“Don’t screw this up, ” Jay-Z joked when he bumped into Angela Yee ’97 in the hallway. She laughed—she’d known Jay-Z for years and was used to his quips—but still, he was right. Oh man, she remembers thinking, the pressure is really on now.
It had been a little over two months since she started co-hosting a morning show at Sirius Satellite Radio and they still hadn’t hired her. Because she’d never worked in radio before, they put her on a trial period with no pay and no guarantee of getting the job. For the next few weeks, she worked diligently to prove herself by arriving early at the station and leaving late. She worked on slowing down her speech and making the inflection of her voice less monotone. She expunged words like “um” and “like” from her vocabulary. She watched popular television shows so that she could talk about them on the air and started a daily habit of reading gossip and news websites. She went to sleep early. She stopped socializing. “Every fiber of my being was dedicated to getting the job, ” she recalls.
She told all of this to Jay-Z as they walked to the studio on that Wednesday morning in February of 2005. As luck would have it, the day was also a holiday: the Chinese New Year. That evening, Yee, who is half-Chinese, would be celebrating with her family over dinner, but first she had a show to do.
The interview went unexpectedly well. In fact, it was a huge success. Yee was on a roll, making both the host and guest buckle up in laughter on more than a few occasions. Her questions were fresh and her remarks were clever. She dug for the truth and she mined Jay-Z for stories. Never before had Yee been as funny and witty on-air as she was that day. She led the show with such aplomb that even the host was impressed. “You trying to take my job or something?” he joked good-naturedly. Jay-Z chimed in—he, too, had noticed how well Yee was running the show. “Yeah, you better be careful, man, ” he said. “This one right here is gonna come up big.”
After the show, they hired her.
Fast-forward to today and Yee is one of the most well known and highest paid radio personalities in the country. She’s a host on the award-winning morning talk show, The Breakfast Club, which airs on Clear Channel’s Power 105 radio station in New York, and her voice reaches millions of listeners each day. The show, not to be confused with the classic ’80s film with the same moniker, is a three-hour blend of news, gossip, new music, and of course, interviews. Everyone from Dr. Oz and Justin Bieber to Magic Johnson and Arnold Schwarzenegger have appeared on the show, as well as many of the biggest names in rap and hip-hop. Instead of traditional, run-of-the-mill questions, Yee and her co-hosts, DJ Envy and Charlemagne Tha God, ask personal, revealing and oftentimes bizarre questions. Instead of run-of-the-mill interviews, they have conversations with their guests. Fans love the show for its candidness and the insight they glean about their favorite musical artists. And artists love the show because, “It’s kind of a one stop shop, ” Yee said. “You do our show and it ends up everywhere.”
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