Born in Brooklyn, New York, Joy Reid moved with her mother, sister and brother to Colorado. Her father was seldom in the picture. When Reid was 17, her mother died of cancer, and Reid returned briefly to Brooklyn to live with an aunt.
Reid attended Harvard University. She helped meet expenses by working as a campus shuttle bus driver and food server. Reid's first interest was pre-med, but she graduated in 1991 with a major in film.
Professionally, Reid has an extensive background in journalism and politics. As a writer she published work in The Miami Herald, Florida's Sun-Sentinel, South Florida Times and Salon.com. Reid was the online news editor for WTVJ in Miramar, Florida. She has been the editor of her political blog, The Reid Report, and managing editor of TheGrio.com, owned by NBC Universal.
Reid's political work included a 2004 stint as the Florida deputy communications director for the political action group America Coming Together. In 2008, Reid was a press aide in Barack Obama’s Florida campaign.
Reid's on-air credits include morning radio talk show co-host of Radio One’s “Wake Up South Florida." At MSNBC she hosted "The Reid Report." When the network cancelled the show in 2015, Reid became a national correspondent for MSNBC.
Reid has two sons and a daughter with her husband, documentary film editor Jason Reid.