In 2001, a pop star named Willa Ford released a hot girl anthem. “I Wanna Be Bad” dominated airwaves and movie soundtracks, and even brought her on tour with the Backstreet Boys. Some years passed, and she appeared in a few movies and reality shows in Los Angeles like ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, but over time, Ford realized that her real passion was for—wait for it—interior design.
So, she started WFord Interiors and has since grown the company to become a full fledged design firm, and works with celebrity clients. She caught the attention of Scott Disick, and was invited to join the cast of his new house-flipping reality show spin-off on E! called Flip It Like Disick (which airs Sunday nights at 9 P.M.). It might be a bit of a surprise to hear the names Willa Ford and Scott Disick in the same sentence and learn that it has nothing to do with her pop star fame or his extended Kardashian family, but these two work together with a larger team to flip houses and design interiors around the west coast, making for some reality television that actually works. Here, Ford explains for herself how she went from pop star to entrepreneur, and ended up designing homes for celebrities like Steve Aoki on E!’s Flip It Like Disick.
How did you get into the interior design and decorating business?
I was not doing music anymore, and I was doing mostly acting. I started designing when I was in Dallas and found I had a knack for it, and started immersing myself in it even more. So when I came back to Los Angeles, I started doing friends and clients started coming from that. At one point, I was on a film shoot and the producers approached me to say, “Hey, we bought a house together, we’d love for you to do it.” It dawned on me that I was fulfilled in the need for creating art by designing these homes. At that point, I started getting busy enough, and one thing led to the next and it became a bonafide firm within just a few years.
Why did you stop performing music and start acting?
I think it was just riding that wave. In the entertainment industry, we have waves. My music wave was kind of there but it was meh, so I knew I could parlay it into something different. I moved to Los Angeles to start acting. I grew up singing, dancing, acting, doing all of it, so it wasn’t far from my wheelhouse to go out there and start something else.
So, how did you meet Scott Disick?
Up until the point of this show, all of our marketing was word of mouth. He had heard about my firm form somebody and I did a little project for him. Time passed, and I get a phone call from him saying he’s going to do this show and was wondering if I was interested in being on the show as a designer. We chatted about what that looked like and what that entails, so I considered it for a while, deciding whether or not I wanted to go back into the spotlight. I just really decided that it was time. I had grown the firm, it’s been seven years of just interior design and growing the business into a full fledged employee base, and I felt like we were strong enough now to take this on.
What’s something people would be surprised to learn about Scott?
He’s not like what people have known. That’s what’s actually really surprising. He really does have a point of view and knows what he wants. He is quite respectful. That’s one of the things that I find amazing about him, especially for me with design. He respects what I do and respects my work ethic. One day he made a remark about how he couldn’t believe I took clients all day and was going to go back to my laptop and work ’til midnight, then wake up at 5 A.M. with my kid. He was like, “Wow, I really respect that.”
Now that you are moving back into the spotlight, do you find yourself performing on camera?
No, I try to be pretty authentic. Every once and a while they’ll ask us to go back and walk through a door again, but obviously that stuff happens. Real reactions, real life relationships, all that is based in reality. I really want to be authentic with the audience. We’re at a point now where we need authenticity. So you’ll see me some days without makeup on, and I’m really okay with that. You’ll see me other days where I’m completely done up. Going into this process I wanted to represent interior designers in a way that it is authentic because what we see a lot isn’t exactly what it looks like on the back end.
What’s the most difficult aspect about designing interiors that you know will be shown on television?
Problem solving. It’s 85% of the game. 15% is design. Within the show you’re going to see a constant influx of problem solving, and what you don’t see on the show behind-the-scenes is the W Ford interiors team doing tons of problem solving. Everything from, “Hey we’re going to stage this house, but oh wait we don’t have XYZ and we have 24 hours to have a couch made and a bed made.” I don’t even think we talk about that on the actual show but that’s the kind of stuff that’s happening behind the scenes that my team is doing.
What is your favorite celebrity house that you’ve ever designed?
It’s not a full house, but I was pretty proud of what happened at Steve Aoki’s.
What is your signature design element?
Organic textures, for sure. In every space that I design, I need some raw-looking wood. I like textiles, organic textures, stone, things of that nature. Anything I touch usually has that vibe to it.
What trends are people asking for?
People are asking for open and light. We’re seeing a lot of light oak floors, European wax. Even though it’s light flooring it doesn’t show scratches, so a lot of my clients love that for resistance. We’re getting into the less is more phase, which I’m really excited about. I like to say that there’s beauty in the void. [Laughs.] Sometimes, every wall doesn’t need something on it, just let it breathe. It’s actually indicative of when you walk into your home and how it makes you feel: anxious because it’s cluttered, or you can relax. So we’re moving into a space of more minimal interiors. It’s also less wasteful. There are so many stores you can buy tchotchkes from, then suddenly those tchotchkes are out of style and you’ve spent your money and getting rid of them. I think we’re being more conscious about how we spend our money and what it does to our planet.
Speaking of trends more broadly, how do you feel about this resurgence of late ‘90s and early ‘00s fashion and culture?
It’s so funny. I’m not mad about still not seeing the low slung jeans with the thong out. If we could just leave that in the past, because I rocked that hardcore, and I don’t know why. I love that so many of the bands are back on tour. It’s so fun because the early 2000s were a time when it was like, “Oh god, pop music is ruining everything,” but now when we all look back on it, it’s like, “But it was such a fun time!” It was a fun time in music, we were celebrating being young and having fun, so I’m excited to see it come back around. It is odd to be on the other side of that.
Which looks from that time were your favorites?
I’m like, are there any that I like? [Laughs.] Man, we all did denim on denim. What did I like? I didn’t hate the skinny jeans, but I think we could lift the waistline a little bit on those. I loved rocking my hats, sort of sideways. I feel like I wouldn’t bring that trend back, but one of these young people could totally rock that. I would be into that again.
You were associated with ‘NSYNC and even toured with the Backstreet Boys. What was your favorite memory from touring with them?
It’s all a blur. It was so fast paced. But I think one of my favorite memories with all of the bands, no matter who we were on tour with, I love when we would jump tour buses. Back then it was 007 on Nintendo 64, and you could play video games on the tour buses, or you watched movies, or slept. So, I was a reigning champ of 007. I could not be beat. I remember the band City High, they tried, Backstreet, all the different bands would jump parties and that was the one that I would definitely take everybody down. It was so fun! We’d be like, “Okay, we’re going to the same city, right? Okay, cool.”
Do people come up to you and quote your songs?
Of course! Of course. I mean, people I don’t know, friends, you name it. It’s just part of you. It happens to anybody in pop culture, I’m sure.
What do you look back on in your career and feel the most proud of?
I want to give due to everything I’ve accomplished and give myself love for that because in the past I didn’t. I’m really, really proud of this company that I’ve built because it was without anybody’s eyes on me. It was without anybody’s capital backing, money-wise. It was without anybody telling me, “This is a good idea,” other than my husband. It was something that’s mine, and nobody can take it from me. It’s really exciting to be able to say, I’m not just a pop singer, I am a business owner and an entrepreneur. I’m really proud of that.
One piece of advice you would give to yourself when you were just starting out if you could?
Study, study, study. Whatever I thought my future was going to look like, just immerse myself and work hard. And then, don’t let anybody tell you you can’t. I think that’s something most people struggle with and I’m really proud to say now at this time in my life I don’t even believe the word “can’t” is in my vocabulary, it’s “I will.”
If you were coming up now, in 2019, how do you think you’d handle fame?
I’d probably handle it the way I did before. Believe it or not, I wasn’t a hard partier. I really kept my head down, did the work. Maybe team-wise, the most important piece of advice to my younger self is to really assemble a good team that not only tells you yes but is willing to tell you no, and willing to protect you and surround yourself with people who are better at their jobs than you ever could be at theirs.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your career?
That you’re in complete control of where you go in your career. Even though you’re not in control of the outcome of what other people think, you’re always in control. I didn’t realize that when I was younger and I thought when my music wasn’t doing well that that was it and it was out of control and I couldn’t do it anymore. That wasn’t the truth. The truth is I am in control, in complete control of what I want to do. I’ve got to work harder and longer and be the best I can be every day because if I’m not exhausting every single moment that is given to me then I’m not working hard enough.
Would you ever consider going back to making music?
I think I would be doing a disservice to my clients and my employees if I tried to go back to taking a film here or there, or even writing an album. I think right now the design firm is priority number one. I have other people I’m responsible for and I feel really confident that this is exactly where I’m supposed to be right now.