You may know her from her incredible modeling career, her three-year stint on All My Children or maybe she was the girl you saw in Magic Mike you couldn’t take your eyes off. Whatever you know her from, we think Denise Vasi is incredible! After joining the cast of VH1’s Single Ladies last season, Vasi is currently planning her big day with her fiancé, director and photographer Anthony Mandler, and filming the new season of Single Ladies which will premiere early next year. Vasi found time in her busy schedule to talk life, love and her lifelong passion for acting.
Playboy.com: Congrats to you and Anthony Mandler on your upcoming nuptials! How did the two of you meet?
Vasi: We met for a job. He was interviewing for a role and as soon as he took off his glasses I knew. It’s kind of crazy.
Playboy.com: My second question was going to be if you had ever worked together, but I guess that answers it.
Vasi: It’s an interesting story, actually. I don’t typically do video work; I’ve probably done two or three of them in my whole career, but if there’s an interesting treatment, a really relevant artist or a piece of work that I particularly am attached to, I would entertain the thought. I was at the Daytime Emmys and my manager called and said that we had some interest from this company to do this Lil Wayne video. I’m like, “Lil Wayne? I don’t know if I particularly want to be in a Lil Wayne video. Even though I’m a big fan, I just don’t know that’s the career move I want to do.” So my manager said he totally got it and moved on. But then suddenly it clicked.
At the time I had heard this mix from a friend of mine at a record label of new music coming out and there was a Lil Wayne song, “How to Love,” on the download. That song captured me. Every day for three weeks I was on the internet looking for the video. It’s a completely different sound from what he usually does: it was more of a hip-hop ballad. I was thinking, “It has to be a single; it’s so different for him.” So when my manager called three weeks later I stopped him and asked, “Is the song ‘How to Love’? If this is that song I have to do this video.” I’m serious! I have the e-mails about it. I’m literally like, “I don’t care what the money or treatment is, I just know I’m supposed to do this video.”
So fast-forward a day later and he says the director wants to have a meeting with you. It was a little shocking since I have been on TV every day of the week for the last three and a half years. So I asked who he was and my manager started going down the long list of projects he’s done, which I liked a lot, so I agreed to the meeting. He was running a little late and came in, apologized, and I just knew he was going to be my future ex-husband. [laughs] That’s just a joke, though. I never was the one of my girlfriends who wanted to get married; I’m pretty career-driven so it’s ironic that I’m now the girl that’s fussing over lace and flowers every day.
So we worked on this project, which ultimately pushed me to do a lot of things out of my comfort zone. The character was a stripper; there was some sexual aggression in the video. It was something that could’ve been shown on MTV, it was nothing too scandalous, but it was a huge jump from daytime television, which is what I had been doing. And the irony of the whole situation was that Lil Wayne’s camp loved the video when they first saw it, but they ended up putting it on the shelf. It was too real. They ended up reshooting it with another director, who Anthony knows and respects so no big deal, but it was a completely different feel. It was more of a cookie-cutter version of the story, whereas ours was more of an independent short film that was really gritty. But he and I met, and we’re getting married. I knew I was supposed to do that video, I knew it! I knew that I was maybe facing a career jump, but I never thought I’d meet my husband.
Playboy.com: You guys are on a little break from shooting right now, but what can we look forward to on this season of Single Ladies?
Vasi: Overall, there’s going to be a lot of interesting twists and turns we haven’t seen for these characters up to this point, along with a lot of great characters coming in this season who will be causing some ruckus. But for Raquel specifically, we’re going to see her go through a lot of personal and professional turmoil. Last season was all about her finding herself when everything came to a crumble with finding out her finance was cheating on her at their engagement party. Then we saw her flip through a lot of guys and do that thing that people do when tragedy hits a relationship. You just go wild, party like a rock star and sleep with everything. [laughs]
But in this season we see a more well-grounded character that comes to terms with where she is in life, which is a place of substance. She’s not going to sleep with guys just for fun; she’s going to weigh her options. With her career we’re going to see a lot of interesting things begin to happen too. We’re going to see Raquel step up to the plate and really come through on some big issues that are going to face her boutique. There’s a lot of interesting stuff to play with this season.
Playboy.com: It seems that you have a strong connection with your character Raquel.
Vasi: Yeah, I do. There are so many things that are vastly different: she’s definitely more girly than I am—she comes from a much more successful family than I have. My family is successful in its own right, but I come from a very blue-collar New York City family whereas Raquel comes from this upper-crust society. But I think that the struggles are really similar, the struggle of being successful at the work that we both are passionate about. When I went to school there were a lot of other things I could’ve done with my life, but acting is what I really wanted to do. It was not necessarily the easiest job to be successful at, and I think in Raquel’s case it’s the same way. She was very successful as a businesswoman, she went to the best schools, was given a cushy job, but Raquel knew she was unhappy; she wasn’t doing what she was passionate about, [fashion]. It’s not an easy formula for that line of work. It’s not like you go to school for four years and get a $40,000-a-year job in the fashion industry straight out of school!
Playboy.com: So you did All My Children for years, you went on to do some other work in romantic comedies and now your role on Single Ladies. Are there any kinds of roles you still aspire to?
Vasi: I would love for, sometime sooner rather than later, for there to be a character that’s much more like my personality. I would never say I’ve been pigeonholed or typecast, but I think that aesthetically I read for certain roles. But the truth is I’m a girl from Brooklyn and there has been this very rough edge—that has been refined—but there’s an edge to me. I’ve got tattoos, I ride motorcycles and I jump out of planes because that’s what I like to do. I’d love to play those kinds of characters. I want to do a badass Tomb Raider or Mr. and Mrs. Smith kind of role. Basically I’d just want to kick someone’s ass! [laughs] I’m a tough girl, I’ve been through a lot, so I’ve got the experience. I think that it’s actually more difficult for me to play someone like Raquel because she’s so well groomed and so ladylike. She’s at ease, can handle her temper really well and knows how to use her beauty as a distraction. She does understand she’s a very smart woman, though, so it’s not like she’s going through the motions in life. It’s kind of difficult for me to play that role because in some cases I want to yell and curse! So I have to do the work and keep in mind how Raquel really takes into consideration how she presents herself at all times. I guess that’s why it seems that I’m so close with this role, there’s so much work that has to go into playing someone’s personality who is so different than mine.
Playboy.com: What’s been your favorite memory on set so far?
Vasi: Last year we had these scenes at a strip club. It was the first time Raquel had been to a male strip club and Keisha, of course, had been through it all and was showing her the ropes. As a cast we had so much fun because there were so many of the male model guys who were hired to play strippers who could not dance. [laughs] It was hysterical. They were put into these skimpy, tight underwear and some of these men were really very blessed in that area. I remember we were sitting around the table getting ready to shoot the scene with our handfuls of fake dollar bills and the character whose name was “Darkness” was about to come out. He had been robed in rehearsal so no one had seen what his body looked like. He was a very good-looking dark man with these beautiful chiseled features.
They were about to call action so they take off his robe and he walks into the picture while we’re getting ready and they start shooting while we all realize that he was, uh…very very very well blessed in that area. So the three of us turned around and didn’t even look at his face. So there we were with our jaws on the floor and they start playing the song in the background and the guy couldn’t move. We were all like, “Oh boy.” It was hysterical.
*Playboy.com: *What’s your…
Favorite food: Um, everything! I literally eat like a big 250-pound man. I am constantly eating. That’s one thing on the set everyone learned pretty quickly. “She’s cranky, feed her!” “She’s tired, feed her!” I’d say pasta.
Favorite drink: Moscow Mule, but I’m a big rosé drinker. I actually just got a puppy and named her Rosé. [laughs]
Worst pickup line: “Girl, do your feet hurt? You’ve been walkin’ through my mind all day!”
Most embarrassing moment: You know when you got those really sexy six-inch heels on and someone’s watching you and you walk away and you trip? The worst. And I’m clumsy so it happens!