“Celebrity is fleeting. You can sit front row at a fashion show today and not even get invited next year. People like to stand next to whatever is hot at the moment. And when you’re not hot anymore all the perks disappear.”
Nobody can deny the incredible chemistry amongst the hosts of one of the most popular and successful shows in syndicated radio, which is recorded from the iHeartMedia’s Power 105 studios in NYC each morning – The Breakfast Club
Born in Brooklyn, Angela Yee has an interesting background which led her to her current success on The Breakfast Club. Her break came when Paul Rosenberg offered her a position on Eminem’s SiriusXM Channel “Shade 45” at its inception. She won the audition and soon pitched an idea for her own show, “Lip Service,” which was a hit, and then she eventually took over the morning show which was called “The Morning After with Angela Yee.” She’s also worked in marketing and in several start-ups with everyone from Nile Rodgers to the Wu Tang Clan to Eminem, quickly establishing herself as a force for greater success in the industry.
To that end, it may seem odd that she enjoys being under the radar but if anything, success doesn’t elude her because of it, it actually makes her more intriguing. She is often the voice of reason on the show, offering a balance and an opposing side to subjects before a definitive conclusion wraps the topic up.
Charlamagne and Deeeeee Jay Envy often quickly acquiesce to that balance that she brings. “Maybe it’s not that way and it’s like this…” she often resonates during her segment,“The Rumor Report,” or during the broadcast of The Breakfast Club show.
The Breakfast Club makes urban radio interesting and often bridges the gap when people suggest commercial radio may be in dire straits. But there is no doubt that as long as urban radio keeps producing progressive shows and allows the hosts to BE hosts, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
We’d like to honor Angela this year as a well-deserved Woman of Color in Media for her noteworthy contributions to the industry.
RADIO FACTS: I see that all of you (The Breakfast Club) are breaking new ground this year. Making a lot more appearances and using your platform to serve a greater public interest by doing things like interviewing political candidates. How did that come about?
ANGELA YEE: It really happened organically. We had interviews with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders ahead of Hillary Clinton becoming the Democratic nominee. Those interviews ended up having such an impact on an audience that all candidates want to reach. After those sit downs made headlines, our platform seemed appealing to candidates wanting to get their message to millennials and black and brown people. We simultaneously understood the importance of encouraging our listener family to pay attention, be involved, and be active.
The last time that we talked you preferred to keep a low profile on the show. This year I see that has changed. How did that come about?
I still have a low profile. I balance getting my work done with putting positive acts, like my philanthropy and entrepreneurship, on platforms that can benefit people. I never like showcasing what I have going on unless I’m promoting an event, but I also understand the importance of inspiring people to act and that if you can see it, you can be it.
Several morning show syndicators have told me [that] you never get used to getting up in the middle of the night to do a show like yours. Do you feel the same way, even after years of doing it?
I tell people all the time that I will never get used to this. My friends do know at this point that if I’m too tired, it’s a wrap.
How do the three of you get motivated each morning (together, like blast music or something else that might surprise people)?
I get to work before the guys and get my makeup done because we are on Revolt TV every morning as well. That’s when I sit with one of our producers and go over the stories we are doing every day and possible topics. Then I sit down with my green tea and my smoothie. We definitely don’t blast music but there’s a lot of chatter in the studio.
What are some of the demands that make your job challenging?
There are so many stories I have to be familiar with every single morning. I do “Front Page News” twice and three “Rumor Reports,” and the stories are always changing and getting updated. On an average morning I have to review at least twenty different stories. It’s not easy to get all the details straight. Then we have multiple interviews every morning, so I’m always prepping by reading a book, watching a movie, documentary, TV show or series, and/or listening to music. I feel like I have to work all day and then do homework at night. Not to mention the limited amount of sleep. There’s also constant negativity and criticism, and that can be frustrating. I’m also the only woman in the room and my experiences make my point of view different which can lead to a feeling of me against them.
What are some of the demands that make your job rewarding?
There’s definitely a lot of perks. It pays well, we can use this platform to support our other businesses and bookings, we get lots of freebies, and my family is extremely proud.
Have you ever hosted the show alone when Envy and Charlamagne were out? What was that like?
There has to be at least two of us present for the show. I’ve been alone for a few minutes when the show started, but never longer than that.
Out of all the interviews that you’ve done this year what do you think were some of the best for the audience over the guest benefiting?
Usually these work in tandem with each other. Our most popular interviews will benefit the guest because it brings more attention to them as well.
Are there certain types of shows you tend to shy away from?
I don’t like guests who have a negative agenda. Maybe they want to expose someone who cheated on them or break up a relationship. I don’t want that bad karma on me.
How are your guests picked; do they solicit you for the most part?
They either reach out to one of us directly, or they contact our producer through their publicist.
Out of all the syndicated shows with Black hosts, The Breakfast Club has the widest array of guests from all walks of life. How does the audience respond?
If it interests you, you tune in. Even for interviews that don’t get played on-air, the video interviews are so valuable and popular. Everything isn’t for everyone, but my hope is always that we can all learn something or be exposed to something new.
What would make you go after a guest to appear? Do they usually comply?
If there is something happening in the media that people would be interested in, or if they have a new project that we want to support, then we would definitely reach out. Usually that means we have a personal relationship with that person or someone close to them. And rarely do potential guests pass unless it’s a touchy topic.
What does it feel like to be on the other end of an interview in-person? Is there anything that takes you by surprise?
I feel comfortable being interviewed because if you know how to ask questions you should know how to answer them. I know what makes a guest appealing and how to spice things up if necessary.
Have you ever felt like or actually walked away from an interview?
There have definitely been people I don’t want to interview because of things they have done or said that I don’t respect. I’m honest about it.
Has a guest ever critiqued your interview after the cameras stopped rolling? If that happened how would you respond that?
Not really, but there have been times when guests have commented that it wasn’t as tough as they thought it would be. If a critique is valid and reasonable, I’m open to it. Every one can’t be a home run.
Without mentioning names, there were a few guests on The Breakfast Club who went off. Most have rarely been heard from again. In this day and age of reality show success, are you surprised by that?
Celebrity is fleeting. You can sit front row at a fashion show today and not even get invited next year. People like to stand next to whatever is hot at the moment. And when you’re not hot anymore all the perks disappear. I do believe when you are a respectful person with a solid foundation you have more longevity because we all have a choice of who we want to help when times get rough. And for people who were nasty and condescending, we have a choice to remember that and cut [their] air supply.
With the recent Halle Berry situation where she was promoting John Wick, Black journalists were at the end of the line and the publicist tried to ignore them. We have heard that it’s not always White publicists that do this to the Black press but there have also been some Black publicists. Have you ever experienced something like that during your career? Do you agree that Black hosts are often denied an opportunity to interview big stars promoting their movies over the White press? How do younger or new Women of Color in Media get around this?
There are certainly publicists who have treated me poorly and I remember them to this day. There are people in general who were condescending to me and tried to close doors in my face. Success is always the best answer. Even on The Breakfast Club now, we get looked over when it comes to Hollywood and press for big stars. There are certain actors, like Kevin Hart and Mike Epps, who will reach out directly to come to our show because they understand the impact. I also believe Black women have it the hardest. All we can do is make sure we have our tribe of people we can vent to who will support us in those times. And keep pushing forward so that you’re ready for each opportunity that comes your way. And don’t hold any grudges that will ultimately hurt you.
Besides being honored as a Women of Color in Media for 2019, you’ve been honored a few other times over the last year. Tell us about that.
It’s definitely amazing to be celebrated. I got a Gracie for National Host/Personality for Radio and I got my own day in NY which is August 28. I’m planning a nice community event for that date in Brooklyn in partnership with Power 105.
Besides PPM what kinds of interactions with fans have taken you by surprise when they approach you?
People will want a hug, which is nice because it’s like they already know you and are comfortable with you. People ask me to hold their kids, and I know how much trust that represents. I’ve even gotten some random [transfers from] cash apps from people just saying they appreciate me.
Is there an area of concern that you think radio needs to respond to more (people in need, etc.)?
Yes, of course! We always need to be more involved in the community and we need to celebrate local heroes more. We need to be active in promoting entrepreneurship and education, and we need to break artists again.
Everyone who comes on the show seems so relaxed, have you ever had a guest freak out before the cameras started rolling? How do you handle that?
I’ve seen people visibly shaking because they are so nervous. I’m pretty good at making people feel more comfortable on the left side but I can’t control the right!
As far as “The Rumor Report,” do you do that segment before or after the show?
Before the show.
Gossip is often looked at negatively but it’s what most radio stations do on a regular basis and it’s what the audience wants. Do you see it as a necessary evil or benefit? How do people respond to segments like “The Rumor Report”?
People claim not to like gossip because it seems frivolous, but nowadays it’s so intertwined with the news that you can’t escape it. And it can also be positive; I definitely make a point of highlighting positive things artists and celebrities are doing in the community. And some of the reports contain information that publicists send out press releases about. Life is also so arduous that some light gossip can be a great escape.
New York radio was previously very rough around the edges and hardcore, now it’s more serene and informative. Which era do you like best?
I think the rough around the edges time was…more malicious and harmful. We don’t need that in our entertainment because we have enough of it in our government. I’ll take serene and informative.
Have you ever been moved to tears on a show segment? If so, what happened?
Definitely when we talk about children being separated from their families and dying in custody at our detainment camps, when we discuss women and children being abused… truthfully sometimes I watch the news and cry.
We are seeing a lot more women of color in executive roles at many corporations. How do you feel about that?
I feel like it’s the best thing in the world. I wish I would have had guidance from Black women in executive positions in my career. Right now is the first time I’ve ever had a woman boss at all and it’s definitely beneficial for me.
Do you think Black men are often ignored or treated unfairly?
Black men still get more respect and acknowledgment from other men. I just had a conversation with some of my peers about how, as women, we can sit in meetings and at dinners with the male execs and they are so attentive and conversational, but once you are outside of that setting they can walk past you and not even recognize you. I was at least glad it wasn’t only me that it was happening to.
You own a juice bar with Styles P. What are some of the greatest lessons being an entrepreneur has taught you off the bat?
Everyone has a different work ethic and you can’t expect people to want it as bad as you do all the time. I’ve always been a hard worker and even when I was getting little or no money, I wanted to make sure I put in the greatest effort possible. Most people aren’t like that, and they work their wage. Some people look at it like, well I’m not getting paid much, or it’s not my business. You really have to be a good manager and be involved. And know what your skills are. If you have partners, you should all be bringing something different to the table.
It’s been said that Black women make up the highest number of entrepreneurs. What are your thoughts on that?
I encourage the women around me to take that leap. I have a podcast called “Colorful Lives” with State Farm and the other hosts (Aminatou Sow and Tonya Rapley) and I are accountability partners. We set goals and check in with each other to make sure we are taking steps to[ward] achieving those goals. We should all be doing that with each other because being an entrepreneur can feel lonely and thankless at times. When I go to our businesses I always pay even when I get offered free product. Trust me, I know how hard it is.
We know that you love to read physical books. What are the three most recent best books you’ve read?
I just read and loved Elaine Welteroth’s “More Than Enough,” Tina Turner’s mémoire “My Love Story,” and D Watkins’ “We Speak For Ourselves.”