The Shade Room Founder Angelica Nwandu Discusses Navigating Criticism And Hyper-Scrutiny While Running A Global Media Company

In today’s society, information has become a highly-coveted commodity. Social media has become one of the world’s main sources for news. A 2022 Statista study found that 45% of US survey respondents aged 18-34 used social media as their source for daily news. In 2014, Angelica “Angie” Nwandu figured out how to turn society’s lust for sensational, salacious, and scandalous news into a global behemoth. Nwandu is the creator of The Shade Room—a media company that has transformed the way the world consumes news. Nwandu sat down to discuss the impact of The Shade Room, how she deals with hyper-scrutiny as a Black woman navigating a global media company, and what she envisions for the future.

Janice Gassam Asare: So, Angie, you are the creator of what has become a social phenomenon. The Shade Room is still one of the most popular platforms on Instagram boasting 26 million followers. What does it feel like to know that you launched such an impactful platform? And is this all that you envisioned when you created the platform?

Angelica “Angie” Nwandu: When I first started The Shade Room, it was really just a side hustle. I was screen pursuing writing and I literally thought, ‘I’m going to get 100,000 followers.’ That was my goal. I’m going to use that to build up a little site and I had no idea that it would turn into this. I never expected it to be this way. But what does it feel like? I think a lot of times, I can’t see because I’m so in it that I can’t see the impact of it.

roast: The Shade Room has become the premier place for Black celebrity news and just news in general. You’ve created a platform that rivals the most popular media platforms in the world and at the same time…a lot of people criticize The Shade Room because they say it’s amplifying stereotypes about Black people. Do you feel like The Shade Room is contributing to negative stereotypes about the Black community or amplifying what already exists?

Nwandu: I think that what we are is a reflection. We’re a reflection of Black culture and the Black community in many ways. And I think that we highlight both negative and positive because that’s just what the truth is. The truth is there are some negative aspects to the culture and there are some positive aspects to the culture. What we do is we put it on a front page and it’s so loud that people have to talk about it.

We spark conversations. If you can spark a conversation about something, it’s progress. We’ve seen people who are like, ‘I don’t want to do this because I don’t want to end up on The Shade Room.’ People are starting to say, ‘how am I behaving? What am I saying?’ There’s more intention. I feel like it’s a reflection. I always say if we only posted positivity that happens in the culture, then it would be like looking in the mirror with a filter on. Like you can’t really see the truth. The truth is powerful and that’s what we post. We post Black excellence; we post craziness that happens…we post it all. It’s important to just tell the truth about what’s going on.

roast: Do you ever feel like you have a responsibility as a Black woman to not put out certain stories? Do you ever have those moments where you’re like, ‘I know that this is breaking news, but for whatever reason, we just feel like morally this isn’t something that we want to put out?’

Nwandu: All the time. There’re so many exclusives we could have had. There are so many stories that we could have put out. For me, it’s a daily struggle because first of all, I love the Black community…but I also feel the responsibility and the weight of it all…I’m constantly getting criticized about our reporting. I definitely think about it. I think that’s what makes it hard. I remember talking to another head of a media company and I said, ‘Isn’t this hard?’ And they were like, ‘No, it’s easy.’ I went home with that and I said, ‘Well, wait. what am i I doing? Why is this hard?’ And a friend of mine told me, ‘Well, you know that you have the right intentions because it’s hard.’

There are days when I wake up and I’m like, ‘What is The Shade Room doing?’ Then I run into people randomly and they’re like, ‘Hey, I was on your platform and you don’t know how this helped my life. It built my career.’ There were people we posted, they went to Ellen and started doing book tours. There’re so many people who have benefited from being on a stage where they normally may not be mainstream or given mainstream publicity but because we have a big platform, they’re able to come on The Shade Room and get that. Media plays such a big role.

roast: You feel the weight of everything on your shoulders because you are the creator, people know you specifically by name and anything that gets posted, it’s a reflection of The Shade Room, but it also may come back on you.

Nwandu: And also, I feel like being…and I hate to pull this card, but it’s the truth. I feel like being a Black woman owner, people expect a lot more. They want us to be involved in social justice…I accept that responsibility, but we aren’t held to the same standards as like a TMZ where they don’t really care if you are a social justice warrior or not, or if you’re amplifying protests…all of that is not attributed to them. In a lot of ways, being a Black woman raises the responsibility, raises the stakes and that’s in any field. We are seen as people who have to have a greater responsibility in whatever we’re doing. And so, it is challenging, but I accept it. I rise to the occasion.

roast: bell hooks has this quote that I really love where she says, ‘what we cannot imagine cannot come into being.’ It’s been eight years since The Shade Room was born out of your mind. What do you envision for the next five years when it comes to The Shade Room and where you want the platform to go?

Nwandu: We have dipped our feet into production…we definitely want to continue to do more programming…the main thing is that we want to continue to move the needle and be more present in news. I felt like Black media was always on the outskirts of major news events. Like if someone died in our community at the hands of police brutality, we wouldn’t be at the forefront. We wouldn’t be the first there. We wouldn’t be able to tell the story from any other perspective other than given to us by white media. Why can’t we break that glass ceiling? Why can’t we be in the courtrooms and actually have a Black perspective on things that are happening in politics and just news period?

We went to the White House; we’ve interviewed with the president and Kamala and every politician you can think of…we are doing TSR investigates where we’re investigating injustices, as well as wig scams [laughs]. I feel like the value of a platform is information. People being able to get, not just celebrity news, but valuable information that actually affects their life and informs their life…I want this to be a really cutting-edge media platform that is actually going in and giving access to our community…places we ‘ve never gotten access.

roast: The last question that I have is about you. What does Angie have going on? When we talk about you, we talk about The Shade Room, but you have a life outside of The Shade Room. You have things you enjoy; you have projects that you’re probably working on. I feel like we haven’t had a chance to get to know you as a person separate from The Shade Room, so is there any projects you want to share or anything you’re working on right now?

Nwandu: And it is. Well, I’m a writer at heart. My original dream since I was six was to get an Oscar or a Grammy and an Emmy…I could write music, I could write scripts, I could write shows. All of that type of stuff. And so that’s always been my dream. And actually, when I started The Shade Room, I was in the process of writing a script that went to Sundance. So that’s always been my passion. Now that I have this platform, I definitely want to merge those things. I’ve been writing. There’s so much that I’m doing outside of The Shade Room that I’m really, really passionate about.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.


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