The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.
Alex Cooper made a name for herself as one half of Call Her Daddy — a female podcasting duo that launched a salacious sex-driven podcast at Barstool Sports in 2018. But just a few years later, the 26-year-old is being praised as one of the biggest in the podcasting business after continuing the podcast as a solo host, referring to herself as a "single father," and signing an exclusive deal at Spotify for $60 million where she is determined to take her brand to the next level.
For her, this means becoming more vulnerable with her audience and showing up more authentically in an effort to empower listeners to take control of their relationships — both with others and themselves.
"Let me be the first one openly to be like 'I'm in therapy.' And we've all got our s****. It's fine to admit that," Cooper tells Yahoo Life. "And if anything, it's sexier and it's more appealing, in my opinion, in dating and life, if you are working on yourself constantly."
This new era for the former division one soccer player turned bonafide Barstool bombshell might have come as a shock to those who were watching Cooper's rise to notoriety from afar. For those who had been listening to her podcast since its inception and followed her through the split with former co-host Sofia Franklyn, the jump from sex to self-care wasn't as far-fetched.
"I had started with one of the most intimate topics with [my listeners] and they trusted me. So to go from sex to therapy, I think I was fortunate that my listeners trust me and my voice and I was able to bridge a topic that may be still considered sort of taboo, just like sex was," Cooper explains. "It doesn't make me uncomfortable to talk about these things because it's life and we're all going through it."
In fact, Cooper found comfort in speaking with her audience about therapy as she was going through it for the first time. It was also the most authentic way to present herself to the "daddy gang" — the name by which Cooper's listeners affectionately go by.
"The main relationship I was in in my life was between me and my therapist. And so I started to implement like, maybe I didn't have sex that week and that's OK. I don't need to talk about sex. Like I can talk about what actually happened, which is therapy," she explains. "I started to really feel like in my own when I would be in therapy sessions and I felt like I had a pretty good sense of self, and I wanted to share that with others."
The experience was also transformative for her relationship with her mother, who is a psychologist.
"Growing up in a home where [emotional intelligence] and mental health was like a non-starter, it was a prerequisite to be in my family. It's like, you need to work on yourself," Cooper says. "But my mom was kind of being my mom and my therapist, and I remember a turning point for her when she was like, 'I need to be your mom. I cannot be your therapist and your mom.'"
Although Cooper is doing the work to better her own mental health and encouraging her millions of listeners to practice their own self-care, she's quick to admit that she doesn't have it all figured out. Bringing such personal topics onto her public platform has even made it more difficult to set boundaries necessary to prevent burnout.
"I have a hard time shutting off," she says. "[Call Her Daddy] is so fun, but it consumes my life."
Still, as she continues to develop a brand that transcends typical female conversations about sex and relationships, Cooper feels empowered to now use her voice to do the same when it comes to therapy.
"For so long therapy has been a topic that it's like, 'What's wrong with you? Why are you in therapy?' And I'm trying to normalize it in an extreme way, kind of like I used to do with sex," she says. "Now the question is, 'What's wrong with you if you're not in therapy?'"