A few months after starting The Shade Room’s Instagram page, the site’s owner and founder Angie, contemplated giving up. Feeling discouraged, unsure of her future and burdened by financial pressure, her life and business changed when she discovered how to generate revenue on the seemingly unprofitable platform. With her dreams reignited, she continued to strive toward becoming the successful businesswoman she initially doubted she could be.
In less than two years, The Shade Room has obtained a massive Instagram following of nearly 1.5 million “roommates,” eclipsing rival brands by hundreds of thousands. What started as something to keep Angie “busy,” in between gigs (she and a colleague were given a grant to work on a script for Sundance), has changed the blogging game and the way we consume news.
TSR has become synonymous with celebrity news, juicy gossip and 24/7 coverage. Their loyal readers serve as the eyes and ears of Instagram. The roommates are in your favorite celebs’ comments section, at the club when sh*t goes down and the driving force behind TSR’s exclusive content.
From breaking viral stories like RHOA star Peter Thomas’ inappropriate interactions with women outside of his marriage and Teyana Taylor’s recently confirmed pregnancy (which they revealed days ago), TSR is a trusted source in the Black community and celebs like Chris Brown and Ciara even “step into The Shade Room” for their dose of tea.
After months of diligently typing behind-the-scene, TSR’s Angie is opening up in an exclusive interview with #TeamBeautiful.
HelloBeautiful: Break down how you started The Shade Room.
Angie: I was always a writer. I wrote poetry and I was into screenwriting. I went to LMU and graduated in 2012, thinking, ‘What am I going to do?’ I don’t want to be a lawyer, I don’t want to be an accountant, which is what I went to school for. I knew I wanted to write and I decided in January of 2014, I would quit my job in accounting and pursue writing full-time. I didn’t know where to begin because I don’t know the industry like that. So I was just like let me start off of the social media pages. The first day blogging, I got around 200 followers. After the first week of blogging, I had 10,000 followers.
HB: How did you start making money?
Angie: Between March and July, I wasn’t making any type of money at all. I had used up my savings and was negative $400 in my account. That day I asked God to help me find a way to make money off of this is. Help me find a way. That day, I decided to open a Big Cartel store selling advertisements. That day, I was able to pay my rent. I felt really blessed by that so I kept on.
I was in foster care for the majority of my life. I had a hard life. I never saw myself being successful or having a business. I’m a person who is testing the waters trying to see beyond herself and grow into this business woman who I never thought I could be. Day by day, I’m trying to be Angelica.
HB: When did you know you had something big?
Angie: When we got our account deleted. I was like ‘OMG,’ we cannot start over, this is going to be terrible. But! It was so much love and support. When we put up the Instagram again, within 3 months we had surpassed 500,000. That’s when I recognized how big the brand was at the point. The social media platforms bring in more traffic than the actual website. Our Facebook page reach, every week, is about 65 million and engagement is about 14 million. That’s just Facebook. Instagram doesn’t offer analytics. If we can bring that to the website, we’ll be comparable to TMZ. We’re trying to bring the traffic to other platforms.
HB: Who was the first celebrity to show you love?
Angie: I wasn’t even blogging about celebs you would see on TV. I was blogging about King Amiyah. She was the reason I got 10,000 followers because I was blogging about her and her boyfriend at the time. They were getting into some big argument and I was in her business. It was to the point I reached out her enemy Shayla Stacks to get an interview and that caused them to come to the actual page. Celebrities didn’t comment on blogs, but since it was on Instagram, it’s easy for them to get heated in the moment and type something on your page. People were like this is a place where not only can you get the gossip, you can get it directly from the people.
HB: What about TSR’s competition?
Angie: *I had some run-ins when I first started.* However, I felt I created my own lane. We were the first to publish the majority of our content to Instagram when other blogs thought it was ludicrous. We didn’t receive much respect from other outlets at first, now we have support from many other blogs and they recognize our movement.
*A quote in this story about competition within the industry was edited for clarity.*
We should support each other. There are other blogs that are coming up who ask me for help all the time. I stop my day to help them, because it’s not like, in this industry, you can take a class and learn how to make money. I feel like when you see a newcomer in the game, what they need is support. We’re all trying to make it.
HB: What happened with VH1’s ‘The After Party?’
Angie: It was really good for the first episode, but I think it was really hard translating TSR into television within their program. We left that relationship. We love each other and I love Mona for giving me the opportunity and everyone over there. I think what they wanted TSR to be… I’m not trying to get more gossipy, I added in TSR positive images. I’m coming out with a Youtube series that’s strictly going to talk about people in the industry. I feel like people need to hear stories like that. I know people who came to LA with $10 in their banks accounts and are now very successful. It’s called “The Come Up.” I want to target a lot of Black entrepreneurs and I want them to talk about the things they never talk about: depression, anxiety, fears of not feeling like you’re capable of being a businesswoman… I think it would be good for them to hear it from people who come from where they come from, who never saw themselves being business people but learned to research and pray.
HB: What caused your beef with Azealia Banks?
Angie: Let me tell you what I hate. When Black celebrities shun Black media. They act like they too good for it a lot of times. They want to be on E! News and TMZ. But those people are not going to give you the kind of coverage and support the Black community gives you. We’re the ones who are going to pump you on a daily. Before you hit White media, we were the ones who got you there. They try to categorize us like we’re all about gossip, but what do you think TMZ about?
My issue with Azealia Banks, she has a good message. Once you get past all of the drama. The problem with her is that she’s getting into it with everybody in the Black community. She’s saying things that are contradicting themselves. In one breath, she’s like power to the Black people and in the next, she’s like I would never date a brother. I told her, we don’t want her to give the message, because you’re messing up. No one’s hearing what she’s saying because there’s all this mess around it.
HB: What made you clap back?
Angie: I was hurt. I was really trying to get her message out there. It hit a soft spot, I was dealing with was I doing good for the Black community or am I doing bad? I can admit that she hit on an insecurity of mine and I had to clap back.
HB: How do you catch so many celebs in eachother’s comments?
Angie: Having the roommates on your team is like having a full staff in every city on your team. My people could not catch-all of these random comments. The roommates are fans of La La, so they’re in her comments anyway. So they’ll be looking through La La’s page and they’ll see it and send it in. Another roommate somewhere else will be looking through Chris Brown’s comments (because they love Chris Brown) and they’ll see it and send it in. Every time we post a clap back season that is incentive for people, when they see a clap back to send it to TSR. Sometimes they want to be the person who get’s clap backed on.
HB: How do you gauge what you will or will not post?
Angie: There’s a scripture in the bible about truth. There was one time we did something with Peter Thomas and Cynthia Bailey. We had gotten another video that was worse than the one we posted. After we posted that video, videos of Peter Thomas with women started popping up and we were just like, let’s not mess with it. That was something that weighed on my conscience because I was like, you’re interfering with people’s marriages. But this person is constantly disrespecting his wife and he had many opportunities to stop his behavior. We’ve been getting roommate talks about him for I don’t know how long. What happens in the dark has to come to the light. We can learn from this. Can we better their situation if Cynthia knows he’s out here acting a fool? Yeah. We read over that scripture to make sure everything we post has a reason. The roommates send in what they want us to cover.
HB: What is some of the pressure that comes with such great influence?
Angie: I kinda shot myself in the foot with this 24-hour posting. Most blogs will post in the morning and that did not need to be tampered with. [Laughs] At this point I can’t do it myself and now I have people who work night shifts. Now, I am a voice in the Black community whether I want to be or not. I’m really about the community. For a while I was struggling because I don’t want to only pump out gossip. I feel like I have a responsibility to do something better and bigger. I’m coming out with a Youtube series. It’s going to be fun but it’s going to have a lot of substance. I feel like I have to out something good out there if I have this platform. God didn’t bless me this far to do nothing. I’m focused on doing something positive.
Stay tuned for Angie’s best tips for building your brand on social media. But in the mean time follow me on Instagram and Twitter @Shamika_Sanders.