African Americans are traveling more than ever and prioritize immersing ourselves in culture, both locally and abroad. But I have to say, there has been no better experience in witnessing this type of voyage than through the lens of TV Personality and Producer Tai Beauchamp and Celebrity Photographer Elton Anderson on CLEO TV’s new hit series Lens of Culture.
This fun and dynamic duo takes us from the streets of Harlem to the beauty that is Ghana. Check out my conversation with Tai and Elton to learn more about their experience on the show and the incredible bond they’ve created because of it.
What kind of journey will this show take us on?
Tai: This show is Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown meets Girls Trip with your best guy friend and we do it from a perspective of millennial and generation x women and men of color. So the places we go are the places we really want to see, both for cultural reasons, for artistic reasons, for style reasons and for humanity…and for the food, which Elton loves (laughs).
Elton: …and drinks, which Tai is fond of herself.
Tai: You see why we’re a dynamic duo? He likes all the food and I’m like what is that wine right there? So it’s an amazing time.
This is the first time we’re seeing two black hosts of a travel show. What does that mean to you and why was important for you to say yes to this project?
Elton: For me, I’m not a host. I’m behind the camera. I’ve spent most of my life in corporate America or being a photographer behind the camera, but I’ve always fostered (for the last ten years of my life at least) a love for travel.
I’ve always felt a responsibility to continue to show positive images of black people abroad.
I became popular online because for my birthday every year I take about 30 of my friends to different places and we do this great fashion photo shoot where we’re all dressed up nice and people really loved the response to that. To now be doing this with Tai on this platform and with this show and still continue that same kind of mission, but in a more unique way, is a huge reason why I was happy to be apart of this project.
Tai: Similarly for me I’ve been fortunate to host a couple shows, but also to be a consulting producer along with Elton on this show to really help drive the narrative. I celebrate and work with young women and have done so for more than 15 years to really open peoples eyes to the opportunity for travel. But at the same time meet millennials and people of color who are traveling right now where they are, but then to take them elsewhere. It’s like it’s all within the realm of your possibilities.
I like to say that you escape where you are to actually get back to who you are.
We love traveling, Not just for the “gram”, not just to take a picture for the gram, but the reason why we like to do it from a spiritual perspective is that it allows us to connect with ourselves outside of ourselves, and I want young people, and young women, young black women especially to be exposed to that and to see ourselves in that. Images of media have always been important to me and to be able to be a person that users this group of people into this space matters a lot to me.
I’m sure you went into this with a certain familiarity with each other, but when you travel with someone you get to know them in a different way. What new things did you learn about each other that we’ll get to see on the show?
Elton: I absolutely love me and Tai’s love story. I have to call it a love story because we’ve known each other for 6 years before the show because we’ve worked together at the Walmart Stage at ESSENCE Festival every year. So I would be taking pictures and Tai would be on stage. It was always cordial because you know Tai is the people’s champ (laughs)…everybody loves Tai. So when I got the call that I was going to be hosting a show with Tai Beauchamp, I was like so you’re telling me I’m about to be playing with Lebron James? Is that what I’m about to do? She was always someone I admired, so this journey together…this bond, I just get chills thinking about it. We’ve become family and this has been one of the best things in my life.
Tai: Thank you, E! But I’ll tell you that I feel the exact same way about him. I’ve always loved his energy. So the other piece that’s so interesting is that we developed this love story and traveling as strangers. I mean we knew each other, but we were strangers. Now it’s like we really know each other and we pray together and we worked out together when I had time to work out. On our off days when we weren’t shooting we spent time together and we did develop this unbelievable bond. I speak to his mom now and we’re looking forward to traveling together not even just for the show.
That’s the other power with travel. If you’re looking to go deeper not only with your relationship with self, but your relationship with someone else…your group of friends, your colleagues, whatever it is, see travel as an opportunity to invest deeply in people. To invest deeply in humanity.
Elton, who had the best food?
Elton: New Orleans has my favorite spot. It’s this spot called Neyow’s, but when we were in St. Thomas there was this lady that makes these Johny cake sandwiches. She was in the army and retired. Now she wakes up at like 2am and makes all of this food from scratch. She has this little hut and people come from all over the entire country to just eat her little Johny cakes. When I tell you Dominique that those things were good. I still think about it everyday.
Tai: I really did enjoy Neywo’s, which I had been to before, but that’s the other thing about this show, we go to black owned businesses. We’re really connecting not only with the community from a cultural stand point, but also the community from a socio-economic stand point.
Was there a place you traveled to that felt like home away from home?
Tai: So many places, but I think for me it was Ghana. I actually had the incredible opportunity of being there not long after my grandmother passed. I met a young girl by the name of Mary, which is the same name of my grandmother, and I connected with her and am now setting up support and a scholarship for her to go to school. But I will also say that in Ghana in particular the hospitality of the Ghanian people is literally next to none.
Elton: I would have to agree.
Black millennials travel! We are quick to spend a coin on our next destination. Why do you think black millennials are prioritizing travel and how does a show like this support that?
Elton: There is a study that shows that in 2018 we spent like 63 billion dollars and that’s nothing cheap. But the thing that I love about this time is that you can see the images of people actually living their best lives. I recently moved to Brazil starting my journey as an expat and I wouldn’t have had the courage to do that 10 years ago. To people traveling all the time and living their best lives…not just stuntin’ on a yacht, but actually getting in the culture and adventure for me personally is really inspirational.
Tai: I agree 100%. The fact that African Americans as a whole comprise a 63 billion industry annually is powerful, but there’s also more than 500 million black millennials in the US who are traveling. So this is a large demographic and I think the reason why we’re traveling is that we recognize that the world is big. And also, if you think about how that connects us, specifically for African American women being the highest demographic creating new businesses and becoming educated, the world is becoming smaller and we’re looking for ways to expand…to be beyond the limits of what was historically created for us.
So travel really affords us that opportunity and also you recognize that the experience is the investment. So although we’re spending coins I think it’s about us wanting to create the experience. Those are the memories that we want to hold on to and as someone who’s been an entrepreneur for 13 years, I say to millennials save for that trip. Look at it as an investment, but also be able to contribute to your 401k. Those are lessons that I learned the hard way.
Best moment/life changing moment from filming this season?
Tai: EVERY SINGEL ONE! Every single moment was an amazing experience.
Elton: I’m gonna go back to my girl power moment. We did an Episode called “Glamping”. We went out to the dessert and took like 10 dynamic black women from all sorts of fields and it was such an amazing experience as being the only guy. You know as black people we don’t usually go out into the woods and in nature, so to see everybody out in nature and the conversations that we had and the photos…oh, you guys are gonna just die over the photos. That was my favorite episode.