Ajai Sanders made it from Hillcrest to ‘A Different World’

Ajai Sanders

HILLCREST HIGH SCHOOL, 1985

What she’s up to now: 

Ajai Sanders is an actress and standup comedian known for playing Gina Deveaux on “A Different World” from 1991 to 1993. A one-time role on the show expanded after she impressed director Debbie Allen. She made guest appearances on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,”  “The Wayans Brothers” and “The Jamie Foxx Show.” After graduating from Hillcrest at 17, she left Dallas, where she was a member of the Mahogany Dance Theatre, and moved to Los Angeles to live with her father. 

Three things to know

1 “My first love in entertainment was dance,” Sanders told Karlton Clay in a 2012 YouTube interview. “I wanted to be that California girl. I wanted to go to UCLA. My dream was to dance with Debbie Allen on stage.”

2 She found success as a comedian after being mentored by Robin Harris. During an interview on the “Hot 10 with Alycia Cooper” podcast, she recalled thinking if her audition for “A Different World” didn’t work out, she’d head back to Texas. She said, “My bags were packed and I was ready to go.” Once the role became recurring. “That was really just the grace of God.”

3 Between 1996 and 1999, “I was killing myself with alcohol and weed. It became an issue,” she said on the podcast. She got help. “The success thing, as seductive as it is, is very dangerous if you don’t know yourself.” God protected me from myself and my own ego. The life I’ve always wanted, I have now.”


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