The former TMZ producer and current correspondent for The Insider on CBS created her own lane based on an unrelenting determination to succeed in the entertainment industry.
Triumphant is the best word to describe Nina Parker. The successful entertainment journalist has been the face of TMZ and she’s currently a correspondent for The Insider on CBS. Parker was recently honored at the monthly women’s networking event, United We Brunch sponsored by event-planning firm, United We Function.
Company founder and president Waverly Coleman shared her reasons for selecting Parker for the event, “I chose Nina because of her energy. I’ve always been a supporter of her work. When she was on TMZ, she was the star of the show. Through mutual friends we met for dinner and spent hours together and she was so sincere. It’s very easy to get caught up in the Hollywood lifestyle but Nina is gracious and humble. She’s going to be a lifelong friend.”
While Parker is now one of the most sought after media personalities, she wasn’t always as successful. Her story shows entertainment aspirants that even if life throws you off your path, in the words of George Eliot, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”
As a student at San Francisco State University, Parker was the “it” girl on campus and host of her local news station. Post graduation, Parker had an unsuccessful stint in New York, which resulted in her moving back home to San Francisco. She comments, “I was 23 and very arrogant. I was shocked that things weren’t working out for me in the way I had envisioned. At that time I hadn’t realized that you have to create your own path. I went home with my tail between my legs because I had a lot of people that were rooting for me to fail.”
She got a job at Verizon Wireless with the intention of only staying for a year to save up enough money for a move to Los Angeles. Four years later, she was still working for the phone company, unhappy and even further away from her dreams. “Every year that went by, I became more depressed to a point where I didn’t even recognize myself anymore. I was putting my all into a job that I hated. I would literally wake up every day and cry.”
With the help of her supportive parents, Parker realized that she had a way out. “My mother said if you aren’t happy quit! What is your soul telling you to do?” The answer was move to Los Angeles in April 2007 and Parker soon found herself renting a room and temping for film studios.
The empire that is TMZ was only a small website in 2007. Parker sent an email and secured a job as a “runner”; the low man on the totem poll who ran errands and took out the trash. Despite her meager role, Parker said she felt an innate connection to TMZ, “Being a runner was a very humbling experience. I was about to turn 30, I was making less than minimum wage and living in a room with no door but I was determined to make it work. I felt connected to TMZ. As soon as I walked into the building, I knew something good was going to happen.”
Parker said she often slept in her car in a convenient store parking lot so she would never be too far away from the office in case of breaking news. Her perseverance paid off and in less than six months, she was promoted to producer then her outspoken and humorous personality led her to pitch for the TMZ television series. Site founder and attorney Harvey Levin helped to mold Parker into being the confident and resilient woman she is today. “He pushed me to be the best person I could be and to care about what counts. He said it’s not about how much makeup I have on, people want to know what I think, my opinions are important. Harvey and TMZ taught me to be comfortable in my own skin.
After five years with TMZ, Parker left to pursue other opportunities. During her interview for The Insider on CBS, she was told there were no on-air talent positions and her job would strictly be relegated to online content. Parker was unfazed. “It took me two weeks to be on the show after talking to the executive producer and pitching stories. Three seconds on air turned into five seconds, then I was the voice for social media, I provided coverage at awards shows then I received my contract to be a TV correspondent.”
Parker gave this advice to aspiring on-air personalities who are having a hard time breaking into the industry, “You don’t always get the position you want. If it’s not available you have to show people why it’s for you.”
Far from her peak, Parker is working on additional projects to show her range as talent as well as a producer.
After sharing her powerful story, one of the takeaways she hopes the United We Brunch attendees received in her testimony is, “There’s no blueprint for your career, it’s truly what you make it out to be. Figure out what you’re destined to do and don’t let a few failures get in the way of your progress.”
United We Function holds monthly events in the Los Angeles area. For more information visit UnitedWeFunction.com