MTV was a big revolution that changed the way we look at the music industry today. Videos became an important aspect for music to garner a bigger audience, and MTV stood as the reason behind it. A 24 hour only music channel gave us many lifetime memories to remember, and the network has gone on to transition throughout these years. In the world of social media, where every other person can become an influencer, MTV and its VJs were the sole influencers at that time, and we wonder where are they now. They taught us music and to be cool.
So, here we are taking a look at some of the most popular MTV VJs who have graced the screens since the network’s launch on August 1st, 1981 to this date. The way they embraced the viewer’s life as well as their own. The new flavor they brought to MTV and what they are up to nowadays. While some have stayed along with the same network. Some have jumped shifts, and some have gone on to bigger Hollywood careers. So let’s begin with the first five original MTV VJs.
The DJ who is responsible for introducing The Who and Led Zepplin to the Americans. J.J. Jackson is one of the Original MTV VJs to come around. Before joining MTV, J.J. Jackson came up with immense experience in radio. He rose to prominence with WBCN in Boston and later as a music reporter at KABC-TV. After joining MTV, he became one of the few African Americans to DJ for album rock. Even after leaving MTV by serving for five long years, J.J. Jackson returned to radio. In 2004, Jackson died of a heart attack while driving back home after meeting a friend. Jackson’s daughter and three grandchildren survived him.
Martha Quinn, who was voted as the “MTV’s Best-Ever VJ, in 1991. Well, she really turned her life around as she started working at NYU’s Weinstein Dormitory, giving students their toilet paper, mail, and lightbulbs. That was until WNBC assistant program director Buzz Brindle gave her advice leading her to audition for MTV.
She knew nothing about the gig and what MTV wanted, but she just spoke about Earth, Wind, and Fire, leaving everyone in awe. Working MTV, she had some of the most successful years, which were transitioning into TV roles for shows like The Bradys and The Full House. Today, you can find her back to her roots as she hosts her own podcast, Talk Talk with Martha Quinn.
Nina Blackwood was another name that went popular as the original five of MTV. Pretty much popular for her raspy voice, she came across MTV through a Billboard ad and got the job after two auditions. Blackwood initially had experience working for TV on Entertainment Tonight’s Solid Gold in the ‘80s. Post working with MTV, Blackwood returned to Entertainment Tonight to host Rock Report and radios. But fast forward to today, Nina Blackwood has kept herself off-camera, and only appears often on radio shows. She just doesn’t like wanting to appear with Botox and in the 20s being 60s and likes to be more original.
The man who was supposed to open MTV’s first day but instead went on to close it due to some error sequencing. Mark Goodman worked for MTV for some 6 years, from 1981 to 1987. Prior to joining the network, he had experience in radio working at WMMR of Philadelphia in 1978. Then becoming the Music Director of the same station. During his run on MTV, he was known for interviewing popular stars of the time and shows like The Week in Rock, 120 Minutes, and The Top 20 Video Countdown. He later turned to act and returned to radio. Today, he still works on the radio at SiriusXM’s ’80s on 8.
Bumping into MTV exec Bob Pittman on a picnic enrolled Alan Hunter into the MTV. The first VJ introduced himself from the original five. He didn’t quit his job as a bartender during his first month with MTV. Hunter’s job saw him attending concerts and shows and returning to studios at 8.00 pm to host and doing interviews, promos, and features. He was one of the key figures for the WWF-MTV collaboration and interviewed many big music names of that time. Today he is at the radio hosting SiriusXM Radio’s The 80s on 8 and is often joined by MTV’s original five VJs.
Daisy Fuentes is remembered for breaking barriers as she became the first MTV’s first Latina VJ. She worked at the original as well MTV Latina altogether. Prior to MTV, she had experience hosting at WNJU-TV 47 during her college days. Hosting at MTV became a huge break for her. She later transitioned the career into TV shows and hosting many other reality shows for which she was approached. Most recently, we saw her hosting the show A New Leaf, which means she is still in the show business going strong.
John Sencio was popular during the 90s and can be remembered for hosting Rude Awakening as he appeared during the morning hours of 6 to 7 am. During his stint, he interviewed many popular celebrities both from the music as well as the movie industry. But since leaving MTV, John Sencio maintained a low profile with the show business. He still had a few shows here and there, including NBC’s Home Delivery and HGTV’s Cash in the Attic. Today, he is a two-time cancer survivor, and the last we saw of him was when he was working on his documentary Thryvor.
Before Kurt Loder joined MTV, he was one of the established stars in his own right. Kurt Loder was highly regarded as one of the most talented prolific feature writers of Rollingstone by Rockcritics. During his time with MTV, he started out hosting the flagship program The Week In Rock and later on MTV News that made him popular. To many people’s delight, he is still one of the VJs to be still with the network today and continues to host MTV News and often other special shows on the network.
Colin Quinn’s rise to success began as a sidekick on MTV game show Remote Control for around five seasons. This primarily got him a gig on Saturday Night Live, which gave him a bigger break soon. Since then, he has transitioned his career into films as well as TV shows. Primarily he is known for the roles of Dooey in A Night at the Roxbury, Dickey Bailey in the Grown Ups films, and Amy Schumer’s father in the film Trainwreck. Fast forward to today, he is popular for his one-man shows, including stage shows such as Irish Wake, My Two Cents, Long Story Short, Unconstitutional, The New York Story, Red State Blue State, and The Wrong Side of History.
The Podfather Adam Cury is remembered for garnering MTV a much-needed internet presence and staying with the times. He registered mtv.com in 1993, which was initially sanctioned by the network. But even when he went on with his own portal, the Network sued him. Apart from mtv.com, Adam Curry was popular for hosting Headbangers Ball and the MTV Top 20 Video Countdown. Since those days trying to break into the internet, Adam Curry has heavily invested time in podcasting, thus becoming the Podfather. Today, he is still part of the podcasting world, often appearing on various podcasts.
China “Slick” Kantner
China Kantner initially appeared as just a guest VJ on MTV but soon started paving ways. She was the youngest VJ ever as she joined when she was 15. So slowly and steadily, she became a regular face. She is remembered for her interview with her father, Paul Kantner, the singer-guitarist of Jefferson Airplane. Fast forward to today, she transitioned into singer-songwriter and often performs with Jefferson Starship.
Kari Wuhrer became a popular name during her teen days. MTV’s Remote Control became her big break. The success transitioned her into the TV show Swamp Thing, Class Of 96, and soap opera Beverly Hills, 90210. She simultaneously worked on MTV as a VJ. Following her VJ career, Kari Wuhrer went on to star in movies such as Thinner (1996), Anaconda (1997), and Kissing a Fool (1998). Today, she hardly appears for the mainstream media, and the last we saw of her was as the voice of Barbara Kean and Pamela Isley in Batman: Gotham By The Gaslight.
Prior to joining MTV, Riki Rachtman was part of several rock bands, including the Angry Samoans, the Fairlanes, L.A. metal act Virgin, and Battery Club. Post that, he joined as VJ for Headbangers Ball. Initially, he was a guest over there and filled in for Adam Curry before replacing him full-time. He was friends with Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses, and this led him to get this job despite his lack of experience. Post that, he became a local star hosting a radio advice program Loveline with Doctor Drew Pinsky and Adam Carolla. Fast forward to today, Riki Rachtman became a part of the American Flat Track motorcycle racing series last year. You can also find him hosting the Cathouse Hollywood podcast of his own club name.
Downtown Julie Brown
Julie Brown won dancing competitions, including UK Disco Dancing Championships and World Disco Dancing Championship, before dancing her way into MTV. She worked as a presenter and guest on a number of children’s programs on British TV. Even on a pan-European music channel, Music Box, which gave her a much-needed experience as MTV VJ. So during her stint with MTV, she hosted shows such as Club MTV show in the late 1980s. MTV capitalized on her confusion with comic actress Julie Brown and brought them together on MTV News. She later worked with ESPN and in various movies. Currently, she is hosting SiriusXM channel ’90s on 9.
This isn’t the same Julie Brown as Downtown Julie Brown. This is a red-haired comedian Julie Brown who starred in MTV’s Just Say Julie. This was during the time her music was becoming huge and receiving huge airplay. The show saw Julie Brown taking on the role of demanding, pessimistic Valley Girl who often made fun of pop acts such as Madonna. The last time we saw her on television was on the show The Middle, where she played a recurring character. Since then, she has stayed out of the limelight.
Karen “Duff” Duffy
Karen Duffy got her stint on MTV after modeling in several commercials prior to that. She served as VJ under the name Duff and later transitioned that career into films like Dumb and Dumber and Blank Check. After that, she went on to host several shows on a different network and today is New York Times bestselling author. Some of her popular books include ‘Model Patient: My Life as an Incurable Wise Ass’ and ‘A Slob in the Kitchen. She is still in the modeling business. Coming to the TV side of things, we last saw her in The Real Housewives of New York City for one episode.
Carson Daly is one of the former MTV VJs who has continued his presence as a host even today. In his early days, Daly hosted radio shows before joining as VJ on MTV’s Summer Beach House Program Motel California. Soon he joined in as permanent and did shows such as MTV Live, MTV’S TRL. He is remembered for introducing the top 10 videos as well as interviewing many stars on MTV. Fast forward to today, he is still keeping his hosting game alive as hosts of popular shows such as The Voice and Today.
Fab Five Freddy
Fab Five Freddy grew popular painting graffiti, and making a cameo in Blondie music video for “Rapture” gave Fab Five Freddy a stint at MTV. Rapture was the first hip-hop music video to air on MTV. Then in 1988, Freddy became the first hip hop VJ hosting the show Yo! MTV Raps. He later left the show to dive into the business of music video directing, and acting. The Last we saw from Fab Five Freddy was Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop documentary, where he served as the creative director.
Ananda Lewis joined MTV as a VJ in the late 90s as an aspiring journalist. Lewis’s journalist vision brought a new pace to the Network when she joined in as VJ. At that time, she was enjoying huge success with the show Teen Summit but opting for MTV may have given her a huge audience to influence. Keeping that in mind, she became a VJ on MTV and went on to give some cutting-edge interviews to look at. Today she is away from the limelight. Sadly, she recently announced that she is battling stage 3 breast cancer for the last two years and aims to defeat it.
Pauly Shore is remembered for various comical roles during the 90s. But before that, he was an aspiring standup comedian, and his big break began al thanks to joining MTV as a VJ. Shore’s stint went on from 1989 to 1994, where he also had his own show, Totally Pauly. He served MTV’s annual Spring Break parties. Success as a VJ gave Pauly further opportunities in the films such as Son in Law (1993), In the Army Now (1994), Jury Duty (1995), and Bio-Dome (1996). Pauly Shore is still in touch with the entertainment business. Last, we saw him in The Midnight Gospel, Alone Together, and Sandy Wexler.
Everyone is familiar with this name as he has one of the most successful movie careers. Tyrese Gibson’s appearance in a coca-cola advertisement singing the jingle gave the actor unexpected fame. He soon became an artist to look at on the Billboard Charts with his hit singles. In 1998 MTV brought Gibson as the new host of the weekday music video show MTV Jams. With that, Gibson continued to give musical hits and later transitioned his career into films, where he is heavily active today. Rogue Hostage and Sony’s Morbius are two of his upcoming projects.
Bill Bellamy is probably one of the most iconic faces of what MTV in the 90s looked like. He stayed on the network for many years hosting shows such as MTV Jamz and MTV Beach House. Post MTV, he went on to host several shows and transitioned his career into acting as well. Some of his notable movies are Fled, Love Jones, The Brothers, How to Be a Player, Getting Played, and Any Given Sunday. Bill Bellamy is still very much active in the entertainment business. The last we saw him was in episodes of shows such as S.W.A.T., A Dark Foe, Insecure, and Winning Ugly.
Kennedy hosted the MTV shows there were thriving the rising grunge genre in the early 90s. A mix of Punk Rock and Heavy Metal brought bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice In Chain to prominence. Bands like them needed their own show, and Kennedy hosted them, which included late-night alternative rock show 120 Minutes and Alternative Nation later on. She continues her hosting stints in various radio as well as television shows while also taking a step into politics. Currently, she hosts ‘Music In The Mornings’ on KYSR 98.7 FM in Los Angeles.
We remember her for her portrayal of Peyton Sawyer on The WB/CW drama One Tree Hill and several other shows. But prior to that, serving MTV as a VJ was the big break for Burton’s career. She hosted shows such as MTV’s Total Request Live. Originally she was just a guest commentator, but MTV decided to extend her stay and recruited her as a permanent. From then on, she also hosted 2000 MTV Video Music Awards and MTV’s Iced Out New Year’s Eve. Soon she started getting offers into television shows and movies. Today, she is still active in the entertainment business with various popular shows. Recently we saw her making an appearance on the finale of The Walking Dead.
Jesse Camp’s career began as he competed in MTV’s first Wanna Be a VJ contest in 1998. He went on to beat 4,000 contestants to win a ‘TRL’ hosting show. But there were several controversies sparking along with the show. To him portraying the fake persona of being a homeless street kid to an account casting fake votes for him. Anyway, Camp later got the job after beating contestant Dave Holmes on the popular music video show Total Request Live. He went on to host TRL with Carson Daly, his ow Lunch with Jesse, contemporary rock program “MTV Rocks Off” and later invested in his own music career. Today he lives in Chicago performing with his band Green Denim.
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Brian McFayden joined MTV through MTV News and later transitioned into a VJ. He was most of the time an occasional host on shows like TRL, MTV Fashion for a Day, VJ for a Day, and The Real World Chicago Reunion, and various others. Once Carson Daly left, McFayden became a regular face for TRL. Post MTV, he had several hosting stints as well as a dive into the acting world. Most recently, he worked at the KYGO FM 98.5 in Denver, Colorado but left in 2021.
We remember VJ Quddus for his five-year stint MTV. He co-hosted TRL and became regular after Carson Daly’s departure. Post MTV, he tried several different hosting gigs included TV One Access and Nickelodeon’s Dance on Sunset. Also, a few appearances on CSI: Miami, Half & Half, and Girlfriends. Nowadays, he is focused on Non-Profit Organizations working for Generosity.org.
Vanessa Minnillo, we should call her Vanessa Lachey now. She held the crown of Miss Teen USA in 1998 before joining MTV. She hosted Total Request Live from 2003 until 2007 as a VJ on MTV before taking a shift simultaneously to Entertainment Tonight in 2005. Minnillo hosted Miss Teen USA (2004) and co-hosted Miss Universe (2007). Post that, she had an amazing Television career and is still active. She will be next starring in NCIS: Hawaii as Special Agent Jane Tennant.
La La Anthony
Lala Anthony joined MTV with prior experience of working on radio stations like WHTA-FM, HOT 97.5 in Georgia, and Los Angeles’s 92.3 The Beat. As a VJ at MTV, she hosted shows such as Direct Effect and Total Request Live. After stints in different shows and movies, she became a constant on Vh1 hosting shows such as Flavor of Love, I Love New York, For the Love of Ray J, and Real Chance of Love. Soon she got her own shows, such as La La’s Full Court Wedding, which covered her wedding.
Serena Altschul joined MTV in 1987. Prior to that, she had experienced as an anchor on Channel One News. The same experience transition into her hosting MTV News, MTV News: UNfiltered, Breaking it Down, and later True Life as a VJ. Post her stint at MTV, she continued her career in journalism on Networks such as CNN. She hosted several shows on the network and has been constant on CBS Sunday Mornings since 2013.
Before joining MTV, Susie Castillo was Miss Massachusetts USA, Miss USA, and Miss Universe. So she was already an established star and began her career in 2004. She hoped through several shows until she came on MTV as a VJ hosting TRL and was a key figure in launching Mi TRL on MTV Tr3s in September 2006. The success allowed her to transition into an acting career. Castillo’s last appearance on TV was in 2010 on the reality series School Pride. Most recently, she worked on a horror short film called Tribe during the quarantine.
We remember Simon Rex from Scary Movies, but it was MTV that transition him into the star we know today. MTV hired Simon Rex as a VJ in 1995, and he hosted TRL during his two years stint. Following that, he started receiving offers from television as well as the movie side of things. These included shows such as Baywatch, Everwood, and Summerland and movies such as the Scary Movie Franchise. Today, he is still very much active in the film industry, with Red Rocket being his most recent project and another upcoming project called Mack & Rita.
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