Co-host of “The Breakfast Club” discussed working in the male dominated hip hop culture at a Black Heritage Celebration event at GW.
By B.L. Wilson
Angela Yee, co-host of the wildly popular syndicated pop culture and hip hop show, “The Breakfast Club,” came to George Washington University and shared with students the path she took that has led her from a series of internships to becoming one of the top radio personalities in the United States.
Ms. Yee started in radio more than two decades ago after an interview with rapper mogul JayZ that was an audition for a job as a morning announcer on Sirius satellite radio stretched out to 90 minutes.
“It was supposed to be a half hour,” she said. “We walked out of that interview and they were like ‘You’re hired.’”
GW’s chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists invited Ms. Yee to speak at a Black Heritage Celebration event, “Reclaiming the Mic,” so that the GW community would know that the organization is not just for political journalists, said Elizabeth Bolagi, the group’s social media chair. “It’s for all sorts of students who are media savvy and want to be in journalism in any category.”
In opening remarks at the event Wednesday evening at Jack Morton Auditorium, School of Media and Public Affairs Director Frank Sesno urged the audience to “tell stories to make sure that new generations understand what we have experienced, are experiencing and where we are heading.”
He introduced the moderator of the conversation, GW alumna Zinhle Essamuha, B.A. 15, M.A. ’17, who is the host and correspondent of the daily news show “NowThisNews” on FacebookWatch. Ms. Essamuha asked Ms. Yee how she has “navigated the dynamics” of the male dominated hip hop world.
Ms. Yee turned to the audience and asked, “How many of you have had a job in which you didn’t or don’t get along with every person?” Satisfied by the show of hands, she responded, “Every person. It’s a part of life.”
When she started at Sirius, she said, “I was in a company where there were no women in positions of power. There were no black people in positions of power. It’s never easy when there’s nobody like you to understand.”
She said she has been empowered by women who have reached out to her. “It actually created a whole network for me and inspired me to do more,” she said.
There was a time she put up with being paid less and “being the sidekick” because she didn’t have experience. No longer. She has been named one of the top radio personalities by the music and entertainment magazine, “The Source.” She now makes a point of mentoring young women and arranging internships.
It was internships at Wu Tang Management, TBT records, MTV and the contacts she developed in those positions that helped her get in the door at Sirius XM.
“Once I get my foot in door I know I will make it happen,” she said. “Just give me an opportunity, let me in the room, and I will close the deal.”
After landing on “The Breakfast Club” in 2014, she was given a slot once a week devoted to women called “LipService,” where celebrities are subjected to highly personal questions about their sex lives. She developed it into a podcast that the likes of John Legend, D. L Hughley and Chelsea Handler have appeared.
“It’s been amazing to me that people have requested to do that show because there are not a lot of places you can go and talk about sex,” she said.
Ms. Yee and a group of women with coded funny names talk about what women like and don’t like in intimate relationships and answer men’s questions.
“So I consider that a great service to women,” she said to audience applause and laughter.
As to how Ms. Yee accounts for the rise in the popularity of radio as a medium, she said apps allow people to download shows they can listen to in their own time.
“Radio is so immediate,” she said. “It gets right to the source and brings it to you.”