Maya Chupkov started a podcast on stuttering to bring social awareness and "justice to those who are constantly misunderstood by society."
Maya Chupkov started a podcast on stuttering to bring social awareness and "justice to those who are constantly misunderstood by society."

Q&A: This podcast host is a ‘Proud Stutterer’

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Maya Chupkov stutters, though you might not notice it. She has stuttered since childhood, but learned over the years — and with lots of speech therapy — how to hide it. Now, at 29, she’s had a change of heart. The San Francisco resident says stuttering is nothing to be ashamed of, and in fact, she is proud of it. Last October, on International Stuttering Awareness Day, Chupkov launched the podcast “Proud Stutter” (and an accompanying website, proudstutter.com). She hopes to “bring justice to those who are constantly misunderstood by society.” Stuttering, she says, ”is just another way of speaking.” The twice-a-month podcast covers a variety of topics — from her “coming out story,” to dating, to a “real talk with mom.” She also interviews others who stutter, including a local speech therapist.


J.: What would you like to achieve through your podcast?

Maya Chupkov: My No. 1 goal is to spread more awareness about stuttering so there isn’t a constant misreading about it, so more people understand stuttering. I also want to provide resources to make life easier for people who stutter and people who know someone who stutters. I want to shift away from the “overcoming” narrative and more toward a verbal diversity and acceptance narrative. There are so many people who stutter. It’s a medical condition and sometimes it sticks with you through adulthood. There isn’t a “cure.” Why not learn to live with your stutter?

In your podcasts and in conversation, you rarely seem to stutter.

My stuttering is very inconsistent. There are so many different forms of stuttering — I get into these rough patches sometimes. Getting more sleep definitely helps my fluency a lot.

Your podcast co-host, Cynthia Chin, does not stutter. Why her?

She is one of my best friends. We did a radio show together in college. I told her about this idea for a podcast and that I was looking for a co-host. She is the foil, with an outside perspective of someone learning about stuttering. I invite the guests and do the creative content side of the podcast. She does the technical editing.

Who is your audience?

Originally I thought my main audience would be stutterers, but I have a huge speech therapist audience. That’s been a great surprise. It really is for everyone, but just think about how hard it is to be a teenager who stutters. I really hope that that is an audience. I definitely want to be influential with teens.

Has stuttering ever impacted your work? What is your day job?

I am the media and democracy program manager for California Common Cause. I’ve never really let my stuttering stop me from what I’ve wanted to do.

What do you think of Joe Biden opening up about his stuttering and offering words of encouragement to young people who stutter?

I really am grateful for President Biden. He’s elevated stuttering in our consciousness. He’s like my dream guest for my podcast.

Can you tell us about one of your future guests?

We have a lot of great guests that are going to be featured. We just recorded JJJJJerome Ellis, a musician and poet who stutters and released a spoken word musical album. That episode is scheduled for February.

When you interviewed your mother, she mentioned that you are bilingual. What other language do you speak?

My first language was Hebrew. That was the only language I spoke until I was about 5. My dad, an Israeli, became afraid that my English would not be strong and he did a 180 [degree] and only spoke to me in English.

Are you Jewishly affiliated?

I studied abroad in Jerusalem at Hebrew University and spent time with family there. I learned about the history of Israel and took some classes in Judaism. I’m not religious myself, but I was interested in learning about the religion. I think studying abroad in Israel was amazing; I was able to connect with my spiritual side.

Liz Harris

Liz Harris is a J. contributor. She was J.'s culture editor from 2012-2018.