Two years after selling nearly 400,000 copies of Confessions of a Video Vixen, a scandalous memoir that outed bold-faced names, making a memorable appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, starting an organization for girls under the banner of female empowerment, and allegedly breaking up the marriage of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown, Karinne Steffans, 29, is back. The sometime actress, one-time video dancer and full-time entrepreneur is set to tell even more in her eagerly anticipated follow-up The Vixen Diaries (Grand Central Publishing, $24.99), which will be released on September 25. In this first part of a two-part series, essence.com spoke with Steffans about the fallout from Confessions, her new male groupies and the reasons why she'll never get married.
ESSENCE.com: You put a lot of folks' business on blast in Confessions. What more is there to say and how is Vixen Diaries going to be different?
Karrine Steffans: It's a diary and reads like a reality show. I wrote this in real time. Whatever happened that night, I would come home and write it as soon as I got home, so it's still very much in the moment and very fresh. And this book is more Hollywood, where the first book was mostly music, and I no longer live in that world. I live in L.A.
ESSENCE.com: Since Confessions are you persona non grata in Hollywood, New York, Miami and Atlanta?
K.S.: I was like the plague until people realized I wasn't going away after the international success of my book. Now I find that a lot of people want to be in my book because they want to be immortalized. It's almost like being a gossip guru but so much deeper than that. People will tell me things and say, "Be sure you write about this... Can I be in your book?" It's become this "club" that people want to join. I made it to Oprah, so people want to jump on the bandwagon.
ESSENCE.com: So now you have groupies?
K.S.: (Laughs) Believe it or not, I have more male groupies. I had a weird experience with Jamie Foxx with whom I have a long history and we're cool. He was acting like he was in awe of me, and I'm like, "Yeah, right, you're the famous one with an Oscar."
ESSENCE.com: Speaking of famous people, is it true that you and Ne-Yo are an item?
K.S.: Ne-Yo and I are friends, but he's just not my type of person. I had to have a conversation with him because he thought that I had written a detailed description of our sex life in my book. Instead of asking me, he responded to a reporter's question in a tone that I didn't appreciate, implying that I'd been telling lies about our relationship. I never claimed him as my boyfriend. Once I told him he wasn't in my book, then he was cool.
ESSENCE.com: What about you and New Orleans rapper Lil' Wayne?
K.S.: He's not my boyfriend, but I'm closer to Wayne and we've spoken every day for the last six months. I can't start or end my day without talking to him. And we don't necessarily talk on the phone, but we text each other all the time. It's a perfect relationship. He knows that no matter who he's with and vice versa, we love each other. We don't have any surprises. If I were to see him kissing a girl tomorrow, it would be okay because I already know about it.
ESSENCE.com: Are you concerned that people will think of you as the woman who sleeps around and writes about it?
K.S.: Again, I don't have as much sex as people think I do. Honestly, I don't even want to have sex. I am focused on my company and making things happen. So, again, I haven't slept with as many people as most think I have, and my sex life is really not that different from anyone else's.
ESSENCE.com: Many were surprised that Confessions of a Video Vixen became an instant New York Times best seller. Do you feel pressure to top the sales of that book?
K.S.: You never want to be a one-time Oprah guest or a one-time best seller. Every artist has that fear of the sophomore jinx and thinks, Can I do it again? Because Confessions did so well, my concern is simply whether or not I can outdo myself. It's like Jennifer Hudson who won an Oscar after her acting debut (in Dreamgirls), and if she never wins another one, then you'll think her winning the first time was a fluke.
ESSENCE.com: Will some of the allegations that you make about some very well-known people catch them by surprise?
K.S.: At the end of the day, it's business not personal. I can't afford to ruin my professional life simply to save face with my friends. But I also don't want to lose my friends for the love of the almighty dollar, and I think I found a good balance with this book.
ESSENCE.com: Any regrets about Confessions?
K.S.: I was apprehensive about the way I described situations, and I believe I accomplished that in the least malicious way. I know the first book was a big shock to other people, but to the people that were involved, it was a cakewalk because they knew what really happened and how it could have been written. For me, it's about figuring out how to take a tacky situation and finessing it so that it isn't tacky and destroying people's images or my friendships.
ESSENCE.com: So did you write the first book for love or money?
K.S.: After I had appeared in several magazines without a book deal, HarperCollins called me and asked me to write my memoir. It was divine intervention because that same day I had an eviction notice on my door, and I had just borrowed $500 from Mike Tyson. It wasn't a day for me to slap God in the face. When HarperCollins calls, you don't say, "No, thank you." I got a whole lot more out of it than I bargained for, and I am glad because I have single-handedly reshaped my culture.
ESSENCE.com: So this time around do you feel as if you're selling your soul?
K.S.: I didn't sell my soul, but I did have a moment where I was told to make this book more like the first one, and I couldn't do it because the person that existed in the first book no longer exists. My life is nowhere near as juicy as it used to be, but people don't believe that. I'm like, "Look, I haven't had sex in two months! I don't know what the hell you want from me, but I don't have an addiction." I gave them some juicy things, but I held back a lot too. I had to ask myself, Who can I afford to throw under the bus?
ESSENCE.com: How did you determine which people you'd put in and keep out of Diaries?
K.S.: I disclose any situation based on how it affected me. Even though that part of my life is over, people like Ice-T and Irv Gotti were so important to me. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for Gotti.
ESSENCE.com: Most people would argue that Gotti was more like a pimp than a friend to you.
K.S.: Irv allowed me to live, and I love him to pieces for that. Whenever there was a music conference or big investors visiting the city who needed to be shown a good time, I was the "good time." Although the circumstances were a little shady, the people I met during that time in my life are still around and I wouldn't be where I am without them, and I still love them.
ESSENCE.com: After the mistreatment you endured, how could you love him?
K.S.: Because he's not a bad person and didn't make me do anything. Sure it would have been nice if someone had said, "Hold on li'l girl, you shouldn't be doing that." But I can't put that blame on anyone but myself. The thing is, I love everyone and I don't mean in a romantic emotion, but just generally. Honestly, I've never been with a man I didn't love, and I'm the kind of person that no matter what you do to me, I'm going to always love you. I'd rather you sh-- on me than me on you because that's where my blessings come from. Even if my blessing came through derogatory measures, it taught me a lot about myself and I have to love him for that.
ESSENCE.com: You once wrote that you couldn't forgive your mom. But why not forgive the woman who gave you life?
K.S.: My mother could call me and be stranded in the street, and I would not send her sh--. I could care less what happens to her. I can forgive others because none of them have ever done me wrong. Once you become an adult, you make decisions, and if your choices allow you to have bad experiences, then it's your fault. So you see, Gotti never did me wrong. I did wrong things to myself. Now my mother? She did things to me when I was a child, unable to make my own decisions with nowhere else to go. And I had to endure things that she did to me. That doesn't get forgiveness, because when God gives you a child, you don't slap Him in the face because I'm a blessing. What I do have is an understanding of why she did what she did because she had a horrible childhood, but it doesn't warrant forgiveness.
ESSENCE.com: Have you ever thought about settling down?
K.S.: Society says women need to settle down, have kids, and get married. I don't follow rules because I draw outside the lines. No one has this talk about men. Newsflash: You've been socialized wrong, and it's not right! It's true. I don't want to be tied down. I'm a free spirit. After six months of dating someone, I get bored. I like to have new experiences and there's nothing wrong with that.
Photo Credit: Jamal Bayette