James Brown may have been the hardest working man in show business, but one might argue that Vivica A. Fox is angling to be the industry’s hardest working sister. With nearly 30 films and numerous TV appearances to her credit, the shapely head turner shows no signs of slowing down. The latest entry on Fox’s résumé is the new VH1 reality competition show, “Glam God With Vivica A. Fox.” The eight-episode series debuts Aug. 21 at 10 p.m. EST. Fox serves as the show’s host, as 12 wannabe celebrity stylists compete for a $100,000 cash prize and a chance to be a star stylista.
ESSENCE.com caught up with Fox who talked about reality TV, kissing Will Smith and why she loves “Booty Call.” ESSENCE.COM: Seems like you’re always on the big and small screens. What keeps you motivated to work so hard?
VIVICA A. FOX: I love what I do and I’m having the time of my life. Opportunities are presenting themselves and I’d be a fool not to take advantage of them. Studios are ready to invest in me, and it’s an opportunity to reinvent myself on a continual basis.
ESSENCE.COM: How do you go about reinventing yourself?
FOX: By doing the projects. I think so many times people keep doing the same thing over and over and it gets stale. They don’t challenge themselves to go outside their comfort zone. I’m always challenging myself. The business is changing every single day, and if you don’t change with it, you’ll get left. Right now everybody loves reality shows. I hosted the VH1 “Hip-Hop Honors” [and one of the network’s executives] said, “I like your hosting abilities. I’m going to find a show for you.” We sat down, had lunch, and we brainstormed. I didn’t want to do the TMI kind of reality show—too much information. “Glam God with Vivica A. Fox” was a perfect fit. I love red-carpet events.
ESSENCE.COM: Tell us about the show.
FOX: I have a glam panel, and we took 12 stylists and we moved them into a beautiful loft in downtown Los Angeles. We gave them challenges for styling celebrities for red-carpet events. It came from the pages of today’s magazines. Who wore it better? Would you be caught dead in this? People are really fascinated with what celebrities wear. The way you dress can make or break a career sometimes.
ESSENCE.COM: As host of the show, what’s your job?
FOX: I’m kind of like the tough love babe. I let them know [what works] from the celebrity point of view. I also give them the clues for their hot-trend challenges. I’m kinda like Mother Love and say, “Here’s what we gonna do this week, baby.”
ESSENCE.COM: How would you describe your fashion sense?
FOX: I try to dress appropriately. I’m very theme-oriented. I’m very organized. If I’m going to the Oscars, I get a theme in mind. If I’m going to a rock ’n’ roll event, I get something a little edgier. I would say my fashion sense is glamorous, sexy cool.
ESSENCE.COM: Many of the Black women on VH1’s reality show are not always portrayed in a positive light. Did you have any concerns about that for your show?
FOX: Absolutely. It was one of the main reasons why I didn’t want to do a reality show that was TMI. We’re trying to educate the public about fashion and style, while not degrading anyone. The beautiful thing about my cast is that it’s diverse. There’s Spanish, Puerto Rican, Black, White, Asian. Everyone is truly represented.
ESSENCE.COM: You started your career in soaps—“Generations,” “Days of Our Lives,” “The Young and the Restless.” What did you learn on those shows?
FOX: Gosh, to have an excellent sense of memory. I have a memory like an elephant. I retain everything. Soap actors are some of the most underestimated talent. They do five shows a week, memorizing 30, 40 pages of dialogue, hitting their mark, crying, being oiled up sexy in the bed and doing a hair toss, too. That’s a lot to do every day, five days a week. It was like the boot camp of acting for me.
ESSENCE.COM: You’ve starred in numerous TV and film projects. Which are some of your favorites?
FOX: I can name top five, not just one. Definitely “Independence Day” and working with mega-superstar Will Smith. That opened the doors to my career. Everybody and they grandma went to see “Independence Day.” Also, in “Set It Off,” I got to work with Jada (Pinkett Smith), Kimberly (Elise). It was like the little movie that could and it has a cult following. In “Two Can Play That Game,” that was my very first starring role. That was really fun, working with Morris Chestnut and Mo’Nique and Gabrielle (Union) and Bobby Brown. It was a funny movie that I felt elevated Black comedies to another level. It was classy, thoughtful, funny and sexy. Then “Kill Bill.” I got to show everybody how I could scrap for real. I could get down and dirty with ya. I trained for six months for that film. It was the most physically demanding role I’ve ever played. Last but not least, “Why Do Fools Fall In Love?” I loved working with Halle (Berry), Lela Rochon, Larenz Tate, learning about prosthetics and playing a character that was extremely flawed. It wasn’t about the beauty.
ESSENCE.COM: You and Will won an MTV Movie Award for Best On Screen Kiss for “Independence Day.” So, what was it like locking lips with Big Willie?
FOX: People have no idea, because in that scene, both of us were crying and had snot running out of our nose. We loaded up on the Binaca and dove in. He’s a great kisser. It was one of those emotional kisses where you go, ‘I love you so much, but let me wipe my nose off, OK?’
ESSENCE.COM: Veterans in this business must have a few movies they’re not proud of. Would you say “Booty Call” fits into that category?
FOX: (Laughs) Absolutely not. I’m very proud of “Booty Call” because it was a safe sex comedy.
ESSENCE.COM: You danced your butt of on “Dancing with the Stars” but didn’t win. Do you think you got robbed?
FOX: Hell yeah! Absolutely. I can say it now that it’s over. I was doing cartwheels in three-inch heels! I was representing for the 40-year-olds! That’s another example of me challenging myself. A lot of people were like, ‘Why are you doing “Dancing with the Stars?” ‘Cause it’s there and I’m gonna do it.
ESSENCE.COM: As fine as you are, you must get hit on all the time. What are some of the dumbest pick up lines you’ve ever heard?
FOX: Guys don’t come up to me and say stupid stuff ‘cause they know they’ll get read real quick. Sometimes they’ll come up and say lines from one of my movies or they’ll say, “I can treat you better than your ex-husband you ought to give me a shout, Vivica.”
ESSENCE.COM: You starred in the movie “Cover” about brothers on the down-low. What attracted you to that role?
FOX: Mainly (director) Bill Duke. We got along really well and I’ve always been a fan of his. He took me to lunch and he gave me the statistics about how HIV is affecting the African-American community and how nearly 70 percent of the new cases diagnosed every year among young adults are Black ones. And that was shocking to me. I knew about life on the down-low just because I have a lot of gay friends. The movie educated a lot of people about HIV. It was a win-win situation.
ESSENCE.COM: Describe your ideal man.
FOX: Hmmm…equally yoked. It means spiritually, mentally and hopefully physically we’re on the same level. I want a man who knows the Lord. I want a man who is a man. I ain’t trying to take care of nobody. I want somebody to help me take care of me and we can take care of each other. Physically fit would be nice, but I’ve learned to look inside the heart and mind.
ESSENCE.COM: Anyone special in your life right now?
FOX: No, I’m very happily single. I’ve got a lot happening to me right now and I just want to focus on my career. If God happens to send a nice guy—a nice man—in the process who can be my partner…
ESSENCE.COM: Who’s the one person you would love to work with but haven’t?
FOX: Samuel L. Jackson, Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett. They’re the best and the best brings out the best in you. They come with it. You have to bring your A game when you work with them.
ESSENCE.COM: What’s the biggest misconception about you?
FOX: That I’m stuck up. When people meet me they say, ‘Wow, you’re really a lot more down to earth and you have a great sense of humor.
ESSENCE.COM: What’s the secret to longevity in this business?
FOX: To learn two words: Show and business. The more that you can learn about the business that goes on behind the show, the more work you can generate for yourself and others. Learn to be a businesswoman or man and find out what’s going on. If you help the studios make all this money, you should know your worth.
ESSENCE.COM: What’s next for you?
FOX: A couple of movies coming out: “Junkyard Dog, a sci-fi action thriller where I play an FBI agent in search of a serial killer. A movie with Jessica Simpson and hopefully another season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” In the works, I’m starting a jewelry and clothing line.
ESSENCE.COM: Really. Give us some details.
FOX: I’m just in the [starting] process. The [tattoo] on my arm, a little fox—I’m trying to make that my [logo] for a jeans line, sweat suit line and jewelry line. You know I love my bling-bling.
What’s your favorite Vivica Fox role? Share your thoughts below.