Home Technology How Alexandra Cooper turned ‘Call Her Daddy’ into a multimillion-dollar baby

How Alexandra Cooper turned ‘Call Her Daddy’ into a multimillion-dollar baby

by Atlanta Business Journal

If there were ever a face for radio, Alexandra Cooper’s is not it.

In her recently purchased palatial West Hollywood home, the 27-year-old podcast host stands at a petite 5 foot 5 with a Colgate campaign-ready smile. Every time she laughs, Cooper’s hair — waist length and impossibly platinum — catches the light. With these attributes, alongside Cooper’s affable goldendoodle (Henry) and a $60-million deal with the biggest audio streaming service on the planet (Spotify), Cooper embodies every inch of the girl you love to hate. The thing is, I like her — and so do her 3 million listeners.

Cooper has long asked us to call her “daddy,” but only in the last year did she really earn the title. Pitched in 2018 as a “woman’s locker-room conversation,” the originally “co-parented” “Call Her Daddy” looked very different — anchored in the fundamentals of fourth-wave feminism and distributed by frat bro-favorite media company, Barstool Sports. Along the winding road to Spotify — a journey that included a dramatic, much-documented showdown between its Alex Cooper and the show’s co-creator Sofia Franklyn — “Call Her Daddy” would drop its original logline and other “founding father”… but not its edge. Now, almost every episode of the show features Cooper with a new guest, for whom she has one prompt in common: “Tell me about your childhood.”

“People will tell me they miss the old ‘Call Her Daddy,’ but that show was dying,” Cooper said. “We were getting lower numbers than we’d ever gotten. It was like, ‘How many times can we talk about sex?’ I was getting a little bit bored. I need to be mentally stimulated by my content.”

When the show first caught alight, Cooper splurged on her first big purchase: a cloud couch. Comfort, as it happens, is the driving force behind much of Cooper’s decision-making — from her array of sweatsuits (today, in the crippling 90-degree heat of Los Angeles’ springtime, she’s clad in full “Father” merch), to her podcast process. For years, the Pennsylvania native would not only record but book talent, research and edit almost entirely alone (a former film student, she even chooses editing software Premiere Pro because it feels “cozy”). Her publicist calls Cooper a “one-woman operation,” while Spotify claims she’s the most “hands-on” podcasting talent on its roster.

“There’s this assumption that making a podcast is easy, but it’s a lot of f—ing work. I take it with great pride that my whole life revolves around it,” she explains. “Every Sunday I’m working, I work seven days a week. And I love it. I would not want to do anything else.”

The fallout with Franklyn, her former best friend and business partner, further fueled the host’s “balls to the wall” motivation. Both girls publicly delineated discrepancies in work ethic and vision, as well as conflicting ideas as to their “worth” — Cooper via a YouTube confessional, and Franklyn on her new podcast, “Sofia with an F(“Your skills are menial; Mine are intangible,” she said about Cooper). The latter continues to address the drama, recently alleging Cooper used a “ghostwriter” throughout the podcast.

“[Sofia] said I wasn’t able to walk on set and speak for myself,” Cooper remembers. “Immediately I wanted to tell everyone that’s not true, but then I had just sat down with Miley Cyrus with no notes, so I thought, ‘You know what? I’ll let the work speak for itself.’”

In “Call Her Daddy’s” band breakup, Cooper emerged the Justin Timberlake — unscathed and ultimately, triumphant. A former Division I soccer player at Boston University, Cooper is the first to compare her well-publicized contract with Spotify to that of a professional athlete hitting the big time. An annual salary of $20 million makes Cooper the highest-paid female podcaster on Spotify — and second only to Joe Rogan overall. While she acknowledges this kind of sum might incline others to “coast,” Cooper has no plans to rest on her laurels.

“[Since] I had already gone through so much drama in my career, I already had the odds of people thinking I was going to be able to do it against me,” she explains. “Now, every week it’s like, how am I going to top this one?”

“As the show has gotten bigger and the brand has gotten bigger, my life has changed,” Cooper explains.

(Max Montgomery)

The show’s growth has allowed Cooper to build an all-female team (including, at long last, an editor), “the best part” about the money. “Dude, it’s inspiring,” other female presenters have told her about the multimillion-dollar deal, she says. “A woman just got what in the past would’ve been a male contract.”

“To go from a public fallout over money to this [took some processing],” she says. “I decided to just think about it as a really cool win for women. And, of course, I’ll pay for my friends all the time — surprise them with plane tickets, pick up the check for every dinner. Otherwise, what is this all for?”

Cooper and I are sitting down weeks after our interview was initially scheduled, her time now dedicated to procuring high-profile talent. In a first for Spotify earlier this year, “Call Her Daddy” debuted a two-part, in-app video special, featuring Jamie Lynn Spears. During their conversation, Spears read aloud personal messages to sister Britney, dissolving into tears as Cooper dissected their relationship. Upon the episodes’ release, fans of Britney called for a “Call Her Daddy” boycott due to Jamie Lynn’s conspicuous silence during the #FreeBritney movement. Britney herself would also respond.

“With Jamie Lynn people, were saying, ‘You could have gone harder,’ when she was shaking and crying,” Cooper remembers. “The episodes I’ve been given the most s— about are the most downloaded of ‘Call Her Daddy.’ What does it say about you, that you hate it and you’re still watching it?”

Following the Spears tell-all was a two-part series with Emma Chamberlain, a Gen Z supernova whose own podcast has, at times, even unseated “Call Her Daddy” in the Spotify rankings. Then came Julia Fox. The “Uncut Gems” actress was at the height of her short-lived relationship with Kanye West when she proceeded, at Cooper’s request, to break down her assignment as his “muse.”

“I mean I was Josh Safdie’s muse when he wrote Uncah Jaahms,” she said, pronounced in a native-New Yorker-Valley-girl hybrid drawl.

Overnight, “Uncah Jaahms” irrevocably entered the digital vernacular. Shay Mitchell and Cara Delevingne parodied the viral clip. Netflix updated the film’s name to match Fox’s “yassified” pronunciation. Those who had never heard of “Call Her Daddy” before knew it now.

“I’m very calculated about the timing. I get pitched so many A-list celebrities, but I don’t have them on because they’re not going to talk,” Cooper claims. “J Lo wants to promote her movie, but I’m not E! News — I want to have real conversations.”

Cross-legged opposite Cooper in her fleecy armchairs, assuming the roles of therapist and client feels inevitable. The daughter of a psychologist and sports television producer, Cooper seemed predestined for her position. While her childhood was captured in endless home videos, she was quick to move behind the camera — foreseeing a future in content editing. After completing a degree in film and television, she spent her post-grad days as a print ad salesperson for Gotham magazine, furiously applying for production jobs in New York. When “Call Her Daddy” was born, Cooper’s intention was that the show fund a then-budding vlogging career.

“I had never heard a podcast when I first started — I was just going off of what I felt I wanted to listen to,” she says. “I’m also a consumer. I’m looking at who is in everyone’s mouth that week. If they’re interested in it, I’m going to be interested in it.”

It likely won’t surprise the “Daddy Gang” (Cooper’s affectionate term for “Call Her Daddy” disciples) that their Father is an avid therapy goer. A master of introspection, Cooper often draws on her own shortfalls to elicit vulnerability in guests. Several months back, she interviewed infamous “Soho Grifter” Anna Delvey (yes, that Anna Delvey) via video call in prison. After repeated evasive responses from the disgraced socialite, Cooper cut right to the chase: “Who hurt you?” she asked.

“That was the hardest interview I’ve ever done,” she says. “I wasn’t going in there to get her to admit to anything, I just wanted to talk to Anna Delvey. People sit down with me because I think they can see I’m fully coming into it with no judgment. … On social media we reduce human beings to headlines. I get to present a 360 view of a guest that has only had a snapshot before.”

The host admits the intimacy she fosters with “Call Her Daddy” guests is often misconstrued. While she’s often asked to drinks or dinner, Cooper prides herself on maintaining professional distance. It’s easy to understand why. If Cooper pals around with A-listers, “Call Her Daddy might become beholden to them.

“I’ve gone to the parties — and I’m not s— on anyone — but it’s not as glamorous as it looks,” she said. “A lot of those people are really lonely. They don’t have a lot of real relationships. The more I get into interviewing, I’ve realized it’s imperative for me to draw that line. No one in L.A. can say they know me.”

After signing the Spotify deal, Cooper had a “mental breakdown.” She agonized for three weeks over her first episode, “I Glucked My Way to the Top” (a specific allusion to oral sex), which marked the dawn of a new “Call Her Daddy” era and was her last real revelatory episode. After years of mining her personal life for comedic content, Cooper had decided to protect her privacy. She’ll still regularly mention her boyfriend, a movie producer, on the podcast, but never by name.

“As the show has gotten bigger and the brand has gotten bigger, my life has changed,” she explains. “I’m in Hollywood. [My boyfriend and I] needed to find a line for our relationship — and I respect my listeners so much because they’re getting fulfilled in a different way now.”

Cooper considers the Daddy Gang’s perspective in each guest, every cut. When one guest tried to claim responsibility for her own sexual harassment, Cooper unceremoniously concluded the interview, adding a disclaimer for impressionable listeners. It’s not uncommon for Cooper to receive fan photos of group “Call Her Daddy” listening sessions.

Black and white photo of a woman posing

“I had an incredible deal go public, and I think you should expect to see that again in a different way,” Cooper said.

(Max Montgomery)

“With the Daddy Gang I’m like, ‘These people are my family, how can I feed my family?’” she says, adding her Instagram inbox evolved into something of an informal fan suggestion box. “I better show up every week and blow everyone’s socks off.”

Like Cooper herself, “Call Her Daddy” is maturing. It’s often mentioned in the same breath as the actor-led interview podcast “Smart-less,” which inked a $60- $80-million exclusive deal to see it expand into a full a podcast production company. Cooper similarly envisions the “Call Her Daddy” brand as “bigger than [her]self,” hoping to one day step into the role of executive producer on a different project.

“I had an incredible deal go public, and I think you should expect to see that again in a different way. What I can say is that it’s not going to just continue in the way that it’s going. There’s going to be a shift.”

For now, the goal is to establish a better work-life balance — though it clearly isn’t coming easy. Every question, no matter how personal, Cooper pivots back to the podcast. She speaks rapidly, as if scurrying to offer the other person the floor. At times, the podcaster will forget she’s the subject of this interview, shifting the conversation to my life. It seems only when interested does Alexandra Cooper feel at her most interesting. It would be easy to draw parallels between the podcaster and superstar presenters of yesteryear, revered for throwing hardballs in hushed tones. Then again, Oprah or Barbara Walters never had an “Uncah Jaahms.”

“Make me sound smart,” she laughs as she shows me to her 8-foot door.

Cooper needn’t worry. Like a good dad, she’s got it covered.

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