Robert Matthew Van Winkle aka Vanilla Ice is a rapper and a TV reality show star whose one-hit single “Ice Ice Baby” made the world go crazy. No one knew that a broken person like him who didn’t even know who his biological father was, would gain so much popularity with just a single song. He admired hip-hip and practiced break dancing, especially a move known as “Ice” – this is from where he got his nickname. His passion led him to form his own group of performers that used to perform in the clubs and on the streets.
As Robert’s sudden rise in popularity started to fade, he switched his profession and became a professional jet-skier, and eventually began appearing in TV reality shows. Though he was never able to enjoy the success of his early days again, Vanilla Ice doesn’t stop recording new material.
Childhood and Early Life
Vanilla Ice was born on 31 October 1967, in South Dallas, Texas to Camilla Beth Dickerson. As the true identity of his biological father wasn’t known, his mother decided to give him the family name of her husband, William Van Winkle. His mother divorced her second husband when Robert was just four years old and married again. The family moved to Miami, Florida. He had to move often whenever his stepfather changed jobs.
He was nicknamed Vanilla Ice when he was just a teenager. As a teenager, Robert wasn’t a good performer; he performed poorly and dropped out without graduating.
The difference between him and other disturbed teenagers was his passion for music and tremendous talent that was yet to be discovered and flourished.
Not just he was fond of music, but motor racing as well, which enabled him to win three titles at the National Grand Championship. However, this hobby of Robert’s wasn’t in his fate for long as he got injured and decided to call it quits to start working on his music career.
At first, Vanilla Ice wasn’t known for his raps; he was better known for his incredible moves. Floyd Brown, a songwriter who worked with Vanilla Ice, explained to the New York Times that “Everybody knew him for his feet. He would demolish other dancers”.
Vanilla Ice frequented a lot of Dallas nightclubs, especially City Lights that had a majority of African-American clientele. There he caught the club owner’s attention with his moves, who later became his manager.
Vanilla Ice’s Dive into Music Career
Vanilla Ice was passionate about his much but not more than his dancing. In the beginning, he was popular for his amazing dance moves as he defeated anyone who used to challenge him. He visited Dallas nightclubs frequently with his dance troupe “The Vanilla Ice Posse” or “The V.I.P”. Due to his exceptional dance performance, he caught the attention of the club’s owner Tommy Quon who asked him to perform regularly in the club. This was a win-win situation for him as he was already interested in dancing and gaining popularity – his regular performance provided him with a bigger audience.
Also, while performing for the Dallas Nightclub, City Lights, Vanilla got the opportunity to open for several hit bands and musicians including 2 Live Crew, Public Enemy, Paula Abdul, etc.
As he was making people crazy with his moves on the floor, he was also writing songs, and by 1989, he released his first hit song “Ice Ice Baby”. The song was so successful that it became one of the most frequently played songs on most radio stations. This hit song landed Vanilla a deal with SBK Records. It was a lottery for him. The same year he released another hit single Play That Funky, under SBK records.
Later in 1991, Vanilla released a new live album, “Extremely Live”. It had songs from his previous album “Hooked” as well as new singles. It was successful enough to peak at #30 on the Billboard 200. He was quickly able to tour and perform all over the world by 1992. He performed in different countries all over Europe, South America, Australia, and Asia.
Vanilla’s Decline in Music
In 1994, Vanilla released another album “Mind Blown”, and was hoping for it to top the Billboard charts but who knew that after this album his popularity would begin to wane. When the album was out, it received negative reviews, hatred, and wasn’t like by many people. He couldn’t take all those negative reviews and the pressure of his falling popularity. All this caused him to be dependent on drugs like cocaine, heroin, and ecstasy. The sad thing is that he even tried to take his own life by drug overdose but was saved by his friends, fortunately.
Finally, Vanilla decided to take a break from music and follow his other passions, i.e. jet skiing and motocross. He even worked as a real estate broker. Vanilla also opened a goods store for sporting items named “2 the Xtreme” in Miami Beach just to forget his previous letdowns, and everything wrong happened to him in the past.
After taking some time off, Vanilla released a new album “Hard to swallow” in 1998. It was the combination of Hip Hop, heavy metal and punk music. However, even this album couldn’t revive his career as he expected.
Despite his failures, he continued releasing several albums in the new millennium, but unfortunately, none of them worked for him. People, including his once loyal fans, started seeing terrible faults in his lyrics. He was criticized that his songs lacked creativity and originality and he used a mix of the African-American style of music.
From 2001 to 2008, he gave us albums like Bipolar, Hot Sex, Platinum Underground, and Ice Is Back. In his 2008 album “Ice Is Back”, he featured the covers of famous artists like Bob Marley, Public Enemy, and Cypress Hill.
He also worked small roles in many films, but most of these movies were heavily criticized by the critics. One of his movies in which he got his first lead acting role, “Cool as Ice”, was a big flop, collecting less than $1 million at the box office.
Vanilla Ice as a Reality Show Star
Vanilla knew that his music career wasn’t going as he planned and imagined; this is why he shifted his interest to reality shows. Here’s what ice did as a reality show star:
- He appeared in five episodes of an American game show “Hollywood Squares”.
- Appeared in eight episodes of “The Farm”.
- Appeared in three episodes of “Celebrity Bull Riding Challenge”.
- Made a cameo appearance in an American teen comedy film “The New Guy”.
- Appeared on the TV reality show “The Surreal Life” from January to February 2004. Although this so-called TV reality show, The Surreal Life, was mostly staged, Ice found the experience to be relaxing.
- He returned to a spin-off of The Surreal Life, which was then called “The Surreal Life: Fame Games”. But this time he didn’t go well and was voted off due to ruining the set.
Vanilla Ice’s Recent Endeavors (2010-present)
Here is a list of Ice’s Recent Endeavors:
- He was invited as a special guest at the 2010 National Television Awards where he performed with Jedward on his famous song’s remix “Under Pressure (Ice Baby Ice)”.
- In 2009, he started filming another reality TV show “The Vanilla Ice Project”. It was premiered on DIY Network on 14 October 2010. It had different episodes dedicated to renovating different rooms of a house located in Palm Beach, Florida.
- In late 2010, Ice went on a musical concert tour Back2Kool along with famous musicians like Turbo C and MC Hammer. There he also reunited with his former DJ (Floyd ‘Earthquake’ Brown”).
- He appeared on the sixth season of a British show “Dancing on Ice” and also joined various ice skating tours surrounding the show.
- In 2011, ice took the benefit of the show The Vanilla Ice Project’s popularity and published a book on the title Vanilla Ice Project – Real Estate Guide. It was a guide to succeed in real estate.
- In June 2011, he worked in a movie “That’s My Boy” along with celebrities including Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg. The film was released in 2012.
- In December 2011, Ice played theatre in the Chatham, Kent. He was assigned the role of Captain Hook, which earlier belonged to Henry Winkler.
- In mid-2013, Ice joined the New Kids on the Block musical tour. He was accompanied by Boyz II Men.
- On September 15 2013, Vanilla Ice performed during the halftime of a Houston Texans game. However, Houston lost the next fourteen games after his performance. And due to this, he was blamed by some players that he may have cursed the team.
- He portrayed Mark Twain in the western-style comedy film “The Ridiculous Six”
- On August 30, 2016, He was announced as one the celebrities that will be competing on season 23 of Dancing with the Stars. He was paired with a professional dancer, Witney Carson. However, they got eliminated on 30 October 2016.
- On August 2018, he performed at infoCision Stadium in Akron, Ohio.
- Finally, on January 4th, 2019, a biopic called as “To the Extreme” on Vanilla Ice was announced in which Dave Franco will star as Ice, chronicling the rapper’s career.
Family – Wife and Kids
Vanilla dated the ever-popular singer Madonna for about eight months in 1990. However, just like his music career, his relationship also didn’t go well, and they broke up. They didn’t have any kids together – none that the public knows of.
In 1995, Vanilla met with Laura Giaritta, and they fell in love with each other. They decided to tie a forever knot by getting married in 1997. They have two beautiful daughters, Dusti Rain, born in 1998 and Keele Breeze who was born in 2000.
In October 2016, his relation with his wife Laura Giaritta started falling apart when she filed a divorce. Vanilla tried to convince her for the next six months, but the same fate that followed him in his music career found its way to ruin his 20-year old marriage.
Robert Matthew Van Winkle aka Vanilla Ice’s net worth is about $18 million that revolves around his successful musical career of the ’80s through ’90s when he used to top charts.
“It took me a while, and a lot of hard times to figure out my purpose, I am so happy with my life. I just want to help make other people happy too.”
“Learn from my mistakes, and you don’t have to make them yourself.”
- Real Name: Robert Matthew Van Winkle
- Nick Name: Vanilla Ice
- Birthday: October 31, 1967
- Nationality: American
- Born In: Dallas, Texas
- U.S. State: Texas
- Age: 51 Years
- Zodiac Sign: Scorpio
- Height: 6’2″ (188 cm)
- Spouse/Ex-: Laura Giaritta (M. 1997)
- Children: Dusti Rain (Born 1998), KeeLee Breeze (Born 2000)