“Never take. Always give.”
The all-around mega-talented, Vivica A. Fox, or “Angie” Fox to those who’ve known her since her days in Indianapolis, is kind, motivating and straightforward in her approach to life. She is an entrepreneur and in a more urban vernacular, she is a bona fide “hustler.” All one has to do to appreciate her talent is take note of her bestselling memoir, Every Day I’m Hustling. With her own syndicated talk show, “Face the Truth,” and various media projects with Lifetime network, Ms. Fox has entertainment industry longevity that most people can only dream of.
For our inaugural issue of SoulVision Magazine, we sat down with Ms. Fox to discuss her early years at home and in her career, her inspirations, and her hopes for 2019 and beyond. She provides an uncut look at what needs to be done to succeed in the entertainment industry and in life.
Vivica, thank you so much for agreeing to spend some time with us for our inaugural issue of SoulVision Magazine. It’s going to highlight you, Debra Martin Chase, Quincy Jones and a few others. We have a few questions we would like to ask. Our aim is to to help people appreciate your journey to become Vivica A. Fox. Let’s start off with your life at home as a child.
Well first of all, I want to say congratulations to you guys on starting up this magazine and I think that it is a wonderful platform to celebrate African Americans that are doing so well and it’s amazing that two of the people that you mentioned are people that I know and have had the wonderful opportunity of working with. Debra Martin Chase—We did the series Missing together. I’ve known her for many, many years and she’s just an awesome lady. Quincy Jones—I’ve known him forever. I always see him at events and he’s just always an amazing, energy force when you see him. So, I’m glad that I’m in good company for your inaugural issue.
Becoming Vivica A. Fox started years ago when I left home at seventeen. I remember in my senior year of high school, everyone was saying what they were going to do. Some were going to get married. Some were going to college. I had decided that I was going to go to California and I was going to become a movie star!
My nickname was “Angie”—that is what the A is for ‘cause growing up no one could pronounce “Vivica.” I used to be called Vivika, Vivicha—all kinds of stuff but not Vivica; so I always made people comfortable and was just like, “Call me Angie.” It was all good. I had a wonderful childhood growing up in Indianapolis, Indiana.
I had a beautiful Christian momma that raised four kids, basically by herself. Our father was in our life but my mother did most of the raising. We spent the summers with our Dad. I lived across the street from Breeding Tabernacle Church, so we were always in church, which made my momma happy. I graduated from Arlington High School. I am the youngest child of four. I have an older sister Alicia “Sugie” Williams, two brothers—Marvin Fox and William Fox, and I was the baby girl. I played sports: basketball, volleyball, track and I was a cheerleader. So, I’ve always been a Type A personality.
Can you still hoop a little bit?
Oh yes! Are you kidding me? Child, I can still do a cartwheel, the splits and jump up and shoot a jump shot on you!
When you were growing up, who or what was your biggest inspiration?
I was in love with Michael Jackson. I thought Michael Jackson was just the cat’s meow. Michael and Diana Ross; I always said what a huge influence they were on me. I remember going to see them in my teenage years and had never seen such dynamic and amazing African-American talent. Diana Ross—I’ve never seen a black woman with hair and nails and one that changed clothes six times. Michael Jackson—just a dynamic performer so I was just like, “Where do they live?” I would also say that my late Aunt, Madame King, is a major inspiration. She was one of the first and few African-American females that owned her own beauty salon on the South Side of Chicago. She was the first one to cut my hair and put me in a fashion show. So those three people were an inspiration but I would say Madame King was my biggest inspiration. I was bit by the entertainment bug early.
Thinking back to that young actress as you were coming along, what was the most important lesson you think you learned on the road to becoming Vivica Fox?
For me it would be learning to get out of my own way. It was the biggest lesson that I had to learn. You have to realize where you are in your life and your chapter, not to force things. This generation nowadays is so used to this “insta-fame” that they have no idea that building a career that has longevity takes time. You have to realize that what is for you will be for you. You have to work towards it and know that when it’s your turn, that it’s your turn. So for me, I used to be so impatient and I wanted everything to happen so fast. Trust me, it can’t happen too fast because life goes by even quicker. My biggest life lesson was learning to get out of my own way and I always pass that on to young talent who ask me, “How did you make it?” I say, “I had to learn how to get out of my own way. Just learn to know my place, play my position and stay in my lane.”
Very well said. As you think about your television roles your movie roles, do you have a favorite character that you’ve played?
Gosh, I’ve been blessed to be in a lot of films. One of my favorite roles was Frankie—everyone loves Frankie from Set it Off. Set it Off has become such a classic film that everyone is like, “Why did they kill y’all! Y’all could have done a sequel!” But some things need to just be a classic and there doesn’t need to be a sequel. I also have to say Shanté from Two Can Play That Game because I’ll never forget that night getting out of the limousine at the Premiere and looking up at the marquee and seeing “Two Can Play That Game Starring Vivica A. Fox.” I was like, (astonished) “Wow!” So if I could pick my top two, it would be Frankie from Set It Off and Shanté from Two Can Play That Game.
Is there a particular formula or some kind of criteria that you use to make your decision about what roles to choose versus what roles not to choose?
Let’s talk about my passion. How much I come through and how much I’m dedicated. There are two people who are really responsible for that. The first person would be my very first acting coach, Sheila Wills. Sheila and I met during the soap opera Generations, and that was my very first acting role.
She was on the show and I remember she came to me and said, “You know, you’re very talented but you got to learn to sharpen your chops” and I was just kinda like, “Wow!” This can be a business where people will just let you fall on your face so they can look good and make you look like an amateur. She did not let that happen. When the show ended she became my acting coach. She was really instrumental in me getting a lot of roles. She would say things like, “You have got to understand that when you go into a room, you think you’re cute. There are going to be ten other cute girls just as cute as you and they think they are cute too. So you got to show up prepared, look the part, act the part and leave no room for doubt that no one else should get this part.” And so, I would get to a point when I was going for a lot of roles and I would get really close and it would be given to a bigger name and she was like, “Vivica just stay ready because when that role is right for you and if you’re not ready, you can’t blame anyone but yourself.” She would always tell me to work out, take care of myself, have a good attitude, be prepared, be professional. I commend her for that.
Then my passion, once I really started acting regularly, was amplified when I worked with F. Gary Gray, who was the director of Set It Off. Gary was one of the most serious, professional directors I’ve ever worked with. In rehearsals, he wanted you to be on time. He wanted you to be dedicated. I remember one time we came back from lunch—Me, Jada, and Queen Latifah. We would be 3 to 4 minutes late and he would look at us like, “Y’all think I’m playing with y’all. Y’all better respect this now.”
Oh yeah. He was like, “People think they are going to come to the movie and laugh at y’all because it’s four girls supposedly robbing banks. So they think, ‘Oh wow, let me go see this, it’s going to be wack.’ ”
People walked out of that movie theater in tears and it’s because he was so dedicated from rehearsals to when we wrapped the film. I could really say my work ethic came from my first acting coach, Sheila Wills and one of my amazing directors, F. Gary Gray.
Wow. You know what, I often tell the team, you gotta do the work and then the magic happens. God shows up and I think that even your career really exemplifies that. In addition to the modeling, the acting, you’ve also been an entrepreneur. You’ve got beauty products. You have a TV show. Is being an entrepreneur as fun as acting?
What drives me crazy is that when you meet people and they say, “Oh, I want to be an actor.” and you say to them, “What are you doing to become an actor? Are you taking drama classes? Are you studying? What are you doing?” We make it look so effortless that people just think, “Oh, I can do that!” Not realizing that you gotta hit marks, gotta have a good memory, you gotta cry on cue, there’s a whole lot of different dynamics: love scenes; all kinds of stuff that’s really uncomfortable but it’s an art form. I always tell people as you said, do the work. Learn to be a triple threat—learn to sing, act and dance—because you never know what the role may require. You have to do the work. And just know that it doesn’t happen overnight. A lot of people say, “Oh such and such was an overnight sensation. Well, most of the time that’s many a long night that it took to become that overnight sensation.”
You have a recurring role on Empire, a hit TV show with an all time high rating called “Face the Truth,” you have a wonderful book—Every Day I’m Hustling. How do you balance all of that?
In my book, I share the secrets of my success and also with “Face the Truth,” I’m helping people live their best lives. I am so blessed to have this amazing chapter that’s happening in my life right now and that’s because I have built my “dream squad.” You have got to have people that look out for you. I have an excellent publicist, BJ Coleman, who looks and finds opportunities for me. He’s the reason I got my book deal for Every Day I’m Hustling. He would say, “Hey, time for you to do a book” and I would say, “Wait, I got some more living to do.” He would then say, “Nope, we’re going to do a motivational memoir. You are a woman in your 50’s that’s having an amazing resurgence in your career. Share those secrets of your success. Let folk know that you understand how hard it is to achieve success, but more importantly, how hard it is to maintain success for as long as you have a shot.”
My business partner, Lita Richardson, who is my entertainment lawyer and best friend, always saw opportunities for me. When I started green lighting movies back to back to back, she would say, “Nope, now we’re going to get a producer credit” and I would ask, “Well, how can we do that?” and she would say, “Because your name is green lighting movies so that means you now get a producer credit and another check” which was magic to my ears.
My wonderful agent, Sheila Legette, is always out there hustling: looking for roles for me, looking for opportunities for me. My executive assistant, Darren Bond, who is also a savvy business partner is on the team. He is someone that I’ve known for over twenty years and is always out there looking for gigs. You want people on your team that are not takers. You want people that are contributing to your career and not just sitting there waiting to get paid and just like, “Well, what we doing today? ” like, “Na, well what are you doing to help us do something today? Help me and we all win!”
Well, I’m going to combine these next two questions because I think you’re touching on something really inspiring and I love the idea of building a “dream squad.” There are times when we all need to take a break and relax. But what I also hear coming out is some faith in action. How do you relax when you’re not “working” and where does your faith come in?
Wow, I definitely had to learn that because I recently had been working just so much that I got a little sick and that was the Lord telling me, “Slow it down now. Go on and rest now. I know you’re working.” But I’ve always been a Type A personality and you gotta strike while the iron is hot but you’ve also have to find that balance of when to take time off or rejuvenate and take care of yourself. I always tell people, when you start working a lot, there is nothing wrong with saying “no.” Everything is not for you and you got to learn when it’s like, “Nope. I need time off . . .” because people will run you into the ground and then when they’ve received what they wanted from you and you’re over there tired and worn out then what do you do? So, you’ve gotta learn sometimes to say “no.”
My time off for me is going to the spa, sleeping, taking some vacations with the family—going to Jamaica. I’ve celebrated my birthday at Montego Bay, Jamaica about four or five years in a row. Next, I want to go to Europe and take other trips. So, you’ve got to learn to balance that out and have some fun time and some work time. If not, you’re just going to run out of gas.
Faith—My mom raised us in church. I’m always so grateful. I know I’m a blessed child of God. The reason why all of these blessings are coming upon me right now is because I’m not just a taker. I give back. I support my community. I always put God first and I help others. So you’ve got to find the balance in that as well. Don’t just be a taker from your community. Contribute back into your community and support others.
Wow, Vivica those words are powerful! This interview is going to be a blessing to a lot of people. I totally agree with what you are saying. When we give back and work together, there is nothing we can’t do. Anyone from the outside looking in, would say “she’s got it all.” Is there anything missing right now for Vivica Fox?
Honestly, right now I’m so fulfilled in this wonderful place that I’m at. I’ve got six beautiful godchildren. I’ve kind of created my own extended family that I enjoy. The next chapter—something that I may look for in life again—is probably to direct in the future and then to possibly fall in love again. But I don’t feel less of a woman because I don’t have them right now. I’ve directed a video before and I’ve been married before and I’ve done love before, but I’m taking the time to do me and I’m really happy right now. I’ve got a wonderful extended family with friends and life and my career is great. So right now all the seeds that I’ve planted are all blossoming and have created this wonderful floral bouquet of success—I’m taking the time to smell and enjoy all these fragrances.
There you go and they smell good. You got a bouquet going! I have one last official question for the interview: Is there any advice you want to give to the next generation of actors and actresses or would—be authors and entrepreneurs? Anything you want to tell them about becoming who God has blessed them to be?
Yes. I love to tell people that are wanting to become the next Vivica A. Fox or the next Barack Obama or Michelle Obama to become successful—we’ve been saying it the whole interview—you have to do the work. You have to make good choices. Please know that the choices that you make today affect your tomorrow and your future. Make good choices. Do the work. Get your education. Be good to people. Try to be kind to others and know that if you really want to build a career, it takes time. There are no shortcuts to success. Do the work so that when all of it happens you can claim it all; that you did it. Do you.
Makeup Artist: Nordia Cameron-Cunningham, @nordia_ffaceit
Hairstylist: Micah Cook, @micahmiami
Stylist: Toni Lowe, @toniposh
Photographer: Zavier Deangelo, @Zavierdeangelo