Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past decade, it’s become quite clear that “kid” networks like Disney Channel, Nickelodeon (and it’s edgier big sister TeenNick) have been the breeding ground for some of the hottest young talent to try their eager hands at stage, screen and music. A host of noteworthy stars got their start on the small screen and translated their talents to the musical landscape, selling millions of records as a result. Toronto native Andrea Lewis hopes to join those ranks.
Entering showbiz as a toddler, Lewis came of age in the industry, honing her craft in theater and in the recording studio. Most recently, she was noted for her role as Hazel Aden on “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” sharing billing with none other than Aubrey Graham–Drizzy Drake himself. Watching one of her fellow “classmates” successfully make the jump from teen drama to the music business breeds pride and hope in the already-ambitious Lewis. Here we took some time to learn more about what makes this Canadian beauty tick and what she’s been up to since graduating from “Degrassi”.
Soul Train: Tell us a little about yourself and your upbringing.
Andrea Lewis: I’m from Toronto, Canada. I was raised in a suburb just outside of the city named Pickering. My parents are from the West Indies and I grew up in a traditional West Indian home surrounded with good food and good music!
Soul Train: Which was your first love, acting or singing?
Andrea Lewis: I get this question all the time and I now I look at it like a trick question because both are my passion! [laughs] How can you pick between two of your kids? I literally grew up in the acting business, my mom had me doing commercials and modeling work when I was toddler and I just continued to progress from there. At the same time as far back as I can remember I’ve been a singer, I used to think I was the 4th member of TLC when I was in kindergarten. It’s hard for me to say which one I love more because I’ve done them both my whole life and I couldn’t do one without the other.
Soul Train: Your “Degrassi” character graduated from the series, what made you decide not to pursue other acting work?
Andrea Lewis: Since “graduating” from “Degrassi”, I’ve done the Nickelodeon movie, “Spectacular”, a recurring role on the SyFy series “Warehouse 13″, I’ve done the musical “Dream Girls” for theatre, directed/wrote/produced my first pilot for my website ThoseGirlsAreWild.com, and I’m currently doing the musical “Hairspray” for the next couple months in Canada.
Soul Train: How is the music business different from being an actor?
Andrea Lewis: Both businesses are tough but the music business is more complicated in my opinion. There’s a lot of factors that are out of your control that allow you to “make it” in the music business. It’s not just about the music, there’s way more to it than that!
Soul Train: Being on “Degrassi” didn’t do anything to affect Drake’s street cred as a rapper. Do you think your “Degrass”i alum status will have an effect on your singing career?
Andrea Lewis: No. As you said it had no effects on Drake’s rap career so I don’t think it will effect my music career but people will and have constantly compared the two of us and that can be a good and bad thing. The “Degrassi” fan base is a strong one and if they like you they tend to stick with you. I’m fortunate to have a had a platform for people to recognize me and to stick with me. So far being a “‘Degrassi’ alum” is a good thing.
Soul Train: Anyone with a career in the arts knows that you have to have something special to make people take notice. What’s your “something special”?
Andrea Lewis: It’s hard to answer a question about what makes me special. I think my fans would be better at answering that then I would. [laughs] But if I had to say something I think it’s that I’m real. The entertainment industry is full of a lot of gimmicks and fake personas but I’m a 100% myself, my album 5-4-3-2-1 is full of stories from my real life and relationships and my fans have not only been able to relate to it but have appreciated the honesty. My website Those Girls Are Wild is an advocate for being real! To be wild means you are 100% yourself and proud of it. I think people can see through fakeness and the things that I’ve found people think is “special” about me is how genuine I am. No gimmicks, just me.
Soul Train: How has your music changed between “Superwoman” and “Voodoo”?
Andrea Lewis: When I did “superwoman” I was just beginning, I was 17 yrs old when I made that song and it was my first time working in a studio with a well known producer in Canada. I was just getting my feet wet and I all I wanted to do was sing. “Voodoo” is me! I wrote that song with my close friend and writing partner Ty McKery and we wrote in 20 minutes while sitting around in my apartment. Just listening to both songs you can not only hear the change but the growth in me as an artist and they feel a million years apart from each other. When I made “Superwoman” I was holding back a lot and when I made “Voodoo” I wasn’t. I didn’t care if a million people liked it or just one, I love that song and I got to express myself and that’s all that matters.
Soul Train: Who are your musical influences?
Andrea Lewis: My musical influences are Beyonce, Tina Turner, Gladys Knight, Whitney Houston and Lauryn Hill.
Soul Train: U.S. audiences have shown a lot of love for Canadian singers like Deborah Cox and Melanie Fiona, have you felt the same love?
Andrea Lewis: Melanie Fiona is one of my good friends and I’ve met Deborah Cox a few times and she’s from the area I grew up in. Both of them are singers I admire for their work ethic and persistence in the music industry. Melanie and I have talked a lot about how hard the music biz can be sometimes. Both of them are very lucky that they’ve gotten so much love from the U.S. and I hope to reach the heights that they have. I’ve definitely gotten a lot of love from the U.S. and the U.K. and my music fan base is still growing. I’m grateful.
Soul Train: What are you currently working on?
Andrea Lewis: As I mentioned before I’m currently doing the musical “Hairspray” and it’s keeping me pretty busy with eight shows a week! I’m also working on another album that will hopefully be released late this year and I’m working on a script for an independent film I’ll be shooting.
Soul Train: What should the public look forward to from you?
Andrea Lewis: Everything! [laughs]
Soul Train: Is there anything else you’d like to share with the Soul Train readers?
Andrea Lewis: Thanks so much for the love Soul Train, I’ve always been a fan and a supporter and you can get all the info and more on me via my blog www.thosegirlsarewild.com–it’s not a porn site I swear! [laughs]
You can follow Andrea on Twitter @missandrealewis. Check out the video for her single “5-4-3-2-1″.
– Quia Querisma
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Quia Querisma is a freelance writer, Dallas Glambassador, and enthusiast of dresses, shoes, premium denim and socializing of all varieties. She also runs a styling destination at www.rockthisstyle.com.