Television is full of stars. Some need to be front and center to be seen while others shine no matter where they are. Nina Parker is the latter. From her start as a production assistant to now co-hosting her own late-night show on E! and hosting her own on red carpets next to the biggest stars in the world, Nina has carved out a space in TV that is truly one of a kind. Unapologetic, unafraid, and ever authentic, she is a woman who frees each of us to show up a little more real simply by way of her existence. Whether she's leading an important dialogue about race relations or spilling the tea on the latest celebrity news, one thing is for sure: Nina Parker is a woman you want to listen to. A voice you can trust. And a name that will find itself alongside the women who've paved the way for her in little to no time at all. She is history in action.
Iman Milner: We've seen the progression from TMZ to the reunions to now on E! News. But who is Nina Parker today? This remarkable, rule-breaking woman. Who is she?
Nina Parker: Someone who is busy. I am now on my tenth day of working, so I am also someone who needs a nap. Aside from those things, I am a person who's in the most peaceful place that I've ever been- in a place of the most self-acceptance and love. I am so self-assured about who I am and what I'm willing to accept from others. I am creating healthy boundaries for everything in my life that I control to keep myself sane—someone who's really excited for what's here but also for what's to come.
IM: One thing I admire about you is that you're never afraid to leave something. I think often we can stay in a job (or anything really) way past when it's no longer serving us. So how do you pivot without permission?
NP: In my mind, if I leave something, I've walked away twenty thousand times before I actually do. At times, I feel like I'm late to the exit. But ultimately, when I made the decision to walk away from corporate life and jump into entertainment, that I wasn't going to let fear dictate my future. No matter how comfortable I got, if I became unhappy, I was just no longer going to live in it because I just knew that God would have my back. There are moments of discomfort while you make that shift, for sure, but I made a promise to myself and God that if he would bless me with allowing me to be successful, that I would honor him by never staying in a situation that no longer served me.
IM: What has been the most painful but most important lesson you've learned on this journey?
NP: I've had a few hard lessons on this journey. When I was fired from my job at The Insider, that was a time when I felt the least myself on camera. I was getting notes to tone it down, and I had to be someone I wasn't. It's the business. There are creative differences, people want to take the show in an opposite direction, and you don't fit. It's not personal, but it's really hard, as a host, to not take it to heart that someone doesn't like what you're bringing to the table. It really tore me up for a few months. I had to figure out who I was, who I wanted to be, and to remember that this one place didn't have to affect the message I wanted to send to the world. I started to get confident—it was almost blind confidence—like 'somebody's going to want what I am bringing.'
IM: You're someone who shows up in the world as her 100% authentic self. How did you build the confidence to stand in that fully?
NP: I paid for it in my career early on. I feel like I was a little ahead of my time, honestly. Now it's all about being outspoken and being "real," but at the time, there weren't a lot of people doing that, especially in the entertainment news space. At E!, I found a home where they wanted me to be 100% authentic. I just had to find peace in feeling like I was okay with what I was saying and my employer was comfortable with the way I did my job, then I could handle the backlash.
IM: Let's speak to that backlash. In handling the Love and Hip Hop reunions, how did you move through that criticism?
NP: I had a tough time, initially, when I first started doing them because I am very pro-Black. Part of the reason I took the reunions was because so many people said, 'why are you doing this' or 'this is ghetto,' and I felt like there are people like this in my family. These kinds of scandals happen with A-list white celebrities, so why are we looking down on them? These people deserve to tell their stories. But when you're hosting something that chaotic, everyone wants to squeeze the lemon completely dry.
People were highly critical of my style, and I got a lot of criticism from Black people. I was used to people criticizing me for speaking up for us, but when it was my own people criticizing me for doing my job—it messed with me for a while. Ultimately, I realized you're just not going to be able to please everyone. It taught me a hard lesson that sometimes you can be everything you ever wanted to be, and it still won't be enough. I had to be happy with what I was doing and just keep firing on all cylinders. I wasn't going to let anybody shut me up.
IM: Let's talk about image. You are a curvy woman with BODY. Often there's this idea of "she's so brave to exist in her body as is…", how do you shut out that noise and keep being you?
NP: It's exhausting to pretend to be someone else. If you went back maybe ten years ago, if you look at photos of me, I was always hiding behind somebody or trying to minimize myself. I just got tired of feeling like I had to look like something else. When I would choose to be fully out there, women would reach out and say 'thank you for wearing this top' or 'I didn't think I could pull that off until I saw you in it.' The one thing that transcends race is weight. Everybody can relate to weight loss, weight gain—white people, Black people, Asians, Latinos—we all understand body issues. I don't care how good you look. You're always going to feel like there's something you want to improve. Ultimately, you just accept who you are. For me, I'm not trying to hide. You may have a mom or sisters who are plus size. Your uncle might have a bigger cup size than you. We all deal with it. Why have we been conditioned that only one type of body is acceptable on TV? Why is it that everybody's worth, especially in the media, is always attached to their waist? Are you going to listen to me more if I'm a size 6? It's absolutely insane. It was so asinine that I just rebelled against it.
IM: You are a Black woman who's making history in real-time on TV. Have you truly embraced that?
NP: I mean, I am a Black woman hosting a late-night show, and I don't think the gravity of that is talked about enough. Especially on a network like E! that has really pushed itself to move past the perception that most people have about their programming. We're talking about real stuff: breakups, makeups, h** summers. All of it. I don't let the love or the hate get to me because I know either can flip at any time, but it's a big deal.
IM: With all, you have going on, how do you make time for yourself?
NP: Before the pandemic happened, I don't think I really had a self-care routine. But now, I make sure to do at least one thing for myself daily. It doesn't have to be something big. It can literally be just making a cup of coffee and sitting on the couch for ten minutes. I have to do something every day that I want to do. A day can get away from you, and before you know it, you've given everything to everyone else, leaving nothing for yourself.
IM: What do you define as a history-making woman?
NP: Breaking barriers and making space for people behind you. Many times, we're showing love to the women who are already where we want to be. But there are so many people right next to you who are hustling and working so hard too. Those who are being seen get a lot of accolades, but there are others, who not everyone knows, that are dedicated. Those people inspire me too. People like Gia Peppers, Danielle Young, Scottie Beam, and Sylvia O'Bell motivate me with their interview styles and work ethic. Those are the women who inspire me to grind a little harder. When I see them winning, I feel like I'm winning. I'm a student of the craft. I learn from the people coming up. Those are the women who are on their way to making historical strides in this industry.
Nightly Pop airs weeknights Monday-Thursday at 10:30 pm ET on E!