| | Abiola's 28-Day "Love Body Spirit" Detox Program

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.


Q&A
with the Director

As a feminist and university graduate, why did you do this film?

I am 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 themes.

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.

What 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 of course.
 
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.

How 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 our bodies.
 

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 experience.

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.
 

 

Click to enlarge poster.

AFRODITE
SUPERSTAR
THE AWARD-WINNING SEXY, SMART, EROTIC COMEDY FILM

>>Click to Download PDF Press Kit<<

"There's erotica to suit almost every taste including the cerebral, like AfroDite Superstar."
-Essence Magazine

AfroDite Superstar premiered 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 freak. 
 
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. 
 
The AfroDite 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 STORY
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 and sexuality.

 

WATCH VIDEO CLIPS BELOW.
African American erotica film Afrodite Superstar.

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."


VIDEO CLIPS
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.


ABIOLA SPEAKS






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.

 

Trivia: File under strictly coincidental. Veteran actor Blair Underwood teamed with Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due to author the book Casanegra: A Tennyson Hardwick MysteryCasanegra 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.
 

 

Press Clips About Afrodite Superstar
& Press Clips About Afrodite Superstar

AS SEEN IN TIME OUT
Love, Sex, Dating & Romance Events in NYC

Village Voice, Tristan Taormino

Black Feminist Pornography: Reshaping The Future of Adult Entertainment

$pread Magazine, Afrodite Superstar

$pread Magazine

Babeland Interview, Jamye Waxman, Abiola
Babeland "Afrodite Superstar" Interview

Afrodite Superstar Star Newspaper Review

Oysters and Chocolate Erotic Film Review



Abiola on Love, Sex, Dating & Drama
Subscribe to Relationships and Lifestyle Web Series Videos Podcast on iTunes
Watch & Subscribe on iTunes

Book Abiola for a Talk or Workshop

Sex Re-Education: Afrodite Resource List

*OTHER FILMS DIRECTED BY ABIOLA*

>>Behind the Scenes

Candida Royalle, Executive Producer

Saartjie Sarah Baartman, "Hottentot Venus"

>>Hos, Putas & Dragon Ladies Art Exhibit


PHOTO ALBUM

Abiola on set with Candida Royalle.

Abiola on set at The Point in The Bronx, NYC.

Co-writer Damali playing the condom activist.

Simone Valentino as Afrodite.

Actress Trina Asideu as Buttafly.

Rapper India as Isis.

Artist Liliana Velasquez as Kali.

Artist Urban Envy.

Self Worth Coach & Advice Columnist, Abiola Abrams