With her petite frame and womanly curves, Toronto native Melyssa Ford is fully-equipped to turn heads and make people melt to their knees. After appearing in videos by high-caliber artists such as Jay Z and 112, Ford did something most scantily-clad women in videos seem to fail at. She marketed herself and her name, making it synonymous with the R&B and Hip-Hop music industry. Through appearances in videos, television shows, movies, calendars, and magazines, Ford has used her business flair to cash in on her sex appeal.
After successfully building a career in videos, she is now trading in her video vixen title for Hollywood. After all, if rappers can become actors then why not a video vixen? Double standards are common in this industry, especially for a lady who has Pimpin and Shake Ya Ass on her resume. But Ford is an extrovert of sorts, fully aware of how to use her mind, as well as her body, to get what she wants.
AllHipHop.com Alternatives caught up with Melyssa recently at Christo Fifth Avenue while she was on hand to support the Alliance for Womens Equality. She spoke with us about her career beyond videos, her criticism of Karrine Superhead Steffans, and the double standards that present themselves in the entertainment industry.
AllHipHop.com Alternatives: How did you end up in New York from Toronto?
Melyssa Ford: Okay, Ill make the story short for you. I was doing the Thong Song Remix video in which I was the lead. Sisqo thought I was cool and asked me to come on tour with him. I was in University at the time and I had a job at a Satellite TV company in the Human Resources department. I figured, well, if this was a mistake then Im young enough to make it, so screw it. I called up my employers and said, Im not coming home. They held the job for me, but when I came home I realized I could never go back. So I packed up my stuff, and two months later I jumped on a plane to New York.
AHHA: Did you grow up in Toronto? Tell us about the T-Dot.
Melyssa: People say the T-dot is a baby New York. I am here to dispute that fact. It is not. Theres a significant difference. Its a different country. We have a different economical system. Were a socialist economy in Canada while its more of a capitalistic kind of society out here. That means that Donald Trump exists here, Martha Stewart exists here. Those kinds of people dont exist where Im from. Its more of a community based way of life.
AHHA: People say there arent many opportunities for urban music artists in Canada. Is that true?
Melyssa: Theres not. And that became evidently clear to me when I went back this year to the Much Music Awards. I come back, after making it in the U.S and everybody knows my name, and I hear crickets. When am I going to get some love? I think Ill have to be as big as J.Lo before Toronto catches on.
AHHA: Damn Melyssa, you get no love from your hometown?
Melyssa: Its like a dirty little secret I tell you. It really is. Its not like how it is here. I could go to any city, any state in the U.S and get the royal treatment. Im trying to put Toronto on the map. I sound like Terrell Owens right now when he got kicked off the team!
AHHA: Whats your relationship with director Little X? Did he discover you?
Melyssa: Little X is the one person who I have to say is responsible for me being where I am. What do I think of X? I love him. X is a voice of reason for me whenever Im flipping out about something. He plays by the rules. There are a lot of people in his position that could have taken advantage of somebody in mine, and he didnt. He didnt expect anything in return. I dont think either one of us anticipated where he would be and where I would be. He is a really great friend.
AHHA: Everyone talks about the men in industry and casting couch. Whats your advice for women trying to come up right now?
Melyssa: Oh god, spare yourself - go back to school! Thats my advice. I would never get involved in doing videos right now. Its not the same. The dynamic has changed so drastically. You could hold the argument that women were always objectified, but now they are really objectified. Now its about body parts and how well you can shake them. Its not about the female. Its not about appreciating the female.
AHHA: What would you say to people who claim youve sold out just as much as anyone else?
Melyssa: I would ask them how, how have I sold out? Ive been extremely responsible. When it came to me choosing my video projects, as I got older I started to make much wiser choices in terms of the lyrical content, in terms of my wardrobe, it terms of the scenes that I would shoot. I became very, very responsible to myself because I started to understand the power of perception. And then I really pursued the job at BET to be seen more seriously and to show that this was in fact just a stepping stone, I wasnt just talking out of the side of face. This is my next level and youve got to respect that. Im not going to sit here and justify what I do in terms of my website content and the sexy pictures that I sell and what not, because thats a part of my image. I never claimed to be anything other than what I am.
AHHA: You came out rather harshly criticizing Karrine Steffans book. But wouldnt you agree that its one way of letting people know about how this industry can be?
Melyssa: What I will say about her book is that those were her experiences. And those were her choices. At the end of the day God gave you something that can never be taken away, unless you were some kind of Vietnam prison, and thats called free will. You have the opportunity to make your choices, and sometimes those choices entail sacrifice. There are a lot of people who are really not aware of the sacrifices Ive made in terms of not taking the pay check because of my pride and self-respect. Thats the story that nobody really knows.
AHHA: How does that relate to Karrine? You dont think she made enough of a sacrifice?
Melyssa: I think she was a sacrificial lamb but that was by her choice. We know the difference between right and wrong. Its just about how much we care about them. Its how much self-respect we choose to have for ourselves. I could use my body and go out and sleep with whoever I want, but Im not going to do that because I treasure myself. Im not looking for love in somebodys pants. I have enough sense to know when it comes to men- sex and love do not equal the same thing.
AHHA: How do you fight off all the guys?
Melyssa: When it comes to fighting off guys, I think you get the same amount of respect for people that you have for yourself. I walked around those video sets with my head held high, with my shoulders back, with my posture perfect. I chose who I would speak to and who I wouldnt. Not to say I was a snob but I would more likely be seen talking to the crew than I would to the artist. I didnt want to let [the artist] get it twisted that he could easily take me into his trailer - its not going to happen.
AHHA: How did the management deal with MBK [Alicia Keys management company] come about?
Melyssa: We can shut that down right now. I am not represented by them at all. And I have nothing else to say about them. You can log onto www.melyssafordonline.com, the official Melyssa Ford website, where youll find out who represents me and what Im up to. I no longer work with MBK.
AHHA: What do you want to get into now? Is acting on the horizon?
Melyssa: Acting is definitely on the horizon. I have to admit that when it comes to having had a video model career, the stigma is still very much prevalent. As much respect as I get in the music industry for elevating myself to a different level and being regarded as a business woman, there is still a stigma attached to me in terms of video work where people dont want to give me serious roles in film and television. Thats completely understandable, because usually the women are nameless and faceless in videos. Its really difficult to transcend to that next level beyond BET into more serious roles. And Im not taking it lightly; I go to classes and I do have a private acting coach. I would never want to insult those who have invested in their craft, those who have gone into intense theatrical training, by not taking the same road.
AHHA: So no more videos? What was your last video appearance?
Melyssa: Oh god, like R.Kelly Happy People I think. And that was because it was a request from X. I get asked quite often but unless its a ballad of a really well known R&B star and Im the lead, and the only girl, and the pay check is right, and its going to have heavy rotation, and it could be seen as somewhat of an acting role, then yeah, I would definitely come out of retirement for that. But nothing short of that.