‘I wish academia had the same approach!’: Esmé Louise James on blending education and entertainment with Kinky History 

Mediaweek - Next of The Best - Esmé Louise James

“The art is never to assume someone’s expertise in a subject area, but also to never underestimate their intelligence.”

Kinky History host Esmé Louise James told Mediaweek that there is a “significant place for historical narratives in modern media” and a need to “continue pushing the boundaries of how we understand and present history.”

She was recently recognised at Mediaweek’s Next of The Best awards as the winner of the Digital Video – Talent category.

Mediaweek caught up with James on the success of Kinky History, breaking down misconceptions about her content and what comes next.

The awards have been judged by an all-star line-up, what does it mean to you to be recognised by this group?

Being recognised by such an esteemed panel is incredibly validating and humbling. I think it shows that there’s a significant place for historical narratives in modern media, and a need to continue pushing the boundaries of how we understand and present history. Edu-Tainment is on the rise, especially for younger generations, so it’s wonderful to see it valued and recognised by these awards. 

What is it about Kinky History that you think audiences resonate with?

Kinky History is a blend of education and entertainment. By exploring the often overlooked or taboo aspects of history, it opens up conversations that are both enlightening and engaging. This has resonated with a truly wonderful and diverse community from all around the globe. I think people appreciate learning about the past in a way that’s relatable and, at times, surprisingly humorous. The human stories and the way they reflect contemporary issues create a powerful connection with viewers.

How do you approach bringing often quite dense historical topics to short-form video?

Often, I tackle quite dense historical and cultural topics. My approach is to distil the core elements into engaging, bite-sized narratives – focusing on storytelling and relatable analogies to make the content accessible. The art is never to assume someone’s expertise in a subject area, but also to never underestimate their intelligence and ability to understand that topic. Honestly, I wish academia had the same approach! Visual aids, humour, and a conversational tone also play crucial roles in breaking down complex ideas into something that sparks curiosity in people. 

What is the most common misconception about what you do?

The most common misconception is that my work is purely for entertainment or shock value. While Kinky History is undoubtedly entertaining, it is deeply rooted in rigorous research and academic scholarship – otherwise, I could have saved myself a decade at the university! Each video is carefully crafted to provide accurate historical insights while also being engaging. It’s not just about the sensational aspects; it’s about understanding the cultural and social contexts that shaped these stories.

Being Next of The Best – what can the industry expect next from you?

My core mission is to continue making education accessible – and I’m expanding that into some exciting new formats in the coming year. I’ve got plans to continue the work I’ve done in the past with my mum, who is an incredible statistician – we’re coming back bigger and better than we’ve seen before. The next year will also see some more collaborative work with other creators and educators around the world – a sense of community that is so important to me. 

This month, I have also launched Let’s Get Explicit – a financial year calendar, featuring 14 prominent Australian figures, which is raising funds for GIVIT’s Family and Domestic Violence Appeal. This is set to land on doorsteps next month, with all of the profits going towards women who are escaping violence. If learning from the past has taught me anything, it’s that everyone has the chance to change the future – and I really hope this fundraising and awareness campaign can be part of my contribution to that mission this year. 

Top image: Esmé Louise James

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