"Our podcast has that point of view: Why do we like the show so much, even though we can't relate to it?" says Gossip Girls cohost Subi Shah. Credit: Chris Riha

Chicagoans is a first-person account from off the beaten track, as told to Anne Ford. This week’s Chicagoan is Subi Shah, maker,
Gossip Girl fan, and podcaster.

“I’m a freelance mechanical engineer. People are like, ‘I have an idea for this thing, and I have no idea how to get it prototyped or printed or manufactured.’ No one wants to invest in your idea unless you have a physical product to look at. So I make 3-D models and print them and tweak the design until it becomes a functional product you can pitch to investors.  

“I was a staff engineer for five years, and I quit my job. It was because I was feeling really unfulfilled, and because everyone was—oh, God—an old white dude, and they didn’t take me particularly seriously. I don’t cross-stitch, I never have in my life, and my boss told me, ‘Your VP saw you cross-stitching at your desk. You need to not do that.’ I was like, ‘This is not real.’

“Or sometimes I’d get, ‘What are you? Do you eat spicy food? Can I call you Curry?’ White people are truly embarrassing. On Tinder, the messages I get are a level grosser than the ones white women get. Or not gross, but just racist. I got one that said, ‘I love Indian women, but I’ve never dated one.’ I wrote back: ‘Hey, next time don’t start a conversation based on race.’ He was like, ‘Yo, dummy, it’s not race, it’s ethnicity.’ I didn’t respond, and he was like, ‘Sorry, can we start over?’ I thought, Are you serious? It’s really disgusting, and that’s why I’m single. Me flirting is like, ‘Hi, I hate men.’ But men are so great.

“OK, so I’ve loved Gossip Girl since the third season. I saw it, and I was like, ‘Oh, my God, this is the worst show I’ve ever seen. I love it so much.’ It’s a bunch of overprivileged white youths, and their issues are like, ‘My maid isn’t waking me up on time.’ You just want to take yourself into this world where everyone has these weird superficial problems.

“My friend Cher [Vincent] and I started texting about Gossip Girl with more and more frequency, and one day, she was like, ‘We should just do a Gossip Girl podcast.’ We’re both people of color, and there are almost no people of color on the show. Our podcast has that point of view: Why do we like the show so much, even though we can’t relate to it?

“One reason I really like Gossip Girl is that most episodes have some fancy party that they go to. I think some part of me just wants to be in that world and wear fancy dresses and have a lot of money and donate to causes that don’t need donating to. Except I would donate to Planned Parenthood. And I love it when the characters get together and plot. Like Blair Waldorf—she’s an evil queen who plots everything and is so amazing, and I want to be just like her when I turn 17 in negative 12 years.

“What else about me? I feel like I see the world in different ways. I say really outlandish things. I think it comes from not having as much of a filter as I should. It’s like the Donald Trump way of talking. I say things that people are thinking, but I’m not a terrible human being.”