You may know Nina Daniele as Nina Drama on Instagram and TikTok, where she has respectively 892,000 and 2.7 million followers. But the creator wanted to clear up one thing right off the bat when she sat down for our Casting Networks interview. “I wouldn’t ever call myself an influencer,” Daniele asserted. “I’m a person.” Even with the status she’s achieved in the digital space, the creator still embraces the realness of everyday life, a quality that comes out in much of her content. Within minutes of meeting, Daniele was already sharing her past haircut mishap in solidarity with my own, preceding an incredibly authentic interview in which she didn’t shy away from some of the more difficult challenges she’d faced. Keep reading for an unfiltered account of the person who many know as Nina Drama.
Thanks for taking the time to talk, Nina, and I’d love to start at the beginning. What led up to you becoming a creator?
I started as a model 11 years ago when I was still in college and studying creative writing with a concentration in poetry. My goal was to be a writing teacher, which came after wanting to be a forensic scientist, criminal psychologist, and veterinarian. I settled on writing because that’s what I was always good at in school. I wasn’t sure what my next steps were going to be after college, though, and was considering going into the Air Force. The idea was that it could help pay for grad school afterwards, but then I met my boyfriend and he suggested modeling. It was intimidating because I was shy and didn’t think I looked like a model. But I only had $3 in my bank account so I gave it a shot for the summer and started making real money at it after I got signed with an agency. I figured that if I tried my hardest and gave it everything I had, something could come of it. So I modeled for 11 years, and it changed my life completely.
Well, I learned a lot about myself. I realized that no one could make me do something I didn’t want to do no matter how hard they tried. And I learned how to appreciate and accept myself for who I am rather than feeling like I needed to change. Growing up, I had adopted my parents’ thick New York accent, which my agency wanted to refine. They thought I was a little rough around the edges for the package that they were trying to present me as. The requirements for weight, height, various body measurements, hair, skin, etc. were so strict back then. I remember that I used to have to wax my face because there was a little bit of light peach fuzz on my cheeks. My agent told me to do it so that there would be one less thing to photoshop. Looking back, I can see how being judged for so many years of my life in the modeling world allowed me to walk into the social media space with a thick skin.
I love hearing how it prepared you for all the negative feedback that can occur on social media, especially with your status. So how did you start creating content?
I started making these funny little videos with my boyfriend in the Bronx. We figured there was no harm in trying it and wanted to do it a little differently. Our first video actually went viral because @worldstar picked it up, and then a bunch of other meme pages followed suit. We thought we may be onto something and kept making more and more videos. But we didn’t do it consistently because my agency was starting to get annoyed with the content, which didn’t fit into the modeling package they wanted me to present. I spent years fighting my agents over the videos I was posting, which were very similar to the content I put out now. For a very long time I felt stuck in this place where I wanted to be able to create and be myself, but I also needed to pay the bills. Modeling was financially stable for me, and I was supporting myself, as well as helping my family. It was hard to leave that behind to pursue a different career, especially when I wasn’t certain of where it would take me.
Taking that leap of faith certainly seems to have paid off with the success you’ve seen as a creator, as well as with having the freedom to fully express yourself. Speaking of expression, how’d you come up with the name Nina Drama?
Nina is just my first name, and the last part came from me engaging with followers in a funny way. People had started leaving a lot of comments on my videos, and like I said, the modeling industry prepared me for any negative feedback you can find on the internet. So I would bite back in a funny way. It would be something along the lines of me in my bed surrounded by my pets while I ate Oreos and had The Real Housewives going. And I’d be like, “Does anyone want to start drama with me on this fine Tuesday evening?” It was a way to engage and show people that I don’t take myself too seriously. So that’s where the name started, and it stuck. Then a few months ago, I stopped modeling full-time so I could focus on exclusively creating content.
Daniele shared during her interview that the decision to transition to working full time as a creator stemmed from another long term goal. She eventually wants to get to a level in her career where she has the resources to build an animal sanctuary, as well as a school that teaches self-defense. Another fact that Daniele’s followers may not realize about the lively creator is that she’s actually quite introverted. “I reach my social ceiling by approximately noon every day,” Daniele quipped. As for struggling with shyness when she was younger, she credits getting in front of the camera with helping her move past it. Daniele believes in the power of vulnerability a la Bréne Brown, whose TED Talk is one of her favorites. And while Daniele maintains that her Instagram account is listed under the category of “motivational speaker” as a joke, getting to know the creator comes with a number of inspirational takeaways, such as refusing to let negative feedback affect one’s sense of self and fighting for the freedom to fully express yourself. It may come as no surprise, though, that Daniele kept it real about the journey to such realizations. “I did a lot of work on myself to get to this place,” she concluded.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.