Anita Rao

Producer, "The State of Things"

Anita Rao is a producer for The State of Things, WUNC's daily, live talk show that features the issues, personalities and places of North Carolina. She fell in love with interviewing and storytelling as a Women's Studies and International Studies major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and began her radio career at WUNC as an intern for the nationally distributed public radio program The Story. From 2011 - 2014, she worked for the Peabody Award-winning StoryCorps Production department, where she pitched, edited and produced conversations from across the nation--from Chicago, IL to Pineville, North Carolina.  

Anita was born in a small coal-mining town in Northeast England but spent most of her life growing up in Iowa and has a fond affection for the Midwest. She loves excessively-long dinner parties and hopes to one day live up to her mom's nickname, "Sheila, The Chocolate Eater."

Ways to Connect

Still from "Deep Run"
Courtesy of producer Chris Talbott

There are tens of thousands of transgender individuals living in North Carolina.

House Bill 2 sparked a national conversation about one particular aspect of their lives, but the North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival aims to paint a broader picture.

One of the documentaries featured this year "Deep Run," is a verite portrait of a trans man named Cole Ray Davis living in Deep Run, N.C., a rural town outside of Kinston.

"All The Missing Girls" by Megan Miranda
Megan Miranda

Four years ago the novel "Gone Girl" took the world by storm. The book invoked a familiar thriller novel premise—a sudden mysterious disappearance—but also explored deep psychological and emotional themes.

Critics say the new novel "All The Missing Girls" (Simon & Schuster/2016) from North Carolina author Megan Miranda follows in the tradition of "Gone Girl."

headshot of Whitney Way Thore
Deborah Feingold

This is a rebroadcast of a program that originally aired on June 27, 2016.

Whitney Way Thore knows how much she has weighed at every point in her life.

And for decades, deconstructing the size and shape of her body consumed much of her mental and emotional energy. She struggled with an eating disorder, compulsive exercise, and eventually was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome.  

photo from 'The Little Rascals'
Photo Courtesy Bronwen Dickey

Note: this segment originally aired June 1, 2016.

Writer Bronwen Dickey grew up with the impression of pit bulls that dominates popular discourse: they are mean, aggressive, and dangerous dogs. But after a freelance writing piece put her in an environment with a sweet and gentle pit bull, she began to wonder whether there was more to the stereotype.

******Photo of Kyrie Irving
Marcio Jose Sanchez / ASSOCIATED PRESS

The 2016 Summer Olympics kick off in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil tomorrow.

This year, dozens of athletes with connections to North Carolina are competing in events ranging from basketball, track, and swimming to air rifle and canoe slalom.

Basketball players Harrison Barnes and Kyrie Irving are part of the star-studded men’s basketball team coached by Duke University’s Mike Krzyzewski, and women’s soccer player Tobin Heath will be playing with the hopes of winning a third gold medal.

More than two decades ago Father Greg Boyle (middle) founded 'Homeboy Industries,' the largest gang-internvention program in the country. Here he is on Thanksgiving day in 2012 at Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles.
Homeboy Industries

Note: This segment originally aired February 2, 2016.

In 1986, Jesuit priest Father Greg Boyle was appointed to a poor parish in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Abandoned farmhouse western North Carolina
Julia Franks

Eight years ago, Julia Franks and her husband bought a farm in western North Carolina. At the time, the 1800s farmhouse on the land was still standing and when they walked in the doors, they were greeted by dozens of odd artifacts, including animal bones, locks of hair, insect hives, and even a jar with a fingernail in it. Franks is a high school literature teacher and lover of writing, so it was hard for her to not let her imagination run wild.

Justin Natvig as Vivian Vaughn
D.j. Bonet V'lentino & After Six Photography Studios

Justin Natvig has had a flair for performance most of his life. As a young kid, he often snuck into his grandparents’ attic and dug through his grandmother’s things: vintage dresses, hats, wigs, shoes and makeup. He would put it all on, play Diana Ross records and lip sync in front of the mirror. For many years, he kept this passion a secret as he struggled with a family that would not accept his identity. 

An image of President Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton
AP images

Hillary Clinton is now the official Democratic nominee, making her the first woman in history to become a presidential candidate of a major party. President Obama took the stage last night to voice his support for Clinton with a speech filled with familiar themes about hope and change.

Frank C. Curtin / Associated Press

Note: This segment originally aired February 19, 2016.

Pauli Murray and Eleanor Roosevelt could not have come from more different backgrounds. Murray was the granddaughter of a mixed-race slave, while Roosevelt’s ancestry gave her membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution.

In J.J. Johnson's book, 'believarexic,' she recalls her battle with eating disorders through her diary entries as a teenager.
Jessica Arden Photography

Note: This segment originally aired January 21, 2016.

When J.J. Johnson was 15 years old, she had to force her family to admit that she needed help for her eating disorder. She spent 10 weeks in an inpatient unit, but her healing process took many more months and years.

Her new book "believarexic" (Peachtree Publishers/2015) is a ‘fictional autobiography’ that revolves around her diary entries from her teenage years.

Leon Capetanos

This show originally aired on May 27, 2016.

As a kid growing up in Raleigh Leon Capetanos never imagined that he’d spend most of his life out West. He was an aspiring poet and studied writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After participating in a talent program in Hollywood, he got a call from Universal Studios to join their writing department, and his career took off from there.

Photo from "Bad Girls at Samarcand: Sexuality and Sterilization in a Southern Juvenile Reformatory"
Records of Samarcand Manor, Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice, Department of Public Safety, Samarcand Manor School, Eagle Springs, North Carolina

More than 2,000 women and girls were forcibly sterilized in the first two decades of North Carolina's state eugenics program from 1929-1950.

While many governmental institutions and scientists propelled the movement forward, the new book "Bad Girls at Samarcand: Sexuality and Sterilization in a Southern Juvenile Reformatory" (LSUP/2016) traces the story of one reformatory's unexpected role in the process.

Image of Second Line Stompers
Gregg Gelb

Note: this program is a rebroadcast. 

Photo of Yasmin Evans and her mother
Yasmin Evans

As a young Muslim-American journalist, Yasmin Bendaas pays particular attention to how Muslim women are represented in the media.

As international media coverage continues to put a spotlight on the Islamic State Group and American political rhetoric highlights religious stereotypes, Bendaas began to wonder how these representations of Islam have impacted the daily lives of Muslim-American women.

Movies on the Radio
Keith Weston / WUNC

For the next episode of "Movies on the Radio," The State of Things is asking, what is your favorite movie about music? 

Did you enjoy the humorous depiction of rock stars in "Almost Famous?" Were you moved by the dramatic portrait of Mozart in "Amadeus?" Do you still remember the soundtracks of "American Graffiti" and "Jaws?" Film experts Marsha Gordon and Laura Boyes will examine how movies depict musicians and the music industry and discuss memorable movie music.

photo of a dress designed by Willie Kay
North Carolina Museum of History

For much of the 20th century, Willie Otey Kay was a household name among the fashion-conscious in Raleigh. The designer and dressmaker crafted one-of-a-kind fashion for women to wear to weddings, debutante balls, and other formal events.

photo of Rissi Palmer
Rissi Palmer

Singer-songwriter Rissi Palmer exploded onto the country music scene in 2007 with a self-titled album. She sang alongside Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum, and her single "Country Girl" was the first song by an African-American woman artist to make the country Billboard charts in almost two decades.

photo of Honest Pint Theatre Company
Megan Dohm

Shakespeare’s "Hamlet" is now more than 400 years old. And while many theatergoers are familiar with its plot lines about murder, death and betrayal, each new staging of the production has the opportunity to highlight a different theme or lesser-known aspect of the story.

Host Frank Stasio previews two different interpretations today. He is joined first by 14-year-old Leo Egger, a student at Durham School of the Arts, whose passion for Shakespeare led him to direct and produce a community production in his neighborhood.

photo of "Asperger's Are Us"
Asperger's Are Us

Asperger’s Are Us’ is a four-member comedy troupe that is quickly gaining national traction. While all four men are on the autism spectrum, their comedy is not all about their condition.

In fact, the group says it has no interest in poking fun at Asperger’s, and the men do not make light of their behavioral differences. They get on stage every night to enjoy one another’s company with the hope that their absurd and satirical sketches will make their audience laugh.

photo of Violet Bell
Lizzy Ross

After spending four years making music in Nashville, singer-songwriter Lizzy Ross began to feel homesick.

Ross grew up in North Carolina, went to UNC-Chapel Hill and started her career in the Triangle music scene. While Nashville was filled with passionate and impressive musicians, she missed being part of a community that she felt really embraced diverse creative expressions.

Book cover of "Magic in Islam"
Michael Muhammad Knight

People of faith will argue that magic and religion are not the same thing; magic is often condemned as dark and unsacred, while religion is characterized as morally sound and pure. In his new book “Magic in Islam” (Tarcher Perigee/2016), Michael Muhammad Knight resists the notion that the two are incompatible.

He argues that through looking at the histories of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, it is clear that the boundary between magic and religion has been blurred time and time again. He looks at examples including the use and interpretation of the Quran, astrology, and mythological figures of multiple religions.

photo of Alexis Pauline Gumbs, her nephew, and stepsister
Alexis Pauline Gumbs

Some scholars are criticized for staying within the ‘ivory tower,’ and creating work that’s only accessible to a highly-academic audience. Alexis Pauline Gumbs does not receive that criticism.

She identifies as a community-accountable scholar and puts that identity into practice by intentionally bringing scholarly ideas into non-academic settings. This manifests in online educational projects like ‘Eternal Summer of The Black Feminist Mind,’ which creates accessible curricula from black feminist work.

Travis Mulhauser

Note: this program is a rebroadcast.

For a number of years, there was one particular image that continued to haunt Travis Mulhauser: a young girl in a hooded sweatshirt who comes across an abandoned baby. He eventually decided to let his imagination play out her story, and it resulted in his debut novel “Sweetgirl” (Harper Collins/2016). The book follows 16-year-old Percy James, whose search for her mother in the dead of winter takes her on an unexpected journey.

Photo of Dominique Witten
Dominique Witten

Comedian Dominique has performed alongside Tracy Morgan, Chris Rock, and Dave Chappelle. But she says her comedic inspiration doesn’t come from these comedy all-stars, it comes from her mother.

She was raised by a straightforward woman who encouraged her to ‘tell the truth’ and ‘call it as you see it,’ and that’s exactly what she does on stage.She has appeared on HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam,” was a finalist in last year’s “Last Comic Standing,” and currently stars in the hit TV series “Black Jesus” on Adult Swim.