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

'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.

Furniture out on the sidewalk in front of a red brick building
70023venus2009 / Flickr / CC

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eviction moratorium protects North Carolina tenants from evictions until the end of the year. Any tenant can provide their landlord with a declaration form that attests they are unable to pay their rent and at risk of homelessness.

Friedman and Sow leaned against eachother and laughing outside.
Milan Zrnic

Friendships carry us through the high and lows of life. From celebrating our successes to helping salve the sting of rejection, the people we choose to surround ourselves with offer an unparalleled kind of support. But there is not much structural guidance on how to nurture our platonic, intimate relationships. 

A diptych with author Tracy Deonn on the left and the cover of her novel on the right. Tracy is a Black woman wearing a maroon sweater and a silver necklace. The novel has the words "Legendborn" in front of a Black girl with blue and red fire on her arms.
Simon & Schuster

Bree Matthews is a 16-year-old girl with a desire to separate herself from her old life after her mother’s passing. While attending a residential program for bright high schoolers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Bree is thrown into the world of magic. 

NCSBE

Over 5 million North Carolinians cast ballots in this year’s election, many of them opting for mail-in and early onsite voting. While there is still a lot we do not know about voter demographics, we do know that the pandemic did not deter voter engagement. 

Courtesy of KHX05

Does your sick leave policy include time off to care for roommates, best friends or chosen siblings? Over 60% of people under the age of 25 live in non-family households, and 28% of all adults live alone in the U.S. It is a distinct turn from historical numbers and the persistent, politicized ideal of the two-parent nuclear family. Workplaces and governments are beginning to broaden the definition of family to include non-biological relationships in their sick-leave protocol.

A roll of stickers with an American flag and the words 'I Voted' and 'Yo Vote.'
GPA Photo Archive/Flickr/CC

North Carolina has a history of split-ticket voting. In 2016, the state voted in a Republican president — but put a Democrat in the governor’s seat. The same thing happened in 2004, with George W. Bush for president and Mike Easley for governor. 

Around the world, skin-lightening agents are a billion-dollar industry. Colorism and discrimination are major factors.
Flickr/CC

In the U.S. as well as around the world, skin color has long been associated with social perceptions of beauty, intellect and class. Studies have shown that many perceive lighter skin as indicative of higher intelligence. Research also suggests that those with darker skin experience higher instances of criminalization

A Black man in a black shirt smiling. He has his hands behind his head
Courtesy of Phonte Coleman

Robeson County-born, Greensboro-raised musician Phonte Coleman has traveled all over the world, but there’s no other place he can imagine living than North Carolina. A founding member of the rap group Little Brother, as well as a member of the genre-bending music group The Foreign Exchange, Coleman appreciates the quiet, lowkey community he’s built in the state and the focus on his craft that it affords him.

An aircraft carrier in open ocean pictured from the top from left
US Navy

Voting by mail is nothing new for military service members. Deployed worldwide at any of the nearly 800 foreign bases, military personnel are offered some exceptions during the elections. Some vote by fax from a battleship, and many sent their ballots weeks ago, after receiving them earlier than most voters, at least 45 days before the election. 

NC Dept of Agriculture and Consumer Services

For over a century, Black farmers have faced challenges in securing federal and local funding to aid their farms in times of need and during crises. COVID-19 has been no different. From lack of access to information about coronavirus relief provisions for farmers to difficulty finding spaces to safely vend during the crisis, the pandemic has made obstacles even more stark.

Gragg stands in front of a pink quilt top with yellow and blue squares. She is wearing a large necklace, drop earrings and a blue shirt. Her coily hair has streaks of blue.
Dare Kumolo-Johnson

Mavis Gragg never thought her work would “take her to the trees,” but that is where she has found herself. 

A white pregnancy test with two pink bars showing a positive test.
Flickr/CC

As the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett approach, abortion issues have been thrown into the spotlight once again. President Donald Trump nominated Judge Barrett after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last month. Justice Ginsburg was a vocal advocate for women’s rights and endorsed abortion rights when questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee at her confirmation hearing in 1993. While Judge Barrett has not signed onto an official opinion cutting back on the rights guaranteed in the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, she has disagreed with appeals courts who struck down laws that restrict abortion in her home state of Indiana.

A Black woman holding a megaphone and wearing a crown in New York City
Courtesy of SX Noir

Working from home looks a little different for sex workers. With most strip clubs closed and dancers excluded from larger pots of money in the coronavirus relief package, the sex trade has  largely gone online. From strippers to erotic masseuses to full service workers, virtual sex work required innovation. 

Anita Rao  00:02

Anita is admittedly anxious about aging and what she'll have to re-negotiate about her body and her relationships as she gets older. Wisdom wanted.

Want to support this podcast? Subscribe on your favorite audio app, leave a review on Apple Podcasts, join the conversation at #EmbodiedWUNC or give to WUNC.

wileydoc / Flickr

North Carolina State University announced a return to in-person classes and on-campus living for the spring semester yesterday. The school closed in late August after a rise in COVID-19 cases. School reopenings led to spikes in cases across the country, according to a new study co-authored by two North Carolina-based professors — as many as 3,000 cases per day. 

Parental advisory labels date back to the 1980s. They exist, in part, to alert consumers to the presence of profanity, explicit discussion of sex and sexuality and graphic violence. But there has never been a unilateral ranking system to determine what content must be labeled as explicit. 

Durham-based musician A.yoni Jeffries understands discouragement. Her latest album, “Potential Gon’ Pay,” was delayed three times this year. But the 25-year-old never stays discouraged for long. In the interim, while she awaited a new release date, she focused her attention on a new endeavor, Handèwa Farms, which she launched in December 2019 with eight partners. 

Anita knows how frustrating it can be to find the right doctor and get good healthcare. Transgender people have to navigate all those challenges and take extra measures to advocate for their wellbeing with medical providers who are too often untrained to treat them.

Want to support this podcast? Subscribe on your favorite audio app, leave a review on Apple Podcasts, join the conversation at #EmbodiedWUNC or give to WUNC.


Anita Rao  00:03

Anita is thinking more and more about entering the club of motherhood. But first, she'd appreciate a reality check on things we don't often talk about — like child care and health concerns around pregnancy and labor. Want to support this podcast? Subscribe on your favorite audio app, leave a review on Apple Podcasts, join the conversation at #EmbodiedWUNC or give to WUNC.


Anita Rao  00:05

A Black woman squatting in front of a totally pink Cadillac with "TRAP" painted on the equallly pink garage door behind
Courtesy of Kyesha Jennings

The linguistic rules of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) are widespread and catalogued — yet most classrooms still frown upon writing and speaking it. Hip-hop scholar Kyesha Jennings grew up in Queens, New York, and remembers teachers correcting her use of the possessive they and double negatives. Now, she’s on a mission to disrupt the common belief that all English follows one set of rules. 

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