Kind, conscientious, courageous and refreshingly candid, Ms. Vivica A. Fox has proven that as Hollywood careers go, second acts are often the sweetest.
The multi-hyphenate actress-director- beauty entrepreneur-author is embracing life and not looking back, except to pull from her well of wisdom for her new memoir, Every Day I’m Hustling. And if you know Vivica like I got to know her during our conversation, you’d think the book’s title quite fitting. She enjoys hard work and has no plans to slow down.
Born Vivica Anjanetta Fox on the outskirts of Indianapolis, she went by Angie Fox, one of four siblings being raised by divorced mother who worked overtime to provide for her children. Her childhood home was hectic but loving and provided fertile ground for Vivica to aspire for things grander than her midwestern upbringing.
After high school, she made her way to Southern California to attend college, all the while seeking out opportunities in Los Angeles to model and act wherever she could. It was in LA that Angie became Vivica A. Fox. She worked her way through the ranks on sitcoms and daytime soaps, and in 1996 got her breakthrough role opposite Will Smith in the classic blockbuster, Independence Day. Next came a string of fan favorites including Set It Off, Soul Food, Two Can Play That Game, Kill Bill Volume I and II, and a string of subsequent roles in film and television, including Larry David’s sharp-witted houseguest, Loretta Black, on Curb Your Enthusiasm and Skye in the campy Sharknado franchise. Her eclectic career has kept her on the move for nearly three decades.
In 2016, Vivica joined the cast of the smash hit television series, Empire, playing conservative suburbanite Candace, Cookie Lyon’s (Taraji P. Henson) older sister and character foil.
During our interview we covered everything from movie stardom and maternal instincts to social media drama, setting boundaries and finding love.
TME: When are you Angie and when are you Vivica? When do you take off the Vivica and become Angie from Indianapolis?
Vivica A. Fox: Well first off, that’s Angie Fox from 38th and Emerson in Indianapolis (laughs)! I’m Vivica Fox when I hit that red carpet and I’m ready to slay the game. That’s what I do. But I love that I have in my life, and in my journey, learned when to be Angie Fox. And that’s mainly when I’m with my family, time off, hanging out with my godchildren, having my Me Time and learning to take Me Time. That’s when I’m no makeup, baseball cap, chilling and blending in.
TME: Do you prefer yourself that way?
Vivica A. Fox: Oh my gosh! To be honest with you, the older I’ve gotten, the more I prefer it. I work so much; I’ve been so blessed and so busy lately that I enjoy when I can have that Me Time. In fact, today I don’t have to be on. That’s what I really love about being with my godchildren.
When they see me, I’m just G.G. or G-ma. G.G. stands for Gorgeous Godmother. G-ma, I don’t know where they got that one from, but I have five godchildren. Two of them call me G-ma and the other ones call me G.G. They like hanging with me. Not the drama or the glamour, they just want me.
TME: I love the part in your book where your godson, Christian, sees you all done up as Vivica A. Fox, and he gives you that side eye like he doesn’t recognize you, and you say, “It’s okay, I’m just wearing my Vivica costume.” Then he asks, “You’re still my G.G., right?” And you reassure him that it’s still you.
Vivica A. Fox: It’s funny because he was just a baby the first time he saw me like that, and he was like, “Who are you!?” He was so used to seeing me in my tracksuit and baseball cap. But now at seven, he kind of likes it when he sees the reaction I get from people. He’s done a couple of red carpet events with me and he knows the difference between the two.
TME: Coming from the Midwest, your father was a school administrator, your mother worked for a pharmaceutical company, so you really had no ties to entertainment, or Los Angeles for that matter. What gave you that spark of courage, that spark that made you believe that you could become a successful actress?
Vivica A. Fox: I was introduced to the world of fashion and modeling by Madame King, my late auntie. She had her own beauty salon back in the day. She was the first one to cut my hair and put me on a runway. I was kind of bitten by the bug at thirteen. From that point forward, I just fell in love with magazines and fashion. Then I went to go see Michael Jackson in concert, and Diana Ross in concert. I had never seen African Americans being so fabulous, and I was like, “Where do they live? That’s where I’m going! That’s what I want to do.” I decided that during my senior year in high school. But I had to trick my mama (laughs) and tell her I was going to college in California, and I did go to college. But I would be sneaking up to Hollywood and going to modeling agencies. I had a girlfriend who was an actress, and I used to read lines with her. She would say, “You’re pretty good at this, you should try it.”
TME: Your book is part memoir and part motivational guidebook for success. Tell me about your mentor, or mentors…
Vivica A. Fox: My mentor would have to be a good friend of mine, and my first acting coach, Sheila Wills. I’m her two daughters’ godmother. Sheila, I met when I was doing [the daytime soap opera] Generations.
She took me under her wing, and she would work with me with auditions. I would go into those auditions and just nail them. I attribute my success to her. She would say, “Vivica, you’ve got to stay ready. You got to be ready. You’ve got to take care of yourself.” And people who inspired me to be who I am would be Diana Ross and Pam Grier.
TME: Do you know that you’re incredibly sexy? Is that something you’re aware of?
Vivica A. Fox: Well, okay now!
TME: I’m not pulling your leg. You really do ooze sensuality. Do you know that?
Vivica A. Fox: Thank you! I appreciate that. Got to keep it tight and right, girl (laughs)!
TME: More so now, than twenty years ago, in my opinion…
Vivica A. Fox: Maybe because… No, not maybe! Because I am comfortable in my own skin. I’m very comfortable with me. I have embraced my womanhood through my pluses and my minuses. I’m good with me right now, so that’s what you’re seeing. My spirit is happy, more than anything else.
It’s taken awhile, and that’s something I want to share with people. My book is a motivational memoir. I, too, have fallen down and had to figure out how to get back up and create new chapters for myself. I want to encourage, enlighten and inspire other people.
TME: Why did you choose to share your journey with menopause in the book?
Vivica A. Fox: It’s part of life. It’s going to happen. And it’s like you just asked, “Do you know that you’re sexy right now?” But do people also know that for the last few years, that’s what’s been going on in my life? I embraced it and I got in front of it. I didn’t let it define me or make me want to whittle away.
I don’t know why with women, we can’t talk about our bodies and what we go through, share it with others, and not feel like we have to hide that from people. I’m sharing it, and I got in front of it and took care of myself. I really feel like it made me take good care of myself.
TME: And being that your image is sexy, you weren’t afraid of putting that out there…
Vivica A. Fox: No, not at all. You’re going to have naysayers and people that are going to try to come and say something, and they can. But I’m still me. It doesn’t change who I am. I’m still all woman.
TME: When it comes to social media feuds and this clap back culture we’re living in, when do you take the high road and not respond, and when do you feel the need to clap back?
Vivica A. Fox: I will clap back occasionally, but to be very honest with you, if it’s not necessary, I don’t like that. I’m not one of those people who became famous by being a controversial celebrity.
Normally, I’ll click on who that person is and see if they’re even worth it. If it’s somebody that you can tell is wanting to make TheShadeRoom or seeking attention, I just block them. They’re not worth it. When I clap back, it’s when somebody comes at me or I have to set the record straight.
TME: Technology has made it very easy for people to say something mean spirited or join in the angry mob. For me, I try my best to practice the art of what I call Non-Reaction, where I feel like every time I don’t react I’m passing that next spiritual test. But occasionally, something will get me and I’ll react. And then I’ll wonder, was that a failure on my part, or was it warranted in that situation? Do you share that same internal struggle?
Vivica A. Fox: It’s an internal struggle with me too. Some days I’m like, “Why did I give that person my energy?” There are some people, they just come on your page to be mean, and you kind of want to go, “You looked me up, and took the time to write a response to be mean to me. Hmm, what does that say about your character?” There’s an old saying your mama told you. “If you ain’t got nothing nice to say, don’t say nothing at all.” I try to live by that old school motto. I don’t try to pass on bad energy to others, I don’t. If I don’t have anything nice to say I just keep my opinion right on over here. But you know, this generation with the social media, a lot of people like that negative feedback. They feed off it. I don’t.
TME: Let’s talk about motherhood. I know you have all these nieces and nephews, and godchildren. I feel like motherhood, meaning the energy of motherhood, is something that is innate in all women. We have a need to nurture. How does that energy express itself through you?
Vivica A. Fox: I’m Mama Bear all the time! I have a nurturing instinct and I think I get that from my mother. My mother always loved to take care of others. Still to this day, she doesn’t take as good care of herself, because she is always looking out for others. I got that quality from her. When I’m on the set, I’m always looking out for others. When I walk on a set, I’m always making sure that I speak to everyone, that I try to make people as comfortable as possible. In that way, I am very motherly. It’s just something in me, I like to look out for others. But the older I’ve gotten, I’ve learned to look out more for myself, as well. And I’ve learned a very important word: No. Because people will take, take, take from you child, till you drop! Then they’re satisfied, and you’re left over there feeling completely empty.
TME: At what age did you learn how to say No?
Vivica A. Fox: It was in my late forties, or maybe just when I got to be about 50, that I started really looking at my relationships and asking myself if they are all reciprocal relationships. I had that tendency to give, give, give, and I finally took off my Captain Save-A-Ho cape.
I mean that. Sometimes you’ll talk to friends on the phone, and we all vent, it’s human. But if you talk to somebody that is constantly draining and negative, at some point… I’ve cut ties with a couple of friends and not felt bad about it. I call it the season of shedding, where not everyone’s going to the next chapter or the next level with you. And it’s okay. You don’t have to hate them, but there’s nothing wrong with making good choices for yourself.
TME: How do you define glamour and beauty?
Vivica A. Fox: Someone who is a goddess, who just radiates confidence; someone who owns her moment, who seizes her moment. The older I’ve gotten, I believe that beauty radiates from the inside. Especially nowadays with these build-a-bodies, and everything is just makeup and fakeness in my opinion right now. It’s when you meet a person and they are a beautiful person, they radiate confidence and kindness. I find beauty in a woman that has no makeup on, but she’s confident in her own skin and radiates kindness and does for others, to me that’s beautiful.
TME: In your book you give advice on achieving different areas of success in one’s life. I personally think that so many people have a misconception about success. People want that insta-recognition, that insta-success. I said to someone the other day that for all the people who think they would love to trade places with Mark Zuckerberg or Oprah, for example, most of those people wouldn’t make it through the first week if they saw the tremendous amount of work, pressure and sacrifice that it takes to be in that type of position.
Vivica A. Fox: To piggyback on that point, for myself, people don’t realize that for the last two to three years I slept on planes. I was always traveling, always busy, taking meetings, not sleeping, going here, going there, and going through changes of life and never letting it slow me down.
There’s a lot of work required. All those seeds that I’ve planted, I’m now seeing them all blossom. But I had to do the work. That’s what I tell people. In my book, in the chapter about Being the Head Chick in Charge, I say, “Don’t let anyone outwork you.”
TME: What do you think is the biggest misconception about success?
Vivica A. Fox: That it’s easy. When you’re successful, usually it’s taken a long time to build a career. It isn’t something that happens overnight. It takes time to build a career, and a career means being able to go through different stages and chapters of a career, not just being the hot chick of the moment. For me, I went from being the hot ingenue chick, to now building my brand and producing and directing.
TME: Let’s talk about Empire. I started watching it last week, all four seasons in a row!
Vivica A. Fox: Oh, you binge-watched…
TME: Yes, I binge-watched! I’m talking carrying the iPad with me all over the house; the show is that addictive and entertaining. Entertainment value, on a scale of 1 to 10, it’s a 12 plus. The one thing I had mixed feelings about is the way African Americans are depicted in the show. On one hand I’m loving it, on the other hand I’m thinking, “Does this play on negative stereotypes, the way this family is being portrayed?”
Vivica A. Fox: Well, I think that’s why Empire has been so successful. It’s raw and right there in your face. It makes you uncomfortable. What I commend Lee Daniels and the cast of Empire for is they are like, “It may make you uncomfortable, but we are who we are. We’re not going to sugar coat this. We’re going to give it to you straight, no chaser.”
That’s what made it a phenom. Some people felt like they couldn’t handle the gay [subject], or they feel it’s a little bit too raw, but that’s Empire. They have stayed true to what the show is about, and I have to commend them for that. That take courage, not to bow down to social or peer pressure.
TME: Did Lee Daniels ever share with you the moral of the story of Empire, or his vision for the show?
Vivica A. Fox: Not really. The thing I love about Lee is that he is who he is. It’s taken awhile for him to become comfortable in his own skin, and that he’s a gay man and that he has talent, and he doesn’t have to hide who he really is anymore. We’ve all been in this business for twenty years, and I’m going to tell you that it’s been a long journey for him to put out a show like this.
Some of the storylines in the show, absolutely, with the mother saying to her kids, “You’re this, you’re that (referring to the character, Cookie, having a penchant for hurling insults).” The father throwing the kid in the dumpster, it tugs at the heartstrings. It makes you uncomfortable, but it happens. I feel that with knowledge there’s power.
TME: What will Candace be up to in the new season?
Vivica A. Fox: I can’t give away a whole bunch, but I will tell you that Candace is back and that you will get the chance to finally meet our mother, Renee, played by the very beautiful and talented Alfre Woodard.
TME: Do you judge your character, Candace, the same way that Cookie judges her?
Vivica A. Fox: No. I believe we all have those relationships in our families where we’re all different, but we’re still family. In my career right now, I’ve embraced my womanhood and people are like, “Ooh, Vivica, you’re going to become today’s Diahann Carroll.” And I’m like, “Wow! Thank you for that.” But firstly, Vivica is a little bit more like Cookie. I like to have my rock star moments, and I love wearing the crazy clothes and all that stuff. But Candace is who I’m evolving into.
TME: In your book you provide some back story about your mom and dad’s relationship, and how it’s affected your own love life. What I got from what you wrote is that in watching your mom nurse a broken heart over the divorce from your father, you saw her as a victim, and that framed your own love life.
Vivica A. Fox: Absolutely.
TME: Do you still see her as a victim, or do you see things in a different light now? And what would it take for you to let your guard down in love?
Vivica A. Fox: I see my mother now as a survivor. My mother grew up in a time where you stuck by your guy. He was her one true love, and I definitely have those qualities. What I learned from her, in wanting her to live and to love and to laugh more, I wouldn’t take those same steps that she did. I can open my heart again. For my part, I’m making sure that I’m not lustful anymore. I don’t look at somebody and right away say, “Oh yes, he’s the one!” I make sure that I take the time to get to know someone. That’s something I pass along in my book, as well. Don’t jump into the shallow end of the pool head first. You’ve got to take the time to get to know people.
So yes, I am open to love. I want to love again and have someone that’s really special. But he has to prove himself, and I would have to prove myself to him, that I’m worthy to be his mate. Sometimes women are so afraid to be alone that they just take that first thing coming, and they get the short end of the stick. They keep dating the same guy over and over again. That’s why, in the book, I say to make your chart out. Do you keep dating the same guy over and over again? Because you’re going to get the same result.
TME: Do you want Hollywood to be colorblind in writing and casting roles, or do you want to be identified, and cast, as an African American actress?
Vivica A. Fox: Of course, I always want to be seen as a talented African American actress, because that’s who I am. I feel that right now, what’s going on in Hollywood is that, man, that glass ceiling has been busted wide open. It’s been a long time coming, with the success of Black Panther, with the success of television shows like Scandal and Empire and How to Get Away with Murder; with Oprah having her own network. It’s about damn time.
TME: Is it an I Told You So moment?
Vivica A. Fox: I don’t know if it’s I Told You So as much as it is, Finally.
TME: Finish these sentences for me. I know I can trust someone when…
Vivica A. Fox: When I’ve truly gotten to know them.
TME: I know that God is speaking to me when…
Vivica A. Fox: Woo! Hmm. All the time. Every day when I wake up and I can thank Him for letting me see another day. I would say, I know God is speaking to me all the time, and He helps me make better choices.
TME: My spiritual mission in this life is…
Vivica A. Fox: To be kind, to do unto others and to leave a good mark.
Joy Ride Is An Extremely Raunchy And Hilarious Comedy
Joy Ride is an extremely raunchy and hilarious comedy that takes the mantle of ensemble risky
comedies that at times, leave your mouth on the floor. Joy Ride focuses on two best friends
Audrey and Lolo (Ashley Sullivan and Sherry Cola) end up getting roped up into a trip to Asia,
they end up on gals pal cross-continent trek to find Audrey’s long lost birth mother so she
doesn’t lose a huge business deal.
The chemistry in this movie is superb. Every character has their moment to shine and there’s
rarely a scene where you don’t get a belly laugh. I was shocked at how crazy and bold this
movie got, continually pushing the line to get a laugh. The movie does a good job of getting to
the point and getting to the scenes that really make you chuckle. There are some editing choices where the story flies by some stuff, and it feels a little incomplete, but never at the expense of really enjoying being around for the journey.
I thought that this was a sleeper for this year and certainly a movie worth watching with your
friends some weekend. It’s great to throw on if you want a laugh and really just enjoy some
great actors riffing off each other. The focus on culture was a nice touch and really elevated the movie to another level. While I would say if you’re easily offended, this movie is not for you – if you’re looking for a no holds barred comedy, Joy Ride is a trip worth taking.
Who Doesn’t Want To Wear The Ninja Suit Of Snake-Eyes Or Dress Like The Mandalorian?
Hasbro has had their pulse app out for a while now. It allows for access to items to buy, preorder, and a look into future projects and releases. It also allows for a very cool thing most nerds (a group of which I am a proud card-carrying member) have always wanted, the ability to make yourself into an action figure. I’ve contemplated making one for a time but, I finally got my chance to get my hands on one at Comic-Con this year. Now, of course, I had to wait in line as it was a pretty sought-after item. Who doesn’t want to have themselves wear the ninja suit of Snake-Eyes or dressed like a Mandalorian? I was approached by one of the booth staff as I was showing my nephew all the cool ways we could get him his own MIles Morales action figure with his face (as he’s a massive fan) and invited to take a seat and scan our faces into the Hasbro Pulse app with the help of their awesome team and make this dream a reality. My wife was with us, so of course she got in on the fun too. We scanned our faces in and it was very simple and quick. Then we all selected our figures to add our heads to. We all chose Power Rangers(Me as the Black Ranger, my wife chose the pink ranger and the nephew got the red ranger). Then we were told that we needed to wait about 4-6 weeks and we’d have our custom action figure team in our hands. This was a major part of our Comic-Con adventure and definitely, a memory my wife and nephew won’t forget (as it was both of their first Con ever). Thank you to Hasbro for being so generous(also getting me brownie points that home) and I highly suggest checking out Hasbro Pulse and all the cool stuff it has to offer.
The Last Voyage of the Demeter: Double-knock on wood!
Adapted and written largely from the Captain’s Log chapter of Bram Stoker’s magnum opus Dracula, The Last Voyage of the Demeter tells the story of Dracula’s journey by ship from Carpathia to London, and what happened to her crew in the interim.
So here we are in Bulgaria, middle of 1897, and Captain Eliot (Liam Cunningham) of the Russian schooner Demeter is here to take on some strange cargo from some unknown client and transport it to Carfax Abbey in London. In need of some extra hands, the Captain sends out his capable Second Wojchek (David Dastmalchian) to scout for some, and initially the roving black doctor and aspiring philosopher Clemens (Corey Hawkins) is passed over in favor of more work-roughened men. The adorable cabin boy of the Demeter, Toby (Woody Norman), narrowly misses being crushed by the mysterious dragon-marked crates being loaded onto the ship, saved by Clemens himself and switched out with the superstitious sailors running from the Demeter like they had been poisoned by the sign of Dracul. And now, armed with some nine or so crewmen, Doc Clemens, and Captain Eliot himself, the twenty-four strange what looks like coffins adorned with dragon signs brought mostly safely aboard, the Demeter can make for open water and the Hell that awaits them there.
The duty of showing Clemens around the ship falls to a cheerful Toby, who proudly shows him the living areas, the Captain’s quarters, the very-large cargo hold, the galley and kitchen where the overly-devout Joseph (Jon Jon Briones) cooks the crews meals, the various above decks, even the sails, and the rigging are all at least touched on, and the livestock pens that Toby himself is in charge of, including the handsome good-boy doggy Huckleberry, or just Huck. We the audience get a very clear feeling of what it’s like to actually be aboard the Demeter, just how large she really is, and what living on a ship for months at sea is really like, the reality and practicality and the dangers of it.
Everyone more or less settles in for a hopefully uneventful voyage, taking mess around the common table and exchanging ideas or aspirations for when they arrive in London early thanks to the fair winds, and receive a handsome bonus for their troubles. But that involves being alive and making it to London to spend said bonus and pay, and the coffin crates spilling dark soil from the motherland and disgorging all sorts of other nasty secrets, have some serious plans to the contrary.
First, it’s the livestock, innocent and shrieking in their locked pens as a monster takes great furious bites out of their necks, and of course, the creature just straight up ruins poor doggy Huck. Then there’s the fully grown girl that gets dislodged from an open coffin-crate, covered in bite scars and as pale as death, she eventually starts interacting and talking after several blood transfusions from Doc Clemens, Toby learns her name is Anna (Aisling Franciosi). And then, as the weather turns foul and the winds begin to be a serious problem, the attacks turn toward the remaining humans onboard the Demeter.
Most people these days are familiar with Dracula, that gorgeous cunning vampire Elder who can supposedly transform into a bat or a wolf, seducing women to voluntarily offer up their veins like an unholy sacrament, a being at once beautiful and powerful, but also horrific and murderous if given half a heartbeat to smell your blood. This is not Dracula.
Instead, the creature that hunts the humans occupying the Demeter is an absolute monster, not a single human feature left to it, barely even recognizable as humanoid-shaped, instead boasting not just full-length bat wings but an entire exo-skin of bat membranes that can be used for feeding, a mouth full of needle-like teeth akin to a predator of the deepest darkest parts of the ocean, those yellowed Nosferatu eyes that will not tolerate light in any way, and of course giant pointy bat-ears. This is a thing, a grotesque straight from the depths of Hell, and no amount of glamor magic can make this Dracula (Javier Botet) seem like anything other than what he, is – a parasitic demon who only wants your blood. There is no reasoning with it, no trapping it, not even really any talking to it (kinda hard to talk when your throat has been ripped out), and, like the much more frightening Dracula stories of old, no amount of pure faith behind a symbol does anything other than give false hope.
Coming face to face with an actual abomination does different things to different people. The formerly delightfully foul-mouthed Abrams (Chris Walley) dissolves into a blubbering mess; poor Larsen (Martin Furulund) didn’t even get to see his own death coming; and it turns out Olgaren (Stefan Kapicic) wants to live so badly, he’ll suffer becoming a blank-eyed Renfield if that’s what it takes. All of Cook Joseph’s purported pure faith didn’t stop him from trying to take the coward’s way out and didn’t save him anyway when the sound of unnatural bat wings descended on him. I find that kind of irony delicious. Dear Anna, resigned to her fate to be eternal food for the horror that terrorized her village, nevertheless wants to try and save whoever is left of the Demeter with her own sacrifice, and there aren’t many. Wojchek of course wants to kill Dracula, but for all his logic and solid practical nature, has no experience whatsoever with this sort of thing, and sure doesn’t want to sacrifice the Demeter, the beloved ship he called home that was promised to him by Captain Eliot himself, in order to destroy that demon. Even poor sweet Toby isn’t safe from the creature’s clutches, and what happens to the cabin boy of the Demeter is what finally sends Captain Eliot over the blooming edge. And who could blame him? For this sort of thing to happen during the last voyage of such a proud, solid ship as the Demeter, is some serious bullsh*t.
To leave such a film open for a potential sequel, especially when called the last voyage of something, was a pretty hefty ask, and somehow the filmmakers managed it. I personally think a different version of Van Helsing, the infamous vampire hunter, teaming up with a certain black doctor who nurses a serious grudge against Dracula, could be a kickass sequel. Until then, experience the doomed final journey of the Demeter and her poor crew in all it’s bloodstained glory, in theaters now!