Angel was born in Brooklyn, New York, to an Israeli mother and an American father. She was raised in River Edge in Bergen County, New Jersey, where she attended Cherry Hill Elementary School and graduated from River Dell High School in 1998. After graduating, she enrolled in Rutgers University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature with a minor in Film Studies.
She worked in a kosher fast food restaurant in Teaneck during high school, then at an Applebee's and another restaurant called Happy's Health Grille, during college.
After finishing her degree, she relocated to the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York, and created together with Mitch Fontaine the website BurningAngel, a hardcore adult site catering to an emerging genre dubbed alt porn, while she danced as a stripper at night. Her website followed in the footsteps of the very popular SuicideGirls, which she has referred to as "the McDonald's of alt porn." When asked whether she thought that alt porn was turning into a movement she stated, "I think it's a movement. I think I've started something."
Angel has written, produced, directed and starred in films available exclusively through Burning Angel, as well as appearing in more traditionally distributed adult films. She was under an exclusive contract with VCA Pictures, which expired in March 2007, and was, at one time, represented by the adult talent agency Bad Ass Models.
In 2013, Burning Angel produced The Walking Dead: A Hardcore Parody, an adult spoof of The Walking Dead. In response to criticism over the decision to employ "yellowface," instead of an Asian actor to portray the Korean-American character Glenn Rhee, Angel stated, "Alright, I know some of you lame asses were offended by me turning someone non-Asian into someone Asian, but Danny is an important member of the Burning Angel family, and I really wanted him in this movie – and he actually has a lot of similar features as Glenn and made the most sense to play him. Around election time, I aged Danny about 60 years and turned him into Joe Biden. In Evil Head, we gave him an '80s looking wig. I was not doing this to make fun of anyone of any race – I did this because it was a parody. So all you over-sensitive PC people: calm down." This declaration did little to quell detractors, such as Jezebel.com, which responded by writing, "I did it because it was a parody, isn't exactly a defense; ironically, it's more of an explanation of why people found it offensive, as the whole meaning of parody is to imitate something for the purpose of ridicule. Angel found a black actress to play the part of Katana-swinging Michonne. One has to wonder if she had been forced to cast a white actress, would she have put her in blackface? Or would that have been crossing the line?"
Following the success of Burning Angel, Angel has been featured in numerous magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times.
Angel briefly wrote a monthly sex advice column for Spin. She also contributed a chapter to the book Naked Ambition: Women Pornographers and How They Are Changing the Sex Industry.
In 2010, Angel appeared in a public service announcement for the Free Speech Coalition on the topic of Internet copyright infringement of adult content, directed by Michael Whiteacre. The spot, entitled the "FSC All-Star Anti-Piracy PSA", found her in the company of adult performers such as Lisa Ann, Julie Meadows, Kimberly Kane, Ron Jeremy and Wicked Pictures contract stars, Alektra Blue and Kaylani Lei.
In 2011, Angel was named by CNBC as one of the 12 most popular stars in porn. CNBC noted that she owns her own studio and that the "punk look" that she and her other actors share has created a new genre in the porn industry, called alt porn. Also, in 2011, Angel made a cameo on the Adult Swim show Childrens Hospital, in the season three episode "Night Shift." She played herself as a porn star and family friend of Rob Corddry's character Dr. Blake.
Angel sometimes appears on Cracked.com as a friend of the columnists and appears in the music video for "Sound Wave Superior" by Emmure.
In 2013, Angel appeared in the independent film Scrapper, starring Michael Beach and Aidan Gillen, along with the ensemble cast musical comedy Skum Rocks! In 2014, she had roles in the crime drama The Owl in Echo Park and the Kevin Nealon comedy series Racquetball. She also appeared in the documentary film Doc of the Dead, which features Interviews with Max Brooks, Stuart Gordon, Jacqui Holland, Robert Kirkman, Greg Nicotero and Judith O'Dea.
Angel dated fellow porn star James Deen for six years. On December 2, 2015, Angel appeared on The Jason Ellis Show to give more details about her "violent and scary" six-year relationship with Deen.
Angel is a Democrat. In 2015, she endorsed Bernie Sanders for President of the United States in the Democratic primaries for 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Angel was nominated in 2006 for the AVN Awards for both Best New Starlet and Best Actress, and although she won neither, she did take home the award for "Most Outrageous Sex Scene" for her appearance in Re-Penetrator. She was nominated for the 2009 AVN Award for "The Jenna Jameson Crossover Star of the Year".2006 AVN Award – Most Outrageous Sex Scene (Re-Penetrator) with Tommy Pistol
2007 XBIZ Award – Crossover Move of the Year
2008 XRCO Award – Best On-Screen Chemistry (with James Deen)
2011 AVN Award – Best Porn Star Website (Editor's Choice) – JoannaAngel.com
2011 AVN Award – Best Solo Sex Scene (Rebel Girl)
2011 NightMoves Award – Best Director (Editor's Choice)
2012 NightMoves Award – Best Individual Website (Editor's Choice) – JoannaAngel.com
2012 NightMoves Triple Play Award (Dancing/Performing/Directing)
2013 AVN Award – Best Porn Star Website – JoannaAngel.com
2013 AVN Award – Best Solo Sex Scene (Joanna Angel: Filthy Whore)
2013 NightMoves Award – Best Ink (Editor's Choice)
2013 NightMoves Hall of Fame inductee
2014 AVN Award – Best Porn Star Website – JoannaAngel.com (tied with AsaAkira.com)
2015 AVN Award – Best Porn Star Website – JoannaAngel.com
2016 AVN Hall of Fame inductee
2016 XRCO Hall of Fame inductee