September 10, 2001 12:00 PM

When Ananda Lewis was in high school, her mother once grounded her for getting C’s on her report card. “My aunt came to take my car away as punishment, but I [secretly] owned a Burmese python that I kept hidden in that car,” says Lewis, now 28. “My aunt had a rude awakening on the freeway.”

Sounds like the makings of a daytime talk show segment—”My Daughter the Snake Charmer, next Jenny Jones!” Or, maybe, next Ananda? Best known as the host of MTV’s Hot Zone, Lewis is happily leaving behind the world of bubble-gum pop for such harder-hitting issues as divorce, school bullies and politics on her own nationally syndicated talk show, premiering Sept. 10. “Two years ago, when I was still shallow, I’d say, ‘I can’t leave the house today because I have a zit,’ ” Lewis says. “This show is about inspiring people and keeping it real.”

Lewis, who is single, will tape her shows in New York City, where she lives, and still appear on the occasional MTV special. Unlike her MTV gig, The Ananda Lewis Show will not be rehearsed. “We tape as if we’re live,” says Lewis. “So if I fall down the stairs, that’ll be on TV. I may be embarrassed, but I’ll get over it.”

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