Miami Living Magazine

Willa Ford

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COVER STORY "And, she always hangs out with thugs. She's just an idiot when it comes to choosing men. Aren't we all?" she adds with a laugh. Though the 2nd season of Magic City has already begun filming, Willa is still in the dark about Janice's future. What she does know is that it's crucial that the show pull in a strong audience this coming season, since it's such a costly show to produce (due to the manufacturing of a set that illustrates Miami in the '50s). "Jeffrey said it best. The first day I was onset he's like, 'What'd you do today? Why are you all wet?' I was like, 'Oh, we just sunk a T-Bird, no big deal,'" she says breezily. "He goes, 'First T.V. show with a movie budget I've ever been on.'" The aforementioned car accident is perpetuated by a lascivious act performed by Janice. "I tried so hard to change people's perception of me and the first thing I do on this show is give road head," Willa casually reveals. "I'm like, Oh (pause).You gotta do, whatcha gotta do." Following suit with the list of television shows created for premium channels alike (HBO, Showtime…), Magic City offers up the requisite risqué behavior and flesh flashing. "There's nudity in everything now," Willa notes. "Shameless… those kinds of shows — good writing, good things like this, I'll do it, and I don't have any problem with it. I just won't do gratuitous-anything anymore, just 'cause I'm older now. I get it now." The words flow from her mouth fluidly, unabashedly – conveying a confidence that stems from truly knowing oneself. Seemingly untainted by the limelight, I am enthralled by her unassuming manner and progressiveness. Willa embraces the sexy persona she's been associated with since her debut on the pop princess circuit. She has admittedly become more reserved in the last ten years, but confesses that she doesn't have a problem pulling up that character. "All of us have that side, when we go out at night, get drunk and ridiculous, that's your inner Willa Ford coming out." From saucy singer, to hot host / VJ, to shaking her hips on Dancing with the Stars, sharing the stage with the Las Vegas Pussycat Dolls, and shedding her clothes for Playboy — each edgy endeavor amplified Willa's palpable sex appeal. But when it came to acting, being Willa Ford slightly jeopardized her range with casting directors. "I would go into casting director's offices and they would expect me to come out guns blazing. What do you expect — me to wear booty shorts everywhere I go?" she quips. "For the longest time I had trouble getting into the room for the girl-next- door." Willa has worked at being taken seriously in the acting world, and honed her craft with classes, but essentially, acting comes organically to her. "I have no problem pulling up my inner demons in 2 minutes and just putting 'em on the table and being able to use them. That's how I knew I had the gift to do this." The performer gene is embedded in her DNA, and was realized at the tender age of 5. Wanting to be just like Cyndi Lauper so badly, she took matters into her own hands and lopped off half of her hair (to her mother's chagrin and hilarity of her older sisters) to mirror the singer. These days, Willa is focusing all her energy on acting and is amped to audition for the imminent pilot season. "I've been taking care of personal stuff, sort of re-launching my way into the world, for lack of a better term… We'll see what happens," she breathes positively. This is not to say that music is out of the question. Willa continues to write on the side and jam out with her guitarist, and when she's ready will return to it. Because of everything she has experienced so early on in life, Willa has grown much since her initial move (a few years back) to the City of Angels. This was a time she recalls as a little tough, and an experience that made her a bit of a recluse. Since her recent return, Willa feels that she is in a good place now, among a great group of "legit" girlfriends this time. "Some people are like, L.A.'s so phony. But that's because you haven't met the right people yet," she shares. The new environment is a welcome change and has also spurred her creative juices — and her untouched abode is the perfect blank canvas. When I ask her what she'd be doing if she wasn't in entertainment, without missing a beat states: an interior decorator. "No brainer," she adds matter-of-factly. "I could show you a picture." She scrolls through her iPhone for a photo. "All my friends try to get me to do their stuff too," beams Willa, who goes on to describe her design style as Parisian / French country. "Ok, don't judge, 'cause you know I just moved into my house, but this will kind of give you an idea." Willa leans over to show me a snapshot of her cozy-looking living room. "It's very eclectic. It's vintage mixed with newer pieces. I don't really discriminate. The same thing with clothing — one day I will dress like I'm country. The next day, I'm rock. The next day, I'm in a complete vintage getup. I don't have a select style. When I see people on those things: Get Kate Middleton's Style... I'm like, 'I could never be the person they picked.' I can't decide. I love it all too much," she breathes wistfully, following up with a sip of her cocktail. With autumn on the horizon, Willa is scheduled to return to Miami come October for a cruise. Vacations to South Beach come at least once a year as a couple of her girlfriends reside here. "I do a little going out. What I mostly do is sit on the beach and rejuvenate myself. As an Aquarian and growing up in Florida, you probably get the water thing," she deduces. "The minute I hit water, I already feel better, so Miami just feels like home." While many find the humidity overwhelming, Willa adores it. "When people are like, 'Ugh, it's humid, my hair looks horrible.' I'm like, 'My skin is awesome! My hair feels good,'" she chirps gleefully. "My lungs are built to breathe humid air. I prefer it over the dry heat. I'm convinced it's why my mom's friends don't look like old leather bags, even though they put baby oil on for all those years. If you live in a humid climate for 20 years vs. a dry climate, think about it, it's like La Mer for the skin. I just sold myself! I'm moving back to Florida. Sorry, Mama's single. Gotta go!" She laughs. The change in seasons also holds anticipated quality time with her family. Willa will spend three weeks in Tampa visiting her family during the holidays — the longest time she's spent there since she was 19. "I will be having a not-so-white-Christmas. Not mad at that at all." Looking forward to hanging with her fam, she is especially excited about time with her 10-year-old niece, whom she affectionately refers to as her Mini-Me, and 6-year-old nephew. "We do Disney World and the beach, and we go hard and we go strong," she assures me. "It'll be interesting to spend all that time with my family… I'll gain 10 pounds while I'm there because my grandma is a southern-chef-galore, so she'll cook stuff that I should not be eating," she says with a big grin, "right before pilot season. I figure I'll be like everybody else, eat like crap for three weeks. January 1st be like, 'New Year's Resolution: Lose everything I just put on,'" Willa says playfully. As for her real New Year's resolution, it's to dedicate the New Year to herself. "Next year is my year. Coming out of a divorce — it's always playing another part in somebody else's life. When a friend says, do you want to go on a cruise? I plan to say, Yeah! Why not?" she cheerfully exclaims. "I plan to do the things that I didn't do in my 20s, because I was so busy being tied up as a wife and a person who was constantly clawing at the wall trying to get a job. Now, I'm just going to lay back and sort of let it happen…." Don't miss Willa on Leverage this December, and follow her on Twitter @WillaFord ML MIAMI LIVING 63

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