Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Vanilla Ice - From Rapper to House Flipper Gold

Vanilla Ice was once a punch line for bad rap jokes.

These days, the rapper, who in 1990 had the hit "Ice Ice Baby," is laughing all the way to the bank.

And he's doing so by dropping hot words like "earth tones" and "travertine."

That's right. Vanilla Ice, born Robert Van Winkle, is a home remodeler and his show "The Vanilla Ice Project" launches Thursday at 9 p.m. on the DIY Network.

"I've been flipping homes for about 10 years," he says. "I enjoy it. I like to sit back and cross my arms and think, 'Look at what I've accomplished.' "

Like his outsized stage personality, Vanilla Ice doesn't take on small projects. Indeed, he tends to ply his building trade in tony neighborhoods in Florida, like Palm Beach, where Donald Trump has properties.

The show emerged after a producer noticed a mention of the rapper's home projects in a larger BIO channel profile. The deal came together quickly and just as Vanilla Ice was closing on a $1 million home that needed work.

"The house was completely gutted, like a hurricane hit it," he says. "Everything in the entire house was gone, even the carpet, which made it work perfectly for television."

Having a blank canvas, he was able to put in stuff he normally wouldn't, like an expensive home theater and a sound system.

"I actually get in there and swing a hammer with the guys, so to speak," he says. "It saves money, and I know what's going on."

Still, for some Vanilla Ice fans, seeing him painting or talking about which type of palm tree to use can be a little disconcerting.

"I do it with knowledge of our market," he says. "I do it with earth tones and I make it appeal to the masses; I make it appeal to the demographics that can afford this home. I do it with class."

That's a big step from the guy who once was the class clown of rap. He hit it big in 1990 with "Ice Ice Baby." He then got frustrated by the way his image was being manipulated by the record company. Eventually, he tried to change his image, but his records didn't do well. He struggled with drugs, attempted suicide and tried a comeback by appearing on "The Surreal Life."

"It's just a hobby," he says of the home show. "I play 100 concerts a year. I make good investments here. I've never left the music industry."

He knows there are viewers who will tune in because they're fans of the genre, while others will see the conflicting image of Vanilla Ice working on a wood floor.

The first season of the show is based around the makeover of one home in Palm Beach. They're already talking about a second season that will include a home that has a water feature that goes through the property and can ferry people floating on tubes while they're drinking piƱa coladas.

"I'm on top of the world right now," he says. "Yesterday's history, tomorrow's a mystery. I am who I am because of who I was. I basically just take it day by day. I'm enjoying myself. I have a little more wisdom now. More stability. I'm enjoying the ride right now."

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