In 1990, he created a sensation with his hip-hop single, Ice Ice Baby. Two decades, several public controversies, and many life lessons later, Rob Van Winkle emerges from the shadow of his alter-ego, Vanilla Ice, to debut a mellow, more mature attitude and a new show, The Vanilla Ice Project, on the DIY Network.
We spoke exclusively with the rapper-turned-remodeler about his life in and out of the public eye, and how he found solace as a professional DIYer.
When you hear the name Vanilla Ice, you probably think of the young, cocky rapper who exploded onto the music scene with his 1990 hit, Ice Ice Baby – the first hip-hop single ever to top the Billboard charts. You probably would not imagine the serene, grounded, knowledgeable gentleman I spoke with by phone recently following an appearance of his in London.
Most recently, Rob landed his own half-hour series, The Vanilla Ice Project, which premieres October 14th on the DIY Network. In it, he chronicles his experiences flipping a 7,000-square-foot mansion in Palm Beach, Florida.
DIY Life: How did you get into flipping (buying, fixing up and selling) homes?
Rob: I learned to invest in real estate by accident. When I was in my early 20s, I earned a ton of money; about $20 million. I’m not a rocket scientist. I don’t know anything about the stock market. So I thought, “Ok, I’m going to buy a home in L.A. because I work a lot in L.A.” I bought a home in New York City too — on Bleecker Street in [Greenwich] Village — because I’m there 3 or 4 months out of the year. And I bought myself a ski resort house in Snowbird, Utah.
For three years I was on tour around the world. Finally I went back home and looked [around my] houses. No one had been there, and there were cobwebs in the corners. I stood there going, “Gee, I spent all this money on these houses and haven’t used any of them. [I'll just] sell ‘em all and if I need [someplace to live] I’ll rent something.” When I sold the homes, I made money on every single one of them — hundreds of thousands of dollars. I thought, “You’ve got to be kidding me. It can’t be this easy.” Of course, that’s when real estate was really good (in the 1990s).
Finally I bought a home on Star Island in Miami Beach, and I lived there for 11 years. I was a bachelor and had like 14 bedrooms. So I had [the house] decorated. I had a purple room. I had a red TV room. It was like a big nightclub. I’m talking bachelor pad to the -nth degree. I loved it for a year or so and then I’m like, “It’s just not feeling like home. I want to get out of there. I want to take vacations.” I didn’t even want to stay in my own house. And I always had to have friends over. I’d say to them, “Can you come spend the night with me? I’m lonely. I’ll pay for your plane flight.”