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Michelle headlines 17th South Magazine’s Culture section

Michelle headlines 17th South Magazine’s Culture section

This piece originally appeared in 17th South‘s September issue.

Mic Check

Local media expert and culture aficionado Michelle Khouri takes her expertise from page to podcast

You could call Michelle Khouri an Atlanta-based speaker, writer, consultant and strategist—but she’s really an all-around creative powerhouse who says things like “words are my jam” and “when it has to do with creativity, I do it.” Even if you’ve never met her before, it’s possible—even likely—that you’ve read her words.

After spending the bulk of her adolescence training as a singer and performing in musical theater productions with dreams of being a professional actor, the first-generation American (born to a Colombian mom and an Argentinian dad) switched gears and, post-college, swapped the stage for a career in public relations. However, “I realized that it wasn’t enough writing,” she says. “So, after eight years of PR and communications, I skipped over to the editorial side.” Khouri became the editor of travel pubs Where Atlanta and Where Nashville in the fall of 2014. Nearly three years later, she’s now striking out on her own.

One of Khouri’s latest ventures comes in audio form via The Cultured Podcast, which launched in August. She hosts the weekly show, using personal narratives and interviews to highlight culture in all its forms, from immersive theater and visual art to music, herbalism, international travel and everything in between. Khouri says the idea came as an epiphany moment, borne out of still wanting to tell stories despite the fact that people no longer just get their information and entertainment from traditional places like books and newspapers. From there, she amassed about 10 pages worth of research on how to create a podcast, brainstormed on a slew of topics she’d like the podcast to cover, and began putting the wheels in motion. “I reached that point where I was like, ‘All right, enough is enough, it’s happening, here I go,’” she says. “I couldn’t not do it anymore.”

Khouri’s aim for The Cultured Podcast (which won’t have seasons but will simply continue to release new episodes weekly) is to use it as a medium to tell stories and “dig at the roots” of various topics. “I get to completely geek out about things that I love the most in this world,” she says. In episode 1, “Chutzpah & Iceland,” Khouri talks about traveling to Iceland, including descriptive details, attraction recommendations and food tips. Future episodes will feature guests like a well-known country recording artist talking about the history of the music genre, and an interior designer discussing the challenges of how to make a space feel like home to other people.

But while the podcast may be a passion project, Khouri has always approached it as a business—with a marketing strategy, business plan and all. Along with her business partner, 25-year media vet Carol Campbell, she plans to bring on corporate sponsors, advertisers and media partners to keep the venture afloat and evolving. “My ultimate goal is just to have people appreciate culture and appreciate how little it takes to see beauty,” Khouri explains. “Possibly even more important than that, I want to break barriers. So many times I’ve talked to people about art, theater or dance, and they say, ‘I just don’t know [anything] about those things.’ That’s the beauty, that you can now learn about them because you don’t know about them.” She also encourages anyone who has a topic they’d like explored on the podcast to reach out to her with their ideas. “We’re unearthing stories that haven’t been told,” she adds, “and perspectives that are often left unexplored.”

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STORY: Caroline Cox
Photo: Amy Atwell