Vivica Fox has been trending all week but for an all out social media war with 50 Cent not for her acting career which is really a much more fascinating journey to study. What happened to Fox’s promise as one of the great upcoming black actresses in films like Independence Day, Set It Off, and Soul Food? How did she get relegated to TV One original films and reality TV?
The beef with Fifty stemmed from Fox’s interview on Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live!, where she insinuated her ex-boyfriend might be gay. Fiddy took to his Instagram to bite back at his ex in a series of now deleted posts that called out her supposed “really bad boob job” and said she thought he was gay because he “let her lick his a–.” (Sigh) To round out the insults, 50 brought actress Halle Berry into the mix.In the post, preserved by The Shade Room, Fifty wrote, “B—h, remember when you told me f— Halle Berry and you could have played all the roles she played better than her? And I just looked at you like what the f— kind [of] s–t did you take? LMAO.”
No one is condoning Fox’s implications that 50 Cent is gay on national TV, but the “memory” that Fiddy recalled about Halle Berry (which Vivica denied on Twitter) is an interesting one because, well, Vivica could have presumably played most of Halle’s roles better. If given the opportunities, could Vivica Fox have had the A-list career that Berry has attempted to maintain?
No!! Yet another lying comment he made!! REACHING!! SMDH 🙁 https://t.co/Wkh1AoT3NY
— Vivica A. Fox (@MsVivicaFox) November 9, 2015
The whole Vivica-Halle anecdote scratches the surfaces of a much bigger issue in Hollywood. That only *one* black female movie star can exist in Tinsel Town. That woman has been Berry for the better part of the last ten years, after being the first black woman to win an Academy Award for Best Leading Actress for Monster’s Ball in 2002. In her acceptance speech, Berry shared the historic moment with her peers saying, “It’s for the women who stand beside me, Jada Pinkett; Angela Bassett; Vivica Fox, and, it’s for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has now been opened.” The speech was powerful but no other black woman has won the award. (Gabourey Sidibe and Viola Davis have each been nominated once for Lead Actress since, as well as child actor, Quvenzhané Wallis.)
While Reese Witherspoon, Jessica Chastain, and Jennifer Lawrence can all simultaneously ride their career highs, black actresses are left out in the cold, often in competition for the few, if any, supporting roles in a male-dominated industry. While Fox’s alleged comments about Berry might seem anti-woman, it’s hard to be mad at an actress of color expressing her frustration to her then boyfriend.
In 2013, on Oprah’s Next Chapter, Oprah had a round-table discussion with Davis, Alfre Woodard, Phylicia Rashad, and Gabrielle Union about what it means to a black actress in Hollywood. Union recalled being a self-described “mean girl” earlier in her career, tearing other actresses of color down because of the stiff competition. “Because there’s only so much,” she told Oprah of the roles out there for black women.
In 2015, a post-Golden Age of TV climate, it’s a good time for black women on television. Davis won the first Emmy for Leading Actress in a Drama Series for How To Get Away With Murder in a category that also included Taraji P. Henson for Empire. Shows like Orange is the New Black, Scandal, Being Mary Jane, and Getting On feature three-dimensional black female characters. NBC will air its annual live musical event this year with the all-black show The Wiz featuring Queen Latifah and Mary J. Blige. It’s an exciting time for diversity, if you will, on television but where are the black female movie stars? Where are the women that were “standing beside” Berry the night she won her Oscar?
They also have moved to television. Pinkett-Smith is a series regular on Gotham and Bassett now chews scenery in meaty, supporting roles on Ryan Murphy’s anthology series American Horror Story, even Berry headlined her own show, Extant, for two seasons. Vivica Fox’s career, however, has been a different series of ups and downs.
After being one of Hollywood’s brightest black up-and-comers of the ’90s, the Kill Bill actress, while steadily working, has found herself relegated to mostly low-budget films. A memorable stint on Celebrity Apprentice, where she beefed with Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Kenya Moore, and a gig as host of a Mob Wives reunion reminded audiences that she didn’t take herself too seriously. (She’s very funny, actually.) Fox seemed to be a natural for the reality genre, even coining a catchphrase with “Bye, Trick,” but it seemed beneath her talents.
Fox’s beefs may make her relevant now but they certainly overshadow a woman who was once able to get lost in a character. From her physicality in Quentin Tarintino’s Kill Bill: Volume 1 to her subtle work in Set It Off, this is a woman who can act.
Can her upcoming role as Cookie’s sister on Empire remind audiences of that? Can this be the role that allows her to deliver melodrama and comedy with the pathos that she is so capable of? With Lee Daniels hinting that a spin-off about Cookie’s family could be in the works, hope is not lost that like, Kerry Washington; Henson; and Davis, Vivica Fox can use television to get herself back on the A-list, right where she belongs.