Nina Parker Is Electrifying the Entertainment Industry
It takes years to be an overnight success, and nobody is more of attestation of that than Nina Parker. From a pro-Black upbringing in the Bay Area to trials and tribulations in NYC to hosting shows and red carpet events in Hollywood, success wasn't a destination for Nina; it was her destiny. We spoke to the host of E!'s Nightly Pop talk show about her perseverance, her fashion line at Macy's (aptly titled the Nina Parker Collection), her career thus far, and much more.
What drove you toward the entertainment industry?
I felt like I was a good storyteller and able to convey what was going on to the everyday person. My internships were on the local news, and I didn't want to stay because I always found the news depressing, but entertainment is in the same realm and less heavy on my conscience.
The news always feels very dark. Do you think entertainment news lends itself to your personality?
As a Black woman, I do not have the bandwidth to debate things that negatively affect the Black community. My feelings and opinions are non-negotiable when it comes to the harm done to women and Black people, but entertainment allows me to engage with lighter subjects.
Entertainment and pop culture news has become the front page. How much has media changed since you started?
I was at TMZ at the beginning of it all, and it was a new way of telling stories that became the way the world would tell stories. Tabloids became antiquated and irrelevant because we were providing video.
The evolution of technology has contributed to how the news is reported. Has the advent of social media made your job difficult?
Quite the opposite! Social media has made it easier because now we don't have to wait on anybody; we can just go to their Instagram [laughs]. Also, it's different for me now because I'm more of a host than a journalist. I used to be on the beat breaking stories, and I don't really do that anymore; I look to have conversations about what's going on rather than report on it.
You represent a very authentic voice for Black people in the media. Who were the people you looked up to that did the same?
I feel like when I was in school, there was only one person that was relatable on the national scene, which was Oprah. There were Black women on the local news side, like Pam Moore, who was an anchor at KRON4, which is the NBC affiliate in the Bay Area. I feel represented by my peers and people who are making strides.
How does it feel knowing you're someone people look up to?
I'm still in denial about that! [laughing] I get the DMs on social media, the letters of support, and I see people speak glowingly of me, but I'm still in awe of it all. I understand that while everybody won't agree with everything I do or say, just seeing a Black woman like me in certain spaces makes a difference, so it's an honor.
That type of affirmation has to make you smile. Do you ever stop to pat yourself on the back, knowing you belong in these spaces?
I'm always thinking of the next thing, so I don't know if I've ever had that thought. I always feel like the odd woman out because when I am in these spaces, I'm either one of or the only Black woman present. I think there's such a long way for us to go.
Hollywood has a reputation for bringing the worst out in people, but you're very even keel. Where does that stem from?
It's like Slumdog Millionaire, where all these unfortunate things keep happening, and you have to question why?! Then these moments happen where a lightbulb goes off, and you remember everything happens for a reason. I was bullied as a kid, which helped me find my voice. I have a strong pro-Black father, who taught me the importance and value of being proud of my Blackness. My upbringing really centered me!
Your pride and confidence are abundant and magnetic. Were these attributes that made you decide to start a clothing line?
I think everything we do is preordained. I had a come to Jesus moment in 2019 in which I was figuring out where I wanted my life to go. By most standards, I'm considered successful, but there was a part of me that was unfulfilled. I decided that my success wasn't going to be centered around any one thing or person; it was going to be centered around me.
Self-assurance and self-awareness are vital.
Absolutely! I made a vision board, and about two weeks later I got a call from someone who was interested in doing the clothing line with me. Things happened super fast!
That goes back to what you said earlier about things being preordained.
For sure! Hilda Batayneh, my business partner at Reunited Clothing, knew of me before we ever spoke because she watches Nightly Pop, and she wanted to pitch major retailers right away. I was hesitant at first because there was no way these major retailers would want to do something with me, but Hilda was adamant that they would!
All it takes is one person to believe in you.
Hilda put together a wonderful video piece of me speaking about why I wanted to create this line, and Macy's was in! I've been feeling like I'm dreaming ever since.
The greats live on a bridge between dreams and reality. How do you maintain your balance?
I've learned to allow myself to feel things because we tend to go off how the best versions of ourselves should respond. I'm very much a think before I speak person, and I've learned to stop for a second and process things as I am, where I am.
Does fear ever play a factor in your decisions?
Yes and no. I moved to NYC and failed miserably, and moved back home with my tail between my legs, and worked at a call center for four years. During those four years, I was insanely miserable, and the most depressed I've been, in my life, because I wasn't living in my purpose. So when I moved to LA, I felt as if it were my last chance, and after being at the bottom, taking these leaps of faith wasn't scary because the worst thing I could do is fail, but I'm still living my dream by going for it.
The dream is the process, not the result.
Exactly! If I were to fail while chasing my dream, that failure is still more joy than sitting idly.
Now that you have accumulated a significant amount of success, how do you stay motivated?
I'm insanely competitive! I feel very confident about how great I am at what I do and where I see myself headed. Also, seeing other people win inspires me a lot!
You're very affable, and the Nina Parker Collection has been very empowering for plus-size women. How does it make you feel to know you're making droves of women feel seen?
I wasn't prepared for how good it would make me feel, and it's almost like an endless cycle of pouring into each other because the better they feel, the better I feel, and the more I want to continue giving them reasons to feel comfortable in their skin. I want women to look and feel fly! Then there are these affirmations when girls would say they now have an outfit for graduation, husbands saying their wives felt pretty on date night, or this woman who ran up to me in Macy's while crying because she had gained weight and started feeling insecure, but she feels cute in my clothes; those conversations blow my mind! All I was trying to do was fill a void, which comes from a genuine place, and I think the reception of the line translates that fact.
Is there any advice you can give people trying to break into the entertainment industry?
You're going to get your heart broken, probably more than once. You can't let the heartbreak define you, change your narrative or your vision. You have to channel the frustration, impatience, and loneliness into a way that will fuel your dream instead of letting them make you bitter. Create a foundation of people you trust but be ok if you can't trust anybody.