By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
I'm sitting on a couch on the 19th floor of the Affinia Manhattan, just a few feet away from the world's most coveted rear end. Legions of men from around the world would pay dearly to be here, in Buffie the Body's boudoir. And I'm not even an ass man.
With more curves than J.Lo, and more badonkadonk than Vida Guerra, Buffie the Body is a phenom. Forty-five inches around, with the word Tasty tattooed on the right cheek, her ample backside makes Maxim models look like surfboards.
In town last month to buy a new Mercedes CLS 550, the Atlanta-based former stripper is easy to spot in the crowded hotel lobby. She's the woman of average height wearing the Bebe tracksuit that strains to contain her.
"At least I don't have to tailor them in the waist," she says in her slight Southern drawl, after shaking my hand. "There are a lot of jeans that they just don't make in my size."
Heading for the elevator, she grudgingly accepts an offer to carry her suitcase. There's no entourage to grab the bag; Buffie Carruth doesn't travel with one. She doesn't have much use for other "model" behavior either. She eats nothing but junk food and sugary drinks, and she doesn't work out. But make no mistake: She's as recognizable in the black community as some supermodels, having starred in a G-Unit rap video and appeared in the movie ATL (character name: Big Booty Judy). She makes $5,000 to $10,000 a night hosting parties around the country.
She's best-known for appearing on the cover of urban men's magazines like King, BlackMen, Sweets, SSX, and Smooth. All of them parade semi-nude buxom pin-ups à la Maxim, but primarily with black and Latina models, and with a particular obsession with asses. And none of them are very subtle about it. Smooth leaves readers with a final-page pictorial it calls "Rear View." King's closer, meanwhile, is "Backshot."
"Maxim has Pamela Andersonthe person they can put on the cover and it's guaranteed to selland King and the rest of the urban men's magazines, we have Buffie," says Kingeditor Jermaine Hall, also mentioning Melyssa Ford and Guerra as genre favorites. "Buffie, no pun intended, gets a rise out of our readers."
"She broke all the rules," says Marcus Blassingame, fashion editor of BlackMen. "She wasn't slim, didn't have a commercial-looking face or a commercial-looking body. But people were like, 'Wow! Look at the size of that behind.' Her butt is so huge, it's like a phenomenon."
"I'm the definition of a true black woman," Buffie explains, sitting down awkwardly (you would too) in a plush chair in her suite. "I'm not light-skinned, my mom is not from China, and my dad is not from Yugoslavia. People normally see the light-skinned, small girls with the pretty hair in magazines, and maybe they were just tired of that and wanted to see something different, something real."
The same could be said of the urban lad rags' appeal. Though Maxim and Stuff still vastly outsell them, BlackMen and similar titles have seen their subscriptions swell in recent years by featuring women with increasingly huge back ends.
"Urban men, we like butts, we like hips. It's a black and Hispanic thing," says Antoine Clark, publisher of Sweets. "We like the feel of butts, we like to rub on them, we like to stare at them. It's like a magnet for us. I have no explanation for it; that's just something we like."
BlackMen operates out of a bland Paramus, New Jersey, office building, across the street from a Staples store. Sharing the building are publishers of niche porn titles like Plumpers and Mature Nymphos.
Founded in 1998, BlackMen once featured supermodels, celebrities, and toned fitness models. But fashion editor Blassingame says he began to question that strategy after a fateful haircut.
"Guys in the barbershop talk about everything from cars, sports, and finances to women," Blassingame says, sitting in his conference room on a recent afternoon, clad in a matching gold Adidas jacket and tennis shoes. "Now, the one type of women they don't talk about are supermodels."
He realized that the men at the barbershop were his target demographic, but they talked about a very different type of woman than the sort that was gracing the front of his magazine. It was the women they saw gyrating in music videos on BET that got their attention, he says, as well as the women walking by on the street outside the shop. Lenny Hansen, longtime owner of the Cutting Room, the Harlem clip joint where Blassingame sometimes gets his fade, confirms his client's observation. "Fat asses and pretty faces" get the greatest response from his patrons, Hansen says.
After his epiphany, Blassingame two years ago orchestrated a makeover for BlackMen. "I had to bridge the gap between the face and the energy of a supermodel, and the curves of an urban model," says the 37-year-old son of the magazine's founder, John Blassingame. "We wanted to get the type of models that fit that kind of 'street' element."
He began searching for the girl-next-door look, even if that meant soliciting girls who literally lived next door. "If we meet a girl in the mall and we think she's going to make it, we'll give her a chance," he says, adding that he gives a $200 stipend for photo shoots. (Many other magazines don't pay at all.)