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.
Born Vivica Anjanetta Fox on the outskirts of Indianapolis, she went by Angie Fox. She was 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’.
A series of fan favourites films and television shows followed, 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: 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.
Allison Kugel: 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.
Allison Kugel: 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?
Vivica A. Fox: I was introduced to the world of fashion and modelling 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 modelling 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.”
Allison Kugel: 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. And people who inspired me to be who I am would be Diana Ross and Pam Grier.
Allison Kugel: 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.
Allison Kugel: 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.
Allison Kugel: 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. When I clap back, it’s when somebody comes at me or I have to set the record straight.
Allison Kugel: 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. In that way, I am very motherly. 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.
Allison Kugel: 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.
Allison Kugel: 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.
Allison Kugel: 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.
Allison Kugel: Finish these sentences for me. I know I can trust someone when…
Vivica A. Fox: When I’ve truly gotten to know them.
Allison Kugel: My spiritual mission in this life is…
Vivica A. Fox: To be kind, to do unto others and to leave a good mark.
Vivica’s memoir, ‘Every Day I’m Hustling,’ is available everywhere books are sold 3 April 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.
Photo Credit: Blake Little