Andrea Nelson Meigs Biography
Motion picture talent agent
Named in 2003 to Black Enterprise magazine's "Hot List" as one of its "fifty under forty" members of "generation exceptional," Andrea Nelson Meigs is a talent agent at the Creative Artists Agency (CAA), arguably the largest and most influential agency in the entertainment and corporate world. Nelson Meigs joined CAA in 1995 and became only the second black talent agent in the history of the company to rise through the ranks from the mailroom. She has worked with some of the biggest stars in music and film, including Christina Applegate, Halle Berry, Ellen Burstyn, Beyoncé Knowles, and John Voight, and enjoys brokering deals for artists moving from one area of the entertainment industry to another.
Andrea Nelson Meigs was born on October 30, 1968, in Bellflower, California, the daughter of David Nelson Jr. and Dorothy Nelson. Her father is a retired school principal in the Los Angeles Unified School District; her mother, also retired, was a college professor specializing in health information technology. She has one brother, Byron, and is married to John Meigs Jr., an entertainment attorney. Nelson Meigs spent her early childhood in the Compton area of Los Angeles. She attended a private Christian school, then entered the public school system in the fifth grade. She spent her teen years in Palos Verdes before moving to Boston to attend Tufts University. She received her bachelor's degree in English and Spanish in 1990 after studying as an exchange student at the celebrated African-American women's college, Spelman, in Atlanta, Georgia, and at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain. She then studied law at Duke University, receiving her Juris Doctorate in 1994.
Nelson Meigs had her first taste of show business as a child actor. From the age of six she appeared in several internationally aired commercials for products such as Mattel Toys, Burger King, and Kellogg's Sugar Smacks. She also appeared in television sitcoms and was a child model. Her experiences in acting made her realize that she preferred to be in a decision-making position, and this in turn led her to attend law school with an eye to entertainment law. Nelson Meigs enjoyed law and joined the Los Angeles District Attorney's office after graduating, but she was still drawn to the fast pace, the people, and the sheer variety of work involved in a career in the entertainment industry. She applied to CAA, where she was given a job working in the mail room, delivering packages to clients and studio executives around Los Angeles. The transition from lawyer to mailroom attendant was difficult, but Nelson Meigs told Contemporary Black Biography (CBB) that she decided to "check her ego at the door" in order to achieve her goals. Having expected to become an entertainment lawyer, she realized that her legal background would be invaluable as a talent agent, a job that is contracts-based, demands acute negotiation skills, and is also highly creative. She spent four years learning the business at CAA before becoming an agent in 2000.
Nelson Meigs's first client was Cedric the Entertainer, co-star of the "Steve Harvey Show," who at the time was trying to break out of television comedy into film. By 2004 Cedric the Entertainer had starred in several hit movies as well as taking credits as a producer and creating his own TV series. Nelson Meigs is proud of the fact that she helped his career take off. Watching a career develop in that way and knowing she was part of it is what she says she most enjoys about her work. She believes the movie industry often struggles to take advantage of the versatility of actors and other artists and sees part of her role as being to offer artists new opportunities to explore their talents.
Deeply committed to the future of the movie industry and passionate about using her influence to change it for the better, Nelson Meigs told CBB that her job would not be done until "I know that I have left a mark on the industry." She represents and admires artists such as Beyoncé Knowles, of the vocal group Destiny's Child, who show that it is possible to be successful in more than one area. With a team of other agents she helped Beyoncé and the other members of the group develop successful acting careers alongside their music. She said that it is "very gratifying" to see artists break out of categories the industry places on them to be celebrated as artists first and foremost.
Nelson Meigs explained that the movie industry is difficult to get into and difficult to stay in, but that there are more opportunities now than there used to be. She thrives on the combination of business, contract law, script appraisal, and contact with clients that her career involves, and she tries to use her position to "educate college-bound students of other job opportunities in this close-knit industry" and to make it more open. She pointed out that while she was only the second black talent agent to work her way up at CAA, by 2004 the agency had five black trainees. When asked where she hopes to go with her career, Nelson Meigs said that she wants to play a part in allowing "people to enjoy actors as themselves—not as Latin, or black, or as just a comedian, or just a singer—and to be celebrated in all areas by everyone."
Black Enterprise, December 2003.
"Black Enterprise Presents the Best and Brightest under 40," Black Enterprise, www.blackenterprise.com/AboutUsOpen.asp?Source=AboutBE/1203pr.html (September 13, 2004).
Additional material for this profile was obtained through interviews with Andrea Nelson Meigs on September 10, 2004 and October 1, 2004.