The multifaceted Vivica A. Fox
y Kimberly Bailey-Tureaud
As my interview with Vivica A. Fox approaches, I take some time to reflect on her accomplishments in Hollywood. Even a brief review of her résumé reveals a multifaceted approach to show business success: The actress has starred in productions ranging from the daytime soap “The Young and the Restless” and the big-screen drama “Soul Food” to the action blockbuster “Independence Day” and director Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” movies.
Fox’s down-to-earth demeanor puts us both at ease as the conversation begins, and we’re soon chatting like old girlfriends about the actress’ career journey. Hers is a uniquely insider perspective on how a closely-knit clique of black actresses has achieved longevity in an industry known for heavy turnover in the spotlight.
“The key to longevity in Hollywood is versatility,” Fox said. “You just can’t do one thing in this business and get pigeonholed. I do comedies, dramas, and now the whole new world of reality TV has jumped off. I am proud of my new TV Land show, ‘The Cougar.’ It is classy and fun to host.”
On that reality series, a 40-something woman looks for love in a group of men in their 20s. Fox, who famously dated rapper Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, is gratified by the choices enjoyed by modern women. “I was attracted to host the show because of the message to women to consider their options in love,” she said. “I want to enlighten and empower women that if you meet someone great, do not stray away because they might be a different age. There are a lot of women in Hollywood who are having successful relationships with younger men — such as Halle Berry, Demi Moore and many others. Heads used to turn when people would see an older woman with a younger man. Now, people are saying, ‘Why not?’ ”
Asked about her own headline-grabbing romance with a younger man, Fox was candid but dismissive of the fascination it generated in the press. “Yes, the media wouldn’t let it go,” she said of the relationship with Jackson. “We broke up three years ago, and many people thought we were married and got a divorce. We really only dated for three months, but people were fascinated with the relationship and they still are. He is a great friend and a wonderful businessman who I learned a lot from.”
Speaking with Fox, one gets the impression that the black Hollywood community remains close-knit, full of stars determined to support one another in all their endeavors. “We get together a lot when it comes to sporting events and baby showers,” she revealed. “Will Smith and (Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs) give the best parties, and we make it a point to celebrate each other. What I love so much about Will is that he greets you the same every time I see him — with a big hug.”
The close friendships shared by leading black actresses was also evident when Berry mentioned Fox and others in her best actress acceptance speech at the 2002 Academy Awards.
“The community of African-American actresses is very close,” said Fox. “My girlfriend Regina King is starting to direct films. Also, Jada Smith and (Queen) Latifah — we all try to support each other. I am proud of my girls from the cast of ‘Set It Off.’ Latifah, who is one of our top producers, (her) films have grossed hundreds of millions of dollars. And Jada is producing her own TNT series, ‘HawthoRNe,’ and was the executive producer for ‘The Secret Life of Bees,’ which starred Alicia Keys and Jennifer Hudson. The sisters are definitely giving each other opportunities and employing each other.”
Still, I wondered whether the relatively few roles available to black actresses in some way forces African-American performers to work together often. “Well, it is both a necessity and a luxury for us to work together and have each other on speed dial,” Fox added. “When you have a project and have to get big investors to put up the financing, their first question is, ‘What other top celebrities do you have involved?’ It is great when you can call on your friend to make a cameo or play one of the roles. This is why you have to have good relationships. That is key.”
For a woman who has enjoyed a number of onscreen romances, a natural question arises: Who is the best leading man Fox has worked with? “It has to be Big Willy from Philly,” she replied. “Will Smith is the best by far, and I so enjoyed working with him on … ‘Independence Day.’ He is so sweet and still makes sure he and Jada include me in their events and special occasions. Also, I have to say Morris Chestnut — forever chocolate — and Larenz Tate (are) fabulous to work with.”
Having turned 45 last month, Fox appears more determined than ever to take on challenges in a variety of arenas.
“I want to make sure I produce quality entertainment for all to enjoy,” she said. “I don’t think I want to direct, because that is a six-month process and I can do three and four different projects in that time. Also, I am a sports fanatic and would like to be like Jayne Kennedy back in the day and interview different sports figures. I also love fashion and would like to have my own Foxy fashion line. (Being) the African-American Jaclyn Smith is also appealing to me. Representing brands in clothing, beauty, and fragrance for the African-American female is a niche that is not presently taken.”