Angel was born in Boston, Massachusetts to an Orthodox Israeli mother and an American father, who had met in Israel when he was a student there. She was raised in northern New Jersey as an Orthodox Jew. She attended Cherry Hill Elementary School in River Edge, N.J. and graduated from River Dell High School (Oradell N.J.) in 1998. After graduating at age 17 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 Jewish fast food restaurant during high school, then at an Applebees and another restaurant during college. After finishing her degree she created 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 referred to as "the McDonald's of alt porn," but offers more explicit sexual imagery. 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."

Joanna has written, produced, directed and starred in films available exclusively through BurningAngel, as well as appearing in more traditionally distributed adult films. Due to the success of BurningAngel, Angel has been featured in numerous magazines and newspapers, including an article written in The New York Times. She was nominated in 2006 for the Adult Video News 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 briefly wrote a monthly sexual-advice column for Spin. She also contributed a chapter to the book Naked Ambition: Women Pornographers and How They Are Changing the Sex Industry.