Welcome to E!'s Tales From the Top, our series on women who are leaders in their fields and masters of their craft. Spanning industries and experiences, these powerhouse women answer all the questions you've ever had about how they got to where they are today—and what they overcame to get there. Read along as they bring their resumés to life.
Three years ago, she was 23, living on unemployment checks, vlogging on YouTube and trying her hand at starting a podcast. Today, she's on the receiving end of a reported $60 million deal.
Yes, we're talking about Alex Cooper, the former co-host and now solo leader of the sex and dating podcast, Call Her Daddy. To her many devoted fans—known collectively as the "Daddy Gang"—who follow her on social media and tune in to her weekly episodes, Alex is nicknamed single Father Cooper.
Now freshly turned 27, Cooper's career trajectory has taken her from the New York City apartment she shared with two roommates to a seat across from Miley Cyrus—at the star's own home, we should note—in less time than it usually takes to graduate college. It was June 10, 2018 when the Boston University alum excitedly announced to her YouTube followers that the first episode of her and then-roommate Sofia Franklyn's new Call Her Daddy podcast was about to come out. Four months later, she had another announcement for her followers: Barstool Sports hired her.
The women's rise as Barstool talent was swift as the Daddy Gang grew by the millions, gobbling up their weekly episodes bearing titles like "Why They Won't F*ck You" and "Let Him Watch Porn" and propelling them to the top of the podcast charts. But, as the world came to a screeching halt in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, so too did new Call Her Daddy episodes. As fans would quickly learn, turmoil had been bubbling behind the scenes, fueled by contract negotiations that would ultimately turn sour between the women. By May 2020—almost two years after Cooper announced their first episode—the duo was no more.
After striking a solo deal with Barstool, which included the rights to the highly coveted Call Her Daddy brand, Cooper had to find her new footing as the captain of the ship. "I've been doing 80-plus episodes with a co-host. How the f--k does one podcast alone?" she asked listeners during her first episode back without Franklyn on May 26, 2020. "I don't f--king know, but I'm here because of you guys."
And she remained, steering what had become an even bigger platform—thanks in part to the barrage of extra attention spurred by their split—into the new year. Along the way, she helped fill any void left by Franklyn's absence with celebrity guests like the aforementioned Cyrus and, whether intentional or not, set the stage for an even more high-profile future.
If anyone was dismissive of Cooper's unfiltered, boundary-pushing show and the success she had amassed as a result, the rising star was about to prove them wrong once again when news broke this June that she had signed an exclusive, three-year deal with Spotify. The price tag? Reportedly more than $60 million.
While it's hard to believe a year has already passed since the two famed BFFs went their separate ways, Cooper is in even more famous company now among fellow Spotify talent like, say, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry and continued celebrity guests like Heidi Montag and Tiffany Haddish.
If you're asking yourself, "How'd she do it?"—take a seat and grab a notebook. From the power of silence and trusting your gut to staying on good terms with an old employer and, of course, working with friends, Cooper unpacked it all for E! News below:
E! News: Listening back to those early episodes of Call Her Daddy, even watching the vlogs, the self-deprecating comments—it all gives off a vibe that it was casual and you ladies didn't take yourselves too seriously. Did you go into it with a plan or was it purely experimental?
Alex Cooper: Everything was calculated. Everything was very well thought out. Even the whole concept of casually making it look like we were just two friends hanging out. We had even just met, but we were giving off the persona that we were best friends for years. We had literally just met through random [friends] in New York. And then I think also the idea that we weren't looking scripted or making anything look like we thought it out too much, that was the plan. That was scripted.
E!: What is something that has changed about your life since the success of this podcast, and especially with the new Spotify deal, that you didn't anticipate?
AC: There's definitely a different element that I didn't have in the beginning, which was something to lose. In the beginning of creating something, it was like throw it all in there. I was on unemployment checks and now I feel a greater sense of responsibility knowing there are millions of people listening to my voice every week. I'm not just going to say some reckless s--t because now knowing not only the amount of people that listen to me, but after gaining through this three years of podcasting, the loyal listeners that actually implement what I'm saying into their daily lives. I just have a different respect for the craft and respect for what I'm saying because I know how intensely it can affect others.
E!: Being a public figure and having this very personal brand, with all that in mind, what do people get wrong about you?
AC: I think the concept of like, "Oh she's bitchy." Like, "Oh, she f--ked someone over to get here." There's always two sides to every story and then there's also the story that will never be told on the internet. Yes, I'm so competitive, but a man has never been called too competitive. It's like "the go-getter," "Oh, he knows what he wants"...I think for men, it's never deemed bitchy or catfish-y, so I think for me, my best friends would tell you I'm a great f--king friend and I'm a loyal person.
E!: Some people—maybe they'll look at what happened between you and Sofia and be weary of working with a friend. What's your stance on that today?
AC: If you in any way, shape or form feel like your goals and your desire and your hunger for the goal or the task or the brand at hand is more than the person that you're attempting to get into business with, go the opposite direction. There is no fault on that other person, but business-wise, it just logistically will not work long-term. I think obviously short-term, for me, our brand obviously thrives, but there were so many moments before that big split that there were questions of how much longer could it go on, so I think my advice would be knowing yourself enough to know what you want in business and trying to understand if every facet aligns with your friend because, in most cases, it probably won't.
E!: And to also feel comfortable saying to your friend, "Well, maybe this isn't a good idea for the sake of our friendship."
AC: I also think it was weird for me because like I said, we didn't really know each other. We were fast friends, but it wasn't like this was like a childhood best friend, so you also have to take into account what is your relationship with someone and do you think you're better off staying friends or business-wise, is that where you're more calibrated and where you guys click? I think from a very young age, I knew whatever I'm going to be doing, I'm probably going to be doing it alone because I'm just a very competitive person and I work 24/7. Some people don't want to work that way, which is fine.
E!: In your June episode, you mentioned that after the Spotify deal was announced, you called your publicist about asking outlets to remove the gender from the headlines, saying if it was a male, they wouldn't even specify that. How often have you experienced sexism in your career journey?
AC: I think it was hard for a while because as much as I like to not read the trolls, especially being associated with Barstool, there were all those young, horny boys that were like, "She's successful because she talks about sucking d--k." It was frustrating to see men trying to discredit the brilliant product that had been created and millions of people are consuming it and saying it's changing their life or it's changing their outlook on XYZ and men trying to bring it down to just, "Oh, it's because it's sex." You don't just build a loyal, steady, consistent audience just because you casually talk about sex. And if it was because of that, who gives a f--k?
E!: You've spoken about how you remain on good terms with Dave Portnoy and Barstool and they supported you when you were taking meetings as your contract was coming to an end. I know you still have a merch deal with Barstool, but in general, what advice do you have for people who are trying to figure out how to pursue new opportunities outside of their current employers?
AC: Listen, it's hard. It's definitely a tricky situation because at the end of the day, there needed to be some loyalty to Barstool and I'm so grateful for them. I think when you know your worth and you know what you have to give in whatever industry you're in, you do have to look out for yourself. At the end of the day, that's what everyone is doing...I don't want to ever burn bridges and business and I've learned that the hard way, but thankfully I really haven't burned that many bridges now. And I think that if you are in a situation where you can be open with your employer, or whoever you are in a work environment with, and you present it in a way that shows that you want personal growth, I feel like people appreciate that more than being sneaky and not being upfront.
E!: Now that you've made it to the other side in a major way, you've had a seat at the table inside meetings that are of a caliber some women today may never see. What have you learned from being in those positions?
AC: I definitely feel like I'm still learning, but my brother and my family have been helpful in this. I sometimes still will feel in business meetings like, "Oh my God, I have to talk and I have to over talk." And I think throughout these negotiations this time around, I've really learned the power of silence with regard to saying my statement and then being quiet and letting someone actually answer the question rather than basically giving them the out. Be direct, be completely silent and staring at someone is so f--king powerful. In business, I never knew that and then I finally started to do it and it's wild to be on Zooms with the CEOs and I'm saying things and I just shut the f--k up after I say my statement and stare at them and it's like, "The floor is yours." I think anyone that is ever going into big business meetings, it's like, "Alright, they're a human being, too. You're equal." Maybe not actually structurally at the company, but you should try to feel that way because then you will exude that.
E!: What's the career advice that continues to stick with you?
AC: Oh, trust your gut. I had an opportunity with someone that offered me significantly more money than Spotify and my gut, I was like, "Nope, it's Spotify." Money at this point doesn't matter. Who is going to make this show the best show that it can be and continue to be? And that same thing happened when I sat on that rooftop with Dave and I trusted my gut and I knew to stay and keep the IP. Usually your gut is not wrong.
E!: What would you tell yourself in 2018 the day that you recorded the first Call Her Daddy episode?
AC: Just keep going. I wouldn't even tell myself it's going to work out. I wouldn't have told myself it's going to be successful because those growing pains and those hard times and the crying in my room and getting into therapy because of the show—it was all worth it.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)