BY WALTER OPINDE
Ananda Lewis, an African-American, was born on 21st March, 1973 and grew to become a renowned television personality, model, and social activist. She was an MTV veejay from the late 1990s until 2001, when she left the network to host her own broadcast syndicated television talk show, The Ananda Lewis Show. A combination of deep compassion, true intelligence, striking beauty and a “big mouth” have helped the award-winning television host, Ananda Lewis, reach new heights. Her talents have garnered a wealth of achievements, yet she has only just begun the race of career!
Ananda, Sanskrit for “bliss”, has been touching lives on and off screen since the age of 13 years. The San Diego, California native was a Head Start volunteer while a student at the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts. For nine years (between her 4th and 12th grades), Ananda Lewis studied theater, vocal music, photography, and dance at the prestigious school that she credits with giving her the ability to maintain a free spirit and cultivate her confidence. After graduating from high school, Ananda left San Diego to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C.
While attending college in Washington, D.C., Ananda continued to evolve as a youth activist. “My college roommate, Dana Jones, introduced me to an intense, life-restructuring program for teenagers called ‘Youth at Risk’. During our sophomore year, we volunteered in the program for a year, which included a 10-day camp retreat with 98 young people that changed their lives as well as mine,” says Ananda. She continues to assert that it was so intense to witness the impact of her work and it confirmed to her that being a teacher was what she went in pursuit of. Ananda earned her degree (B.A. in History) and graduated Cum Laude from Howard in 1995. Later that summer, she joined actor Malik Yoba to facilitate a youth conference in Belize, Central America. It was her first real trip out of the U.S. and she saw that the problems of her generation were global, not local. Therefore, upon her return for her second summer at YLDI, she was completely recharged and refocused on the empowerment of her people.
For three seasons, Ananda Lewis served as Host of BET’s Teen Summit, one of the station’s top-rated shows, which reached 42 million household’s LIVE each week. Her gift for affecting the lives of young people beamed out at us through the screen and her natural and obviously genuine relationship with co-host- Da-Jour made many people think that they were siblings. This was due to the fact that they talked about their lives, families, as well as how to improve themselves and their show. The teamwork obviously served them well; the Teen Summit’s “It Takes a Village” show earned them a 1997 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Youth Series in large part because of Ananda Lewis’s interview with Hillary Rodham-Clinton. Teen Summit was also nominated for 1996 Cable Ace Award for its special on “homeless teens”. During the summer of 1997, Ananda Lewis faced another life-changing decision when an opportunity at another television network arose.
MTV had come knocking and Ananda was not sure about opening the door. “Up until that time I had been doing a show that meant a great deal to not only me but our viewers and the continued progress and healing of everyone it touched. She saw the MTV not only as access to the masses but also as an opportunity to reach more of her target group.
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