Hey curvy girls all over the world,
I remember the first time I saw Nina Parker. I was lying in bed on a late night and caught an episode of TMZ. A segment came on and I saw this smart, savvy, and very opinionated girl. I was so intrigued by her presence. After following Nina from her TMZ days to her current positions on Access Hollywood Live and host of Love & Hip Hop reunions, I wanted to find out more about this smart and savvy beauty. Ever since she was a kid, Nina knew she wanted to be a journalist. She has a degree in journalism. Nina set out on a path to pursue her dreams. While in college she was part of the school paper and even producing her own shows in college for local access television and even interned at a local NBC affiliate.
Nina was crafting a plan for success as a journalist but hit a wall before she became the Nina Parker we know today. I have been intrigued by Nina’s ability to relate to people and of course her journalistic skills. I wanted to know more about her, so I reached out to her. In honor of National Women’s Month, I wanted to share Nina’s inspiring story with you guys today.
Nina had a life changing moment after realizing she was at a point in her life where she wasn’t living her dreams. With a degree in Journalism, she found herself working at a Verizon call center. Just when she was about to settle for her job at Verizon, Nina had a candid conversation with her mom, who helped her take control of her life and pursue her dreams.
Before you got your start in television, I read that you quit your job as a call center agent at Verizon Wireless, packed your bags and moved from Sacramento to Los Angeles. What gave you the courage to do that and what was that experience like after you left Sacramento?
“Living unhappily for four years while working at the call center made me feel like I wasn’t feeding my spirit at all. I felt like I was living someone else’s life. I felt very depressed. I wasn’t around people who were like minded like me. I felt like I was under serving myself. I knew I was doing it because I felt kind of stuck in this routine. And it really just took my mother to shake the table on me and kind of say what are you settling for? Why are you continuing to live this life that you’re unhappy with, when you have the power to change it. It was something I knew it already but it took her just saying it. Sometimes you tell your self things but when another person tells you, it kind of makes a light bulb go off.”
So that’s really where I got my strength to leave and try something different. Really, from the conversation with my mother who reminded me about my dreams, goals, and my aspirations. I also remember talking to one of my co-workers, somebody who I worked at Verizon Wireless with and they were getting ready to leave to go to school and I’m like they’re just leaving to go to school and I already got my degree. What am I thinking. What’s going on . So, I had a couple of reality checks that were very close together and just kind of pushed me in the direction to just risk it all.
When I first saw you on TMZ, I was intrigued by how smart, savvy, and opinionated your were. How was that experience for you and what was the most valuable lesson you learned from working at TMZ?
My experience was overall pretty good. It was hard. It was one of the hardest places to work at in terms of what they required from me. I wasn’t just doing on camera work. There are some jobs where you can come do your lines and go home. TMZ was just not one of those places. Everybody on camera is an editor, or producer, or writer for the site. They all have had other jobs beyond the camera. For me, it was great as far as what I learned. I was working under Harvey Levin who is an amazing investigative journalist. He just decided to apply everything he learned from law school and from investigative journalism and just put it towards the celebrity world. Which is why they weren’t reporting on weddings, engagements, and baby announcements. He was like we are going to attack celebrity news like we would a political story.
I learned a lot under him because it was a new place. So he didn’t have anything set. I was there before it was even a TV show, when it was just a website. It was like he was open to new ideas. I worked directly under him. It was very aggressive. 14-16 hour days, working in this very intense environment that required results or you were gone. It was a really good boot-camp for me especially because I had kind of been out of the industry for awhile and they took a chance on hiring me. For me it was like this is my last chance. I got to make this happen. I was at TMZ for 5 years.
After TMZ you went to the Insider. With the switch, how did you keep yourself motivated to stay on top of your game?
TMZ and Insider are very different shows. The Insider is more about the Oscars, and Golden Globes, and red carpets. It was hard for me to transition there initially, just because I came from a really progressive place that was unorthodox to a place that was more traditional. A company that is a lot older and even the people who worked there were more seasoned. It was definitely a different type of Hollywood that I wasn’t use to. It was weird for me because I had felt like I was pretty seasoned at that point for being 5 years in the game. It was a totally different ball game being at the Insider, being on air talent, you know reading teleprompters, going to events, and doing red carpets. it was a totally different experience from TMZ and totally different styles of reporting.
It was challenging, so I really spent a lot of time with Kevin Fraiser who kind of worked as a mentor for me. I was doing voice-overs at that point. It was just a lot. It was overwhelming at times. It was just something that I didn’t have a doubt that I wanted to do. So I knew that I just had to stay the course.
How did you get the Love & Hip Hop Hosting job and how was it working with Mona Scott?
Really simple actually. I decided it was something I was interested in doing. I had a meeting with someone who knew Mona and asked if they didn’t mind passing on my information to her, and my reel, and they did. It took maybe 4 or 5 months for her to contact me. When you don’t hear back, you just kind of keep it moving. And out of the blue she called me and was like hey do you want to host the reunion. It was kind of that simple.
She had a lot of shows going on and she just really needed somebody that she felt like could come in and ask questions and get answers. She was looking for someone with a journalism background. Someone who was also a fan of the show. Which sometimes its hard to find both of those. We had a little meeting and after the meeting it was a go.
I’ve noticed that you have basically become kind of the main host now. I know before they had Mo’Nique and different people in and out. What do you think it is about you that they said, you know what, we are just going to keep Nina?
I have a lot of experience because I worked in news. I have a lot of patience. I prep a lot and I think I’m pretty easy to work with. Some hosts don’t have any interest in the show that they’re hosting. Some people come in, they do their job, they go home, and they have to be overly prepped by producers and it doesn’t come across authentic to viewers. For me, these are people I have been reporting on on TMZ. I reported about their bankruptcy, I reported about child support, I reported about arrests.
So, these are people I had to know about. I had to watch the show for work often. It was a very natural progression for me because I was familiar with a lot of the back story. I think for Mona it was like okay, this is someone who actually is invested. I was nosy myself. I wanted answers myself. It was like okay she has a genuine interest and this isn’t something that’s fake for a check.
Being that you were on these different shows, did you feel any pressure to change your looks?
I was never given a note from anybody that I worked with that was like we want you to look this way or you should do this. They kind of let me do what I want within the scope of being presentable for television. It wasn’t like they told me how to do my hair or lose 15 pounds. I never had those types of conversations. I was really valued for my work ethic and for my opinion which I’m blessed to be in that position. I think when people hire me, they know who I am. I’m opinionated. I’m not the girl that you hired in a bandage dress that’s going to read a line. I’m going to give you my opinion. I’m going to let you know what I think about it, I’m gonna be engaged with you.
So, I don’t think my expectation was ever like, be this girly girl in a dress and come read these lines. The only pressure really came from outside, you know people watching you. Sometimes Its difficult when you have people judging you for the way that you look and I pride myself on being like the girl next door. I have people come up to me who talk to me and feel like you’re just like my friend or my cousin. I don’t feel like I’m not relateble to the average person. Someone on another show may seem a little non-relateable because they seem so perfect.
I’m just kind of one of those people who is not afraid to say, chile I had gas yesterday or talk about embarrassing things on camera that we all go through. I just don’t think there is any shame in that, in being human. So many people on air are afraid of looking vulnerable. My only pressure was really from outside people and learning how to navigate pass negative comments and allowing myself to be human and have feelings and ultimately just deciding that, I wasn’t going to let other people to make me feel miserable about myself.
With social media there’s so much negativity that goes on with looks. I know for me, one of the things that I related to with your look was that you were a curvy girl. I thought it was nice to see that on television. There’s this whole body positive movement going on , how do you feel about that movement and do you feel like you’re a part of it.
I think I am a part of it to a certain extent just because I am apologetically me and I fluctuate with my weight. I lost 70 lbs when I left TMZ and then last year I moved in with my boyfriend and gained like 25 pounds. You know that happy relationship weight. I am okay. I know I want to be healthier. I want to educate people about nutrition. I do read up on it. I pride myself on learning new things. and sharing that information.
So, I definitely do think I’m part of the body positive movement because I don’t think a woman has to look a certain way to be successful or look or do thing’s a certain way to get attention either. I think there are so many women right now who don’t realize how much they really have to offer. They think its all based on likes of a picture of showing off their body. It’s totally fine to indulge that, you just can’t fake that validation from people because its just not real. The public is so fickle. You just can’t base your validation on something that is just not a good foundation.
“I support all women, but you know I have love in my heart for curvy women. Unless you’ve been overweight you don’t really know what a challenge that is, especially living in a city like Los Angeles. Its definitely something I am an advocate for.”
You have so much experience. What career advice would you offer someone who wants to break into journalism?
I would just offer them the cliche of not to give up. It definitely can be a thankless industry. It can be something where you work 3 days to break a story and it breaks and then the next day your boss is like what else you got for me. You’re like damn, I just busted my ass for 72 hours and you already asking me about the next story. That’s the way it goes. After a 24 hour cycle, people move on to the next thing. Don’t have any set hours in your mind, like I only want to work from 8-5. It doesn’t work like that. I’m pretty much working all the time. Even if I’m not at a desk or on set, I’m in my emails. I’m in meetings. My phone is never off. I’m always working. When I first started, I had a problem with that. I wanted time off. I really want my weekends.
I think it stunted me in my job. I wasn’t always willing. I had to kind of break out of that. Its no days off when you’re needed. You gotta go in and do it because the next person will if you won’t. I had to shake myself of that. Any laziness, any excuse, you gotta kill that because there are people who are so hungry to be in your position that will do anything to be there. Even when you get in your position, you can’t get too comfortable. I’m constantly watching other shows other hosts. I’m constantly looking online and watching up and coming hosts. People probably don’t even know I’m paying attention to them. I’m constantly studying people who I admire and watching their interview styles and listening to podcasts and things like that to keep my tools sharpen and making sure I am thinking 3 steps ahead of the move I am currently in.
If you’re just thinking about your current move, then you’re just not expanding your reach enough. Its really just thinking ahead being faithful and truly believing this is the line of work for you and knowing that this is your craft and you’re going to do whatever you can do to cultivate it and make sure and master it. Always feel like you’re a student of what you’re doing. I don’t think there is ever really a cap. Even Oprah is doing new things and transitioning. Now shes directing or she’s creating a show. Its always a way that you can expand and create different things that you may not necessarily be good at when you first start.
Out of all the stuff you’ve done, all the stories you’ve covered, what would you say is the story you’re most proud of?
I don’t know if I have one story where I feel like this is the best thing I’ve done. Probably, the most memorable story that I’ve ever worked on. I was working at TMZ when we broke the Michael Jackson death. That’s probably something that I will never forget because I was in the newsroom when we got information about the story and when we were all working to see if it was true. When we pressed publish, the world changed after that . I didn’t go home for like two days. I was in the newsroom. I was doing interviews, just kind of immersed in that. That was probably one of the most iconic stories that I’ve ever been a part of.
I want to shift gears a little bit. Let’s talk a little fashion. I’ve been following your style since you were on TMZ. What would you say your style is?
While laughing, Nina said, “It depends on the weight I am. I don’t feel like I have anything that’s signature. I just kind of do what feels good that day. There’s some days where I feel a little bohemian, there’s some days where I’m like t-shirt and ripped jeans. There’s some days when I’m at Access and its kind of like fly business wear. I’m kind of one of those people that dresses for where I’m going.
Some days I’m casual, some days its with the lashes on. I don’t really go off of fads. I go off of what I feel like fits my body type. I feel like not everything is meant for me and I’m okay with that. A spaghetti strap top or dress is not ever going to be for me. I have big boobs. I’m going to look like I’m starring in the next porno if I come through with spaghetti straps. You gotta know whats right for your body type. I love high-waisted pants, wide legs for me, and cropped jackets.
That’s something I love to do. I think it elongates my frame. I’m 5’9. I’m a tall girl, so I like things that make me feel like a girl. Sometimes when you’re a tall girl, you feel like a body guard or something. So, I definitely am a girly girl. I like to smell good, look good, I like playing in makeup. I enjoy being a woman.
What would you say are your favorite designers or brands you like to shop at?
I’m kind of all over the place. I like Rachel Roy. I enjoy City Chic. They have a store here in Los Angeles. I’m a big boutique shopper as well. I like some places here in Los Angeles that I’ll go into and find a really fly scarf or accessories. I’m more of a boutique shopper. I’m not a huge mall person. I may go and get some jeans from Target and then pair it with some jewelry and a top from a cute little boutique that I found on Melrose. It just kind of depends. I mix things up. Its all about what fits the best.
Last question. What else can we expect to see from you in 2017? Do you have any up and coming projects? I did see that you have a podcast with Rocsi from Entertainment Tonight.
I have the podcast we just launched. Its called “Little Black Dress.” Rocsi and I met on the CBS lot because she was working for Entertainment Tonight and I was at the Insider. They’re both in the same house. That’s when we became cool and we just have been friends for years and I would go over to her house and we would be chatting and it was just kind of like we should start something.
We decided to launch this podcast because there’s not a lot of black pod-casters in Los Angeles. There’s definitely not a lot of women of color pod-casters period. We felt like there was a climate for it. We have a lot of contacts between the two of us. We just love a cool relaxed environment to just talk girl talk, talk about relationships, pop culture, and do interviews with people who our audience would love and get some candid information from them other than a typical red carpet basic what are you wearing type of interview.
We felt like there wasn’t a lot of people who look like us doing that and we wanted to kind of change the scope of things. I’m still with Access Hollywood Live. I tape with them a couple of times a week. I still have my relationship with VH1 and I definitely have some other projects that I am working on. I just can’t talk about it right now.
You can listen to Rocsi & Nina’s podcast HERE (tell them Stylish Curves sent you)
Are you feeling inspired by Nina and ready to live your dreams?