For some time in the nineties, Ananda Lewis represented the voice of black youth as the host of Teen Summit, a weekly show that addressed issues facing black teens at the time tying it all up with a musical performance. Articulate, intelligent and beautiful, it wasn’t long before Lewis was on to bigger things and she soon landed a gig as a VJ on MTV’s popular TRL and Hot Zone. She even nabbed her own daytime talk show, The Ananda Lewis Show.
But without warning, Lewis seemed to disappear from television screens entirely giving very little detail about her whereabouts for some time. Shondaland.com recently caught up with the now 45-year-old and found her in none other than the construction field, work that she’s says she’ll be committed to for the remainder of her life:
“For me, this is the only work I’ll ever do in my life.”
Lewis said she was raised by a “tribe of powerful women” including her mother and grandmother after her parents divorced when she was two-years-old. Lewis majored in history at Howard University and started her career as a teacher where her students encouraged her to audition for Teen Summit:
“I was working with a summer program with kids, and the audition came up through a friend of a friend at BET… I actually had a speech impediment until I was 8, and I had three years of speech therapy. So, I was used to reading and had built up my confidence in talking in front of people, [and with “Teen Summit,”] everything came together. I started loving that it combined the work I was already doing with teenagers. That was always in my heart — to help people.”
Lewis shares that entertainment was actually a departure from the path on which she initially started. While she was open to change, she reveals after landing her own talk-show she felt life was moving too fast for her and in a direction she wasn’t yet sure she wanted to go in:
“I felt like I needed to keep changing. Evolution and metamorphosis are important to me as a person, so that you’re not stuck somewhere as a person, and you continue to grow. If that means giving things up that you are comfortable with, then that’s what it means. The great part of that is you continue to grow and progress. The down part of that is, in hindsight, for me, I didn’t get to stand in the moment that I was in and really soak it in and appreciate it. I was always looking for the next thing.”
“I [also] wish I had stopped the people that wanted me to do the [talk] show and said, ‘Not yet, it’s a little too early to do this.’ It was overkill for me. I had so many issues with stalkers, and negative energy coming towards me from the attention; it was too much for me. I broke in certain ways and I went into self-survival mode and said, ‘This has to go.’”
Lewis shares the talk show wasn’t what she signed up for and that she returned to her family after walking away from it all:
“Three months before the show shut down, my grandma was having a personal emergency and I was 3,000 miles away. She was in her 80s at that time and needed help. So, I felt like this woman who sacrificed for me to have a childhood that was stable and full of happiness and love — I wasn’t going to let her just be left hanging.”
“I was completely unhappy with this talk show. I felt like I was drowning, so I packed everything and went to my grandma’s home and took care of her for the last two years of her life.”
Lewis reveals that her grandmother was the first person to put a drill in her hand and shortly after she passed, she became frustrated while trying to build a shoe rack:
“I was so frustrated, so I said, ‘I need to take a class.’”
After searching for classes on Los Angeles Trade Technical College’s website, the she felt a “swelling” in her heart that she describes as it filling “up with gold”. Today she has Associate in Science degree for carpentry and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. Lewis says a kitchen renovation with her grandmother stands as one of her favorite projects, and the 85-year-old women held up a sink for her while she caulked. Lewis now plans to use her passion and skills to help others:
“I’m in the middle of getting my nonprofit off the ground. It’s a nonprofit that does renovations for free for single moms and the elderly. Single moms need help — and there is a lot of help out there for single moms in many ways, but when it comes to the place where they come home with their kids, that’s where I want to have the biggest impact. When your environment is beautiful, it’s like you can thrive in your environment. When moms are better, kids benefit.”
It also appears that Lewis has a new show with HGTV called “Change My Space”. You can see a clip of the show below and read the interview in its entirety here.
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