On their reality show Ice Loves Coco, rapper-actor Ice T and his wife Nicole "Coco" Austin come across as a happy pairing of a funny grump and an adorable scatterbrain. In person, things are not that different. Over the phone from New York, Ice and Coco described how their show was inspired by I Love Lucy, the hit US series about a harebrained wife and her musician husband — but that it's also an honest representation of their lives together
"The reason we named it Ice Loves Coco was because it was an homage to I Love Lucy," said Ice, explaining that was the original idea for the show because he wasn't sure anyone really wanted to see his home life with his wife of 10 years.
"I was really nervous doing a show about just our life. It's a scary thing if you do a show about your life and nobody likes it — that really sucks." So a format was conceived. "I have harebrained ideas!" laughs Coco, comparing herself with Lucille Ball; "I'm not singing Babalu but I'm rapping," adds Ice, referring to Desi Arnaz's signature song in the 1950s show. And then Ice realised: people like watching them, simple as that.
"We're happy but I am not gonna say that we were positive" that the show would be a hit, he says. Nonetheless, the show was picked up for a second season, which begins tonight on E! on OSN. Hearing the couple through the phone — laughing constantly at each other's answers, and trying to keep their dog Spartacus out of the food — is like watching a less dramatic version of the show about a clearly very much in love pair who happen to be a rapper and a glamour model.
Although Ice — who rose to fame in the 1990s with hits such as Cop Killer — took some convincing to do the show, Coco "kinda knew people were going to like it".
"I know the characters in our lives are really fun. Ice and I live a really funny life, if you see us behind closed doors, which is what you see on TV. We make each other laugh, we're like two comedians. We're an old school married couple. I want to be with him for 70-plus years."
To describe Coco as curvaceous is an understatement — the former glamour model is unapologetic about her outsized proportions, but insists there's a loving, caring person underneath, a side to herself she became convinced she needed to show the world after enduring years of negativity.
"That's why I wanted to do the reality show," she says. "I think it even affected Ice more than me, because there were so many haters in the world, he was like, ‘why are you hating on Coco, because she dresses a little sexy?' Set aside whatever sexiness I am, I want my show to show my heart, my compassion for people, my love for my dog, love for my family, my love for my husband. I am not just that model or that picture you see, I am so much more than that. I hardly have any haters now. I used to go on these blogs that I really didn't like to go read about [criticism] because I couldn't care less."
Ice interrupts her, laughing. "But you do care. You just said."
"Well in the past. In the past I cared because I couldn't get my personality out there. But now I couldn't care less. It was hate, hate, hate across the board. Now, I have hardly any hatera. Which is amazing."
"I always knew Coco was a sweetheart," says Ice, his gruff voice softening. "I kinda got p****d because people were prejudging her. The show gave people a better look at her. I have people that hate me, but at least I have an honest representation of me out there. If you still hate me, well, f*** you too."
The couple chatted to tabloid! about their relationship, scrunchie hate, white tea and more. Excerpts:
Taking on the show took some convincing for you, right?
Ice: We had been offered the show for a few years ago and no, I didn't want to do it. I didn't want to ruin our relationship — people talk about the reality curse, there was a time when any couple in a reality show was over. I didn't want to jeopardise my real relationship for the sake of a TV show — I already got a job [he appears in the crime series Law and Order: SVU].
Coco: I on the other hand wanted to do it. I talked him into it. People didn't get to see my personality and I was sick of hearing the negative stuff about me, I wanted people to see the real me, my family side, my wife-y side. I had to talk him into it. He said you're right they don't know you. It was more for me.
Ice: But it was understandable that we didn't want to do it, considering how reality shows have been portraying people.
What's your secret to a happy marriage?
Ice: You need to find somebody you really love, it sounds corny, but it helps if you get along. We are together every day and we truly enjoy each other's company.
Coco: It's communication, it sounds cheesy to say, but if you talk about things, it helps.
Ice: Just keep talking, keep talking. Don't let any problems fester. Stay away from miserable people who want to infect your relationship with their problems. Don't allow friends that have a f****d up relationship to get in your business.
Coco: I got a direct wire to his brain and I tune into it. That's what people need to do and you'll have a happy marriage.
Ice: You think so?
Coco: I know so.
Ice: Don't let Coco drive you crazy.
What did you learn about each other.
Coco: I didn't lean anything about Ice. He portrays the same person in real life as he does in the show.
Ice: I don't think we learned anything about each other. I think the best thing about a reality show is that you look at it and say, ‘Yep, that's us!". I think the worst thing would be if your friends watched it and said, ‘that ain't you. You don't act like that.'
But they bleep me on the show, they keep it raw. We are happy with how it looked because it was us. No surprises.
What are the challenges of being on a reality show?
Ice: All of a sudden the world wants to give you advice, they feel like they are part of your family. They say Coco, you should have a girl, they want to guide you and help you. They come in and — not meddle, but engage.
Coco: I think the hardest part for me, since more women watch the show, they are picking me apart — my hair, my nails. You get the comments later, it's hard for me to say, forget it. I want everybody to love everybody, so when people are mean I'm like, ‘why do you hate me?' Because I wore the wrong earrings that day? I don't understand that. Why aren't you looking at my inner self? That's what frustrates me.
Ice: Guys don't have that problem. I don't have guys writing in to me because they didn't like my shirt. Coco had this one girl who had a problem one time because she was wearing a scrunchie in her hair. Oh my God! Scrunchies? Really?
Coco: I don't care, I love scrunchies and I am bringing them back. Everyone says it was an '80s-'90s thing and I don't care, they are really healthy for your hair and that's why I wear them.
Ice: One time somebody wrote and said ‘I can't believe you have red plastic cups in your house'. Everybody has red plastic cups! I guess we're supposed to eat and drink Kool Aid out of fine china. People say dumb s**t. Ha!
Coco, in the new season, your doctor tells you to diet because you have high blood pressure. How's that going?
Coco: What he really wanted me to do was eat a lot more white fish and fruit, and you know Coco, I take it to the extreme. He tells me eat white fish so I'm like, ‘I've got to get a nutritionist!' I am eating healthier, he opened my eyes to a different world where you can eat better and it does taste good. What I found out, which is good for anyone who has high blood pressure, is white tea works wonders. I've been drinking that and I am feeling better than ever. I can take over the world!