By Maura Sullivan Hill, Team FSO Staff Writer
Photos by Robin Ritoss and Lilah Fear
For elite figure skaters, interviews and talking to the media are part of the package when you compete at national and international competitions. But a couple of your favorite skaters have turned the tables and become the interviewers themselves, hosting their own podcasts and interview series.
Figure Skaters Online’s Maura Sullivan Hill spoke with three podcasters, all focused on sharing personal stories, digging deeper, and making connections to help the next generation of skaters. In the final part of her three-part series called “On the AIr”, Maura talks with 2017 U.S. pewter medalist Elliana Pogrebinsky on how she’s empowering women athletes through a web and interview series.
The three-time British Ice Dance Champion and 2022 Olympic hopeful alongside her partner Lewis Gibson fell in love with podcasts in 2017. She had graduated from high school but was taking a gap year before she enrolled at McGill University in her training town of Montreal, and listening to podcasts like Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday and The Tim Ferriss Show business podcast helped fill the newfound extra time in her schedule.
“I was really just struck moreso by the interviewer themselves, and the questions they’d ask and the different ways of looking at someone’s life,” Fear says. “And I was just intrigued by the fact that I was drawn to the interviewer more than the interviewee. I started studying their technique and diving into different podcasts, and I thought, I’m a chatty Cathy, I love to meet new people, so why not try my own?”
She launched The Lilah Jo Show in 2018 and is in her fourth season of producing the podcast, which features skaters and other athletes, artists and creatives. As the show bio details, Fear “invites her guests to step down from the podium and draws out advice, anecdotes and relatable stories that will inspire you to fearlessly pursue your passions.”
Fear reaches out to guests via email or social media to book them, edits the show herself and takes inspiration from her career as an elite athlete in the interview structure. She formats each conversation like a workout: a series of short, quick questions for what she calls the warm up; then what she refers to as “a longer period of high-intensity questioning;” followed by a cool down featuring some more introspective questions.
Now that she’s studying psychology and communications at McGill in addition to her ice dance training, Fear produces the podcast during the summer. Her latest episode features none other than British ice dancing legend Jayne Torvill, and she’s interviewed many of her training mates at the Ice Academy of Montreal. Fear says one of her most memorable interviews was with Tessa Virtue, one half of the ice dance duo that is the most decorated figure skaters in Olympic history.
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“I have to say my conversation with Tessa Virtue was extremely memorable, because she’s a skater that I always looked up to growing up, and now she’s a dear friend of mine. And that feels like such an honor and she has such a special place in my heart,” Fear says. “So just to be able to dive into a conversation with her and discuss things that people may not have heard in the past, so that the world can get to know her as a person.”
Fear’s interview went beyond Virtue’s career with her partner Scott Moir and covered everything from the influence and inspiration of Virtue’s mother, body image in skating, to Virtue’s newest endeavors in education and business.
No matter who she is talking with on the show, Fear balances her natural tendency to be prepared with spontaneity. She also makes sure to have empathy for each guest, since, she says, “I know what it’s like to be on that side.” And it’s that approach that has resonated with her listeners over the past three years of her show.
“I’ve always loved doing homework for school and studying for class, so I kind of harness that skill, and scour the web and really just read everything about [the guest] and think of questions that they may not have been asked before,” Fear says. “I love the balance between structure and spontaneity, because I’m definitely a bit of a control freak. And I love to plan and know what to expect, so it’s a good challenge for me to do my research and to know a lot about the guests and have some questions in mind. But then to also leave room for the magic, because I think you need that spontaneity to have a really interesting and exciting conversation that you don’t necessarily expect to have. And then I think it’s nice for both myself and the guests to be surprised by the conversation and the way it takes shape.”
Subscribe to The Lilah Jo Show wherever you listen to podcasts to keep up with every episode.
Stay tuned for more of our “On the Air” series, coming later this season. To read the first part of our “On the Air” series with 2014 Olympian Polina Edmunds, click here, and to read the second part with 2017 U.S. pewter medalist Elliana Pogrebinsky, click here.