Celebrity Then And Now
Celebrity Then And Now
Vanilla Ice (Robert Matthew Van Winkle)
Name: Vanilla Ice (Robert Matthew Van Winkle)
Birthdate: October 31, 1967
Famous Years: 1990s - -
Currently Known For: Singer, Rapper, Actor, Record Producer and Television Host
Networth: $18 MillionFamous For: "Ice Ice Baby”
Vanilla Ice (Robert Matthew Van Winkle)
Name Vanilla Ice (Robert Matthew Van Winkle)
Birthdate October 31, 1967
Famous Years 1990s - -
Currently Known For Singer, Rapper, Actor, Record Producer and Television Host
Networth $18 Million
Famous For "Ice Ice Baby”

“Word to your mother.” Known to his fans as Vanilla Ice but to his family as Robert Matthew Van Winkle, Vanilla Ice has spent the last three decades on the stage after finding fame in 1990 with the release of his album, To the Extreme. The album became a huge hit thanks to the single “Ice Ice Baby,” which garnered international praise and became the first hip hop single to ever top the Billboard charts. Cashing in on his early success, he continued to release new music but never rekindled his “Ice Ice Baby” fame and, instead, became so immersed in his party-hard lifestyle that his growing heroin addiction let to a failed suicide attempt by overdose. Fortunately, he turned his life around and embraced his second chance at life by making the music he wanted regardless of whether or not it topped the music charts, which is exactly where the 49-year-old is today as an independent artist, record producer and television host.

Long before he was ever known as Vanilla Ice, Robert Matthew Van Winkle was born on October 31, 1967 in Dallas, Texas. With his biological father leaving his mother shortly after learning she was pregnant, Vanilla Ice never knew his father but had plenty of father figures with his mother remarrying a man named Van Winkle shortly before he was born. Taking his stepfather’s last name, he kept the name despite his mother’s divorce four years later, which eventually led the youngster and his mother to Miami, Florida where his mother married again—this time to a car salesman. By then, the young Van Winkle showed a developing interest in poetry and music as an outlet to share his feelings. “It’s a very big passion of mine because I love poetry,” he said of his early interests. “I was just heavily influenced by that whole movement and it’s molded me into who I am today.”

Amid his growing interests in poetry and music, he also started breakdancing and was quickly nicknamed “Vanilla” since he was the only white person in his group of black friends. Although he hated the nickname at first, it eventually stuck as he used it as his stage name at rap parties where his friends were so impressed with his rhymes that they dubbed him “MC Vanilla.” When he later joined a breakdance troupe, he called himself “Vanilla Ice” with “Ice” referring to one of his most popular breakdance moves.

His fun in Miami was cut short, however, when his stepfather snagged a job in Carrollton, Texas and moved the family back to the Lone Star State where Van Winkle attended R.L. Turner High School. Even then, academics didn’t interest him as much as riding motorbikes and breakdancing on the street, which is what led him to form his own breakdance group known as The Vanilla Ice Posse. Then, at 16 years old, he wrote his first song, “Ice Ice Baby,” which would later define his career. In 1985, he was well-known as a performer among his friends who helped launch his career when they dared him to take the stage during an open mic night at the City Lights nightclub in South Dallas. His act impressed the nightclub manager so much that he became a regular performer as he took the stage with his posse of dancers.

Thanks to his work with City Lights, Vanilla Ice caught the attention of key performers and opened for groups like Public Enemy, N.W.A., The D.O.C., Paula Abdul, Sinbad and MC Hammer. Things took a turn for the worse, however, in January 1987 when he got into an altercation with a group outside City Lights and was stabbed five times. After a 10-day stay in the hospital, Vanilla Ice received the best homecoming gift when Tommy Quon of Ultrax offered him a contract to open for notable artists like Ice-T, Sir Mix-A-Lot and EPMD in Ultrax’s newest Stop the Violence Movement Tour.

Recording everything he sang during his opening act, Vanilla Ice spent the next two years fine-tuning his record and, in 1989, finally released his debut album, To the Extreme, which featured his remix of “Play That Funky Music” and his own original hit single, “Ice Ice Baby.” The hip hop album was a huge hit and set a new record for the fastest album sales in hip hop with over 11 million in sales as it climbed the Billboard 200 charts and spent the next 16 weeks at number one. Because of its instant success, the album’s producer, SBK Records, encouraged Vanilla Ice to cash in on his growing fame by launching his first tour. Vanilla Ice did exactly that and spent the next three years on the road as he made headlines for his brief relationship with Madonna while building is reputation with appearances on Saturday Night Live and on the silver screen in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze.

Vanilla Ice released a live recording of his Miami performance called Extremely Live but faced harsh criticism, which inspired his hiatus from the spotlight in 1993. He released his second studio album, Mind Blowin’, but the reviews were just as harsh as his life spiraled out of control with his growing drug addiction. In 1994, he attempted suicide with an overdose and reached his lowest point as his friends revived him. He then committed to changing his lifestyle as he sold his California estate and focused on other ventures like motor cross, jet skiing and real estate. By the late 1990s, he was slowly dipping his toes back into the music world and released Hard to Swallow followed by independent albums like Bi-Polar, Platinum Underground, Vanilla Ice is Back! and W.T.F. (Wisdom, Tenacity and Focus).

Continuing to make music and even returning to life on the road with his I Love the 90’s Tour in addition to making appearances on reality series like The Surreal Life and The Vanilla Ice Project, the 49-year-old may never find the same level of success he enjoyed with “Ice Ice Baby,” but he’s certainly a legend. After all, the Texas native is one of the first white rappers to earn mainstream success even if many call him a one-hit wonder! “Word to your mother!”