A medieval Moroccan scholar who traveled to Africa, Asia and beyond recognized the value of leaving the familiar for the unknown. Ibn Battuta once said, “Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” International TV personality Tai Beauchamp and celebrity photographer Elton Anderson are telling Black travel stories through “Lens of Culture,” a new series airing on CLEO TV.
“He loves adventure traveler. I love luxury travel. I love art and culture. He loves food,” Beauchamp says with a laugh. She and Anderson bring those elements together on culturally relevant journeys meant to inspire Black Millennials, Gen Xers and other viewers to pack their bags and grab their passports. “I have cousins, aunties and uncles that have never stepped outside the United States of America,” says Anderson. “Any way that I can inspire people through my travels to see the world and look at something different, I’ll do. I’ve been to places that even surprised me, like Uzbekistan. Love that place.”
When Beauchamp thinks about relatives who never traveled to other countries, she reflects on her beloved grandmother. Mary Beauchamp lived in North Carolina, Virginia and New York, raised three children and went to college and graduate school. “I think about my life and the way that I live right now, and I realize all the sacrifices she made were for me to have wings to fly and see the world.
What sets “Lens of Culture” apart from most travel shows is the authenticity of the two hosts. Together, Beauchamp and Anderson present an unapologetically Black frame of reference for every place they go. “It’s your authentic experience that people want to see. You do it for them, but you want to give them a real lens and a real experience that you are connected to.”
Part of that experience for the two hosts is the amazing connection they developed as travel buddies exploring St. Thomas, Harlem, Ghana, New Orleans, Puerto Rico, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and other destinations. “To have this experience with someone who is really, really a travel enthusiast, who enjoys culture and also loves people, was a powerful experience for me,” Beauchamp says.
The two hosts contributed much more than on-air appearances. As consulting producers, they had a lot of input on where they would travel and what they would highlight during their visits. There was no script for the chemistry that helped them both grow in the process. While Anderson has captured the beauty of some 78 countries in photographs during his travels, he had never appeared on-camera as a host. Tai calmed his jitters and supported him. “The encouragement to be my authentic self that she always assures me is loved and appreciated is probably the biggest thing for me,” Anderson says.
His encouragement of Beauchamp takes her into unchartered waters of a different sort. Elton urges Tai to develop an adventurous spirit. “Like me, paragliding. You will see me screaming and cursing the entire time,” says Beauchamp. “It inspired me to try new things and recognize that I can do absolutely everything.”
Yes, but some experiences she will not repeat, like eating a colossal snail that Anderson refused to touch. “That snail was the size of a Honda, I promise you,” he says. Beauchamp responds that she did it for the culture and for the people because she was mostly vegan before filming the series.
Both of these world travelers see the unique power in their sharing travel experiences with CLEO TV viewers. “We’re doing this to help inspire the next generation of people to travel and see the world and connect with their history, connect with other people. When I realized the importance and the responsibility in that, it made the job so much more fun,” Anderson says.
Hanging Out in The Big Easy
The absolute fun of hanging out with Tai and Elton pops through the screen in the premiere episode that aired Saturday, September 21 at 12 p.m. Eastern Time. They take the audience on a Cajun Swamp Tour and a personalized visit to historical sites with Rasharie Brown, a New Orleans native and photographer. Beauchamp introduces The Second Line Steppers and their contributions to Mardi Gras with a Treme King Wallace Walking Tour with Hollis Burton. He shows her Kermit's Mother-in-Law Lounge, where the music of New Orleans is celebrated.
Anderson focuses on the food scene with visits to Loretta’s Authentic Pralines, where he sampled the sweets. At Neyow’s Creole Café, he and Beauchamp enjoyed the cuisine of Tanya Dubuclet, the chef-owner. Introducing successful Black entrepreneurs makes the series more than a glossy travelogue for viewers. “They’ll be able to relate and see themselves in people we meet, the influencers, the restaurateurs and the small business owners. It’s really awesome,” Anderson says.
Going Home to Ghana
“Lens of Culture” captures the two hosts dancing with the people on Bourbon Street and dancing with the people in Ghana. Several episodes and a special connect Black Millennials, Gen Xers and the rest of the CLEO TV audience to Africa. The trip to the Cape Coast of Ghana touches a special cord in Anderson, whose own mother was mocked for her West African accent when she moved to the U.S. “Today, to see Africa, the continent, being more welcomed and just being able to show it as a more dynamic place, a place that people want to go to is just so important to me.”
He and Beauchamp both feel their visit to Ghana touched them in ways people watching the episodes will feel. They traveled to the Cape Coast Castle, “the gate of no return” for enslaved Africans before they were shipped to the Americas and the Caribbean and sold. The two hosts were there for the “Year of Return, Ghana 2019,” a spiritual observance of the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans arriving in Jamestown, Va. in 1619. An entire episode is devoted to Tai and Elton experiencing the culture of Ghana in traditional ways during the Year of the Return ceremonies. “We are celebrated and welcomed home by Ghanaians there,” says Beauchamp. “For this particular episode, you also get a really insightful, educational and emotional experience about going home.”
The Ghana trip had even more of an emotional impact on Tai because her grandmother, Mary, passed away in May of this year. The smiling face of a young African girl named Mary brought tears to Beauchamp’s eyes. Elton was instrumental in connecting Tai to the girl and her family a few days later. Now, Beauchamp and her mother are working on plans to get Mary into a private school in Accra, the capital of Ghana, so she can learn English. “That experience alone with this show, if nothing else, is powerful to me because that’s what traveling does. It not only expands my horizons but now I’m here in a position to help expand the horizons and possibilities for a young girl on the continent,” Beauchamp says.
The New Jersey native and entrepreneur expanded her reach by traveling to some 40 countries, mostly for business and pleasure. During her 22-year-career, Beauchamp honed her skills at O, The Oprah Magazine and at Seventeen. The entrepreneur and brand consultant has both national and international brands as clients. Nothing compares to the feeling she returns with after visiting a place where the majority of the population is Black as it was in Ghana and Loíza, Puerto Rico. “You come into a community that isn’t mostly of color, but you’ve been celebrated in a place of color, so you walk differently. There’s a greater pride,” says Beauchamp.
Anderson, a Los Angeles resident, started his professional career as a photographer in 2009. His photography credits include many celebrity names as well as clients such as Amazon, Rolling Stone and Black Enterprise. Like Beauchamp, he shares a sense of pride for traveling when he takes his yearly birthday trips with a large group of 30 or more friends. They’ve already traveled together to Morocco, Brazil and Trinidad, where he took photographs of the many faces of color, including men, women, doctors, lawyers and creators. “And to see them come together to take these beautiful pictures, I felt like that was my contribution to help change the narrative of Black travel.”
In Beauchamp’s opinion, the duos’ cultural introductions, culinary explorations and influencer connections teach them as much about themselves as they do others. “I see the idea of being away from what is your everyday experience as an opportunity to connect with humanity, people and culture so that you get a deeper understanding of yourself.”
Travelers for Life
Beauchamp and Anderson are taking photographs during their travels for the CLEO TV show. Elton even encouraged Tai to invest in a professional camera to capture their adventures together. They are proud of what the series does to make travel accessible to people who may not have big bucks to spend. They do that by introducing viewers to cultural entertainment, including lesser-known stops such as The Colored Girls Museum in Philadelphia. “It was definitely about the culture and not about the dollar. What is first class is that we are pushing you to a higher height, that’s for sure.”
Beauchamp has other plans to help uplift others through an online learning tour that kicks off in mid-October. “Beyond Ready” is her way of helping people “live confidently, fully and on-purpose” in their travels, lives and careers.
Her co-host hopes to expand the reach of “Lens of Culture with Elton Anderson” videos on YouTube that offer travel ideas, tips and information from Black travel perspectives. “I want to continue to show that Black people are not only beautiful, we’re not only powerful, we are also in this world. My passion is to really put places on the map so that more people of color can go there,” Anderson says.
“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” – Maya Angelou
He and Beauchamp are both excited about a second or third season of the show and appreciative of the investment CLEO TV and Powerhouse Productions have made in them. Most of all, Tai and Elton are grateful for the divine inspiration that brought them together as friends and traveling companions for life. “We formed this amazing relationship, brotherhood, sisterhood friendship and camaraderie,” says Beauchamp. “You escape to really get to yourself. That has been the journey, and I’m just so grateful to have been on it with Elton, who is my boo thing fo’ life.” Elton seconds that emotion.
Tune into “Lens of Culture” on CLEO TV Saturdays at 12 pm/11 am c
Find out more about Beyond Ready on Beauchamp’s website and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Follow Anderson on Instagram and Twitter or on Facebook and YouTube. You can also check out his travel photos on his website.