You woke up today not knowing you needed to hear from Willa Ford, whose sole, TRL-era hit single “I Wanna Be Bad” hit No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2001. Well, feast your eyes on some of the answers Ford gave to Billboard’s Ilana Kaplan in what initially seems like a flabbergastingly sprawling interview that turns into a thankfully sprawling interview (let👏 Willa👏 speak👏 and👏 keep👏 speaking👏), and rethink how you approach your mornings from now on.
Ford hits the ground running by blaming the events of 9/11 for contributing to the sidelining of her career:
A lot of people don’t realize this, but my second single was released on September 11, 2001. Everything that happened that day froze; the world stood still, as it should have. My second single didn’t do well because anything that launched that day kind of got canned. I know that sounds silly, but on radio they slate things, but it really fell to the wayside.
Ah, the old 9/11 excuse—it’s one Mariah Carey has repeatedly conjured to explain the failure of her quasi-biographical vanity movie Glitter. The thing is, Glitter didn’t come out on 9/11 (it came out 9/21)—its soundtrack did.
And, if the internet is correct, Willa Ford’s second single, “Did Ya’ Understand That,” didn’t come out on 9/11 either! Both Wikipedia and Discogs list its release date as December 4, 2001. Maybe it was sent to radio on 9/11? Who knows? If Ford is lying, that’s so bad...like she said she wanted to be. Either way, Willa Ford has won (for losing).
Among the other causes for Ford’s abandonment of her career were record-company shakeups, a lack of inspiration (“I wrote the songs, but I felt like the authenticity wasn’t there”), and also, “my sister had a baby.” Okay sure, why not?
Kaplan then alleges that Ford has “such a big fanbase, still,” and Ford agrees and shares her theories as to why:
I know! I’m so grateful. So many of them are my loving gays — they’re my ride or dies. I’ve had so many guys be like, “Listen, I figured out I was gay because I realized from your music videos I didn’t want to screw you — I wanted to be you.” I have thought about coming back, and I know who my community was and who would embrace me. When I look at Kylie Minogue, she did [her comeback] really right. She did “Loco-Motion,” she went away for 20 years — which is almost how long I’ve gone away — and then she comes back with this amazing dance-pop record. For me it was groundbreaking in the states. I really do miss music. It’s my first passion, my first love.
This is all wild. “My loving gays,” is wild, the idea that Willa Ford’s raw sexuality is what led to gay men realizing their identities is wild, the claim that Kylie Minogue “went away” for 20 years is wild, when in fact she had a string of global hits (you’d think one of Willa Ford’s loving gays would fill her in on Minogue’s international chart stats).
This goes on and on and on. Ford discusses playing Anna Nicole Smith in Lifetime’s 2008 biopic (“I think anybody that plays somebody, there’s so much scrutiny that can come at you”), her abandoned second album (“There was a song called ‘Sexy Sex Obsessive,’ which sounds funny out loud, but it was pretty striking at the time”), her interior designing career, etc. One of her best answers (it’s impossible to pick just one) comes in response to a question about why she hasn’t done many interviews in recent years:
Well, it was usually the same questions, and I didn’t know how to answer them.
Fair! At one point, Ford was rumored to be joining The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, although that’s now said to be untrue. What a pity, she’s so entertaining in exactly the right way.