Trivia: That's Abiola's
voice you hear rapping when you see DJ Buttafly recorded in Strong Boy Studios in NYC. Thanks to music composer Luthor,
Afrodite Superstar won Best Original Soundtrack at the AVN Awards in January 2008.
with the Director
a feminist and university graduate, why did you do this film?
an independent filmmaker, storyteller and artist. I wanted to create an intelligent and non-pornographic, non-exploitative film
to raise sexual self-esteem that features characters of color and would be uplifting instead of degrading. Like most filmmakers
such as Spike Lee, Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese, most of my work explores similar themes over and over again. All of my
work explores the concept of identity, of being a young woman of color, and trying to be more than we are. This film
just explores it with issues of sensuality and beauty. Previous works explore self-worth with mental health and other
Like the bestselling author Zane, I feel that it is important for us
to open this sexual conversation in communities of color, where our silence literally equals death as women of color continue
to be the fastest growing group diagnosed with HIV and AIDS. I wanted to create something intelligent, sexy and entertaining
by women for women. This was a challenge that as an artist, scholar and activist I wanted to conquer. It grew directly out
of my healing Goddess Power workshops with victims of multiple abuses including incest who had lost a sense of their sexual
selves. How did you choose your stage name?
I chose the name
Venus Hottentot in salute Sarah Saartjie Baartman also known as The Hottentot Venus, a South African woman who was kidnapped
and sexually exploited in the 19th century. My attempt is to reclaim her sexual voice, power, and the voice of all of us.
Women of color are over-sexualized in our society. Our bodies are everywhere, but our voices are absent. I made
this film to present our voice in this arena.
Any thoughts on
your casting process?
Physical image after acting ability definitely came into play in
my lengthy casting process. All of the black women are different shades of dark brown. That is very rare—if you look
at our music videos, only black women or women of color who approximate the look of Caucasians are seen as beautiful. It was
key for me to show natural African hair as beautiful.
In terms of casting, the film co-stars Mr. Marcus. The funny
thing is that I am not a porn consumer so (fortunately or unfortunately) I had never ever heard of him before. The same goes
for India, who is now a rapper. It was fantastic for me, as a director, to give them opportunities and hold them up to standards
that people may not have thought they were capable of.
I discovered Simone Valentino at a university symposium
on sexual media and Justin Long through his agent. Trina Asidieu, the non-sexual talent, is a great discovery as well. They
were all intelligent, supportive, dedicated and hard working-- studying their lines, going to acting classes, and being committed.
I am extremely proud of them. They did a great job for non-actors.
was your film process?
Our film process was writing, re-writing and revising a script, casting
and extensive rehearsals, and original music production. In rehearsals, I basically gave each of the actors mini acting lessons.
It was also key to me that people stay on book. For the most part, no improvisation was permitted, except during the sex scenes
Do you have any regrets?
I feel that I fell short in my quest to portray women of different
body types because of the talent available to me. Several people have asked why I chose not to cover the stretch marks on
my main character Simone Valentino, who is otherwise a perfect beauty. Real women have stretch marks and we are beautiful
because of them, not in spite of them. Our bodies tell the story of our journeys. I also tried to cast women with only real
body parts including breasts, although I do respect women’s rights to do whatever they wish to their own bodies. In
addition, the film was more explicit that I would have preferred because of the financial obligations of being a corporate
artist. There was also much more to the story which was devastating to cut, but ultimately, with a low budget and short shooting
schedule, my producer Natasha Cortes had to focus on our deliverables, which was to make sure that the sex scenes were in
the can. Overall though, I am proud of having the guts to make this work. There are many people who call themselves
artists, but they are not willing to risk falling or failing. True artists operate on the edge. I hope to inspire discussion
about sexual representation, and then move on to other topics and themes.
did you hook up with Candida Royalle?
I found Candida Royalle and Femme Productions through her
website where she specified that she was looking to give opportunities to young female filmmakers. Although I had never considered
shooting a sexual film before it was a great opportunity. People can’t conceive of it but I pitched it as a regular
movie where the sex is real, and wrote a short script. Although I’ve made other narrative films before, she is the first
person to trust me with a larger budget. I approached the work as I did any other—a safe set with a polished and sophisticated
crew of mostly women. It was great working with her because sexuality is not my principal field as an artist or activist.
This is my one foray into this work, and I couldn't have had a better guide.
What’s the difference between pornography and erotica? Pornography signifies exploitation.
Our film is a very positive sexy enterprise made by women for women with a strong message. Call it whatever you want, just
see it and tell your friends about it. People who come to AfroDite Superstar seeking pornography will be disappointed. Let's
not talk about terminology. Let's talk about why women of color are the fastest growing group of people dying of AIDS and
HIV. This war has many fronts. We need preachers, abstinence activists, and artists. Female genital circumcision
is done to remove pleasure so that women feel powerless. So is silencing women's sexual voices and exploiting and owning
That sounds great—so why direct the film anonymously?
It’s very hip hop to have a tag or pseudonym, and I didn’t want this work
to conflict with anything else I was doing.I chose the name Venus Hottentot to commemorate the life of
a forgotten South African woman who was sexually exploited in Europe in the nineteenth century.I made
the film to empower women. That’s why I have chosen to come out now as a part of a motivational movement called Dare
to Be a B.A.D. Girl– Beautiful and Daring.I have an amazing fan base, and I
want to be honest with them. If I am telling them to be B.A.D. – beautiful and daring, I have to dare to do the same.
Artist Urban Envy.
Trivia: Abiola and actress-writer
India are co-authoring a top secret book. Shhhh! And Abiola chats above with Nathan Seven Scott about the AfroDite Superstar
Trivia: Although surreal
and experimental, the quotes on the screen from bell hooks, Gloria Steinem etc. were key. One critic asked, wouldn't
it have been enough to have the characters stating them? Isn't that too much of a nudge toward a message? That's
for viewers to decide. So far, the consensus has been about 70/30 pro on screen quotes.
"There's erotica to suit almost every taste including the cerebral, like AfroDite
AfroDite Superstarpremiered with a university discussion at the New School
for Social Research about race, gender, sexuality and healthy portrayals of African American beauty. The experimental comedy
featurette (2007) is a feminist empowerment film that Abiola Abrams directed under the name "Venus Hottentot"
to reclaim the sexual voice of the South African woman who was kidnapped, exploited, tortured and forced to be a side show
The narrative film also contains erotica
(soft) sexual scenes which were co-directed by Candida Royalle, the executive producer of the film. The film has been
endorsed by Essence Magazine, The Village Voice, Spread Magazine, the
American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists, and the Feminists for Free Expression.
Superstar film was also featured in the art exhibit Hos, Putas and Dragon Ladies: Our Sexuality Remixed at the Chashama Gallery in NYC. To date, several different PhD students are including this film in their studies. The film
was also recently featured in 2 academic journals for being ground-breaking as the story shines a light on the negative
modern representations of African American beauty, sexuality and empowerment.
The plot of AfroDite
Superstar centers around Afrodite, a young Beverly Hills socialite confused by the media images of what is "sexy
"and what is "hot" in African American beauty. She take a downward spiral, trying everything from donning
a blonde wig to blue contacts in an effort to be what the magazines and videos show as beautiful. She tries adapting
the gangsta hottie image prevalent in pop culture music videos and pornography and is still miserable.
No one is what they seem to be in this strange, new fairytale world, with the gun-slinging
"gangsta" rapper having a degree from Yale and Afrodite's "stock" plummeting by the day. Hopefully,
Afrodite can find strength without losing herself as the experimental film consciously parodies celebrity antics like wardrobe
malfunctions, keeping it "real" music videos to sex tapes. Often, there is no stronger way to educate than
to hold up a comedic mirror. Eventually, Afrodite comes to shun these negative themes and comes to embrace her natural beauty
WATCH VIDEO CLIPS BELOW.
Trivia: The code words for
crew members on the 3 days (out of a 10 day shoot) when we were shooting any scenes with intimate or sexual content - even
a kiss - was "Rock Star Shoot."
FROM THE FILM
Trivia: The parody rap
videos for Afrodite and Criminal were fun to shoot. Much of the hip hop industry is unfortunately already a parody of itself
so it wasn't that hard to spoof. Abiola wanted to parody the idea of omnipresent cash, skin, blond hair and guns. She also
wanted to make it so clearly absurd and over the top that the audience would be like, helloooo Afrodite, wake up!
An unintended effect is that the music
video imagery is so realistic that some people see it without knowing the story of the film and assume that the story is somehow
pro-guns, pro-exploitation of black women.
Trivia: Although Abiola
has been interviewed by Babeland's Jamye Waxman and the store is a strong supporter of the film, Abiola had never checked it out in person! She takes a tour above
of their Mercer store.
File under strictly coincidental. Veteran actor Blair Underwood teamed with Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due to author the
book Casanegra: A Tennyson Hardwick Mystery. Casanegra centers around a character named Tennyson
Hardwick, a struggling gigolo-turned-actor,
who is the prime suspect in the murder of a rapper/actress named... You guessed it- AFRODITE!
Our fake version of Vibe Magazine.
Our pseudo version of several hip hop magazines.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Artist Urban Envy.
Artist Urban Envy.
Watch AfroDite Superstar clips below.
The objective of the film is reclaiming the sexual voice and expression of women of color. Abiola joins Larry
Clark, Matthew Barney, John Cameron Mitchell, Michael Winterbottom, Gore Vidal (Destricted, Shortbus, 9 Songs, Caligula)as filmmakers seeking to make intelligent mainstream work with explicit sexual content. Abiola has called it a sex
education film for the hip hop generation. Others have called it an African American Red
Shoes Diaries. AfroDite Superstar has been nominated for 7 2007 AVN Awards including
Best Director, Best Musical Score, and Best Screenplay.