Throw It Back
Tucked away on a leafy block off of New York City’s Madison Avenue, the Hotel Plaza Athenee is a decidedly inconspicuous place to stay. Favored by international business travelers, white-haired society types and well-off tourists, the pastel-walled haven is a far cry from the sleek designer hotels that serve as magnetic pulls to celebrities. For Karrine Steffans—someone who knows a thing or two about the magnetic pull of celebrities—that’s just fine. The video girl formerly known in hip-hop circles as “Superhead” isn’t so interested in just being seen with celebrities these days. She’s working on becoming one her damn self.
A year ago, when XXL spoke to Steffans, she had made the decision to go public about her adventures as hip-hop’s most sought-after jump-off. She had quit drugs, quit videos, quit rappers (for the most part), and realized her salacious stories of celebrity sexcapades might just pay off. Amistad, a division of publishing heavyweight HarperCollins, thought so, too. Released in June, her memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen, debuted at No. 7 on The New York Times best-seller list. Naming names from Kool G Rap (who Steffans accused of domestic abuse) to Ja Rule (who gave her her nickname) to Usher (who was dating model Naomi Campbell at the time), it created a storm of fascination and controversy, and has sold nearly 200,000 copies to date—multiplatinum in book terms. It was the topic of discussion this summer on radio, talk shows and hip-hop message boards all over the country. How could she do it? Why? Can you believe it? And who the hell is her mysterious unnamed lover referred to only as “Papa”?
In her cramped hotel room—she’s in town for yet another panel discussion—Steffans is lounging on her bed, wearing nothing but a hotel-issued terry-cloth bathrobe, socks and a pair of glasses. Her already tiny 5-foot frame is more slender than a year ago—something she credits to the influence of her organic food–eating boyfriend, the comedian and political talk show host Bill Maher, who she met last spring at a party in Los Angeles. She is poised, relaxed, and slightly more polished these days, the result of a four-month publicity tour. While director John Singleton has expressed interest in turning her book into a feature film, Steffans is working on a new one, a novel, and says she’s in love for the first time in her life. But if you think she’s gone soft, you’ve got another thing coming. Confessions of a Video Vixen may have raised eyebrows, but philandering celebs watch out: She says she’s just getting started.
Your book has garnered very strong reactions. People have called you everything from a money-hungry publicity seeker to a champion of women’s issues to a snitch.
I always say you can tell a lot about a person by their reaction to Confessions. Women see it as a book about a woman. And then there are those that only want to fuck with the celebrity part of it, and that tells a lot about that person. So when people ask me questions about, “How could you name names?” I always say, “Well, it’s funny, because when you say ‘names’ you only mean the celebrities. You’re not concerned with me naming the man who rapes me, or my mother or my grandmother. You’re not concerned about those people. You’re concerned about people who wouldn’t spit on you if you were on fire.”
A number of other video girls have come out against you, saying your book is full of lies and gives video girls a bad name.
My story is the extreme version of what happens in the industry, but that does not make it rare. And I doubt that I am the one giving video girls the bad name. How is that possible when I’m out the game, enjoying my newfound career as a best-selling author and they’re still shaking their asses in tasteless videos for disrespectful artists? Video girls do themselves an injustice by promoting the defamation of women and the insensitivity brought on by our men in hip-hop. And if that’s not giving women, video girls included, a bad name, then I don’t know what is. [These reactions] tell me that I’m important enough, this subject is important enough, this book is important enough to get a debate going—which is something that a lot of people will never have in their lives. A lot of people will go through life and never start a debate. And that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to start a debate, and I have. So, mission accomplished.