Inside Anthony Anderson's Stunning Transformation

Beloved comedic actor Anthony Anderson has been a constant on our screens ever since he first appeared on the Wayans Brothers' titular show all the way back in 1995 (via IMDb). He's popped up in everything you can think of in the subsequent years, from his own series, "All About the Andersons," to guesting on "My Wife and Kids," "The Bernie Mac Show," and "Law & Order." Movie-wise, Anderson has grabbed our attention in "Big Momma's House," "Romeo Must Die," and the "Barbershop" franchise.


With "Black-ish" and its spin-offs, Anderson was introduced to a plethora of new fans. But for those who have been watching him all along, the actor looked noticeably different during his reintroduction to television. As it turns out, the prolific performer was quietly getting healthy behind the scenes, slowly but surely confronting issues he'd struggled with for most of his life. Now, Anderson is doing better than ever. 

Anthony Anderson didn't have the typical path to success

These days, Anthony Anderson is a well-established, consistently in-demand actor, but it's worth noting he didn't immediately head off to Hollywood with stars in his eyes. As Elle noted, Anderson was raised in Compton, California, by his father, who owned several women's shops, and his mother, who worked as a telephone operator. Anderson earned a scholarship to legendary HBCU Howard University but dropped out after he lost it, moving home to find his father had installed a payphone in the living room and put a lock on the refrigerator.


Evidently, the young man wasn't going to get an easy ride ("Go out and get a job," Anderson's mom told him plainly). Their tough love approach really influenced Anderson, and the actor worked hard to build his career from the ground up. He doesn't regret his short-lived college experience, however, telling Melan Magazine, "It taught me how to survive, it taught me how to hustle, it gave me a lot of life lessons that I use to this day in real life and in this industry." Anderson summed up simply, "It's made me the man that I am today."

He passed tough life lessons on to his kids

Considering the no-nonsense approach his parents took when raising him, it's unsurprising to learn Anthony Anderson refuses to coddle his own children. CheatSheet confirmed the "Black-ish" star has two kids with his wife, Alvina Stewart: a daughter named Kyra and a son named Nathan. During a 2021 appearance on NBC LX, the actor revealed both were cut off around the age most attend college. Anderson explained, "My 24-year-old daughter is in grad school at the University of Houston. Those purse strings were just recently cut when she decided grad school was not for her anymore," adding, "Well, neither is my checkbook."


The "Transformers" star has been teaching Kyra and Nathan about the value of money since they were young, sharing that his son, who's also pursuing acting, decided to quit college and appear on a Netflix show instead, earning $250,000 in the process. Anderson was happy to pay the way while Nathan was studying, but, "Once he made the adult decision to drop out of college he became an adult at 19." Thankfully, Nathan has taken to the grown-up life well (the Netflix paycheck certainly helps, for sure).

Anthony Anderson speaks from his own experience as a father

Anthony Anderson isn't the first Black actor to play a dad on TV, but he takes the responsibility very seriously regardless. In an interview with Melan Magazine, Anderson admitted he doesn't feel pressured starring as a father of five on "Black-ish." The Emmy nominee did argue, however, that it's important to show the different varieties of Black dads who exist in the real world, which is something forbearers like Damon Wayans ("My Wife and Kids") and Bernie Mac ("The Bernie Mac Show") did well.


As Anderson clarified, though, those men were speaking from their own unique viewpoints. Thus, he said, "The only pressure I feel is to do what I'm supposed to do and tell the story that I'm supposed to tell, that's relevant to me and specific to me." He sees it as intrinsic to the appeal of "Black-ish," because the show is so "specific to the stories that we've encountered in our lifetimes." In fact, Anderson only really feels pressure to be authentic and funny as a real-life father himself.

The actor wants to make history with his work

As Revolt succinctly put it, Anthony Anderson isn't just an actor; he's also "a strong advocate for Black excellence." Anderson served as an executive-producer on "Black-ish," solidifying his commitment to a show that the star believes will go down in history as one of the most important of its kind. Growing up, Anderson's biggest heroes were his parents and teachers throughout his schooling. Likewise, all of the Black creatives who came before him, the actor noted, are too numerous to list. As a result, Anderson acknowledged, "It's my responsibility to make a way for the next generation. The doors were kicked off its hinges for me, so now I'm trying to blow open the wall."


As for what the term "Black excellence" means to him, Anderson noted it's just about striving to do the best work he possibly can. It's not all about him though; the "Black-ish" star also wants to represent "[his] family, [his] community, and [his] culture" as a public figure who's both "aspirational" and "inspirational." Put simply, if Anderson can make change happen, he's going to fight to do it with everything he's got.

Anthony Anderson lost an incredible amount of weight

In 2014, the "Black-ish" star acknowledged a whopping 47-pound weight loss, telling People confidently, "This is what I'm supposed to look like." However, Anthony Anderson had never felt insecure with his size, even when, at 270 lbs, it was clearly becoming a problem. Although he started gradually eating better, it wasn't until the actor was cast on "Law & Order" in 2008 that he realized a drastic change needed to be made. And so, "I got more serious about my health and appearance — not from a vanity standpoint. I just started making healthier choices."


Anderson went "vegan-ish" afterwards, admitting he doesn't take it too seriously but tries his best. The actor's family help to keep him on the straight and narrow, too. Looking back, he realizes it was an easy decision to make. "One morning when I woke up I was like, 'Okay, today's the day to start,'" he recalled. "And I never looked back."

A scary diagnosis made Anthony Anderson take stock of his health

Still, as Anthony Anderson admitted in an interview with Everyday Health, he really should have started taking his health seriously a lot sooner. In 2001, the actor was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, but he acknowledged, "I didn't deal with it as seriously as I should have in the beginning." It took years for him to get his blood sugar under control, but losing his father due to complications from his own diabetes was a major wake-up call for the actor.


Anderson didn't want to suffer the same fate; he wanted to be around for his family. Put simply, "I saw what living my life the way I was living it up until the point when I was diagnosed — I saw what that got me: It got me type 2 diabetes." For anybody struggling with similar issues, the "Black-ish" star has some very simple advice: "You have to make the choice to get better. You have to make the choice to be healthy."

Anthony Anderson teamed up with his mom to give back

In keeping with his desire to be an example for others, Anthony Anderson teamed up with his mother, Miss Doris, and Northwestern Mutual to provide financial support and resources directly to the Black community. The "Black-ish" star stated in a 2021 interview with AfroTech, "Honestly the common mistake that we make is not having a plan, that's why I partnered with Northwestern Mutual to talk about this." Emphasizing the importance of planning ahead, Anderson expressed his desire to speak frankly about financial literacy so families won't suffer a massive shock down the line, likely when it's too late. 


As Miss Doris noted, she taught her son the importance of putting money away from a young age, even setting him up with savings plans so he could afford to buy Christmas gifts. Anderson confirmed to NBC LX that he's passed on financial lessons to his own children, reiterating the importance of planning ahead. He reasoned, "Everything can be great today but tomorrow is a completely different story." Anderson also stated firmly, "You don't have to be a multi-millionaire to plan for your financial future."

He got his COVID-19 vaccine and encouraged others to do the same

There was a time when Anthony Anderson thought his health was none of his business. However, after his scary diabetes diagnosis, the actor got serious. When the COVID-19 vaccine was being rolled out, Anderson let everybody know he would be getting it. According to People, during an appearance on their "People Every Day" podcast, the "Black-ish" star confirmed he'd received the jab and wanted to reassure listeners there were no harsh side effects, encouraging anybody who was on the fence to get it ASAP.


Anderson's pre-existing condition made him very concerned about the potential effects of the deadly virus for himself and his mother, who also has Type 2 diabetes. He even teamed up with Advil to promote vaccines across the board. Anderson argued, "For me, it means being able to hug and kiss my mom on a daily basis now. Having [people] over to the house for cookouts in the backyard, family dinners, and taking holidays, and now that the world is opening up, traveling again. That's what it's about for us."

He accepted a fitness challenge from a fellow actor

Even though Anthony Anderson had already dropped an impressive amount of weight, when he learned fellow actor Will Smith was embarking on his own fitness journey, the "Big Momma's House" star enthusiastically stated, "Challenge accepted." As Men's Health reported at the time, Smith was inspired to drop some weight after allegedly getting into terrible shape, apparently while chilling out at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Anderson pledged to join him on Instagram, later sharing his progress in the so-called "Big Willie Challenge" during an appearance on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert."


As Anderson explained, "The challenge is just to transform that dad bod, that COVID bod, back into something that's healthy." Of the 12-week challenge, the comedic actor hilariously quipped, "It's called Grown Men Sexy." Anderson was aiming to get down to 200 pounds and had already dropped eight within the first three weeks alone. The results were clear in svelte selfies (via Instagram). Elsewhere, the likes of Dr. Dre and Marlon Wayans were also hoping to shed pounds and build muscle, ultimately emerging as the embodiment of "Grown Men Sexy" in the process.

Leaving his most famous character behind has been 'bittersweet'

"Black-ish" was a major moment for everybody involved, but all good things must come to an end, and for executive producer and co-lead Anthony Anderson, it's been a particularly "bittersweet" goodbye. In a September 2021 interview with ET, midway through filming the eighth and final season of the hit show, Anderson admitted, "I think a few more episodes down the line it's gonna start getting sad for us." Tracee Ellis Ross, who plays his onscreen wife, mirrored the actor's comments. 


She did note, however, it was nice to be given the opportunity to say a proper goodbye rather than being canceled out of nowhere. Ellis Ross acknowledged, "Being able to take in all of the beauty of it and all of the things we've appreciated all of these years but then really be awake to it — I'm looking forward to that and I know it's going to be hard." Both actors agreed they wanted their onscreen couple to close the show out just as it began, crazy in love with each other and as happy together as ever. Regardless, ending "Black-ish" will still require a "mourning" period.