Meet Chris Fio of The Experience with Chris Fio
My story in a nutshell: when I was six months old, my father tried to kill me; he broke my leg and my arm and I was taken away from my family. I was put in traction for six months, and, during the most vulnerable part of my childhood–when I needed human warmth and comfort the most–I received none.
I was adopted by wonderful people who provided all the love I needed. However, the psychological damage to myself (and to my self esteem) had devastating consequences for the following twenty years of my life.
And, although I was never in trouble with the law, and miraculously never got involved in drugs, I did end up abusing alcohol and grew into an angry, defiant, and rebellious young man. I hated school, I was filled with rage and emotions I didn’t understand, and, of course, I was a loner.
My salvation was delivered through my love for animals. As a ranch hand, I got to work with all types of animals that taught me about trust and patience. Later on, I became a dog groomer, learning a new skill for calm. I was finally ready to recognize and accept opportunities,
Most people can only guess at the moment when their life path changed. I, however, know the exact day my life completely turned around. It was my 30th birthday, January 17th, 2019. On that pivotal day, a friend had invited me to come along to a live taping of a well-known local podcast. Among the other guests enjoying this show were the hosts of Orlando’s celebrated web series KISS MY ART, the artist Marla E and gallerist Boris Douglas Garbe. At one point during the program, questions were fielded from the audience, and, when I got my chance to speak, not only did I feel comfortable and happy, I discovered that I was actually funny and got some laughs from the audience.
Marla E and Boris approached me after the show, convinced that I would be a successful podcast host. Those two worked to make a start for me–Marla, my great advocate, having convinced Boris to produce a podcast for me that would be tailored to my unique talents and that would catapult me into the Orlando arts scene. That’s how THE EXPERIENCE WITH CHRIS FIO was born!
Establishing THE EXPERIENCE WITH CHRIS FIO was a challenge, but one that taught me and my colleagues a great deal. Garbe was just as new to podcast production as I had been, so he asked his friend, curator and NPR host, Kyle Eagle to help him with this project. Kyle Eagle is a mover and shaker in the Orlando art scene and the producer and host of THE MAJOR SCALE, a podcast about jazz and the people who create it.
Working together as a team, we decided to create a one-on-one interview podcast that would allow me to have interesting conversations with people from a variety of professions. My approach would be simple: I’d admit right from the very beginning that I know little or nothing about each guest and their work.
But, before I could embark on the new project, I needed to come to terms with some personal issues. I did not want to enter the public arena from under a cloud of abuse and addictions issues, so I decided to proceed as an open book. Again, Marla E facilitated my goal, inviting me to share my truth on her web series KISS MY ART. After filming with Marla, I was invited to speak again in front of a live audience at the local restaurant MAXINE’s ON SHINE, and then on musician Anwar Superstar’s podcast I TALK YOU LISTEN. Anwar, in turn, became the first guest on my show.
I’ve since had the honor to interview politician Anna Eskamani, acclaimed painter Harold Garde, musician and composer Chris Belt, and international tenor Rafael Cavero.
My stand-out characteristics come from the discovery that not only am I ambitious and eager to try new things, but also that I have a heart for a multitude of causes. When I interviewed Heather Wilkie, the executive director at the Zebra Coalition, and learned of the experiences that young gay men and women go through because of their identity issues, I began work on a partnership to bring light to their cause, and after speaking with Jim Bronzo of the Second Chance Wildlife Sanctuary, I knew I had to get involved with animal conservation causes as well.
I think what sets me apart from other, similar podcasters is that I have a tendency to get emotionally involved in the projects my guests bring to the table. Because of my past, and because I know how hard it can be to navigate through life, I have great empathy for underdogs of any kind. Much of my free time is spent putting together ideas for how to help my favorite charities, and I enjoy speaking with young people about my life experiences and the potential for great changes and inspirations.
I’ve also founded my own production company VANTTI, and through it I am producing my first documentary about the life of one of my heroes, Jim Bronzo. Bronzo is the owner of an animal sanctuary that was severely damaged by a fire in 2019. Jim’s passion and love for animals is something I share, and my intent is to honor this brave man and his life’s work with a film that will help explain both the tragedy and the rebirth of the sanctuary. I work with young local filmmakers who both want to help me achieve this goal and to gain experience in creative work.
VANTII productions is also creating a web series called FIVE WITH FIO in which I’ll ask my guests five quick questions, designed to introduce an audience to a guest in less than five minutes. Starting in 2021, I will also be co-producing my mentor’s new podcast, BEING BORIS. I’m grateful to my distributing company, PFTMedia, and its owners Chris Crespo and Steve Etchie for believing in me and for facilitating so many of my creative projects.
Professional accomplishments aside, I am most gratified to feel the pride of my family. I have managed to find a clear path that grants me self-discovery and generosity. When I was younger, I took things for granted, and I certainly did not think or care about my future. I now see the beauty in this world, and I realize the more I help others, the greater my inner peace.
Here’s my rubric for success:
Did I make you laugh?
Did I make you think?
Did I make you forget your troubles?
Did I introduce you to a topic that perhaps you never knew you wanted to know about?
Satisfying just one of those criteria would make the project worthwhile for me. Satisfying all of them is my goal.