More than one million North Americans tune in each week to watch Toronto-born Andrea Lewis play the reliable, cool-in-the-face-of-adversity, go-to girl Hazel in Degrassi: The Next Generation, the Gemini Award-winning drama, which is ranked number one in Canada and the U.S. (for three of the eight episodes that have aired on MTV's The-N network) and is seen around the globe in such countries as Australia, Britain and France. Now fans worldwide will be groovin' and chillin' to Andrea's debut album, due out September 20 th, 2005.
Andrea has fashioned a career not only out of her chameleon-like acting abilities - which have landed her movie roles alongside Hollywood legend Diahann Carroll and teen sensation Hilary Duff - but also out of her sexy, sultry voice, reminiscent of Aaliyah but brimming with soul, à la Aretha Franklin. Where does this 19-year-old get her old soul? Mostly from her dad, who exposed her to Otis Redding, Gladys Knight, Curtis Mayfield and The Supremes at a very young age. While most little girls imitated Brandy, Andrea mimicked Queen of Motown Diana Ross, right down to her larger-than-life hairdo; and while other eight-year-olds in talent competitions trotted out songs from The Little Mermaid, Andrea belted out Whitney Houston ballads.
While she may have an old soul, Andrea is still very much a bona fide teenager who loves to shop, play the occasional hide-and-seek game on-set and chat about boys. You can hear this playfulness on tracks such as “I'm Like (Ooh Oh!)” and “Superwoman”, both of which have already hit the Canadian airwaves. Her debut video for “Superwoman” has even been airing on MuchMusic, MTV Canada and MTV The-N in the U.S., and recently garnered a nomination for Best Indie Video at Canadian Music Week 2005.
Penning her own lyrics since age 12, Andrea co-wrote her entire album, in collaboration with renowned producer Justin Gray (Joss Stone, Snow, SoulDecision, Choclair) and writer Curtis Richardson (Jennifer Lopez, LL Cool J, Joss Stone). The result is a pop R&B album with an old-school twist, brimming with songs that offer a candid window into her own experiences of love, heartbreak and self-image, in the hopes of touching a chord with her audience.
"Andrea is an effervescent, passionate vocalist who brings an easygoing but enduring quality to her music," remarks Curtis, whose many credits include “All I Have”, Jennifer Lopez's hit duet with LL Cool J. "Her collection of songs exhibit her desire to express the feelings and desires of all young women. She is a joy to work with, and soon the world will get a glimpse of her independent strength and the beautiful music she creates."
Andrea also dips into her own teenage experiences for her role in CTV's Degrassi, in which she carries off the most dramatic scenes, such as coping with the shooting of her on-screen boyfriend, as skilfully as the most light-hearted ones, such as gussying up to sneak into a party with an older crowd. But before Degrassi, Andrea landed some coveted movie roles. In 1998 she co-starred with Alfred Woodard and Wesley Snipes in the critically acclaimed movie Down in the Delta, directed by world-renowned poet Maya Angelou.
After filming wrapped, Angelou sent her an inscribed copy ("Thanks for being such a great little actress") of her book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, teaching a then-13-year-old Andrea a lesson she carried throughout her career and life: be patient-everything will happen in its own time. In 1999 she played music student Autumn in A Holiday Romance with Naomi Judd, and in 2000 appeared as a teenage Natalie Cole in The Natalie Cole Story with one of her idols, Diahann Carroll. Then in 2002 she befriended Hilary Duff-on and off the set-as the know-it-all, tells-it-like-it-is street kid “Carla” in Cadet Kelly.
Andrea is just getting started. The ambitious teenager is now writing scripts for TV movies and hopes to start her own fashion line someday. And aside from recording Float Away she is now back filming the fifth season of Degrassi, which has landed her in the pages of New York Times, Teen People and Entertainment Weekly magazines and garnered her international fame, sometimes from the unlikeliest fans. She recounts modestly: "It still surprises me to get fan mail or get recognized on the streets, but when a big 27-year-old guy came up to me and said, 'Are you Hazel?' I was like, 'Oh, my! YOU watch the show?' That really threw me off!"
Andrea also tries to give back to the community, whether it's participating in UNICEF campaigns, playing with kids from Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children or hanging out with underprivileged youth. Not your typical teenager? Andrea begs to differ. "I'm the same Andrea I always was and don't consider myself any different from other teens...when I come home, I still have to shovel my driveway when it snows!"