Angela Nissel: Write On, Pt 2

AHHA: At one point during your time at UPenn, you checked yourself into a mental facility. Was that experience anything like Girl…Interrupted?

Angela: It’s crazy. I look back and I met some of the coolest people there. I always say that people in there had nothing to hide. It was like, “Hey, this is who I am.” It was the first time I think I let my guard down and didn’t care what people thought about me. I was scared to death going in there. First of all I didn’t want anyone to know I was depressed and everybody’s gonna see me as weak. Plus to be honest, all of the f*ckin’ E.M.T’s that were working there were cute! I knew people’s views on mental health. But then I found there were so many women there my age and some of them are still my friends today.

It really was a spa for poor people. Rich people go to the spa in Cancun for the week, the poor people went there. My health insurance was paying for it, so I just sat back. The funniest was that the women so outnumbered the men, so any time a good-looking man checked in, the women kept trying to get him to stay there so bad! Guys were not trying to stay there. In the book, I talk about living on two different floors. The first floor was for people with depression, which wasn’t too serious. The second was no joke. They were people on their way to prison. You couldn’t pay me to go back there.

AHHA: How do you feel that the media has either evolved or regressed in accepting the many shades of Black women?

Angela: I don’t think it’s evolved at all. No one really sits down and talks about it. We have that one runway model Alex Wek and there is a still a controversy over whether she’s beautiful or not. Of course she’s f***in’ beautiful! It’ just blows my mind, and I still hear kids today talk about ugly and pretty. Until we actually sit down and get to the root of why we are like this and why it’s wrong, it won’t go away.

AHHA: How do you think Hip-Hop affects that?

Angela: Oh God, I think Hip-Hop plays a big part in it. I can’t even watch videos now. It’s the same thing as when I was growing up when I thought I was too dark skinned with my light ass because everybody in the video was really really light. God if you’re a dark skinned girl, who are you supposed to look up to? Not like you would wanna look up to a video girl but the message is, “You’re not pretty. You’re not even pretty enough to be a video ho.” I think I would feel the same as I did coming up. I see it myself in Hollywood with the casting. We’ll be casting a Black person and the only women who will show up are my complexion.

AHHA: Speaking along the lines of Hip-Hop, what made you decide to start Okayplayer.com?

Angela: Questlove and I telemarketed together. When I was at Baldwin School, he came out to the suburbs everyday after school to telemarket and I worked there. He was the one who suggested I go to Performing Arts. We kept in touch. He used to always say, “I’m a drummer. I’m gonna have a band.” I used to be like, “Yeah alright.” And you think about how he looks now and how he looked in the early days of the Roots, if you didn’t have a band and looked like that people are looking at this man like, “Look at this crazy motherf***er with an afro!” He took me to a Janet Jackson concert – he hates this story. I was a little light skinned brat. It was supposed to be a date. He bought the tickets, and I ended up giving my number to some other guy after the concert. He hated me after that. I was like 15. So even though I gave some other guy at the concert my phone number, we stayed friends.

When Do You Want More? came out and they put the Okayplayer on there without the actual website, he said, “Ang, do you know how to make websites? Could you make us a website, because we put Okayplayer.com on the back of the album, but we don’t have a website.” He was going on tour and I thought I didn’t want to just make a website, I wanted to make a real interactive website. It turned out that was the type of website he wanted to do too. Neither one of knew how much time it took so I was almost living in his bedroom while he was on tour and kept giving him my ideas. It just got bigger and bigger and bigger. I just wanted to have some kind of artist interaction. I didn’t know it was going to blow up.

AHHA: Why did you choose to leave out your time at Okayplayer in Mixed?

Angela: Nothing really happened during the time of Okayplayer that would have added to the book. The parts I had originally put in started reading more like name dropping so people who don’t know Okayplayer would have been like, “What the hell is she talking about?” As I look back on it, I was more comfortable during my time at Okayplayer than any other place I had worked because it was the most multi-cultural place ever. You’d look at the gatherings, and we’d have like a 15-year old white guy from the suburbs and then would have people from the Bronx. I never felt like I didn’t fit in there.

AHHA: There’s a rumor that you have some TV shows of your own coming out!

Angela: God, I hope so. Halle Berry optioned for The Broke Diaries and then she optioned for Mixed. I was like, “Oh hell yeah!” I actually had a meeting with her. It’s so nerve wracking having a meeting with Halle Berry because she’s so freakin’ normal, and you can’t be normal when you first meet her. I was just thinking, “If I say one wrong thing I’m going to just ruin this whole thing!” Plus my husband told me that was his one crush, so I was like, “I’m sitting with my husband’s crush.” We had some meetings and combined Mixed and The Broke Diaries into one show and went around town pitching them to some networks. HBO felt it was a good idea. So now I am in the process of writing what the first episode is going to be, and it’s in development with HBO. It’s interesting hearing Halle’s stories having a white mom and how they’re different from mine. Some good stuff, so I hope it makes it!

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