Vanilla Ice (a.k.a. Robert Van Winkle) is a rare breed -- instantly famous in the early '90s for his rap hit 'Ice, Ice Baby,' he's managed to resurrect his career in the last several years in a totally different arena: the world of renovations and building design.
Now entering Season 4 of his show "The Vanilla Ice Project" on DIY Network, he's also starting up a new gig on "Vanilla Ice Goes Amish" (premiering Sunday, October 13 at 10 p.m. ET on DIY Network and DIY Network Canada) -- where the jovial rapper lives, breathes and builds in an Amish community in Ohio.
HuffPost Canada TV chatted with the talkative Ice about "going Amish," how the existing Amish TV shows are completely fake and what he has to say about Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber.
HuffPost TV Canada: Where did this renovation bug come from? Have you always enjoyed construction?
Vanilla Ice: I did 'Ice, Ice, Baby' when I was 16. I signed with SPK/EMI when I was 19, which really blew up [my career]. The money came in and I bought a bunch of homes, thinking that I might as well have a home instead of living in hotels. I bought homes in LA, Utah, Dallas, Miami, New York City, and I literally never set foot in one of them. I saw them on a piece of paper. After a few years, I thought I was stupid for buying all of them, so I said, "Let's sell them all." I made millions on them, and I said, "Really?! Let's go buy some more!"
The renovation and decorative side of me didn't happen until later, but I learned, investment-wise, that I can make a lot of money in real estate. I got more into it, and I hired decorators ... I watched them, I interned. I learned about earth tones, how to resell a house, how to make it a family home, focal points, "funk shui" -- my own personal touch -- and I started getting into the decorative and building side.
And you go all-out with your decoration.
I do! This is stuff I dream of, and then make into reality. I've built the first home IMAX theatre. It's 4D (3D without the glasses), and it's a screen behind a screen behind a screen.
Who lives in that house?
[Laughs] That's me. It's my showcase house, I own it. It's my office. I've been doing all this stuff for 18 years, so none of this is new to me.
You have your other reno show, too.
If you're just catching on to Vanilla Ice doing renos, you have to understand this isn't staged or anything. "The Vanilla Ice Project" is on Season 4 right now, and I never pitched any TV show to any network. This all came to me. I didn't want the public in my personal life at all -- I thought that people might perceive me as too normal, and I'd lose that larger-than-life rock star persona. You've got to protect that!
So why go "Amish" this time?
The Amish theme came up by chance. The network called me and asked if I'd like to do another show. It was a joke, but I said, "I'd love to learn how the Amish build homes, and all about their craftsmanship qualities. I'd love to intern with the Amish." We kind of laughed at it, but then they said, "Let's see if we can put this in motion."
Then they called me and said, "Oh, this isn't going so well. They don't have fax machines, they don't have cell phones." I went out there on an "if" to this Amish community in Ohio, and they had to see if this would work. They don't have TVs, electricity, any of that.
How did they react to the cameras and everything?
Well, they knew of me. They even yodeled 'Ice, Ice, Baby.' The wife of one of the Amish men came up to me and said, "[My husband] isn't allowed on camera." We were like, "Oh, no, there goes the whole show." Then they came back the next day and said it was OK. They ran it past the neighbours and they ran it past the bishop to get it approved. We assured them that we weren't there to tarnish their name, or make this into the next "Amish Mafia." We want to shine a light on who are you are as an individual group, what your passions are, what you do for fun, and how you live. We want to show the real side of the Amish.
I got up with the roosters. I worked very closely with them the whole time. I had to put up my cell phone and distance myself from social media. They also don't have any mirrors. Try shaving without that!
So was it harder or easier to build things with the Amish?
It was easier. I found out that they do use power tools, because there's such a demand for their stuff, and in order to keep up with that demand, they can use them ... but only when they're on the job. They use a generator, but they can't use them when they're back on the farm, or for any personal use. They're really professional and they love what they do. Let's put it this way: we built a barn in two days.
What was the hardest thing you did while shooting this series?
Taking care of those animals. I had to get up really early, shovel s**t first thing in the morning. I watched a cow give birth -- I helped pull a calf out -- and it was beautiful. I had goosebumps. There are baby cats, goats, pigs ... it was definitely tough. And then you have go do your construction. You get out there and do everything, and they get more done by lunch than most people do in a full workday. You sleep so well, let me tell you -- you don't even dream, it's so deep. It was an honour for me to go out there, and have them accept me.
What would you say to somebody who's skeptical of watching "Vanilla Ice Goes Amish"?
It's not an artificial thing. I was living and working with real Amish people. Not to criticize any other shows, but after living with the Amish, I know that real Amish don't drive Cadillacs. They call 911 when they have a problem. It's become a fad to have these shows with "Amish" in the name. I want to turn that on its head, and show a real Amish community. It's the real deal; it's not a reality show. It's not staged or scripted.
What sort of advice do you have for Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber -- having been really famous when you were around their age(s)?
I gave them some advice over on TMZ, but what it's all about is that they're surrounded by artificial people. They're living an artificial life. They forget who they are in reality. Unfortunately for them, it's horrible living it, but from the outside looking in, people love to see celebrities trying to make themselves relevant in a serious way. They love seeing celebrities self-destruct.
"Vanilla Ice Goes Amish" premieres on Sunday, October 13 at 10 p.m. ET on DIY Network and DIY Network Canada.
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