Before she was one of the stars of our new series Blood, Sweat & Heels, Melyssa Ford was a recognizable face on the small screen for a different reason: she was the go-to Video Vixen for some of the biggest clips ever shown on MTV.
Usher, Alicia Keys, Jay-Z: Melyssa has worked with them all. "I've done perhaps 20 videos over the course of four or five years," says the Canadian native. "I haven't done that many as people would think. I just seemed to choose the ones I did very wisely because the vast majority of them are songs we still listen to on the radio.
Below, she shares memories from her time on-set with those stars. Who knew Jay-Z was big into talking about psychology?
Usher, feat. Lil Jon and Ludacris, "Yeah"
"I wasn't even supposed to do this video," Melyssa recalls of the R&B singer's monster hit. "I was in LA for a totally different reason and the director, who is a great friend, told me to come by and say hi. Since I've worked with him many times, I was very familiar with his agent and manager and the production staff he used. So I end up on location and he walks over to me and tells me that Ludacris wanted me to be in his scene in the video. I told him, 'You know it's gonna cost you,' but the budget was approx $300k so I knew they could afford my rate. I went to go change and the director comes back and says, 'Scratch that, you're going to be Usher's girl in the video.' It was a fun time and both Usher and Ludacris are total gentlemen."
Sisqo feat. Foxy Brown, "Thong Song [Remix]"
"This video changed the trajectory of my life," Melyssa says of Sisqo's classic. "I was selected as lead and we shot in Baltimore for two days and then flew to L.A. to shoot for three days. I was the only girl not wearing a thong (I was the Queen of saying no). Sisqo and I had to spend a lot of time together so we ended up as friends and he asked me to go on tour as one of his lead dancers. My school year had come to a close and I was sure my jobs back in Toronto would give me time off so I threw caution to the wind and did it. By the end of that year, I'd decided to put school on hold, gave notice at my jobs, moved to New York City and pursued a career in entertainment."
Alicia Keys, "You Don't Know My Name"
"We were managed by the same person so that's how I ended up in that video," Melyssa says. "Before that, I was mainly cast for male artists' videos; I thought this was a way to be seen as less of a vixen and more of an 'actress.' Plus, I was in love with the song and had been a fan of Alicia's work. It was a no-brainer. She was quite a lovely person."
Jay-Z feat. UGK, "Big Pimpin'"
"I think this was my favorite video of all time!" Melyssa says. "After a heavily delayed and turbulent connection flight to Trinidad from Toronto, I ended up on set, makeup and hair ready by 11am. The set was a multi-level multi-million dollar yacht. At 11 in the morning, I was standing on the upper deck, with another model from Canada, drinking Cristal and I said, 'Can you believe this is our life?' It was a moment. Jay-Z is also one of the nicest and most brilliant people I have ever met. I was in school studying Psychology and we had a long conversation about my studies. He's as cool as he comes off."
Mystikal, "Shake It Fast"
"We filmed just outside Atlanta, in Augusta I think, at an old plantation," Melyssa recalls. "It was really hot. I had just finished touring with Sisqo and wasn't ready to go home to Toronto so I was hanging with a girlfriend in Vegas, but my money was running low. I got the call for the video and jumped on a plane to collect some bread! Again, both Mystikal and Pharrell were very, very nice. And the song became a huge hit."