After obtaining a diploma from a school with the prestige of the University of Pennsylvania, most students expect to attain success. Angela Nissel, a Southwest Philly native and 1998 UPenn graduate, was no different from her counterparts. While she is well on her way toward achieving that goal, her route has certainly been off the beaten path.
To fight the battle known as the real world, Nissel was armed with a degree in medical anthropology, but that was not enough to land her a steady job. She undertook a series of bad temp jobs, but she could not find a job in web design, as it differed from her major.
In 1999, Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson, drummer for The Roots and a friend since high school, enlisted her to create a website for the group. The website, Okayplayer.com, has gained remarkable popularity since its inception. Originally, Nissel was Okayplayer.com’s only staff member. Her tasks included running the message board and making daily updates.
While the site’s staff has expanded (albeit not greatly), Nissel still handles much of the duties. Named the Best New Website at the 2000 Online Hip-Hop Awards, Okayplayer.com currently includes an online store, several messages boards, a chat room, and biographies of artists including D’Angelo, Common, Jill Scott, Talib Kweli and of course, The Roots. Okayplayer.com has developed into an online community that Nissel reflects upon fondly.
“We’ve attracted a lot of people that I would pick as good friends,” says Nissel. “I wonder, did I have any friends before the site?”
While she is obviously pleased at the success of Okayplayer.com, Nissel’s life has become a lot more hectic, as a result of its growth.
“I wish there was a warning that said, ‘workload will increase exponentially,'” Nissel jokes. “It’s like a family with normal members and occasional crack head uncles,” she comments about Okayplayers. Nissel’s sense of humor has endeared her to visitors of the website.
While still at UPenn, she began to document her experiences on a website. In reference to her financial situation, Nissel titled the accounts, “The Broke Diaries.” She turned the accounts into a book by the same name, which was subsequently picked up by Random House. The book, which was released last Tuesday, has received positive reviews from the likes of comedian Chris Rock, USA Today and Entertainment Weekly.
“I’m really surprised that middle America is getting it,” said Nissel. On her motivation to write the book, she says, “I was broke as hell and I had nothing else to do.”
While the book is definitely humorous, an underlying message of inspiration is present.
“You have to read between the lines,” Nissel says. “I don’t like to preach to people, but I like to kind of drug their drinks and slip them an educational Mickey.”
While her future plans consist of staying “unbroke,” she is currently working with film producer Reginald Hudlin (of movies such as “Bebe’s Kids” and the “House Party” series) to field offers for TV and movies. Not surprisingly, Nissel is also considering a career in stand-up comedy.
Angela Nissel appears at Barnes & Noble (1805 Walnut St.)TONIGHT, Thursday, April 19 at 7 p.m. Call 215-665-0716 for more info.