Last week, we shared a conversation with the amazingly talented Vivica A. Fox, detailing some of the topics in her new memoir, Every Day I’m Hustling. This time around, the conversation is more candid and down to earth. Get to know the actress-director- beauty entrepreneur-author on a more personal level this time around.
Allison Kugel: 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.
AK: 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.
AK: 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.”
AK: 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.
AK: 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.
AK: 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.
AK: 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 fifty, 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.
AK: Let’s talk about Empire. I started watching it last week, all four seasons in a row!
Vivica A. Fox: Oh, you binge-watched…
AK: 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.
AK: 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 a while 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.
AK: 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.
AK: 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.
Vivica’s memoir, “Every Day I’m Hustling,” is available everywhere books are sold April 3rd and available for pre-order on Amazon.
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.