Alex Cooper on Her $60 Million Spotify Deal, Barstool Sports, and Therapy
It doesn't matter what other people think, life is a competition to Alex Cooper — and she's winning.
The "Call Her Daddy" podcast host knows how to take out whoever's standing in her way, whether it be scumbag men, sexist internet trolls, or two-faced friends. The 26-year-old isn't even fully into her third year of podcasting, and she's leading one of the world's most popular shows that receives millions of downloads each month. Not to mention, she recently signed one of Spotify's most lucrative deals to date. But if you think any of this success is a fluke, take a seat and evaluate the professional at play here.
Raised by a psychologist mother and sports producer father, Cooper's childhood consisted of competitive chore charts and dinnertime dialogue revolving around mental health. This built an ambitious woman that uses her gut instincts to her advantage.
"I have always wanted to be the best at what I'm doing," she said over a Friday afternoon Zoom call. "The competitiveness, you can label it as being bitchy. Everybody needs a villain, and everybody needs a victim. I'm fine playing the villain if that's what you want to call it, but to me, I see someone that knows their worth, knows their vision, knows exactly what they built, knows what time and energy they personally put into it, and I have no qualms to sit here and be like I earned this shit and I deserve to be the last one standing."
That shit she earned? A $60 million deal with Spotify — the biggest ever for a female podcast host. "Call Her Daddy" and its catalog of episodes is now exclusively available within the streaming service, and Cooper is to lead an additional project for the app that's rumored to be a true-crime podcast.
That unwavering confidence and trust in herself is nothing new. Even as a kid, she only focused on things she truly desired. "I tried every single sport when I was younger," she said. "I swam one swim meet, I did one track meet. I just know myself so well that if I don't like something, I don't continue with it. When I found soccer, I was like, this is it."
After her stint playing soccer for Boston University, a podcast episode that she recorded on a whim became viral. It was a pivotal moment that came when she was at a career crossroads. But, if something feels right to Cooper, she puts all of her weight into the gas pedal and doesn't look back.
Barstool Sports approached her about a show deal, and she seemingly became the face of the brand overnight. The show she charged with former co-host, Sofia Franklin, was the male-dominated outlet's most popular possession. Cooper grew to symbolize a new wave of feminism for some, and lewdness for others. The topic matter that she discussed on the show ranged from how to safely have anal sex to how to get revenge on an ex. It frequented top spots on iTunes and Spotify's charts and proved that locker room talk isn't just for men. In fact, based on her subscriber numbers, it might be more of an interest to women.
Perhaps like others, my opinion on "Call Her Daddy" hasn't always been the most positive, mostly because of what it was associated with. When I first started hearing about Cooper and the show, I couldn't separate them from Barstool, an outlet that's known for being toxic, sexist, and racist. I thought, how empowering could a show about sex be if it's backed by a company that sees women as prizes?
But last spring when headlines about the podcast and the other host's departure started circulating, I gave it a listen. What I heard wasn't what I expected. The episode, titled "The Funeral," consisted of a woman going into detail about a contract dispute she had with her employer. It resulted in an ended friendship, but also led to Cooper getting the recognition (both in increased pay and popularity) that so many women fight for and deserve.
So, I started listening.
It became clear that "Call Her Daddy" wasn't a show for women from a man's point of view like I thought it'd be. It was a show that gave its listeners power through thought and craft. Blow job tips and mental health sermons were shared in the same episode. That balance, those honest conversations, and the authenticity that I was so surprised to hear and feel were because of the host. Because of Cooper, not her employer.
Her rationale for her tenure there is: "instead of running to all of these different places, where I guarantee you that the same issue is going to be there, why not stay and, not solve the problem, but do as much as I could to make it better at Barstool?"
After her first day, where she said she walked into a meeting with founder Dave Portnoy and dozens of other men, her thought was: "I'm going to make the biggest show hosted, directed, produced, and edited by a woman."
And that she did.
No longer can one think of Barstool Sports without thinking of "Call Her Daddy" (it still profits from the show's merchandise, as part of Cooper's departing agreement). "Now that I've walked away from it, I see more women at the company working there," Cooper said. "If I was able to help that in any way, I'm really happy."
That kind of culture-shifting impact is something that is, of course, on her mind now that she's at Spotify. And, given that the streaming service's most popular podcaster, Joe Rogan, is emblematic of a lot of the same controversial narratives as Barstool, she could potentially finish her three-year contract there and achieve something similar — knocking a male from the top spot and taking his long-held title as best in the industry.
"I think what Joe Rogan has created is unbelievable," she cordially started off saying. "I don't love to compare myself... But yes, of course there's always going to be a competitive nature in me," she said. (Bingo, I thought). "I'm never going to be trying to pass him, but there's definitely a similar loyal listenership that we have in common, so I think there's always going to be a little battle of me trying to catch up."
Cooper's specific podcasting style is hard to explain. She has cool older sister energy for younger listeners. For more mature ones, she's got a vivaciousness, a panache, as my grandma would say, that's refreshingly honest.
Her personality can go from energizer bunny to consoling best friend to businesswoman in seconds. And in a space dominated by male voices (most of which have a not-so-subtle air of all-knowingness to them), the range is special. It's raw and it's real. The episodes this season have focused on sex dreams, abuse, celebrity drama, and big penises. Basically, anything you'd talk to a girlfriend about after a few drinks in.
"Some days I want to talk about how I was bawling my eyes out and crying during my therapy session and the next I'm like, I had great sex and I want to tell you about it," she said. "At times, it's stressful, but if me being vulnerable on the internet can help anyone, then I'm going to do it."
Winning now, she said, is when a listener messages her about standing up for themselves, having a night of incredible sex, or feeling like for the first time, somebody out there gets what they're going through.
"I'm hoping that through my episodes and what [listeners] are hearing and ingesting every week, people start to truly believe in their self-worth," Cooper said when asked about her show's legacy. "The self-worth I think builds that up for everyone so that naturally everyone is going to be happier and it'll radiate into a better environment.
"It starts with the self. I had to do that. I'm not Ghandi or Mother Teresa over here. I used to be bitchy in the locker room. I wasn't always so self-assured. It's taken work. It's taken time."
I'm not sure whether Cooper's drive and talent will get her to beat out the big guns in the podcast world, but if our 45-minute conversation was enough to get this Apple Music user to start a Spotify account (and then book my first therapy appointment a day later), then I feel confident in saying whatever game she's playing, whatever competition she's involved with, she's winning it.
"I feel like a man could say this, but look at the f-king deal I just signed," she said before we parted ways. "I think I'm doing okay."