How The Shade Room founder Angelica Nwandu revolutionized celebrity media

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When Angelica Nwandu started The Shade Room, back in 2014, she had no idea how drastically she was about to change the entertainment news landscape.

Until then, legacy news outlets used Instagram to push users back to their websites. It was a traffic driver, not a brand builder. But Nwandu didn’t have the resources to create a website at the time, so she started curating news directly on Instagram. By bypassing the need for a website at all and streamlining the user experience of publishing celebrity news, Nwandu, a millennial, changed everything. While all news outlets would soon follow suit, she and The Shade Room, also known as TSR, had a head start.

For the latest episode of In The Know’s pop culture interview series We Should Talk, Nwandu opened up about her nearly decadelong journey of building The Shade Room into one of the top social media news brands in the world. She reflected on some of the challenges she overcame along the way and shared new details about her inspiring backstory.

Listen to In The Know’s full interview with Angelica Nwandu below, and keep reading for highlights from the interview:

On her proudest accomplishments since starting The Shade Room: The accomplishments that I’m most proud of are the things that we don’t really talk about. For me, being able to build a business [with enough of a] profit to be able to have scholarships and endowments is something I’m proud of. No matter how long The Shade Room lasts, that will always be there. That obviously has to be one of the things I’m most proud of that we’ve done, because it’s more fulfilling and it has a longer-lasting impact. Also, I would say [being on] TIME Magazine’s 30 Most Influential People list, too. That was in the beginning of our journey. […] To be honored like that on a list with a lot of people who I respect and admire in business? That was definitely a proud moment.

On the earliest celebrities to get onboard with The Shade Room: Kim Kardashian, which was very surprising for me. Kim Kardashian was very supportive early on. We got invited to a listening party with Kanye [West], we got the drops from everybody, she would mention it on the show, she posted it on her social media one time … so she was very open about that. Oprah Winfrey, we got her early on. She knew about it.

On starting The Shade Room with the few resources she had: What really happened for me to start this was, yes, I did need a hustle, and yes, I did need money, but I also wasn’t doing anything all day other than working on a script. I had time to try things, so I just tried it. I had plans for it, but my plans were so small for The Shade Room. I just wanted 100,000 followers to help me build a website. That was it; I never thought it would be anything like this. But, I tried it, and I tried it in a way that didn’t make sense because I didn’t know how to make a website. I tried it with what I had in my hands, which were my resources. I have a friend who wants to start a podcast, and she was like, “I need to get all of this equipment.” I was like, “But you have your phone!” It’s 2022, and movies have been shot on a phone! So I just worked with what I had, and that’s when it started.

On the success of The Shade Room enabling her to give back to her community: Giving is really important to me, because I was a product of people giving to me. For as long as I can remember, people showed up for me in my life when I needed them to. It’s so crazy [how many] times. If you look at the companies I give to — with Peace 4 Kids, I was actually in Peace 4 Kids when I was younger, and I was a product of their program. Of course I have to give back to them, because I want to get other people to have that experience! UFC — I was part of the United Friends of the Children for foster youth. I go back to who helped me, and I also give to other people. I had a scholarship and that’s how I was able to go to LMU [Loyola Marymount University], so now we want to give people scholarships. You’re never blessed with a lot for yourself.

Watch In The Know’s full interview with Angelica Nwandu below, and follow The Shade Room on Instagram here:

If you enjoyed this interview, check out In The Know’s recent chat here with Amanda Hirsch, of “Not Skinny But Not Fat!

Listen to the latest episode of our pop culture podcast, We Should Talk: