Meet Your Host: Anjelah Johnson-Reyes Takes On The Pollstar Awards

FROM RAIDERETTE TO COMEDIAN: Anjelah Johnson-Reyes will host the Pollstar Awards at the Beverly Hilton Feb. 22.

Anjelah Johnson-Reyes hardly has time to catch her breath. She just wrapped an 80-date tour stretching from March 25, 2022, to Feb. 11, 2023, including filming a new Netflix special at the famed Ryman Auditorium. And she’s currently expecting her first child.

She’s also set to host the Pollstar Awards Feb. 22, which takes place at the Beverly Hilton on the second day of the Pollstar Live! conference.

Since 2009, Johnson-Reyes has been touring as a comedian. Before that, she lived in San Jose, California, her first gig in the entertainment business as an Oakland Raiderette.

She’d drive up several times a week from San Jose to Oakland to practice. She told herself she would spend one year as an NFL cheerleader. If it went well, she’d pack her bags and move to Los Angeles to become an actress.

“I tried out to be an Oakland Raider’s cheerleader for the sole purpose of using it as my sign from God to pursue the entertainment industry,” she says.

“I made the squad. So I cheered one year, went to the Super Bowl that year, came home from the Super Bowl, packed up my room and drove to LA. And I’ve been here ever since.”

20 years later, just a little over a week after the Super Bowl, Johnson-Reyes meets her full-circle moment. One of her first covers early on in her career was Pollstar.

“I remember a long time ago, when I was first starting to blow up, I was on the cover of Pollstar and it was such an honor,” Johnson-Reyes says. “I still didn’t even quite understand what that meant because I was so new in the business. But it feels like a full-circle moment to come back and host these awards.”

When Johnson-Reyes speaks to Pollstar just two weeks ahead of the awards, she’s still unsure of what she’s going to say once she takes the stage. With a room full of industry executives, from talent buyers to promoters, agents and managers, there’s a lot that can be said.

Maybe she’ll thank the ones who have supported her career thus far. Maybe she’ll ask where the ones who haven’t picked up on her yet have been.

“I don’t know what to expect myself, to be honest,” she says. “The only thing I know for sure is I’m going to be me and I will give it my best hosting the event. And as far as my monologue, my style of comedy is very much storytelling and observational. So I’ll probably stick to some fun stories I feel people can relate to.”

When it comes to the awards themselves, it’s not best tour, manager, agent, or any of the other obvious choices she’s most excited for. Instead, she wants to help celebrate the best venues.

“I feel honored to be able to give out awards,” Johnson-Reyes says. “Not just to the best tour, but the venue awards is what I’m looking forward to because I’ve been to a lot of these venues and I’ve seen the differences in the ones that really care for the artists that come in. It’s a world of difference when people really understand hospitality and not just about, ‘Oh, let’s make that money.’ There’s some that really excel in hospitality and I hope those win.”

Johnson-Reyes recently stopped by a ton of venues on her extensive trek that concluded at The Wiltern in Los Angeles earlier this month. She considers the shows some of her favorites yet.

For the first time since COVID, she’s had the chance to really get back on the road, all with a “fresh mentality, fresh perspective, and a better handle on my mental health while touring.”

She’s begun splitting her time between Los Angeles and Nashville, only recently moving to Music City. And, to celebrate, she filmed her newest Netflix special at the Ryman Auditorium.

While the special is still being edited down, it’s expected to be released later this year, with Johnson-Reyes cracking jokes about adjusting to her new town to a crowd of its current residents.

On tour, she’s sold out venues in Hawaii, South Carolina, Tennessee, Massachusetts, California and more. Highlights from her most recent run include two shows at the Neal S. Blaisdell Concert Hall in Honolulu, Hawaii, Oct. 21 that sold a total of 3,066 tickets and grossed $168,658, while her Oct. 1 show at the Ryman Auditorium sold 3,800 tickets and grossed $156,194.

Johnson-Reyes isn’t the only comedian who’s had a huge year. As Pollstar declared in August with our special comedy issue, it’s a new Golden Age of Comedy, and she’s taking part in the riches.

Her own routines see her bringing characters to life, but she admits that the definition of comedy has expanded tremendously in recent years — particularly with the rise of social media platforms like TikTok.

“I’ve been enjoying it as far as it being a golden age,” she says. “With social media and TikTok, there’s definitely a resurgence of comedy floating about that is more than standup. It’s more like an improv troupe. It’s people in their living room and their partner doing a funny skit or a funny challenge.

“It’s challenging going viral where anyone who’s not a comedian, just a couple with their two kids [can] film themselves and they’re now producing comedy content. It’s definitely a new era of comedy where it isn’t just a joke or a written sketch, but more a lifestyle.”

After such a huge year, Johnson-Reyes plans to take some much-deserved time off.

But still, she’s already thinking about what new material she can start working on.