Inspirational life lessons from the actress Vivica A. Fox learned from creating a lasting career completely on her own, through sheer, roll-up-your-sleeves DIY hustle.
Every Day I'm Hustling is a personal book with a message Fox passionately believes in: that you make your own luck, that you never ever wake up in the morning thinking somebody’s going to call you and offer you that part or ask you out on that date that’s going to change your life, that you have to wake up and put on your longest eyelashes and fiercest heels and go out and make your life happen yourself.
The actress provides start-today strategies for success in business and “been there” lessons in love, buttressed with stories from her early family life all the way through to today. Always honest and always funny, Fox also tells behind-the-scenes tales from some of her biggest movies such as Uma Thurman’s life-changing advice during Kill Bill and Will Smith's downtime pep talk on Independence Day. And she maps out exactly what it took to come back with a role on the smash hit Empire and her own frisky show on Lifetime, Vivica’s Black Magic. She also shares her how-is-she-53? secrets to looking your best, no matter the age on your driver’s license.
Related collections and offers
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.80(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
VIVICA A. FOX is an actress, producer, and TV host. After getting her start in soap operas, most famously Generations, she went on to star in Independence Day, Kill Bill, and the hit FOX show Empire. She was also the recipient of an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series for her work on the lifetime series Missing. Vivica lives in Los Angeles.
Read an Excerpt
IF YOU HANG WITH THE BIG BOYS, YOU'RE GONNA GET KNOCKED DOWN
I wanted to look like a goddess.
This spring the beauty magazine Sheen threw me a party naming me Woman of the Year, so I felt I had to look the part. They had flown me from L.A. and put me up in a lovely suite in the Atlanta Marriott Marquis. I still had a few minutes before I needed to head downstairs to the black-tie gala, so I did one last check in the full-length mirror.
My hair was up high and off my face, and my makeup artist Daryon Haylock had given me a smoky eye, glowy skin, and a bold lip. For a big event we always put just a little glitter on my face, a little shimmer to feel regal.
Instead of an LBD, I went with a little black Alexander McQueengown that my girl at Neiman Marcus Beverly Hills, Bani, helped me pick out. A halter-neck, down-to-the-ground stretch-knit, the dress hugged every curve and accented all of my assets. The dress showed off my arms — which you know I had been putting some extra work into defining since I picked the gown — and it had a tasteful cutout to show the cleavage. The girls were sittin' up proper, I thought, running my fingers over the dress's jeweled neckline. This wide collar of sparkling jewels was what sold me on the dress. It reminded me of Audrey Hepburn's diamond necklace in Breakfast at Tiffany's.
"Woman of the Year," I whispered to myself, turning to get the whole look. Usually at this age Hollywood tells women they're going to put you out to pasture. Actually, they don't really tell you — they just make you invisible. If you don't get the hint and go quietly, they will knock you down. Time and again, I have done myself the favor of getting back up.
There was a knock at my hotel room door. It was my big brother Marvin with his wife, Thelma, and their eight-year-old son, Myles Ryan. They live near Atlanta, and one of the reasons I was so excited about the gala was that I could share the night with them.
"Looking good, sister-in-law," Thelma said as I hugged Marvin.
"Right back at'cha, sister-in-law," I said.
Myles Ryan was so cute in his gray suit vest and blue-striped tie. "You ready to do this?" I asked.
My little nephew broke into his megawatt smile. "Yes, Sparkle T.T.," he said. He has always called me that, starting when he was a little baby who couldn't take his eyes off my diamond earrings. I'd kiss his cute face, and he would reach for them and say, "Sparkle."
When we got downstairs, photographers waited at the entrance to the party. I was posing up, really giving a "She has arrived!" performance, and then I started laughing. I noticed Marvin and his family were standing off to the side, not sure what to do.
"Come here," I said, waving them in to stand beside me. "This is about you, too. I wouldn't be here without you, Brotha Marv."
Flashbulbs went off on the four of us, and I drew Myles Ryan closer to me. There was not an ounce of nerves to this beautiful child, and his megawatt smile shone even brighter in the cameras' flash. He loved the attention.
"Look at you," I told him. "You're a star."
Myles looked up at me and got this little glint in his eye that reminded me so much of pictures of me as a kid.
"That's right," I said, assuring him the same way I would tell myself when I was a kid. "We are stars."
Let me tell you a story from back in the day.
I was six years old, two years out from my parents' divorce. My dad was visiting my mom's home in Indianapolis, and we four kids were all with him in the backyard. My mama had a cute little green house, wood-framed and about a thousand square feet of us kids crowding each other. We were two blocks from the projects, nestled in a long row of ranch houses with just-washed cars parked on concrete driveways.
Everlyena Fox had worked two jobs to buy her own home and live a life of independence. My mother had grown up a West Point, Mississippi, farm girl, used to working from sunup to sundown. Her childhood was all about milking cows, shooing pigs, and picking cotton. School was her salvation. She walked the miles back and forth from school like it was a higher calling, and graduated from West Point High School.
I once asked what parts of farm living she enjoyed. She laughed.
"Nothing," she said.
On her own with four kids at thirty-two, my mom brought that same dedication to providing for us. And to proving that she would never, ever have to rely on anyone for a single thing again. Especially my father. William Fox was that city boy who got him a good old country girl and brought her up to Indy. They met when she was twenty-one, while she was visiting her older brother in Elkhart, Indiana.
"She had an extreme beauty and poise," my father, who was eighty at the time, told me, remembering when he and my mother were young. "She was like a Sophia Loren. And I wooed her with my city swag."
And he broke her heart. I'm a daddy's girl to this day, don't get me wrong, but I know he broke her heart.
So whenever Dad visited, my mother made herself scarce, which wasn't hard for her to do when she was working so damn much. Breakups are never easy, as I've learned.
It was summer, and my big brothers, Marvin and Sandy, were playing basketball at the hoop my dad had set up for them. Marvin, our family's quiet go-getter, was ten. Sandy, the most athletic and mellow of our family, was seven. Our big sister, Sugie, already our Mama Bear at eleven, was left to play mother while our mom worked. That day she was fussing over me, telling me not to run around quite so much or I might get hurt. Marvin's nickname for me was Cartwheel Angie, because I was always spinning, running, having fun. My mother used to say, "Now, that one there of mine, oh, she's busy. She always busy." My mother has a Southern voice that flows slow like honey, and I can hear her telling me, exasperated, "Sit your little hyper self there."
Dad was shouting pointers at Marvin and Sandy as I watched them fly around the backyard with the ball. Any time spent with my dad revolved around sports, and back then my brothers always got the lion's share of his time and attention. He'd take them to wrestling matches and Indiana Pacers games at the State Fairgrounds, and the boys would come home thrilled, so pepped up from what they'd seen.
I wanted in.
So I jumped for the ball, yelling, "I want to play, I want to play!" Now, I was a bitty thing, no bigger than a minute, but man, did I take that ball. I was perfection on that court for three, maybe four seconds.
And then Sandy, quiet sweet Sandy, knocked me right over with one jab. I was embarrassed and mad. I ran over to my father, reaching out my arms to be held, a flood of tears about to roll down my cheeks.
"Unh-unh," Dad said. "Ain't no crying. Can't be doing that."
Hold up. I was the baby of the family — didn't everyone have to be sweet to me?
Then he told me something that's carried me through these five decades. "Angie, if you want to hang with the big boys, you're gonna get knocked down. It's on you to get up."
* * *
You're going to get knocked down. And it is on you to get up.
It's a lesson you might not see in most self-help or business books, so let me be the one to tell you: Success does not guarantee the absence of getting your ass kicked.
The next time I went in to play with my brothers, damn straight they knocked me down. But I got up. Playing with the big boys made me a better player. And I kept playing with them until I could beat them fair.
Dad started taking me along to Pacers games, and he played basketball with me when he visited. He worked with me on my jump shot until I could nail it and do the Fox family proud. I also got to tag along with my brothers to the Coliseum to see wrestling matches. This was the WWA, an Indianapolis-based early version of the WWF. No frills but plenty of drama. Our favorite was Dick the Bruiser, a bald-headed monster who took on some cocky up-and-comer every week. He'd demolish the new guy as we cheered.
I was trying to fit in so much with my brothers that they taught me all the wrestling moves, from the backbreaker to the headlock. I got put in so many choke holds. If I was cute with them, I got punished. I think that's what made me so tough.
As I was growing into a jock like my brothers, it made me very different from my big sister, Sugie. My sister will tell it to you like it is, but she's always had such a sweetness to her that no one called her by her real name, Alecia. It was "Shhhuuuugie," drawn out like that feeling of eating a piece of pie after a religious fast — or a juice cleanse, whatever you believe in.
Mom made it clear Sug was in charge, and I think that was hard on her as a kid. I know she was proud that my mother felt she could trust her. But Sug had to alternate between being a little mama telling us what to do and a regular teenager who was discovering boys. The Foxes had a reputation for being good-looking, and I thought she was the most beautiful girl in the world. As I followed her lead in all things, she taught me how to be cool. She was popular, and because she was stuck watching me, she would let me tag along with her friends.
One Friday night I went along with her to USA East, the big roller-skating rink in Indianapolis. "We're gonna teach you how to skate," she told me. USA East was a wonderland on Friday nights, the lights down low with spotlights of color dotting the floor. I was there with all these big kids roller-dancing with their hands in the air to great music like Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered." I wanted so bad to be as good as her out there, but I wiped out again and again.
"I keep falling," I said to her the umpteenth time I landed on my ass.
"Falling is part of it, Angie," she said. "You'll get it."
Now I hear the echo of what my dad taught me about getting back up. Sug was just as much an influence on me. We shared a bedroom and the boys had their room. I let Sug have the big closet and I took the little one. I always gave way for Sug, especially once she got ajob. She started working at Target and needed to dress on point. But, oh, I always stole her clothes. She hated that. I was in such a rush to grow up that I didn't care if I drowned in them. I was a good sneak, but one time I let my friend Sheila Bee borrow one of Sug's cowl-neck sweaters, back when cowl-necks were really in. "She ain't gonna know," Sheila told me. Then her fool ass got makeup on the collar. Sugie knew all right, and beat my butt but good.
Sugie cooked for us, all the things that Mama taught her, and she always stretched the meal with tons of rice. She also made hot-water cornbread exactly to my mama's Mississippi standards. Now, I'm not what I call a "cooker," but I saw Sugie and Mama make it enough times to tell you how.
SUG'S HOT-WATER CORNBREAD
Now, all families are different. This is how Sug does it. Some people like them a bit sweeter and they put in sugar. Sug is sweet enough.
1½ cups Aunt Jemima Self-Rising White Corn Meal
About 2/3 cup of boiling, scalding, super hot water
Grease or lard — you could also use leftover bacon fat
Get that grease or lard nice and hot in the pan. Use enough.
Meanwhile, mix the corn meal in a bowl with the egg. Slowly add the hot water, stirring with the back of a fork until it's cakey like Play-Doh. If it's too loose and mushy, you put in too much water. Just add more corn meal. Too dry, add more water.
Spoon or pour desired amount pancake-style into the hot grease or lard. Flip them when you see the edges begin to brown. When both sides are golden brown, you're done.
The cornbread is so nice on a plate of black-eyed peas, which Sug always cooks up on New Year's Day. It's a traditional food that welcomes a prosperous new year. Here's how she does it:
SUG'S CROCK-POT BLACK-EYED PEAS
First things first: Soak the beans overnight. It's worth it. Nobody suddenly says, "I'm going to make black-eyed peas this instant." No, you plan for it. It's an event.
16-ounce bag of dry black-eyed peas (soaked overnight)
1 pound of meat (salt pork, smoked ham shank, smoked turkey wing, turkey leg, etc.)
1 small onion, diced
Lawry's Seasoned Salt to taste
Before you soak the beans, do a quick sort-through to make sure there are no little stones or rotten beans. Soak the beans overnight, leaving a few inches of water covering them. Once the beans have soaked, drain and rinse them.
Place the meat in the Crock-Pot, then add in the beans and diced onion. Pour in enough water to cover everything. Liberally salt with Lawry's.
Set the Crock-Pot to low for about 4 hours. Taste and add more Lawry's if needed. Discard the bones and break up the meat. Serve and welcome abundance.
As you welcome abundance with gratitude, know that I am so grateful for the blessing that is my sister. I adore Sug. She loves with all of her heart. Every single time I play a mother, whether I'm in the kitchen in Soul Food or running through the desert in Independence Day, you can see some Sug up on that screen. I even had a big roller-skating scene in Soul Food during a flashback. And yes, that was me falling on cue. More than that, in Soul Food, I used the way she talks to her beautiful daughter, Sharday, to capture that mix of love, concern, and bemusement when I had to sweetly keep my on-screen son in line. In fact, after she saw it, Sug called me.
"Angie, you were playing me in that movie, weren't you?"
"Yes, I was, Sugie." I wasn't sure how she would take it. "You inspired me because you have always been the glue that holds the family together."
"Well, you did a good job," she said. "You skated real nice, too."
That meant the world to me. Growing up, Sugie definitely became my surrogate mom. She provided structure and accountability in a house that could have gone kind of wild if she had shrunk from the responsibility of caring for us. When we speak as adults, I can give her all the gratitude I have. But back then I took her for granted. At a young age, she was not asked to be our shadow parent. It was assumed she would step in. Sug had to not only demonstrate maturity to us, her three siblings, but also be an example of leadership in the absence of parents. Through her day-today actions, she taught me that you can say "family comes first" all you want, but you have to do the work to back it up. She's still doing it to this day, keeping all of us "kids" tied together no matter where we go in the world. Andnow she and her daughter have the close relationship I wish that my mother and me could have.
* * *
A little while ago, a camera crew went with me back to Indy, wanting to see where I grew up. I took them to see my mom, who still lives in my childhood home. And this rude woman from the crew straight up said, "Why do you have your mother still living in such a little house?"
She doesn't know Everlyena Fox. Here's the answer every time I ask my mom if she'd like to move: "When I separated from your father, my brother helped me get the down payment. I bought this house, Angie. I worked hard to pay it off, and this is my house. And I like it here."
That person from the crew just saw a three-bedroom house with one bathroom and a little driveway in the middle of what she considered nowhere. She was looking down on the woman that I have looked up to my whole life. I say this to you and I mean it: Don't let anybody dim the shine of your accomplishments. If they're not paying your bills, why in the hell would they validate your worth? I watched my mom work so hard to have the money to raise four kids by herself without ever again depending on a man. She was always juggling two jobs — a nursing gig here, a school thing there. When she was home, my mother didn't have time to be anything but a disciplinarian, making sure that we were clean, getting good grades, and always going to church.
We lived across the street from our church, Breeding Tabernacle. My mom's feeling was, "If those doors are open, y'all is gonna have your asses in there." Sho' nuff, as she would say, and with no lip. "Go on over there." If we ever said we were bored, her response was, "Are you being lazy? Because I don't have no lazy children."
My happiest memories of my mother are in the kitchen on the Saturdays she could be home. She would be in there cooking all daywhile she put us to work cleaning the house. She had everyone up and at 'em with Pine-Sol and bleach, scrubbing everything. To this day, I have to have that Pine-Sol smell in my house. That's how I know it's clean. But now I have a housekeeper, okay?
Even with four kids, my mother stretched the generosity of her heart to take in another from time to time. My dear cousin Dana from South Bend used to spend the summers with us. We were born two days apart, and she was like the baby sister I never got to have. Mom has this ceramic set she uses as decoration, hanging in the kitchen for all to see. A giant fork and spoon arranged with the Lord's Prayer on a plaque in the center. It's like Jesus's coat of arms, I guess. We weren't supposed to even touch it.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Every Day I'm Hustling"
Copyright © 2018 Vivica A. Fox.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part 1 The Start of Our Hustle
Lesson 1 If you hang with the big boys, you're gonna get knocked down. 3
Lesson 2 Get your squad together-you'll need them. 21
Lesson 3 Don't let anyone work harder than you. 37
Lesson 4 Knock on success's door, honey. Hell, kick it in. 57
Part 2 Find Your Dream-and Actually Make It Happen
Lesson 5 You can't aim if you don't have a target. 83
Lesson 6 You are the brand. 97
Lesson 7 Remember how to have a good time. 111
Lesson 8 Turn your haters into congratulators. 115
Part 3 A Troubleshooting Guide to the Heart
Lesson 9 If you chase that wedding ring, you're gonna trip. 129
Lesson 10 The devil is fine, and that's how he gets you. 137
Lesson 11 Stop falling in love with a six-pack and a smile. 165
Part 4 Look Amazing at Any Age or Budget
Lesson 12 Dress for the life you deserve. 177
Lesson 13 Don't get older, get better. 185
Lesson 14 The Change of Life is gonna come. So get in front of it. 193
Part 5 Maintaining Success as You Grow Through Change
Lesson 15 You will want to give in. Don't. 199
Lesson 16 If you own the risk, you own the reward. 215
Lesson 17 You pay the cost to be the boss. 227
Lesson 18 It's fun to be the Head Chick in Charge. 235
Lesson 19 Go far, but don't forget where you came from. 241
These are a Few of My Favorite Things 249