Cory L. Thames conveyed his natural interest in people into a stellar career and top-rated Chicago podcast featuring some of the most influential people in the city.
“I always found the beauty of not only building genuine relationships but also thinking about somebody’s story and how they ascended to where they are,” Thames told The Chicago Defender recently.
Thames is the creator and host of “In My Own Words,” a CAN TV podcast featuring leaders from government, politics, business, the nonprofit sector, activism and entertainment. In addition to this role, he is a civic leader, government and community affairs professional, entrepreneur, advocate, mentor and author.
Even as a hyphenate, Thames said his ability to connect with people and build meaningful relationships has remained a constant throughout his life. That gift is undoubtedly palpable in “In My Own Words.”
Shows featuring notable dignitaries tend to be formal and buttoned up. Thames’s show is the opposite. Though it takes place in a podcast studio, “In My Own Words” feels like a coffeehouse conversation between friends.
Now entering its third season, the show has featured prominent Black leaders such as Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, 16th Ward Alderman Stephanie D. Coleman, South Shore Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tonya Trice, Obama Foundation Executive Vice President of Civic Engagement Michael Strautmanis and many others.
The show has also featured guests from various racial and ethnic backgrounds sharing their journeys.
“I wanted a diverse group of guests that could lend different things to different people who are listening,” Thames said.
Thames encourages his guests to answer lightning-round questions about their favorite movies and musical preferences: Michael Jackson or Prince, Chaka Khan or Teena Marie.
Then Thames, who has a remarkably smooth and easygoing demeanor, allows his guests the room to share their personal stories, where they also provide practical, actionable advice that anyone could use.
How a Chance Meeting Led to Opportunity
As for the story of “In My Own Words,” call it a dream deferred that resulted in unexpected fulfillment for its creator.
Thames said he had the idea of starting the podcast for five years. Initially, he wanted to create one utilizing a studio at Kennedy-King College, but the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic put the kibosh on those plans.
Having already developed a fully formed vision of his show, Thames finally got his opportunity when he met CAN TV Executive Director Darrious Hilmon. He pitched his idea to Hilmon, and it got accepted.
Reflecting on the podcast’s success, Thames admitted that it even exceeded his expectations, making him excited about the show’s future.
“I’ve been really satisfied with how some of the interviews have really resonated with folks and being able to get calls of them saying, ‘Hey, I listened to your interview with such as such, I didn’t even know they had that experience. That helped me think about what I’m going through in a different way,'” Thames said.
“And so just having that, not only access and exposure to share those stories, but helping somebody out there navigate their own career, that’s what I wanted to do ultimately.”
As the podcast gears up for another season, it serves as a testament to Thames’ dedication to amplifying underrepresented voices and inspiring future generations of leaders.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Thames also wants to take “In My Own Words” to a national audience, expanding beyond its current Chicago and Illinois-centric perspective. He believes there are compelling stories from leaders nationwide that deserve to be heard.
“So the goal for me is to continue to raise up those voices and really look to broaden the kinds of leaders I bring on even more,” he said.
“In My Own Words” is scheduled to return in January, and fans can look forward to more compelling stories and insightful conversations that have made it a CAN TV favorite.
Thames continues to make an impact with each episode, one story at a time.
For more information on “In My Own Words,” visit this link.