You probably know him by a different name. The artist formerly known as Vanilla Ice has come a long way from Guess jeans and pompadours. Now going by his birth name, Rob, Van Winkle has spent the past two decades tearing up carpet, knocking down walls, and turning eyesores into million-dollar homes. It even landed him a TV gig: Van Winkle is three seasons deep as the host of The Vanilla Ice Project on The DIY Network.
For a man who spent 16 weeks atop the Billboard 200 before his first (legal) sip of alcohol, he doesn’t do a lot of looking back. He lives by a simple code: “Yesterday’s history, tomorrow’s a mystery.” But it doesn’t mean he’s forgotten where he came from:
GQ: Any regrets? Are there things you wore that still make you look back and shake your head?
Rob Van Winkle: Hell yeah! Lots of it! I was a kid selling a million records a day. The thing was so big, it overpowered me and any direction I had. They hired wardrobe people who would just show up and say, you’re wearing this today, you’re wearing this tonight, tomorrow you’re talking to Barbara Walters, so you’ve gotta wear this… and I’m thinking, “Well, I’m with a big record company, they know what they’re doing, why would I question them?” Shit. I look back and it’s just, “What the hell was I thinking?” [Pauses] I remember wearing Z. Cavaricci pants…
GQ: With the waistband and the stripes?
Rob Van Winkle: Yeah! And the stuff I didn’t like is all back. Full-circle. I go into Foot Locker and see high-tops in pink and neon.
GQ: Which brings me to my next question. We see what you wore then, and now we see guys like A$AP Rocky and 2 Chainz in some of the same stuff. Are you hip-hop’s secret style icon?
Rob Van Winkle: [Laughs] I love it. My daughter likes One Direction, and she shows me pictures of this guy, Zayn.
GQ: Zayn Malik.
Rob Van Winkle: Yeah! She thought it was me! He had that blonde streak in the middle, the pompadour, everything.
GQ: Are you a One Direction fan?
Rob Van Winkle: Oh, hell yes. No shame in my game.