November 6, 2022


AMBASSADOR DIGITAL MAGAZINE Editor- In-Chief Musa Jackson has an in depth Q. & A with Ananda Lewis, the gorgeous award winning host. She began her career as the host of “Teen Summit” then moved onto even bigger fame as a VJ for MTV. She helped host Hot Zone, TRL, seasonal events and many countdowns.


At the start of the new millennium she hosted her own talk show “The Ananda Lewis Show” making her one of the most recognizable faces of a generation. At the height of her career she stepped away from the spotlight to take care of her ailing grandmother in final stages of her life. She also took time off to raise her son, even choosing to homeschool him. In 2019 she was diagnosed with Breast cancer. As a naturalist she was determined to fight this invasive disease holistically and has taken the cancer from stage 3 to 2. She shares with us her remarkable journey revealing the power that lies within all of us.

"I lost my sense of security very early on. It got weird really fast"


MUSA What was life like for you growing up?
ANANDA I grew up in San Diego but was born in L.A. I was a home birth. I was born in a house in Silver Lake, California. My Mom and Dad were transcendental meditators. You know naturalists. I thought everybody in the ‘70s were some form of naturalists. They were following Maharishi. My name Ananda which means “bliss” comes from that background. Everyone thinks I’m East Indian but I’m not. When I was almost three they divorced. My mom was a single mom and we moved around a bit. And she decided she couldn’t make it on her own so we moved back to San Diego and lived with my Grandma. She was kind and gracious enough to let all three of us into her home. She was retired and living her life. My mom was a working woman with two kids and I can only imagine what that was like for her. She needed a break and decided to leave for a while. She went to Europe. Forty years later I’m going through some of my grandma’s things and I found letters that my Mom wrote home when she was gone during that time. It’s so weird to read the letters because you don’t know anything as a kid. You have your own little child perspective but have no idea of what the adults around you are going through to make your care and well being a reality. My Grandma was a real renaissance woman she took care of everybody. She just made sure we had everything we needed. She made sure we learned things from her. But she couldn’t take the place of my mom. She did all the fundamental things. My Grandma had lots of animals around me. She had lots of dogs. There were plants everywhere in her house. I had my extended family around. There were a lot of great people in my community. I met one of my best friends that I’ve known since I was four. It was a really good time in my life. I absorbed a lot of powerful stuff that has lasted me forever.

"I swam on the swim team at Howard and every time we swam against Moorehouse and Spelman we beat them."

MUSA Who were some your influences?
ANANDA My uncle’s wife. My aunt-in-law was a travel agent at the time. She had huge celebrity clients. I didn’t know they were celebrities. Luther Vandross was one of her clients and every time we’d go up there he would be at the house. At the time his was big Luther and I just remember he was so warm and kind. He was just this fixture at the table. I remember Michael Jackson being really important in my life. My grandma would make us outfits out of Lycra and we would make up dance routines to “Rock With You”. Later on one of records “Billie Jean” was confiscated by my Grandma. She took a hammer and smashed it. She was a bad ass.
MUSA You went to a Howard University one of the most famous HBCU’s. What was that like?
ANANDA Going to Howard U., the most famous HBCU ( laughs) I swam on the swim team at Howard and every time we swam against Moorehouse and Spelman we beat them. Not bragging twenty five years later ( laughs) but H.U. is the university. Not a college or an institution we are a university. And there is a difference.
MUSA How did you land your first gig?
ANANDA My very first gig on tv was a commercial for Alcoa Aluminum recycling. I was like nine. I won Little Miss Black San Diego. I heard the first prize was $500. So I got really motivated.I recognized early on that the pageant world for little girls was vicious. The two beautiful Black women running it were poised and elegant. When it came time to perform they were task masters. There is clearly a necessity for that but what I didn’t like in the pageant contestants space things got ugly. I remember this little girl whose father was always around watching and mean mugging her. He said to her, “If you don’t win you gonna get it.” I won it and all I could think about was this girl getting beat when she got home. I got the commercial because I won. But the gig most people remember me for was Teen Summit. Keith Lawson and Mike Anderson encouraged me to go to the audition. I went in the audition and it was fairly easy because I had already been working with kids. I got the job two weeks later. They really didn’t want me at first because they wanted someone famous and I was straight out of college. But apparently I was so good in the audition they couldn’t deny me. So I was the person for the job. I had no idea what I was in for. I was one of the producers and I was on camera as the host and didn’t see the effects of it. I remember I was in DuPont circle in D.C. at Burrito Brothers, one of my favorite places to eat. I walk pass this car and I hear these kids screaming, “Ananda!” Then they got out and rushed me. It scared the shit out of me. I’m a loner, that’s a genuine part of me. I wasn’t prepared to not be able to go places by myself. I lost my sense of security very early on. It got weird really fast.
MUSA Tell us what it was like being the “IT girl / host of MTV?
ANANDA I have really good friends. My friends recognized what was going on. When I got to MTV it was just a different time. You weren’t able to be as self aware as the people are today. I think that’s a good thing. I was able to just go out there and organically do it. I wasn’t always in the mirror worried about my face. I always felt really good about myself. It wasn’t because I thought I was cute it was because I was smart. I wasn’t raised by people who valued looks so I didn’t value it. I didn’t want to augment who I was. Don’t touch my hair, don’t tweeze my brows. This is how God made me I’m going to stick with it. I’m really low maintenance kind of person. I just didn’t have a sense of self awareness. I was just really focused on what I was saying and the questions I was asking. I think I did really good live TV because I really wasn’t that self conscious. I think we’ve loss that because we are so focused on what people look like and what they’re wearing. Do we approve of it. We all want to be accepted for who we are but have a really hard time accepting people for who they are. And the secret is in accepting them first. Because we don’t get anything accomplished if we are being the problem that we are trying to avoid. My consciousness about society and how I wanted to see things was what fed and fueled my work and career. Maybe that’s why people still look at and go, Wow. Because it wasn’t this superficial- I’m wearing Versace -I’m so cool thing. I could care less.
MUSA I know you have a ton of memorable events but give us one that stands above the rest.
ANANDA I don’t even know that I can pick one because I’ve been so blessed with so many amazing people, experiences, moments and friendships. Can’t pick one. Maybe introducing Aliyaah to Prince. I don’t know. I mean when I think about it. Looking back in the moment I was just like these are my friends we’re all here and let’s all meet. I hesitate to tell stories about them because they’re both gone and they were really private people in life. I like to honor that even though they’re gone. That’s probably why I haven’t told a lot of people’s story because I respect people’s privacy. I’ve had too many to pick.
MUSA At the height of your career you dropped everything to take care of your grandmother for last two years of her life. Tell us about that about the special time and what you gained from that.
ANANDA It’s not to often that you get to pay people back for what they’ve done in your life. Most of the people I know don’t get to sit in awareness of how someone older than them, a parent, a grandparent and tell them how much they poured into their lives until they’re gone. I got to spend two years thanking my Grandmother by taking care of her by hand. I was bathing her, cooking for her. I was the only caregiver until we had to step up the care because it got more medical.
MUSA What jewels did she give during time you were caring for her?
ANANDA What it took to go do it and because of what I got out of doing it. I got to hear from her all these stories about my family. About me as a child. Stuff I didn’t remember. I got to get a true sense of who she was. I got to understand how my grandma as a little girl survived the Tulsa Race Massacre. I was a history major so I was ( sighs deeply) blown away. I got to videotape my Grandmother talking about family stuff. What I got was priceless. It was weird for her to be taken care of by this child she took care of. That’s a trip for older people they resist it. It’s really uncomfortable and I can understand why. But I got an awareness of the real aging process. What it looks like upclose. I got valuable information and time with one of the people on the planet I love the most. That’s just irreplaceable. I would make the decision again. People were like, “What have you done? You’ve ruined your career.” Let me tell you what you can’t replace is this woman right here. It was everything and I’m so glad I did it. You know there are choices. There were nursing homes being locked at. But my Grandmother and I agreed that those were not options she was going to do while I was on the planet. That just wasn’t going to happen. And it didn’t. She died in her home where she wanted to be and she was loved right up until the end. Short of having my son it was the best thing I’ve ever done. And probably what I’m most proud of.

I knew I wanted to do a home birth when I found out everything they did to the baby born in a hospital as soon as the baby comes out.

MUSA You have a beautiful son. Can you tell why decided to have him delivered at home?
ANANDA I was a home birth. I have always believed birth is the most natural thing to a body that is female. That if you trust it you can do it. ( laughs) I never ever saw myself having my children in a hospital that just wasn’t a part of me. From the time I was little I thought births happened at home. That is what was true for me. I waited a long time before becoming a mother. I had an amazingly full life. I didn’t want to resent my kids from making me miss anything. When my son was born I had graduated from carpentry school with a B.A.S. in carpentry. Graduated in June got pregnant in July. ( laughs) I didn’t do excessive ultrasounds. I did the first one but opted out of the once a month. To all the bones and formation and stuff. I felt like the radiation from the ultrasound was disturbing God’s plan and process. The natural order of things. I always believed and witnessed first hand when you disturb the natural order of things you mess it all up. I knew I wanted to do a home birth when I found out everything they did to the baby born in a hospital as soon as the baby comes out. But that you don’t have any control over. And maybe it’s because I’m a bit of control freak. I was like, “You not going to tell me what to do with my baby.” ( laughs) Whatever it was I wasn’t down for it. I had to walk my son’s Dad through the idea that children were being born thousands of years at home before there was hospitals. Hospitals are fantastic for emergency situations. If I break my leg please take me to a hospital. Don’t take me to get essential oils, take my ass to the Emergency room. But for natural things that happen to the human body. For normal circumstances. I know there are issues that happen to the human body where you’re going to need to go the hospital. I’ve had friends that there was no way they were going to birth at home. But they wouldn’t of known that had they not tried. They didn’t get the benefits of what I believe is a pain rites of passage. They help you dig deeper in life somehow. They serve a purpose. I believe everything that happens naturally and normally to us serves a purpose. I didn’t want to skip any of those things because I believe that. So I didn’t want vitamin K put in my child’s eyes. I didn’t want him given a shot I didn’t know what was in it. I didn’t want them to take him away from me and not get let him get to breast feeding within five minutes. I didn’t want them to clamp his umbilical cord and not let him get twenty percent of his blood. Most people loose twenty percent of their blood at birth. Because the hospitals are more concerned with how quickly we gonna get this birth done and get onto the next one. And as much as I love and respect doctors they are part of an institution that is a business. Like with any other business it’s about making money and the adjunct for them is helping people. Any time that is the focal point, the main motivation is making money. Everybody business needs to make money but when I’m talking about my health and well being of my child I want to do things with that being the main focus. And what I found out is that everyone is a business. You have to be concerned about your health and well being. No one is going to do that for you. There is a movie called “The Business of being born” it illustrates all these points. The things they do I don’t think are necessary. Three percent of women medically need a C-section. Sixty percent of women get them. Because people want the convenience of them. Doctors schedule them because they run on a schedule. The birthing process is not a business and it runs on its own schedule. I wanted to give my body, my baby’s body the opportunity to be on our own time. Do all the things we supposed to do in this glorious beautiful amazing process. And I knew the only way was to have him at home. He was born on the carpet on the floor. I was able to do everything I wanted to do. It was best experience I could of ever imagined. I knew he was a boy from the minute I knew I was pregnant. The only person who believed me was his aunt, his Dad’s sister from another relationship. She was like you know your body. When he came out and I saw his penis. I was like, “I’m right! He’s a boy!” His Dad was there, along with two midwives and a few friends. It was absolutely magical.
MUSA Tell us the benefits of homeschooling your son.
ANANDA I always wanted to be a teacher. So my son was my student. I was able to finally be a teacher and no one could stop me. ( laughs) I only homeschooled my son to third grade. Because of how much work I had to do on my cancer journey I couldn’t do both and I wanted to live. He was ready though. He’s so smart, confident and compassionate. He hugs trees. Loves animals. He’s a defender of people who can’t defend themselves. I’m so proud of him. I know I did that. He was my opportunity to be a teacher.
MUSA In 2019 you were diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer and went into a more holistic integrated approach to treatment. Can you give us an update and any advice you would give to women?
ANANDA I want to address that word; diagnosed. It’s such a loaded word. To be diagnosed with something almost feels like you’ve been hexed with something. For me it removes your ability to feel a level of responsibility we have over our bodies. I was told my body had malfunctioned in a pretty serious way. That malfunction had been going on for years before a doctor was able to see it on a scan and confirm. What I knew was this wasn’t some fast moving illness you’re stricken with and it’s fast moving and you better get help. When it comes to metabolic disorders which I believe cancer, Parkinson, MS all these more modern day, more prevalent malfunctions are a result of how we are living and treating our bodies. Since I believe that there is something I can do about that. No one is forcing food in my mouth. No one is making me eat all day long. There is education out there and discipline out there that needs to be received. Implemented in our lives because that’s the core way we save ourselves. My mom has gone through her own breast cancer journey. I went through that with her so I started research on it way before. Fear is usually of the unknown something that you can’t control. I knew I could control it. And I knew a lot about it. So the fear wasn’t the reaction that happened in me. I got pissed off at myself for being this horrible to my body for this long. To the point that it would malfunction like this and I wouldn’t know it. Wouldn’t catch it. I was mad that I hadn’t gotten my mammogram. Which is one of the only reasons you and everyone else even know about this. I would still be fighting it silently if it ain’t for the fact that I made huge mistakes that other women needed to be warned from making. That I felt like they were making too. They needed to hear from someone like me who I knew they trusted, grew up with. Someone who was a sound voice in the wilderness on some level. They needed to hear from me not to skip early detection whether that’s mammograms, whether that’s 3D ultrasounds whatever you’re comfortable with. I didn’t do mammograms because of the radiation. That is a factor. I’m not backing down and saying radiation is not a factor. It is. There are things you can do to mitigate the radiation and there are alternatives to mammograms that matter. But I wasn’t well informed enough about it. I stopped at I’m just not doing mammograms because of what happened to my mom. She did everything like clockwork for thirty years and look what happened to her. Radiation does give human beings cancer. That is a proven fact. But I need to have early detection. My mother had breast cancer so my chances are higher. I need to be smart about this and do something. Instead I did nothing. I could of gone to do thermography. Which is a half measure but still good. It’s better than nothing. It will show you places that need more attention that have more heat. Cancer in it’s replication gives off heat signatures. So there are other things that you can do instead of just sitting there. Because I felt that other women needed to hear that from me. That is the only reason that I ever shared this. I don’t regret sharing this. It’s a lot for people to know what you’re going through when it comes to your health. Especially from someone like me. I don’t want to be asked about this all day long. That’s hard for me but it was more hard to keep it a secret and risk other women going down the same path for the same reasons. That I couldn’t of lived with. I love my people. I love human people. And Black women are the ones who need the most help taking care of ourselves. We need this information. We need to get over the most trauma with the health care industry in this country. We need the most encouragement to go out there and do it. I wasn’t going to leave my Sistahs hanging. The real benefit is that so many women heeded my warning and went out and got mammograms and 3D ultrasounds. We need the ultrasound because we have denser breast tissue. A lot of time we go get mammograms and we go through all the fear and pain and we do it all. We get through it. I would of started with a 3D ultrasound had I even been listening to anybody back then. Because they’re going to end up doing that to you anyhow. But a lot of insurance doesn’t cover 3D ultrasound. Some places they’re not even available. I’m discovering the racial disparities when it comes to health care. It’s so messed up. I won’t say racism is the total reason. But I can say that more Black women die of breast cancer. 40 percent more than our white female counterparts. I think there are a lot of reasons for that. I won’t out the full weight of that on Black women. When I went to go get my stuff done I had lost my insurance. They weren’t giving free mammograms. The resources need to be stepped up. We also need to have support for people who like me who choose to go a different route. Who looks at the mainstream medical levels of chemotherapy that are done with out all the testing that tells you what chemotherapy will work for you. They just kind of umbrella chemotherapy based on what type of cancer you have. I’m not a type of cancer. I’m a person. My body is unique. Why not test these particular cancer cells. Since those tests exist and are possible why not use them. You’ll spend less money, insurance company, by using the right chemo. Then having to do the chemo over and over until you figure out the right chemo. By the time the trial and error is done you’ve ruined that body. You have destroyed the immune system which the only thing that will fight that cancer and kill it. And remove it and keep it from coming back. You’ve destroyed that person’s spirit. Who have done everything they’ve been told to do exactly the way they were told to do it. And they find themselves ten years later saying I wish I never did it. Because it changed me and destroyed me to point where this isn’t the life I want. I’ve heard these stories. I know I made the right choice for myself but I wish my insurance company supported that choice. Like they would of if I made a choice that they agreed with. It’s discrimination based on preference. I should have the preference to do what works for my body. Not wait until I’m about to die and say do whatever you want now. Because if you had let me do that in the beginning it might of worked earlier. When it had less to fight. I’m doing really well Musa. I went from a stage 3 to a stage 2. Stage 3 meaning it was outside of my breast and now it’s popped back down into the breast. But I’ve done way more than I thought I’d have to do. I wish I could say it was an easier road because I want to encourage women that they have power over their bodies. And I know how difficult this journey has been because of the way I chose to do it. I wouldn’t say how difficult it would of been if I had gone the conventional route. I didn’t do that. I know how it has been for women who have done that. Some have been perfectly fine and they’re fabulous and some aren’t. I know there are lasting effects from that I didn’t want to deal with but what I’ve found is there are lasting effects for what I’ve done too. Probably more mild. I’ve had to have way more discipline than I’ve seen people go the conventional route. I’ve had to adjust my life in ways that are grueling for years instead of for months. It has definitely helped me in certain ways if you can say this level of malfunctioning has been a blessing. I never would have been forced to become an entrepreneur. Try to figure out how to create my own income had this not happened. I never would of decided to change things about the relationship I was in because I was willing to just keep hanging on by a thread. Just be miserable and stay there. But that’s no way to live. I think really beautiful things came out if it. I’m still fighting. ( laughs) I don’t know anybody who has been fighting cancer for four years. I think people want to the quick solution. I thought the integrative holistic way would have not been faster than conventional. Because they just cut it off and that parts done then they chemo you then that’s done. Things get done. You get end points. I don’t see an end point in sight. I’m okay with that. I’ve adjusted my life to it. My quality of life is a narrow window for me. What constitutes quality of life? I have to stay in that window for it to be worth it for me. I’ve had a beautiful life but nothing is guaranteed. I feel blessed, I feel amazingly supported. I feel the healthiest I’ve ever felt even though there cancer is still in my body. It’s localized to my breast. I’m figuring out different things I want to do about that. It’s just an ongoing process. Again you have to do what works for you. Nobody gets out of here alive. But I’ll be damned if I’ll be out of here anytime soon. We have a lot of power while we are here.
MUSA I’m sending you the best energy and good vibes.
ANANDA Well that’s what God is. What do you think God is? We have turned God into a human image because of what we are more comfortable with. But ultimately when you read the Bible, Torah, Koran. All of them talk about God being light. I am the way, the truth and the light. He didn’t say, I’m this person who’s hanging out with y’all because I’m just like you. I’m the way, the truth and the light. Light is energy. Just filter it for yourself. Nobody can lead me to God but me. There is no separation between my connection that I don’t create. I was raised in churches. I love church. I love the energy, celebration and life of church. The coming together and collective of church. It’s powerful. Prayer is powerful. But I’m never gonna let a preacher stand between me and my own connection. That’s crazy for me. You’ve got to use all the tools we were given. Religion is a tool but it is not the direct connection.
MUSA You look incredible as you ever were. What’s next for you?
ANANDA I have really been valuing my minutes, my days, weeks, my months and my years. I was definitely one of those careless twenty year olds. I’m using my time more wisely. The power we are given on this planet to weave the life that I want. Continuing to be able love on my child and his dream. To continue to be able to make space for my healing. To continue to create the income for my healing. Because it is helluva expensive in a natural way. You would not believe it if I told how expensive it was. I’m really invested in figuring out what my dreams are. I just did things in the moment. I never looked ahead. I do have a goal of building housing for single moms and their children. Also somehow give other women my secrets of anti-aging. Women are asking me about my skin. Maybe I’ll put together a course and share that instead of telling it to a thousand people separately. It’s in line with the whole healing journey and what I’ve learned about the benefits of fasting. I just did a six day fast and then went into a twenty hour fast with a four hour eating window. That’s intense but I can’t tell you how many diseases I believe would disappear if we all did that. And during that small window of eating, if we chose better food. It is unbelievable what an impact food has on our health. How undereducated we are. How undereducated our doctors are. They only take two nutrition classes in med school. You have to go to the right people for the right information. I want to share what I know. Things I’ve learned from my Grandma. Products you shouldn’t use because they will age you faster. It’s all been trial and error because I’m a big consumer of things. I buy a lot of stuff. I just want to hold up well. I want to look the best I can. More importantly feel the best I can for as long as I can. Funny thing is when you do those things that make you feel good, it also makes you look good too. They give you a certain glow. I want to share it.
MUSA What advice would you give a young woman starting her career in media and entertainment?
ANANDA Are there careers in media and entertainment anymore? Isn’t it all online. ( laughs) I would say this to anyone. I’m just finding my voice. I’m going to jams every weekend and I’m finding out that I can really sing. I sing like myself. I’m learning how to control my voice and make sounds that I like. How songs come through me. I’m forty nine. I started doing that right after the diagnosis. It’s one of the things that got me through so much of what I’ve gone through. I would say to anybody starting over keep going. Start over. You get stuck you’re stagnant. Stay flowing no matter what your age. Anybody who is starting over and looking to get into a career in entertainment. I don’t know why they would do that. ( laughs) I would say hold onto who you are. Know it going in and hold onto it for dear life. You might have to give up some jobs because they are not the right ones for you. If you can’t be who you are. Hone who you are. Don’t just be like this is me. Always ask yourself, Is this me? Or can I add this and still be me. Should I take away that and be a little more me. Be inquisitive about you. Then be inquisitive about everything around you. Question everything. But don’t come to conclusions just question. And keep questioning and when you find an answer that works for you apply it. And focus on yourself. We have to stop focusing on people and stopping them from doing them. All it does is stops us from doing us. And if you’re really invested in you it shouldn’t matter who someone else is. It’s completely irrelevant for you. Either you do care who other people are or you don’t. Stop acting like you do. Focus on yourself because that’s the only person you can truly have any impact on. Except your kids. ( laughs)<br /> -Musa Jackson


Cover Star: ANANDA LEWIS @Imanandalewis

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