Child Star to Creative Genius
Honey Boo Boo, who?
Rodney Allen Rippy was THE household name during the 1970s from his stint as a tiny pitchman for Jack in the Box fast food to releasing his own album. What ever happened to Rippy? In our Aug. 12 issue (pg.10) we caught up with the former child star, who recently made headlines again after a run for mayor of Compton, CA. While he didn’t win, Rippy has more in store for the city and for his career. Check out our extended interview with this child star-turned-entrepreneur.
1. In 2002, you received an award from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for having one of the greatest TV ads in the last 50 years. Have you received any other accolades over the past 10 years?
Yes. I am proud to say I was part of a community theater group and we won second place is a citywide dramatic play competition with a play called “Writing On The Wall.” I would love to do more theater. All my immediate family lives in or near Greensboro, NC. My folks are always hoping I get cast in a play that will get featured at the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, NC. I’m ready to act once again (be it dramatic or comedic). I know my potential has never been tapped so I’m looking forward to showing the world what I’m really made of. I know I can act alongside the best in the business if given a shot!
2. What is one of your fondest memories as a child actor?
I would have to say meeting Michael Jackson and reading the nominees at the American Music Awards. I was there with Ricky Segall and Donny Osmond. Many people may remember when I was just starting my career I sang an entire album of music, “Take Life A Little Easier.” I still get requests for my album and I am looking to remaster it on CD and release some accompanying children’s books with it. The album was on Bell Records back in 1973, which is now Arista Records.
3. You were able to stay out of the headlines for doing illegal/harmful things, unlike many former child stars. To what do you attribute your focus and strength?
I have to say my faith and family. My mom always said, “Rodney it’s easy to get into trouble… but it’s so hard to get out!’ That was the type of loving truth that you can’t deny. I always try to think about the future and I am thankful for health, a sound mind and the life that the Lord has given me.
4. Back in 2007, you were national director of marketing with Metro Networks. What is your current day job, and how long have you been doing it?
When I was at Metro Networks (Which is now Dial Global) I always owned my media marketing company Ripped Marketing Group. So I just resumed my creative work dealing with various development projects for clients. I have handled media, production and PR for clients from the fashion world to independent businesses needing additional exposure. I have worked with some great charities like American Cancer Society, Muscular Dystrophy Association and Special Olympics.
5. What was the most challenging aspect of the running for mayor, and how did your candidacy come about? Would you ever run for office again?
I was approached by someone who’s trying to organize a 501(c)(3) and they sat me down with Compton’s city manager. They wanted my help to change the image of Compton and to do business development with the Compton Chamber of Commerce. Halfway through the meeting the City Manager asked me if I had a chance to run for mayor, would I? And I accepted. There is more to the story but my main focus was to better the city and bring new opportunities here. The election had its challenges but everything went exactly as I had originally hoped. In May, my economic team sat down with the city manager and the Community Redevelopment Agency and we are looking to bring millions of dollars into Compton to do major redevelopment work. There were 12 other candidates in the mayoral race and the city experienced low voter turnout this election. So as a community service Ripped Marketing Group created a one-stop educational website, www.votewithreggie.com, where voters nationwide can register to vote and find their nearest polling place. Knowing now how to have a better and tighter campaign it could happen. Maybe Compton… maybe somewhere else.
6. What else do you have in the works?
Among many entertainment projects, I am also working with a team to help build cost-effective, energy-efficient homes for low-income residents in Verona, Mississippi, and the Niger Delta in Africa. We also want to help provide clean water and job opportunities in the Niger Delta.
7. Did you grow up in Compton? Why are you so passionate about helping this city? How do you feel you can help change Compton’s image?
I grew up in Long Beach, about 5 miles away from Compton. Back in the day when I had my serious Afro, Dad would bring me to Compton for a haircut! I graduated from California State University, Dominguez Hills, in Carson, CA, (majored in marketing, minored in advertising) only 2 1/2 miles from Compton. I can help Compton’s image through marketing and promotions. I am already tapping into my entertainment, financial and media connections for the City of Compton. There are many people who want to see Compton turn around. My motto for Compton is “A Brighter Tomorrow…Starting Today!” The youth and the community need hope. I am pulling a team together to create the “Compton Museum.” We will honor all the greats who came out of Compton, I bet you didn’t know Kevin Costner came from Compton. People like Venus and Serena Williams… I am sure they would want to receive their rightful honor and have their rackets on display in the museum. Hopefully we will get some real star power and corporate support to contribute and help make this community vision a reality.
8. What do you miss most about acting?
I’m still in the industry. I am ready to show off my chops as an actor now that I am adult. I’m seeking challenging roles in TV and feature film. I’m looking into one day having my own cooking show, possibly a syndicated talk radio show and hopefully some guest appearances on the small and big screens. The OWN Network and Tyler Perry are always pumping out great projects. I recently met with the top talent developers at OWN, BET and 3 Alliance Enterprises.
9. Do you plan to go back to school? What would you like to study?
I thought about film school because I have a heart for telling and writing good stories. I’m very versatile as an actor and I would love to shadow a great filmmaker like Tyler Perry, Forest Whitaker, F. Gary Gray, Oliver Stone or Quentin Tarantino.
10. Are you single or marriage-minded?
I believe in love and I look forward to being married someday! I was blessed to have a mom and dad. Though I lost my mom to cancer back in 1985 I was afforded the opportunity to see real, true love between my parents. I also saw the respect and most of all I saw the trust. Currently, I have a long-distance relationship. Now at the age of 44 I am ready to feel complete. I think marriage completes a man if you have the right woman. So I’m working hard to have the things that my Dad had for my Mom. Do I want Kids? Yes once the Lord’s blessings take me to “that place” where I know everything is set… I will plan for a gift of life.
11. Would you let your kids get into the spotlight at such a young age, as you did?
Just as my parents did I will watch my child (children) and if they expressed a talent… be it entertainment, sports or anything… I would do my best to support and guide them. Kids will often show some sort of sign or key ability. I feel it’s the parent’s duty to just guide their children forward and help them to be the best that they can be. As long as the kid is having fun it’s a win-win.
12. Do you have any regrets about being famous so young?
Nope, no regrets. I am thankful for all the opportunities and experiences my career afforded me. My name was established in a solid bedrock of entertainment. When I was 3 1/2 my mom would say to me when we were on the set, ” Rodney, do you see all these people… all these lights and cameras? Baby, it cost a lot of money for all this… All I want you to do is focus, hit your lines and let them handle the rest.” See my mom was not a “stage mom,” there was nothing in it for her or my family. Everyone was supportive. There was never any competition. My brother Kenneth Wayne and my sister Beverley Lee and I, we were all signed up to an agent at the same time. After we started going out for auditions my brother and sister didn’t really care for the process so they stopped going. I was fortunate, I hit the Jack In The Box campaign that spanned 14 years. From that I have to say it was a blessing for sure!
13. What do you enjoy doing in your downtime?
I always enjoyed my mom’s food so when I was little I would watch her in the kitchen. Now, one of my favorite hobbies is cooking. I even created my own signature, gourmet aged blue-cheese sirloin burger that was featured at The Anaheim White House restaurant in California.
Find out more about Rodney Allen Rippy at: www.rippedmarketinggroup.com