Kind, conscientious, courageous and refreshingly candid, Ms. Vivica A. Fox has proven that as far as Hollywood careers go, second acts are often the sweetest. The multi-hyphenated 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 is 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.
Allison Kugel: 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.
AK: 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.
AK: 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.
AK: 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.
AK: 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.”
AK: 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.
AK: 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. 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.
AK: 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.
Vivica’s memoir, “Every Day I’m Hustling,” is available everywhere books are sold April 3rd and available for pre-order on Amazon. Next week, we'll get casual with the queen.
Allison Kugel is a syndicated entertainment and pop culture journalist, and author of the book, Journaling Fame: A memoir of a life unhinged and on the record. Follow her on Instagram @theallisonkugel.