Award-winning actress Vivica A. Fox is accustomed to playing tough women on the big screen, but on Friday she was moved to tears as she stood before a crowd of about 1,300 people at the Columbus Convention & Trade Center.
“When I first walked in the room, I just looked around,” the actress said, as she dabbed the tears from her eyelashes. “I just didn’t expect this large of a turnout. I look out in this audience and see all this girl power. Girl power is alive and well in Columbus, Ga.”
Fox was the keynote speaker for the 14th annual Women’s Empowerment Luncheon hosted by Davis Broadcasting Inc., which owns a variety of urban contemporary radio stations in Columbus and Atlanta. This year’s luncheon was themed “Women: Blooming Where You Are Planted, Growing Into Your Full Potential.”
Without y’all there would be no me. And that’s why I always make sure that I take the time to be actively involved in my community.
Actress Vivica A. Fox at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center
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The event included a special video tribute to nine-time Grammy-winning R&B singer Natalie Cole, who passed away in January. Photos of the singer appeared on screens at the front of the ballroom, while three local artists — Amanda Williams, Tony Parkman, and Nikki Forman — sang some of Cole’s most memorable hits, including her version of “Unforgettable,” a song previously performed by her father, the legendary Nat King Cole. Cole had recorded the duet with the voice of her deceased father.
The Davis Broadcasting Company also made a donation to the local Alzheimer’s Association and awarded gifts to women in the audience who participated in a drawing.
Fox, known for her roles in such box office hits as “Independence Day” and “Set it Off,” talked to the crowd about making good choices. She said one of the best choices she made was leaving South Bend, Ind., after high school and moving to California. She said there were a lot of naysayers who didn’t support her dream to become an actress.
“I’m not going to tell you that the journey of becoming Vivica Fox was easy,” she said. “It was full of a lot of trials and tribulations, ups and downs, setbacks, wonderful celebrations, crazy decisions. But I stand here before you a 50-year-old, very successful African-American woman to encourage and enlighten.
“I’m just like you, I am you,” she said. “And without y’all there would be no me. And that’s why I always make sure that I take the time to be actively involved in my community. So that generation-next can know that they can make good choices; that they’ve got to be concerned about what happens to their community by making good choices.”
Fox said she went to California and worked as a waitress while trying to land an acting role. She was rejected repeatedly and landed her first acting job on a short-lived soap opera called “Generations.” She also played roles in “Days of Our Lives” and “The Young and the Restless.”
In another early role, Fox played Patti LaBelle’s fashion designer daughter, Charisse Chamberlain, on the NBC-TV series, “Out All Night.” Her first big break was playing along side Will Smith in “Independence Day,” where she and Will won an MTV award for Best Kiss. Fox will star in the sequel, “Independence Day: Resurgence,” which is scheduled to be released this summer.
Fox also played Maxine in the 1997 motion picture “Soul Food,” which netted her MTV Movie Award and NAACP Image Award nominations. In 2000, she was casted in the medical drama “City of Angels” as Dr. Lillian Price. She was recently a contestant on the reality show “Celebrity Apprentice,” and a guest star on the Fox hit drama, “EMPIRE.” She was a celebrity on “Dancing with the Stars,” and she has been voted one of People Magazine’s 50 most beautiful people.
Fox also was recognized by local elected officials during her visit to Columbus. She received a key to the city from Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and a certificate of special congressional recognition from U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop.
“It’s a long flight from South Bend, Ind., from Arlington high school, playing basketball, and volleyball, and running track, and deciding … to follow your dream to Califorina, Los Angeles, Hollywood,” Bishop said. “We’re so grateful that you thought it not robbery to come here to be with us and share with us.”