Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, a comedian and actress, unusually began her career with her first real standup show on the Queen Mary to her viral nail salon shot on YouTube. In an interview with CEO.com, Johnson-Reyes shared her journey to celebrity status and how she studied to perfect her craft.
Johnson-Reyes grew up in San Jose, California. She did not always plan to pursue a career in the entertainment industry and was embarrassed to make her dream of acting known because it was far-fetched. However, things changed after a friend moved to LA and promised to help her get started. Suddenly, the far-fetched dream started to become a reality.
At this point, Johnson-Reyes was praying for a sign and went on to try out for the Oakland Raiders cheerleading squad and made it, which turned out to be the sign she was waiting for. She then pursued her dreams by going to LA and starting out as an extra on FRIENDS. She studied those around her and found herself going to comedy shows, as those were the people she wanted to be like.
When the FRIENDS gig ended, Johnson-Reyes decided to try her hand at a comedy class. Her teacher Lisa Alvarado quickly saw her potential, and the two began to tour the LA comedy clubs. This experience helped Johnson-Reyes become comfortable on stage and learn the etiquette of standup comedy from the professionals around her.
Soon, Johnson-Reyes got her big break when she was invited to perform at a Mormon holiday party. She agreed to go and perform all clean material, as promised to the event hosts. To her surprise, it was a comedy competition, and she won half the prize money with another comedian. That $600 was the most money she had ever made in one job and was the sign she needed to pursue a comedy career.
When she filmed a video of her nail salon bit that went viral, her celebrity status took off, and this was when Johnson-Reyes believed she had arrived. From there, Johnson-Reyes began to tour comedy clubs nationwide as a headliner and learned much about the business and how comedy clubs can overwork their stars. She soon secured an hour-long special on Comedy Central, which also happened to be hosted by the famous comedian Jeff Dunham.
Johnson-Reyes has come a long way since that first performance on the Queen Mary and is now one of the significant touring comedians in America. While her journey was extraordinary, she emphasized that she faced many rejections and insecurities. When asked about the current comedy and free speech climate, she said, "I feel like I create with fear of being canceled. So it's not the best place for comedy, but I find myself being there."
Johnson-Reyes is currently on tour in various cities while pursuing her brand of business in comedy. Johnson-Reyes continues to increase her knowledge of the comedy industry, understanding that it is a unique industry with many paths to success. She now puts into practice a mentality of relishing in the admiration and applause of the audience, not of her peers. Despite some envy, Johnson-Reyes focuses on creating laughter for the audience and holding a clear conscience that she does not intend to hurt anyone's feelings.
It's been quite an extraordinary journey for Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, filled with fearlessness and connection. With more than 15 years in the business, Johnson-Reyes has made a name for herself in the comedy world, one that revolutionizes its meaning from a sense of fraternity to an adaptation to the tastes of its audience.
With no official end to her story in sight, Johnson-Reyes continues to pave the way for what a comedic success story looks like.
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