*Television personality Julissa Bermudez (106 & Park) and former Olympic track star Sanya Richards-Ross (a five-time gold medalist), are making history as the first women of color to co-host an entertainment magazine series.
The dynamic duo is serving up the latest in pop culture on “Central Ave,” a multicultural Atlanta-based entertainment magazine from Lionsgate’s Debmar-Mercury and super-producer Will Packer (Night School, Girls Trip), that airs on a select number of Fox’s 28 O&O stations.
“The content is so high level when it comes to going deep,” Richards-Ross tells EUR/Electronic Urban Report when asked what makes the half-hour strip unique compared to other entertainment TV news programs.
“I think they are a lot of layers that make our show unique. We’re the first show to be hosted by two women of color, but I think even more compelling is how diverse we are behind the camera. We can all appreciate that pop culture affects all communities, so to be able to have a really diverse crew behind the camera, I think, tells a more authentic story,” she explained.
“We’re not like TMZ in the sense that we don’t do a lot of quick stories. We pick 3 or four stories and really dig deep and investigate topics that we feel our communities are interested in. Social media kind of informs us as to what people are talking about, so we give the curious viewer more information so that they feel they now know the full story and can make an informed decision. It’s been a dream to work on a show that I actually watch. It’s fresh and new and different from anything else that’s out there right now.”
Check out the rest of our conversation with Sanya Richards-Ross immediately below video of Central Ave’s coverage of Tiffany Haddish’s too lit ‘Black Mitzfah’ party with Netflix.
EUR: In addition to hosting, how much research goes into the topics you cover?
SANYA: We have an amazing team. There are about 20 or 30 people every morning in the room and all of these people have been in entertainment news for decades. So it’s not really our responsibility to do the deep dive and the digging, but our voices are heard. So we’ll come in in the morning and we all talk about the things that we’ve been following or subjects that matter to us, and we’ll give our perspective and then our showrunner or segment producer will dig deeper and will inform us as to what direction the pieces are going in and then we get to add our two cents. But the coolest part about my day is getting here at about 6:15 in the morning and hearing what everybody is passionate about and all the stories that we think could potentially make the show and then narrowing it down to the most compelling ones.
EUR: Talk about the perspective you bring to the show.
SANYA: I think what’s been amazing for me is that I do bring a fresh and unique perspective. I haven’t been in pop culture that long but I ask questions that no one in the room asks because they all already know about it. I have, of course, my sports background. I’m a mom. I’m Jamaican. I have all these different things that kind of inform the way I think, so that allows me to ask different questions or approach a subject or topic a different way, and it’s so well received. We did a piece on Colin Kaepernick and I’m the only person that’s experienced high-level sports so everyone wanted to know what I thought and what my husband and I might have talked about the night before. We know that sports intersects with pop culture in unique ways, so I’m able to bring that expertise. But also as an entrepreneur and a mom, and a blogger and a wife, I bring those perspectives as well.
EUR: What has been most challenging for you as a first-time TV host in the pop culture news space?
SANYA: Most people can appreciate that there are unique skills to do everything. It’s funny because, when you watch the best host, they make it look so easy but there’s nothing easy about hosting. I have a greater appreciation for Julissa and for all the amazing hosts in this space who are able to read a prompter and make it their own and make it look natural and do all of those things that look like it happens quite naturally to the viewer. I love the challenge of being a host, but it’s one of those things that I’m learning every day and I look forward to, hopefully, being able to do this full-time.
Are you discovering that there are certain must-have qualities of a successful host?
SANYA: Absolutely. I appreciate that there are two elements to being a successful host, one is the technical aspect and the other is really being authentic. The technical aspect to it is learning how to read the prompter naturally and being able to switch cameras, and all that stuff. The second and most important is just being natural and being yourself. It sounds easy until you have five cameras and twenty people watching you be present in the moment and really bring it. That’s one of the things I feel like I’m finally getting in my groove; being able to show up authentically on camera and not a version of a television host that I think people will want to see. For me, that has been the most difficult part.
EUR: And what you love most about hosting this show…
SANYA: I’ve been able to work with some incredible people, like Monique Chenault. She’s the first African-America woman to be a showrunner and she was at Entertainment Tonight before she was here, and the minute I met her I knew I wanted to work with her because she is so smart and so strong and so powerful and a lot of the qualities that I want to have. So to be able to align with someone like her and Will Packer, who I’m a huge fan of as well, has been a dream come true. I love television I knew I wanted to go into television. I kept praying that I wouldn’t be stuck in sports and not have opportunities outside of sports and to be able to transition into something like this… my hope is that it inspires lots of athletes to know that they have greater talents outside of sports. They don’t only have to see themselves as athletes. They can use those same skills to do other great things as well.
EUR: Tell folks why they should tune in to Central Ave?
SANYA: Central Ave is kind of like a one-stop-shop for the viewer who loves social media but doesn’t have time to scroll through their timeline to find out the hottest topics out there, and we package it in a very thoughtful way. Our goal is to serve the viewer with all the things out there that we think impact and permeate our lives. I think it’s a fun show and Julissa and I do our best to be as much of ourselves and entertaining as possible while our producers do a fantastic job packing the pieces. The most flattering feedback we got was that the 30-minutes flies by so quickly. It’s 30-minutes well-spent, especially after work when you’re winding down — with two women who love pop culture and love the community and want to do justice around pop culture.
For showtimes and more, go to Centralavetv.com.