In the early 2000s, Willa Ford was an up-and-coming pop star. Her song, "I Wanna Be Bad," was constantly on repeat, and her talent and good looks had earned her a burgeoning fan base right alongside Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Jessica Simpson. Shortly into her seemingly meteoric rise to fame though, Willa — who was born Amanda Lee Williford — stopped short.
"A lot of people don’t realize this, but my second single was released on Sept. 11, 2001," the 36-year-old told Billboard earlier this year. "Everything that happened that day froze; the world stood still, as it should have. My second single didn’t do well because anything that launched that day kind of got canned. I know that sounds silly, but on radio they slate things, but it really fell to the wayside. I didn’t think it was a big deal because we were making a new album anyway. The record company I was with at the time got acquired by another record company, and the president of our record company left the company. So, I ended up in no man’s land."
Willa in 2001. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Ultimately, "no man's land" wound up being good for the Florida native. Willa may not have experienced the music success of her peers, but she certainly is #blessed in many ways. Scroll down to see what she's up to today!
She's an interior designer.
When it comes to her career, the songstress considers herself an interior designer first and foremost these days — and she all but fell into it. Shortly after she married her first husband, NHL player Mike Modano, the couple moved to Texas. Without the hustle and bustle of LA (and the music industry), Willa found herself, well, bored. As the story goes, she started working on her home with an interior designer and found her passion. "I came back out to LA after my divorce, and I was acting, but there’s so much dead time," she told Billboard. "I just needed another outlet. I started doing it for friends and everyone was loving what I was doing. It was word of mouth. I did a movie, and the producer of the movie asked me to work on their home. Before I knew it, I was doing really high-end homes. Now I have three employees and myself with the new firm. It’s constantly changing and growing. I love it."
She never stopped dancing — or being a sex symbol.
From 2005 to 2006, Willa was an honorary Pussycat Doll in Las Vegas. She later competed on Season 3 of Dancing With the Stars, and was partnered with Maksim Chmerkovskiy. Unfortunately, the two were eliminated in Week 5 of the show. That same year, the blonde bombshell posed for a nude pictorial in Playboy, and competed in the Lingerie Bowl as one of four quarterbacks, which was shown during half-time of Super Bowl XL.
She's dabbled in acting.
With killer pipes and dance moves, it shouldn't come as a huge surprise that the former pop star also caught the acting bug. After leaving the music industry, Willa landed some pretty decent roles. In 2009, she appeared in Friday the 13th, and three years later, she had a brief stint on Magic City. She also played Anna Nicole Smith in a 2007 Lifetime biopic. "From my point of view, [Anna's] relationship with her billionaire husband was an authentic relationship for her," Willa said. "She didn’t have a caretaker or a father, and I think we all yearn for that. I think it was interesting to play her and come from that place while playing her. I think she was one of the most interesting people we’ll see in her lifetime. I don’t think she was dumb — I just think she looked at the world differently than us. It was fun to see the world through her eyes for a while."
She's currently married with a child.
Three years after her divorce, Willa married NFL linebacker Ryan Nece. Currently, the couple has an adorable one-year-old son together, Elijah Everett Mandel Nece. "Everyone can tell you it’s the greatest love you’ll ever know, but truly, watching my husband Ryan with little E is the truest of true love that’s of this world!" she told People magazine shortly after giving birth.
She's not done with music yet.
Though she seems to have a full plate, Willa has hinted she's not ready to give up music just yet. During her Billboard interview, she revealed that she may give music a go again — but it would be in a different genre. "I’m pretty much obsessed with country music writing," the mom-of-one said. "I went to Nashville for a while and did some writing. People were like, 'You’re Willa Ford. You grew up on a farm. Why are you not doing a country record?' That’s the only other kind of record I would make, and that would be for myself." As far as touring goes, Willa said she would "100 percent" do it again. "I miss being on the road more than any of it."
Speaking of pop stars, watch the video below to see how the Spice Girls have transformed since the late '90s!