Jenee Darden’s nerdiness began to blossom around the age of seven. By then the Oaktown native had a Wonder Woman light switch cover, framed poster of Christopher Reeve as Superman, budding life-long obsession with Batman and a deep love for both reading and PBS. But her most valued, life-changing possession at that time was a gift from her mother—her first journal. The award-winning journalist, public speaker and CocoaFly.com host hasn’t stopped writing since. Like many nerds, Jenee was bullied in school. She was not only picked on for her smarts, but her dark brown skin that she loves today.
So how did this Black Girl Nerd get revenge years later?
Well, through unintentional success. She earned a 2012 New America Media America Award in Outstanding Community Reporting- Radio for her story “Dark Girls Documentary and the Psychological Effects of Colorism.” In it, she interviews the creators of the Dark Girls documentary and shares her personal experiences with colorism. Jenee has also reported for NPR, Time magazine, Marketplace, Huffington Post, The Root and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance magazine.
She is the host of the award-winning podcast Mental Health and Wellness Radio. In 2005, she contributed reporting on the London transit bombings for Time magazine’s Europe edition. Jenee blends her passion for journalism and hip voice on her website and podcast Cocoa Fly —a new flavor in news for women. She launched the site after becoming frustrated with the lack of diverse stories on women and people of color. She covers social justice, entertainment, mental health, sex, relationships, books and much more. Cocoa Fly features Jenee’s thesis on black erotic literature and black sexuality called “Under the Covers: The Popularity and Debate Over Black Erotic Literature.” Jenee interviewed best selling author Zane and editors of the groundbreaking anthology Erotique Noire. Before Cocoa Fly, Jenee was a producer for NPR’s News and Notes, hosted by Farai Chideya, and Marketplace Money. Jenee has interviewed and produced segments on a host of celebrities and newsmakers ranging from singer Kelly Rowland and OWN’s Iyanla Vanzant to civil-rights leader Myrlie Evers-Williams.
Jenee Darden holds a BA from UC San Diego and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Southern California. She is a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc. and the National Association of Black Journalists. After her stories are in and her interviews have been edited, sometimes she likes to rock out to Bon Jovi and Janelle Monae. Or get lost in either a comic book convention or a really good book. She also loves to travel and dance. Her dream is to be a bestselling author, travel the world, live in London a couple of years and host her own internationally recognized radio show for women.
She also dreams of having Xena’s strength and fighting skills, combined with Storm’s ability to fly and control the weather. Until then, she’ll embrace being described by Beyond Black & White blog as a New, NEW Black woman and a “cocoa-colored Lois Lane.”
Mental Health Podcast: www.peersnet.org/radio