WJBF – Angelique Bates is one of the original cast members of the hit Nickelodeon sketch comedy series, All That, and she gave audiences plenty of laughs during the first two seasons of the show.

Bates sits down with WJBF as she shares her testimony of fighting through struggles and her triumphant return to the world of stage and screen.

Thank you for joining us on Celebrating Black Excellence. Now, let’s get started with the foundation question: how did you get started with acting and comedy?

Oh, my mother… she put me on when I was nine months old, so I didn’t have much of a choice. She said when I was born, as the months progressed, I talked. She said that I said, “Hello.” So, she’s like, “That was her sign right there. She’s going to be a star.” So, she put me in like modeling for Borax. I think it was like a detergent back then. She put me in the modeling. I always joke like that was one of my first, I guess, “nude” projects because I was like wearing a diaper. (Laughs) Actually, I said first, like it’s been more; that’s the only one. (Laughs)

Now, as we mentioned, you are one of the original members of All That. Now, how did you get started with that show? How did you hear about the show?

Oh, once again, that goes back to my mother. So, when I said hello, that was just like the beginning of everything. So, she started putting me in a lot of acting classes. I was part of a troupe called Theater Rascals, and I went to Amazing Grace Conservatory, which was originally All God’s Children with Wendy Raquel Robinson from The Game and The Steve Harvey Show runs that school, and that is a conservatory: acting, dancing, singing, etc. I was triple threat. I still am. Actually, I feel like I’m a quadruple threat, but she [Robinson] put me in this talent show. It was called the Ivar Theater talent show for the inner-city kids. I don’t know if they still have it now, but it was in Hollywood, California. I was up for first place. I ended up getting second place. Richard De Lancy, who was the creator of Unsolved Mysteries, came to one of the talent shows. He discovered me. I always tell everyone this. He discovered me, but because he didn’t represent children, he went to go get his friend, who is John Hugh, passed away and had him come and watch. He ended up signing me on as one of his clients for his talent agency, for the Ann Waugh Talent Agency. At that particular point in time, they were doing All That auditions, and the interesting thing about that is that I was actually with another agency. That agency sent out one of my other buddies, but they never sent me out for the All That audition. He had just signed me and sent me out, and I ended up booking it after months of auditioning and doing different characters. So, needless to say, the other agency was kind of feeling like, “Aw, man. We should’ve sent her out.”

Now, what was the All That audition process like for you?

Oh, my gosh. It was different because I want to say, I was like 11 or 12. I had never auditioned for a series. I was actually up for a movie at that particular point in time. So, my audition process was a little bit different, and my representation ended up actually kind of confusing the auditions. So, I ended up going into this movie audition that I was the lead for, and I was supposed to be like this inner-city kid, and I go in dressed as Urkel because I was dressed as Urkel for All That. So, I had the glasses, I had the suspenders, and everything. So, I was going into All That dressed up as Urkel, Busta Rhymes, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. I was doing all of these different improvs and different characters, and I was dancing, rapping, and doing everything for months because it was pretty much nationwide. There were a couple of times that I didn’t think that I had it because like I said, it was a little bit different. It went a little bit longer. I was used to callbacks the next week. That was pretty much the norm, or you found out that week, and every time I thought that I didn’t have it, they were like, “You got another one!” Then, we were past the normal three, so I was like, “I don’t have it.” I was more focused on booking the movie, and then the next thing you know, like a couple of months later, boom! It was like, “Oh, you’re going to Orlando [where the series was originally filmed]!”

As we mentioned, you were on the first two seasons. If we may, what actually led to your departure?

Well, you know, just the show in general, I didn’t realize how much of an influence I was having on the community because actually being Native American, West Indian descent, Haitian and Bahamian descent, I didn’t know that I was like this role model for so many years. I was pretty much the first ethnic one, female-wise, on the show. So, you know, thank you for the acknowledgment. I ended up off the show because I didn’t want to renew the contract. There were a lot of inside situations that happened on the set that ended up playing a hand in me not coming back because I was supposed to come back. I was supposed to come back for the third season. I actually had a single that I had released that I was going to be able to perform on the show. It was very unfortunate. You know, I love my fans and my supporters, and I wanted to be there for them, you know? It was crazy because I had did the first Good Burger, and that was going to be pretty big, but, you know, God always has other plans that are bigger and better.

Thank you for sharing that with us. I know you also shared with me that you dealt with homelessness as well. So, can we talk about how you endured that and like what you exactly what you went through?

You know, a lot of people think that once you’re in the industry, it’s like you’re rich, and especially if you look on google at the net worth, it says like a couple of us are like worth a million dollars or a billion. People aren’t understanding that’s the worth; they’re calculating what we should be getting. A lot of us haven’t even touched that. If we were getting the royalty that we were supposed to be getting, if we were getting the residuals, if we weren’t getting the five cent residuals, that was our worth. A lot of us don’t have that. I’m one of those people that has a big heart, you know, and I’ll give you the shirt off my back. Sometimes, that will literally be putting me in a predicament because I just gave you the shirt off my back. But, you know, if I think that you’re a friend, or if I think that you’re family, I’m going to look out for you. In the most recent situation, I was trying to help a family member, and I’ve learned from this recent experience that you can’t help anybody who doesn’t want to be helped. I think a lot of us are guilty of that because when you love someone or when someone is close to you, you don’t want to see anyone get hurt or just be down.

But I know so many people, and this was very eye opening for me for the situation I ended up in. For how many people that I know, how many people that I have put in situations, how many people, whether it was just me letting them tote along and putting them in rooms where they could grow in or creating opportunities for them, when I hit the bottom, there were probably only four people, literally four people, that tried to catch me out of everybody that I know. I know people that have number one shows, that have awards, and they are some of your favorite artist. For those that knew, no one tried to assist. It just ends up being very eye opening where you know, things are going good, and you’re on the red carpet and on social media, and they’re like, “This is my sister. This is my family. We’ve known each other for x amount of years,” and then, you have those kind of situations. If it was not for God… if it was not for God, let me tell you, okay? You never think that you’re going become homeless. I volunteer with My Friend’s House or Hashtag Lunchback ATL, and we help people that are homeless or that are on the verge. I’ve been on Skid Row helping. I never thought that I would end up being that close to it. I was sleeping in the car, bouncing here, sleeping in Airbnbs, and it was time where I would have to rent cars just to be able to make sure we had somewhere to be able to sleep in. But I’m still sitting here going to red carpets, still making sure I had my auditions, and finding someone’s living room to make sure that I can turn this audition tape in on time. It becomes really real, and it becomes very eye opening. It didn’t happen for long. I want to say it was for about eight months. I was very blessed because I know some people that are still homeless. There are some people that have come up missing. There’s one person, in particular, that was actually looking for, but they’ve become homeless.

Like I said, it just becomes very eye opening. When you pretty much have no one but God and those four people, because even like I said, no one is obligated like no one’s supposed to help, but when you try to put yourself in a position and you try to ask for certain titles, I feel like you should show up, especially if someone has showed up for you. There are so many people that I see in the industry that go through things like the actor that was from The Cosby Show. They wanted to make fun of him when he was at Trader Joe’s working. There is a reason why people are working. So just have some kind of compassion for people because you never know what they’re going through. Like, I know when this comes out, people are going to be like, “Oh, my God, I didn’t know. Why did you tell me?” Well, there were situations where I did try to reach out. I feel like don’t put on a fake face when you feel like someone is down, and that is your moment to get likes, comments, or get press from it. If you’re a genuine person and you genuinely care about somebody, then show up then. It shouldn’t matter if I tell you what’s going on because if you were one of those people that was actually genuine, like I might call you, be like, “Hey, how you doing?” I do this thing called body check. If I haven’t heard from somebody in like a month or a couple of weeks, I always be like, “Body check, body check. You alright?” Then, they’ll send me a message saying, “Yeah, I’m good. Sorry. I’ve been going through things.” Then, they’ll tell me or they won’t tell me.

I just feel like if your family or friends, you check on those that are around you. It doesn’t matter. Someone might not be homeless. We got the sex trafficking, we have the pandemic, we have so much going on in the world, we have wars happening right now, and we have massacres happening. Everybody’s not okay even your strongest person. There are people that think that I’m so strong, but even your strongest person is tired. Yeah. So, you just never know. Just show some compassion. It doesn’t take one or two seconds to just text somebody or call and ask, “Are you alright?” If they tell you, they tell you, and if they don’t, they don’t, but at least, you reached out.

Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your story. Now, after a 20-year hiatus, you are getting back on the stage and doing standup. Why did you make that decision, and how does that feel for you to be back doing standup?

Oh, well, the pandemic and the SAG-AFTRA strike. I took the retirement because it wasn’t fun for me anymore. You know, I always tell people, “Do things that are fun.” You know, once the job starts feeling like a job, it’s not fun anymore. Start finding other things that make you happy. It’s like self-care and self-love. It took me a very long time to discover that. You know, the period that you guys didn’t see me, and I’ve been very vocal about this, I dealt with domestic violence. I dealt with a suicide attempt. I dealt with depression. So, there was a period where it was just like I was letting go of a lot of my gifts, and a lot of it was due to what was going on in the industry and the behind the scenes of that. But the comedy was always, always my love. Stage has always been my love. A lot of people may not even remember that I was doing standup at the Laugh Factory. I was part of Damon Wayans’ boot camp, and I was one of the first African-American females to graduate from his camp, and the youngest at the time. Entertainment Tonight covered it and everything. From there, I was at the Haha Café. Kim Whitley and Buddy Lewis would do a weekly show every week. I would go there to the cafe and perform. I loved it, but like I said, it just became not fun anymore. So, after 20-something years and this strike, because none of us are really working at all. You know, a lot of us have been very vocal about it, so what do I do?

One day, I just went I just to this one venue, and I did an open mic to get my nerves going or whatever. They loved it. I was like, “Okay, cool.” Then, I went back another week. They loved it; like they were really laughing. I mean, I didn’t doubt myself, but I was still nervous. I still get stage fright to this day, but I think they loved it. Every joke was like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, and then, they ended up reaching out for me and telling me that they wanted to book me. And I was just like, “Oh, I guess we’re here,” because for years, I had talked to a couple of people I had talked about like wanting to come back out. But it’s one of those things that if I’m not feeling it and if my heart’s not into it, I don’t give it all my all.

Now, I feel like I don’t have any excuses. I mean, I know someone right now, and I look at the stuff that he does, no excuses. I know he’s just out there so many times, but he’s just out there. He’s doing all of these performances, and whatever he can do, he’s doing it. No excuses. None of us have any excuses. You can’t say you have all of the auditions, or we got to go here… there’s nothing happening right now. We’re on strike. So, what is your excuse? If you have a gift, use them. I see all of these content creators creating things. You have people that are like, “I don’t we have the right camera.” You got a camera, though, right? You have ideas. If you can be on Instagram sitting here liking, commenting, laughing, and sharing videos, then that means that you can make them. I always tell people, “You have all of these fans, and that’s money.” That’s money! If you have something that you’re working on, then you need to put your supporters to use. They support you, right? Now, tell them where you’re going. Tell them that you got merchandise. If anyone is on your page, and I feel like this because you have the lurkers and the ones who actually support, you will start weeding through who’s actually really there who are there just to like the page to help the algorithm because the algorithm helps too. I always tell people, “Oh, they’re not buying this, but that algorithm helps.”

So, just use your page. People are sitting on billion-dollar plans, ideas, and social medias, and they’re not using it. None of us, including myself, should even be touching the streets of homelessness, the door, or anything. All of us are so gifted, and that was thing that I had to look at. And I looked at my friend, and I was like, “I know he doesn’t want to do this, or he’d rather be doing something else, so what’s my excuse?” And I’ve got kids, so I have no excuses. I’ve got kids that are that are looking up to me that want to be in the industry. One wants to be a creator, one wants to do the arts, and that stuff costs money. You have to think about school, you have to think about training, and you have to think about equipment. There are no excuses. Those kids didn’t ask to be here. So, a lot of have to step up. For those who don’t have kids… we got to start feeling sorry for ourselves. If you are breathing, then you have a chance. There’s always a chance to get it right. If you didn’t get it right that day, go to the next day. As long as you keep waking up, you have the chance, and you have an opportunity. Just keep on. Just one step. Just plant the seed. Just don’t give up on yourself. That’s one thing I learned from all of this. Even being homeless, no one’s going to come and save you. I had to save myself. You could feel sorry for yourself. You could be like, “Oh, this person didn’t do this. No, this person didn’t that.” But everybody gets their time to shine, and the tables always turn.

Absolutely. Now you’re also involved in music. You have a new song with a friend of the show, LaTangela. Can you tell us about the song and what your experience was like being a part of the song?

Oh yeah, I love her. LaTangela is awesome. That’s definitely a plus side of working for the company because I got to meet her. I have so many great relationships, and she was definitely a person that helped out too during that situation in being homeless, so I definitely want to give a shout out to her. She reached out. It was just like, “Hey, I got the song, and I want you on it,” because a lot of people know that I rap. That was another thing I kind of just stop doing because it’s like, if I’m not feeling it, I won’t do it, and the way that the music world is going, I’m not subscribing to a lot of what’s being put out. So, I didn’t want to be a part of the problem, and until I could figure out which direction to help, influence, and promote positivity, I just stopped doing it. So, she [LaTangela] came to me about the Christmas song. I was like, “Okay, well, that’s pretty positive.” You know, it doesn’t get more positive than that. Then, she said she wanted to a 90s theme. “Well, we’re 90s.” So, immediately, I hopped on it. It was no questions asked. Leon [Frierson], from All That, was on the later episodes, and he came through and recorded. It’s coming out the 15th of November. I’m excited. You know, it was kind of reminding me of the whole TLC kind of flavor and swag. It takes you back sometimes because like I said, it’s so much going on in the world, but people just want to feel good and just want to be happy. HAPPINESS! It is just happiness because that’s what we try to put out there and try to take it back to the nineties. I don’t know about anybody else. I know the nineties, for me, was a fun era for me.

What worth of encouragement or inspiration can you give someone that’s listening right now?

Oh, the best advice that I could give is don’t give up. You know, I don’t care what’s being given: challenges after challenges. Like I said, after this year, it was challenges after challenges: bank accounts getting frozen, or you not knowing where you sleep. It just looking like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. You know, you keep hearing keep your faith, and then there’s ones that are saying, “I’m praying for you.” I never understood it before, but I have heard people be like, “I’m tired of hearing about the prayers. I’m tired of hearing about this. You know what? It’s not doing me any good.” I’ve heard people say that. Technically it is, but you can’t expect anyone else to save you in whatever it is. You got to be your own hero. Stop being a everybody else’s hero. Because if you’re not okay, then you can’t take care of anybody else if that’s what it is. There is this analogy that I would remember someone telling me, and I understand it even more now. It’s like we’re all bank accounts. If we’re sitting here and constantly taking out of our bank account, and you’re giving it to this person, and this person, and this person, and everybody is taking, but nobody’s giving. What ends up happening? The bank account ends up getting lower, lower, and lower, and depending on what kind of bank you have, it might decline, or it might end up having an overdraft, and what happens when you have an overdraft, you have overdraft fees. Like that’s pretty much life. If you’re not being deposited into, whether it’s love, whether it’s opportunities, or whether it’s people helping you, you’re pretty much going to die, whether it’s inside or physical. So, take care of yourself. Stop trying to be everybody’s hero, and stop feeling like people owe you something. I don’t care if you grow up with these people. It’s so many people that I grew with calling them brothers and sisters. They were nowhere to be found, you know?

But guess what? God puts people in your life for moments. Some are supposed to be longer than others; some not. They are put in your life for what they were supposed to be put in your life for. It’s up to you to take the lesson from that. Don’t feel any kind of way. Thank you for the moments that we shared. I just know I can’t go on this path with you, and then, always keep God first. Keep that focus. Keep that spiritually strong because you cannot do it without God. Period. You could try. You know, a lot of some of us have tried it. Trust me, you don’t want to be there. Just keep focus. Keep focus. Never stop learning. You never stop learning. Be open. Like I said, show compassion. Because I know in the world we’re in, a lot of people don’t have any compassion.

Everybody’s in a rush to go nowhere. Everybody’s mad. Everybody’s distracted going this way. Everybody’s a psychiatrist saying why are you doing that? You don’t know what’s going on in people’s life. Chad [Boseman]… we had him. They wanted to sit here and talk about him. The next morning, you find out he had a cancer. And then what happened when he passed away, they were like, “Oh, we’re so sorry.” You never know what people are going through. It could have been that one moment that you had to make that person feel some kind of way or it could have been just that one moment that we’re all just being quiet. It doesn’t hurt to be quiet. Focus on yourself. Start worrying about what everyone else and just get the bag. Take care of your family, and take care of yourself. Stop worrying about everybody else. Focus on you, and love yourself.

Thank you for those words. If anybody wants to follow your journey, how can they do so?

They can either go to my website, angeliquebates.com, or you can find me on Instagram, you can find me on Facebook, you could find me on YouTube and Tik Tok, where I’m doing one of them dances and everything. You can go to Apple Music and download our songs. I’ve got another single out called “Complicated,” and we dropped the “Jolly” song with LaTangela Newsome just in time for the holidays!