By the age of 12, Derrick Ashong had lived all over the world (he was born in Accra, Ghana and moved to Brooklyn and various parts of the Middle East). He was accepted to Harvard University and while there, he auditioned and was selected to appear in Steven Spielberg’s Amistad. By the time Oprah Winfrey gave him his own radio show on Oprah & Friends XM Radio, in his 30s, Ashong’s life had come to resemble that of a modern-day fairy tale. I attended Harvard with Derrick and can attest that this fairy tale was also accompanied by drive, vision, and a well-developed sense of self.
Currently a host and special correspondent for Fusion TV (a joint venture between the Disney-ABC Television Group and Univision Communications) and the lead singer of the band Soulfège, we sat down to talk about his successes — both professional and personal — and his vision for the future media.
MadameNoire: Let’s talk about Fusion. According to Wikipedia, the network is geared towards millennials and English-speaking Hispanics. Would you say that’s accurate?
DNA: I would think about it a little differently. The network is targeting the millennial generation, but it is also acknowledging that that is the first truly multi-cultural generation in American history. So, EVERYONE is cross-cultural. Fusion is coming from a perspective that yes, we are embracing elements of Latin culture but it is also fundamentally, American. If you look at American society today, the reality of who we are as a generation and as a people is not what you see reflected in the traditional cable news. All we are doing is reflecting that reality.
MN: I saw that you went to Jamaica to interview Sean Paul. Does your work require you to travel often?
DNA: We have a live [component], but we also do a lot in the field. We went to Jamaica to kick it with Sean Paul, we did a bunch of stuff with Nascar. We did a piece with a multi-platinum Israeli musician. We’ve gone shopping in New York. And we have some really cool stuff coming up later in the year that will actually take our team international – even further than Jamaica.
MN: You had a radio show at one time. What adjustments have you had to make in terms of transitioning to the TV world?
DNA: I made the transition to the TV world almost two years ago while I was still doing my show for Oprah Radio. I did it for Al-Jazeera England which is internationally distributed. By the time I left, we were distributed in 300 million households worldwide. So I already had a lot of experience with doing a TV show for a live audience. But I wanted to reach an American audience, so when the opportunity came along with Fusion, I had to jump on it.
ME: Radio world vs. TV world: How do the two media differ?
DNA: For one, my radio show at Harpo was three hours long. So, we had a lot of time to talk about a lot of things and really delve deeply into them. It was really exhilarating – it was the ultimate live experience because people could call at any time and we integrated social media very deeply. So it was incredibly interactive the entire time.
TV is different. There isn’t as much time to discuss the issues at hand and TV is fast and jam-packed. At the studio, we are also very interactive and we are training our audience as we go on how they can participate. Also, TV is a visual medium so you can never just come with the stats and the facts. You’ve got to make it beautiful and visually stimulating. We shoot things with a certain aesthetic.