Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

How Exactly Did "Video Vixen" Lit Hit Toronto?

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Confessions of a Video Vixen

Having worked in the entertainment business over the last ten years with high profile musicians, I’ve had a chance to speak to many Toronto-based hip hop video dancers who are keen to write books, and all of them point to one woman who they say made their own publishing endeavours feel like they could be commercially viable. Her name is Karrine Steffans. Steffans, a former music-video dancer (“vixen”), and now New York Times bestselling author of the non-fiction vixen series, which began with her jaw-dropping 2005 Confessions of a Video Vixen, which exposed her sexual liaisons with a laundry list of A-list rappers, actors and athletes, including Jay-Z, Diddy, Vin Diesel and Shaquille O’ Neal, and essentially kick-started a new literary revolution. I recently got a chance to speak to Steffans about her publishing empire, her influence on so many wannabe authors in Toronto, her upcoming plans to dominate the ebook universe and her new must-read ebook, How To Make Love To A Martian about her ongoing love affair with arguably the leading rapper of this generation, Lil’ Wayne. After having sold upwards of one million copies of her other five books combined, at a time when book sales are sluggish at best, I felt this was a good time for you to meet the new boss.

After having sold a ton of books with Harper Collins and then Grand Central Publishing/Hachette Book Group USA (formerly Warner Books), why did you make the decision to release your books through your own Steffans Publishing company?

Dating back to my vixen series, I noticed that I would write something, and you know how you have your editors and attorneys, people rifling through your work? Well, it never was organic when my work came back to me. Then contractually, there are all of these stipulations, it has to be this many words, and this many chapters, this is the photo we’re going to use, and I didn’t have a lot of control. I had an editor when I was writing my second book, The Vixen Diaries, call me and say there’s not enough names in here, you need to throw Method Man under the bus, or give us back our $250,000 advance. I was under contract for so long, I felt like I was like a slave. By the time we got to my fourth book, SatisFaction: Erotic Fantasies for the Advanced & Adventurous Couple, I didn’t name it, I didn’t write it, I didn’t choose the cover. I hate that book! It had nothing to do with me and where I wanted my brand to go. How To Make Love To A Martian is the first thing I’ve been able to genuinely write since 2008. I don’t care if I sell two books, I will never go back to that.

I noticed that How To Make Love To A Martian is your first ebook. Have you now abandoned the hard-copy format?

With my books through publishers I’d only be getting maybe three or four dollars per book sale, I never make more than 15 percent on tiered sales, so why not just cut out the middleman and get the profits coming right back to me. The industry has changed. I’m going to be releasing new books every quarter, and the publishing companies were telling me they were not set up for this. Why would I want to wait a year to get a new book or idea out, when you want to hear from me regularly, and I can do that in this digital age? Books aren’t books anymore, its content, it’s new media. My company did this book called Drink, Fuck, Sleep, and we even had my readers become contributors to this anthology.

There was a time in Toronto when video dancers with little to no literary chops were either releasing books or contemplating it as a career move. What are your thoughts on this hip-hop tell-all book trend you kick-started?

Imitation is supposed to be the highest form of flattery, but I don’t find it to be an imitation. I find they are lacking proper imitation. All I can say is this. Good luck to everyone, and let me know when you’ve made it to Oprah, like I’ve been. If you haven’t made it there, you’re not imitating me, you’re just jumping at the stars, but not really touching them. I think it’s cute.

In your book you document being pregnant for Lil Wayne while being married to someone else. Are you a practicing polyamorist?

You know I was just watching clips of this show online about polyamory, and I was wondering if I am polyamorous. Obviously I am, Lil’ Wayne was always there during my marriage, and I would never let him go. Whenever Wayne called I got up and I went. As someone with me, you have to be okay with that, or you have to leave. Though my husband or boyfriend doesn’t get to have the open relationship, only I get to have it. My polyamorous relationship is with Wayne, not the people I’m with.

What does Lil Wayne think about the book?

Wayne and I have not discussed the book, he was just here a couple days ago, its not a topic of conversation. As long as he’s not unhappy with it, it’s all good between us. I’m very respectful and loving with him, so I stay within those parameters.

BTW, what is your official marital status (i.e. she’s dated TV host/comedian Bill Maher and was once married to popular actor Darius Creston McCrary)?

Officially I am still married, for the second time, and I am in the process of divorcing, and I should be wrapping this up before the summer.

Most videos of Billboard chart-topping artists from 2 Chainz to Drake feature groups of women dancing in them. What’s the situation for the “video vixens” of today, what are you hearing?

The problem is that many girls are willing to appear in videos for free, so some rappers are doing random cattle calls and girls are responding to them. I hear that girls are dancing in videos for $200-$400 a pop, not really getting paid what they should. Though back in the days when I did videos, you’re talking about million=dollar budgets, so after a two day shoot I’d have $5000 in hand.

You are from St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands, and where I’m based in Toronto, we have a vibrant Caribbean community with strong literary connections. Any plans to connect your literary endeavours to what’s going on “back home” as we Caribbean folk would say?

I’m actually going home in April on a fact-finding mission. My great-grandfather started the first newspaper on the island, which is where I get my writing chops from, which is something I just found out about a few years ago. Growing up I was just this different kid who wrote and read and took pictures of everything. My grandfather told me when I was a child that I would end up on the New York Times best-seller list one day. I didn’t understand it at the time.

Dalton Higgins is a National Magazine Award-winning journalist and radio and TV broadcaster who blogs and therefore is. His latest book Far From Over: The Music and Life of Drake (ECW Press, Oct. 2012) sheds light on the cultural conditions in Toronto that helped create the Drake phenomenon. His four other books (Fatherhood 4.0, Hip Hop World, Hip Hop, Much Master T) examine the place where the worlds of technology, diversity, hip hop and hipster culture intersect. His daily Daltoganda, musings, rants, jabs, pontifications and fire-and-brimstone blather can be accessed from his digital pulpit on twitter: @daltonhiggins5

Click here to read Dalton's archived articles on Open Book: Toronto.

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