50 Cent’s baby mama—the movie version—landed on the big screen via the runway, but she’s out to prove that she’s more than just a pretty face who’s gotten a few breaks. On the cusp of Hollywood stardom, Joy Bryant dishes on the modeling biz, acting opposite Fif & dating in L.A.
This feature originally appeared in Complex's December 2005/January 2006 issue.
Joy Bryant might have a flawless body and a smile that’d weaken a man’s knees, but she’s got a mouth like a trucker. She’s sitting on the patio of Hollywood’s legendary Chateau Marmont, assuming her place as the latest It-girl in this town’s merry-go-round of celebrity. She gazes up into the pure blue California sky, looking serene one moment, then cackling the next. “I love this place,” she says. “I always call it the ‘Shit-ho Marmont.’ I’m not dissing the place, because obviously it’s beautiful here. I just like to call it that—you know, like, ‘Oh darling, here we are, just being fabulous at the Shit-ho Marmont!’”
Bryant giggles and crosses one long leg over the other. At 29, she’s transitioning from a career as a model—most notably, showing off lingerie for Victoria’s Secret—into an actress who isn’t afraid to reveal her sexy side. She was a Yale student before hitting the runways, a Bronx gal done good. Now, after 10 years hawking clothes and strutting the shows in Milan, Toyko, and Paris, Bryant has wisely pushed forward into the movies, honing her acting chops in films like Antwone Fisher, Honey, and The Skeleton Key. This fall she’s been breaking hearts and blowing minds as 50 Cent’s baby mama in Jim Sheridan’s 50 biopic, Get Rich Or Die Tryin’. It’s a film Bryant calls “the most amazing and the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.” Maybe that trucker’s mouth has been softened. Then again, maybe not.
From the Ivy League to the fashion runway—that must have been a hell of a transition.
It’s funny, having gone to Yale, it always came in handy because as a model everyone assumes you’re a complete idiot. It saved me when I went over to Paris and there were all these playboys lurking about. I was smart enough, old enough, with enough experience to avoid them. Thanks to Yale, I didn’t wake up butt naked in a chateau wearing handcuffs, thinking, “Why am I here—with a headache?!” Who would have thought an Ivy League education would have come in handy that way.
Before you were scouted to model, what did you think you were going to do with your life?
I thought I was going to be working on Wall Street but instead I was suddenly reckoning with the vultures in Paris. It was a great experience, but it was pretty brutal too. Regardless of anything—Yale, or a good education—I was still 19 and I was definitely an idiot. If I had started doing modeling when I was really young, I would be strung out by now or God knows what. I could barely handle it to begin with. But the modeling world prepared me for acting. It taught me that no one is immune from falling down, or becoming a statistic. I mean, these industries are so competitive. But I have to remember where I came from and my first victory, which was getting into Yale and the Ivy League. Those schools are the most competitive thing going, you know? So I had already conquered something and that’s given me some strength. Because in this industry it’s always: “You’re pretty. But not pretty enough.”
Thanks to Yale, I didn’t wake up butt naked in a chateau wearing handcuffs, thinking, 'Why am I here—with a headache?!'
It seems like the worst part of either modeling or acting is the other women you have to deal with, the competition.
Oh man. We are brutal to each other. I mean, we are not sisters. It’s a sad thing. We’re all trying to come up, we’re all grabbing for the same scraps. But I’m a girl’s girl. I think other women maybe feel threatened by each other. But if I see a beautiful woman, I’m in awe; I want to be just like her. But some girls are like, “That bitch!” It’s ridiculous. I never understood that. There are some real mean girls in this industry. There are some chicks that to your face will be all sweet and nice and then suddenly, you’re like, “Wait a minute, why is my back bleeding? Where did this dagger come from?” I’ve gotten that a lot. But that’s all part of the business, so you’ve got to let it roll. But sometimes I’m like, “Bitch, I’m going to choke the shit out of you!”
Tell us about Get Rich Or Die Tryin’.
It was super-intense. I wanted to be the best I could be and damn, it was hard. I would do it again in a heartbeat though...if I had some Zoloft and super-quadruple therapy. But seriously, the whole experience was amazing and intense. I mean, I’m not trying to be all Inside the Actors Studio, but it’s great when you can trust your director to guide you and lead you where you need to go. Sometimes that’s not the case. Sometimes, there is no one driving the ship. But with Jim Sheridan, he’s the captain and you get on board. But let me tell you, there were times when I thought I would go off the deep end, become an E! True Hollywood Story, run off to the mountains somewhere and be a hermit and write a manifesto, Ted Kaczynski–style.