The words are enclosed in a rectangle on the glass, the same exact color as the words
Paul Sableman/Flickr

When the first wave of federal COVID-19 provisions became available to businesses in April, Black business owners received a very small amount of relief funding. And the North Carolina Business Council estimates the number of Black businesses in the state has decreased by 41 percent since the beginning of the pandemic. There are several reasons for this, including the racial wage and generational wealth gaps, both of which contribute to Black businesses starting up with lower capital and struggling to sustain themselves without economic relationships with banks and other wealth-holding institutions.

A correctional institution facility that has two floors, there are 10 brown square tables and blue chairs.
NC Department of Public Safety

Increased coronavirus case numbers and deaths in North Carolina have taken a lethal toll on people inside state prisons. The number of coronavirus-related deaths has doubled since the end of September, and more than one of every six prisoners has tested positive, according to reporting by Charlotte Observer investigative reporter Ames Alexander. In December, four prisoners at four different facilities died in the span of five days. Outbreaks have continued across the system.

A yellow triangular sign 'No Baby On Board, durex' on the back of a dark blue van
Spoon, YouTube

There will be no COVID baby boom in the United States. In fact, a decrease in childbirth is expected, with existential fear prevailing over hormones and boredom. Similar downward trends occurred during the 2008 recession and the 1918 Spanish flu. Now experiencing their second economic crash, 15% of millennials are less interested in having children due to COVID-19. Meanwhile, others made the decision long before the pandemic.

Anita is all kinds of in love with her newborn niece, a relationship that has her thinking more about motherhood. Her thoughts on the matter are at least somewhat informed by listening to "The Double Shift" podcast, which challenges the status quo for moms. This episode explores the roles of gender and community in raising kids through the story of a transgender man named Ted. Plus, Anita extends an invitation for a virtual hangout.


A light brown, sand colored monument in front of a brown building. The monument is made up of bricks, the bricks are stacked ontop of each other, narrowing as it goes upwards
Billy Hathorn // CC

The Asheville City Council voted to remove the third and final Confederate monument from Asheville’s Pack Square Tuesday night. The 65-foot Vance Monument commemorates Zebulon Vance, North Carolina’s governor during the Civil War and U.S. Senator during Reconstruction who opposed civil rights for Black people.

A nurse sitting against a wall on the hospital floor. The nurse is covered in full gear: a white mask, blue shoe covers, a blue robe covering, blue gloves, and a blue nair net, and clear goggles. The nurse is looking straight ahead.
Alberto Guiliani/CC

COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing shortage of licensed nurses in the state of North Carolina. Too few nurses are available for staffing at local hospitals, leading to double and triple shifts for nurses who are healthy enough to work, as well as nurses’ increased exposure to COVID-19. This problem is expected to persist after vaccines become available, and retired nurses are being asked to return to work and assist with future distribution.

A Black woman smiling while holding an orange book titled 'Black Equestrian; coloring book.' The woman is wearing silver dangly earrings and her hair is pulled back into a ponytail
Courtesy of Caitlin Gooch

When Caitlin Gooch began working at a daycare center and a Boys and Girls Club in her hometown of Wendell, North Carolina, she noticed that students were not as interested in reading as she would have hoped. She started showing them pictures of her horses at her father’s farm, if they agreed to read and work on their vocabulary.

Grant Holub-Moorman


Harris Teeter or Food Lion? Earth Fare or Ingles? Lowes Foods or Lowe’s lumber yard? Groceries matter a lot to North Carolinians. And for good reason — our state produced some groundbreaking supermarket chains. From the end of the independent butcher shop to the racial integration of the checkout aisle, businesses experimented and changed the course of how we get our food.

Host Anita Rao lingers in the aisle with grocery scholars and independent grocers to learn about the suburban supermarket and alternative foodscape futures.

Her guests are:

A person with a wagon filled with baskets of red apples, one brown basket of apples fell off the wagon and there are 5 people jumping on the ground to attempt and pick up the fallen apples
Market Reports, Illustrated circa 1905

The inventor of gross domestic product — the sum of all goods and services of a particular nation — warned that it was not a good measurement of human welfare. Yet, since the 1940s, the single number has dominated policy recommendations, despite those foundational shortcomings. A recent report highlights the economic contributions and costs that GDP fails to take into account.

'Herpes+ and fine with it' in white font on a black background
Ella Dawson

When Ella Dawson got diagnosed with genital herpes, she felt like her body betrayed her. Herpes was something dirty, something bad that happened to other people. For a 20-something coming into her sexuality and body confidence, a sexually transmitted infection was a huge setback.

A map of North Carolina's counties, each county  is color coded for their community spread of COVID-19. Light yellow represents a significant community spread, orange represents a substantial community spread, and red represents the most critical spread
NC DHHS

While North Carolina’s urban centers were the sites of COVID-19 concern in March and April, the more sparsely populated parts of the state are now facing the highest rates of community spread of the coronavirus. Today, clusters of infection remain centered in the state’s urban centers, but broader community transmission is increasingly common outside the cities.

A tube filled with blue liquid with the words "COVID-19 Vaccine" on it. There is a syringe with a needle going into the tube.
Marco Verch, Flick/CC

With more than 2,000 hospitalizations in North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper has announced a tentative plan to make Pfizer’s vaccine available to state residents, regardless of health insurance status. While this long-term plan may mitigate future spread, residents are still struggling with how to protect themselves from contracting COVID-19.

Courtesy of Markee Steele

North Carolina-based emcee Markee Steele recently changed his name. Formerly known as Mark Steele, a moniker given to him by super-producer 9th Wonder, Steele felt the need to change the course of his career this year. The ESPN-featured indie artist, formerly known as Mark Steele, started with a new stage name, then created a new label, Thee Marquee Recordings.

A woman looking into the camera and smiling. The woman has dark colored (brown) hair. Her arms are crossed, left over right, over her chest.
Anne-Maria Makhulu

When Anne-Maria Makhulu tells her family history, it sounds as if she is paging through a well-worn textbook in her mind, memories written in the margins next to dates and city names. And in a way, she is. Makhulu is a cultural anthropologist who teaches at Duke University. Her research work is autobiographical, she says, based on her experiences as a child of an English mother and a South African father growing up in Europe and Africa.

You may still be full from all you ate off this year's holiday menu, but now's a perfect time to think about food — especially what certain gastrointestinal responses can tell us about our bodies. Some of those responses might surprise you, as our gut health is even connected to our brain in fascinating ways.

This special episode features an exploration of our gut, or our "second brain," courtesy of the podcast Embodied.


Cannabis containers and advocacy materials reading 'No one should be in jail for weed.'
We Go High NC

Hemp — including smokable hemp — is legal in North Carolina. But that is only the case if the hemp does not contain more than trace amounts of THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana. Hemp and marijuana can be similar in appearance. Both contain some level of THC, though hemp’s concentration is much lower.

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