When it was announced that Denise Vasi was going to join the cast of Single Ladies, it was big news. The news came after the surprising departure of Stacey Dash from the series, but Vasi is not replacing Dash in the role she originated, she has joined the show with a character all her own and after I spoke to Vasi this week and got to know her, I’m certain she’s going to bring a whole new freshness to the show. The first thing you’ll notice about this woman is how gorgeous she is. A former model with three and a half years at All My Children under her belt, she has the perfect look for Single Ladies and experience to match it, but what made me feel even more inadequate around her was how nice she was. Vasi, a native Brooklynite, is soft-spoken and prides herself on being “normal” thanks to her pack of girlfriends she’s known forever who keep her in line and don’t let this fame stuff get to her head. Beyond that, she’s incredibly charitable drives a Prius, and basically made me want to be a better person.
Though Single Ladies won’t air until the summer of 2012, we thought you all should get to know this soon-to-be household name now. (Oh, also, she mentioned that there would be a parade of hot men on the show this season, so if that’s not enticing enough, I don’t know what else you people want.)
Our interview and photo gallery of Denise is below!
Congratulations on getting the role on Single Ladies!
I’m assuming you’re in Atlanta now, how long have you been down there?
I am, I’ve been here now for a week. And this weekend has been the first time I’ve actually gotten to experience a bit of it because it was pretty much straight to work as soon as I got here.
How did the first week of filming go?
It went really well. The first week, we had a blast. We did a whole girls’ thing a night or two before we started shooting.
Was that you and LisaRaye and Charity [Shea]?
Yup, LisaRaye hosted an evening at her house. She cooked, I brought the wine, Charity brought these cute little cupcakes, and we just sat around and ate and got to know each other, I think it was super helpful going in, because we went in to a full week of work right after that. Nothing is moving slowly here. I think it really helped and you’ll see that in our first two episodes which we’re shooting right now, you’ll see some genuine friendships. Me and Travis Winfrey have become like, best friends in a week. He’s a super sweet guy. When the press release went out, we discovered we had a mutual friend who connected us via email and I was like, “Travis, your job is to find out where I get my hair done, where I get my nails done,” and he was like “Don’t worry, I got you!” and when we’re on set, we’re don’t make a move without each other.
Were you worried about being the new kid on an established show?
Were you just confident going in, or does it come with experience?
The audition process was a lot and I got to spend a good amount of time meeting my producers, my showrunner, my writer, my director, and everyone was just really nice, and everyone at VH1 was really nice, and we all spoke about our ideas and our wishes of how we’d like to see things go. I’m very much a team player and I just like to have fun, that’s why I do this, so no, I wasn’t worried, everyone had open arms. LisaRaye called me right before each of us went away for the holiday and she was super sweet, she said “Make sure you bring a heavy coat,” and thankfully she told me that because it’s absolutely freezing in Atlanta.
Who knew is correct! Everyone kept saying “You’re moving to Hotlanta,” so I thought it was really warm year-round, and that’s not the case. Thankfully LisaRaye filled me in and told me about some places in the city, so I knew she would be great to work with. Charity and I have a connection, we know someone in common, and Travis and I have a mutual friend as well from New York, so before getting here there was a way that we all outreached each other, had conversations or email exchanges.
That’s great to hear, it sounds really chill and relaxed.
Yes, everyone seems really happy about that.
Can you tell me about the character you’ll be playing?
Her name is Raquel Lancaster and she comes from high society Atlanta, her family is pretty typical to that as well. What I think the audience will identify with is that Raquel doesn’t come with the pretentiousness that she could, and there’s this idea of what a woman coming from old money, Tuxedo Park Atlanta should be like and she’s not like that. Her journey is in finding herself again. She hasn’t taken a dime from her parents since college, she’s made a name for herself, but she’s going to ask herself, is this who I really am, and am I making decisions based on what I want, or on what’s expected of me?
How much of her can you relate to?
I think all of us have asked ourselves those questions. I definitely had to decide I wanted to be an actress, and my mom might really be worried about that because she’s just so big on education. I come from a home where if you got a 98, my mom wanted to know “What didn’t you do to get a hundred?” That’s my upbringing. So I knew when I wanted to go into something where I could fall on my ass, basically, and there’s no exact math to the field of acting, I knew that would worry my family. So I went to school for a little while, studying business, and I really had to ask myself if that’s what I really wanted.
Did you act in school?
No, when I was in school, I was IN school. I was working retail, and I modeled since I was twelve until I went into television.
Is there an opportunity for you to fill in aspects of Raquel’s character, whether it’s improvising or adding elements to her that are based on your own life or personality?
I believe so, our writer is really brilliant and open to ideas and I think we’ll be able to incorporate some of me into that. I’ve traveled quite a bit, and I know they want to sit down and talk about some of the places I’ve been and see pictures and stuff like that.
Last season ended on a cliffhanger, and there were actually several plot twists that were up in the air, I don’t know if you can tell me anything, but I’m still going to ask, will we get any closure early in the season with any of these stories?
Ummm…yes and no. You’ll definitely find out…let me think how to say this…you’ll find out a little bit of information, but things are about to get quite complicated.
There are a lot of hot men playing opposite you ladies. Let’s talk about the men who will be in your life.
There will be quite a few this season. [Laughs] I think people already know about William Levy, but people should tune in for a brothel of hot men. We will not be disappointing you on that level, that’s all I can tell you.
What’s it like to make out with hot guys week after week? Does it ever get weird?
Well, it’s part of my job. If I didn’t enjoy it then I’m in the wrong business! [Laughs] It’s just going to be different for me, I was on a soap opera for 3 1/2 years and was married on the show, so I spent that time with a husband. My TV hubby is what I used to call him, and we got to know each other really well. This will just be different, there will be new people coming on and you might spend a few days working with them and we don’t know who will come back, but it’s exciting getting to work with different people all the time. You get to see how other people process the craft, and I have NO complaints about anyone they’ve cast so far. It’s a perk. Personally, I have a partner in my life, so I won’t be developing any crushes, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a fine-looking man, now! I mean, we all can do that.
Whereabouts in New York are you from?
Down by Brighton Beach, that’s where I was raised and my family still lives in Brooklyn in another area, so I come home once a month, I’m very close with my family. I have two younger brothers who are 17 and 18. Difficult years! They’re still my little boys but I don’t accept that they’re growing up. I want to be a positive influence to them in the decisions that I make. I remember being 17, 18 and wanting to do all the bad things, and I know they’re gonna do them, but it’s about being responsible.
You’re very service-oriented, aren’t you? What are some of the charities you work with?
I produce a charity event with my friend Jackie every year, we do a big gala in New York for Caron Renaissance, they’re a rehabilitation facility with a unique program, and my friend Jackie went through the program and it saved her life. Because of that, I’ve given my time and we work on every single aspect of that event from seating to auction items and that takes up a good portion of my year. The first year, we were just two girls asking for a lot of favors, and our first year we did $100,000 and this past year we cleared, I think, $320,000, so that’s one organization I’m involved in. I also just came back from a trip to the Uganda with my boyfriend with an organization called Invisible Children, and it’s basically an immersion trip they do and we went out and worked on a project where my boyfriend photographed and I interviewed 31 individuals who were either survivors of the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army), who had either been captured by them or were child soldiers. It was absolutely life-changing. Invisible Children is an amazing organization, and this year I want to figure out how to work more closely with them and bring awareness to what they’re doing.
I saw during the Golden Globes that you were tweeting about the show as it was happening, do you have any favorite movies you’re rooting for this year?
I saw Moneyball and I thought that was a really well-done film with a lot of heart and relatability. I think everyone could find something to like about that film. My favorite movie of the year though was probably The Ides Of March.
You can’t go wrong with Clooney.
Uh, YEAH. Hello!
I know people were worried what Ricky Gervais might do during the show, last year he was really hard on celebrities, do you ever worry about criticism or being the target of gossip and tabloids?
My biggest concern really, is…that’s a part of the job, but it’s my least favorite part because I’m a very private person. And it’s taken a lot of me having to ask myself “Do I really want to do this?” since it comes along with my job, and my family is so important to me, I never want to compromise their ability to have a normal life or my brothers to get ridiculed for anything I do. I have a lot of fans from the soap who are, you know, 15-, 16-year-old girls. I want to make sure that what they see me do is all positive. The great thing though, on the flip side, is being able to use it in a positive way, or to educate people. The truth of the matter is, the more people are watching what you’re doing, the more you have the ability to educate them about greater things. Getting up and playing a character is fun, my job is great, but beyond loving what I do, I really do it because I hope one day I’m able to have a bigger voice and can help people who need it.
Do you think you have a pretty normal life despite having a glamorous job?
Yes, absolutely. I will continue to do everything I can to have that. My secret is keeping the same people who have always been in my life, keeping those relationships intact. I have about ten amazing girlfriends and if I ever got out of line, any one of them would smack me back into place. My team, my professional team is all people I genuinely care about, and I’ve been blessed to build those relationships over the years. My work relationships with my agent and my manager are not about money, yes, that’s their job, but it’s really important that you keep good people around you and you don’t let ego get in the way. But yeah, I live a very normal life, I drive a Prius, I was in Victoria’s Secret shopping for panties yesterday just like any other girl! They were having a sale!
[Photos: Getty Images]